A note to stepmoms everywhere


Breaking News: I’m Still Alive!!



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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Couging, Cupcakes and Construction (and things that DON’T start with “C”)

Photo: All these beautiful cupcakes and the party has been cancelled. :(

It’s a day where I really don’t want to put too much effort into anything. I mean, I don’t really have much effort to put into anything in the first place. There’s nothing like a good respiratory infection to suck the wind out of your sails. But you can’t really rest when you feel like you can’t breathe, so you can’t win either way.

This morning has been super fun. My sickly crankiness from the weekend seemed to hijack a ride to work with me this morning. Add to that the fact that I ran into construction while taking a detour around the road that was closed for construction and had to drive to the next major road to turn around. Happy Monday.

This weekend I had planned on being all super geared up for a party, then we all fell sick. Well, my husband had been sick and the youngest child was oddly immune to our disease. So the party was cancelled and we all stayed in bed all day, except the youngest, who was thankfully whisked away by her grandma. Then we had our private sicky rib party, where we all sat outside, giggling in our delusional illness, quietly gnawing at our ribs. Then we had a nice little fire for just a little bit and all went to bed.

During our subdued festivities, even though no friends had come over, and only a few family members had briefly stopped, the middle child looked at her father and said “I’m happy.”

The party was cancelled, we were all miserably sick, unable to think, hear or breathe, no one would see all the beautiful cupcakes they so carefully crafted, but in that moment, it was okay. She was happy.

Even though this weekend was drastically different than what we all had prepared for and looked forward to, just having some mellow time with each other was good enough.

Oh, and as for the beautiful cupcakes, I wish I could tell you that the 5 of us didn’t find a way to eat them all. But I would be lying. I’m mildly disgusted with myself.

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Quarantine Party!!

it's like this

it’s like this

Today we had been scheduled to host a mildly fabulous meatfest of a birthday party. There was going to be chopped pork, 3 racks of ribs and hamburgers, and my dad’s famous potato salad. But yesterday I woke up not feeling so hot. It came on the heels of my husband having been disgustingly sick for days. I had seen how he felt and was not super excited about going through the same process. But I knew what was coming, so I buckled down and got ready for the party, I figured I would just be in bed for most of it.

Midway through the morning, the oldest child was acting silly, sneezing constantly and said she had a sore throat. She said she would tough it out for the party and it would be okay. After she started coughing like an old man, their mom came to pick them up for a bit. They were going out on the boat to see fireworks.

About an hour later, I came upstairs to find the oldest and middle child in the living room. I said “That was quick, what happened to the fireworks?” Oldest child says “I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be out there and I really wanted some cold medicine and cough drops”. I asked where the youngest child was, and they said she was on the boat. I asked the middle child why she wasn’t on the boat, “My throat hurts and I don’t feel good.”

So now both of the girls who the party is for are sick. I’m sick, my husband is sick, and the 2 kids are sick. My husband was fully ready to just let everyone come over and wallow in our plague infested disease den. I said “Normal people would cancel the party.” So we pretended to be normal.

So I have about 6 pounds of potato salad, 25 hamburger buns, 6 pounds of pork shoulder and 3 racks of ribs to do something with. Fantastic. I suppose we will eat what we can. We can’t reschedule, summer is too short and the kids have been dying to go somewhere. A party means that an entire weekend of going out and camping or going to the zoo or something like that is shot.

It’s like the walking dead in the house today. Nobody can hear anything right, no one is sure what’s going on and everyone is mildly delusional. The youngest child isn’t sick, so she’s looking at the rest of us like we’ve lost our minds. When something amusing happens, we all lowly chuckle, because that’s all the energy we have. It’s like a bunch of really bubbly zombies are hanging out in my house.

But we are making all of the ribs later. We will have a little fire outside and have ourselves a little “sicky” party, all quarantined to ourselves. We’re going to have fun whether we realize it or not!

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Good Lord, I Think This Might Work!

I really think this is happening today! I suppose after my unpleasant ranting yesterday, I must have gotten all the negative garbage out of my system. I’ve always said that venting is healthy, helps get all that gross stuff out. That stuff acts like an anchor, holds you back, keeps you down.

But today, I’m doing like mommy and family stuff! I feel like I’m getting the birthday party that is happening this weekend nailed together. Yeah, I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little last second. But I wasn’t prepared to wrap my head around it any earlier, there were other things dancing around in my head and I had to wrangle those first.

When I was a kid, we didn’t celebrate things. I figured it was normal. There were no birthdays, holidays, gifts, whatever. When my parents were divorced, we slowly began incorporating holidays and birthdays into our lives, and it was super wierd. None of it made any sense. There was chocolate and rabbits for Easter, a day that was about Jesus defeating death. Then there was a giant lit tree, and a billion lights, more chocolate and gifts for the day Jesus was born. Then on the day you were born, people fed you cake, gave you stuff and stared at you while you opened it all.

It was a lot to take in. I didn’t really like any of it. I like chocolate and gifts, who doesn’t. But large gatherings of family meant social interactions I didn’t understand and had a hard time with. “You didn’t say hello to me, that’s rude”. It was always loud, and I was forced to talk to people I had nothing to say to. It was uncomfortable.

I’ve done things to make holidays make more sense, but I always feel like when it comes to birthdays, I fall short. I miss the mark for the kids. You see other parties that are themed and the moms have pulled out thier best “Martha Stewart” to create the perfect ambiance and whatever. It’s intimidating. Entertaining is an art, and I’m not sure I have it down. I feel like if everyone got fed and had a few laughs and no one went to the hospital, it was a success.

This year, it’s not themed and it won’t be huge, but I think it will be something pretty nice. The kids have things planned, and they are inviting some friends, and I have more details covered than usual. I feel pretty confident about this thing. I have no backup planned if it rains, and I don’t really care. We will just wing it.

But I really think this will work. And coming from someone who totally doesn’t get birthdays, and definitely has a hard time caring about them, that’s pretty big! I think the kids will have a good time, and who could ask for more than that?

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Tuesday Tug-o-War

This day was just crazy. It was a total roller coaster of self-doubt and emotions. I was excited about some new opportunities and totally worried about some issues. I even took a test to see if I was bipolar. Wish I was joking there. There just seems to be so much to take care of, and I feel so pulled around. Trying to remember everything to do and pay and drive people to, on top of remembering what’s going on at work and adjusting to a million last second requests. My brain shut off, I can’t think past now.

I’m just going to live day by day. I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow. I set like a million reminders on my phone so I can just be idiot-proof and wing it. When things get crazy, I take bite size pieces of a day. That’s about all I can handle from time to time.

This morning I did that thing where the alarms went off and just shut them off. I decided I wasn’t having that today, apparently. I love what you decide when you’re still asleep. It never makes sense.

That was the charming part of my day. The rest was battling my rollercoaster emotions, angry parishoners (work at a church) and my spiraling negative thoughts, sucking me in and making me doubt myself and mildly panic.

It’s a cycle. I don’t want to ride this thing anymore. I look at all of these things that need to be done and don’t know what to do about them. I feel like nothing is working. Like I really need to grab the reigns of our life and drive this thing. I need to kick it into high gear and get all of our projects knocked out and birthdays taken care of and camping trips planned and train the dog and get me and the hubs on a diet.

Yeah, that sounds simple. Why am I not doing all of that? I don’t even know what to do first. This sucks. I’ve got nothing to go on, no priorities set, no budget given, nothing. Just a seemingly impossible list of things to get done. And I get frustrated and pissy, and then I give up. I just stop. I don’t want to do anything.

I just operate on auto pilot and do day-to-day and survive. And that’s it. And that’s where I am right now.

I know sometimes when it seems like there’s too much going on, it just gets frustrating. And that’s it, I’m just frustrated. I’m tired and cranky and frustrated. And in the land of step-mommydom, that happens. All I can do is take it for what it is and see what happens tomorrow.

But I really want to shut off this auto pilot at some point. I don’t care for it so much.

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It’s a Monday of Michelle

The envelope itself.

The envelope itself.

Happy Monday everybody! The Monday hurricane blew through with less force than usual today. I was pleasantly surprised to get an unusual amount of work done for a Monday. And I found out it is unusual to raise your hand during a meeting like a 2nd grader (frantically wave it around with a determined look on your face). What can I say, I work at a church, my boss is very longwinded. I had to stop him somehow.

Halfway through my day something unusual happened; I got a call from the middle child. Now, if I am going to get a phone call, it’s usually the oldest. So I was kind of scared something bad had happened to her or it was something she was afraid to call me about, but it turned out to be something pretty neat.

A few months ago, the kids came home from school and were complaining about how much their lunches suck at school. They said that the fruit they were offered was moldy and they have to take it, but they also have to pay for it. The middle child pointed at Michelle Obama on tv, and said “hey, isn’t she supposed to be fixing this?” We said, “well, yeah, kind of”. Then she said she was going to sit down and write her a letter. So she did, and it was good. I was pretty impressed. We mailed it off the next day and said that it was great that she stepped up and tried, even if she got nothing back.

Today I answer my phone, and the middle child is almost out of breath “Jessie! I got a letter from the White House!!!” She was crying. It was adorable. I asked her what it said and she said “I don’t want to open it until daddy is home! Oh, he’s calling, hold on” then she put me on hold, and in her excitement and emotions, she forgot about me and hung up. When she opened it, there were autographed pictures of the first family and a letter addressed just to her. She had been noticed by someone important.

I helped her find frames for her new documents. I want her to be able to see that she is important, and she was worth remembering, even to the first lady.

Then I went through my Facebook with the kids and showed them all the things I post about them. They were surprised how much I post about them, but they loved that I “see” them, and that in my world, they matter. And I tell everyone about it.


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Sailing Calmer Waters

Captain Hubby

Captain Hubby

The past two days have been a real blessing, and I feel very much at peace. Yesterday, my husband and I took the day off work to have what sounded like a wonderful idea of going fishing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I thought the idea of just being on a sunny, peaceful lake with my husband all day was enough for me. I thought that was great. But my husband works for an outdoor equipment company, so I think he felt like I needed to catch something to make it a day.

We borrowed a canoe with a little motor on it, then we borrowed my dad’s little truck to tow the canoe. Since the truck is small and my husband is 6’4″, I drove. There are laws of physics that apply to towing a trailer that I’m not fully familiar with. I have no idea how those things are backed up, but we were able to just unhook it and pull it around.

We were on the beautiful lake in the sun with perfect weather for about 5 hours. It was quiet and peaceful, and we just got to hang out and have some quality time together. My husband caught a bass, and that was it. We reeled in more seaweed than I’ve seen in my entire life, it was ridiculous. Then I was stupid tired. But it was a perfect day, fish or not.

Today, I had a rough time getting out of bed. Apparently sitting on a boat for like 5 hours constantly casting and reeling in uses muscles that my body normally finds useless. Weird.

We got up and met a friend at a restaurant. She was supposed to come to our house, but our dog is a beast and I couldn’t handle that today. Meeting with her was really great, like hanging out with family you don’t see often enough. We had a good time.

We just got home from the oldest child’s play for her youth group at church. They put on a good production and it was cute. It’s not our weekend with the kids, but due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, they are with us.

All is right with the world. The kids are doing great, our friends are hanging in there with encouragement and support, we had a vacation in a day squeezed in there, and we will spend time with family tomorrow too. I feel truly wealthy and blessed, and these are the kinds of blessings I wish on other people. This is what it is to be wealthy. It’s not about money, how you dress or what you have, it’s about who you have and what you can do for them with what you have.

I wish you all to be so blessed. Even if you don’t catch any fish.


Success is a Fluffy Pillow

Photo: Olivias first sewing project on the machine all by herself.

At work today, the idea of new meets old hit with the usual clash. We have an awesome new phone system, but I work in a church with some people that are older than the age of being “technologically functional”. The touch-screen and passwords and voicemails delivered via email are just about too much for them. Despite the fact that I personally give them a tutorial on a regular basis, they still ask me every day the same things. “How do I get voicemails?” “How do I check missed calls?” “How do I receive a transferred call?”

I think it’s funny that they liked the old system better. The system where you didn’t know who was calling, couldn’t transfer a call and making an international call to Zimbabwe was simpler thank checking your voicemail. I don’t understand, but give me like 20 years and maybe I will.

On the home front, however, the summer art project is going great. I really suggest trying something like this at your own home. It eliminates summer boredom, increases teamwork and reduces junk tv. I also tell them they can watch a documentary instead of reading if they want. They are learning a lot about our military. Very cool.

But yesterday, the oldest read out loud to the other two (at first it was against their will, but they remembered what she read, so they must have enjoyed it), the middle child made a coin bank that she decorated with duct tape, and the youngest plotted out a first sewing project. She has never used a sewing machine before, so I sat next to her and carefully instructed her, but leaned back and let her do it. She made a pillow, an excellent first project. Then I showed her how to stuff and close it up. She LOVED it.

They all were very excited to tell me about what they did all day. They were so proud of themselves, it was cute.

It’s nice for a change to come home and not have the dog be the only happy to see me. There’s too much acceptance of a non-productive lifestyle. It’s like they are growing with some sort of weird “social communism”, where everyone is wonderful, and no one is ever challenged to be more. So to give them a way to stand out and shine, give them their own time and be proud of what they can accomplish on their own, is so vital. It’s like fertilizer; remember that you are growing little people. They all are different, so they will all need their own fertilizer. They will grow into people you never imagined.

I just hope I don’t accidentally turn them into beatniks.


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Welcome to the Mob

I would say Tuesday was a tornado, but that storm rolled right over into today, so I can’t say that. I didn’t even get to sit down until like 8:30 at night yesterday. I woke up, did my normal frantic morning rush. Went to work, realizing I have a short week, so hustled there all day, then dashed out of work, bank, pet store, home to grab the kids, store, drop kids off at practice, store. Then at that last store, the check I deposited at the bank wasn’t available, so we had to wait for my husband to show up and rescue us so we could have food. Dangit. Then home, dinner, another store, then home for a movie. Gah! I seriously should have had people set up on the side of the road with cups of water for me for that marathon.

Today started with the dog getting into the garbage that was too full to close and making trash shrapnel. Love it. It’s like a stinky party. Then rush off to work for a day of controlled chaos, to rush home and get full-on mobbed walking in the door. “Jessie, can you help me sew a pillow?” “Jessie, what’s for dinner, we have to hurry up and eat?” “Jessie, do you know what we got from the store today?” “Jessie, do you want to see what I made today?”

Brain went “poof” and little clouds of smoke puff out of my ears.

I go in the house and right away and started to try to cook dinner and give a sewing lesson right away. Then I realized we are out of gas for the grill. Then I had a moment, and I thought “You know what! My husband was home all day! Why didn’t he make dinner or go get gas?!?!” So I sent him out for gas, keeping my mouth shut because I was super frustrated and didn’t want to yell at anyone. Then there was a last second decision to not cook. There was enough going on already, and I hadn’t even had time to pee yet!

So I have a little time right now until practice is over, then back to the sewing lesson. It should be super fun because I can barely think and would much rather go to bed. But I suppose that’s a side effect of mommyness. I hope I don’t mess up.

I thought that somehow things were about to slow down, but the only difference is the craziness has shifted to 2nd shift. I guess you can’t win. Mommydom is a busy place and there’s not always a lot of breaks. Step-mommydom has days that are like teacher institute days. The kids aren’t there, but the work still is. You may get the house clean, or get shopping done or appointments at the doc or dentist, but as soon as the kids are back, you’re behind on your work again like it never happened. The work never ends and people only notice when it doesn’t get done. But the much improved attitudes and seriously decreased arguments among the little people in the house makes it a lot easier to handle it all. Which is good because this week, there’s a lot to handle. All at once.


General Confusion and Moderate Disorder, Also Known As Monday

Well I was super excited to get our “Summer of Art” kicked off today, but it’s Monday, so things went nutty. Like they do every Monday. I don’t know what it is about Mondays, I always say they are like a hurricane; you just hang on, keep your head down and try to figure out what happened when it’s over. Tuesdays are “clean up” days.

The kids did go to the library and got some new books. Youngest has Little House on the Prairie, a classic. I hope she likes it. I wanted to sit down and listen to what they read and did all day. But instead, I was all tired and cranky. I came home with jello-brains, unable to think straight or make a decision. I just wanted to take a short nap before dinner. But the youngest was having a hard time getting ice in her cup, and was dropping cubes all over the floor. Then they watched a Disney show on Netflix (dangit!!) and it was really annoying. So no nap. We went to IHOP for dinner, and that was seriously the worst dinner I’ve ever had. I hate that place now. I was disappointed. It was a sucky dinner and we didn’t get to talk about anything and I was all tired and just blah.

We got home and the kids wanted to put up the badminton net, so I did. I had a good laugh at them trying to play. We all almost peed ourselves a few times. There was lots of shouting and giggles, and then a meltdown after a disagreement. Youngest child had some pancakes for dinner, and that was an unwise decision. She came in the house and frantically cried that no one wanted to play with her after she called them stupid. Weird. An apology was ordered and they were all told to play for 20 minutes, they played for an hour. It was nice.

It’s so amazing how much things have changed in the last couple weeks since they’ve been out of school and off of cable. My days have slowed down, there’s not rushed car rides with children arguing or being cranky. There’s no hurried constant schedule with no hope for rest or a break. No wave of mounting chores over my head and endless places to be and things to do. It was a constant struggle just to hold things together and keep some kind of order in the chaos, and now it’s not like that.

There’s time, things have slowed so I can hear things. I can hear what they need and what the “gaps” are so I can do better. I can’t do better every day, but I can try. Things are about to pick up a little again, but not like they were.

Life is so fast, it can be so overwhelming. When you have so much going on, all you can do is survive and hang on, you don’t have time to make real connections with the people around you. Eliminate something. Turn off the cable, cut out an activity, sit down to dinner. Activities outside of the family are nowhere near as important as the hour or two they have your full attention. They can open up to you and tell you things they need to say. It’s so easy to be too busy to hear their little voices trying to tell you the story of their lives.

Except in our case, those little voices drowned out the tv show my husband was trying to watch. Whatever. Girls are loud.