Cortney, 13, and Joshua, who's 11, along with their younger brother Aaron, lived with their father after their parents divorced, and at first weren't sure if they should get attached to women he dated. Says Joshua, "My dad at first told me he wouldn't get married again, but later when he told us that he was getting remarried, I was excited."
Fortunately, they didn't have to worry about getting to know their new stepmom, Melanie. They'd already known her for years because she was a friend of the family and sometimes even babysat them! Melanie had two sons of her own, Issac and Eathan, and soon everyone was living under one roof.
"It was cool," says Cortney, "because suddenly I had two other little brothers. When it was just us three kids, my youngest brother Aaron was kind of spoiled. He used to say, ‘I'm the youngest, I'm the baby.' So I was happy that he didn't get to be the baby anymore!"
Joshua says, "I like having two new little brothers, but sometimes they wake up too early in the morning! Being the oldest boy is kinda good and kinda bad. Sometimes when you have to watch them, they don't do what you say."
Right off the bat, Joshua's biggest change was that in order to make space for his two new stepbrothers, he would have to share a room with his brother Aaron.
"We all talked it through beforehand with our parents," says Joshua. "It took a little while to get used to it. At first, we took turns cleaning up the room, but now whoever makes the mess has to clean it up. We also had to get rid of a lot of stuff we didn't need. We still fight a lot, especially when he makes a mess and says I did it."
Some of the house rules changed, too. Remembers Cortney: "Before, we did the laundry a completely different way. Now we have to sort it, make sure the clothes aren't inside out, that there's nothing in the pockets." Meals and snacks work differently, too. "We used to eat a lot of junk food," Cortney says. "Now we have scheduled meals. The new systems are better, so they were easy to get used to."
Joshua agrees, but he does miss the carpet they used to have in the house. "With so many kids, it got too hard to clean up, but I liked it because it was soft!"
Christmas is also a little different. "Now we spend the holiday with just our family, at our house," says Joshua. "And when we start, each of us gets one present and races through opening it. New traditions are fun, because the old ones are boring after a while."
Along with their stepmom and stepbrothers, Joshua and Cortney also gained two extra grandparents. "Pa is like the bank," says Joshua about his new grandfather. "When we get a silver dollar or half-dollar, he'll take it and put it into an envelope and save it so we don't spend it."
Cortney and Joshua's mother lives in another state. They get to see her during the summer and on some holidays, and speak to her on the phone on Wednesdays and Sundays. Still, they've chosen to call their stepmom "Mom" rather than "Melanie," because they feel close to her and it seemed like a natural thing to do. It's been two years since the stepfamily came together and Cortney says, "We feel like a solid family now." It helped that when everyone first started living in one house, they had regular family meetings. Now, if anyone has a problem, they all sit down and talk about it.
Cortney and Joshua admit that they've noticed a difference in how their dad and stepmom treat their biological children. "It can seem like a parent goes easier on the children who belong to her, but I think sometimes that's because you're not used to a parent acting that way."
Adds Joshua: "I feel like Mom treats her children differently and our dad treats us differently because we're his children. I think that's okay, it's fair. When Eathan wants to do something with Mom, she'll do something with him, and with our dad, if we want to do something with him alone, he'll find the time."
All in all, Joshua sees mostly positives about his stepfamily. "My family's gotten a whole lot bigger," he says, but also admits: "On the other hand, the house has gotten a little bit smaller. I don't like it being smaller because there aren't any good hiding spots!"
Cortney's advice is this: "If someone was worried about how their new stepfamily will work out, I would tell him or her that they need to calm down, think about how they like these people. If they like them, tell them. If they don't like them, talk about it with their natural parent. Let it flow."