Christmas (Talk) In August!

In our local support group this week we happened on a ripe topic. (And when I say we “happened” on it, I mean that literally. Sometimes I have no idea where God will lead us until we get there!) We fell into talking about Christmases past and to come. In particular, what we had all spent on our kids and families last Christmas. Many were not proud!
One couple said they fought so badly she asked to be let out of the car on the way to a family gathering. She just sat at a gas station until he and the kids were through and came back to get her! They both seemed unhappy about that event.
Another guy told of how his family tradition was to just buy for the kids and maybe a gift or two for another family member; however, his new wife’s family tradition involved expensive gifts for each member of a large family. They also held Christmas gatherings and dinners at several houses … where more gifts were exchanged! He still sounded stunned by it all.
How many gifts did they give out? “Way too many,” seemed to be the consensus. One couple looked at each other, counting to themselves and came up with “50 or 55” gifts per child! Good grief!
Why do we do this? Most said they just got carried away with sales and last minute ideas. But one dad admitted that part of his over-gifting was to make up to his kids for their not having such a great life since their parents’ divorce and Dad’s remarriage. Most of the others either nodded agreement or just stared at their hands.
So I asked them, What do you think is a proper number of gifts for a child to receive for Christmas. Not your child, but an average child from an average family in our socio-economic neighborhood. … No one volunteered for what sounded like a trap, so I went around the table and ask each person. The general average seemed to be four or five gifts per child was fair.
Why numbers of gifts per child instead of amount spent, one mom asked. Because most pre-teen kids seem to be more interested in how many packages they have to open and the gifts they walk away with, than how many dollars each item cost.
One dad said they’d settled the issue last year by reading the Christmas story, then pointing out that since Baby Jesus (whose birthday this is supposed to be about) only received three gifts, wasn’t it fair to limit the kids to only three gifts? Nice idea!
We wound up all agreeing that it might be a good idea to set goals or budgets for this year’s holidays. Our homework for the next week will be for each couple to come back with their set plan. It can include only the kids, or be for the kids and all the adults. It can be about numbers of gifts, or about budgeted dollars, or both.
I’d like to propose this same project for your family. Sit down together, you and your sweetie, and decide now – while it’s still hot and very non-Christmas-y – what your goal (or your limit if you’re more comfortable with that measure) will be for your family this year. Write it down and keep it where you can find it again around the middle of November. And then see what you think of it come January.
Please write me and let me share with our other families your ideas. I know they will appreciate hearing from you – we all need to share ideas, don’t we? 
Oh, and … Merry Christmas!
STEP coach Bob
Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

25 Ideas that might make Life Easier…

A chum sent this along in an email. Don’t know where it came from originally (sorry I can’t give credit where credit is due), but I thought you’d appreciate some of these brilliant tips. Merry Christmas, y’all!

Why didn’t I think of that?!
We guarantee you’ll be uttering those words more than once at these ingenious little tips, tricks and ideas that solve everyday problems … some you never knew you had!

(Above: hull strawberries easily using a straw).
.
.
Rubbing a walnut over scratches in your furniture will disguise dings and scrapes.
.
.
Remove crayon masterpieces from your TV or computer screen with WD40 (also works on walls).
.
.
Stop cut apples browning in your child’s lunch box by securing with a rubber band.
.
.
Overhaul your linen cupboard – store bed linen sets inside one of their own pillowcases and there will be no more hunting through piles for a match.
.
.
Pump up the volume by placing your iPhone / iPod in a bowl – the concave shape amplifies the music.
.
.
Re-use a wet-wipes container to store plastic bags.
.
.
Add this item to your beach bag. Baby powder gets sand off your skin easily – who knew?!
.
.
Attach a Velcro strip to the wall to store soft toys.
.
.
Look up! Use wire to make a space to store gift wrap rolls against the ceiling, rather than cluttering up the floor.
.
.
Gotcha! Find tiny lost items like earrings by putting a stocking over the vacuum hose.
.
.
Make an instant cupcake carrier by cutting crosses into a box lid.
.
.
For those who can’t stand the scrunching and bunching: how to perfectly fold a fitted sheet.
.
.
Forever losing your bathroom essentials? Use magnetic strips to store bobby pins (and tweezers and clippers) behind a vanity door
.
.
A tip for holiday packing. Store shoes inside shower caps to stop dirty soles rubbing on your clothes. And you can find them in just about every hotel!
.
.
A muffin pan becomes a craft caddy. Magnets hold the plastic cups down to make them tip-resistant.
.
.
Bread tags make the perfect-sized cord labels.
.
.
Bake cupcakes directly in ice-cream cones – so much more fun and easier for kids to eat. Definitely doing this!
.
.
Microwave your own popcorn in a plain brown paper bag. Much healthier and cheaper than the packet stuff.
.
.
Brilliant space-saver: install a tension rod to hang your spray bottles. Genius!
.
.
Win friends at breakfast with this heart-shaped egg tutorial. Aww shucks!
.
.
Turn your muffin pan upside down, bake cookie-dough over the top and voila – you have cookie bowls for fruit or ice-cream.
.
.
Freeze Aloe Vera in ice-cube trays for soothing sunburn relief.
.
.
Gutter garden: Create a window-box veggie patch using guttering.
.
.
Use egg cartons to separate and store your Christmas decorations.
Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Mother’s Day? Again?!

Among stepmoms I know, this is a very unpopular holiday. If you’re reading this, you probably agree with them.

Mother’s Day was instituted in 1914 when President Wilson agreed to Anna Marie Jarvis’s request for a national holiday to honor the mothers who were raising America’s next generation of citizens. She regretted her decision many times before she died in 1948, saying, “wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control …”

And, if you’re a stepmom who works hard all year long to help take care of your stepchildren, only to be ignored on Mother’s Day – you probably agree with Jarvis!

Face it, if you married a man who had children from a previous relationship in the hope you’d get the love and affection of a mother, you were nuts! The vast majority of stepchildren (God bless ’em!) can’t even remember your name on Mother’s Day, much less to get you a card or candy or some freakin’ flowers!

But they sure remember their biological mom, don’t they? You know, that woman who whines and gripes about having to allow their dad any time at all with them; who never seems to remember to send the right clothes when they do get to visit; and who refers to you as “that woman” when she even acknowledges all you do for her kids! She may send them over dirty, hungry, and hopped up on high fructose corn syrup, but to them, she’s the only woman in their lives.

How many loads of laundry have you done for her kids? How many meals have you cooked? How many times have you tucked them in and kissed them good night? And how many times have you told them you love them … only to get no thanks for any of it?

Mother’s Day! Bah humbug!

After all, you signed up for cards and candy and flowers, didn’t you? Didn’t you?

What? That’s not why you married into this hillbilly clan?

Oh, yes. That’s right. You joined them because you were in love with their daddy, and you didn’t mind that he brought along some “baggage.” You came into this family with your eyes wide open, your arms outstretched, and your heart full of love.

And that love is still there. Somewhere behind the sticky jelly sandwiches, the smelly clothes, and the shrugs of partial acceptance.

That’s what Mother’s Day is all about for stepmoms. I hope you get a pretty card, a box of sweets, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. But if you don’t – and most of you won’t – I hope you can remember that your love for them far surpasses the trite little gifts they may give to their bio-mom. Your love goes all the way through their daddy to their needs and their tears you help dry.

You are the glue Anna Marie Jarvis and President Wilson had in mind when they were trying to commemorate the ones who nurture our children, who shape our future. You are the picture of Christ’s love to children who might reject and resent it, but who need it to overcome their wounds from their parents’ divorce. And you are the one who they will remember one day as loving them no matter what they said or didn’t say.

So happy Stepmother’s Day to you dear, strong ladies. God bless you for your dedication, your courage, and for your love.

God bless y’all,

STEPcoach Bob Collins
stepcoach@gmail.com

Published in: on May 4, 2011 at 11:58 am  Comments (4)  

STEPfamily Guidebooks Price Reduced!

All our primary guidebooks have been marked down from $5.00 to $1.95. Go to stepcarefully.co… to take advantage of a ministry outreach. I want as many stepfamilies as possible to have these wonderful guidebooks, so I’m dropping the price for a limited time.
‎”You’re Not My Mom,” “12 Steps to Improve Your Stepfamily,” “Responsibility of A Lifetime,” “You’re Not My Dad,” and “Beat the Holiday Blues” have helped thousands of stepfamilies survive. Now’s your chance to get them at a great bargain.
Published in: on March 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hot, Hot, Hot!

MAN! it’s hot! We hit 100 degrees this weekend, here in Western Arkansas, right on the Oklahoma border, in the wild, wild western town of Fort Smith, where “Hangin’ Judge Parker” kept the law with a vicious posse of US Marshalls and gallows he kept busy all year long.

Speaking of hanging outlaws, what are your plans for your stepkids this summer? You know, hot weather just brings out the outlaw in bored kids. Just compare the attitudes of folks who live near the equator and those who live ‘way up in Canada! When it’s hot, tempers are more prone to flare.

So it’s not unusual for stepfamilies to report more temper tantrums – from both the kids and the adults! A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how to keep yourself from losing it this summer. But this post talks more about helping your kids to be less of a trial to you. (So, see, it’s still about you!)

Here are a couple of things you can do to keep the tempers a little more under control. I’ll offer mine here, and I hope you’ll not be too selfish to offer your ideas with other stepfamilies (hint hint!).

First and most important is for you to keep your sense of humor and keep things in perspective. Go to bed every night and wake up every morning praying for an extra dose of patience to guide, rather than shove your kids and stepkids through the coming day. If you think praying for patience with your kids doesn’t work, clearly you haven’t tried it (and applied it)! That’s all that got us through Jennifer’s teen years!

Yes, Judge Parker hung (hanged?) hundreds of outlaws in his days on the bench. But that fearsome old man also exercised a lit of mercy and prayer for the criminals brought before him. He was known to give bad guys a second or even third chance to prove themselves too good for hangin’. And these were some cast iron hard cases! So you can allow yourself some kindness, too.

Next suggestion is to keep ’em busy. Bored kids are much more likely to dream up ways to torture you than are busy kids. You used to hear a lot, “idle hands are the devil’s tools.” And though we don’t hear that said much anymore, it still rings true. If you’re feeling stuck for fresh ideas, here are a couple of good web sources for you:
200+ Ideas for Summer Fun
Kids’ Turn Central
Teen Jobs and Working Teens

And finally, it’s always a great idea to use the summer daze to get your kids more involved in their faith. Take advantage of the many Vacation Bible School programs in your town. Besides giving you an entire morning (Praise God!) free of your little darlings, VBS can begin instilling in them a sense of respect for you and for your religion. AND churches usually stagger their VBS programs so they don’t all fall on the same week, so you can often enroll your kiddos in more than one program for summer.

That’s all my suggestions for now – I’m not going to do ALL your work for you! Now you pass is on by commenting with your own ideas, or even your own summer situations. Remember, we’re a community. We can make our burden lighter if we share.

God bless y’all!


Bob Collins, STEPcoach

Published in: on June 21, 2010 at 9:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Summertime Suggestions

Summer days out of school always bring questions about how to keep kids occupied. Toss in the extra “challenges” of visiting stepkids and you can wind up with a scheduling horror show! Here are a couple of time-tested ideas – THEN I’d like for you to share your own suggestions to help out other steppers this Summer.

1) Keep to a schedule. Even though it’s school-out time, your family still needs some rules. Don’t let your kids fall into the trap of just laying around, waiting for school to start back. Give any kid a chance and he or she will end up wasting their vacation with boredom.

Chores have to be done all year round, right? So kids need to be held to their responsibilities all year round, too. Instead of weekly timetables (Monday: take out trash; Wednesday: gather laundry; etc), set hourly deadlines during Summer days (have trash out by 1:00 on Monday; have laundry gathered by 10:00 am on Wednesday; etc). This will help your young’uns to have a sense of structure in their days.

2) Try time-sharing with another parent. One week, take their kids on, say, at Tuesday afternoon. The next week they take your kids for an afternoon. Both parents get a free day; while you also get the “bonus” of extra kids one day. Why is this a bonus? As most parents have discovered, it’s often easier to ride herd on a few extra kiddos. They tend to keep each other’s attention distracted from you.

Plan a busy activity for your day with the gang. Take them to the park, the beach, the zoo, the kid-friendly museum, etc. You’ll probably have a much easier day if you plan it right, even with the extra noses to wipe.

3) Take time for yourself! Use that free afternoon to pamper yourself. Don’t just do your chores or pay bills. Get a massage. Take a nap. Visit your best friend. Read a book at the pool or beach.

Your family depends on you to keep yourself in good shape. You need time to yourself to do that. This is not selfish if you do it with a purpose. Focus on recharging your batteries or renewing your inner peace.

4) Now, what is YOUR Summer-time suggestion? Don’t be selfish. Take a minute to reply with your own helpful hint for other stepparents this Summer.

God bless y’all!
Bob C. – STEPcoach

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Holiday Tip #11: Sit, Write, NOW!!

Now is the time to take 10 minutes to radically improve your family relationships for the next year. No, I’m not talking about resolutions (who keeps ’em anyway?!). I’m talking about a more powerful tool.

While you’re sitting, reading this, open a word processing or text program on your computer, or just send yourself an email, and write down all your memories of HOW CHRISTMAS WENT – how it went wrong, but also the good things that happened. Surprising kindnesses; unexpected gifts; one solitary peaceful moment and what lead to it and how it felt; your favorite two gifts; your joy at picking out and giving a particular gift to someone else.

Then go ahead and vent at how angry you got over the stepkids or your ex or your spouse’s ex. Describe how you felt when they ignored you or disrespected you. Write about how you had hoped things would go, but how they fell through.

THEN think for a moment, honestly, about what you did to contribute to the tension. Were you more attentive to your own kids than the stepchildren? Did you start out expecting trouble, and got what you were expecting? Did you leave out some kids from the gift giving, or give them not-as-good gifts as others?

Far too often, we set ourselves up for failure by expecting the worst, acting like we expect it, then subtly preparing everyone else to do exactly what we expected. “I know that boy is going to be ungrateful, even though I’ve bent over backwards and given up my own happiness for him. I know he’s just going to ignore anything I give him.” “Here. This is yours.” “I knew it! Little brat! He never appreciates anything I do for him! I’ll never do anything for him again!

And do you feel justified in your memories of these holidays? Are you still steaming over the way it fell apart? Write that down, too.

NOW, save your thoughts (or send the message to yourself) for at least six months. In the summer, open your memories – fresh memories, not distant one you can’t quite remember fully. Give yourself some time to re-view the events of this last week. See how they look with the perspective of time. You will most likely be very surprised at how they look.

If you wish, you can send me a copy of these notes. If you are wanting help in building a stronger relationship with these who hurt you last week, I can help. I’ll be glad to help you interpret your actions, and to plan better ways of dealing with them in the future. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. Not with the right help. 

God bless your whole family for the whole next year!

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Published in: on December 29, 2009 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Holiday Tips – #10

Stepfamily Holiday Survival Tip #10:
Keep your perspective. What’s the bottom line in dealing with holiday madness in a stepfamily? The same three C’s we teach in all our resources at STEP–Carefully! — Caring, Consideration, and Common sense.

Care for your loved ones. Care about how you are teaching them to be adults. Care about the reputation you will be carrying through life.

Be Considerate of others’ feelings. Show consideration and respect for your new family’s need for a solid, peaceful home.

Use Common sense in handling problems. Some of them just aren’t worth the effort. Common sense means backing up to look at the larger picture. Is this particular old holiday custom worth fighting over? Or would you be better off letting it go and trying something else.

For the sake of your kids, act like Christian adults! Or at least mature adults. Remember, it’s Christmas, don’t blaspheme the holiday by destroying what you’ve taught all year long.

If you look at it correctly, this holiday season can be a wonderful opportunity for you to improve your relationship with your stepchildren and your mate’s family, rather than a series of upsets. Keep tomorrow in mind today. Try to send yourself some blessings for next week, next month, and the rest of this coming year. You deserve that much, don’t you?

Always remember: you are the best chance your spouse and your stepkids have for a blessing. You. Don’t miss a chance to be a hero.

[NOTE: this is an excerpt from our guide book, Beat the Holiday Blues.]
———————

Don’t forget about my special Christmas gift offer: 25% off my standard rates for couple mediation/coaching sessions. Details are HERE


You are NOT alone! We love you and we can help.

God bless your whole, wonderful family,
STEPcoach Bob Collins

Published in: on December 24, 2009 at 9:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Holiday Tips – #9

Stepfamily Holiday Survival Tip #9:
Wear thicker skin over the holidays. As the inevitable pressures build, be prepared to be an example of patience and lovingkindness.

Be careful that you don’t lose control of yourself and damage relationships you have to maintain throughout the rest of the year. Someone has to be the adult, it might as well be you. And don’t be a martyr about it, telling everyone how tough it is, just do it with a smile. Even if no one else appreciates your strength, you can feel proud of yourself on January 4th!

Understand that, when your kids return from their holiday visits, they will probably be wearing an attitude. They usually do after a trip to “that other house,” don’t they? Have you figured out why yet?

More than likely, it’s because they’ve had a not–so–great time. They were away from home, in a strange place, among strangers with strange customs. They missed you, and that made them feel guilty for not loving their Dad more. Possibly they were left out of activities and treated like street urchins brought in out of charity.

Do you see why it’s so important to put forth the effort to make the kids who come visit you feel welcome?

On the other hand, the kids who do come visit you may very well be less than gracious about your efforts to include them and make them feel comfortable. Never mind. It’s not really important how well someone receives a gift from you. It’s how you give the gift that matters. The visiting kids may have been “prepped” by their mom or dad to expect you to be a monster, so they are putting up the best defense — a good offense.

Well, you just prove to them what kind of a person you really are! And you will, good or bad.

[NOTE: this is an excerpt from our guide book, Beat the Holiday Blues.]
———————

Don’t forget about my special Christmas gift offer: 25% off my standard rates for couple mediation/coaching sessions. Details are HERE


You are NOT alone! We love you and we can help.

God bless your whole, wonderful family,
STEPcoach Bob Collins 

Published in: on December 22, 2009 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Holiday Special Offer for Your Family

If you have wanted to get private personal guidance and help for your family conflicts and arguments, this is your chance.

I am offering, as a Christmas present to your family, a 25% discount off my regular fees for private mediation/coaching sessions. This is limited to new clients who order and pay for a minimum of four sessions before Christmas, the sessions to begin following New Years 2010.

These sessions are not limited to any topic or subject. We can begin rebuilding your family’s relationships and finding healthy solutions to your disputes regarding parenting, marriage, divorce, ex-spouses, stepchildren, or any other family related issues that are causing distress in your home.

Why am I giving away one fourth of my fees? Because you need it. Our families are failing at a horrifying rate today. Stepfamilies are divorcing much faster than ever before. The challenges facing our marriages, our children, and our extended families are becoming overwhelming.

I can help you with those challenges and I want to. I have been teaching peaceful solutions to breaking and broken families since 1996. I have been able to help thousands of stepfamilies and divorced parents rebuild trust and teamwork. And I can help your family, too.

To take advantage of this one-time special offer, contact me before midnight, December 24, 2009; agree to a contract for a minimum of four sessions to begin in January 2010; and pay for the sessions in advance. You will receive a 25% discount off my standard session fees. This offer is open only to first time clients, please.

Please let me help you and your family find the peace you had hoped for before you married. You owe it to yourself and your whole family to begin the process of building a healthier future now.

Email me HERE, or call me at 479-522-7490 to begin a new, healthier family life for 2010.

God bless your whole, wonderful family!

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Published in: on December 20, 2009 at 5:18 am  Leave a Comment  
  • _______~__~__~________

  • %d bloggers like this: