FOR just over two years, Katie Blackmer lived with her ex-husband Stephen Shepard and their kids.
They also shared a house with Katie’s new husband Ben, Stephen’s girlfriend Brandy, 32, and her kids Kayleigh, 11, and Jaxson, nine.
Ben’s son Hunter, 20, lived down the road and together, as Fabulous exclusively revealed earlier this year, their unique living arrangements worked.
But now, they have split-up and they all live in separate houses. Yet they still see each other every day and eat meals together.
Here Katie, 32, shares their story update with Fabulous…
This festive season is a little different for our families.
The blended family spent Christmas together this year[/caption]
In June, after more than two years of living together, our blended families went their separate ways.
It was inevitable. As the kids were getting bigger, they needed more space and initially, we looked for a much bigger house to live in together.
Unfortunately, big 10-bedroom houses are a lot of money here in Tennessee where we live, so we did the next best thing – we looked for houses close to each other.
I know people probably think that the fact we are so close is very strange.
After I divorced Stephen and then married Ben in 2016, my relationship with my ex couldn’t have been much worse.
There were so many gifts on Christmas day that the kids got muddled up[/caption]
Katie with her ex Stephen [/caption]
We were awful to each other and Stephen was jealous of Ben, but when we saw that it was affecting our kids Gracelyn, now 12, Kaylynn, 11 and Colston, six, we agreed that we had to at least be civil.
Then in May 2017, Stephen almost died in an horrific car accident that killed his brother Michael and left him with awful injuries.
I know people probably think that the fact we are so close is very strange – but it’s important to us the children still feel we’re one big family
He came to live with me and Ben while he recuperated and he never left. It was the most natural thing in the world to care for him and by this time, him and Ben were friends.
When he started dating his girlfriend Brandy, she and her kids Kayleigh, 11 and Jaxson, nine, moved in too and we were a big happy family.
But in June, in the middle of the Covid epidemic, we moved into separate houses to make more space for the kids, but we chose carefully so that we were still very close.
Ben homeschooled the kids during the pandemic [/caption]
It was important to us that the children still felt that we were one big family, so we bought houses just minutes from each other. Even Hunter has a house not far.
At first it was quite stressful for the kids because they were so used to being together all the time, so we were anxious to make sure they knew that in reality, we were still one big family.
Every day, we eat dinner together at a different person’s house, and we share the cooking just like we did before. There is not a day goes by when we don’t see each other.
Sometimes the kids stay at my house, other times at Stephen’s house or Brandy’s.
Unfortunately, they split-up over summer so Brandy did get her own house, although we still see her every day as if nothing’s really changed.
Gracelynn, Kaylynn, Brandy, Jaxson and Kayleigh together in the kitchen[/caption]
We had a lot of fun organising Christmas. The kids stayed over at Stephen’s house and at 6am on Christmas Day, me, Ben and Brandy went to the house to open presents.
With so many of us opening gifts, it was a crazy free for all.
There was a sea of wrapping paper everywhere and in all the chaos, some of the kids got the wrong gifts. Colston opened makeup and a hair-brush, but he was good about it!
Of course, there was a bit of bickering with so many people but thankfully, no full-blown rows this year
I think the worst thing was that we still rationed everyone to two sheets of toilet paper as with the continued Covid pandemic toilet paper is still hard to find!
After a huge buffet style breakfast, we went to have Christmas dinner at Stephen’s mom Kathy’s house. I think there were about 25 people there for that, so we had to have shifts for dinner.
Katie says the family wouldn’t cope if they didn’t see each other every day[/caption]
The kids got a bit argumentative waiting for dinner, so Kathy made us devilled eggs to keep them going! That night the kids went back to Stephen’s house to stay together.
This New Year’s Eve will be the same, we will go to Stephen’s house for dinner, games and fireworks at midnight – to be honest, there’s no way any of us would want to be with anyone else.
I know some people might wonder how this arrangement can work, but our kids know that they have really have two sets of parents who love them very much – it doesn’t matter if they are biological or not.
Us adults were anxious to make sure that we all have a presence in the kids’ lives and as we live only a few minutes from each other, we can achieve this. Even Hunter comes for dinner every night.
We are praying that Stephen and Brandy will get back together again and I’m hopeful that this is just a break. She is one of my best friends and my kids adore her, so I’m thankful we still see her every day.
No matter what, we are all still a family and we love each other deeply – we don’t have to live in the same house to be as close as we are.
I don’t think any of us could cope if we didn’t see each other every day!
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