Holiday Traditions- Creation to Blending

Growing up in a family that did similar things each Christmas season, I valued what became traditions to me. Opening one present on Christmas Eve, getting up early in the morning to see what blessings were under the tree, breakfast as a family, baking Christmas cookies, looking at Christmas lights and eating similar dishes during Christmas dinner. 

When I became a single mom, I vowed to create similar and new traditions for my son. I wanted him to be able to look back at his childhood and hold that close to his heart. Creating these traditions were fun for us and kept us feeling as joyful as we could even when some years were difficult. Living over 800 miles away from any family, we had to make the holidays our own because we weren't always going to be able to be with them.

I encourage all single parents to create traditions for your family.  Do something that each child will remember year to year. You'll be surprised how easily it becomes part of who they are during those times. Make sure those traditions don't include spending a lot of money because let's face it, some holidays are more difficult financially.

For my family, this season is new and has been interesting to say the least. The traditions that my son and I are used to are now embracing another person.  As we embrace him, we also are learning to mesh our traditions and expectations together. Decorating ideas and styles, picking the cookies to bake, learning what traditions are important to the other person...those are all areas we are focusing on this year. As you enter this season in a blended family, be sure to talk about what are important traditions for each of you.

Some traditions that we've taken up and might work well for your family are:

1) Drive around and look at Christmas lights. We like to do this on Christmas Eve with hot cocoa or cider.
2) Attend a Christmas Eve service.
3) Read the Christmas Story on Christmas Day.
4) Stick presents under the tree all month long. Pick one to open the night before. Our tradition is to open the PJ's presents the night before so we are all in new pajamas.
5) Sit by the fire (if you have one) and watch a Christmas movie.
6) Frost sugar cookies.
7) Send out Christmas cards.
8) Write joyful notes to neighbors and put them on their door.
9) While driving around looking at lights, place a note of thanks for the hard work that went into giving a show for all to see.
10) Pick one new ornament per person each year and place it on the tree. This is a great way to build an ornament collection for your kids as they grow so that when they move out, they are set with decorations for their own tree.

May you have every joy that this season can bring!

- Meg

It's a Merry Christmas!

This year is unlike any other for my family. For the first time, I will wake up on Christmas morning to a tree full of presents, a wonderful husband and a great son all at the same time!  We will enjoy this time together and give thanks for Christ's birth as well as each other.

While encouraged by the blessings I have this year, I am reminded of how much my life has changed  in just one year.  If I go as far back as to remember my first Christmas as a divorced mother encountering a Christmas alone with a newly five year old I am brought to tears of gratefulness for God's mercy on our lives.

We were living in an apartment that I had recently emptied in sale to afford the rent.  We didn't have a lot but we had plenty in terms of how bad it could have been. We had been living off of .99 chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, peanut butter sandwiches and milk. By Christmas day, we had been blessed 10-fold by various people and life seemed to be looking up. Although there were presents under the tree for both of us from family and friends, I was unable to do much for my kiddo personally. I remember shopping at the dollar store with $20.  I bought 20 items and wrapped them individually. I will never forget how happy my son was with those presents. He felt overjoyed at the thought of unwrapping so many presents and never once gave thought to worth. It was about the gesture.

As I reflect, I smile and laugh a little. I STILL shop at the dollar store for presents and they STILL make him smile. Although I'm able to afford greater priced items, there will always be a fond connection between us and the dollar store items. They are perfect and enough. Everything else is fluff and a blessing.  That year, the blessing was in the seemingly small stuff and I'm encouraged to always remember that.  Happiness does not require a lot of money...just love.

May the feeling this Christmas be that of love and may we also remember that while presents are fun and make us feel good, they are not the reason for Christmas.  May we reflect on the true meaning for this season and enjoy the gifts of life that God has granted us.

Merry Christmas!

Read: Christmas on a Budget

- Meg

Single to Blended

Life has taken a turn for my son and I this year.  After 7 years of living life officially as a single mama, I married a wonderful man. He has been an answer to prayer for myself and for my son.

Many times in 'The Single Parenting Journey' blog, I referenced that it is okay to be single and parenting alone and that it can be successfully done. I still firmly believe that however I, along with many single parents, have longed for someone who could come beside me as a parent and as a partner in life. Not to fill a necessary void that was in our lives, but to add to our lives.  God has been faithful throughout my journey as a single parent and has blessed us with friends, circumstances and opportunities that only He could provide.  All of this, I keep in my heart and treasure the time that I grew and learned so very much about dependence on my Lord and Savior as I raised my son solo.

As I wrote a blog about my life adventures, thoughts and advice for others, I wondered if this day would ever come.  The day where my life story took a sharp turn.  Rather than a single parenting journey now I am in a blended family journey. My husband does not have his own children and was never married. Although it seems ideal to a single mom because baggage seems low, it too presents an interesting array of blending that is required.  Never parented, never married, always focusing on his dreams, goals, new husband is now faced with the challenge and adaptation to a son and a wife. Learning to think for 3 instead of 1.

My son is learning how to adapt to 2 parents in our home instead of 1. He's learning how to figure out this new relationship of "Stepdad" with his relationship of "Dad".  He lives with us and still visits with his biological father. How does this all play out? Feelings and emotions that he never had before are there to try and understand.  He has a daily example of a man which he never had before. A firmer spirit to discipline, chores, routine...the way a man thinks of these things.  Still having his mom who he's known his entire life there but the role shifts and I no longer am "everything" but I focus on "mom things".  It's been quite a change for my young man.  He's experiencing love and respect for a man in our house, not just his mom.  It is a great change for us and I already have a handful of stories to share. Stories that will bring a tear to your eye and stories that will bring laughter to your heart.

For me, this is quite a steamroller of emotions.  At first, the thought of marriage a second time around was frightening and I wasn't sure I had what it would take to make that commitment again. I had become quite independent and was certain that I could remain single if that is what the Lord willed me to do. Through experiences with my now husband, it became clear that he and I were meant to move forward. I've never felt surer of anything else. With this change I have had to pull back the independence a bit, realizing that we both run our household and that sharing in decisions, money and life experiences is necessary.  When I became single, I learned to be single. I have had to relearn how to be married.

My hope in continuing this blog is that I will reflect on times of single parenting while also diving into the daily needs of a blended family. I have changed the title to "The Single-Blended Parenting Journey" and hope that you will stick with me as I blog and document our journey as a family. I hope it helps you in the journey of life you are in.