Stepmemo

A note to stepmoms everywhere


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One Woman Team (Just Don’t Check the Score!)

courtesy Giphy.com  Does anyone know what happened to this kid?

courtesy Giphy.com Does anyone know what happened to this kid?

Back to my old “single mom” routine. When my husband goes away, people will ask “you have the kids?” and I will always reply “I didn’t have them, but I got ’em!” Oh, I can’t stand myself, I’m so witty!

So the oldest child is generally exhausted, pale, cold and out of breath. I’ve been telling her for MONTHS she’s low on vitamin D and she’s either close to anemic or full blown anemic. I kept trying to keep her on vitamins, she didn’t seem to understand what a vitamin deficiency can do. When she insisted that she eat ice during all hours of consciousness, then I insisted that she needed a blood workup, but in the meantime I gave her multivitamins and iron tablets.

She finally got her blood test results. She says “they told me I’m anemic, I’m so glad I wasn’t just lazy!”

Facepalm.

Her boyfriend tells her “you should listen to Jessie, she seems to be right a lot”. Too bad the only kid that’s figured that out doesn’t live here.

That’s not entirely true. The middle child, the one who gave me the hardest time, the one who was just mean and hurtful to me, the one who cried every time I said anything at all to her for about 4 years, suddenly values my input. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the logistics of that, but she listens to me, she talks to me, and she genuinely understands I have only her best interest at heart. I truly believed we would never be here!

Now, on to the youngest. I’m worried about her, and I’m worried in a way that I wasn’t worried about the middle child. The youngest doesn’t have the same support structure around her that the other 2 had, she also hasn’t received the same discipline, she’s been more spoiled, and is more entitled, rebellious and (sorry to say it) intelligent. People are always underestimating how smart she is. Sometimes she undermines her own intelligence with her sheer stubbornness, and that will also be to her detriment. I feel like if I can’t reach her when she hits that critical pre-teen realization, I’m not sure who will. I wanted her to get evaluated because she has crazy mood swings, and is constantly swinging between groups of friends, pitting them against each other. The youngest that comes through the door one day probably won’t be the same one the next day. You never know who you will be coming home to, a gremlin or interpretive dance queen. I thought if she were evaluated, we could find out if it’s hormones, if she’s just manipulative or if there’s something else that we need to be aware of during the stresses of her teen years.

But *one* of her parents doesn’t want people to think there’s something wrong with her, so they don’t want it done. The other parent doesn’t want to argue.

Part of me wants to throw my hands up and just tell them “good luck!!” I want them to see that their action or inaction led to problems.

And then I look at her, and I know it’s not fair.

I’ll be ready, because I can see what’s coming, and I’ve been where she’s going. I’ll know how to handle it, the depths of craziness and bad decisions. The highs of accomplishment and overcoming obstacles. I look around, at her options of who else is ready for the fastball pitch of her teenage years to come, and I’m the only one with the mitt.

Play ball!

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The Great Outdoors (Just like the movie, but no one dies and there’s no storm, or steak)

Youngest and dog, both in anticipation.

Youngest and dog, both in anticipation.

I love the outdoors and camping. I love fishing, hiking, sitting in the woods and staring at trees and controlled fires in their designated areas (I’m not a pyro, I just enjoy a nice little fire). I take my people on these excursions with me. They are meant to be calming little vacations where we all sit around and talk and roast marshmallows. We sleep in and have big breakfasts and relax, walking around the campground.

Now sometimes all of that nice stuff actually happens. But everything I do in life ends up completely weird and messed up in a way that wouldn’t even be possible for a normal person. This rule also applies to my vacations, so my people are also subjected to my weird occurrences.

We had a lovely little weekend planned at a state park we had not been to yet. We get to the campsite, and it is a patch of gravel perched at the edge of a steep hill. We were overlooking a small valley. The kids were not enthused. We tie up the dog and start setting up. We were there for a total of 30 minutes, yes, 30 minutes in, and the dog broke loose and went for a jog in the wilderness. Yay.

The littler people and I run down the hill to get the dog. We are whistling and calling her and clapping to get her to come back. She was gone for about 10 minutes and came pouncing back like it was the best play time she ever had. I dragged her about halfway back up the hill, then she dragged me the rest of the way (thankfully, I was dying!). We finish setting up, make dinner and after some fire time, we go to bed. I go to get ready for bed, and I came back without a flashlight and hear “Jessie, there’s raccoons in the screen tent!!” We were being raided by raccoons.

I chased out the bandits in the screen tent and began securing the food there, then I hear “there’s one in the cooler!”. Little dude figured out how to open the cooler. I chased him off with a stick, at one point I made contact, we were both surprised, and he ran off into the woods. I turn around and there are 2 more in the screen tent! It was an ambush!! I hollered to my husband for backup.

We finally got all the food in the car, and I was allowed into bed. They came back and found some dog treats. They didn’t have the decency to drag them off into the woods, they had to knock things over and rip open the bag as loudly as possible, terrifying the children (who are now absolutely traumatized and terrified of raccoons forever. I don’t get it). I had to get up one more time, chase him off and salvage the dog treats. Stupid raccoons.

The next day, we had rented a pontoon boat for the entire day. The dog was a little unsure of the whole thing, and freaked out a little. She stared at the water, but didn’t want to jump in. We went out and fished all day and then just cruised around the lake. I was sitting up front while we were putting along, when all of a sudden the dog jumped off the front of the boat. I was holding her leash, but knew her collar was a little big. She had gone under the boat, and if she slipped out of her collar, it was propeller time. I screamed at my husband to stop the boat and he threw it in reverse. The middle child ran up and opened the gate that I was struggling to open with my one free hand. The boat slowed, and I could see the dog paddling for her life! I grabbed her collar and yanked her back up on the boat, a little shaken up. So was I.  Stupid dog.

The next day, we went to the beach. It was packed. We found a part of the park where we could hang out and the dog didn’t have a massive anxiety attack (high maintenance, seriously). We got some sun and got in the water. I went to the bathroom and apparently missed a man getting completely naked for the outdoor shower area where you would normally just rinse off in your bathing suit. Totally naked in front of God and everybody. I’m still not sure why anyone would think it was ok to do that. We stopped off on the way home and tried to fish a little. We caught a few tiny guys, but that was it. The dog was just beside herself at this point and tried to chase the bobber on every cast and wanted to run around and drive us all crazy. I slipped and called her a Dick Nixon, minus the Nixon, in front of the people. They all stopped and looked at me wide eyed.  I said sorry about 20 times, then they all giggled for a bit.

We went back to the campsite, had dinner and went to bed a little early. The next morning, we woke up and had everything all packed up and left the site in 2 and a half hours. A personal best. But aside from bandit raccoon ambushes, drowning runaway dogs and full frontal beach time, it was a good trip.

But I swear sometimes I feel like it’s so crazy, you just can’t make this up. I need a vacation from my vacation.


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Breaking News: I’m Still Alive!!

courtesy livefromtexas.tumblr.com

courtesy livefromtexas.tumblr.com

You know, it’s been a while. I haven’t meant for that to be the case, I just haven’t had much time. I’ve been doing the usual part time mom and full time job, and then I started going to school. I don’t know, maybe I’m a masochist and I abuse myself with taking time away. Not really sure what’s going on there. But school is going pretty awesome, and my job (which I didn’t want in the first place, Inside Sales) is turning into something pretty cool. I had a hard time, I knew it was a good job with good people, but I was bored out of my mind. When Jessie gets bored, bad things happen. I’ve been known to shoot rubber bands at people (got one guy right in the eye) sneak up on people and scare them. Rig up their desks, steal things from offices, hide important items… you get the idea. I run out of work and turn into a gremlin.

But there may be a promotion on the horizon and that is super fantastic.

The oldest child (now 15, gasp) has a boyfriend. He’s pretty awesome. He always wears those Adidas sandals with crazy pattern socks (like the universe, statue of Liberty, things like that) so I started calling him hot socks. The name stuck. Some family members just call him socks. It’s an initiation. You can’t be one of us without a name, a few of us have many.

The middle child graduated from 8th grade (eek!). During her graduation, we made faces at each other and she was trying not to laugh. We have stare downs and awkward offs, you know. Teenage weirdo stuff. I have no idea what lies ahead for her in high school. But she knows I’m on her side, I will always help her and I will always listen, so I hope that helps. She’s so pretty, I worry about boys, but I guess we’ll burn that bridge when we get there.

The youngest, while incredibly smart, is in that horrible tween phase. She’s too cool for everything, and then not old enough for everything else. She’s a little sassy, a little lippy, and not sure what she likes, so she acts like she doesn’t like anything. I have my work cut out for me this summer with Dennis the menace here. She is so smart, I just want her to see that she’s really got a gift, and that fitting in just makes her someone she’s not. That’s what I worry about, but I also know that middle school cures that. It’s a phase people, they all go through angry cat syndrome, it goes away. Just keep acting like nothing is wrong and they’ll come around.

I went on my first business trip. I missed the kids birthday party at my house (I’m such a turd!). All I can say about that is 1) don’t fly Spirit airlines 2) stay away from O’Hare airport (just ridiculous) 3) no matter where you travel for work, it’s still work. It’s not a vacation. That was the worst possible trip to Orlando I could ever have had. Gah.

So that’s all. I feel more and more like a real mom every day. The oldest has been staying at her mom’s house more for the summer and I keep forgetting. Like a piece is missing. I like these people. I think I’ll keep them, they’re kinda mine now anyway.


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Why This Is

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The girls when i met them, and only one liked me.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this a few times over the course of my blogging, but maybe I haven’t. Or maybe you’re new here. But about a year ago, I had been talking with a fellow stepmom in my family, and she was having a hard time. Among second wives I’ve spoken to, the common sentiment is that it’s rough going.
I kept trying to put positive little things on Facebook to encourage these women, but I found I had more to say than a little post would allow. So I looked into blogging.
All I wanted to do was tell people that family life is hard, and it’s hard for all of us. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. I want you to be encouraged that this isn’t forever.
Yes, they will be your spouses children forever, but they won’t try to come between you forever. They won’t drag remnants of a former life into your home forever. The drama isn’t forever.
The hard part is standing on the sidelines, being the cleanup crew and support staff in the meantime. There were a lot of nights I went to bed hurt and frustrated, feeling like the maid. There were times I had angry outbursts and times I cried alone. But none of that was forever, even though at the time it sure felt like it.
The kids got older and they saw how I toughed it out. They saw I tried hard and made sacrifices. They saw how much I love their dad, and how much I put them first and really appreciate them. I cherish their hands made things, I have shoeboxes full of old homework, drawings and school pictures. I have kept every Christmas ornament they have made, and take time to talk about each one all over again every year.
But most of all, I listen to them. When they talk I listen to them. I sit down and look at them and respond just as I would any other human being. I answer all of their big ugly questions, I support the positive things they do and I listen to them without judgment.
That alone has made the biggest impact in my relationship with my family. I have seriously cut down on my cleaning time because I’m just talking to the kids all the time. I saw a need and I fulfilled it.
That’s all being a stepmom really is, filling the gaps. There’s not much else to do, and it’s not easy.


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Long Term Magic from Short Term Bad Plumbing (no, really)

video games animated GIF

courtesy giphy.com

I had a little lull in the action for a while. There were a few weeks where I just chilled and got to watch tv and paint my nails. I got lots of sleep and rest, even if things were sort of busy. I could see there were a few things coming up, but the problem with planning 1 event, is that it always turns into 3.

My new job give quarterly bonuses. We have eagerly been awaiting this one. What will we do with it? Will we get a new couch that doesn’t smell like dirty dogs and kids’ butts? Will we get ahead with our bills? Buy a dog? Put a nice porch on the house (ours is literally rotting off, ugh). No, we will get a furnace. A shiny new furnace.

Don’t get me wrong, we needed a furnace and knew it. But we needed some other things too, and sometimes it’s nice to have something you can really experience and appreciate.  Like a new, not stinky couch. But we’ve been running space heaters on every floor, and it’s dying. Despite the fact that we are like 3 weeks away from not needing it, it’s dying.

Another fun project is the little creek that is running down the wall in our bedroom. Our room is in the basement, so all the problems literally roll downhill. It’s wet, it’s ruining our floor and the drop ceiling.  We have had to throw out a few tiles, leaving a gaping maw in the ceiling directly above my pillow. It’s not relaxing. We will be cutting a big hole in the dining room wall/doorway today or tomorrow in hopes of finding the spring that feeds our vertical creek. I can’t wait.

So the other day, the oldest went to the store with me to get a space heater for the upstairs. I was telling her about a dream I had where she was having such bad stomach pains, she stopped eating, stopped all the treatments we were trying and ran away from home. She started heroin to stop the pain. I told her about that, and she started crying. I asked why and she said “it’s so sad”. I said “yes, it’s sad for me, but why is it sad for you?”

She’s come a long way in her eating disorder, but she said that since there was so much turmoil at her mom’s and now she was conflicted with her decision to go over there less, she was tempted to not eat. We had a discussion about stress and addiction, and how when we have a lot going on, we tend to deal with it the only way we know how, even if it’s unhealthy. So we had some tissues and counseling in the fan/heater aisle of the Walmart, then went home to heat up the house. So there was some of that “Mom” stuff I’ve been so scared to try and handle. I hope I did well.

I also did my best to get all signed up for school this week. I got all of my financial documents taken care of, did most of my orientation, and did my best at a placement test. Lord help me, I suck at math. Like disgustingly, ridiculously suck. I suck at it so bad, there’s no logical reason for it. It’s depressing.  I was all proud of myself, thinking I was getting a lot done and staying on schedule, then I get emails and phone calls that I need to do more, and don’t forget about this… I hope it’s not always like this. It’s gonna be a LONG 2 years. But I’m still excited, despite the short term implications.

I want a job that’s fun. I can’t do this “just make money” crap forever. And I should probably teach the kids about that, too.


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New Stuff Kinda Freakin Me Out

courtesy giphy.com

courtesy giphy.com

I haven’t blogged in a little while, and a lot has happened. Seems like everything has changed, or is just about to. We went on our entire family anniversary to the water park, and everyone had a good time. I had a little bit of tummy troubles, but recovered and hung out in the lazy river with the kids. I expected that since they are older, they might want to do their own thing, go off on their own, flirt with boys (middle child). But for at least 2 hours, the oldest hung out with me in a double inner tube, just floating around and talking about everything from the world history and politics, to her siblings and her recovery on her eating disorder. We also talked a lot about life at her mom’s house and problems that she has with her mom’s boyfriend. Namely his shouting, swearing, drinking and punching holes in walls. A healthy “normal” household, according to the adults in charge. Sure.

I was surprised that she would want to spend so much time with me. I keep hearing that she will be growing out of that soon. I haven’t seen it yet. The other two were just as excited to stay close to me and my husband.

The next day we all went to the mall and we had a really good time. And then we went home totally exhausted.

The week before, the oldest had told me in church that she was thinking about telling her mom that she wanted to stay with us. She wasn’t sure the details yet, and if she wanted to stay full time or part time, but she was thinking about it. This was coming on the heels of an argument where the mom’s boyfriend was throwing things (like towels or socks or something stupid like that) and punching holes in walls. The oldest tried to grab her little brother from him during all this, and he wouldn’t let go. So she told him he was acting like a b****. Yep. She said it. Ugh. I told her that she really needed to think and pray about it, and she should take her time making that decision.

The argument happened right at the begging of us having them for 2 weeks in a row. They got a little break and time to adjust themselves. Then, one day at dinner, the oldest looked at us and said “I want to tell mom that I want to stay over here”. It was like someone threw a brick into the middle of the table. There were some tears, but they all agreed that it was a lot less stressful at our house than at their mom’s. The middle child was upset because she wanted to do the same thing, but was very close with their little brother (who is like 5). The youngest was mad, because the oldest takes care of her, stops all the fights she starts and cleans up all of her messes at her mom’s house. She’s not held accountable for a whole lot over there.

She had the talk with her mom, and after some other little complications and tiffs, she stayed at our house this week while the other two were with their mom. She still went over there, just not till Thursday night. My husband was out of town, so the two of us hung out and talked a lot. It was pretty quiet.

During this, I had a lightbulb moment at work. I have a “new” job. It’s a really good job, the people are nice, it’s got great benefits, it’s not stressful or complicated, but I don’t like it. I couldn’t figure out what my problem was, I just didn’t like it. Then one day I was walking past the desk of a girl who works in marketing while she was cleaning up some product pictures to put on our website. I thought “aww, I wish I could be doing that right now”. Then I realized, maybe I should go to school for that.

So during the week my husband was out of town, I’m trying to look at schools and figure out how to afford it, and where I should go by myself. I also have had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that the oldest’s actions have voted for me to be her mom figure. I know I was acting the part, but now someone has said “well, you’re it”. I’m kinda freaked out.

So, some big crazy changes, I hope I handle all of it ok. We’ll see what happens with this so called “school” stuff.


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Zombies and Dudes

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Courtesy giphy.com

I accidentally inherited a gecko about 7 years ago. He’s been a mean little cuss. But he looks cool. Lately, though, he had decided he didn’t want to eat anymore. I didn’t want to force him because he had a rough life, and if he was done, I was going to let him be done.
This morning, he was done.
It was one of those days where I went ahead and turned off the alarm and went back to sleep. I was running around in a hurry, trying to not be even later, and I did my daily check on him, and he had obviously run out of gas. Forever.
I couldn’t deal with that at the moment, so I went to work.
It was just a weird day. I was cranky and unpleasant and gross. Then while cooking dinner, I began to feel like I had been hit by a bus, and I realized; the kids got me sick again!!! What the heck!! Bringing home their professional strength yuck. And the middle child is always leaning on me and rubbing her face on me (don’t ask, she’s 13, I don’t get it, but I don’t argue), and she looked half dead for church on Sunday. I told her she was going to become a walker by dawn.
Now I’m next for the zombie transformation. Radical.
The oldest went to the store with me to get medicine, and I was so out of it. All I could keep saying was “I can’t even think”. It was a mess.
So my husband took care of the gecko. I never really named him, I just called him ” the dude “. If anyone asked why, I would just say “because the dude abides”.
Indeed.
We are going to a water park this weekend, and I don’t care how sick I am, I’m going. Because I’m clearly losing my mind.


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If You Ain’t Doing Saturday Like This, You’re Wrong

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Courtesy Giphy.com

Saturday, Saturday, Saturday!! The day created for sleeping in and doing as little as possible. I love Saturday. Most of the time it’s what gives me the drive to survive my whole week. Just being able to sleep in one day, just one day is enough.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen today. It was a long week, full of lots of social activities. I don’t mind social activities, but they do wear me out. And I had something to do every day this week.
Except Monday. I was in bed at 7 on Monday.
But this morning my eyeballs snapped open at 6am on cue. Gah!!
I fought it for a few hours, and gave up. But I still haven’t put on real clothes today, so the protest continues.
We’re puppy sitting today, and it makes me feel like it really is time we get a dog again. After the terrifying attack from the last dog, and the hard time we were having with money, I wanted to wait until I knew it would be OK. I think it might be time.
So no real pants, not a lot going on, I’m just not really interested in doing very much.
And that’s what Saturday is for.


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Unicorns In Training

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Courtesy giphy.com

Yeah I fell off for a bit. Sorry, I just kind of quit life for a little while. I noticed a few things, gave everything I had to the kids and a side project or two, and tried to relax.
I’ve felt a lot better after my husband forced me to go shopping and get some nice new things for me. When I was a kid, my mom would get dressed up and go out. She didn’t have a lot, but she had nicer things than me. She also would take naps a lot (she was a single mom working full time, taking care of 2 kids and a mentally ill mother). I understood, naps were kind of a big deal. Both of my parents took them and we (the children) respected that.
Lots of women don’t give themselves time or nice things. They keep putting the kids first and making sure they have new clothes and new shoes so they aren’t singled out in school, and that teaches them a few bad lessons. First, it shows them they are more important in the world than you. They trump you. Some children will see and appreciate your sacrifice, but most of them won’t. They don’t understand the big picture, they just see you, giving them all and taking none for you.
Second, you are showing them how to parent, and that you take no time for yourself when you take care of little people. If this was healthy, this wouldn’t be the number one complaint among mothers.
Take some time, take some money. Not much, but do the basic stuff. Take care of you.
The kids were all very impressed that I bought new clothes, and they keep eyeballing my new boots. I have to guard them with my life!
The kids are proud of me when I finally give in and do stuff for me, but that’s not normal. At their mom’s house, she comes first, sometimes at the cost of everyone else. So the kids have a comparison. This isn’t a view most kids have. I try to show them a different way, that they can still be loving and take care of their families without sacrificing time and health, but I don’t do so well. When I have them by myself, I don’t even take the 20 minutes that I take when my husband is home. I give all to them because I’m taking the place of 2 people. I want to show them a balance, but that’s hard to remember when you have 3 young people all super excited to tell you about their day, and ask big ugly life questions, like “how did the holocaust happen?”. Yeah.
How could you turn that down?
But now that they are older, they see. They know I love them and would do anything for them, like switch jobs and work a second job. Shop at a second hand store and stop having date nights.
But I have to teach them how to be self respecting women who doesn’t need a man’s approval. And that is why I need to start doing a better job of keeping up with myself. I need to be am example of a woman proud to be in her own skin.
Seems easy enough, right? ;P


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Single Mom Time. What Could Go Wrong?

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My husband has left me to do the single mom dance with the kids again. It seems like they see me more than anyone else. It’s only for a few days this week, and I can’t have it action packed like my last single mom gig. I’m already tired.
This weekend was great, but I crammed too much in there and now I’m done. I finally got to go buy new clothes!! I went to a department store and bought new things! Everything was on clearance, but it’s all new. I get nice stuff from Goodwill, but it’s nice to get things that fit right and haven’t been stretched out by anyone else.
So after an epic battle with clothes, I was wiped. Yesterday I had to drag myself through the grocery store. I had to come home and sit down for 20 minutes before actually putting the food away.
Yes, I have to rest in the middle of mundane tasks. It is what it is.
My husband was playing The Doors last night, I’m not sure but I think he was trying to torture the children. Anyway, the youngest was standing next to him as he sang, and he got to the line “the men don’t know, but the little girls understand”. The youngest looks at him, like he knows a secret, and says ” I’m a little girl “. My husband made a face somewhere between disgust and disappointment and told her to go sit down.
If you live with kids, you surely have had a double entendre misunderstanding at some point. Or kids not realizing what they are saying. They might loudly talk about camel toe in public, they might excitedly insist that you spank them (without the birthday spankings context) there’s all sorts of things that can happen. They attend public school and aren’t always hip to the context of their comments.
I kind of feel like as long as they don’t really get it, I don’t make a big deal out of it. When they know what they are talking about, that’s when there’s a problem.