We went to see them in their natural habitat (Washington State) for a week, and then they came here to see the whole family who are gathered to be with Mom as she nears the end of her days.
After divorce, or becoming widow or widower, single parents often remarry, creating a blended, or step-family. Research shows it takes seven years to work out the kinks. Certain families blend well. Others do not.
This has not been an easy path at times, yet it is critically important for us to create, build and maintain strong ties with our kids. These situations are each a little different: the kids live with you, live with you part-time, or mostly don't live with you. We have the latter.
Overall, the younger boys just want to be with their dad. They have a mom. I respect that, and don't try to be a mother to them. I talk with them, make sure there's food in the house that they like (in large quantities!), set a few boundaries (e.g., no running in the house) and make way for my husband to focus on the boys. We do a few things all together, and they do things without me.
The older boys are fine with all of us hanging out together, and I still make sure that I absent myself at times to allow dad-and-son time.
In the beginning, I felt like a maid: shopping, cooking, cleaning up, doing the laundry, etc. I chose that, because I didn't know how to be a step-mother. It didn't work for me. I felt overburdened, and would have grown resentful had it continued. I talked to my husband, and we changed things up. He started doing more of those things with me, and as the years passed the boys have grown up enough to help, too.
They helped cook the big family dinner last night; they decorated the small, live Christmas tree we brought to Mom; they brought love and cheer to everyone.
If you're looking for a good book about blending a family, check out, "How to Win as a Step-Family" by Emily Visher, Ph.D. and John Visher, M.D.