Fall Festivals Provide Blended Family Bonding Time

Friday, September 28, 2012

And Sneaky Educational Opportunities…

Fall is officially here and it is time for rollicking good, outdoors-based family fun. The temperatures are mostly cooperative, the kids are back in school, and weekends can often take on a more relaxed feel than those of the summer.

One of the more fun ways to spend fall weekends is by attending one of the many Fall Festivals that are offered in towns large and small. These mostly family-friendly events provide the opportunity to get outside on a crisp day, walk around, eat, spend time together—and potentially sneak in some education disguised as fun.

Types of festivals include:

1-    Arts and crafts

2-    Music

3-    Foliage

4-    Seasonal food-based

5-    Ethnic

6-    Historic

Most festivals combine elements of all of these, providing entertainment on multiple levels. Arts and crafts vendors often set up alongside food vendors in a variety of these themed festivals. Some festivals can have juried arts and crafts with vendors competing for prizes, while others offer seasonal wreaths and other items for the home or for gift-giving season.

Ethnic festivals are usually themed around a particular culture. For example, Oktoberfests are popular and a way to expose kids and adults to German culture. Family members can learn traditional folk dances while listening to traditional German folk music—something you would never normally get a child to put on their iPhones. It’s also an opportunity to try foods that you may not usually have at home, including a variety of sausages, potato salad and desserts.

You can find ethnic festivals for any ethnicity and immerse yourself in another culture for a day. The kids will be so entertained, they won’t realize they are learning something on their “day off.”

Music festivals are popular, because the nice weather makes sitting still more enjoyable than during the more humid months. Bluegrass, jazz and blues festivals are popular, and of course there are always food vendors ready to serve.

Food and harvest festivals include celebrations of pumpkins, blueberries, apples—anything that is edible and harvested in the fall. These are often combined with traditional family activities such as picking pumpkins, picking apples, hayrides and mazes.

Festivals provide the perfect opportunity for blended families and stepfamilies to bond over a shared activity, fun and food. Also, many are offered all weekend long, so any football fans in the house surely can’t object to at least one afternoon outing.

Let us know:

What is your favorite festival, and why?

Have you had a good stepfamily bonding experience through attendance of a festival?

Mrs. Delaware Brings National Exposure to Blended Families

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mrs. Delaware Brings National Exposure to Blended Families

Dr. Francine Tolliver Edwards won the 2012 Mrs. Delaware United States Pageant held on May 12, and will represent Delaware at the 26th annual Mrs. United States Pageant in Las Vegas, July 12th. She also wishes to represent blended families.

Dr. Edwards lives in Delaware with her husband of seven years, Micah and four children, Jordan (son-13), Madison (son-11), Tyler (daughter-6) and Joshua (son-2).  Mrs. Delaware describes her home life as a “six-ring circus:” all six of them do their own thing. In a candid interview, Francine Edwards shared some of her personal experiences, issues, and advice about dealing with the changes in family dynamics which are part and parcel with the blending of families.

Here is a woman who seems able to juggle life with many balls in the air. She began her career in the television industry in 1989 and anchored at BET for 11 years, managed public affairs for the D.C. Department of Health and later, NASA. She is now an Associate Professor at Delaware State University. Most recently, Dr. Edwards published her first romance novel, The Design of Love (written while she was completing her doctorate). In her spare time she enjoys skiing, competing in pageants, reading, writing, and most importantly, spending time with family.

Statistics show that one in three children is a product of a blended family. When kids go back and forth between two households, there’s an adjustment period. Dr. Edwards believes that giving teachers the insight to understand what those kids are going through, and giving them some tools to help those kids cope, is important. She hopes to start by working with her own children’s school administration. Her goal is for teachers and parents to be offered training courses so children may have support at home, in school and in the community.

In her own home, there is much running, chasing, joking, trying to get meals, and readying for school. Somehow it all comes together and everyone gets to where they need to be. Amazingly, out of the 3 kids that have to go to school during the regular school year, only one was late (once)—and that was on the last day of school. They were so busy playing around that they missed the bus. In the evenings it’s a bit calmer with school work and extracurricular activities. Still, they make it a point to sit down and eat dinner together every day. It takes some creative time management for Mom to get it all done.

“I have to really prioritize, which actually means taking care of me first. That includes my physical and mental health, ‘scheduling’ in fun for me, and knowing when to take a break from it all. I get most of my academic work done after everyone in my house goes to bed (I can get my best academic/scholarly work done between 12:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.). That’s probably my biggest secret! No one knows I’m up and I can get back in the bed around 3:30 and sleep until 7 or so and be fresh for the next day.”

Clearly, on top of it all, this Associate Professor is also quite the clever Mom.

Mr. Edwards has joint custody and residency of the oldest son, Jordan, who spends alternate weeks with each family. The 2nd oldest son, Madison, is with the Edwards permanently, which has recently raised questions with Tyler, their six-year-old daughter. She has been asking why Madison doesn’t go to see his other mom too. It took some thinking to formulate an answer that a 6-year old could understand. Dr. Edwards explained to Tyler, “Sometimes children have to be with the parent that can give them the best home and life and Daddy was the one to do that.” She stressed to her daughter that Madison’s mother loves him, but just can’t give him a home, school support, or help him with homework and basketball like Dad can.

Issues will arise between sets of parents in regard to basic rules such as curfews, chores, and bedtimes. For the stepparent, it is important to ‘stand by your man’ in the presence of others, and to voice your concerns in private. Be sure to involve the child in the decision but not the conflict. Differences will exist and face-to-face communication between the parents should be encouraged. Just don’t forget that the goal is for the betterment of the child.

“One strategy that didn’t work was having direct contact with the biological mothers! Whew, what a lesson learned here. I thought that once married I had a huge say in everything and that I had a right to voice my opinion, but it only made the tension worse. I was enlightened by my sister and aunt after sharing a story with them about a horrific argument I had with one of the mothers. They both set me straight immediately! They let me know that I shouldn’t be taking on the burden of defending my husband to them, arguing with them about menial things or answering the phone just so I can ‘talk down’ to them in my not-so-cordial greeting. My aunt, being a divorced mother, told me that she made it a point after her husband remarried, not to have any contact with his wife because she knew it would do nothing but cause stress. She said that her relationship with her children’s father and the children has always been better because of that.”

The majority of extended family has been good about trying to keep bruised feelings and egos out of the children’s lives. When there are exceptions, Dr. Edwards feels it is important to hold back the retorts, turn the other cheek, and not to respond negatively when disrespectful comments are presented. Not all grown-ups can keep personal feelings out of the way. For the children, Dr. Edwards feels we need to try our best to be adults.

“I did experience some distance when my oldest stepson turned about 10 or so because at that point he was privy to some negative things his mother had to say about me and my husband. He began to distance himself. I also took a step back because I saw behavior towards me that I didn’t like and I refused to bow down to a child. For example, he wouldn’t speak to me or even interact with me in our home. For a point, I would try to reach out to him, but then I gave up and played the game right along with him. After a while my husband did intervene, which I thought was appropriate. But like I said, I wasn’t going to suck up to him, try to carry on fake conversations or create these insincere family moments with him, because I knew he didn’t want that from me.

We see there is still a stigma attached to being a stepparent. Despite the growing number of blended families, there is something awkward in terms of the relational issues that stepparent’s face that can’t truly be understood unless you are walking in those shoes. Sometimes I can talk or explain my feelings until I’m blue in the face but my own husband still doesn’t understand how I feel. Overcoming some of the challenges, however, can be eased by keeping the lines of communication open and being as transparent as possible.”

Probably the most valuable advice Dr. Edwards wishes to impart is that you absolutely cannot be a part of a stepparent pity party! You have to be proactive and take on the task of being a stepparent as a full-blown educational process. The people who will bad-mouth the biological parents with you and feed negative thoughts to you about your own step children are nothing but energy vampires. You need to be surrounded by stepparents who have overcome obstacles and are willing to share the tools and secrets of success with you.

Mrs. Delaware is attempting to spotlight issues of blended families and step-parenting in the National forum of this month’s Mrs. United States Pageant. On behalf of stepfamilies, we wish her well. 

The Top 10 Remarriage and Stepfamily Blogs of 2011

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Top 10 Remarriage and Stepfamily Blogs of 2011

It’s our annual round-up of our top picks culled from the wealth of blogs devoted to remarriage and stepfamilies. These bloggers write right from the trenches of stepparenting life, with all of its attendant challenges, blessings and surprises.

Each of these picks offer straight-talk advice for stepparents and remarried people, offering often humorous glimpses behind the front doors of other blended families. What we liked best about these is that you won’t feel so alone, all questions and no answers. Each of these blogs provides insights and ideas that you may not have thought of, which will help enrich your own remarriage experience.

So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, kick back and prepare to meet some new friends for the coming year. Without further ado, here are our Top 10 picks:

#10: The Wicked Stepmom

Blogger: Cathy, “The Wicked Stepmom”

Welcome to Cathy’s world, where she has named the people in her life after fairytale characters, such as Prince Charming, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel. It’s a fun way to view this often exasperating lifestyle, to give it the aura of old tales we’ve grown up on: it makes it seem not so different.

Cathy’s blog is a nice snapshot of the blended-family world. Cathy describes herself as—get ready: a daughter, stepdaughter with two stepmoms and a former stepdad, sister and stepsister, custodial stepmom and soon-to-be ex-wife. With that many hats, Cathy is able to offer a wide-ranging perspective and share her insights for just about anyone who has ever been caught up in a blended family scenario!

Cathy shows you that you need to have a good sense of humor to make it through what can be an ever-changing family landscape. We hope to see more of her blogging in 2012.


#9: Step in the Blender

Blogger: Brigette

Brigette does a good job of bringing up the types of issues that arise in blended families, everything from why biological mothers and stepmothers struggle to get along to the various roles you could potentially take as the stepmother.

Through her ideas, you’ll be able to step back and analyze your own blended family and how it is playing out—as well as where you would like it to go.

Brigette gives candid, interesting descriptions of how we think: whether it’s her husband referring to them as a “broken family” to taboo topics stepmom’s don’t want to admit out loud. It’s a good peek into someone else’s blended world, thoughtful and heartfelt.

#8: StepMom Magazine

Bloggers: Brenda Ockun, Publisher of StepMom Magazine, and Others


Whether it’s an inspirational message or a Q&A, Brenda’s blog offers helpful advice to the stepmother struggling with her role, while also tapping into various bloggers who blog about stepparenting (many of them appear in this Top 10 list!).

You will also get a glance at what the current monthly issue offers—an enticement to subscribe so you can access monthly support and inspiration.

Based on her extensive marketing background, Brenda launched StepMom Magazine to fill a void in the world of stepmothers: a place to go for resources, something she was unable to find when she first took on the role of stepmom herself.


To access the discussion forum, you will need to be a subscriber, a venue that promises to provide additional support for the stepmom struggling to juggle her new and ongoing role.

#7: The Stepmom’s Toolbox: Tips, Tools, Advice

Bloggers: Peggy Nolan and Team


Need advice? How about attending “Stepmom University” and downloading a course specifically designed for stepmoms? Peggy’s site is packed with a wealth of resources such as this, both free and for members-only.


Peggy’s blog offers advice and such blog entries as “Things I’ve Learned,” along with tips for taking care of you, the one who does so much for so many. Her goal is to truly offer you the tools you need to make the most of your role as a stepmom. With her advice, you won’t flunk out of this life challenge, even when you feel no one notices all that you contribute.

#6: Hers, His and Ours

Blogger: Lisa Hartman

Lisa Hartman writes a heartfelt blog about her blended family—opening her home, heart and experiences for readers to pore over.

She seems unflappable when it comes to some of those tougher situations that would make any stepparent cringe. For example, anyone up for a road trip with your spouse’s e- wife? Lisa recounts squirmy stories like these with humor and grace, as well as her philosophy on how to meet some of these unusual challenges.

Lisa’s blogs each include a photo, giving you a nice visual to illustrate the story or topic of the day.  She gives an honest examination of the challenges inherent in trying to blend families—as well as managing all of the differing adult opinions on how best to do that. 

#5: The Evil Stepmother Speaks

Blogger: Barb Goldberg

Barb’s site is clean and inviting—and she does a fantastic job with staying on top of updates, a challenge for most bloggers. Her site’s tag line is “Practical Advice       for Stepfamilies who want to Love and Laugh.” And who can get enough of either of those, right?

Barb offers a range of resources, including a free download on “100 Different Ideas on how to Create Memories with your Family,” a nice, positive offering that helps you focus on the good things that can happen in your blended family. Her blog contains a range of categories, anything from holidays to leadership to dieting. No one ever said the modern stepparent didn’t have a lot to keep up with, and Barb helps you do that, with humor.

Reading her blog, you will feel like you just sat down with her in a coffee shop and she’s bringing you up-to-date on her life while offering pearls of stepparenting wisdom you hadn’t thought of before.

#4: Co-Parenting 101

Bloggers: Deesha Philyaw and Michael Thomas

Remarried folks, take note: divorce does not have to be contentious.

Philyaw and Thomas set an example that any remarried may want to take heed of and follow. In short, they have decided to put their kids first, partnering in their co-parenting efforts so their two daughters can have the next best thing to an intact parental set: two parents on the same sheet of music.

These two parents are not advocates of divorce. In fact, they often counsel friends to consider it only as the absolutely last option, while recognizing and acknowledging that it is a very personal and individual decision. They have a book due out in 2013: Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Children Thrive After Divorce.

Their blog offers legal resources, a podcast—and a unique offering called the “10 Co-Parenting Commandments.”

#3 Today’s Modern Family

Blogger: Kela Price, Founder and Diane Greene, Publisher

There are so many blends of family types, there’s no such thing as one size fits all, but Kela and Diane’s site seeks to fill that role. They provide a resource for modern families in every sense of the term, whether it’s a stepfamily, single parent family or adoptive family—or something else entirely.

Their advice runs the gamut, from fashion and weddings to parenting tips. And don’t miss their article on a quick and easy penne casserole—a timesaver any modern and harried cook can appreciate.

For fun, there’s a gossip section that highlights Hollywood break-ups as well as advice from stars who are dealing with divorce and stepparenting while in the public eye.

#2: Becoming a Stepmom

Blogger: Jacquelyn Fletcher  


Jacquelyn Fletcher is the author of “A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom,” and was also the co-founder of the Stepfamily Letter Project (letters are still accessible at

Jacquelyn’s blog shows her writing style: tell it like it is. This can help you, as the reader, to connect and relate to Jacquelyn’s advice.

Besides her blog, she also offers podcasts and a range of resources that are inclusive of biological parents, stepfamilies and stepmoms. Advice ranges from methods for coping, to strengthening your relationship with your spouse.

#1: Smom: The Heart of the Blended Family

Blogger: Heather Hetchler

Founder of Café Smom and stepmom coach Heather Hetchler provides stepmom coaching and a share blog, as well as a couple of other goodies I’ll share with you in a moment.

Heather defines a Smom as “a noble woman who cares for and nurtures her husband’s children (aka stepmom).” Sound like anyone you know?

Her blog entries are engaging as well as entertaining snapshots of her life as leader of a blended family. Heather’s site provides a great list of resources—and even a stepmom gift shop! She has created a cozy environment where you feel as if you can take off your shoes, kick up your feet and commiserate with others going through similar sagas as yours.

A recent blog post gives an explanation for why she decided to step back for a moment and review all she was trying to do, as well as its impact on her family. Read it for yourself and see if you can relate to what Heather was going through.

She recently released her e-book, “Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent’s Guide to Success,” which guides stepfamilies in having a peaceful holiday and avoiding some of the frustrations that can occur. (These are found in non-blended families as it is, so blended families may have double the challenges!)

We hope you enjoy our selections from 2011. If you run across any sites that are must-read’s, please feel free to email us and share your finding!

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