Saturday, September 12, 2009

From hero to zero

Nate is at it again.

Not really all that surprising, considering he's closing fast on 2 years old in the next month or so. He's reached quite a few milestones, such as the ability to stand - which we find incredibly amusing and quite possibly the greatest feat known to man in the last 1,000 years or so.

Now at this point I should probably include one of those explicit content disclaimers. If you're hungry, or maybe you've just eaten, feel free to come on back later. If however you're hungry and trying to lose weight, by all means read on as you will most likely lose your appetite.

You see, awhile back I was bragging about getting Nate to stop his kissing obsession with the toilet. Sure, he stopped....once.

And yes, it's funny (and gross). But in my foolishness I thought it couldn't get any worse (funny, every time I think that, it usually does!!).

I mean really, what's worse than a matter how clean? Nothing, right?


Much to my chagrin, horror, and utter disgust, let me introduce you to Nate's latest crush.......

Now what??!!!??

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why (I think) I'm my son's hero

At some point or another, every parent (competent or not) is their child's hero. This morning I believe I saw great envy and admiration in my son's eyes. I believe the task that I accomplished so effortlessly yielded adulation in him that I had never seen!

See, baby Nate is infatuated with bathrooms. He thinks crawling in to them is really neat. I'll spare you the details of his affinity for the commode, but trust me, he's not old enough to sit on it but he's big enough to pull himself up....fill in the blanks.

Anyway, today he was crawling down the hall at breakneck speed, headed straight for his 'promised land' when he was obstructed by some cardboard box inners. At this point I had not yet had my hero revelation, so needing to wash my hands I simply walked over the immovable (to him) mountain.

He looked at me as if I had just leaped the moon (to him, I did) and I proceeded to his wonder-world to wash up. So to him, being able to go in to the bathroom WHENEVER YOU WANT is the best, the tops, hero-worthy.

Ahhh, having a toddler is so rewarding!


Eventually he navigated his way around the obstruction and once he was clear he put his little motor in overdrive. He made it in record time and was making a bee-line for the lid (mouth high) when suddenly I bellow...


He pauses, momentarily....then chuckles like 'yeah I hear you, and yes I know, and no, I don't care...'


Normally he processes this as, 'continue when ready' but this time he actually looked at me. Upon seeing my frown and disapproving head shaking, he tilted his head to the side.

There he was kneeling at the crossroads.




He looks at the toilet as if to say, 'see you later sweetie, nothing personal,' and

Crawls Away from the Toilet!


So now I'm sure I'm his hero, because not only can I go to his favorite place whenever I want, I can get him to stay away from it, too!
I wonder if this will work when he's 16?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The blood was gone

I got home and the trail of blood was gone.

Gone, I said....gone.

Whose blood, and where it went require me to start back a ways, so sit down, grab some bon-bons and listen up...

It all started back over Father's Day weekend. We went camping at a state park with our friends. There were some great hiking/biking trails (my thought...'how nice for the hikers and bikers'), but our friends are rather active so we brought our 2-wheelers along. Now, in order to bring our heart-attack inducers I had to connect our large (6x12) utility trailer and bungee-cord down the bikes. Lame, to be sure - but it worked.

So we bike and such and suddenly I'm Lance Armstrong. Pulling the trailer henceforth is simply not going to cut it. What to do? Well, I've come to discover some discounted treasures (used junk) that I thought could be useful to me on the Craigslist site. After realizing that a 5-bike trailer-hitch bike rack will run far north of $450, Craigslist is looking better and better by the moment.

A search brings up.....absolutely nothing. Man, I hate Craigslist.

Only kidding there.

So I'm 0-for-1 when I see a new cool little feature 'Craig' added. If you don't get your desired result (meaning, zilch-squat-zippo-nada-nothing), the search engine searches near areas (communities) for what you're seeking.
And there I see it - A SIX BIKE RACK!!
Six bikes? Yes, six bikes!! Now, Nate can't ride yet (nor can he walk yet, but hey, he'll get there) but eventually we'll need a six-bike rack!

The only catch?
It's attached to a camper.
Now most people might see that as a deterrent, but not me. I see that as an expensive bike rack with a free pop-up camper to boot!

Fast forward a day and bingo-bango, I'm pulling a pop-up home, happy as Clark Griswold on his way to Wally World.

I love used stuff. You beat the depreciation, and if it's been well taken care of, you score big. However I like to customize my purchases to make them 'mine.' So after changing out the door and drawer handles, the floor is the next obvious choice.

I'm also a believer in having the right tools for the right job, so a quick trip to Home Depot and a new 'super sharp tile cutting' Husky utility knife later, I'm ready.

I begin installing the new floor and it's looking good. I'm feeling confident about the decision to upgrade the floor, and looking forward to going camping again the following day when all of a sudden my blade somehow jumps over the metal straight edge and fillets the end of my finger.

For a second that seemed to last much longer, there was no pain. Then like 1980 Mt. St. Helen's, the finger erupted and the molten-lava (blood) started gushing. I rush inside, leaving a gruesome track of every step, and race to the sink to wash it out.
I can't even see the cut, but can feel the skin barely hanging on, so I wrap it with medical bandages and tape and head off to the E.R.

1 hour and seven stiches later, I return home to complete the job, finger throbbing and all. When I get inside I look down expecting to see that awful dark-crimson stained reminder of my miscue but can find nothing.

I head in to the laundry room, where I left quite an impression trying to find the proper bandages. Again, nothing.

The kids come rushing in to see how the patient is, and I ask about the blood trail. Maybe it wasn't as bad as I had originally thought, but in fact it was; and worse.

While I was gone Andrew (14 y/o) voluntarily cleaned up everything. EVERYTHING. He got down on the tile and cleaned up the mess.

I didn't tell him to, I didn't ask him to, and I didn't expect him to.

But he did it anyway. And I was (and am still) totally blown away. When I was 14 I would NEVER have done something like that. And although it's somewhat grotesque, it makes his self-less act that much more impressive.

Sometimes our kids drive us to the brink, and other times they make us bonkers. But once in awhile you get these little pockets of behavior that reveal who they really are inside, and it makes you so proud of them it takes your breath away.

That day, there was no step-this or step-that, we were just a family helping one another out. What a day, and what a great kid!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The blind leading the blind

It's an old expression.

I find it particularly applicable today.

This is a true story about today's adventure and how little siblings look up to the big ones! There's a great leadership lesson in here for all of us!

So we're working on honesty, namely with 14 y/o Andrew. "Working On" as in failing miserably. So the untruths seem to be increasing in frequency, yet everytime they are discovered this very smart boy goes to the new 'sorry shuffle'

It goes something like this:

Me: "andrew, what were you thinking?"

A: Approaches me shagrinned, head down, shuffling feet...."I don't know, I'm reaaaal sorry Daaaad."

M: Trying to stay mad, but can't resist this repentant-routine, "It's ok, don't do it again, though o.k?'

A: "O.K."

Repeat, constantly. For variation, throw in the, "I'm not mad at you honey, but I am disappointed."

Anyway, this silliness can only go on for so long. Although I'd like to think I am an endless supply of mercy, quite the contrary is true.

SO he leaves me no choice but to go to the....


Andrew actually ASKED FOR MORE DAYS OF GROUNDING INSTEAD of the write it down business, which tells me this one may work (for now).

Anywho, we're at my office today for a bit, and he is writing,

"I will not lie or deceive"

Over and over and over and over and over again.

Namely, 1,000 times.

Now before you gasp and scream "teenagers rights!!" (who in their right mind would scream that, anyway?) you should know we didn't start at 1,000 - we worked our way up to it.

So I get him a legal pad and pen and he's off to the races...or not. But he is writing.

15 minutes later Maddie comes in and says, "Dad, can I have a piece of paper and a pen?"

Oblivious to why, I ask.

Me: "Are you going to draw Daddy a picture?" (Again, she's 8, but sometimes I talk to her as if she's 2)

Mads: "No."

Me: "What are you going to do?"

Mads: "I am going to write something 1,000 times, I want to be like Andrew."

Me: "What are you going to write?"

Mads..thinking of something....considering her options...Hannah Montana, High School Musical 3...Suite Life of Zach and Cody....she ultimately proclaims,

"I love to play!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Remember the story of my cousin, 'Little James?' (If he becomes a rapper, Lil' James) If not, check out the previous post called, "pronouns & curse words."

Anyway, he and his twin brother are in town this week for VBS (vacation Bible school).

So we're outside wrestling and during a brief pause in the WWE action I ask him how it is.

Me: "So how's VBS going?"

LJ: "Good."

Me: "Are you having fun?"

LJ: "Yep."

Me: "Who are you learning about?"

LJ: Wants to get this one right, yet seems pained by the answer. I'm waiting patiently as his 8 year old mind wanders to and returns back from Sponge-Bobville, and he finally says:


I look at him, he looks back at me. He doesn't say it like he's exasperated, he says it like he means it, as if he is spending his days learning about Gosh.

Me: "You mean, "GOD?"

LJ: "Ummm yeah."

Me: "There is no Gosh Almighty, you know."

LJ: "I know."

Now this exchange is really funny to me because our kids (and cousins) know saying "Oh my God" is not an acceptable thing to say. So apparently in his pee wee brain he figures he can't say "God" because he may get in trouble. So he says "Gosh."

Brilliant, actually.


Monday, June 15, 2009

You said WHAT? (a/k/a You're gonna' get knocked up)

We are passionate people.

A very spirited family.

An abundance of ambition (although sometimes a deficit of motivation).

We can also be quite sarcastic, dramatic, stubborn and ill-tempered.

There is really nothing we don't joke about. A kid throws a temper tantrum (any of them, ages 14/11/8/1.5), within an hour or so we're re-enacting it with dramatic flair to the cheers and jeers of the family crowd.

A true (albeit embarrassing) family story:
Let's just say for conversation's sake that your in Canada with the kids driving around down by Niagara Falls at night on what is apparently the Canadian Labor Day Weekend (who thought to check the Canadian calendar before our trip?? No wonder that dive motel was so expensive!) and your SUV stops running. By the way, you're leaving the next morning because you HAVE to be be back in town in two days for a court-custody hearing. So you're coasting, that's right, COASTING down the road in neutral trying to get off the road (there is, apparently, every Canadian in Canada at the Falls this night at 11:30 PM).

You almost get through the intersection, 3/4 the way turned when you run out of momentum. So you're kind-of blocking 1 lane of traffic. Apparently people are not too happy that time of night, because Mr. Minivan behind me honks his horn. Granted, an inconvenience, but sheesh pal go around me. I did have my flashers on, what could I do?

So MV Man honks again, this time a little longer. I of course am oblivious (except apparently in my subconscious where it's building like 1980's Mt. St Helen's), as Andrew, Hannah, Maddie and 8-month pregnant Jill wait for me to do something great.

HOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNKKKKKKKKKKK. As if the guy is sleeping on his horn.


I fling my door open and bum rush MVM. I start yelling passionately about how my truck is stalled as in it won't start and although I can appreciate this driver's impatience I'm sure he can understand I AM NOT DOING IT ON PURPOSE.

The male driver (mid-60's) is just staring straight ahead like, 'cooo-cooo bird' which of course makes me more frustrated. Just when I realize what a dufus I am being, and when I finally pause to catch my breath, his unlovely wife leaned over and very patronizingly stated,

"you need to caaaaalllllllmmmm down."

Composure? gone.
Reason? gone.
Good sense? gone.
Mild yelling tone? long gone.

Calm down? Calm down? You and your jerk husband have the audacity to sit here in the comfort of your glorified station wagon, which unlike my vehicle at this point, WORKS - while my three children and pregnant wife are sitting in the middle of the busiest intersection in North America a mere 8 hours before we're supposed to go home all the while knowing not a single auto shop will be open in the morning because of your stupid labor day holiday, smack dab in the middle of summer, and blah blah blah...

They drive off, and I am left seething. The locals came over and applauded my tongue-lashing (making me feel worse).

By the way, I work in ministry.

So we got it all ironed out (eventually), and wouldn't you know it, now all the kids have to say is, 'remember Canada?' I did apologize profusely to them and beg their forgiveness, telling them it was a perfect lesson in WHAT NOT TO DO, and that I was in every way wrong.

Remember Canada. Brilliant.

Ok, so I shared that loooong story so you know that everyone and everything is fair game. After all, WE ARE TEASERS!

So yesterday Andrew and I were teasing and wresting. This is quite fun for both of us, and of course he tests the boundaries of how far he can take it. So we're jockeying for position and he's running his mouth like a marathon-er, and in my mind I meant to say (again, we're teasing here...)

knock it off and shut it up

But what came out was, "You're gonna' get knocked up!"

How he knows what this means, I have no idea. But of course, game over. Hysterics. Andrew, Jill, Hannah (who has no clue what this means, but just joins in the laughing anyway), even Nate find my slip up amusing.

Guess what I've heard constantly for the last 12 hours?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

You can't handle the truth

It's classic exchange between a zealous, young prosecutor and a complex, senior ranking military general that most of us recognize instantly from the classic movie, "A Few Good Men."

A great line, a great lesson. Today the point was driven home in a very memorable way.....

Earlier Maddie and I were watching the Brewers game after church, snuggled up on the couch. Relaxing, having some good laughs and just being goofy. I like to check in with her once in awhile on the 'boy' front, if you know what I mean.

She is, after all, 8 big-years-old, headed in to 3rd grade and quite the bright one. She of course scoffs at the mere suggestion of boys, which I reinforce emphatically. She understands that dating begins sometime in the late-20's, and marriage talk....30 minimum! This all sounds good to her (now), and I consider it good ammo for the future.

Me: "Sooo, any boys catch your eye lately?"

Maddie, "Daaaaad.."

Me, "Whaaaa??" (feigning innocence and ignorance)

Maddie, "Noooo Daaaaddddddd" (cue eye roll and slight head shake)

Me, thinking 'whew, so far so good', "Well, do you think any boys are cute?"

June-bug, "Nooo"

Me, wondering if I'm still the apple of her eye, "Well, so, ummm if you had to rank from like one to ten, you know, one being awfully ugly and ten being really really cute (I smile reaaaal big, like a cue), what would you rate Dad?" (Why I'm speaking in 3rd person to her here, I have no clue!)

Madalishous, staring at me intently, "Hmmmm..."

Me thinking, 'come on junior, it's not a trick question....'

Mad-dogg, still eyeing me up....

Me thinking, 'sheesh, I feel self-conscious now...out with it already....come on, come on...I can help you with number after NINE....say it with me Teeeee.."

Maddie, "5"

Me, "Whaaaaatttt?"

Maddie, staring even harder now for what seems like an eternity, but in actuality is about 3 seconds...."and-a-half?"

This is her consolation prize. Her vote of confidence. Her telling me, 'gee Dad, you're not average...just ever so slightly above..'

That is vintage Maddie.

And just like that young attorney, I apparently can't handle the truth, either!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A chart to help

A chart I made may help the uninformed....

This chart should be preserved for future generations. Parents (especially Dad's) should print it, post it, and memorize it!


Sunday, May 31, 2009

My kid, the rock star!

Our munchkin has been munchin a lot lately. Apparently teeth accelerate the food consumption process.

Anyway, Nate's at the age now where (most) everything is really cute. Sans the incessant groan/grunt/whine/gutteral moan-scream to get attention; he's quite the entertainer.

He waves at everyone. Even grumpy old coots at Wal-Mart simply cannot resist the Nate-wave. I never noticed how much people scowl until I started watching the reactions to Nate's greeting - ignore it, ignore it, for heaven's sakes that kid won't stop waving....a crack of a smile....the obligatory wave-back. To see the change caused just by one little tyke's wave is amazing!

Not to mention when he starts blowing kisses....grown men are standing in line, clutching their Marlboros (no filter), 10-gallon hats on, Kodiak cud and Harley Davidson chaps waiting to pay for their fuel fill up at the gas station when all of sudden Nate puckers up and tosses an air kiss. Suddenly Mr. Scar Face-Terminator-Rambo-Tough Guy is speaking baby babble catching air kisses and blowing them back.

Quite a site to see. (slightly akward)

But that's not what makes my boy a rock star.


It gets even


Because last weekend we pitched our tent out in the wildnerness (local county park) in the elements (a manicured campsite) among wild animals (chipmunks) and really roughed it (ate junk food and store-bought treats like slobs, capped off by the burley "Tenderloin Steak over the campfire" meal!)

So Mr. Best-Friend-to-everyone comes crawling over. And I notice he's eating something (not unlike mom & dad) - but he seems to having a rough go of it.

Eventually he spits it out on the dirt.

His delicacy?

Rock. Not rock candy.

R-O-C-K, rock.

Greeeeeeat. I was wondering why his tooth chipped. I guess now I know.

Rock on!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

pronouns and curse words

Last week my niece graduated with a Master's Degree of some specialty. This particular branch of the Kocian family tree is sagging mightily with all the college degrees. My eldest sister returned to school as an adult and not only finished her undergraduate, she went to attain a master's. Apparently that started some kind of race within her clan of who can acquire the largest amount of school-loan debt; no, who can earn the most degrees. My side of the tree however, is lighter....much lighter....

Anyway, we're all sitting at a fancy Italian restaurant, awaiting our super-sized portions of simple carbs when I say to my nephew,

"Do you know what a verb is?"

I get a look that only 2nd graders give when highly insulted by such innocuous banter...


Me: "Well, what is it?"

Him: "An action word."

Little does he know I'm setting him up. As a child I always found great humor in what I am about to entrap him with.

Me: "Ok smarty-pants, how about a pronoun, do you know what those are?"

The eyes roll back in the head, an exasperated sigh, followed by a pained grimace...

Him: "Duuh, yeah."

Me: "Give me an example of some pronouns then."

Him: "He, She, It.."

Me: "Huh?"

He's getting really torqued off now...

Him: "He, She, It"

Me: "What did you sayyy?"

Him: "HeSheIt"

A quizzical look...

Him: "Heshe it"

a pause....

a smile....

Him: "He..."



Everyone at the table gasps, the patrons look over at the rude exclamation, he looks at me...

And I wink.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"You're grounded"

Those have to be some of my favorite words. The elicit such a definitive and swift punishment, so much finality and authority.

I, unfortunately have learned that I say it about as often as "good morning!" Homework not done? You're grounded. Dogs not taken out? You're grounded. Back talking? Grounded. Rude? Grounded. Crabby? Grounded, grounded, grounded! WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WON'T SCRATCH MY BACK?? YOU'RE GROUNDED!

Ok, I'm just joking around here, but really I've gone to that well far too often. See my last post about an all-time low I hit by going to the lame-brain "double-grounded" card.

So we are going to go back to an idea that we tried once that worked well (so why didn't we keep doing it? I'm asking myself that same question...).

When someone is grounded, they have to right their offense and the duration of grounding on a piece of paper. Then they attach it to their magnet on the fridge (each family member has their own magnet, a cool Christmas gift - available here: - search for family character magnet) - they look like these:

So we're going to try it again. It shouldn't be long before all the names have something attached to them....


Friday, May 15, 2009

Check the K-dar

I'm quick to take things away from the kids. Too quick, actually. I've threatened to leave a child home from some great activity we're about to do together (while in the car) knowing full well I'm not really going to leave the child out. I'm betting the threat of punishment is enough to correct the bad behavior, and usually it works.


Last week we had a stealing episode, followed by the look-you-in-the-face, promise-I-didn't lie about it afterward issue. That's a beaut. Your kid looks at you with those puppy dog eyes and convinces you that not only did they NOT steal, they most likely have NEVER done anything wrong! It sounds crazy, but you begin to think your child is saintly.


there's a crack in the dam, a hole in the story, a slip of the tongue....

and it all comes crashing down.

Let me stop here and interject how emphatically I believe trust is a MAJOR issue in any family, and especially a fused family like ours. Many a time the kids have saved their proverbial bacon by confessing the truth before I hear it from the teacher/neighbor/friend/fill in the blank here. They know EVERYONE makes mistakes (including mom and dad), and it's not the mistake that hurts (or heals) as much as how we deal with it. Everyone in our clan knows this, which makes the unraveling of the story even worse...

Finally we get the truth, and although it's sandwiched between some exaggerations, it is still evident.

Waterworks (tears), hugs, bingo-bango, we move forward.

That is; after my obligatory, special-edition, especially long-winded diatribe on honesty, integrity, and trust. Then before I knew it I had put myself right smack dab in the middle of an enigma. You see, this child was already grounded.

Now what am I supposed to do? I've never had to ground an already-grounded kid, think fast.....

"You're double-grounded!"

A perplexed look as if to say, "huh?"

I maintain my posture, sure as ever and trying to sell that this is a much more serious state than the normal grounding. I don't flinch, and suddenly I'm gaining ground. Questions appear to fade, as the reality of double-grounding settles in.

Now of course I have to figure out what this means....

So I go with it for a day, and the jobs that normally Andrew has are now relegated to Hannah (the double groundee). But not all the jobs. Just some...and which ones exactly? I'm straight up improvising at this point.

Everyone is confused, including the dogs who apparently didn't get let out - so they show their disapproval for my intuitive double grounding tactic by relieving themselves - indoors.

Luckily my wife intervenes and privately asks, "can we have a more definitive schedule of who's doing what?"

We'd been talking about it for some time, and now this is the perfect opportunity to unveil what I've dubbed the "K-DAR!"

'K-Dar?' you're wondering, 'what on earth is that?'

Simple, the Kocian DAily Routine!

Every child's name is on the list, with jobs simple and beyond (from brush teeth to do dishes, and understandably - take out the dogs!) It's broken in to day parts - before school, after school, after dinner, before bed.

Everyone clearly understands what is expected, and everyone seems to be enjoying it thus far (probably a honeymoon phase, and that's o.k!)

Even Nate (who's 1 1/2) made the K-Dar. Here's his list:

Before school - sleep
After school - sleep (nap)
After dinner - play
Before bed - cuddle

The perfect day!

The K-dar bought me some time - to figure out what exactly the double grounding is anyway!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Do Your Best

Our kids are entirely different. This has nothing to do with DNA, last names, or anything of the sort. They're just wonderfully unique in so many ways. One particular arena that reveals each child's singularity is school.

For a long time my wife Jill and I would place a premium on the highest grades. Not only would an A be rewarded with verbal accolades, some highly coveted greenbacks may also accompany the congratulatory backpats. This system worked fine and well in preschool, kindergarten, 1st and even 2nd grades, but 3rd grade challenged our ko-losophy (kocian philosophy).

Around age nine, it became apparent that A's are no longer a given, and that there are certain subjects each child both excels and struggles in. As the oldest progressed through school (sometimes barely!), we found the younger kids facing the same hurdles at the same age.

Another obvious revelation (it took us years to recognize!): each child has their own strengths and weaknesses that translate to good (and no so good) grades in particular subjects. One child aces math and breezes through hardly cracking the book earning an A+, while another studies nightly just to squeek by with a C-.

What to do??

It doesn't seem right to just reward the high grade, because we feel there's more to life than straight A's. So I think back to my own upbringing, and the words I heard so often when I found myself facing a goliath sized battle,

"do your best."

So simple, yet so profound. Let's face it, we all can't be in first place. Some people are more talented, smarter, faster, stronger, and on and on and on than us. But that does not give us a license to give 60%, 80%, or even 90%. All we can do is all we can do. And around here, there's nothing more celebrated than doing your best.

It doesn't guarantee an A+, first place, or even honorable mention; but in our home it will get a hug, smile, and the words everyone loves to hear, "I'm proud of you!"

I never in a million years thought I'd be excited over a C-, but when I know all the effort and determination that has gone in to earning that passing grade, I could not be more pleased! Why? Because they did all they could, and I will never fault anyone who eagerly accepts any challenge with the "do your best" attitude!"

Monday, May 4, 2009

What's my job, anyway?

I didn't quit the job. I couldn't, and although sometimes I'd love to (at least I romanticize the idea), I'm quite sure I wouldn't.

I'm over it. I'm mostly over it. It still bothers me. Man, I'm still mad. Only kidding here, everything is fine. The resolution came slowly, but culminated not with sorrowful repentance, but by being the parent and pouring about 20 minutes of the good stuff in to a very impressionable young man.

So I'm back to my job. Parenting. That's the job. Not really a job description other than, "Looking for someone to love unconditionally, despite being taken advantage of, deceived, manipulated, and (at times) despised. Benefits include hugs, kisses, laughs, tears, and a bond that if applied properly will never be broken. Must be financially resourceful. Vacations mandatory, sick days often."

I'm making light of the responsibility side of parenting, but we all understand the gist here, right? But when you add being a stepparent, there's many different opinions on what the job is, and who's supposed to do what. So I got to thinking, "what's my job, anyway?"

I'll let you in on a family secret here. Although our family is fused, we strive to eliminate all barriers and hindrances by treating everyone age-appropriately, equally loved and disciplined. We don't consider 'step' this or that, we are simply the Kocian family.

Now, I've been advised by many people that I should "remember my place," and that in the end our "approach is destined to fail." Geee, thanks for the encouragement!! It bears mentioning that as parents we're not denying the existence of the other birth-parents. On the contrary, we are supporting the parenting by building up the qualities that are in alignment with our approach (biblical). I also concede that it's been the historical norm for stepparents to step aside with their stepchildren. To us, this is just impractical, outdeated, and from what we've seen, not the best for the kids. So we're trying something new! As mentioned in a previous post, unconditional love is our highest goal.

So if we were that typical step-family, the job would be much easier. I could focus much more on myself and not get as caught up with what feels like an uphill battle. But around here, we don't much care for 'typical' (see this great post At the end of the day, when your (step)child looks at you an says, "I love you, thanks for everything. I feel better," frankly, there's not much that tops that! We're not the typical fused family (by design), and we wouldn't have it any other way!

I love this job.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"I Quit"

Everyone knows you can't really do it. It would be the easy way out, just walking away; or worse yet - to merely throw in the towel and give up hope. Ohh, but sometimes it sounds so liberating, and in moments like these; so enticing....


Yes, that's how it feels, and frankly that's how it's been. There are so many negative influences and elements overwhelming our children daily that it's no surprise when we sense the outside influence inside our homes. 

You don't measure your progress moment by moment, as we need a greater time frame perspective to measure growth (e.g. can you see your infant grow in 2-weeks' time? But according to the doctor, he/she not only grew but gained weight as well!) No, we measure long-term growth. We concede little defeats along the way because it's a greater battle being waged for the long-term growth and development in to young men and women of integrity, humility, and godly service.

Sometimes I feel so great about how far we've all come. I've learned to chill out on some issues I used to get hot about, and to stand firm on others I used to bend endlessly on. The kids aren't the only ones changing, mom & dad are, too.

But then other times (like now), you feel like your kids are destined to become like their most negative influence, despite your attempts to counter with unconditional love, intercessory prayer and positive example.

For me, there are different levels of pain. Someone hurts me, generally I can get over it quick. Quick to forgive and not hold a grudge is how I try to be (because that's what I need from others!) Then there's the real stingers, the ones that you never saw coming. Again though, maybe your shocked for a moment, but it wears off.

Then there's the one that doesn't produce any anger at all, just devastation and disappointment. If you're a parent, you know exactly what I mean. It just doesn't add up, and it never will. No sense in trying to make any sense of it, because it just doesn't make any sense.

"I Quit."

I reason in my mind that although my (step)children may not be responding, I have two other wonderful kids that I can pour myself in to, and save myself any future heartache. And just when I've reasoned myself into justifying a 'conditional love' henceforth I am convicted by an example that I aim to follow.


The One that was ultimately rejected by those He loved and came to serve and save. The Heavenly Father's Son who showed love at all times and in all ways - totally and completely unconditionally. 

So I pray, because I know I serve a Savior that understands exactly what this feels like. He loves perfectly, where I love imperfectly. He never does the wrong thing, where I often do. His rejection was far greater than I feel (or ever will), yet He stands ready to hear my feeble prayers and renew me by the power of His love. 

So the conclusion that I come to time and again is that quitting simply is no longer an option. I've quit plenty in the past, but those days are long gone. There's too much at stake to hold anything back, and true unconditional love is given without expecting in return, so I've got a ways to go.

Honesty, integrity, consistency, humility - all character traits we are seeking to model and develop in our children. Are they there yet? Nope. Am I? Honestly, nope.

Although the sting is deep and the hurt raw, I am going to have to let forgiveness take hold where there is frustration and disappointment. Because I serve a great God who never once said, 

"I Quit"

So how could I?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hot Dates & Ice-Cold Dates

Remember when you were dating your spouse? As my pastor recently stated, "there weren't enough hours in the day to simply listen to everything you had to say!" Although comical, there is much truth to that feeling! You prioritized that relationship, and got to know the object of your affection very personally. The relationship flourished as you invested more and more of your most valuable asset - time - in to your budding partnership.

The concept of refining your relationship by devoting focused time and energy is one that works well in every connection worth keeping.

I've committed to taking each of our kids out on 'dates.' Each date is different, as each child has unique tastes in food and recreational activities. It's not regimented, as sometimes it's 2 kids and I, other times it's 1-on-1, and occasionally it's all the kids and I.

Andrew and I always get away for a day during the winter to go skiing together. This happens during a school day, and although he may miss an assignment, what he gains emotionally and spiritually far outweigh any loss. With great anticipation we pack the SUV the night prior, and pick a new destination annually. Funny story...

A few years back we were nearing the end of our ski-day, and we were on a ski lift. We were about 60 feet in the air when suddenly the lift stopped. It (of course) was a very breezy day, so before long we were swaying in the wind. This is not all that uncommon of an occurance, but usually after a minute or two, the lift restarts.

Not this time!

5 minutes, 10 minutes, ut-oh. Improvise....

Me, "So, it's time to have the talk."
Andrew, "the talk?"
Me, "THE talk..."
Andrew, "umm, ohh, ahhh...."

The beauty of the deal was we were stuck on a chair lift, so he had no place to run, hide, or even squirm. So that day in Michigan, 60 or so feet about a frozen slope, Andrew learned about where and how babies are made!

Some of the 'dates' are just little patterns that we develop. For example, Maddie LOVES to get an after-school snack at the corner gas station. She takes great pleasure in spending a dollar or two picking out something only an 8-year old would find appealing! All the kids love to bowl, and we often will bowl together for a date. Movies are a real treat, and Maddie, Andrew and I recently shared some popcorn (and kleenex) at "Marley and Me." Something we all really enjoy is skiing, and doing an outdoor activity like that has gone a long way in bonding our family together. The beach is also a great place for a date for one (or all) of the kids. Living in the Midwest, we have to take that 2 weeks of summer and make the most of it!! :)

An important key to engaging in an event or activity that is mutually enjoyable and beneficial is to know what your child's likes and dislikes are. For example, I feel sure Andrew would be bored to tears at a ballet, but Hannah would love it! Maddie would stay on the rollercoasters all day, but her daring nature is not shared by all. Knowing what each child enjoys is paramount to doing something that will be remembered fondly long after the fun has ended.

Whatever you do, do it with all your heart. Our kids can tell, and if we're enjoying an activity, it's sure to make it even that much more fun for them!

So whether you'll be having some hot beach dates, or ice-cold skiing dates, just make sure to make a date with your kids today!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


There are more than enough headaches while simply raising your children (can I get an "Amen" parents?)

From the he said/she said family squabbles to the little princesses missing Easter dress that is now making your entire clan embarrassingly tardy for Sunday morning services, life in the family-lane (much quicker and more chaotic than even the 'fast-lane') is hectic enough.

Now when you add altering weekend placement schedules, differing biological-parental viewpoints on just about everything (or so it seems), and holiday schedules, you've just compounded your headache 10-fold!

Aaaahhh, but like a cool ocean breeze there is indeed a reprieve. It's not migraine-ville all the time, and if you're resourceful enough, the head throbbing is few and far between.

There is a simple and undeniably antivenom that covers the worst pain, and it is known plainly as:


Yep, so easy, isn't it?

But I am not referring to the garden-variety kind of love here. Not even the I love you and forgive you often kind. Nope, there's only one kind of love that can heal the wounds of betrayal, deceit, and disrespect. It's the kind we ALL long for (both in 'traditional' families, from our spouses, from our parents, and in every meaningful relationship).


That means that no matter how much you hurt me, no matter how far and fast you run from me, no matter what you say to me or behind my back, no matter WHAT, I Love You.

Unconditional love is self-less, patient, and most of all forgiving (See 1 Corinthians 13). It's the kind of love that was demonstrated on a cross over 2,000 years ago, and the kind of love that still reconciles fathers to daughters, mothers to sons, and husbands to wives.

There is a natural tendency to distrust anyone who does not share your DNA, but if we can learn, and put in to practice the undeniably overwhelming force of unconditional love, all of families will be better for it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our History

Our family is a very unique combination of personalities that has been beatifully melded together by trial, error, and love!

My name is James, and I have the privilege of being the husband to Jill, and Dad to the children. Jill and I were married nearly five years ago, and collectively we had three children by prior marriage(s). She had Andrew (14), and Hannah (11), and I had Maddie (8). When our families merged, the children were much younger, which is a distinct advantage to making blended families cohesive.

We welcomed the birth of our new son, Nathanael back in 2007. So our home has four uniquely independent individuals who often (substitute: occassionally - infrequently - rarely - never!) function together to create a dynamic family atmosphere.

Andrew is an incredibly kind-hearted young man who is well-liked by all. He can fit in with nearly everyone, and has a 'pleaser' mentality. Because he's not known to 'rock the boat,' his struggle is being influenced negatively by those who do not share his core beliefs.

Hannah is a very tender soul who has great compassion for others. Although she's only eleven, she's quite the dramatic actress! She has the gift of leadership, and accordingly her struggle is to use that gift to influence in a positive way.

Maddie is a wonderfully clever and witty little spit-fire who is creative and committed to hard work. She understands sarcastic humor (which I find hilarious), however she has such a knack for it that she's learned to dish it as well (many of her school mates are not amused by this)! Her struggle is with control, and understanding your best effort is better than perfection.

Nate is nearly a year and a half old now. He's a cuddle-bug that we all love dearly. He's not crawling yet (sooo close), but we're fine with it. He's got trisomy-21 (a/k/a Down syndrome), so his biggest struggle will be being accepted for who he is (without apology, entitlement, or excuse) and knowing God made him EXACTLY the way he is.

We are a Christian family, and although I am not going to use this forum to preach, it is important to note; as our core beliefs, principles, and methods reflect the Biblical model for families.

We are like many young families today, running to and fro with too many commitments and not enough time. We function as a family unit daily, yet not every part of our family is always present. Meaning, every other weekend the three older children are gone, so it's Dad, Mom & Nate. Regardless of who's home or who's gone, we are working to instill a sense of stability (a real challenge for blended families) and consitency so our children know that whenever they walk through the front door they are welcomed with unconditional love and affection.

I'll save some of the logistics of how we do what we do for another time. Trust me, it's a work in progress. By no means am I here to suggest that we have all (or even any) of the answers. My hope is that this forum will shed some light to those who know blended families, and offer hope and encouragement to families like ours that are fused!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Meaning & Purpose

Hello, and welcome to 'Family Fused!'

We surveyed 100 people, and the top 5 answers are on this blog!

Do you recognize that phrase (substitute 'board' for 'blog')? It is from my favorite game show, "Family Feud!"

Family Fused, however is about living as a family fused together - a blended family. I came to 'fused' after checking "blended families," "mixed families," and "combined families," all of which are unavailable. So I had to get creative and find another word for 'blended.' After a long time of blank nothingness (cue angelic choir), fused popped in to my head. A quick check on confirmed it to be the right word:


–verb (used with object)
2. to combine or blend by melting together; melt.
3. to unite or blend into a whole, as if by melting together: The author skillfully fuses these fragments into a cohesive whole.
–verb (used without object)

5. to become united or blended: The two groups fused to create one strong union.

And, as final confirmation that this in fact was the RIGHT word
to describe blended families, here's the clincher:

7. blow a fuse, Informal. to lose one's temper; become enraged: If I'm late again, they'll blow a fuse.

So now that the meaning of the blog is clear, here's the purpose: to share our victories & defeats, trials & lessons, tips & topics, and other relevant, helpful, encouraging, honest, authentic, and inspirational subject matter - all on the unique challenges and opportunities facing blended families today.

Now who's ready to play, "Family Fused?!!"