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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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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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.


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She Might Be An Alien Child

weird animated GIF

courtesy giphy.com

It’s been a pretty great day. I started working on a video to promote the cause I volunteer for, and I’m pretty amped about it. After I recorded a bunch of shots to use as filler, I came home to try to save it on my computer and get a look at the footage. I was going through it, and the youngest told me she had some orchestra practices that she needed a ride to. I suggested she call her grandma, and resumed checking my footage.

She went and borrowed a phone, and I saw her dial a number and then she said “grandma?”. I didn’t hear anything else, and she put the phone down on the dining room table and went and sat down and watched tv. A minute later I happened to look up and saw the phone was on and in mid-call!! She had her grandma on the phone, and just put it down and walked away! I said “um, do you have someone on the phone?” She jumped up and said “oh” and grabbed the phone, she just started talking like nothing had happened. Unreal. She’s 11 and has no idea how to talk on a phone.

Then I saw her go in the kitchen and grab 1 paper towel. A single piece. She walked in the living room, wiped something a few times, then went and threw out the single paper towel. I asked what happened and she said she spilled some water. She went upstairs and a few minutes later I went into the living room. I saw that she had spilled a GLASS of water on the ottoman. A glass of water. She used a single paper towel to wipe up a glass worth of water off of the fabric ottoman.

I’m not sure what world she lives in, perhaps it’s parallel to reality, just way off. It seems where she lives is very far away.


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It’s 7:30, Aaaaannd… We’re Done Here!

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I’ve been hibernating. Well, sort of. I mean, I still go to work, pick up the kids, come home and make dinner, and a few other assorted tasks. But I shut off at about 7:30 every night. That’s it, no more gas. Jessie stops.
I just can’t do more. I still talk to the kids, spend time with the family, but I’m not even trying to keep up with the pace I kept a few months ago. I’ve decided I don’t care. If the kids aren’t here, I can’t even bring myself to make dinner!
I have had a few really good things work out. My car was quickly deteriorating into a death trap, and there was no way to drive in the show without sliding all over. We finally decided to go get a new car, and like a week later, there is a massive snow dump over the Midwest. The timing was epic! My new job is nice and pays better. The girl I work with is hilarious, and it seems like I’m doing well so far.
The greatest thing is that we are getting an awesome tax refund this year, and it looks like we will be getting out of our hole.
I will be having a busy weekend. One child wants to go bra shopping and another wants me to take her to the Sponge Bob movie. I dig on Sponge Bob, I might be down.
One funny little thing that happened this week (there were many, but I have a hard time remembering them all), the middle child was telling me about her friend at school who is in Italian club. I asked her what that was, and she said that they learn things about their culture. I asked “do they teach them to say ‘ey,yooz guyz’?” She didn’t miss a beat and said “no, he already speaks Italian”. And then didn’t understand what was so funny.
Freakin’ kids.


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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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Not Sure What It Means, But Pretty Sure It’s Bad.

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Courtesy giphy.com

Wow. My day started off pretty normal and ended in a small explosion. We did the normal church and then return the kids to their mom’s. We stopped by my dad’s and visited for a little bit, that was very nice.
I went to the grocery store and talked myself into putting down some impulse buys. I’m terrible for that, ” this lotion only costs a few dollars, I’ve needed a pan like this and it’s on sale… ” always things I could do without and ends up adding like $10-$20 to the grocery bill like every week. So I racked up my testicular fortitude and put back a few things, and I was proud of myself.
It’s hard, especially after your go a really long time not doing things or buying things for yourself. It’s like waiting too long to eat, you’re deprived and you go crazy. You can’t stop yourself. So to get to the point where I know things are going to be more stable soon and I can wait is promising.
I was out, I was at the church for my volunteer project and I get a phone call from the middle child. I didn’t answer, my husband was home so I texted him to call her. He texted me back saying she hit her mom’s boyfriend and they were coming to our house.
Holy cow. I’m not worried about how he feels (the boyfriend). I’m not worried about anything but 2 things: what are the long term implications of this, and how will this affect the respect she has for adults?
There are a lot of complicated dynamics at the mom’s house. There are a lot of things I don’t like. The kids look to me for answers, and I do the best I can to explain things and not vilify anyone.
The boyfriend is something like a frat boy, but in his 30’s. Within the past couple of years, he paid for his over partying with prison time. He really likes himself, he thinks he’s very important and wants other people to think the same way. He doesn’t have a nurturing bone in his body. He started his relationship with the girls by demanding they respect him or else. He picks on them, starts fights with them, bosses them around, has them watch his son constantly. Their mom works long hours, is kind of emotionally detached sometimes and tends to side with him.
Today, he began picking on the middle child, and kept going all day. They got into a screaming match, and she made a big mistake and she pushed him. He exploded and charged her, so she pushed her hand out to deflect him and it hit him in the head. Then it got nutty, but no one got hit, and they are all here now.
Part of me feels like this is all my fault. I try to get the girls to believe in themselves and stand up for themselves. I worry that my talks with them have somehow mutated into this incident. I look at this and see myself at her age, and it terrifies me. I want better for her than that.
And I don’t know what this means for her time at her mom’s or where things go from here. She’s really such a good kid, and I’m worried. I don’t want people, anyone, to look at her and see this moment of ugliness, where she was upset and threatened and acted out. I want people to be able to see the smart, funny girl who is deeply concerned about justice, and loves to be silly. She has matured and grown so much, and it breaks my heart for her to have this blemish in the eyes of her mother.
My heart bleeds for these kids. I can’t protect them, I don’t make a lot of the rules for them, and I didn’t make them. But moments like this, and even just in general lately, I feel like they are my own.
Where do we go from here? I cannot choose the way.


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Forging a Family Pod

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courtesy giphy.com Yeah, that’s right, I’m a unicorn. Braving the storm for my little unicorns in training.

Been a bit of a rough week. I apparently have a little party hangover. It’s been stressful, working at a church during the busiest season of the year for a pastor who possibly has the absolute worst case of ADD I’ve ever witnessed in a human being. It’s been trying, and the past 2 days have felt like 4. Not sure how this is going to play out, he keeps forgetting to finish telling me what he needs before he adds the next thing.

I’ve had emergency chocolate as soon as I’ve gotten home for 2 days now.

Today I got home and talked to the oldest child for a bit. We discussed the holidays and what we will be doing, and we talked about a party that will be at my brother’s house. The kids never get to go to my family’s Christmas parties, they are always Christmas eve, and they are with their mom that day. But the oldest said “your family is so cool, I wish our family could be more like them”. She is referring to my in-laws and an incident that I don’t want to give light to.

I told her “we had to fight for what we have. We might be cool with each other, but that was a struggle”. She laughed, but then I told her why.

Our bond was forged in the depths of ugliness and growing pains in the lost youth of 2 people not ready for a family. Moments like my brother sitting on the bed with me, holding me while I shook and cried while our father tore our house apart in a jealous rage. When my mother threw our prized antique gumball machine out the car window, shattering it in the street while fighting with my father the day we moved out after the divorce. When my brother would knock on my wall late at night to ask for something when he was sick, or just to talk, or have me listen to some music he was into.

I was a best friend to my mother, and I was a partner in crime with my father. Things were crazy, and things were ugly, and we survived things that only the 4 of us can understand. My parents may be divorced, but we are a pod.

When I moved into the house with my husband, the whole family was traumatized. The kids never saw the divorce coming and their whole world had just shattered. My husband wasn’t prepared for the mourning he was to do over his marriage. It seemed like the only one who wanted me there was the oldest child. There were fights, disagreements with their mother, times when we all were upset for one reason or another. Times when we had to defend our decisions and our best efforts in the eyes of family.

Our struggles as a blended family may not have been as frightening, or as visceral as the struggles of my childhood, but the 5 of us have survived things that only we can understand.

Not everyone gets that. They want to stand outside and judge, but it doesn’t matter. They are not inside our “pod”, they weren’t forged in the fires with us.


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Someone’s Cooking, and It Ain’t Me

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Courtesy forum.lineage2c1.com

Getting closer to the end of the week, and I can’t wait. I have a few things I’m pretty amped for this weekend, and this week has been like an obstacle course at work. At home I’m just trying to keep it together, keep the house from exploding into a horrible mess and get ready for this party stuff. But work has been like dodgeball.
Everything has been last second with a few surprises thrown in. I’ve barely been keeping up, and by the end of the day my brain just says “aww, no. This ain’t happenin” and stops working.
Yesterday was the ham dinner for the youngest child’s birthday. It was really good. Her grandparents came over with their puppy and we all hung out and had a good time. The food was good, and my husband went out and bought a cake and we sang happy birthday. It was cute, it always is.
I didn’t think anything of it, but man, making a ham after working all day then driving around to pick up kids is a little more serious than I thought. I’m kinda wiped out today. Which is bad for everyone because my fuse shortens quite a bit when I’m worn out. I think that’s true for almost every human, but in the land of mommydom, you’re supposed to get past those things and be super mom (or stepmom).
I decided I felt like garbage and didn’t want to cook today after my culinary masterpiece yesterday. My husband got his bonus and I had visions of a nice dinner at a sit down restaurant with the kids. It sounded so relaxing, until I tried to figure out where I wanted to go. My stomach has been sketchy at best for days now, so nothing sounded good. Then there was a tussle over what restaurant to go to, and it ended up on me somehow, the person who wasn’t even sure if they wanted food.
This happens almost every time we try to go out. Everyone argues and gets all irritated. They start listing off random places, from McDonald’s to the most expensive place in town, then my husband announces that it’s up to me where we go, and then it’s like no matter what, I’m the jerk.
I’m a total foodie and fat kid extraordinaire. I love food, and I always an craving something. If I don’t know what I want to eat, then I probably just don’t want to eat. Pretty simple to me. But it starts a fight every time and then everyone is frustrated and no one wants to go anywhere. Rad.
So my husband took the kids without me. Thank God. I’m gonna have a long shower and some toast for dinner.
Anyway, food fights aside, tomorrow we are going to a jazz Christmas concert and it’s going to be awesome. I had planned on it being a date night, but the kid want to go. We will have to have a date next week. Oh well.
Then Saturday is the much anticipated birthday event. I had a little girl call to RSVP and it was the cutest thing ever.
My stomach has been jacked, and my husband is getting sick, but I think this weekend is gonna work out. And I only have a half day at work tomorrow.
Maybe I can finally tweeze my eyebrows. ( tmi)