Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Travel—Or, a vacation that made my heart sing

Our blended family vacation was just—amazing. My heart is so full right now.

We spent the first week with my mom and my family, traveling back and forth between her retirement condo and my brother’s farm.  My sister-in-law runs a 100 acre farm (cattle), and to the girls’ delight, there were four baby cows meandering around the “front” of their “front yard” which is really bigger than a football field, running from the inner fence to the gate at the end of the gravel lane that is their driveway to the road.  She has two horses to help manage the cattle—which the girls adore.  DD1 is a brownie and had recently gone on a horseback riding field trip; and funnily enough, DD2 even remembered our visit in 2012—both girls have been since praying nightly for our ‘whole family’ that includes these two horses since they met them two years ago.  Talk about tenacious!  Anyway, my sister-in-law took them on horseback all around the farm land, walking, trotting and cantering.  The look of glee on my daughters’ faces is something I will never forget.

In the mean time, as the girls were taking turns riding, I decided to be the “cool” aunty with my 8 year old nephew and accompanied him mountain biking around said farm.  And not to be coy, but this farm is not on ‘flat” land, it’s all rolling hills and pasture, includes various forests to walk through (and duck under branches and plenty of roots for which to pop wheelies, lol), a running creek filled with fossils, a “P” tree which I thought meant going number 1, but turned out to be a sideways leaning tree that was actually shaped in a P, an algae filled pond, and various landmarks such as “dusky ridge.”  As in, “c’mon aunty, we’ll only go as far as dusky ridge!” in the sweetest, 8 year old southern drawl I’d ever heard.  Needless to say I returned to the barn scraggled, full of scratches from passing wild rose bushes, a bruise here and there from the sudden stops and goes relating to various larger tree roots that blocked our path.  I think I earned my cred with nephew #2.  J  We had walks which included cutting through barbed wire fences between pastures, down paths cut down by the cattle through said forest, dodging cows and one very interested bull.  At the creek we collected fossils and along the forest path, we looked for buck-eyes, with no luck, although my sister-in-law had a few handy for the girls.  When the bull started following us in one pasture, my twelve year old nephew who was a quarter if it’s size, just told it to get going! And it listened and got going!  

My sister-in-law’s garden is ginormous, and the girls loved picking cucumbers, squash, and green beans, which turned up at lunch and/or dinner and to my surprise, DD1 kept asking for more cucumbers!  Each day was filled with horse rides and silliness amongst the cousins, and my brother actually took time off work (GASP) to spend time with us.

Along with our country excitement, back in the “city,” my mom had planned a birthday party for DD1, which was a sweet and kind accomplishment for someone who is not doing so well physically.  In fact, physically, it was the worst I’ve seen my mom in years, but mentally, everything is so much better.  (Diseases that come with age, SUCK.)  Still, my girls, especially DD1 had an amazing time playing cards with my mom and hanging out in her condo, we even played bingo one night, and DD1 WON!  It was so very cute.  They just both adore their grandma, and seeing them laugh and giggle and do little things for her (i.e. searching and handing her a water bottle so she could take her medication), just made my heart sing.  Family from out of town also drove in to spend time with the girls—I hadn’t seen my Uncle in two years, and my younger cousin in nearly 8, and DD1 was enamored by this gorgeous, 24 year old young woman.  DD2 perched on my Uncle’s shoulders as if she belonged there.  Seriously, I couldn’t have been happier!  My “hanai” family—which means family that isn’t your family but feels like family—also came down, and the girls spent a lot of time climbing over them and swimming in the pool.  It was so wonderful catching up with them and they joined my mom and us for dinner and also lunch with my uncle, aunty, and cousin.  <3 span="">

Most importantly, my family adores A, especially my mom, who was so clearly touched by how well he takes care of me and takes his ‘step’father responsibility so seriously.  That made me so happy and when we returned, my mom made it a point to tell me how impressed she was with how he interacted with the girls and loves us so.

On to week 2, which we spent on the Atlantic with A’s family, a central point for all of them to rendezvous—some of whom I’d met before, but the majority I had not.  We spent nearly every day on the beach, and since A’s parents were divorced when he was in college, they have both re-married and have salvaged a great relationship for the sake of A and his brother and sister.  So along with our blended family, I was able to meet A’s step-siblings on his dad’s side, who were lovely and had children similar to my daughters’ age, and it turned into a gaggle of kids all day, every day.  We went searching for shark teeth on the beach, dug for tiny little clams and watched them bury themselves back into the sand, saw a jelly-fish or two hanging out on the sand.  I even caught a sand crab for a little while and let them ooh and ahh!  I took all the kids boogie boarding and pushed them into the waves, listening and watching them giggle with glee.  My friend from when I was 10 years old also drove down with her husband and her kids, and there were a few days of reunion and playing and seafood buffet stuffing ourselves silly and swimming in the ocean and/or pool.  A’s dad’s house is seriously a professional grandparent house, between all the siblings there are now 11 grandchildren.  Everything you could think you might need when away from home—kids toothpaste, sippy cups, little plastic plates, pool and beach toys, kites, even children’s goggles—all to be had and found and borrowed.  A DVD collection to sigh over. 
Most importantly (again, lol), I absolutely fell in love with A’s entire family.  Seriously.  I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m all teary and cheese-bally right now.  His step-mother and sister and I joked around, they were like, ‘forget A, we’re keeping you!’ which was so hilarious and loving and kind.  I cooked dinner one night and they were so sweet to rave about it—fed seven adults and four kids, lol, and there was enough even for leftovers!  When his sister had to drive home the day before we left, we both cried like babies.

I guess, I just never felt so welcome and respected and loved before, and A was telling me later, you don’t understand, my family loves you.  Straight up ADORES you, and that just made me feel so happy.

Yes, there were moments of stress—A still frets and worries about the machinations of my ex-husband and his interference with DD1 bonding with A.  There was actually, to my mortification, a huge argument about it, in his dad’s house, I’m pretty sure the whole family heard which made me want to sink into the floor and disappear.  I love A and his dedication to me and the girls, and at the same time it’s hard when he gets triggered (i.e. DD1 was hanging onto everyone in his family BUT A, which he interpreted as being hurt and frustrated and a product of Exie’s manipulations).  A was upset and angry and advising him to be patient doesn’t always help him.  I thought it was a huge and meaningful that the girls were bonding so closely to his family. 

And yet his family was fully supportive of us—I found out later both A’s dad and sister took him aside to help explain how very complicated the situation is, how he needs to be more patient, how much they know I love him and how much they care about me.  A’s dad is a seasoned step-father, and we had our own private talk—about how he had serious conflict with his now grown step-daughter when she was young, but how after the passage of time it truly works out, and his step-daughter is now just like his daughter just like any other, and he is a father to her as well.  And how every parent wishes more than anything we could GIVE our experiences to our children, so they could know, but they can’t know until they go through it.  I guess I loved the most how the family rallied around A to show him support and guidance, but also rallied in support of the girls and me.  Yep, I’m kind of tearing up right now.

The day before we left, we took a walk on the beach boardwalk and the children (mine and A’s niece and nephew who are twins), A’s dad and sister and I all rode the big sky wheel overlooking the ocean.  DD1 was a little frightened, but that just turned into cuddles with “grandpa” (both my father and the ex’s are deceased—so this was the girls first experience of having a true grandpa in their memory).  The rest of the kids were enthralled.  High up in the sky, overlooking the little beach town that transformed into a toy town, full of doll-sized moving people, full of toy-sized cars, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, under the beautiful blue sky and sun, watching the children giggling and laughing, saying things like “this is SO awesome!”—it just felt like anything was possible, and everything would be okay.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Home sweet home! :)

Back from an amazing vacation with our family.  Neck deep in catch up work, but will post soon.  I am loving life right now and my heart is so so so thankful.  <3>

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Two weeks! :-)

Can't wait and am so excited--two weeks away from the craziness.  Goodbye co-parenting drama, hello extended family and friends who live across the sea!  (Wait, isn't there drama with family trips, too?  hee hee hee, noooo!  just kidding.)  I am so excited!!  Wish us luck!  <3 br="">

Monday, July 7, 2014

summer vacation--the blues before the sunrise, i hope

Today, I am simply worn down by all the crappity crap.  I don’t know why I wake up each morning, thinking it will be different.  Isn’t that one of those common sayings, that insanity is attempting to do the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome?  I feel like I’m in the hamster wheel of nitpicky and the spokes are made of blaming innuendos and accusatory comments.

Example 1: the children were out of school all last week due to fevers; while their energy level (when on the drugs)  and appetites were fine, they just couldn’t shake the temperatures.  So I stayed home with them one day (the others were his vacation days), and we knew the next day was his birthday, and by decree, the children stay with him from “after school until 8pm.”  Except with fevers all day, there is no school, and I suggested maybe he could spend some time with them during the day, rather than keep them up late, and let them go to bed at their normal bed times (7:30pm).  He said he would think about it, but of course in came the email that no, he would have them after school until 8pm, because by golly, it’s “his time.”  So having them stay up past their bed time so they could be with him for “his time,” trumps what’s best for the sick children.  Great.

Then, the exchange, which he fought me on forever, he had originally chosen a poorly lit parking lot, and I stood my ground on that one with the support of the co-parenting mediator, suggesting two other places with better lighting and more traffic, safer for the children (and for me).  He picked a third place, fine, as long as it wasn’t the original dark parking lot.  I get to the exchange parking lot early, notice there isn’t parking close to the grocery store entrance, so park further down the row, directly underneath a streetlight, plenty of empty spaces nearby and lots of lighting.  I text him exactly where I am located, and settle in for the wait.  Twenty minutes later (yes, late, whatever), he pulls up, drives right by my car and passes me, parks the furthest down the lane that he can, nowhere near streetlight.  Le sigh.  The exchange with the children went fairly okay, thankfully, some alligator tears from baby sister who normally perks up after a few minutes—and she did.   I also decided to distract them with a drive thru run at starcrack and kids hot chocolates, which gave them something to be chipper about and spread their focus a little.

However, big sister was more thoughtful and conflicted, and as I pulled up to make our order, she started asking me why daddy “gives you all his money,” and “that’s why he’s poor and you’re rich.”  I told her I’m sorry daddy feels that way, but he is a grown up, and so is mommy, and it’s our job to take care of her not the other way around.  Then she asked what the money was for, so I told her it is called child support and it’s set by the judge who makes the rules, and it pays for things like going to the doctor or baby sister’s preschool or her before and after school care.  Then she asked how we met, and I reiterated that when we met and had her and baby sister, that mommy and daddy loved each other very much, and then after a while mommy and daddy had big grown up problems, so big, that the best thing to do was to have a divorce.  Of course she asked me “what big grown up problems?” and I told her when she was a big grown up, I could talk to her about it then, but right now she is a third grader and I needed her to concentrate on being a third grader.  Lastly, she asked why she couldn’t just stay overnight at dad’s, because they were going over for the week end, and I told her that we had to follow the  visitation schedule, and she said that it wasn’t fair.  I responded:  The judge made the rules about when you stay with mommy and when you stay with daddy, and we have to follow the rules, so it’s fair because of that.  But even if it doesn’t feel fair to you, we have to make the best of the situation, because that’s how life works.  No matter what we encounter, we have to make the best of it.   (Mind you, this was all in the drive-thru!)

Then on the way home, I asked if they had a birthday dinner with dad, and they said oh yes!  It was yummy!  And I responded that was great! and so glad they had fun!  and I asked if this Aunty came or that uncle, or Uncle R who lives with dad and grandma.  And big sister said, oh no, Uncle R doesn’t talk to us.  He’s only allowed to talk to grandma or dad.  I had thought that was the case, so I didn’t push it, I just said, well, I know Uncle loves you very much, and when you were a baby, big sis,  uncle played with you all the time.  So even if he doesn’t talk to you, be sure to be nice to him and say hi.  Baby sister chimed in and said that he never talked to them, too.  Then big sister said, Uncle only talks to dad or grandma when they’re fighting.  And I said, what fighting, you mean tonight? And big sister said, no, mommy, don’t you remember?  You where there, when I was hiding under the table.

Cue to four years ago, dad had just kicked big sister on the ground at his mother’s house, and the only one who stood up to him was his brother.  A huge yelling match ensued between the brothers, with me and the girls hiding in the other room, followed by an abrupt departure, not the greatest memory and one I had thought DD1 had forgotten, but apparently not.  I didn’t know what to say, so I said, oh yes, I do remember, and Uncle R loves her and baby sister very much.  And by that time, we had arrived home, and the girls—obviously feeling better from their fevers—ran into the house and watched So you think you can dance with A for a little while before bed.

The following morning I woke up to a lovely accusatory email about how I gave the children diarrhea by giving them hot chocolate the previous day before dropping them off (?Seriously ?) and also filled with lovely misleading statements about how I parked in a completely different parking lot, nowhere near the grocery store, and that I was to show up at the ‘agreed upon’ spot and how he has made concession after concession, blabbity blah.  Because that email was not for my benefit, that is for the cc: of the coparenting mediator.  I responded with a two liner:  no spots near the entrance, parked at the end of the row leading to the grocery store, plenty of light and empty spots nearby, I thought that helpful to the exchange.

I find this all tiresome.  Writing about it is tiresome.  I’m sure reading it must be even more tiresome.  I’m so sorry to just be a sad, venting lady today, I’m so tired of all of this baloney.  I’m stressed, I’m not sleeping well, the kids are stressed because the timing of his ‘summer vacation’ means there are a lot of back and forth at the end of it, and they can’t make head or tails of it, they feel the pull of his emotional neediness and respond.  With DD1—she internalizes and mulls and worries.  With DD2—she is more like an energizer bunny yoda, but she feels it, too.  It’s really difficult on all of us, and it makes me so sad that one person who is so focused on his emotional neediness is affecting all of us.  I’m trying to see the positive to all of this, the whole being the change I want to see in the world, but it’s difficult to keep the eye on the ball, difficult to stay bright--our family trip is coming up soon, and it will be so nice to get away from all of this for a little while.  I’m so tired.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy Birthday, DD1!

Happy birthday to you!  I can’t believe that eight years ago I was able to hold you in one arm.  I love watching you grow and learn and be silly and love up your baby sister and learn some more (I am in so much trouble in a few more years)!  You prefer to be called “smart” over “cute” or “pretty,” something you came up for yourself in the last year, and that’s fine by me. 

Your heart has the capacity to love everyone in your family.  You throw yourself into giggling fits with your sister, you build forts out of the couch cushions with her, you like doing puzzles and games, especially the ones in the highlights magazine, and you also love being a brownie and helping your girl scout sisters whenever you can.  You whiz around on your scooter with confidence—last year you were not nearly so energetic with it.  Your baby sister follows you everywhere, even when you have sleep-over friends, and you still welcome and include her, too, because that’s how big your heart is (yay!).  Yes you get annoyed with her from time to time, but you also cuddle up with her, too.  Your teachers have only said good things about you—how you play with other kids and help them or always try and get the answer right.  That art is “your thing,” something you can lose yourself in.

You are learning to challenge boundaries and “the rules.”  You’ve become quite the negotiator and debater.  Le sigh.  Given our two families situation, I sense your inner conflict and do everything I can to give you room to work through it.  When you do get mad, sometimes you go up to your room and scream into your pillow.  And after you’ve calmed down, I sit with you how you need me or want it to be—with space or with cuddling, or even, a big carry-hug.  We talk calmly about what happened and why—how it’s okay to have our feelings but it’s not okay to yell at people or throw things.  Sometimes there is crying and lots of times there are hugs.  Yes, you are allowed to feel conflicted and yes you are allowed to have your feelings.  (And I worry and wonder if the reason you do not express these things at dad’s house is because you know deep down that it’s not safe to act that way there.)

Over this last year there’s been some big changes.  Our house, while the same house, looks and feels different—with A moved in and new furniture and rooms re-arranged and de-cluttered—and we are a blended family.  I see you spend time with A and bond with him—reading books, or going shopping with him, or helping when he’s cooking.  Sitting with him playing games or just talking, or asking for a turn to be carried.  It warms my heart to see this relationship grow.

The constant to these swirling life events through the years:  that I love you and am doing everything I can to provide a positive life for you, so you can grow up and learn somehow, somewhere, that to be truly loved, it has to come without a cost.  That we can be responsible for our actions, but we cannot be responsible for others’ actions.  Love is demonstrated by kind and thoughtful actions and behavior, not just words, and I hope this knowledge seeps into your skin through to your caring and sensitive heart. 

p.s. You did ask for an IPAD this year, but I’m getting you a kids android tablet.  You will have to read as much as you play on the tablet, and I can already hear your voice—“does reading ON the tablet count?” and am considering the answer. <3 span="">

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Update on the (boundary) drama, I seem to be saying that a lot lately, hmm...

We had an eye-opening session with the girls’ play therapist, and the things she was discussing helped me feel better about our situation.  No, I’m not going crazy for seeing and reporting Exie’s emotional pressure on the children.  Yes, I am doing the right thing for validating the girls (esp DD1’s) feelings about things—i.e. I’m sorry daddy feels that way vs. a flat out, he’s completely wrong.  And then softly influencing her to form her own opinions—i.e. how do you feel about that?  What makes you feel that way?  Do you know it’s okay to have feelings that are not the same as mom or dad?  (great, can’t wait when that backfires at 16, but whatever, lol).  Yes, we continue to let her have the space and time to figure this inner conflict out—what is her stuff and what is her dad’s stuff.  Yes, we are allowed to intervene if said conflict escalates at our house and behavior needs to be corrected, but we do not use the blame game.  We allow her to have feelings yet at the same time give her structure.  Easier said than done.  Like, how the heck do you DO that?  I’ll keep reporting back on what we discover.  (And I’ll keep looking at and listening to what you discover, too). 

And yes, DD1, especially my sensitive and smart DD1, will one day figure this out, and should this continue, Exie will be the one who pays for it.  And truthfully, introspection notwithstanding, of course I do not want him to ‘pay’ for it or have DD1 resent him (ok, fine.  maybe a little, with a big BUT ONLY if he continues acting like a douche).  What I KNOW is best for the girls is that he stops his crazy bull$**t and acts like a mature adult.  Here’s to hoping that the people involved in our case can assist—who see the bird’s eye view like this, can influence him towards change.  I know that it’s not my job anymore to discuss, placate, wish, talk, demand, beg changes from him. 

So regarding boundaries and what’s ahead:  yes, we need to put something in place that gives structure to the phone calls—they are not for HIM to push his agenda on talking and length of talking and to guilt the children about.  The phone calls or for the CHILDREN, not the parents.  Secondly, no, I do not escalate the ballet class, because of his stance on it at the moment—it has turned into a battleground, another tug-of-war, another conflict area that is not in DD1’s best interest.  Instead, our job is to help DD1 make her own mind up about things like this, and give her the strength to assert her voice and her boundaries.

Exie will be Exie.  We can’t change him and hopefully, he will improve—or not.  In the mean time, we do know what we’re dealing with and facing, so the journey into blended family life continues on.  One step at a time.  One laugh at a time.  One tear at a time.  Don’t give up.  Patience.  Be kind.  Wait, this is what I told our leaders to do in my last post.  I have to remember to give myself the same advice.  Look both ways before crossing the road, hold hands and stick together.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let’s sue the President! Because, why not, we’ve got nothing better to do!

So several news outlets are reporting that Mr. Boehner is galvanizing a movement to sue President Obama.  One here from the Washington Post and BBC chimed in as well.

You know, because we don’t have poverty levels widening and thousands upon thousands of children crossing the border, or sexual assault running rampant and virtually unpunished, or moms getting prosecuted for murder for having a miscarriage unrelated to drug use, or a fierce debate on access to guns when we have yet another school shooting resulting in a death on our hands. However you feel about gun rights and civil liberties and gender and socio-economic disparities, where ever you land on the spectrum, there are serious issues in our country that we need to discuss and do something about.  Let alone the rest of the world.  Like civil wars in Syria or the lost girls in Nigeria, WTF happened about them, where’s the news cycle on that?

Wait, what?  Oh, that’s right, our wonderful politicians are too busy introducing and voting on 54 bills to REPEAL a law that is already in effect (yes, the dreaded health care law, which is, a law, the last time I checked—a real, bona fide law, remember how a bill becomes a law?  I’m just a bill…on capitol hill.)  Oh, wait, that’s right, it wasn’t REALLY 54, it was only 6, because the other 48 were to generally defund it or gut it or repeal just PART of it, so it doesn’t count.  Seriously.

So naturally, since Congress can’t stop the President’s initiatives through the traditional measures of passing laws (do we really have to sit and watch SchoolHouse Rock!—or ask them to have a mandatory sit down lesson on civics?), no these same people who cry about wasting taxpayers money, who in turn devote their time, effort, and tax-payer salaries into creating bills that have no chance of passing—well…now they want to fund a mother of a lawsuit.  That will take YEARS to pass through the legal system, because two political pundits thinks it’s a grand idea that if CONGRESS gives it’s blessing, the suit will have merit (see links at the very beginning of this blog post). 

Wow.  Just…wow.  Having spent tens of thousands on a lowly conflicted custody case, I can’t imagine the unimaginable cost of suing the President of the United States.  But by all means, let’s do that, while at the same time whining about our growing national debt.  By shutting down food stamp programs, because, hey, those poor people deserve it.  (And thank you so very much to you states who resisted it—and had the power to stand up and support your constituents.)

Yes, I realize this blog post has nothing to do with coparenting or divorce or custody or blended families.  But sometimes, I see a headline, and not that this one is any less egregious than the disappearance of #bringbackourgirls or other serious topics, I just can’t help pointing out how ridiculous our American politics look.  I swear if my children acted like this, told me they were going to “sue” the President, and spend millions to do so, I’d put them in a mother of time out and cry for shame.  Or if they decided not to DO THEIR JOBS and shut down their company, I’d fire them myself. 

Yet this latest headline is so ridiculous, I can’t even sit still.  Remember those cardinal rules we learned in kindergarten?  Hold hands and stick together.  Be kind.  Share.  Yeah, kindergartners are way smarter than the these educated 'leaders' who are running (amok in) the country.  /end rant.