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Blended Family Friday: Meet Valerie And Brandon's Family

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BLENDED FAMILY FRIDAY
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As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we're spotlighting a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we'll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!

Today, we'd like you to meet Valerie and Brandon and their five kids. We knew we had to profile them after we took a gander at their weekly calendar -- you wouldn't believe how many overlapping orthodontist appointments and extracurricular activities this couple manages to make happen every day.

Hi, Valerie! Please introduce us to your family. How long have you and your husband been together?
My husband, Brandon, and I have been together for 3 1/2 years. I have four biological kids -- Kinsey, 15; Patrick, 14; Avery, 12; and Delaney, 7 -- and Brandon has one, his 14-year-old son, Corey.

What's the best thing about being part of a blended family?
For us, re-creating our family in a way that's happy and healthy for everyone is the best part. Rebuilding can be a good thing. We make traditions like a question game around the dinner table. We ask questions like, "If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would it be?" and everyone gets a turn to answer. Our kids love the stability, fun and companionship of having so many siblings.

The moments when step-kids accept and appreciate you in your life is another great perk! The last few years have been an adjustment period. We feel like we are just hitting our stride in this family adventure.

What are the biggest challenges of blended family life?
Finding time to love and pay attention to everyone as they need is the biggest challenge. Some days there isn't enough of me, but it's fun feeding, clothing and loving all these people. They make me crazy, but I like it!

Brandon says one of the biggest challenges is knowing where your boundaries are as a stepparent/disciplinarian. The step-parent role is precarious; you have to be more of a friend/supporting role for the biological parents. You also have to be able to switch back and forth really quickly between your roles, depending on which child in your home you are dealing with.

What advice do you have for other blended families who feel like a peaceful family dynamic is out of reach?
My best advice would be to understand what your role is as a stepparent, partner and friend. Stay within the boundaries that work and be patient. A family is an ever-evolving creation that requires maintenance and care. Be respectful of the biological parents and build on the strengths of your family in support of one another.

Nurture your marriage. We take trips or outings to reconnect, laugh and remember why we love each other without kids to interrupt. It helps keep the marriage bond strong. We have made mutual friends and try to have interests together -- we are friends and it makes us a better parenting team.

Click through the slideshow the see photos of Valerie and Brandon's family.

If you'd like your own family to be featured on a Blended Family Friday, please email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com. We're looking forward to hearing your story!

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