~Welcome to my personal story as a first time wife and stepmom. I use this space to share real life happenings in a blended family, funny stories, my personal frustrations, failures, and occasional victories as I journey through this life with two beautiful and challenging stepdaughters. Thanks for reading, and I hope you find something to help you have a better day!~

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kids and Grief

Well, I see I haven't written in quite a while. There are a couple reasons for that. One--I don't like focusing on the negative just to have a good story for my blog. Two--the age old excuse of "busy-ness". Anyway, here are the thoughts and issues that I've been dealing with over the past few months.

The girls lost their grandfather in October. He is the first family member either of them have ever lost. He had battled cancer for 10 months, so it was expected. The day we told them he passed away, Jane immediately was crying and kept saying "Why, why, why?" She continued to cry the whole night long. I guess she got it all at once, because for the whole next week at her Grandma's house, the funeral, the graveside, looking at old pictures, she was so strong, and never really lost it again.

Kate on the other hand has handled this completely the opposite extreme. The first night when she heard the news, she was kind of like, Okay. Now can I go play? She wanted to carry on like normal as if nothing had changed. She was in a state of denial. We packed the car and drove to Missouri, and she was still talking, laughing, making jokes the whole way. Then we get there and she actually sees Grandma without her Papa, and she was inconsolable from there on out. She was sobbing so loud at night, I had to go lay down with her. She would see a picture of him and scream and run the other way. She buried her head in my lap for the entire 2 hour visitation and funeral. We had to step out and get some water and have her catch her breath, she was making such a commotion. It just broke my heart.

Once we got back home and back into school routine, Kate started changing--a lot. Her teachers noticed and started making comments. Her mother noticed. Her dad and I were very concerned. She was acting out so much. She started talking out of place all day at school, she stopped writing down any assignments, she wasn't listening or paying attention to anything she read or what people around her were saying. It's like she was in this little bubble. After a bit of research, I found this behavior is normal for kids processing grief, so her dad recommended we just let it go for a few weeks and see if she snaps out of it. Well a few weeks turned into over a month, and she was getting more and more defiant. We would have to tell her something 3 times before she would listen. Her grades were slipping at school. She started obsessing over food and sneaking food, snacks, cookies, candy and lying about it--at both her mom's house and ours. The only time she would talk is to ask what the next meal was going to be.

At this point, a couple weeks ago, I was really concerned. Sure, it may have started as a response to grief, but her behavior was just getting worse, and I didn't think we could excuse it any longer. We had a talk with her teacher, and with her mother several times to see if she was behaving the same for all of us. It seemed she was. We told her what reports her teachers had given, and it seemed almost like something immediately went off in her brain. She was embarrassed by her behavior. She was immediately sorry and went to school and apologized to everyone, on her own accord. She started working really hard on her school work, and would read books for points instead of play on electronics. I'm not really sure what triggered this turn around--but I really hope it's permanent. I love having my sweet Kate back to normal. Here's what she did when cleaning her room that night--how could I be upset by this mess? =)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Things I Wish I Could Say to You

Sometimes keeping all feelings, opinions, and emotions that have to do with bio mom locked away and unspoken is the hardest part of stepparenting. "Just shut up and smile" is almost never easy. So lately, here are all those things I've been wishing I could say out loud:

~ Teaching your 13 year old child that having a social life is more important than honesty or character is pathetic.

~ Making this 13 yr old girl feel like she is "late to the scene" for not having a boyfriend yet is completely unfathomable to me.

~ Allowing her to have Snapchat with no monitoring so she won't be "left behind" is downright naïve and stupid.

~ Lying to your children to make them think better of you will just come back to bite you in the butt.

~ Making their father feel petty and overprotective for demanding honesty and not tolerating sneakiness is only hurting your children.

~ Teaching them that "brand names" is all that matters will only have them running up your credit cards during high school and college. Hope you like paying all their bills.

~ Saying one thing to us and the opposite to them only encourages dishonesty and makes you look stupid when you tell them not to lie.

~ Enabling her to sneak around to meet a boy without her father finding out is SO FREAKING UNBELIEVABLE!! She's 13!!! Live your own social life and stop trying to live through her! You will only have yourself to blame when you have a 16-year old pregnant dropout who needs you to raise her child! Don't come crying to us! We have done all we could and you are just hell-bent on ruining our children!

But what do I know about parenting? I'm just the stepmom who has tried and tried to clean up all your dirty messes and teach morals and character despite everything they see from you. I just try to lead by example and love, love, love and give attention that they never get from you. My conscious is clean. On the other hand, I don't know how you ever get one second of sleep at night.

That felt good. Wish none of it were true.

Monday, July 27, 2015

From Zero to Drama in under 60

Just when you think that after 5 trying years, you've finally gotten used to each other, and can anticipate and avoid conflict and hurt feelings--BAM--out of nowhere, here comes DRAMA QUEEN (aka bio mom). Was she having a terrible day? Was she already several drinks in? PMS? Who knows...but this one really made me angry and left me completely bewildered. Here's my side of the story.

So, Jane's 13th birthday was last week. The summer calendar had been set up and distributed in May. Bio mom would be with Jane 2 days before and 2 days after her birthday. Jane would be with Dad on her actual birthday. Since we'd have the day together, I set up a surprise full spa day for her and her friends. This was going to be her gift from her dad and I this year. I sent out secret invitations and made reservations and ordered decorations, etc.

Well, a few days before, I hear Jane asking if some friends can come over to her mom's house the day after her birthday to celebrate. I discreetly texted her mom to let her know that some of those friends were coming to a party the day before, and I didn't want the surprise to be spoiled, but some of the friends might be wondering why they're invited to 2 different parties a day apart. Following?

Well that's when (you know what) hit the fan. I received a barrage of texts saying how inconsiderate it was for me to plan something for "her daughter's" special day. How could I not let her know sooner? How could I hurt her feelings and invite Jane's friends when she is the one who wants to invite the friends? Apparently "13" is a very special mother/daughter birthday and I was way over my boundaries to plan Jane a surprise birthday.

Naturally, I have numerous problems with this!!!

1. Jane is in dad's custody on her birthday. That means she is with me all day. What am I supposed to do? Sit around the house and not celebrate with her because I'm not her mother??

2. Jane had said for weeks leading up to it that her mother had nothing planned, and she may just get to go out to eat, but that's all.

3. Why am I inconsiderate for not sharing my plans? Does she ever share her plans with us? NO!

4. If 13 is such a special day for "her daughter", why didn't she make plans? She had 4 days surrounding the birthday to do something--anything.

5. Her son's--Jane's half-brother Jack-birthday is the day after Jane's. He turned 3. For the past 3 years, she has had a party planned for him--in advance--the week of their birthdays. For the past 3 years, Jane has gotten nothing--not even a cake--until a month or so later. And suddenly, this year, I'm supposed to believe she would actually put effort into Jane instead of Jack? Ummmm, no--again, you made your priority VERY clear. So excuse me if I show Jane a little attention and let her enjoy her birthday!

6. All of this is going on as my husband on one side of me is crying himself to sleep from just having said goodbye to his dad for the last time, and Jane is sad, but trying to be excited about her upcoming birthday. I was there trying to hold my family together. I didn't have time for this drama. How can I fall apart when everyone around is already distraught? So I never got to vent or scream or punch anything! I just had to suck it up and stay calm, (which is why I'm writing now that I'm alone!)

In reality, I know that it probably just made her feel like a failure and insecure that I had this awesome day planned for "her daughter" and she did nothing. But that doesn't take away the words she said or how she acted towards me. For the life of me, I cannot wrap my head around being so angry that my daughter is going to have a good birthday. I have tried and tried this week, but cannot understand what ticked her off. How selfish do you have to be that your only concern is whether it makes you look bad or not, or afraid that Jane may actually enjoy time with her stepmom? Shouldn't a mother be happy for her daughter? Shouldn't a mother be glad that someone is there to pick up her slack? I just don't get it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Not feelin' the love...

This week I feel like a live-in maid/nanny. It hurts because I try so hard to be more. But I'm not. I need to be a wife and that's all.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Too much negativity

I'll admit, I have a LOT of pet peeves. At the very tip top of my list though are complaining and lying. The girls' complaining bothers me so much because they have SOOOO many material things, they have sooo many people to love them and contribute to their "stuff", they have a whole collection of things at mom's house, at dad's house, at our beach house, at their grandma's houses... They go to an expensive school, nice vacations, and on and on I could go. So when they complain about something or pout that we're not going out to eat, or call us mean for sending them to bed early, it REALLY, REALLY gets under my skin. Lying bothers me for the same reason it bothers anybody. The person lying to me thinks I'm not worth the truth, or I'm too stupid to realize they are lying. Either way, it's an insult.

Jane (12) has been doing a really good job the last two weeks of keeping me flustered with pet peeve 1. This is how it went for a full two hours after school last week:

Jane gets in the care: "I want a snack. Where are you taking us for a snack today?"

Me: "Well I don't OWE you a snack every day. It's an occasional treat. Today we have to run some errands until your voice lesson."

Jane: "But I need a snack. I'm starving. I'm not happy without a snack."

Me: "Sorry. Did you eat all your lunch? You went 4 full months during play practice with no afternoon snacks and you survived just fine."

Jane: "But I was angry and hungry the whole time." (Pouting, huffing, puffing)

Jane: "Where are we going for dinner tonight?"

Me: "We're eating at home."

Jane: "What? Why? I want to go out!!"

Me: "Sorry. Menu is planned. Daddy wants to eat at home because we've been out a lot lately."

Jane: "Well, what are you cooking? I want chicken cordon bleu."

Me: "Sorry. Groceries are bought and menu is planned. We are having chicken, but not chicken cordon bleu."

Jane.: "That sucks. I want chicken cordon bleu." (More angry faces and pouting, huffing, puffing)

Jane at the store: "I don't want you to get this (game to play outdoors at beach house). I won't play it. I want badminton."

Me: "Badminton won't work on the beach. It's too windy. You'll never get the birdy over the net. Everything will blow down."

Jane: "Fine. I just won't play anything."

Jane, holding up some other item: "I want this."

Me: "Maybe you can come back and buy it with your own money."

Jane: "I want you to get mean extravagant Easter present."

(It took every ounce of self-control I possess not to lose it right then!) Me: "We don't do Easter presents. And you definitely don't need anything extravagant. You should hear yourself right now. You sound like a spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum. You're angry about everything I say or do. You need to snap out of it."

She proceeded to go sulk in a corner until I came and found her when I was ready to check out. We had a few minutes before voice lesson, so I took them for a Sonic slush. Not even a thank-you or word or appreciation after all that whining and pouting!

I realize a big part of this is that her step-dad's mom and her mother pretty much cave to all of her demands, and then she comes over here and thinks she can treat me the same way. Sorry, not gonna happen here. Her dad and I sat her down that night and talked about how negative she's been lately. She seemed shocked by how much she had said "I want" in just one afternoon. We showed her how all her angriness and poutiness just makes people not want to be around her. It doesn't accomplish anything but to make her unhappy and drag down everyone around her. I will dread going to pick her up in the afternoons if being around her is a constant beat-down. If she's like that around friends, she won't have any left pretty soon. I hope we got this message through while she still half-way listens to us before the full-force teen years take over soon. It sucks all the fun right out of game night/family night when she gets angry the second she starts losing anything. No one wants to be around an angry person. And it makes it so hard for me to stay in a good mood. We explained to her that since we are the people responsible for her well-being and happiness, when she is constantly UNHAPPY, it makes us want to quit trying. If nothing I do ever makes you happy, why try? I'm not stupid enough to believe that if I just give in to all her "I wants" she will be happy. It just makes her worse (as bio-mom is soon to find out, too late).

Friday, March 20, 2015

Can't I just be daddy's fun, cool wife?

We've been pushing our girls SUPER hard the last 2 months to get along better; not fight; not bully; not insult each other; be kind. We have definitely seen some effort, and probably some improvement as well. I even framed little quotations in the hallway between their bedrooms as constant reminders: However, I've been asking myself, "Why am I the one doing this? Why do I care so much how they treat each other?" Their own mother said she doesn't think the girls will ever get along at this point, so don't even bother trying! I don't know when or why or how I have become this super-involved "parent." I lose my patience almost once a week. I always regret it and feel guilty for yelling instead of relaxing. I feel like I have come to the place of doing almost EVERYTHING a normal parent does. I have taken them to every dental, doctor, you-name-it appointment for the past 2 years (even when it's not my husband's custody day). I have to plan summer camps and register and take care of every little thing the school needs all the time. I have to get medications and refills and prescriptions. The organization stuff I can do. I'm good at it. But I'm not a good people person. I catch myself griping about a mess left over here, dirty clothes on the floor there, someone's bad attitude, or loud and wild craziness. I feel like my over-involvement is making me much less fun to be around. I don't want the girls to dread being with me because it's just a matter of time until one gets "yelled at." Jane has started giving me this huffy-puffy, so-annoyed, teenager-y attitude lately and it gets me SO flustered SO fast, I don't even have a second to check myself, and before you know it, I made her cry again. Isn't my job as "bonus mom" just supposed to be the fun-loving, no-stress, friendly "aunt" type of position? How have I become this over-bearing, everything has to be perfect, teach them to behave person? Maybe I see the need and feel like no one else is doing anything about it, so I feel obligated. But I fear they will grow to resent me very soon. How do I get back to being their daddy's fun, cool wife instead of the evil stepmother that I feel like?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Unhealthy Hostility

When I accepted my husband's proposal for marriage, I knew I was also accepting his two girls into my life--forever. What I was also accepting, however--as far from the forefront as my thoughts as it was--was his ex being part of my life--forever. Despite my early, naïve thinking that she would be a very insignificant factor in my new life--maybe to only be seen or heard from around birthdays or the holidays--the cold, hard truth is that she is very much a big part of our family life and she is here to stay. She'll never stop being their mom. Any hostility, resentment, insecurities, or jealousy on my part will only lead to my own unhappiness and miserable marriage. I had to realize that my negative comments or "Poor me--I don't have a say in anything. I'm just overlooked, neglected stepmom" attitudes are the exact opposite of what my family needs from me.

My husband just escaped a hostile environment. Divorce wasn't pleasant. There's always arguments and accusations, hurt feelings, court dates, dividing property, financial distress. He didn't endure that just to get back into a relationship with a negative, hostile person. And it seems like the more involved I get, the easier it is to fall into that negativity trap. I'm here to be his second wind, his breath of fresh air, a reminder that love CAN last, and trust IS attainable. So anytime I roll my eyes at the mention of her name, or mutter under my breath while he's talking to her on the phone, or act hurt when the oldest girl talks incessantly about memories of their family "before", I am doing a disservice. I am hurting, not helping. I am inviting unhealthy hostility into my life and the lives of my family.

I had to make a choice very early on in my blended family experience to GET OVER IT! I now am so involved in the girls' daily life and school happenings, that I communicate with her at least two or three times a week. At first it was just places and times to meet to drop off or pick up this or that. Gradually it has evolved to also include discussions of behavior, health, puberty, and what we need to work on. It's not always easy, but if I don't let my mind wander and dwell on the past, we work together pretty well. On the flip side, I have to walk a tight line and not get too involved or friendly with her to the point that I'm sharing and parenting more with her than with my husband. He doesn't want us to be "friends" because he knows I'm a very trusting person and could easily be hurt by her stabbing me in the back again.

So I must be friendly, but not friends.

I must be open, but not vulnerable.

I must be flexible, but not a push-over.

I must be non-judgmental, but not naïve.

I must be honest, but not mean.

I must communicate, but not overshare.

I must be very balanced!

It's easy to see now why so many stepmoms easily fall to one side or the other over time and have such huge frustrations because it's such a delicate balance. I feel like the old adage to "keep them at arm's length" is a good one to apply in this situation. Don't let her control your life, but be open enough to allow the kids to see a united blended family instead of all the unhealthy hostility.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Family Tree

So Kate came home with a family tree project due for Spanish class (3rd grade). She had 1/2 poster board and instructions for a basic family tree, with herself at the bottom, and branching up and out, labeling all relative names in Spanish. I started digging for pictures of Jason's family and she started painting her tree. I explained we would need to use only half of her tree and she could complete her mom's side of the tree at her mom's house. That's when the confusion began.

Kate: "But what about you? You're my mom. Where do you go on my tree?"

Me: "Well there's only room for one mom on here, so let's just stick with blood relatives--let's only do people who are directly in your family line and we'll have to leave out people who married into your family."

Kate: "Well, I already have Grandma and Papa. Now where do I put Grandma Cindy and Uncle Jim and Aunt Kelli?" (my family)

Me: "Kate, yes, we are all part of your family, but none of us are blood related like I explained. I married into your family. So we aren't going to be on this particular project."

Kate: "Well can't I just do 2 family trees?"

Me: "Kate, look. You didn't actually come from two separate families. When you were born, there was one mom and one dad. That's how we need to make this tree. I love you like my own, but I didn't give birth to you. So let's just put your mom and her family on here, because that's what a family tree is. If sometime you have to do one again, maybe we can ask for a bigger poster so you can include your stepmom and stepdad, ok?"

I thought she finally understood and was appeased, and then the next day she asked where she was going to put her stepdad! Gotta love the complexity of blended families and learn to just roll with it!

Friday, January 23, 2015

A response to my critics

Let me just address (now that I've had a week to cool off) some hate I've received over my blog lately.

1. If you don't like what I write here, go away. No one is forcing anyone to read, agree with, or comment on anything I write. This blog is therapeutic for me and allows me a place to vent and feel heard without upsetting anyone in my family. I have never claimed that all of my feelings are good, right, or justifiable. They're just feelings. I don't have to defend them to anyone. This blog will NEVER be seen by Kate or Jane, and they will not ever be hurt by anything I have written.

2. I have never been, nor ever intend to be, rude, mean, or disrespectful towards bio mom. Yes, I'm a stepmom--read the title genius! There IS going to be conflict and hurt feelings. But, I have never once taken them out on her or the kids. Again, this is my place to vent. I talk about conflicts and messy situations. All the good, easy-going times don't get mentioned, because they are drama-free. My relationship with bio mom is better than probably 90% of other stepmom/ biomom situations. We do a very good job of putting the kids first, the past behind us, and acting like adults. So take your judgmental attitude somewhere else, thank you very much.

3. Comments that my husband moved on "pretty fast" after his divorce are just outright lies and unfounded. If you want to attack me, fine, but don't drag my innocent husband into your sad, twisted, hateful world. He was single dad for nearly two years while his ex went through the affair boyfriend, met and got engaged with new boyfriend, was pregnant, and married for over a year before we ever even got engaged.

No girl grows up dreaming of becoming stepmom someday. No girl imagines becoming a parent the same day she says "I do." No girl anticipates her honeymoon and romantic dates being interrupted by texts and calls from his ex. No girl has goals to mother kids one day that already have a mother. No girl plans to put her parents in an awkward "step-grandparent" situation. You get the point. It's not ideal. But some of us fall in love with a great man, and we do whatever it takes to make it work, messy or not, perfect or not, ideal or not. So pardon me as I continue on my personal journey through good and bad as a stepmom and wife.