Coffee & Alone Time

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So the short kid started 7th grade today. I know it sounds super cliche, but I swear, she was just a toddler who was working on potty training. Now she’s an angsty preteen in middle school. The old adage of “You’ll blink and they’ll be grown up” is really true.

I’m definitely proud of how far she has come, and what she’s accomplished thus far. I know she’s going to grow up as a intelligent, down to earth woman. In the meantime, I hope she doesn’t flunk out of Honors Math.. as it was damn close last time. Haha.

As odd as it is to have everyone out of the house, I am enjoying it. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had alone time since the beginning of summer.. and still have fingers left over. It was a very, very hectic summer, and to be frank, I’m glad it’s over. Just having the house to myself, being able to tackle the chores and start dinner is glorious.

Just attempting to get back into the normal flow of things, now that life has settled down a bit. The last few months just really wore me down. We had a lot of issues with Jon’s daughter, and without getting into it too much, she needs very intensive long term therapy before she can come back to visit. Now that that seems to be underway, it’s time for me to focus on my own daughter and my own life.

One thing I’ve learned, or rather re-learned this summer, is that when you are trying to take care of everyone else, you cannot neglect yourself. It becomes all to easy to just throw yourself into holding your family or friends together, that you just forget about you. It’s easy to brush off “me-time” with the excuse that you’ll always have time later. It’s easy to put off activities and hobbies that you enjoy because it’s just too hectic.. or worse, it seems wrong when everything else seems to be going downhill. I’m definitely guilty of it, and especially so this last summer. Now it’s time to get back to my life and the rest of my family.

Other than all of that, things are pretty okay in my world. Just paying attention to the shit show that is our political climate in the United States, and trying to enjoy the rest of the warm weather for the year. Our garden didn’t fair too well this year, so I’m trying to salvage what I can out of it, plan out how to prep it this fall, and what to plant next year. I’m going to add fertilizer & soil this fall and make sure it’s all weeded, and hopefully with a different layout next year, it’ll do better. I hope. Planning on laying some grass seed around our new fire pit and in the front yard this fall too, trying to get grass to grow in the shady areas is super difficult for me.

So that’s it for now. I figured I’d do an update post as I haven’t had much of a chance lately, and am also stuck with writer’s block again. Hope it lets up soon. Happy August y’all.

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The Plight of Parenthood

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I remember when I first brought my daughter home from the hospital. It was the middle of the night, I was in immense pain, and I had a screaming infant in my arms at 2am. My shit bag of an ex-husband slept through it all, including the my own screams for help. So as I tried every trick I could think of, while sobbing and terrified that I would somehow fuck up that little being that was struggling in my arms.

That pure terror still exists 12 years later.

I’ve spent the last 12 years trying to do the best I can. I’ve admittedly made several mistakes, as all parents do, but my end goal is an aware, well adjusted young woman who stands up for what is right. There’s always that uncomfortable feeling that you’re doing something wrong. There’s that terror, that somehow you messed up.. that maybe that one time you grounded them you messed up their outlook.

It’s even worse when you’re tasked with helping to raise someone else’s little girl.

It pains me to be the one to teach a little girl about how to take care of her body. It saddens me to be the one to break it to her that the world isn’t the nice little place Sunday school had her believe. It’s thrilling, yet incredibly sad to be the one who teaches her how to ride a bike, roller skate, and play sports. It enrages me, that I am the one who has to advocate for her mental health, physical health and social skills.. not her mother.

When you spend so much time beating yourself up over your parenting, it’s incredibly difficult to see another parent ignore, neglect and refuse to parent their child. Being inadvertently handed the job of teaching a little girl everything she should’ve learned from her own mother in the last 9 years, and being forced to cram it into one summer is absolute bullshit. It’s even more daunting to know that a vast amount of what you’re able to teach and expose a child to will be undone with inattention, ignorance, and laziness over the course of 6 months.

It’s like trying to cram all of the anxiety of parenting over the course of 9 years, into a single summer.. knowing damn well that it’s just going to start all over the next summer. Unfortunately though, all you can do is try your best. It’s incredibly difficult not to lash out at the biological parent who is dropping the ball, who is ignoring their own kid and refusing to face the struggle of parenting their own child. It’s just rough.

Here’s to to raising someone else’s kid. Here’s to hoping that I can pick up the slack. Here’s to hoping I can help undo years of damage with the help of therapy. Here’s to hoping.

 

The Struggles of Co-Parenting, Blended Families, and Picking Up the Slack as a Step Parent

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I am no stranger to blended families. Both as a child and an adult.

When I was little my mother passed away, a few years later my Dad started dating again, and eventually married my step mother. While we had a rocky relationship at first (mostly because I was a angsty jerk from 14-22ish) I now can talk with her about anything, and I do have to say that she’s had a significant role in who I am as a person.

My Dad also helped raise her children, my brother and sister. So both my parents have experience in being step-parents, and both have excelled at it. Not only that, but they have both perspectives. Raising other people’s children, and raising their own with one of their exes and current partners. So needless to say, over the years I’ve asked advice from both of them.

That advice is needed as I’ve been a step parent twice now. Once with Ryan, and now with Jon. I do have to say it was much much easier with Ryan and his son’s mother. She played a very active role in her son’s life and had very similar parenting styles to Ryan and I. Sure, there were tiffs, and I was new to helping raise other people’s children, but all in all it was a good learning experience. Regardless of how we all felt about each other, it was very apparent that the kids come first no matter what.

It’s a little more difficult now. Jon and his ex do not get along most days, and neither of them have really co-parented despite their daughter being 9 years old now. Jon is very non-confrontational and his ex likes being in control. So once they split up, he just agreed to everything she said (including paying child support for the child she had with another man while they were together) because he was afraid that any fight they had she would refuse to let him see his daughter.

That had to come to an end when some very troubling things happened two summers ago, that spurned Jon into trying to co-parent with his ex. These were very severe issues, the kind that we should have called CPS for. However, once Jon vocalized his concerns with his daughter’s mom, inquired about therapy and requested that she do half of the driving (from PA to IL) she blew off her pick up date for a week with no contact. Once it felt like she was going the abandonment route, we text her and let her know that she could reach us anytime, but since school was starting we’d enroll their daughter in school. She showed up a week later with the police, and then refused her daughter’s visitation for Christmas and the following summer. That’s the kind of stuff we’ve got on our plate.

Just what Jon had feared.

We ended up taking her to court for visitation and other parental rights. It was absolutely ridiculous. During this whole time, she wouldn’t return Jon’s calls, or let him speak with his daughter, but had their daughter call Jon’s parents and read a legitimate script explaining why she wouldn’t come that year. I say script because when his parents asked her why, she re-read it. Word for word. To say at that point I lost whatever remaining respect I had for the woman is an understatement. Any mother who puts their children square in the middle of a dispute, and makes them explain that they’re not coming to see their family this year instead of being a grown ass woman and doing it themselves, doesn’t deserve to be called a mom.

Court thankfully went smooth, albeit slow. The end result was Jon got his visitation back, his ex has to do half of the transportation, and no more of these shenanigans. That doesn’t make it any easier though. Since then (last summer), it’s been nothing but petty passive aggressive attacks. For instance, the previous summer, when their daughter was 7, we taught her how to ride a bicycle (and a electric motorbike). This past Christmas when she came for a visit, she got a bicycle from us for this summer. We find out a couple of weeks ago, that she hasn’t ridden a bike since we taught her. Two years ago. The reasoning? The seat was rotted, and she couldn’t afford to buy a new one. (I just bought Noodle one for the same reason, $18 for a plush comfy seat on Amazon.)

The problem was is that while she couldn’t afford a $20 bicycle seat. She could afford to buy their 9 year old a new cell phone.

The secondary problem with that was Jon and his ex had discussed, and decided against a cell phone since she’s 9 and (too young to) doesn’t stay at home alone. It makes me question what the hell the point is? Why even bother having a conversation with your child’s dad and child if you toss it out the window later? We didn’t even find out she had a cell phone until she texted Jon from the airport.

It’s extremely difficult for us as anything we manage to implement (in agreement with his daughter’s mom), ranging from outdoor activity, playing with other kids, to rules on cell phones and at the dinner table is undone with a shrug from her mother. We don’t even have her medical records or a contact number for her pediatrician at her mom’s house. Can you guess why?

As a mother myself, I just want to scream when I hear about these things. I raised Noodle without a father, and their child is super lucky to have both parents in her life. However watching her being thrown in the middle by her mother and then neglected on top of it, just makes my blood boil. It’s like starting over every visit. It honestly kicks me square in the ass to find out she’s not given outside playtime, healthy food to eat, or the attention she deserves at home. Her mother even refuses to put their daughter in therapy during her portion of the year.. despite the fact that the child has suffered through a divorce, losing two of her siblings, and then not being allowed to see her Dad (via her mom). Everyone needs someone to talk to, especially when being dealt such a traumatic hand so early in life. To think about a mother denying her child mental health services makes me irate.

Yet that’s the hand we’re being dealt. All I can do as a step mom is try my best to provide a healthy home, someone to talk to, and give Jon my advice and thoughts. It just sucks on so many levels.

One of the reasons it sucks so much is what I call the “mom level”. His daughter’s mom is going to/has missed out on so many memories. She’s already missed out on teaching her daughter to ride a bike, she missed out on the motorbike. She missed/is missing out on teaching roller skating. She missed out on playing catch with her daughter. She is missing out on helping her kid pick out her first softball mitt, her first pair of blades, her first big girl bicycle (which really should’ve happened before 7/9yrs). All of those memories belong with the mother too. Not just with the father and the step mom.

It sucks to be a step parent where co-parenting is non-existent. It sucks to be the one left to do the things the other parent isn’t doing. It sucks to have to teach lessons only a mom can teach, and hasn’t. It sucks knowing the angst a child is going through, and being stuck on the sidelines while the parents try to work it out. It sucks to send the mother adorable pictures of all the memories she’s missing out on and getting no response. It sucks to see a child get excited about a hobby only to go home and have it quashed when she gets back to her mom’s.

I started this blog to give advice to other step parents, but I don’t have any. I don’t. Step parenting is winging it. We have to learn to love another person’s child, raise them as our own, yet deal with the hand their bio-parent deals. We’re just stuck on a ride, trying not to fall out. Being a step parent sucks, but it’s also super rewarding. You just some how have to stick it through the bullshit parts. Remember, you’re raising a child whether or not their yours biologically. What you do and say matters. You don’t have to be a bio-parent to be the child’s parent & advocate. Buckle down.

 

On that note, shout out to my step mom.. for being a great mom to me, even through all the bullshit. <3

 

Doubting Your Parenting Abilities : How You Know You’re On The Right Track

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My short one came out of her room the other night, talking about how she only had one pair of jeans and couldn’t find her leggings. I asked her if she had gone through her clothes lately to see what fit and didn’t, and she exclaimed she did (she didn’t) and actually got teary eyed.

In reality, it’s about the time of year where I buy her a few pairs of jeans, some decent tops. Then in the spring, she gets tank tops and a few shorts. Then around her June birthday, she gets clothing from her grandmother (who picks out really good stuff). We’re not destitute, my child does have some leggings (they’re just too bright colored! Not cool enough for her punk look she has going on) and she has jeans, somewhere.

Yet that night, I sat there after she went to bed and beat myself up. My god, my child only has one pair of jeans that she wants to wear! She had a growth spurt and didn’t have anything to wear! I must suck as a parent. Then I thought about how I picked on her for her part in her hair the other day. I told her she looked like Avril Lavigne, instead of remembering how we chuckled about it, I worried that maybe I had hurt her feelings. After that I worried about how cooped up she has been since it’s winter. I felt like a bad mom because I hadn’t done anything outside with her (despite her thinking she’s too cool to play in the snow).

It was a long road down into a worry filled well of self doubt. Then I remembered what I’ve told numerous other mothers, and reminded myself that I need to take my own words to heart.

If you worry about how good of a parent you are, you’re fine. It’s when you stop worrying, stop caring, that’s when you’re in trouble.

A lot of my friends have children now, and a lot of them are reaching ages where they voice discontent with their parents. Time and time again, I see my fellow moms on facebook beating themselves up over whether or not they’re a good mom. Hell, I’ve even seen a couple dads do it. Our kids whine, our kids complain, and we look at other parents and compare ourselves to them. Are we good enough?

We wonder if not buying our kids the newest tablet makes us a bad parent because “all my friends have one! Why can’t I?!” We wonder that the new tablet we did buy our kids makes us a bad parent, as we’re being bombarded left and right by the news and other parents about our children’s time spent on electronics. Our kids don’t seem to have the right looking clothes, or the right sizes (damn those growth spurts!) or the right BRAND of shoes. They don’t have the newest gaming console, or maybe they do? Does that make us bad parents because they’re spoiled? We had to ground our kids for not doing their chores, and we can hear them crying in their rooms. Did we make the right choice? Our kids don’t have set chores and we all help out, are we ruining our children?

Noticing a trend here?

We all worry, and in this current day and age, we are blasted with articles about different ways to raise our children. Every time we turn around, we have social media posts from other moms and dads about how their way is the best way, some of which blatantly say those of us who parent in a different way are damning our children. The fact is, is that my generation, our generation is has so much information about how to parent thrown at us, we struggle a lot with double guessing our own decisions.

I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon, but at the end of the day we need to realize something. We need to realize that we worry about our parenting because we’re trying to do our best by our children. I’m sure we’ll all make mistakes, we’ll all look back and regret some of the choices we’ve made raising our children.. but that’s what makes us good parents. Worrying at night if you did an okay job, proves you’re on the right track.

It’s when you stop worrying, that you have a problem. When you give up on parenting the best way you know how. It’s when you stop caring, that you’re not doing right by your kids. We just need to remember that when we’re beating ourselves up over things, actions, choices, and such.

So to all those parents who haven’t yet purchased the new Xbox.. or who did! You rock! To all those with kids who swear up and down that they have NO clothes to wear! Hang in there! To all those parents who kids are grounded because they acted like an ass.. you’re good! To those parents who just discovered a mountain of clothes in their child’s closet! Buckle in, you got this!

To all those parents, who collapse at the end of each day, wondering if they’re doing a good enough job at raising their kids, relax. You’re doing great!

21 Years Long

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Twenty one years ago, I was Ashley’s age. I was in the 5th grade, I had long brown hair that my mother refused to let me cut, and I was even more of a dork that I am now. I still liked to read more than I liked to talk to people, and you could still find me hanging out with animals more than with my friends.

Today, in 2018, we had a pretty standard day. Jon and I had to work, and Noodle had to go to school. So the day started off with Jon getting to work, me having coffee in bed, and Noodle playing around with the cats. A pretty relaxed morning before I had to drop her off at school. She had a regular day at school, I had a regular day at work, and we both got home and are relaxing while Jon makes us stuffed mushrooms for dinner. Right now I’m writing, Ashley’s harassing my sister on Snapchat, and Jon’s listening to his videos while dinner is finishing up. It’s a decent day.

In 1997? It was a much different day. I had woken up in the early morning hours to use the bathroom, only to find out that my mother had fallen into a coma. I remember mumbling “uh okay” and going back to bed just to dwell on the fact that my mom had been too tired to sing her “good night” song to me before bed the night before. I had insisted my little sister go first.. trying to be a good older sister and all. A few hours later, I crawled out of bed to be informed my grandparents were coming to pick my sister and I up for the day. 

We spent the rest of the morning trying to be .. normal? I don’t think my brain quite understood what a coma was being in 5th grade and all. All I knew is that my mom was asleep and not waking up. It was pretty surreal, even when my grandparents encouraged me to crawl into bed with my mom and say goodbye. I remember laying there and praying to whatever god I believed in to let my mom be okay.

Because what 5th grader understands “terminal cancer”? 

I realized maybe 15 minutes later that she wasn’t going to be when my grandmother started describing her version of heaven once we got into her car. 

I don’t remember the rest of that day from 21 years ago. 

… 

21 years have past. Each year that passes I reflect, I remember, and I learn. This year I think is a bit special to me since Ashley and I are the same age. She’s the age I was when I lost my mom.. so this year it just hits a little closer to my heart. So this year? I am grateful for the very simple things. 21 years ago, I was exactly her age, in exactly her grade, and had *just* lost my mother. I was starting on a new, seemingly horrific part of my life. 

Today? I’m sitting next to my own daughter, listening to her send her screeching raptor noises over snap chat to my unsuspecting sister and cracking up. We may not have done anything super fun today, or anything she’ll remember in 21 years, but that’s okay with me. Considering what I remember 21 years ago? I’ll take it. I’m grateful for the simple things, and how lucky I  really am.

 

I miss you mom.