Friday, May 29, 2009

An Un-Nerving Night

It was un-nerving. Yesterday my fiancé picked the boys up from Jane’s (It was her weekly evening time with them). They got in the car and Younger Boy had an entirely different outfit on. He left wearing khaki shorts and a black graphic T-shirt. He came back wearing pajama shorts and a red T-shirt. I looked at my fiancé in question.

FH: She said that she did it because she was looking at the small cuts on the inside of his feet.

My gut soured at the blatant lie. I turned to Older Boy to ask if Younger Boy had spilled something on his clothes or had asked for a bath. The answer was “No.” I managed to keep my thoughts to myself the entire ride home. But my thoughts were indeed swirling around.

Was she plotting something? Was she looking for some sign of child abuse? Did she do something to him? What was she asking? What was she saying? Had she completely lost her mind? Did she actually think that we would buy that lie or did she think she was just that crafty? Maybe she just didn’t give a damn what we thought. What the hell is she up to?

All I know is that you don’t need to remove an entire outfit on a toddler to inspect small cuts on the inside of his feet, especially when he was wearing sandals. And I can already tell you that they’re grass cuts or small cuts from running around in the sprinklers on Memorial Day weekend.

FH and I talked about it. Should he confront her and ask if there was an issue she wanted to discuss? What was she up to? Was this just some weird quirk on her part or did she indeed have an agenda? And if so what would that agenda be? She sure as hell hasn’t shown any interest in the boys’ lives outside of what the courts expected of her, or wanting to really be a part in their lives, much less in having them stay with her. She hadn’t mentioned anything.

I got really angry. She’s hurt those boys so much, and she’s only continued to cause them pain with her indifference toward their achievements and lack of effort in wanting to spend time with them. I don’t know what she’s up to, if she’s up to anything. But whatever it is I hope like heck that it’s not going to hurt them further.

And then I got angry that she lied. It was such a ridiculous obvious lie. Why didn't she just ask if we had seen them or what they were from? We could have given her an answer. The one thing that I really dislike is lying. And her lie was by far ridiculous.

I woke up this morning feeling a little better. But I had a talk with Allison to see if she had heard anything. She hadn’t. And she about had the same reaction as I did.

So I’m trying not to dwell on it. I’m not going to stress myself out because of her actions, but I’m definitely not going to let it be forgotten. I’ve definitely made a mental note of it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Turning On Light Switches

So here I am … amazingly. I have a story about me and a story about Younger Boy. Let me start with the story about Younger Boy.

When we put the boys in time out we usually say something or mention what it is they’re not supposed to be doing. It’s usually a question.

“Are you supposed to be body slamming your brothers?” “Is it OK to hit your brother when you’re angry?” “Is it OK to try and shove Nasty Cat’s head through that little loop?”

The boy in question usually answers and goes to sit in time out for a couple of minutes. Usually pending on the severity of what Said Boy has done how old Said Boy is. After the time is up we call Said Boy over and ask him why he was put in time out. Now Older Boy and Middle Boy usually have a pretty good idea why they’ve been put in time out. Younger Boy has consistently played the “I don’t know” card. Now, I know that he’s three years old but he knows that hitting his brothers is not OK.

And really, I’ve been grasping as the end of some ropes here. My frustration with the “I Don’t Know” card is does he really not know? The kid is smart! He knows his colors, he knows numbers 1 through 6, and he knows how to wipe his own butt! I’ve tried to make sure to use simple words and direct words to make sure he understood. But hearing “I don’t know” again and again and again is maddening.

So I’m sure you could only imagine my surprise last Tuesday when he told me exactly what he had done wrong.

Me: And why were you in time out?
YB: Because I was playing with the closet.

Shocked, surprised, almost speechless…those are all fine words that could explain the look on my face that I had to hide behind authority.

Me: And is it OK to play in the closet?
YB: No.
Me: OK. Please don’t play in the closet anymore. You could get hurt. Go play.

He’s done it about three other times since. In fact, all other occurrences of him landing in time out have resulted in a clear answer of understanding what he did wrong as well as the acknowledgment that he did something wrong. I mentioned it to my fiancé who also recognized this new found amazement.

It was like a light switch was turned on and suddenly he was processing things. It was proof that he has been listening to us, right? Maybe? I hope that it continues.

And now, on to me and my story.

I would like a comfy bed, a strong drink and some time off. Let me start off with last weekend. You already know about the birthday party I went to for Allison’s daughters and how I got to show off my mothering skills to Jane’s mom and grandmother. Well, the night before the birthday party we went camping. It was just for one night. My cousins had sent up a family camping trip. It was a lot of fun but apparently one night was enough to do some damage myself. I woke up and put on my glasses and the vision in my right eye was smudged. I don’t mean it was just blurry I mean that it looked like there was a dirty fingerprint smudged on my contact … except that I had my glasses on. I must have cleaned them a couple of times before I realized it was my vision that was the problem. I figured that maybe my eyes were just tired and exhausted from the crazy weekend. So I slept half the day away trying to rest up. Except that by Tuesday the smudge was still there and my eyes were still feeling tight and tired.

I decided to make an appointment at the optometrist and luckily they were able to bring me in that day. My doctor couldn’t figure it out at first. He thought that all the stress from the weekend had done something to my retina. About five eyedrops later and as I was sure that I was going to be blinded from all the lights he was shining in my eyes he must have had his own light switch flipped on. I say this because he turned the bright light off and jumped up out of his chair as if he had just thought up how to create fire. He put something else in my eye and then switched the color of the light. A great “A ha!” came out.

Turns out I have dirty eyes. By dirty eyes I mean that between the smoke and bug sprays camping something got into my eye and dirtied up my corneas. In other words it’s like I’m looking through a dirty windshield. It’s pretty nasty and uncomfortable – much less inconvenient. I kind of need both of my eyes to do things, and since only one eye is sort of working it’s a pain in the butt to stare at anything since my vision is lop sided.

On top of that I’m now sick with some sinus flu like thing. I say sinus because my sinus feel like they’re about to explode. I want to drill holes in my cheek bones to release the pressure. And I say flu because I’m achy and I have a nasty cough and I feel nausea and just like yuck! I could do with a nice nap … maybe I’ll sneak one in later tonight.

But it is times like these that I’m thankful that my fiancé is capable of cooking dinner, doing laundry, handling the kids, feeding the cats and taking care of me. Because if he was one of those guys that just sat on the couch when I was sick and feeling like yuck … oh boy. That situation would not be a fun place to be.

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Mothering Skills Under Spotlight

Sorry for the lack of blogs last week. It was a busy work week followed by a crazy busy weekend. It was a fun weekend, but there is one specific adventure I wanted to share.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m good friends with Jane’s older sister. (I can’t remember what I called her before so I’ll call her Allison.) Allison is very much the black sheep of her family. By that I mean that she’s responsible, she doesn’t play the victim and she’s social. She also isn’t a big fan of Jane’s actions. I think she gets just as frustrated by everything Jane does. She's told me things that Jane has said to her and the things she's either admitted/or lied hoping to do I don't know what make me shudder. I think she often tries to figure out where it all went wrong with her sister. We have family game nights with Allison and her family at least once month. We’ve dubbed each other family and adopted sisters because that’s just how it feels.

Anyway, Allison had a joint birthday party for her two daughters this weekend. I was kind of anxious knowing that Jane might show up, but I was fairly convinced that Jane would not show. Jane canceled her visit with the boys this week with the vague excuse that she was being pulled out of the area for something. And I found out at the party I was right, Jane wasn’t coming because she had work. However, the rest of the family was there.

Jolie was there, Jane’s grandma was there, and some of her cousins were there. It was a bit intimidating. The only interaction I had really had with Jolie was the one time that I stayed the night over at house when my fiancé was still living there and when we would pick the boys up from her house if they were visiting. At the party I had the chance to sit down and socialize.

What caught me off guard was when Jane and Allison’s grandma (Grandma) came up and gave me a hug when she introduced herself to me. Allison was with me when she came over so it wasn’t as intimidating. What was intimidating was knowing that I was being observed. I made sure to be myself though. It wasn’t the first time that I felt that my mothering skills and techniques were under observation, but it was the first time that it was being done by Jane’s family.

And it wasn’t that bad. I’m sure my own personality helped though. I’m by nature a social bee. I’ve also been told that I’m quite charming and pleasant to talk to. I also made sure that I talked a little bit about myself as well as what we’ve been up to with the boys. Both Jolie and Grandma seemed so excited to hear about all the recent accomplishments of all the boys. I risked opening myself a little to them so that they could get to know me as an individual a bit better too. If felt like walking on thin ice, but it felt comfortable. Maybe I just have more confidence in myself than I give myself credit for. I think that they both saw how much the boys have blossomed and how well they are doing now. It didn’t feel quite as much as I had to prove myself to them, although that’s what I know I was doing.

By the end of the day Grandma gave me a hug. She told me that she loved me before she met me and now that she has she loves me even more and that I’m doing a good job. I felt a lot of relief, as I usually do when people tell me that I’m doing a god job. It’s not so much that I doubt myself, it’s more that I’ve jumped into this feet first without any clue what I was doing. So the reassurance helps me feel like I’m doing some good. It also gave me much relief that someone is out there batting for me. It was a really good feeling to know that Allison is telling her family all of the good that has been going on in our family lately, as well as letting them know that I’m a good person.

Who knows what Jane has told her family about me. Not that I expect much since she has nothing to go off of except her own bitterness. I came after their divorce and I had nothing to do with the choices she's made. It's. But still … I’m very thankful for my relationship with Allison. It has helped me a lot in my new step mom lifestyle.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My First Official Mother's Day

We’ve unintentionally started a Mother’s Day tradition. As our story goes, I first met the boys last year on Mother’s Day. We had brunch together at a favorite local restaurant and then went to the park to play. Whether it’s coincidental or ironic that I met them on Mother’s Day who knows, but I find it special. This year was the same in going to brunch and then playing at a park afterward, except that we also included my Grandma in on the brunch this year. My mom would have been there too except she was super sick this last weekend.

Actually, I was rather nervous about Mother’s Day this year. As we do every month I drew up the Visitation Schedule for the month of May. Jane hadn't said anything about wanting them for Mother’s Day. And knowing her schedule I didn’t know if she was going to try to get Sunday off or not. So I drafted it with the usual Thursday night dinners and one overnight Friday. She didn’t say anything and she signed it as usual. I was kind of anxious and stressed the whole week before Mother’s Day weekend. By that Sunday I had told my mom to go ahead and finalize reservations for brunch. I waited anxiously for Jane to call with the demands for them.

She never called. I didn’t know if her guy was going to do anything for her for Mother’s Day so I went ahead and got her a card when I was getting Mother’s Day cards for everyone else. I even printed out a photo of the boys from our Family/Engagement photo shoot for her (mainly because I had printed one out for her mom Jolie and I didn’t want to risk any drama of ‘Where is my photo?” from her). I had the boys write a message to her and sign their names. For Younger Boy’s signature I had him paint on his 3-year-old sized handprint and neatly wrote his name underneath it. He enjoyed it because 1) he got to choose which colors for each card and 2) he got to finger paint at the same time.

I was kind of proud of myself for including both Jane and Jolie in my round of purchasing Mother’s Day cards. I considered trying to find a craft kit so the boys could make them something but I wasn’t too impressed with any of the kits Target had that day. I figured having the boys draw photos and writing them a note and printing out a newer photo of the three of them would suffice. That and I didn't want to spend any of my hard earned money on something for her that she wasn't going to appreciate. I don’t know if Jane really gave a darn or not. According to my fiancé she didn’t get anything last year. But I’m going to pretend that she was thrilled to get a card from the boys and thankful to have an up-to-date photo of them and a chance to spend time with them. (Even if she did spend the evening playing online games according to Older Boy, but that's a different rant.)

On to my first official Mother’s Day experience – I really enjoyed it. I felt really special. Middle Boy made me a card at school and Older Boy drew me a hand-made card. And I about cried when Middle Boy came running up with a big hug later on that evening and said “You’re the best Mom ever!”

I’m also very thankful that Mother’s Day went off without any drama from Jane. Although, as usual, I kind of wondered if she cared of not about the holiday, but I’m learning not to wonder so much about whether or not she cares. She either truly doesn’t care, or she cares a little but not really, or she does care and she’s stewing but she doesn’t care enough to do anything about it. I just try to stay three steps ahead for the boys’ sake. I figure that as long as they are happy and felt like they were able to celebrate both their moms then I can be happy. And with all the love they sent my way I felt like I’m doing a good job at this instant mom position. It washed over me in a relaxing and therapeutic balm, and I felt a little more confident (even if it was for the moment) that I’m going to be OK at this.

Even the cats were pretty nice to me on Mother’s Day. They let me sleep in a little later. They didn’t yell at me to feed them, like they usually do, and actually showed that they had some patience. All in all, we had a great and drama-free Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blog Lovin!

So I have received quite a few awards in my time blogging. And I haven’t been the best at following the trend of the awards. So before I go into it, I’d like to say to all of you that have given me a blog award, “Thank you! I’m really appreciative that you feel my blog is worth sharing. And I feel honored.”

With that said, I have at least three awards to recognize.

I’m a recipient of the Lemonade Award

A big thank you to Kweenmama, a fellow step mom, who not only is an inspiration that things will move along as my boys get older, but also shares so many great links and ideas!

What you are asked to do if you win this award:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post. (Check!)

2. Nominate at least 10 blogs that show attitude and/or gratitude.

3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post. (Done)

4. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on a post. (damn, you’ll see this when I post it, right?)

5. Link to this blog. (OK, I kind of suck since this is old, so I’ll just link to your blog again)

To my Lemonade Awards go to:
Meesha – Stepmother Revolution
I recently started following her blog and I really enjoy it. She asks the questions and gets me thinking. As stated in her about me: “this blog is about how to be a happier, less frustrated one (stepmom) by rethinking the role.”

Minnie – Their Wicked Stepmother
I love Minnie. Her relayed stories of her bio mom crack me up and remind me of the town I grew up in. Plus her encouragement that the rough times now pay off in the long run keeps my heart hopeful.

Just Me :) – The Tightrope of My Life
Somehow she and I seem to experience similar reality checks/situations. Hrm...maybe we're connected somehow. He he.

I have also received the I *Heart* Your Blog Award

Another big thank you to Smirking Cat, another fellow step mom, who writes entries that often make me think and reflect. And she likes cats and shares stories about her cats. What fellow cat owner doesn’t love that?

The rules of this blog award are:

1. Post the love award on your site (Check!)

2. Link back to the person who sent you the love (Done)

3. Pass it on to a handful of blogs you love by letting them know you've passed the buck to them and linking to their sites-keep the love flowing and read on!

My I *Heart* Your Blog Awards go to:
Full of Boys
A Fellow stepmom in a home full of boys, she’s always got great tips to share and ideas that I really want to try out.

Rachael at One UNBELIEVABLE Adventure!
She is another woman who I hold dear to my heart who is off on an adventure in another country learning to find her way.

Morocco and Rhonda at Full Moon
Their experiences touch my heart and my soul. I’m really thankful that I checked out their blog in the first place (Thanks Yo for introducing me to them!)

And I’ve also received the Friend's Award

This I received from fellow Midwesterner through transplant (and I say that with love) Heather over at Comparative Childhood. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Heather through her posts and reflecting on some of her “sometimes controversial” topics. Bluntly I really appreciate her opinions on things in life.

This award is given to the writers of blogs that "are exceedingly charming.” These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.

What to do: Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award. (Here they come)

My Friend’s Awards go to:

Laura Lee – Tenacious Me
LL is one of my dear friends that I trust with my blog, a fellow bride and editor, and inspires me to (one of these days) start writing down ongoing goals!

Yo (aka I change my pants while driving) – Write On Yo
I love Yo. Her love for wine, humor and personality are like a magnetic pull each day. She writes as she thinks and that’s really not a bad thing.

The Basketball Star

I meant to share this yesterday, but you know how life goes. Your work computer breaks then you have to wait for them to overnight you a new one, and then you have to assemble it and redo all your shortcuts and bookmarked links, and before you know it the work day is over and you have to cook dinner. Geez … anyway ... sharing time!

Do the males in your life enjoy shooting garbage into the garbage can? You know basketball style … because mine do. And usually if it’s some wadded up paper I don’t have an issue with it – until Tuesday.

You’re going to love this. I promise.

Younger Boy did a walk by Tuesday informing me “I have to go poop.” He’s still telling me that he needs a wipe, in which I respond with “OK, You know how to wipe yourself.” We’ve developed a sort of step-by-step procedure.

Step One: Wipe
Step Two: Put dirty toilet paper in toilet.
Step Three: Wipe again just to make sure
Step Four: Put dirty toilet paper in toilet
Step Five: Pull up underwear and pants
Step Six: Flush toilet
Step Seven: Wash hands with soap.

I usually try to make it over there during the second wipe just to make sure that he’s getting it all. (And he’s been really good about getting it all too!) However when I wandered over there I got a great surprise. I peered around the corner just in time to watch Younger Boy shooting Poop Wads into the toilet.

I kid you not – the kid wiped, stood up, backed up across the bathroom floor, and threw a poop wad free throw over toward the toilet bowl. Except he missed! I kind of cringed as I imagined all the possible poop smears that I haven’t cleaned up yet. I also wondered where my Clorox Anywhere had gone to so that I could effectively clean up any poop smears or germs that ricocheted off the rim of the toilet bowl.

I couldn’t help it, but I had to end that practice of shooting poop wads into the toilet. Step Two and Step Four have now been revised to “Drop dirty toilet paper in toilet,” and luckily (as far as I know) Younger Boy has been complying.

I’ve considered drawing out these steps and taping them up on the bathroom wall to help him remember. (He’s still a little fuzzy on the washing hands with soap part.) I’ve yet to tell my fiancé about this incident. I keep forgetting, but hey, now he can read about it!

I’m wondering what other fun things Younger Boy has up his sleeve in terms of mystery bathroom activities.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Lesson Learned - Coming Clean With Myself

So there’s a sort of confession that has been on my lips lately. More of a frustration I guess. But man, Middle Boy’s has been irritating me so horridly. It’s horrible of me, isn’t it? I’ve been beating myself up for days now. The thought has disgusted me and all I can think of myself was “You’re such a horrible person for thinking that Crys!”

We’ll I’ve made a discovery today that has given me new perspective. (This is probably why I’m blogging about this today.) It has not only helped ease the pain of guilt and disgust, but it has helped me rethink the situation. And I’m hoping that by sharing this that it will be able to help ease another stepmom's mind that is in this situation. Because from reading other stepmom blogs I know that I’m not alone and that I cannot possible be the only one that has/is experiencing this.

To shed some light, Middle Boy has been oh so irritating. He bosses his brothers around, he’s been oh so rude, and as of the last two or so weeks his listening skills have been out the window. It’s like he sits there and listens, says “yeah, Whatever!” and then goes and does whatever it was he was just told not to do. It got to the point where he’s permanently been on my list for days. It’s gotten to the point where I just plain felt feelings of dislike toward him. It’s been a “where the hell is my stepmom shot glass/glass of wine” experience. And quite frankly I was so completely over it as of this week. As of this week I was pushed past my limit, I had no tolerance for it and I sure as hell wanted to create a holster belt for my wine glass and some mini wine bottles so that I could keep it on me at all times for a glass of “Oh lord please help ease my nerves” on demand.

And everything mentioned in the above explanation has caused me all those feelings in the very first paragraph. It’s like “How dare I think that!” “How dare I feel that?” It has been self-imposed ickyness beyond all belief. And today, I didn’t want to feel it anymore. There had to be something out there that could help me. And I found it.

I read the article “Parenting and step parenting: Is there a difference?” by Lylah M. Alphonse. What made the difference is this passage:

"On the one hand, I see where that particular tidbit of single-mom advice is coming from: Society, for the most part, tends to assume that no one who comes along later could possibly love a child the way the biological parent must, that a genetic link is required in order to be a "real" parent. (Adoptive parents have a whole other set of issues to contend with, but since the biological parent often is not in the picture, that makes parenting different -- "easier" or "more real" -- for some, or so I've been told/warned).

On the other hand, I think it's a case of semantics. Just because the love isn't the same doesn't mean the feelings and the level of commitment isn't as deep."

I’ve been secretly beating myself up for feeling these things because of Jane’s actions. I always find myself thinking “How could a mother cause this pain to her own children and continue to cause all this pain to her own children?” I know that I can’t possibly love them the same way that Jane and my fiancé love them. That specific maternal instinct and bond just isn't there. But I do love them. And my latest frustrations and thoughts on Middle Boy’s behaviors have been in conflict with my love for him as my stepchild. And with that I began to doubt myself. I practically put myself right up there on the shelf next to Jane as most disappointing and disgusting mother ever.

I couldn’t grasp how I could genuinely love and care for a child, and yet have this disgust and dislike for the same child. The conflict of love and dislike was so mind numbing. It’s all so confusing, this instant mom thing. And none of the books can ever prepare you for the emotional roller coaster you’re going to ride on.

Back on topic, I realized that I had been viewing it all wrong. You see the mantras that I had been trying to console and reason with myself was “He’s just a child. He needs love. Just have patience” and “He’ll outgrow this. He was never expected to be polite and to courteous of others before. This is testing and backlash from what has happened to him.” I’ll tell you what – I think my mantra is quite possibly correct … however it’s not the correct way to view it.

My new mantra has both soothed my soul and helped me step out of the box and rethink. My new mantra is “It is the behavior that I dislike … It is not the child that I dislike.”

That is the light bulb that just went on in my head. It is the calming and healing feeling that has consumed me, and I don’t feel like such a horrible disgusting person anymore. And now I think that I’m more ready to deal with Middle Boy when he acts out (or any of the boys) with this new perspective.

And the main lesson that I’ve learned form this experience is that in this new lifestyle I have to be honest with myself. Even if that honestly makes me feel icky and horrible I have to be honest with myself and look at it straight in the eye. Because if I am honest then I’ll be able to address the issue and better find a solution or a new way of approaching it. Because by not being honest with myself and my feelings I’m only hiding it under false excuses and avoiding what’s really going on. And that doesn’t help anyone.