Stepmemo

A note to stepmoms everywhere


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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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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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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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Friday Ride On The Crazy Train

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From the youngest, the caption says it all...

This week has just vaporized, I swear. It’s fine so fast, I’m still not sure it’s Friday. We haven’t had the kids, so I’ve been trying to get caught up on things I didn’t do when they were here.
I guess the trip to the mall was a big hit with the kids. The oldest is still talking about her “exciting weekend” with me. I guess she was just tickled to hang with my mom and uncle. Super weird, a teenager that wants to hang out with adults all the time. But I won’t complain.
She had told me that she had to quit talking to some friends because she found out they were doing drugs and they were racist. She’s half Mexican, so that whole racist thing doesn’t fly, and she’s not a fan of drugs either. She felt like they were the only friends she had, so we had a talk about that.
I suppose high school isn’t the place for a girl with a big heart.
The middle child has secretly pierced a second hole in her ear, by herself. I’m just glad it didn’t happen at our house.
The youngest had her conferences last night. She had drawn a portrait (the pic at the top, supposed to be a self portrait but she’s blond) and her caption says. I swear, that girl makes me Facepalm twice a day.
But I never tell her to change. Only to be herself and not be afraid of it. Can’t stop a crazy train like that.


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What? No Spongebob?!

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Holy cows and chickens. What a week, and then a weekend. I was busy every day with the girls. It helped to wear me out so I slept better and helped to keep them from fighting.
Thursday they went to the gym with me, and I don’t remember Friday. Like, at all. I feel like we went somewhere, but it’s gone from my memory forever.
Saturday was insane. I ended my day by taking the kids to the mall. There was an entire day’s worth of activity, then I took a preteen and 2 teenagers to the mall.
Yes, I’m a bit slow.
We did have a good time. There were lots of sales and they were all very happy. We joked around and laughed, and they showed all of their new treasures to me. We were starting to leave, and the youngest asked if I could take her to the Spongebob movie.
No, there are no movies today. I was toast.
Then yesterday was so in insane, in not sure there’s room enough on here to go through it all. Lots of running around and cooking, and more running. My feet were killing me.
I need a nap people. I am NOT single mom material. I can obviously push through when needed, but that was rough.
I’ve decided that I might not cook anything this week. At all. I think I’m done. I hope my husband doesn’t mind.
I left my gogo at the mall.


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I Can’t Even

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Youngest with her duck fluff and "what are you doing" face

My fourth (I think) anniversary will be next month. In pretty sure it’s the fourth. I’m not very good at this stuff. Anyway, every year I get all nutty and want to do something nice for our anniversary. I want to get away, have a second honeymoon, a little vacation. I always want to go back to where we had our honeymoon. We had such a good time, even if it was stupid cold out the whole time.
So each year I get all amped up, and each year my hopes and dreams are destroyed. I’ve had to settle for a nice dinner. I love a nice dinner, but I love that on a regular basis, not as a special occasion like an anniversary. This year, the whole month seemed to get snatched up before I could even get excited. Our anniversary falls on a Friday this year, and it’s a weekend we have the kids.
I didn’t have the energy to try to plan around it. I just can’t. So when I suggested to my husband that the 5 of us just go to a water park together, he was a little surprised.
I just can’t care this year. I just can’t. I want to do things with my husband, I would love to get away, go somewhere, but I know that we are just not in that place right now. There’s too much going on, too many things come up. Maybe we can go to the art museum in Chicago sometime as a belated anniversary, but this year, we’re celebrating with the kids.
Why not, they are at least half of the marriage anyway. Just gonna go with it.
I think I’m gonna be doing that a lot this year. I just can’t. You know?


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It’s Mommy Time In This Piece!

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Courtesy giphy.com

Today was the day I made the full on mommy commitment. I drove cheerleaders around this summer, and between that and needing to take 2 cars for just us to go camping, I knew it was time.
We bought a minivan.
Now when I was a single girl, living with boyfriends, I also had a minivan. They were great for road trips with friends, the insane amount of times I would need to move, and occasionally for sleeping in. But now that I’m married to a man with 3 kids, I need one for other reasons.
I tried a different car that I thought would work for us; my husband detested the idea of becoming minivan people. But after toughing it out for a few years in my car that was just a bit too small for our people, we knew we had to go ahead and become minivan people.
We knew we would be gone for most of the day, so we took the kids out for breakfast. On the way home, the youngest mentioned that she was very disappointed with the “monkey pouch”. The middle child starts laughing hysterically. I asked what a monkey pouch was, and the middle child tells me that when they were all younger, the older 2 (who are 13 months apart) told the youngest child (3 years younger) that when she got to be their age, she would grow a monkey pouch. It would be a pouch in her mouth where she could store extra food, like a chipmunk.
The youngest thought that would be great. She could put candy in there. So when she got a little older and asked about the monkey pouch, she was a little upset when they just laughed at her.
I thought this was a very creative lie; most younger siblings are just told they are adopted, like my brother told me.
After that enjoyable story, we were off to spend some time at a dealership, where we were very lucky to be able to get what we (I) wanted.
I’m pretty excited, it’s the newest car I’ve ever owned, and it has all the room we need. And a roof rack, just in case it doesn’t have all the room we need. But that makes it official, even if it’s not official, I’ve become some sort of mom.
I worry about them, I buy things for them before I buy anything for me, I know lots of their secrets, and now my car is really about them. There’s no denying that.
I turn more into the mother of kids I never had every day. Just no jeans with front-butt. Ever.


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Let’s Just Keep Still And Quiet.

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Courtesy giphy.com

Things are settling down “post-indecent” around the house. The kids are pretty quiet. That might have more to do with the fact that middle child is very obviously coming down with something and youngest child is still coughing something up (all over the rest of us, wonder how middle child got sick) but there still seems to be a subdued vibe in the house. I think we all are in recovery mode.
It was an emotionally charged moment, and after something like that and being shaken up, it takes a little bit to get settled back down.
The whole thing only further emphasized how complicated my role is. I live with these little people, I love them, take care of them, help them with their problems and laugh and sometimes cry with them, and here I had no authority. I could say NOTHING about one of my people being threatened or the fact that her advocate in this thing found fault in her for it. She goes over there and that’s it, hands off. Whatever happens, happens.
I started this blog as an encouragement to other stepmoms. This is a rough ride, and there’s no right way to take it. And no matter what, the adjustment period takes a long time, and sometimes it just sucks. I’ve worked hard to get close with the kids, and be whatever they need me to be. It took a long time, and I had to keep giving and trying, whether or not it seemed like anyone really gave a crap at the time. Now that there is a little more appreciation for the work I have put in, things are different, but I had to tough it out and just keep it up for a long time. It took persistence, it took patience that I didn’t always have.
I’ve gotten myself to the point now that when there is gum melted into the dryer, I just Facepalm and grab something to scrape it out. I suppose we’ve kind of worn each other down.
Even though I’ve transformed into some weird mommy-hybrid, and I love them as my own, I can’t protect them or help them here. I can’t do anything, even with my big bad mommy pants on.
So I will just check progress with my husband and hang out with the kids like usual.
Onward!