15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know

If you stop by and read my words from time to time, I think you’ll agree that I have three primary speeds — ha-ha, deep, and esoteric. Lately I’ve been kicking out some ha-has, so I thought it was time to take one kinda deep. In fact, if I had to point to, say, five or six things that I’ve written that would give a total stranger the best sense of who I truly am, this piece would make the list without question. Not because it’s some work of literary genius. (As that clearly wouldn’t give someone a feel for who I am!) Far from it. Just some simple words about a complex relationship. One that I feel so fortunate to have.

So, I really hope you’ll go over to BabbleVoices and read this one. It’s got a piece of my heart trapped inside of it. Click HERE to read 15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know.

The 6 Axioms of Step Parenting

Anyone who stops by here on a regular basis would likely agree that I’ve never once professed to be an expert at anything, much less parenting. That said, I’m like everyone else in that I try hard to do well at most any thing that I do. And parenting is a great example.

So, too, is step parenting. I’ve written a handful of times about our blended family experience (with a couple of those efforts even getting linked up over at the Huffington Post’s Divorce section), and today, over at TLC, I decided to write about it once again, but this time with a different slant.

This time, I decided to write about 6 different axioms I try to keep in mind when it comes to step parenting. If you’d like to check it out, please visit me over at TLC’s Parentables.

A Blended Family, A Stepdaughter and Me

Pookie goofing off at the beach this past August.

Although we had gone to school together from 1980 to 1987, I hadn’t laid eyes on Caroline for nearly a decade. That is before I randomly bumped into her in 2004. Truth be known, I had always found her extremely attractive, even during the Carter administration when she was nothing more than a feisty little 6th grader equipped with the perfect blend of beauty and sass. And the all-grown-up version was somehow even more beautiful than I had remembered.

But in spite of our immediate chemistry, I knew a long-term relationship wasn’t in the cards. After all, Caroline was a single mom. And as a 34 year-old professional bachelor type, I had no interest in any of that. I mean, being a parent is hard enough. But being a stepparent? It’s downright impossible, a fact I understood all too well from my childhood.

Continue reading over at Babble

Donuts With Dads

Yesterday was a big day for Pookie. Her second grade class was holding a special event–Donuts With Dads. It’s an annual thing, so I’ve known about it for a while, and I gotta say, I was more than a little curious about how it would go down. After all, her real dad lives right here in town, so his attendance was a given. But what about mine? I would have been okay if I’d been left out of the mix. Being a stepdad can be tough. And so can being a stepdaughter. Accordingly, I figured that on some level, this would be a difficult decision for her.

On Monday, Lovie broke the great news. Pookie wanted “both of her dads” to go. (Insert your California joke here.) I was obviously thrilled, but also knew that a certain degree of awkwardness would likely ensue. But as Pookie led her father and me around the classroom on the “scavenger hunt,” I was pleasantly surprised by how skillfully she was navigating the situation. It wasn’t awkward at all.

Until we went to the far wall to admire the cute drawings the class had made of their dads and I saw this soon-to-be-classic staring right back at me:

Egads! My eyes quickly scanned the entire wall until I found the drawing she had made of her biological father, and, well, it’s safe to say that I got the short end of the crayon.

Forget, for a moment, that the left side of my face is bulging out as if experiencing the gravitational pull of a large planet. And forget the fact fact, if you will, that there is a certain, though difficult-to-pinpoint, alien element to the depiction. And forget, also, the zipper on my fleece (I’m reasonably sure that’s what she was drawing) looks like Uncle Jed’s shotgun.

Take a gander at my head, more specifically my hair–and disregard the fact that I don’t have a crew cut and that my real hair is not six inches off my ears. Focus, instead at the very, very top of my hair.

There are only a handful of explanations.

  1. To enhance the aforementioned alien theme, Pookie has drawn a flying saucer which has landed on my head.
  2. I’m sporting a flesh-toned yamaka.
  3. Pookie believes that I’m actually a volcano.
  4. Pookie’s imagining that I’ve recently endured a lobotomy.
  5. The circle is actually a halo, a symbolic representation of the angelic role I’ve played in Pookie’s life.
  6. Or, most likely, that skin-toned circle that is surrounded by hair is Pookie’s artistic rendering of my bald spot.

I suppose that’s how she sees me. And I’m okay with that. Especially given the fact that her insistence that I be a part of the festivities tells me something else about how she sees me.

As her dad.

I love you, Pook.

Get Real

Lovie and I got married in 2006. She was a thirty-seven-year-old single mom to Pookie, and I was a thirty-six-year-old, semi-professional bachelor. Despite our relatively advanced age, we knew before we even tied the knot that we wanted to have a child together.

A child, mind you. At least that was my thinking. Lovie thought that more than one might be nice. “Let’s just focus on having one,” I offered. “Then we can see how we feel about having another.”

Obviously the news that we were expecting triplets tabled any future conversations concerning more children. Or so I thought. One night, when our trio was just six months old, Lovie casually mentioned to me that sometimes she thought it would be “funny” if she were to get pregnant again.

There were many adjectives that came to my mind with such a scenario, but funny was not among them. After all, in trying for a simple addition to bring us just below the national family average, we had somehow become the Waltons in one fell swoop. I wasn’t convinced that my potent brand of semen could be trusted to produce only one more. With my luck, I’d knock Lovie up with quintuplets. Then we’d be burdened with our own reality show:

John and Caroline Plus Nine

I don’t know about you, but one-upping the Gosselins didn’t sound like anything that I would ever consider even remotely “funny.” What if she wanted more after that and we duplicated our inaugural effort with yet another set of triplets? Talk about reality shows.

Our Good Lovin’ Made a Dozen? I don’t think so.

In December, I read that Kate Gosselin has a new show in the works. Frankly, it scared the hell out of me. After all, America needs more Kate Gosselin like Lovie and I need more children. If TV execs could possibly think that such a show was a good idea, I knew it was possible that Lovie just might relapse and again ponder the hilarity that would ensue with the addition of more children to our brood. Accordingly, I thought it would be prudent if I armed myself with TV show titles that would discourage such insanity.

Even If We Tried, Her Tubes Are Tied

But her tubes aren’t tied. So that didn’t make sense.

No More Trips ‘Cause John Got Snipped

Only I haven’t been snipped. And I never will get snipped. I’m scared of the knife, and I certainly don’t want to duplicate my good cyber-buddy Ron Mattock’s recent procedure. Besides, I hate frozen peas. The last thing I wanna do is sit on them.

Lovie’s Bod Will Not House Quads

Not bad. But that title left a little too much wiggle room for my liking. Technically, it allowed for the possibility of Lovie’s petite frame housing fewer than four. And then I came up with it–the perfect title for the only reality show I would ever consider when it came to our family—no matter what Lovie had to say about it.

Ain’t No Maybes—No More Babies

Luckily, it’s been nearly two years since Lovie has mentioned anything about the humorous act of adding to our family roster, so my clever title has not been necessary.

But you never know.

That’s why I’ve got it. Just in case.

The Good, the Bad, and the Snuggie

Okay. So the Christmas season of 2009 is officially in the books. Here’s a little recap of how the holiday went down in our neck of the woods via something I like to call The Good, the Bad, and the Snuggie.

It’s important to note that potty training is alive and well in our house. In fact, B is doing so well that he went all “next level” on us. One night in early December he commandeered C’s pink car, you know, a little toddler toy that wee ones roll around on? With a seat that lifts up so the wee ones can put their blankies inside? Well this wee one decided to put his wee-wee inside.

What? I see you lift up the lid all the time. Hypocrite.

Shortly thereafter, we got a bit of snow, a rare occurence in our fair city these days. Sadly, Pookie was with her dad, but A, B, and C got into the spirit and even took time to pose next to a snowman.

B, C, and A ain't skeert of a little cold.

C, B, A, and Frosty.

Then the holiday season got amped up a bit when Lovie, Pookie, and I went ice skating at an outside rink on Friday the 11th. Look how pretty Pookie and Lovie are.

Lovie and Pookie fixin' to get their skate on.

When I get done skating with her, I think I'll go on a quick tri-state crime spree.

Pookie, graceful as always.

That Sunday, Lovie, Pookie, and C went to a cookie-swap, which left the boys and me to hang out during the afternoon. Excited to have some quality male bonding time, I anxiously went upstairs just past four to wake them from their nap, but but before I took even a single step into their room, I knew something was drastically awry. Long story short, one of the boys had experienced the blow out of the century. The pictural evidence of said blow out is truly remarkable, but Lovie insisted that I leave it out. (I could, however, be coaxed into inserting it with a well phrased request or two…) We had a good afternoon, but from that point until Christmas, it was official. A stomach bug had infiltrated our clan and would remain throughout the holidays, eventually affecting nearly everyone.

Still, by Christmas, we had rebounded. Despite a couple of us waking up looking pretty rough…

B, halway undone on Christmas morning, and somehow the possessor of a gender-inappropriate passi.

A, our little monster, on Christmas morning.

…all in all we felt much better and were ready to enjoy the day. Pookie didn’t get back from her dad’s until 2:00, so after breakfast we played in the garage for a bit before going for a ride in the car.

B and A, feeling better, and excited for Pookie to get back home.

Little Sissy waiting for her turn in the Barbie jeep. Wait, does that mean my BOYS are playing in the Barbie jeep? Fellas...

Finally, it was time for us all to gather round the tree. Lovie’s mom and her fiance’ came over, and together, the eight of us enjoyed a wonderful little slice of Christmas.

There are enough lights on this tree to illuminate a small village. A small, dark village.

Pookie loved her green fleece.

B plays with the cars that go in the big truck.

A waits for a turn with the cars.

Sweet Pea, C, plays with the latch board. Yes. That's a wipe on her head. No. We don't know why, either.

The day after Christmas was another big one as that night, Lovie’s mom and her fiance’ got married. Pookie and her cousin would walk her down the aisle. Pook looked beautiful and so did her grandmom. A, B, and C looked great, too, but we were in such a hurry that, unfortunately, we didn’t get pictures. Aside from their baptism, the trips had never been to such a ceremony. We were more than a little nervous about how they would do. Thankfully they were great, especially given the little stomach bug that was still alive and well.

Until the very end, that is.

As the moment was drawing nigh when the happy couple would be pronounced man and wife, an unmistakable low rumble escaped one of the trios’ backsides. Followed by two more just like it. Followed by a sweet, little high-pitched voice singing “Toot, toot, toot. Toot, toot, toot.”

Though not exactly according to script, the minor transgression did nothing but add (a pretty good amount of) laughter to the happy occasion and with its conclusion, the gauntlet of the holidays had passed. Not only did we survive, we triumped. But that’s not to say we didn’t come out unscathed. For on Sunday the 27th, the stomach bug reared its ugly head again on a morning car ride.

Oh boy.

Two hours later, feeling very queazy, I limped back to our bedroom. It would be twenty hours before I re-emerged and during that time, I did everything imaginable except eat. It’s Monday night and I still haven’t had anything more than a handful of crackers, a chicken sandwhich, and an English muffin. But as bad as my stomach has felt during the past thirty-six hours, it could never have compared to the sinking feeling it had on Christmas when Pookie opened a gift from Santa–a gift that I can assure you I knew nothing about.

Santa? How could you?

So it’s official. I live in a house equipped with a Snuggie. And I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I think the fact that it’s a snuggie “for kids” makes it even worse. I looked into a couple of reputable snuggie relocation programs, but was told it wouldn’t make a difference. I’d still be considered in violation. So I’ve contacted the authorities and have made the neccessary arrangements. I’ll be meeting them on January 8th to hand in my man card. Since I’m a first-time offender, they’ve been kind enough to let me keep it through the bowl games.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Instant Classic

Okay, let’s see here…Lovie? Check. (Don’t let the near-perfect smile fool you. She’s barely holding it together, but Lovie’s still a check.)

Alright…Pookie? Check.

A, B, and C? Check.

Bald spot? Check.

Meltdowns? That’s a check and a double check thanks to both A and C.

Look of fear? Yup. B’s got that covered. Check.

Santa? Santa? Uh oh. Where in the world is Santa?

Houston, we have a problem. Santa’s nowhere to be found, and I don’t like our chances of getting this bunch back here for a second picture. In fact, I think the dad just made a beeline for the bar.

WAIT. WAIT. My bad. We got him. Santa’s in there. His eye that is. And that’s all we really need. You know, the whole “He’s sees you when you’re sleeping,” bit. We’re good. False alarm.

from l to r: B, Lovie, C, Santa's eye, Pookie, A, and me.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and we’ve come to grips
With life that is crazy and laden with trips.
But not ones to islands, or Vegas, or Rome.
‘Cuz our trips are little and mess up our home.

It all started quickly, too sudden it seemed,
When I fell in love with the girl of my dreams.
One who is pretty, and witty, and kind.
I fell for her spirit, her body, and mind.

It wasn’t just her who melted my heart,
But also her daughter, who played a key part
Of bringing this bachelor right down to his knees
To ask her sweet momma to “marry me, please.”

Just thirteen months later much chaos ensued
When three little babies came into our brood.
The first months were trying, of that there’s no doubt.
The triplets were crying which caused me to shout:

“MY GOODNESS, what happened to life as I knew it?
My cell phone is shattered. A baby just threw it.
If I pick up one, another will cry.
One of them just took a whiz in my eye.”

They kept us up late and woke us up early.
These two little boys and this one little girlie.
My Lovie, my Pookie, my doggy, and me
Did all that we could to take care of the three.

Our first Christmas came, and then we were a part
Of magical moments that rang in my heart.
Lovie, and Pookie, and A, B, and C,
Gathered together and sat by the tree.

Of all of the things that we opened that day,
Not one of them mattered to me in a way
That rivaled the way that I felt about them.
For they are my gift that was given by Him.

Pookie with (from l to r) B, C, and A

The next time we gathered around by the tree,
Our babies were starting to walk aimlessly.
The start of their journey, it filled me with tears,
And forced me to ponder the upcoming years.

Just who would they be and where would they go?
There really was no certain way that we’d know.
But one thing was sure, the three were much fun.
Their magical journey in life had begun.

(clockwise) Me, Pookie, B, C, A, and Lovie

And now they enjoy their third Christmastime,
Which prompts me to break out in this little rhyme.
A tribute, my friend, to all that I see.
A tribute I give to our little three.

Combine them with Pook, and our crew is complete,
With four little beings and their eight little feet.
My Lovie and I, we seldom have time,
To sit on the couch, relax and unwind.

We take care of Pookie and tend to the trips,
And wish we had pointers, some ideas, or tips.
‘Cause this year it seems just as hard as it gets.
Even for us. And we’re seasoned vets.

Toddlers, I tell you, are ruthless, my friend.
Off in the distance, they’re screaming again.
And three of them running all kinds of amuck?
Yanking on Elmo? Demanding a truck?

Don’t CARE what you say–not even the Gotties
Could deal with the three as they sit on their potties.
Or how ‘bout the noise that always abounds?
It leaves our heads spinning around and around.

But all of that matters quite little to me.
‘Cuz this is our life–it’s all meant to be.
Oh what we would give for a break here and there?
We’ll wait til we’re old til we rock in a chair.

And now I will leave you with this earnest thread,
that’s sewn in a quilt to lay on your bed.
To help you stay warm this cold winter night.
To help you remember–continue the fight.

We’ve all got our issues, our hassles, our lives.
We’ve all lost a loved one who still lives inside.
If with you this Christmas, or Heaven above,
I hope you are warmed by the glow of their love.

So all you who read this take nothing for granted.
Use this fine season to grow what you’ve planted.
In pots that are family that soak up the Light.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

A

B

C

Pookie

Remember the reason. Be thankful for your blessings. Focus on Goodness. -jco-

Ashton Kutcher, Alyssa Milano, Twitter, The Triplets & Me

So perhaps you’ve heard of one Ashton Kutcher,  actor-hearthrob,  Mr. Demi Moore, fellow stepdad, new media magnate, and Twitter force of nature.

Well, to my great surprise, he’s heard of me. Or at least, he somehow ran across one of my You Tube videos – one depicting a night I spent solo parenting the triplets without Lovie, who was enjoying a much-deserved evening out with Pookie.  I still have no idea how Ashton Kutcher happened on my video, but however it happened, he was nice enough to tweet about it.

Yes, you read that right Ashton Kutcher gave my video a shout out to his 4 million-plus Twitter followers.  Not long after that, Alyssa Milano (who was always the boss in my book), tweeted about my video as well.  And now, parenting bloggers are talking it up, and people are trying to get Ellen Degeneres to notice it via Twitter.

This is amazing.

And here’s the video that seems to be capturing people’s attention.

A Very Triplet Thanksgiving: To Host or Not to Host?

Caroline and I decided to host Thanksgiving this year. It didn’t go that well. It turns out that preparing such an all-encompassing meal with three cranky two-year-olds constantly vying for attention isn’t easy. In fact it’s hard, not to mention noisy. To get everything done, we had to (temporarily) blow off our needy trio, which didn’t go over well. At least that’s what we gathered during the ensuing succession of DEFCON 1 temper tantrums.

To say that the constant chaos hampered everyone’s enjoyment would be an understatement. I’m near certain that my brother-in-law and his family will never come over again. And they weren’t the only ones who were put off.

Adam Lambert called. He thought hosting Thanksgiving while shackled with three two-year-olds was a little over the top.

Charlie Weis’s buyout thought it was too much.

New Coke wondered why we did it in the first place.

Richard Heene knew all along that we’d never pull it off.

The mere thought of it made his son Falcon wanna puke.

Fair enough. But I’m a big believer in redemption. And Christmas is right around the corner. What better time to redeem oneself than Christmas? Perhaps Caroline and I could step up to the hosting plate again, you know, as a way of making amends for the noisy Thanksgiving.

Chernobyl is worried about potential meltdowns.

Hmm. Valid. I know! Caroline and I will do a better job of containing the kiddies. A contributing factor to them losing it on Thanksgiving was all the excitement. If we sequestered them in our room and took turns entertaining them, the triplets would be oblivious to all the commotion and would be far less likely to erupt.

Sequestering three family members during a family gathering? Is this thing family oriented or not? Miley Cyrus thinks we’re sending mixed messages.

Tiger Woods says go ahead and separate them. But beware. Eventually, they’ll probably figure it out.

R. Kelly called. He’s got a new gig. He the official chaperone for a prestigious girls’ boarding school. He supervises the young ladies on all outings. He thinks it’ll be hard to watch the kids without thinking about that juicy meat you’re just dying to eat. (Sorry, that was a stretch, but I’m a sucker for a good R. Kelly joke.)

With all the time spent watching the kiddies, there’s always the chance we’ll forget about the turkey. Inappropriate and often crass descriptions immediately followed by far more conventional verbiage Strikethrough text worries the turkey will be overdone—WAY, WAY, WAY OVERDONE.

Michael Vick pointed out that the bedroom is where we keep our dog during large gatherings. He’s on the trips for a dime and thinks others in his possie may be down as well.

Wait, we can’t have people wagering on fights that pit our triplets against our spastic, pink-lipstick-toting dog. MacKenzie Phillips thinks that’s sick.

Enough already! Everyone’s right. Hosting another holiday meal would be a bad call. We’ll let someone else host, thank you very much. Instead of running around in circles trying to concurrently contend with potty training and Spinach Maria, we’ll load up our brood, hit the road, and watch someone else do all the work.

Sure hope the triplets behave better than they did on Thanksgiving. Hang on a sec. I just got a text. It’s from Tareq and Michaele Salahi. Before we pack everyone up, they think it’d be a good idea to make certain that we were still invited.

Solid point.

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