Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stepmom Vs. BioMom: Yours Vs. Mine (Part II)

I understand the emotions Maleficent is trying to express to me, and from where they come.
I tell her that I can only imagine how difficult it must be to WANT to be there for Cinderella but to be limited physically by her current health problems.
"I know how involved you have always been. It must be killing you to not be able to help out this time."
She is crying. Her emotions are raw.
I don't like seeing anyone cry, least of all because of something that I've done whether the tears are justified in my eyes or not.
But still I am confused. What IS her point? Why is she calling me to tell me this!?? What is she hoping will happen?
I muster up every last bit of energy to ask in the most respectful tone I have,
"What is it that you are looking for from me? It sounds like you are telling asking me not to volunteer or help out. Is that it?"
Oh, no no, no... not at all! I'm glad you are there to help Cinderella, especially since I can't be. I know you care for her and I am grateful that she has you in her life.

And then she says it:

I guess... maybe... what I am asking is that since you were here for this play that...maybe... for the next one, you let me help out I-N-S-T-E-A-D.

And that's where I needed to stop her. RIGHT THERE.
"Why can't we both help out?," I ask.
Now it's my turn to talk.
My turn to explain that no matter what my personal feelings are towards her, she is and always will be Cinderella's Mommy.
"I have never tried to take your place. I don't want to be her Mommy. You are her Mommy and that's how it should be. I did not offer to volunteer in an attempt to exclude you. My volunteering has NOTHING to do with you, but is about me being there for Cinderella and for her school and for her teacher. Cinderella wanted me to help. SHE asked ME."
I reminded her that for nearly ten years I took a back seat and did NOT volunteer for Cinderella's school events in deference to HER. But that after ten years I felt we could move past that silliness and should ALL be able to be there for Cinderella.
I explained that I had originally ONLY volunteered to design the program because it afforded me the chance to be involved while remaining on the sidelines (a role Stepmoms often take). I did not offer to assist backstage because that had typically been her turf and I did not want to step on any toes.
(Essentially, I gave her first dibs but after it became apparent that she wasn't involved with this production and that they NEEDED more parental involvement, I stepped up and offered my services.)
"Maleficent, no matter what has transpired between us in the past, I'd like to think that we can ALL be there for Cinderella. Our personal feelings for one another have no place in this. Nor do they concern Cinderella."

I tried to reassure her while RESPECTFULLY letting her know I would not be backing down or backing off.
If Cinderella wants me to be there at her school events, I'm going to be there.
Maleficent understood and agreed with me.
(I think an entire fleet of angels must have gotten their wings yesterday to pull that one off!)
She told me she felt better after having spoken with me. She explained that part of her problem was not knowing whether I respected her as Cinderella's mother and that after speaking with me she now knows that I do.
(I DO respect the fact that she is Cinderella's mother, but I do NOT respect her AS a Mother. That's an important difference but one I did not feel needed to be expressed at that moment!)

The entire tone of our phone call was respectful, polite and low key. She did not come at me on the attack. Nor did I lash out in return.
We spoke.
We listened.
A resolution was reached, a barrier broken through.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stepmom Vs. Biomom: Yours Vs. Mine

The phone rings.
Private Number.
I normally don't answer blocked calls but it's the week leading into Cinderella's school play and I've found myself volunteering more and more to help out in the last-minute crunch so I answer thinking it might be about the clothes I am supposed to drop off for costumes tonight.

Hi, it's Maleficent. Do you have a minute?
"Sure," I say. I think she is calling to go over Cinderella's transportation to and from the three performances that are taking place between Friday and Saturday nights. This is Maleficent's visitation weekend so the responsibility would fall upon her, but I offered to drive Cinderella to her Mom's after Saturday night's performance since I will most likely be assisting backstage.

She's not calling about transportation.

She wants to talk to me as one Mommy to another.
She's wanted to talk to me for a while now and says that she hopes I don't misunderstand what she is about to say.
She wanted to talk to me directly and not go through Prince Charming. She did not want her intentions or the message to get misconstrued.
She wants me to know that my volunteering in Cinderella's drama club hurts her.
Stings, as she put it.
As one Mommy to another I am sure you can understand how you would feel if someone did that with your kids.
She explains how she had wanted to volunteer because she's ALWAYS been involved in Cinderella's extra-curricular activities from Day One (to the point of excluding her Father and I from any involvement, but that's not really the point. Is it?) But her current health issues have prevented her from being as involved this time around.
She wanted me to know that she did contact Cinderella's Drama teacher but never heard back.
I should have followed up but I didn't. And that's my fault.
Still she wanted to let me know that my volunteering and being their for HER daughter hurts HER.
Soon enough you will have Gretel's events to be a part of.
And Hansel's.

But Cinderella is all I have. And to miss out on even one day kills me since I don't get to see her that much as it is.
I am sure you can understand what I mean.

So... what happens next?
How would YOU react to such a phone call? What would you say?
Tomorrow, I'll let you know what *I* said.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Diagnosis: CAADD

Recently, I was diagnosed with C. A. A. D. D.

(Child Activated Attention Deficit Disorder)

This is how it manifests:

I decide to do the laundry. As I start toward the basement, I notice that there are Cheerios all over the floor and my car keys are in the cereal bowl. I decide to pick up the Cheerios before I do the laundry.

I lay my car keys down on the counter, put the Cheerios in the trash can under the counter, and notice that the trash can is full. So, I decide to take out the trash. But then I think, since I'm going to be near the mailbox when I take out the trash I may as well pay the bills first. I take my checkbook off the table, and see that there is only one check left, my extra checks are in my desk in the office/playroom, so I go to my desk where I find a sippy cup full of juice. I'm going to look for my checks, but first I decide I should put the sippy cup in the refrigerator to keep it cold. As I head toward the kitchen with the sippy cup a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye they need to be watered. I set the sippy cup on the counter, and I discover baby wipes that I've been searching for all morning.

I decide I better put them back in the bathroom, but first I'm going to water the flowers. I set the wipes back down and splash some water on the flowers, but most of it spills on the floor. So, I get some paper towels and wipe up the spill. Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day: the laundry isn't washed, the bills aren't paid, there is a warm cup of juice sitting on the counter, the flowers aren't watered, there is still only one check in my checkbook, I can't find the wipes, and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.

Then when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day long, and I'm really tired. I realize this is a serious problem, and I'll try to get some help for it, but first I'll check my e-mail.

The above was sent to me in email several months ago. I meant to post it back then but... well, you know how the rest goes. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Knitty Things: Garter Stitch Wrap

I thought I would never be finished with this damn thing, but I did it!
The first thing I've knitted for ME!
It's 100% wool, so it's cozy warm. I've warn it almost every day around our drafty castle.
I simply love the colors.

I used Knit Picks Palette Wool in five colors: Clematis Heather, Fawn, Verdant Heather, Marine Heather & Garnet Heather.

Pattern: AppleLaine Glorious Garter Wrap.

Next up... hand warmers using a yummy malabrigo sent by a friend!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Addictions. What's Yours?

Hello. My name is Wicked Stepmom, and I'm a lipgloss-aholic.
I confess that I cannot step foot into a pharmacy, supermarket or beauty supply store without picking up the latest and greats in lip quenching products.
They're everywhere.
In my coat pockets,
Pants pockets (which also means they wind up in the washer/dryer),
My desk,
My pocketbook,
My knitting bag (which has SIX pockets!),
Night table,
Diaper bag,
Under the couch (b/c Gretel seems to have inherited my addiction and steals borrows them every chance she gets.)

The latest addition to my ever-growing supply:

Burt's Bees Super Shiny Lip Gloss in Sweet Pink.

Your turn. What's your addiction?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Custody & Visitation: Time ... and AGAIN.

It's 30 minutes until Cinderella is due home from her visitation with Maleficent.
Predictably, the phone rings. She is going to be late. AGAIN.
Now before you get all hoity-toity accusing me of being petty and how there are worse things that can happen so don't sweat the small stuff and pick your battles kind of schpeil...
You're right. You're right.
I know you're right.

And yes, part of my anger comes out of my need for control. Order. Structure. Predictability.
But it's also not about that. Not about the 15 minutes here and 10 minutes there.
It's about the lack of respect and consideration.
It's about Maleficent's chronic disregard for anybody else's time other than her own.
The belief that SHE is more worthy and more deserving of time with Cinderella.
I am angry.
Angry at her passive aggressive way of sticking it to Prince Charming by denying him a few extra minutes with Cinderella because after all he "gets to live with her."
Angry that while Cinderella does live with us she does NOT see all that much of Prince Charming so his time with her is precious. And fleeting.
Angry that Cinderella's coming home late disrupts Hansel's bedtime. He misses his Big Sister when she is not at home.
Mommy, where is Cinderella? he asks FIRST THING every morning during her visitation weekends with Maleficent.
By her coming home late he misses seeing her or (as is most often the case) winds up going to sleep later b/c he waits up in his bed for her.
And I'm angry for Cinderella. That in her desire to spite Prince Charming Maleficent is also spiting her own daughter.
Denying Cinderella time with the Family she is away from and has admitted to missing when she visits her mom.
Interrupting her night time routine that prepares her for the next day. Shower, lunch are now rushed.
There is no time for down-time. She's got to go-go-go as soon as she walks in the door and before you know it it's bedtime.

I wrote this post months ago, after months of dealing with Maleficent's spiteful behavior. Many emails were sent. And ignored.
Phone calls were made. And not returned.
Finally, the legal guardian decided to get up off her ASS and SEND the long-promised letter reminding Maleficent of the terms of her visitation and that the continued latenesses are being considered as deliberate violations and that she WILL find herself back in court if they continue.
Since then, communication has been slightly better. Maleficent has been more timely when picking up and dropping off.
(She even wished me a Happy Birthday on the phone last week.)
Yes, I'm all-too-familiar with this dance having gone 'round the custody dance floor just a few times with this woman.
I'm trying not to anticipate having our toes stepped on AGAIN.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lost Too Soon: An Online Community Asks for Help

"At 11:12 AM, on Tuesday, January 08, 2008, State Police, Troop A began investigating a two vehicle crash that resulted in a fatality. The crash occurred on US Hwy 61 north of LA Hwy 621 in Ascension Parish.

Two vehicles, a Hyundai Elantra (eastbound on Duplessis Road) and a 2006 Peterbuilt (southbound on US Hwy 61) were approaching the intersection of US Hwy 61 and Duplessis road. The Hyundai Elantra traveled through the intersection into the path of the 2006 Peterbuilt. In doing so, the Hyundai Elantra was struck on the driver side by the 2006 Peterbuilt.

The driver of the Elantra, Ashley Spencer (W/F/Age 29) of Geismar, LA, sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene by the Ascension Parish Coroners Office. The driver of the 2006 Peterbuilt, Yancy Hebert (W/M/Age 42) of Gonzales, LA, did not seek medical attention at the crash scene. Seatbelts were used and alcohol/drugs are not suspected to be a factor in this crash."

Numerous online communities are mourning a tragic loss this week. Ashley Spencer was known to many people on Twitter (@ashPEAmama), iVillage (rox4brainsash) and other online social networks as a loving mother (who sought support for PPD), staunch LSU Tigers fan and Croc lover. She leaves behind a husband and two young children - ages 2 yrs and 6 weeks - after dying tragically in a car accident Tuesday morning.

A memorial fund has been established in her name to assist family (who were without life insurance). The deadline for contributions is January 17th at which time the funds will be turned over to Ashley's husband to aid in funeral expenses and daycare for their two precious babies.

Please help by clicking on the widget to the right for "Ashley Spencer's Family" or clicking HERE NOW.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Stepmom to Stepmom: A Call for Support

A reader and stepmom-to-be, K10ish, needs some advice and support.

She writes:
"I think I may be at my 'step mom to be' limit. Who do we talk to?"

The following poem of hers is thoughtful, insightful, and touched deep into the heart of my own struggles as a Stepmom, as I'm sure it will for some of you. Please help K10ish know that she is not alone. Leave your comments here or on her lovely blog: Hindsight, Relationships and Looking Inside Me.

The Sub

In the shadow

never THE mom

or THE dad

just the substitute.

Love like they are your own

honest and pure

You are not their own

They have their own.

On the bench.

That's where you sit

You are not the first string.

It's OK for a while, it's not a competition.

It's your heart.

Your love.

This is your ready made family.

And it's not yours.

It's theirs. Their Mom. Their Dad.

But divorced.

Extra wheel.

That's you. That's me.

You only need an extra wheel

When the others aren't good.

But just for a little while.

You are easily replaced.

You are not one of them.

Can anyone see this but me?

Who do you talk to?

How do you discuss your pain?

What do you do with your hurt?

When they all stand together in one place

it's random, a birthday party, a school conference

where do you stand.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Tripping Up Along The Holiday Shuffle

Scheduling holiday visits with family was sometimes a major PITA, even though I made it look easy in this post. Remembering where Cinderella would be proved challenging at times.

(Prince Charming and Maleficent used to alternate Christmas Eve/Christmas Day and other holidays every year.)

I tried to keep things straight by writing this stuff down on every calendar we owned but, inevitably, Cinderella would miss out on seeing someone (and vice versa) b/c their schedule just didn't match up with ours.
(And... sometimes b/c the custody/visitation schedule was thrown OFF-schedule b/c someone couldn't accommodate their visitation time and requested a switch in days. *ahem* )
When Prince Charming was granted full custody two years ago, the custody document was adjusted once again in an effort to make it easier for all involved.
Cinderella would now be with us EVERY Christmas Eve.
Maleficent would get her EVERY Christmas Day from 12 Noon until December 28th where Cinderella would be returned home and remain through New Years and until the end of her holiday break (upon which the regular visitations schedule would resume).
Easy right?
Now we KNOW to plan our family get-togethers every Christmas Eve so Cinderella never again has to miss out!, we happily proclaimed then.
And yet, somewhere amidst the baking and decorating and shopping and wrapping we tripped up.
We forgot to plan for Christmas Eve and went right along with scheduling parents, step-parents, extended family visits for Christmas Day.
Once again, Cinderella missed out on seeing them.
Once again, they missed out on seeing her.
We suck. I know it. She knows it.
As much as I tried to downplay it, she knows they were here. Her face showed her disappointment.
Disappointment that was short-lived and all-but disappeared once she opened the presents they left for her... but still IT WAS THERE.
Try as we might, holidays may never be "perfect" when stepchildren are involved.
(My parents made it look easy but that could be b/c they didn't come from divorced parents so didn't have the added challenge of scheduling time with their own "steps.")
As Stepparents, we can only do our best to establish traditions and rituals that will hopefully create happy memories for our skids and that will not leave them feeling left-out or that they somehow missed out.
With each new year and with each experience comes a chance to do better.
Next year, Cinderella, we WILL do better.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Santa Has a Sense of Humor

My very own Maleficent to do with what I wish.
(Too bad it's not a VooDoo doll.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

StepChild's Bill of Rights

Years ago I was given a "Bill of Rights" statement from one of Cinderella's past therapists, which was meant to help us teach her about speaking up for herself and understanding that she does not have to tolerate her mother's verbal diarrhea. It's linked here.

I also stumbled across the following while doing some research and, though laced with negative undertones directed at wicked Stepparent behavior, I decided to post it as a way of showing how actions (spoken and unspoken) can affect the tender balance of the Stepparent/stepchild relationship.

The StepChild’s Bill of Rights

1. A stepchild will be allowed to have a voice in family discussions. This does not mean the child's wants and needs are paramount but that they must be considered.
2. A stepchild has the right to respectfully state his or her feelings and to have those feelings respected.
3. A stepchild under the age of majority shall have the right to a fair set of rules that apply equally to stepchild and bio child.
5. A stepchild will not be responsible for housework and other chores that are not distributed equally and fairly. Ditto punishment.
6. A stepchild has a right to private space, and to expect that others will not take or use any of his or her possessions without asking permission.
7. A stepchild will NEVER be treated as a second-class citizen in his or her own home, nor will he or she be made to feel as if he or she is an intruder.
8. A stepchild has the right to feel at home in his or her father's custodial parent's home.
9. A stepchild has the right to spend time with, even alone with, his or her biological parent, whether custodial or not.
10. A stepchild has the right to hear his or her biological parent, custodial or not, talked about with respect. Referring to a stepchild's parent in a derogatory fashion, is ALWAYS wrong. You, the stepparent, may not like the biological parent, but that parent is important in the child's life.
11. A stepchild has the right to love and want to be with his or her parents, regardless of how a new spouse or mate may feel about the old one.
12. A stepchild is allowed to not immediately fall in love with the new stepparent and should not be forced to call the new stepparent anything resembling a "mom" or "dad" name.

More Irony for the New Year

Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel make a fairytale Gingerbread House of their very own.

I figured if a mom of seven children (whom she homeschools!) can do it so could we. Chris, from Notes from the Trenches constantly inspires me to be a better, funner (yes, it is a word) and more organized Mom. If you are not familiar with her, go read her NOW.

Full recipe and instructions can be found here.