One evening in early spring I was hiding in my closet to pray and take in some deep breaths to get centered after getting some “dramatic” news — you know a typical day in the stepfamily trenches. After I lifted it up to God, I lifted up my cell phone and started looking on Instagram. I was looking at new followers when I came across @Carrieellisberg1979. I clicked on her profile and saw that she is the author of a new series for kids in blended families. Yes! These are so needed. I contacted Carrie and asked if she would share. Both parents and students will love the messages and lessons learned in the B.E.L.L. Pack books. The following are honest and wise words from her:
In early 2009, I found myself in a quite whirlwind. I was a newly divorced and single mother of two very rambunctious boys. I was lost spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Thank God the next year came with so many blessings to include my now-husband and his two children. Believe me, I wasn’t some crazy gold digger, as he himself was divorced and was anxiously waiting for leftovers on his kid’s plates as well. But it didn’t matter. We had each other, we had our kids, and life was great. He proposed in 2010, and I was screaming from the rooftops! But then we had to navigate through the rough waters of blending our families together. Whew! We had quite the challenge ahead of us.
My husband and I made a pact from the very beginning of our relationship to ensure that our kids were numbers 1,2,3 and 4 in our world (no particular order of course) and we came after. Yes, I know it goes against scripture, but coming from blended families ourselves we knew of these murky waters, and had some ideas on the do’s and don’ts. We knew the first thing necessary was to find some sort of common ground for all of us to walk on, and decided to declare a “family” name. Obviously this wouldn’t be a legal name, but a name that our family could call ourselves as a cohesive unit. This would give our family its own identity. We took the first letter of our last names. (We had three because I kept my maiden name) Boom! The B.EL.L Pack was born! The word “Bell” is scattered throughout our home; from chore charts, to our arcade machine. It’s everywhere! The word Bell serves as a reminder to the vows that we all made on our wedding day. We know that we are part of one group, one unit, one pack.
June came and we decided to get a new puppy. We already had a Jack Russell from my previous marriage, but we decided we needed a family dog. Ya know, a pup to add more excitement into an already crazy house. We were ecstatic when we brought our sweet English Mastiff home. Easily, we named her Bell, as the family mascot. She had quite the personality, and we were so impacted by her presence. We even had a voice for her, and pretended that she was actually talking to all of us or to our Jack Russell (Ok, so maybe we are a little crazy).
Everything was going fabulous in the newly blended B.EL.L Pack home, but as most families, little problems would creep up. One kid wasn’t getting enough attention, one was picking on the other, and of course the biggie, “I’m the evil stepmother because I made you take a shower or clean your room!” Blending dilemmas added with the bouts of anxiety I was facing because of never ending arguments with the ex, made me realize I needed an outlet. There wasn’t enough hot yoga to conquer these problems.
Then God instilled me with a love for writing. I found this new hobby to be therapeutic. Our whole family reaped the benefits of this new found peace. I would ask the kids how they felt about certain situations, and the responses they gave were mind blowing.
After I wrote some rough drafts, I looked on the Internet and realized the selection of blended family books were pretty skimpy, and there was nothing from an animals’ perspective. Time went on and new problems would arise, and new ideas and books were developed. I relied heavily on their input. Names, shirt colors and quotes of the children were all from their input; the B.EL.L Pack made their mark. Even today as the books are being worked into publication, the kids get to help me with illustrations concepts. Their likes and dislikes matter. It has become a whole family engagement, grandparents included (and there are a lot of grandparents.) Talk about a blessing!
The Bell and the Blended B.EL.L Pack Series has been God’s work through me. I believe wholeheartedly this was a passion He put in me to help blended families everywhere. My husband and I both know how much this project has benefited our family, and our prayer and hope is that it helps at least one more family then His work has been done.
Newly blended or been going at this thing for a while? Find a project you can work on together as a family. Make a photo album together, do a gardening project or create your own book series based on your own blended family. We need more! I’m not saying that life is always perfect at the B.EL.L Pack House, but what I will tell you is that it is always full of adventures, full of conversations, and full of love. Many of these blessings came from doing this family project together! What more can a blended family ask for?
Meet the Author:
Carrie Ellis-Berg has been an elementary school teacher for ten years. Together as a blended family, she and her husband have four children. After realizing the need for children’s books on blending, she felt called to share fun and exciting stories that would help parents and children learn, grow, and adapt in their new family structure. She hopes that her stories will foster and strengthen relationships within the home.
Connect with Carrie and B.E.L.L. Pack books:
What are your thoughts on doing things as a family? Have projects brought your blended family closer together? Do you seek to build a unified identity as a stepfamily or if you’ve built one please share what contributed to it.