Wednesday, October 15, 2014


I mentioned my thoughts last week about how our family is less than ideal. It's not bad. But never does a woman get married thinking, "Well, I'll be married for about eight years, then I'll get divorced and then I'll remarry to a nice man and we'll have a great big happy blended family, and that will be so much better than if I were to just get married and stay married to the father of my children for eternity!"

No, no, I'm pretty sure we don't think that way. In fact, from a young age, as Latter Day Saint children, we are taught that "The family is ordained of God." and "Children are entitled to... be reared by a father and mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity." There is no mention in The Family: A Proclamation to the World of divorce, step parents, or blended families. Other than the admonition to "honor marital vows with complete fidelity" (which would imply not getting divorced) there is no talk of divorce to be found.

So, if I know what the ideal is, and I was striving for that ideal my entire life, and I am committed to that ideal, how to I reconcile my less-than-ideal circumstance with the prophet-directed ideal?

Elder D. Todd Christofferson's talk last October came at exactly the right time. My divorce was almost final, and I was feeling very brokenhearted about the idea of my "ideal" situation dissolving. I couldn't deny the truth of his statement that, "There is no better setting for rearing the rising generation than the traditional family, where a father and a mother work in harmony to provide for, teach, and nurture their children." But I am glad that he did not stop there. His words were a soothing balm to my aching newly-single-mother heart, "Where this ideal does not exist, people strive to duplicate its benefits as best they can in their particular circumstances."

And that, my friends, is where we are today.

Although our children are not being reared by a biological father and mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity, they are being reared by a step mom and a step dad who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. And we focus on the next part of The Proclamation,
Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.
I am convinced that the benefits can be duplicated if we focus on these things.

In our blended family and home, we try to be unrelenting about family scripture study and family prayer. We try to teach our children repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, and hard work. As much as possible, we try to duplicate the benefits of the best setting for rearing the rising generation.

I guess we won't know how successful we were until our children are gone, but I have faith that Heavenly Father will guide us as we try to do our best. And, as Elder Ballard said last October, "It is impossible for us to fail when we do our best when we are on the Lord’s errand."

How do you try to duplicate the benefits of the ideal situation in your less-than-ideal situation? We all have something less-than-ideal about our lives. What is your fix?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Less Than Ideal

It's Friday night, which is a pretty lonely night for me these days. Our kids all go with their other parent on Friday nights, and my husband works until 11, so it's just me, writing about our mixed up life.

I haven't had a lot of time to read or write - and I have felt like I haven't had very many interesting things to say.

But I am active on a Facebook group of LDS women who elicit tidbits from me every now and then when I have a minute to check in on what they are chatting about. I love those ladies - they keep me grounded in my faith, they remind me of the important things in life, and they help me keep my covenants. They are women from all over the world, from all walks of life, with one thing in common - they are faithful covenant keepers.

We've had a lot of conversations lately, and one of them in particular has been about the attack on family in society today. The attack comes in several different ways, and I don't want to debate about feminism, women in the church, same sex marriage, or any other hot topic. I want to talk about blended families.

I am a staunch advocate of traditional marriage - one man, one woman, raising their children together. We can get all sorts of specific with the types of families that don't fit this mold, but I want to get specific with only one...

Lately I have been mulling over the idea of our blended family. My children have two "fathers" now - their biological father, and their step father. Both fathers are very real fathers to them, and fill very important roles for my children. Similarly, my step children have two "mothers" now - their biological mother, and me - both also very important and very real to them, fulfilling much needed roles in their lives.

So it got me to thinking... how is my children have two "moms" and two "dads" different from a child being raised in a same-sex relationship by two moms, or two dads? This is an earnest question, and deep down I know that a mom and a step dad raising kids together is different than a dad and a step dad raising kids together, but the question is still rattling around in my brain - far from being satisfactorily answered.

And honestly, I have more questions than answers. Which is not unusual for me.

I read this article today about another type of blended family popping up around the world - the family where the step dad is married to the biological dad, rather than the biological mom. It is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever read.

The thing is, divorce is heartbreaking for me. Remarriage is heartbreaking for me. Sure there are fantastic things about my life now - but in the back of my mind there is always that nagging reminder that we are not in an "ideal" family situation.  Which is why I keep thinking about less-than-ideal family situations, and what differentiates them from one another.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blended Trials: Missing Kids

When I first got remarried and we blended the family I was pretty excited. I thought I was going to be the best mom to these kids, even my step kids, and we were going to have loads of fun together and our lives were going to be awesome and we were going to be one big happy family.

Then parent-time happened.

For those of you not familiar with parent time, that's what used to be called "visitation". Parent-time is how you divide up time with the kids.

Both Justin and I are the "custodial" parents. That means that the kids live with us for most of the year. Their other parents are the "non-custodial" parent, and the kids spend time with them at pre-arranged days and times. However, we are both pretty flexible with our kids' other parents and they get to see their other parents as much as the other parent is able.

The first time our kids went with other parents at different times it was killer for me. I wanted to have all six kids all the time, and if we weren't going to have some, I wanted them all to be with their other parent. Surprise, surprise, both of the other parents' schedules don't match up exactly, so sometimes we have one set of kids, sometimes we have the other set. That was really hard for me at first. I thought my family was being torn apart and we were always going to be broken.

News flash - we will always be "broken" in this life, because that is the condition of mortality. Brokenness. However, that doesn't mean bad. I just had to learn how to live with this new condition. Like an amputee learning to live without a leg.

Parent-time makes planning family activities tricky. We try not to plan big family things when we know only one set of kids will be there, because we don't want the other set of kids to feel left out. But sometimes life happens, and we take what we can get.

At the end of the school year we wanted to have a big Summer Kickoff party with all our friends and their kids. We planned several weeks in advance and made sure a lot of our friends could come.

Then the long awaited Saturday came... and we had one kid.

One, out of six! Long story, but it involved military schedules and sick kids.

It was a little tragic at first, but we got over it and had a blast with all our friends and their families. And Ryan got to be the "only child" for a day, which was probably pretty awesome for him. He was the youngest before the blended of the family, and now he is one of two middle kids. So one-on-one time with Ryan is scarce, and him having the opportunity to play with friends, sans siblings, is even more rare. I'm pretty sure he really enjoyed it.

What is best for me is not always best for the kids. This was hard for me to learn, because, as I said before, I want all the kids all the time. My ideal life would be one where I never have to share my children with anyone on the whole planet. I am really selfish with my kids. I adore each and every one of them (and "my kids" includes my step kids as well - I don't think of them as step kids, I think of them as "my kids", just like I think of my students at school as "my kids").

However, just because I want to monopolize my children's time does not mean that is what they want. Those kids are half of their other parent, and they want to spend time with their other parent as well. Of course, for the kids I know that their ideal is to have both biological parents with them all the time. And boy do I wish I could make that happen for them. After all, selfishness aside, I really do just want my kids to be happy.

So I have to think about the kids, and I do. I am trying to really be selfless and make sure I put their needs first above my own. It's a different kind of selflessness for me, and a way I am not accustomed to being selfless. When I want to have them so I can do something fun with them, or read with them, or play with them, or take them to a museum or a park or the pool, I have to remember that they might like to just be with their other parent, or do that fun thing with their other parent - and that is okay.

Lest you think our blended family is always awesome, here you can see. It is most definitely not. But we make it work because we don't really want to sulk all the time about how awful our situation is. We just make the best out of it and do the best we can.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blended Trials: Feelings and Validation

Our 10 year old, Cory, is one of the most sensitive kids you will ever meet. He has the biggest heart, and thinks more about other people than he does about himself. He loves like you will never experience in your life if you don't know him. His wife is going to be one lucky lady.

When I share these stories about trials of blending a family it's so that you know that we are normal. We are not some fantastic, perfect family. Our blended family journey is just what it should be.

A few months ago, Cory was having a hard time. We had him seeing a therapist for a while (at his request), and then he decided he didn't want to see the therapist anymore. Cory told Justin, "I want you to be my therapist." We were actually thrilled about this, because we would rather have our kids talk to us than some stranger.

During one of his "sessions" with his dad (Justin and Cory lying on the couch together - no client on the couch, shrink in a chair with this therapist!) Cory admitted to Justin that he never wanted us to get married. I wasn't around during this conversation, but Justin told me about it later. 

The next day we went out to eat as a family and Cory asked me if Justin had told me about what he said. I confirmed that Justin and I had talked about it and I said, "Cory, I understand why you would feel that way, and I am totally okay with you feeling that way. In fact, you could have told me that to my face and I would still be okay with it." I wanted Cory to know that I understand how he's feeling, and I am not offended that he doesn't want me to marry his dad. I didn't take it personally. Cory always wanted his mom and dad to get back together, and I know that me marrying his dad completely trashed that dream. That can be devastating for a kid.

When dealing with kids in blended a family, don't take anything personally, and be your kids' best therapist. We don't allow name calling or yelling or hitting or saying mean things to people, but calmly saying something like, "I never wanted you and my dad to get married" isn't dangerous to anyone. It's a true admission of feelings, and a very mature thing to do. We definitely praise those kinds of things coming from our kids. As your child's therapist your number one responsibility is to listen. Kids who are dealing with things like divorce and remarriage are going to have a lot of confusing things going on in their heads. Listen. Resist the urge to correct, lecture, or respond in any way other than validation. Afterwards your child might be open to some advice or counsel, but give it carefully, and stop if things start going awry.

When a child misbehaves due to strong emotions, validate the emotion, then deal with the behavior. When our kids have outbursts of anger or emotion, we try to validate the emotion, then deal with the behavior. "You must really miss your mom. But it's not appropriate to throw a fit and scream and kick." We are starting to get a lot more calm, although emotional, responses from our kids. Tear-filled statements such as "I wish I could go to my mom's house" and "Sometimes it's hard to have so many brothers and sisters" are becoming at least as common as the tantrums, fights, and melt downs.

Pride is the step-parent's enemy. Well, pride is everyone's enemy. But it is especially detrimental in blended families. If you want to have a good relationship with a step child the best way to do it is to throw your pride right out the window. When Justin gets home from work, Joseline and Vincente barely glance up from what they are doing to say hi, while Cory and Ryan (and sometimes Bailey) run to meet him from wherever they are in the house. Justin does a really good job of not taking that personally, even though I know it hurts him. And the kids are learning to be at least cordial and greeting people when they come home. It's easy to take everything personally and think that your step kids hate you, or at the very least, don't care for you. But it takes time to build relationships, and the more you let your pride get in the way of that, the worse it will be for your relationships.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


An old friend messaged me on Facebook after my first couple of blog posts saying that he loved my posts and thanking me for telling my story. I wrote him back and said that I had been nervous to share my story because of how I would be perceived. The friend wrote back and said, "I think you're helping to change 'perceptions' and that's a good thing".

So what was I so worried about?

I was worried about being judged. Which is ironic, because ordinarily I don't give a rat's patootie about what other people think of me. I do what I feel is the right thing, and if I find out later that it isn't the right thing I will be incredibly apologetic. But while I'm doing what I think is right I find no reason to apologize.

Divorce and remarriage was entirely different for me. I worried what people would think of me when they found out I was getting divorced. I am usually free to explain myself, but with my divorce I knew there was no way I could accurately explain myself without causing inexplicable harm to both my former spouse and my children, which is something I could never do. You will never know, dear reader, what I went through in my divorce, because I will never tell you.

When I got remarried so soon after I was divorced (we got married less than 30 days after my divorce was final - but Utah has a 90 day waiting period for divorce, so we had filed for divorce longer than that) I was worried that people would judge me. When I married a red head (my youngest baby, born about 4 months before we filed for divorce, is a red head) I was worried what people might say.

I was worried what people would think of me getting married to someone I hadn't known for very long.

I was worried people would think I was somehow a less faithful Latter-Day Saint for being divorced. There is a part of the movie 17 Miracles that makes me gush tears every time. A mother of two small children is leaving England to emigrate to America to join with the Saints. She receives a blessing in which she is counseled about leaving a spouse. Whether truth or fiction it always touches me and I identify with her character at that moment.

I don't want to make it seem like divorce is a good thing. It isn't. Whenever some trial comes up that is directly related to divorce or indirectly related to divorce through remarriage and our blended family, Justin and I say to each other "Divorce sucks." Because it does.

Divorce is like cutting off your leg. Sometimes amputation is necessary to save the rest of your body, or to keep an infection from spreading. But you would never think of amputating your leg without first trying every thing imaginable to keep it. Amputation should be an absolute last resort, and it should be more desirable than keeping the leg. For example, if you break your leg, you aren't going to cut it off. You'll have a doctor set the bone, put it in a cast, and wait for it to heal. Sure, it may take a long time, and your leg may never work exactly the same, but you will still have your leg. Sometimes you may not have a choice in whether to amputate or not. Maybe your leg gets caught in heavy machinery or someone maliciously cuts your leg off. Whatever the situation, it is always better to have your leg if you can keep it.

Please do not take any part of this blog to be an endorsement of divorce. I don't want to give you the impression that you should get divorced because my happy remarried life looks better than your crappy marriage. If you want to know specifics, or if you feel like you need to talk about divorce or your marriage, feel free to email me. I am not a therapist, and most likely I will encourage you to see a marriage therapist - either with your spouse or by yourself. But if you just need some friendly advice, or even just a listening ear, please reach out.

If you have lost your leg already, please have hope. You can still live a full life as an amputee! And that is the true purpose of me sharing our story with the world - I hope that you can see that, although divorce and remarriage and blended families are not the ideal, your life can be full and amazing anyway!

Are you going through divorce, remarriage, or learning how to blend a family? What questions do you have? Have you been there, done that? What advice do you have for the Andrewleys?