Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Freak Out In Aisle 12

Two and a half weeks in the countdown of when I officially leave my career and move in with the boys and the boyfriend. I am so very excited about it, so very terrified of it and at the most random, and sometimes inconvienent times, they marry together to form a precious Reality Check (aka the Freak Out).

It was an Internetless weekend, followed by an emergency trip up to Northern California. Apparently my presence was much needed to sign the apartment lease and they wanted a money order instead of a personal check. [Monday and Tuesday - That's two vacation days - at least they're paid.]

Monday we sat and signed and initialed through the 40-something page lease. So much excitement that we're actually going to be able to all live together in a place all of our own. And it's a nice little two-bedroom apartment. After the signing, we went back to the boyfriend's sister's house (where he and the boys have been staying for the time being.) And once we got back there, it's started to creep up on me.

It started off as excitement and warm fuzzies, and then turned into uncomfortable chills along my spine, and then it just all turned sour. The air around me thickened and I do believe I wrinkled my nose up in disgust. And I decided that I had to go out - alone.

I went to the grocery store to get some stuff for dinner and for Dutch apple pie. And as I'm in Aisle 12 gathering supplies for homemade pie crust, the sourness explodes into clarity. And by clarity I mean fear. And by fear I mean I about cried, screamed and looked for a place to hide all at the same time.

The reality check was that I was going to be living with a boyfriend (I've never even considered living with a boyfriend before this.) Not only would I be living with the boyfriend, but I'd be trying my best to be a "motherly figure" to three boys who are in a world of changes going on themselves (potty training, starting kindergarten, learning how they feel about me, etc.)

It didn't help that earlier that day I had seen my highschool sweetheart who, upon hearing that I had put in my final notice and was moving up to Northern California, replied with an astonished and shocked "After all that hard work that you put into it?" (Please note that this is a very common reply to the news that I "Ms. Career Oriented, Single Girl With a Cat" has been recieving to my new transition.)

Back to Aisle 12 - to be blunt, it was the most fearful and bigger of my reality checks (freak outs) that I've experienced yet. I guess it's because it's all starting to fall into place. I worried about my independence, my individuality and, of course, questioned whether or not I could provide the boys with what they needed most.

The thought of living with a boyfriend absolutely tears at my independence. I've had this way of life for so long, it seems almost sacreligious to be turning a cheek on it now. My individuality felt threatened. What changes would I really have to make in order to be a good role model and decent parental figure to them. Was I really the right person for this (as I reflected on past fraternity parties and questionable bad mistakes.)

It took me a while to realize that these were all just fears, and that my fears would only have as much power over my life as I allowed them to have and grow and thrive on. I had to calm down and bit (OK, a lot). I thought of my role models [another entry], I convinced myself that the boyfriend had to see some good potential in me if he was allowing me to move in, and I reminded myself that I had to have seen some good potential in me myself if I had agreed to all this.

I found my breath and realized that I was probably being my own worst enemy at that point. And that if I continued to focus on the negative, then of course things would seem That Bad. Not that it isn't OK to be afraid and scared, but I'm that chick that takes the challenge on directly, standing tall and appearing unafraid. Not the chick that's in Aisle 12 forcefully squeezing a bag of brown sugar to the point of leaving fingerprints in the plastic.

So I guess my next goal is to really learn how to relax and not stress and provide negativity for myself...there's already one person too many providing that in our lives. And I really don't want it to be me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Change Is Warm, Fuzzy And Strange

I noticed today, that my photos have changed. And it almost seemed to be one of those "I woke up this morning and realized..." things. And I don't mean me personally, but just the theme and people in them. My college photos are in the beginning...the parties, the themed parties, the crazy fun times. Following that are the after college party days. At the bar on a pub crawl, at a random party, still crazy but in a surprisingly more mature and sophisticated matter. And now, the photos are of the kids...some of me and the boyfriend...some of the cat...but mainly the kids.

When did that happen?!?

Not that it's a bad thing, but it's strange to say the least. Pleasant and warm and fuzzy, but strange.

I guess it's a part of that big change that I'm just in the beginning stages of. I was at lunch with my editor today and she kind of just sat back and said, "You've got a lot of stuff coming up that you're going to be dealing with. A lot of change."

It made me think of how some of my friends are taking this change in my life. Some of them are absolutely shocked. I mean jaw-dropping-silent shocked. Others are letting it soak in...slowly but surely, letting it soak in. With them I have to explain things two or three times. And they're slowing piecing it together. And then there are the parents and siblings. Who of course, have us already practically married in their minds.

I'm not sure where I'm at. I'm floating along, getting a major reality check thrown at me out of no where. I eventually catch it...but it leaves me sort of stunned. It's like getting hit in the stomach with a ball when you're looking the other way.

A lot of the changes are things that I know are happening, that I have to focus on happening. And others...well they just happen and then you wake up one morning and realize they're there.

I wonder what else has changed that I have yet to notice...and what else is just waiting in the shadows to leap out at me yelling "Surprise! Guess What!"

Warm, fuzzy and strange all at the same time. I can't really complain...despite the strange I'm the happiest and feel the most complete than I've ever felt before. sappy do I sound. I'll just leave it as above...warm fuzzies and strange.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Building A New Family To Call Our Own

When it comes to the boys, I realize that I'll never replace their birth mother (She Who Must Not Be Named). And I had told the boyfriend that I didn't want to replace her in their lives - stepping into the hole that she had created when she chose to leave ... that I really hoped that we would be able to start something new. I wanted to be a major positive in their lives. The one that made the difference. That was something that is important to me. I mean, if I changed my Plan, shouldn't I get something to sort of go my way? Shouldn't I get something that I can work toward and achieve? It's a bit arrogant and selfish I realize...wanting something new and wanting to be someone spectacular and special. But the view from my shoes ... it's attainable.

And although I know on some level I am filling some void that all four of them had felt, I think I've accomplished my hope of still creating a new positive experience and building a new family with them that we can call our own.

Today was the first day of school for older boy (who is 8) and middle boy (who is 5). Younger boy (who is 2 and will be 3 in October) gets to stay with his Maternal Grandmother for the time being...unless I get a job and then he'll continue to stay there in the mornings.

But anyway...the point of this, why I think I'm on my way to accomplishing my goal, is that I got a phone call from the boyfriend around 6pm tonight.

BF: "I have some news that might make you happy."
Me: "Oh yeah, what's that?"
BF: "Middle boy called you his step-mom today."
Me: "Really?!?"

I think that recognition really made my day. We want to do this as right as we can, without forcing the boys to feel like they don't have a choice in the matter. (Although they don't get to tell me to take a hike, but I don't want them to feel like they HAVE to refer to me as one thing or another, especially since we're not moved in together yet/much less are the boyfriend and I married.)

Apparently, Middle Boy's teacher gave him a paper and told him to give it to his mom (or someone like that...I really can't confirm as I wasn't there.) So Middle Boy gets back to his Maternal Grandmother's after school. She pulls the envelope out and as follows:

Grandma: "Who gets this?"
MB: "Crys does. Because she's my step-mom"

I guess I felt rather accepted and special because he thought of me and not She Who Must Not Be Named.

One of my greatest fears coming into this was that I wouldn't be accepted. That everything I did would be wrong, viewed as "out to get them" and of course that "evil wicked step-mother" stigma didn't help. But the boys and I seem to be accepting each other more and more each time we get to see each other (every weekend just about).

Another example is last weekend when I drove up to see them (the long 7 hour drive thanks to Rush Hour). Older boy tried so hard to stay up so that he could say hi to me. He of course conked out around 11pm, but I did get some nice hugs the next morning. But the fact that he wanted to stay up and see me made me feel special.

I think that I don't give myself enough credit, in my worrying that the boys are going to reject my love and care. As I'm just now starting to see the positive effect that it has had on them. And I can only hope that despite the stigma and my fears, my relationship with them will continue to grow stronger and more enriching for all of us.

I came into this relationship wanting to be someone that they could learn from, and now that I reflect, I see that I'm learning a lot from them, too.

In Memory of "The Plan"

As a young high school girl, you plan...atleast I had a plan. Not just a plan, I had "The Plan." The Plan was thought out in detail, although not thought out well. The Plan had deadlines, goals in mind and it was my own creation. The latter made it easy to modify The Plan.

The original Plan: I would get married when I was 21. Have my first kid by 22. My second kid by 25. And then live happily ever after.

After I graduated from high school and went to college, the plan had its first modification.

Modified Plan 1: I would graduate from college in 4 years and begin a successful career as a magazine editor. Get married when I was 23. Have my first kid by 25 and my second kid by 27. And then live happily every after.

And of course, by the time I was 21 and had decided that I was going to transfer colleges ... it was modified a second time. And then by the time I actually graduated from college, with my degree at least, and had seen the ways of the world I realized more modifications to The Plan would have to be made. In fact, The Plan became more of a list.

- Graduate from college (Check)
- Get a job in chosen profession of journalism that I love (Check)
- Find decent boyfriend that would meet qualifications to possibly become good husband ( )
- Get married ( )
- Have first kid by 26 ( )
- Have second kid by 29 ( )
- Live happily ever after ( )

This list stayed this way (checkmarks and lack of) for about two years. And instead of trying to make more modifications, I just made the following goals:

- Find decent boyfriend that would be interested in serious relationship that could potentially become a husband
- Get married by 30
- Have 2 kids by 34

And I got comfortable with these goals...and I think fate got wind of that. Because I got a curve ball.

My Seventh grade sweetheart and I got back together after years and years of not communicating. Funny how sometimes the things you wish and hope for come true when you least expect them too. So there's one goal down. But that's not the curve ball.

The curve ball are the three wonderful boys that came with him. And how I love those boys. We've taken them to Disneyland, we've taken them camping, we've done quite a few family things to get things started off on the right foot. (Considering their mother chose not to be a part of their lives is another curve ball, but that's a later entry.)

Our families have, or at least seemed, to accept us and support us.

But all this love and support doesn't make it any less scary. It's not exactly an easy transition to go from being the "27-Year-Old Single, Independent Career Oriented Girl with a cat" to the "27-Year-Old Instant Mom of Three, living with boyfriend, having to find a new job, with a cat."

It's a challenge I obviously chose to make, and I happily take it on. But seriously? That's practically culture shock. Don't get me wrong, I adore taking care of kids. I've been baby sitting for years now and have my own "Kids" that I've watched grow up and are in high school or graduating from college about now. I've worked as part of a staff in child development centers for a couple of years. And, I've studied child/parent relationships, communicating with children and even the sociology of families. But all this studying/babysitting/working in child development still leaves me feeling un-knowing about quite a few things.

And there's no Rule Book or Guide Book for this. And if there is anything close to it, Trust me, my situation doesn't apply. It's so beautifully chaotic and strange, it's a bit mindblowing just trying to find the words to accurately describe it.

So back on the topic of this post ... The Plan has been changed. And I don't mean just a few minor modifications. I mean that sucker has been shredded, re-drafted, erased and re-written.

It actually looks something more like an equation:

(quit job) + (move in with guy & kids) x (A)(B)/(C) = Live Happily Ever After

Actually, at this point (3 1/2 weeks until I officially move in) I don't think that a final version of The Plan has even been finalized.

So much for The Plan...