Thursday, December 24, 2009

A New Twist on an Old Tradition

Not that many years ago, I wrote about how Prince Charming and I managed to survive the holiday shuffle.
This year, I find myself struggling to shuffle a new custody schedule not only with Cinderella but with my own Hansel & Gretel now as well.
Since unofficially separating this past summer, Prince Charming and I have tried to work out an alternating custody schedule with the kids. One that attempts to give each of us equal time with ALL THREE kids and also follows the visitation stipulation that's been in place for Cinderella and Maleficent since 2006.
Simply put: If Cinderella is home with Prince Charming, then so are Hansel and Gretel.
Our primary goal is to keep our kids together with each other as much as possible.
In some ways, it's made figuring out the current schedule with Hansel and Gretel rather easy since all we have to do is use Cinderella's as our template.
So weekends, holidays and birthdays are all sorted.
(See, there is some benefit to all of those hours and dollars being spent in court with Maleficent afterall!)
The downside is this year I will not be with the kids on Christmas morning. I get to spend some of Christmas Eve with them (because it's fallen on my normally scheduled day) until 6pm. And then Christmas Day will have Hansel and Gretel starting at 12 Noon. At that same time, Cinderella will go off to her Mom's for three days.
I will miss out on tucking the kids in and putting out cookies for Santa and food for the reindeer. Miss their eyes filled with wonder on Christmas morning when they come down and find their presents under the tree.
Tonight, I will be at my Mom's celebrating Christmas Eve dinner. Something we don't get to do very often but hope to do more of in the future. Before I go, I will help Cinderella assemble the baked french toast that has become part of our Christmas morning tradition. (Time I am looking forward to spending just with her, since I will not see much of her during this holiday break.) We will all then listen to 'Twas The Night Before Christmas with our animated Thomas Kinkade Story House before I leave.
Tomorrow morning I will awaken at my Mom's and open gifts with her. Something I haven't done in a long, long time. Before I was married. Before I was a Mom.
I will then head down to see Hansel and Gretel (hopefully catching Cinderella before she leaves), exchange some gifts with them before bringing them back to Grandma's for Christmas dinner. Something they have never done.
I'm determined to welcome these changes in my Christmas traditions with a positive attitude.
There are unexpected gifts hidden within them - though one Mom will be without her children's faces on Christmas morning, another Mom gets to relive Christmas memories with her first born daughter.
And later on create new memories with (two of) her grandkids.

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. ~Burton Hillis

Thursday, December 17, 2009


She has her eye on the prize.

So do I.
But my prize is better than any baked good.
It's my reason for getting out of bed every morning.
It offers me the knot onto which I can grab hold of, when I feel I have reached the end of my rope.
It offers me support, encouragement, advice and unconditional love. Reminds me of the happiness I have been missing.
It's my shelter from the storm, wind beneath my wings, light at the end of the tunnel and every nauseating cliche that comes with the newness and beauty of what's happening to me.
I deserve every morsel of it.
And if you are really, REALLY nice to me, I might share it with you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Kids...

... are doing alright. They've known about our pending divorce for about four months now.

I'm going to miss you.
Cinderella thought she would never see me again. He told her WITHOUT me. I wasn't there to reassure her and put it into words that will help her understand. Prince Charming denied me that chance for his own reasons and fucked it up in the process leaving me with a PHONE CALL to try and smooth things out with her.
Hansel and Gretel took it as well as any 7 and 4 year old can.
Gretel says she wants bunk beds in her new room at Mommy's house.
Hansel needed to know that he wasn't being left without a family.
"Your family isn't going anywhere. It's just changing. That's all. You still have a Mommy and a Daddy that love you."
I am finding comfort in the knowledge that they have seen divorce, custody and visitation in action with Cinderella and hoping that maybe... just MAYBE, it won't be as scary for them as it can be for other children.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Recycled Christmas Crafts: Light Bulb Ornament

Last year, I decided the Grinch needed the company of his faithful companion Max...

His ears are made out of brown felt. His antler, which is not as visible as I would have liked, is brown foam. His face was drawn on using a black Sharpie marker.
I didn't love the way he came out, which is why I did not make enough as gifts for family and friends, but he's cute enough to adorn my tree!

Friday, December 11, 2009

For My Own Edification

But you two always seemed so happy! Yeah, we did. On the outside. Isn't that always the case? Unhappy couples excel at hiding their pain and convincing the world that they are happy. And sometimes, they even manage to convince themselves that they are happy. At least this was the case in my marriage.
I convinced myself that I was happy enough. That it could always be worse.
Prince Charming convinced himself that we had worked through our troubles, when really we merely swept them under the rug.
We were simply going through the motions.
But the marriage was broken. Irreparable. And the unhappiness took over.
So much of that unhappiness can be seen on this blog, if you look close enough and get past the "Oh, she is just a bitter stepparent" stigma.
The simple truth is that Prince Charming and I both were not able to be the kind of partner that the other needed.
It didn't happen overnight.
It was years in the making.
Years of arguing. Pleading. Therapy. Followed by resignation.
And after many attempts no amount of King's horses or King's men could put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
It was my call. My words that started the process to ending our marriage.
He's hurt. He's angry.
I'm not paying for a lawyer. *I* am NOT paying for another lawyer.
I can understand that. We've lost a fuckton of money to lawyers over the past 13 years.
So we agreed going the route of a mediator instead. Determined to show our kids that parents can get divorced without it turning ugly and nasty. (Cinderella is our biggest motivator. She has seen more ugly and nasty than necessary.)
But even a mediator has proven to great for our budget.
We've tried to remain friendly but with so much raw emotion that has proven difficult, if not impossible, especially on his end.
Words go unspoken, emails unanswered, face-to-face dealing are awkward and hostile.
Feelings and opinions are repressed and replaced by passive-aggressive behaviors or pissy texts.
So now we are in this limbo - splitting our time between the (rental) home we tried building with the kids and our respective corners the rest of the time.
There are so many parallels to his divorce with Maleficent it's scary. But when you consider the one common denominator in both of these situations, it's not that surprising. And quite frankly, it has me feeling a bit defeated for we all know how long things have dragged on with them.
I don't know when or how things will move forward.
In the meantime, I am part-time Mom, part-time single gal trying to move on, get my groove back, rediscover who I am and learn how to be happy.
I believe we both deserve that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Guy

Oh yeah.
Hansel is now SEVEN!

Funny how life doesn't stop, no matter what else you may have going on.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Rest Is Still Unwritten

The fairytale isn't over folks.
Not by a LONG shot.
Oh yes, the fairytale that you have come to know over the past several years is ending. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that it's changing. Evolving.
Taking on a new definition.
A new fairytale is in-progress.
True, some of the storyline will be familiar to you - lawyers, documents, custody/visitation - all the fun stuff that makes up a divorce. But you can expect some new twists to the plot, mostly revolving around Cinderella. I would venture to guess that not many soon-to-be EX-stepparents continue their roles as caretaker to their once stepchildren after they divorce their spouses. Cinderella will always have a home with me, and a bonus parent to nurture and love her for as long as she wants.
Of this I am sure.
But I am also working on a new storyline. One that involves a new house, a new job, a new life.
New pages and new chapters are in the works with hopefully a stronger binding to hold it all together.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not Very Appealing

Cinderella's day in court has come.
And gone.
We are not allowed to ask what she told the judge. We can only hope it was the detailed truths she has been telling us (and her lawyer) for the past year.
Maleficent and her henchman/lawyer wanted to settle out of court. She did not want to engter a "guilty" plea and have it on record.
They offered some kind of compromise and adjustment to the visitation schedule to appease Prince Charming (as she always does).
He is done settling. Settling is what's brought him here in the first place.
He wants an admission of guilt and he wants it on record.
He insisted on a trial. The judge refused saying it was a waste of the court's time.
He is appealing this decision.
In the meantime, the Cinderella's visitation schedule with Maleficent remains unaltered.
I have been asked how I feel about it.
I honestly don't know. All I want is for Maleficent to behave herself once and for all and for Cinderella to be spared any further pain.
The upside, for now, is Maleficent has been behaving herself as she always does when she gets a slap on the wrist.
It never lasts though.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A New Chapter

I know, I know.
It's been a while and you're wondering "Now why don't she write?"
If you've stuck around long enough to catch this update, I thank you.
I hope I do not disappoint.

The castle has been filled with turmoil since March.
Several court dates took place with no solution to the problems at hand. Prince Charming let Maleficent get away with continued violations to her visitation stipulation for reasons only he can explain.
Now Cinderella has to face the judge and explain in her own words what she has been subjected to over the past several years. She has had months to think about it, and the reality of what's at stake has had ample time to sink in. Whether she has the strength to be as truthful with the judge as she has been with us remains to be seen.
The verdict will be in on Monday.
In the meantime, I have started a new chapter to my fairytale - one in which the second wife becomes the ex-wife.
I do not know what this means for my blog though at present I can see it creating a whole new perspective on stepparenting - as I have no intentions of dropping out of Cinderella's life and Prince Charming and I hope to work out an amicable custody/visitation schedule that accommodates all three of our kids.
Much needs to be sorted - most importantly my head.
I hope you will understand my absence a bit more and forgive my erratic posting schedule as I do not know how to wrap my head around what needs to get done.
I have been through divorce once before with Prince Charming, fighting WITH him shoulder to shoulder AGAINST Maleficent.
Now it's my turn.
Oh, the irony.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Who's The Leader of the Band?

Cinderella: "I don't like this court business. It's not exactly one big parade of happiness."

No, it's not.
Especially with Maleficent acting as Grand Marshal.

Poor kid.
Yet, she's still handling it with such grace.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Instant Karma's Gonna Get You

It might not be instant per se BUT my faith in what-comes-around-goes-around has once again been restored.
A court date as finally been set so Prince Charming can address the months years of Maleficents' spiteful and deliberate violations to her visitation stipulation.
Unfortunately it took last Friday's episode to speed things up - mostly thanks to an order of protection that was filed and served on Cinderella's behalf which temporarily suspends all visitation with Maleficent until next week's court date.
(If Maleficent can't control her mouth over the fact that Cinderella can't go SWIMMING, surely she will not handle being taken back to court very well. And Cindy has suffered enough thanks to that broad's missing sensitivity chip.)
The judge NOW sees the urgency of getting this case brought to court so the issues at hand can be addressed.
And (hopefully) STOPPED.
Disparaging comments. Emotional and psychological abuse. Arbitrary adjustments to her pick up and drop off times. Failure to communicate or accept her court ordered responsibilities.
It all must end. Cinderella is being hurt at the hands of her "mother." And it's not fair.

Cinderella is relieved that Prince Charming is making progress to protect her.
Relieved that she gets a brief reprieve from having to go to Maleficent's for the next week.
Still she is apprehensive over having to talk to her mother on the phone, knowing "how Mommy gets" and worried what she will have to say about being dragged back to court and not being allowed to see her preshus baby.
There is no guarantee that Maleficent will hold her tongue. There never is. The best we could give Cinderella is the empowerment to hand the phone over to her Dad or me if she hears something that upsets her.

Yeah, instant karma's gonna get you.
Maleficent... You better get yourself together darlin'. Join the human race.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Lonely At The Top

The problem with taking the High Road when it comes to dealing with Maleficent, is that I am oftentimes alone.
Alone with my inner struggle of doing what's best for Cinderella versus wanting to slap the crap out of her "mother" for creating such turmoil in everyone's lives.
Alone while I watch my stepdaughter struggle to accept the reality of WHO and WHAT her mother is and HOW to deal with that (while not contributing to that opinion by speaking ill of Maleficent in front of Cinderella. EVER.).
Alone in not being able to protect Cinderella as situations like last Friday unfold, after sending Cinderella to her Mom's for the weekend, sans her bathing suit.

Maleficent and Diablo SPED back up our street BACKWARDS and sent Cinderella inside to claim her bathing suit.
Her facial expression spoke volumes. Cinderella did NOT want to come back inside. She did NOT want to go swimming because she had her period. Not because I said no.
But Maleficent had turned it into a battle or HER vs. ME. It was no longer about what Cinderella might have wanted. It was about Maleficent getting HER OWN WAY and Cinderella was going to get that bathing suit dammit!
Cinderella asked me for guidance on what to say to her Mom. She knew she HAD to go for the weekend, even though she no longer wanted to. I tried my best to help her with the right words, but nothing any of us could have said at that moment would make any difference.
I reminded Cinderella simply that she had her period and could not go swimming.
It didn't matter WHO was asking to take her - be it a girlfriend or Maleficent - she could not go THIS weekend. Period. (Pun intended.)
And then I told Cinderella that Maleficent could talk to Prince Charming about it if she felt it was that important. He was, afterall, the final say on this and if he felt it was OK, then she could come back and get her suit.
(I was hoping this would somehow take the pressure off and protect Cinderella. I was wrong.)
From the curb, Maleficent's rage could be heard by my neighbors AND Cinderella's 6 year old brother and friends who were playing outside.
(And so on.)
Cinderella told us her mother ranted for the entire car ride home. Mostly to herself because no one else was responding.
Cinderella was also subjected to hearing her mother tell her that she WILL NOT buy her anything EVER AGAIN because SHE bought the bathing suit for Cinderella and that money could have been better spent on bills.
Huh? No one is holding the bathing suit hostage.
Once again the lines of reality have been blurred in the midst of Maleficent's bipolar tantrums.
Cinderella told us that she holed herself up in her bedroom for the rest of Friday night. Waiting out the end of her mother's tirade which eventually came to an end and she was able to enjoy the rest of her weekend.
(With the exception of when her mother took her swimming anyway, despite Cinderella's protests, and forced the poor girl to go into the pool. Ooh. Ahh. I guess she showed me, huh?)
Cinderella was glad to be home come Sunday night. Glad to be able to talk to us about what happened and to do a little venting of her own.

I am sure that to many the simple solution would have been to let Cinderella take the bathing suit.
That this ALL could have been avoided if I had just given in.
That it's MY fault. The Wicked Stepmom who had no right saying "no."
That, indeed, I am too big for my britches.
But to anyone who has been following my journey will know that NOTHING will guarantee peace with Maleficent.
And lord knows how I have tried.
Giving in to avoid conflict only prolongs the inevitable temper tantrum and downward spiral that always comes from an untreated manic depressive.
This was not about ME vs. Maleficent. It had nothing to do with her at all.
It was a simple lesson that most woman have learned at one time or another. Unfortunately, this was Cinderella's time to learn that being a woman sometimes ain't all it's cracked up to be.
It's simple biology. You can't argue with that.
Except...when it comes to parenting. Because I have learned over the years that there is much MORE to parenting than simple BIOLOGY.
Just because I am not Cinderela's BIOLOGICAL parent, does not mean that I do not have any of the responsibilities that come with parenting her.
And I will never stop doing that. No matter how many times I am challenged.
I am a hard-ass.
I am not going to back down over of a matter of simple biology.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Yes, Magic Grits Exist Fairytales Too

Maleficent: Bring your bathing suit this weekend because I have a free swim pass.

Cinderella: Ok, Mom. Oh, no... wait. I can't. I have my period.

Maleficent: Oh, that's ok. You can still swim, the bleeding stops in the water.


Is she fecking KIDDING me???
I wanted to call Maleficent on the phone and issue a My Cousin Vinny-esque cross examination:
"So, Maleficent, how is it that your vaj does not bleed in pool water when the same can not be said for the entire menstruating world?
I guess the laws of physics cease to exist in your girly bits (just as the laws of reason cease to exist in your melon). Do you have a magic vajayjay? Is your Aunt Flo the same broad who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?"

I refrained, cuz you know how I like to take the high road and all.
But, you can bet your ass I did NOT let Cinderella leave this house with a bathing suit in hand.
Cuz... EWWW.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Back to Court They Go

A month ago Prince Charming filed violation papers against Maleficent.
After three years of trying to make things work in a civilized fashion, only to be slapped in the face repeatedly, he's finally taking the advice of his lawyer and Cinderella's law guardian.
They warned him after he won sole legal custody that Maleficent WOULD push the envelope and she WOULD screw up and he WOULD HAVE TO bring her back to court until she finally accepted her reality (while also cautioning that she may NEVER do as is typically the case with people suffering from untreated bipolar disorder).
Like me, he thought it could be avoided.
Like me, he thought they could work things out like adults.
Like me, he thought she would put Cinderella's needs and well-being above her own pettiness.
Like me, he was WRONG.
He tried. I tried. And Maleficent "tried" - but for only as long as she was given her own way and allowed to play the victim doing WHAT she wanted WHEN she wanted.
On the rare occasion she was told NO or expected to step up as a parent, things quickly went south.
Now Prince Charming has learned what Cinderella is being exposed to as a result of Maleficent's tantrums.
Lies. Disparaging remarks. Cursing and name-calling. Parental alienation.
His daughter is being mentally and emotionally abused at the hands of her "mother."
He can no longer look the other way or try to rationalize. He needs assistance.
Papers were filed in early January with the promise of a court date and notices being sent to our respective homes ASAP.
We waited. And I worried.
I worried that Cinderella would be with Maleficent when the court notice was delivered and that she would be exposed to her mother's rage.
Then Prince Charming was told the notices would be delivered during the week of Cinderella's late drama rehearsals. She would not be with her mother that week.
I was relieved. Hoping that would give Maleficent enough time to calm down and Cinderella would be spared any further harm.
That week came and went. No court notices arrived.
Prince Charming was then told the notices were going out the week of Cinderella's school break. Cinderella was home that week as well.
Again, I was relieved.
Still no notices came.

It took a personal visit back to the court house for Prince Charming to find out that a court date HAD been set, but that the judge changed it and NO ONE was notified. So the paperwork sat somewhere and the case was never reassigned on the calendar.
PC was promised this would be taken care of this week.
I wish I could stop myself from worrying. That I could have been spared spending the last FOUR WEEKS filled with dread for Cinderella knowing that I was helpless to protect her from any further abuse at the hands of her "mother."
(No matter what our personal feelings are, we have never said a single bad word about Maleficent in front of or to Cinderella.)
(If only she was able to do the same.)
I am trying to remind myself that everything happens for a reason.
That while this situation might not be proceeding as we WANT it to, it is proceeding as it NEEDS to.
Whatever the reason might be.
Maybe the delay is so the right judge can be assigned to the case.
Maybe Cinderella is supposed to be with her mother when the notices are delivered so she can learn HOW to speak up to her.
Or maybe it's because Maleficent is destined to do something so horrid that she will lose everything once-and-for-all.
(Prince Charming has been warned of suspected questionable activity at Maleficent and Diablo's house. None of which Cinderella has confirmed but PC is still concerned and watchful.)
This last point fills me with the most dread for as much as I would like to see Maleficent finally get her come-uppins I do not want my stepdaughter to suffer any more.
It is that fear that's kept us out of court for this long.
It is out of this fear that Prince Charming and I have done as much as we have over the years to get along with Maleficent.
And now I fear that in our efforts to placate Maleficent's delicate emotional state and protect Cinderella that we may have done nothing more than postpone the inevitable.

Of course, I could be just a tad melodramatic here!
I mean ... without the melodrama, would this blog be nearly as interesting??
I think not.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Milestones Are Expensive

Pink rhinestone flowers.
Tres sparkly.
Tres expensive!
She's lucky I love her.

(Oh yeah, and I forgot about the PARENT permission form that has to be filled out when taking a minor to have their ears pierced! Needless to say I was riddled with guilt over the fact that I am not TECHNICALLY her parent or LEGAL guardian as I scribbled my signature and initials and forked over my cash. YES I am a goddamn GOODY-TWO-SHOES and OHMYGOD Maleficent will gave a SHIT FIT if she gets wind of this! Then I realized that, UNLIKE her, I actually HAVE the permission of the LEGAL & CUSTODIAL PARENT, so my signature is as good as his. So she can have her shit fit. And she can bite me.)

Another Milestone for the Tween

Today, I am taking Cinderella to get her ears pierced.
I was the same age as she is (12) when my mother took me.
It's a nice way to commemorate the end of her 'Tween Years and I am so excited to be able to take her!
It's been in the works for several months now-Prince Charming and I agree that she is NOW old enough to take care of them properly.

(Maleficent took her when she was 8 without any prior discussions which she was REQUIRED to do because Prince Charming had primary rights though it was a shared custody. A month later I had to take Cinderella to the doctor to have the earring CUT OUT of her infected ear lobe because she kept SQUEEZING the post backs too tightly and essentially INTO her piercing hole. Prince Charming asked Maleficent that they wait until Cinderella is older before revisiting this again.)

(A year later, Cinderella returned from a visit with Maleficent with shiny new earrings. After a week we REMOVED them because she would not stop playing with them. We were in the midst of the custody change and, while Maleficent had lost ALL rights to make or act on any decisions, the courts had to specifically mention that Maleficent STOP PIERCING HER CHILDS' EARS ALREADY.)

Three years later, Prince Charming feels Cinderella is now ready for this responsibility.
She has been flitting around for the past three days since I told her and has all sorts of shopping trips planned for earrings once the holes are healed.
Cinderella has not told her mother yet because "Mommy will be mad because she wanted to take me."

Why must this woman overshadow EVERYTHING that is good????

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An *Almost* Unbearable Obsession

I'm captivated by Edward Cullen and Forks.

I picked up Book One 10 days ago and I am nearly finished with Book Four, while also taking mini-breaks to read the online draft of Book Five. *swoon*

And I am thankful that February is a short month because that means March (and the release of THIS) will be here that much sooner. *SQUEAL*

Yes, exactly my brand of heroin.

I'm ok with that. Really.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

At Odds

I am at odds with my struggle to detach from Maleficent.
To remain ambivalent to her presence in our lives.
I am finding it difficult to go about our lives, happily ignorant to her existence.
Night time is when this struggle becomes the hardest.

Cinderella is old enough to remember to call her biomom. IF she WANTS to call her.
(Though she has admitted to sometimes she simply forgets to call.)
Prince Charming is trying to take over the job of being the proverbial string around her finger.
The job I once had assigned myself but which began to feel as if I was FORCING her to carry out the task.
But Prince Charming sometimes forgets to remind Cinderella, as much as Cinderella sometimes forgets to call.
Maleficent called twice last night to talk to my stepdaughter.
Her calls were left for voice mail.
Call #1 occurred while we were eating dinner and I have a very strict rule of NOT interrupting family time for ANY phone calls.
(Cinderella usually asks if it's her biomom calling, but she didn't this time.)
Call #2 came while Cinderella was in the shower.
Last night was supposed to be one of Maleficent's visitation days. The snow storm that blanketed our area canceled that.
Cinderella had thought to call her biomom during the day. She even had the phone in her hand at one point but never dialed the number, instead turning to go back to whatever it was that she was doing at the time.
For the rest of the day and night, she did not think to call her biomom.

All evening I wrestled with breaking my vow to take care of myself and REMINDING Cinderella to make the call.
Or of reminding Prince Charming to remind her.
I felt guilty all night. And then angry for allowing myself to feel so guilty.
I was getting sucked back in and I didn't like it.
For as much as I trying my best at self-preservation, I can't help but feel I am also doing us a great disservice.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Have You Ever Been Told...

... that your stepchildren look *just* like you?

Cinderella has your eyes.
Oh I could tell you were here for Cinderella. She looks just like you!

You must be Cinderella's Mom. You and she have the same coloring.

It cracks me up that people will see what they want to see with our children.
People who DON'T know that there is no biological relationship between us and just assume, by very presence, that there MUST be.
Secretly, I like it. Not just because they unknowingly STICK IT to Maleficent, but also because it reaffirms my efforts at creating a unified home, free from the toxic mine-VS-yours, us-VS-them, step VS bio VS half attitudes.
Others don't see it.
And I LOVE that.
All they see is a family.
Parents and children.

As it should be.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Where is MY Oscar Nomination?

So, is that Cinderella's mother?
And... are you... OK with that?

I stared at the teacher blankly for a minute, standing in the middle of drama rehearsals as I watched Cinderella walk out with Maleficent (and Diablo) for her evening visitation.
The only audible sounds were those of my eyelids as I blinked HEAVILY in disbelief over the question and EXCITEDLY over the miriad of responses that were flooding my mind.
Was this woman SERIOUSLY asking me if I was OK with the fact that Maleficent was Cinderella's mother???
Of course not, but OHMYGOD if only I could answer that question honestly FOR ONCE.

Then I looked around for Allen Funt 'cuz clearly this was some kind of JOKE or TEST and there MUST be someone waiting in the wings ready to present me with a BIG HONKING GOLD MEDAL for exercizing self-restraint and not launching into a diatribe over my TRUE feelings about this woman... this so-called "mother" of my stepdaughter.

There were no medals, no golden statues, no rounds of applause.
Just my own self-satisfaction for being an adult and following the advice of my own personal hero, Thumper:

If you can't say something nice... don't say nothin' at all.

Watch Our Mario Andretti

Hansel entered his FIRST car for his FIRST Pinewood Derby!
Do you like the graphics? Hansel did them all by himself (with a little help from Prince Charming).
His race is this Sunday. Wish him luck!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Steps Towards Stepping BACK

Last week's dread was yet another waste of my energy.
Visitation pick up time came and went. Maleficent did not come to the house. Did not call.
There was no confrontation.
Prince Charming had taken care of letting her know Cinderella would be at drama rehearsals so was to be picked up at school instead of home.
Of course I had to scold him a bit.
"It would have been nice if you told me that so I didn't spend half of the day worrying."
Of course I also realize that's not his problem.
It's mine.
And I did say that I needed to step back and NOT be involved so he was only abiding by my wishes.
He reassured me by saying Maleficent responded to say she already had the schedule and so she knew where and when to pick up Cinderella during her visitation days.
(Kudos to her for getting the info herself even if it did mean harassing Cindy's drama teacher in email. At least it wasn't ME.)
I spent the rest of the week trying NOT to think about custody, visitation or pending court dates (no, a date has NOT been set and no one has been notified).
I was able to enjoy time with the kids and my family ... for the MOST part.
Old habits die hard. I have spent the last ten years playing this game of chess where I try to anticipate Maleficent's next move and do everything I can to launch preemptive strikes.
It's difficult to change my mind set. But I am trying.
And am having small successes.

For example...
Cinderella's rehearsal schedule has been updated. She came home with a new schedule last Thursday but FORGOT to grab an extra copy for Maleficent.
AND... I did NOT rush to transcribe anything and email it to her, as I have been doing for the last year.
HOORAH! for me!!!!!
When Cinderella came home from her visitation she told me how Maleficent was "up her butt" all weekend about getting HER a new copy of the schedule and not to forget to call her Tuesday (yesterday) to let her know what her schedule was for Wednesday (today).
The poor kid was stressed and a little perturbed at her Mom for hounding her.
AND... I did NOT rush to transcribe anything or try to FIX anything!!!!
I let Cindy talk. I listened, empathized and then we MOVED ON to another subject.
Of course she forgot to grab her Mom a new schedule after yesterday's rehearsal and was stressing about it last night.
Mommy's going to be so mad.
I gave her the same advice I (and my thoughtful readers) have given myself:
"It's not your job to keep your Mother informed of that stuff. She is a grown-up and can take care of herself. She knows that she can call and get that information if she wants."
Yeah but she will never call you. Once she makes up her mind about someone she will NEVER change it no matter what you do or how nice you are.
"Then that's her choice. We can't worry about that. Mom will figure out where you are one way or another. Don't worry about it."

I do not know if Maleficent will come to our home today to pick up Cinderella.
And right now I do not care.
I am not worried.
I will not hide. I will not avoid the phone. I am a grown up and can handle a simple conversation which requires nothing more than a statement of facts:
"Hi. Cinderella is at rehearsals until 5:30. You can pick her up at the school. Thanks. Bye."

I will also BE AT rehearsals tonight (ONLY because my help is needed). So if Maleficent does NOT show up, Cinderella will not be stranded and she will have ME to bring her home.

Maybe between the two of us, we can create enough a support system to keep Maleficent's poison from seeping into our home.

Casting Call: Reality Show on Stepparenting

Please read the following from Pie Town Productions (the makers of "A Baby Story" on TLC):

Established non-fiction production company is casting all over the country for an OUTGOING, FUN family to be featured in their own series. Think "Jon & Kate Plus Eight..." We are looking for women about to transition from fabulous and single to STEPPARENT. Are you about to become an instant family? Are you a bit overwhelmed about the idea? We'd like to hear your story! This is a positive, upbeat show that parents of all types (step or otherwise) can relate to! To find out more information about the company and what we're looking for, please contact Ally at - please put "Instant Family!" in the subject line.

To see and learn more about Pie Town Productions, visit their website.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Moment of Clarity... and Dread

I'm a care taker.
I am inexplicably drawn to people in crisis.
Their problems become MY problems and I become hopelessly devoted to helping them through their crisis.
It's what initially drew me to Prince Charming.
And is what has caused me to spend the last several years trying to appease Maleficent.
"If I were in her shoes" became my mantra.
I became obsessed with tending to Maleficent's volatile emotional state desperately trying to keep her happy.
If she is happy then we ALL will be happy, is what I thought.
It seemed a logical assumption.
In my newly elected role, it became my job to act as Prince Charming's conscience. To make sure he did what was right by Cinderella's Mom. To help him overcome their past and go through the motions.
Urging him to call with her every bit of news that *I* felt she might want to know.
Be a team player. Do what we can to make this co-parenting situation a success. Make her feel as if she is part of the process so she feels less threatened and combative.
If it appeared to not be working then we weren't trying hard enough.
We've got to do more!
Eventually I took matters into my own hand and handled that side of communications.
If Cinderella had a routine doctor's appointment. I called Maleficent after wards to give her the update.
Homework assignments, drama rehearsal schedules, report cards all were copied, scanned or transcribed into email. No detail was too small for me.
Even the random birthday or first-day-of-school photos were happily shared.
If I were in her shoes, I'd want to know.
If I were in her shoes, I'd feel so isolated.
If I were in her shoes, I'd feel so humiliated, and embarrassed and resentful.
I put myself in her shoes every day and every day gave my ALL to make her feel less despondent and more a part of the process.
If I were in her shoes, *I'd* be grateful for all the effort that was being made by the custodial home.
The problem with being a care taker is it's exhausting. I eventually get tired of GIVING and of never RECEIVING anything in return.
The problem was... *I* was not in her shoes.
SHE was.
Maleficent's illness prevents her from GIVING back. From seeing things for what they really are.
From being appreciative for what we... no *I* was doing.

You cannot rationalize with an irrational person.
I've grown weary of trying to make things better FOR her and WITH her.
For in trying to do so, I have neglected my own family. She has drawn my attention away from taking care of my own, and of MYSELF.
I am working on taking a step back and LETTING GO.

Cinderella is starting rehearsals for her next drama production at school. Ordinarily, this would be the time when I would be transcribing her rehearsal schedule for Maleficent (mostly so she would know where to go to pick up Cinderella on her visitation days).
But I am not doing that anymore. It's now Prince Charming's responsibililty.
We've had the schedule for two days.
Today is Maleficent's visitation day. Cinderella is in rehearsals until 5:30 which means M needs to pick her at the school and NOT HERE.
I reminded Prince Charming of my need to step back. I told him I would NOT be taking care of sending the schedule to his ex.
And here I sit, hoping he's remembered to handle this situation.
Knowing that if he hasn't, she will not have her moment of clarity and realize all I have done to keep her informed and involved.
Oh, NO.
I feel like turning off the lights and shutting off the phone just so I can avoid all contact with her.
And that pisses me off.

Oh yeah, and just to add fuel to the fire, Prince Charming filed violation papers last week. Among other things, he is looking to change the visitation schedule in light of Cinderella's recent confessions (surpervised if not an immediate STOP until Maleficent starts seeking appropriate treatment). So we also sit waiting for a court date to be set and for Maleficent to be notified. That should be any day now. Maleficent has no idea this is coming.

Our fairy tale is turning into quite the page turner.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Could Write a Book.

I could have written an entire post about how at Cinderella's recent drama club performance (in which we were seated directly OPPOSITE Maleficent and Diablo) we spent half of the performance shielding hateful glares, stares and smirks.

I could have written a tome on how Maleficent has been instigating stressful situations only to hide behind some ridiculous doctor's note saying that it's not good for her health to be stressed (which translates into her ignoring phone calls and emails ONCE AGAIN).

I could have rehashed the recent weeks in which Cinderella has suddenly found her voice and is beginning to speak out against her Mom telling us of the constant verbal abuse she suffers at Maleficent's and Diablo's hands whenever Prince Charming tries to uphold the custody agreement or establish communication of ANY kind.

I could tell you of how my heart aches for this poor child and how proud I am at the same time for the grace with which she is handling things all-the-while knowing of the pain she has yet to speak.

Or of how many times I have advocated, defended and empathized with a woman who vilifies me and makes assumptions based on her own insecurities; who calls my husband and I the most vile and hateful names IN FRONT OF and TO Cinderella.

Instead I wrote about a random incident in which it might appear as though I overreacted to Maleficent and perhaps treated her unfairly. I might have. And then again I might have been having a rational reaction after months of trying to be the BIGGER person.

I chose not to write about any of these. As much as writing can be therapeutic it can also be exhausting to have to relive these moments with Maleficent. So I chose to keep them to myself.

Instead of writing a book, I am trying to read a book.
This book.
Hoping it will offer some peace or sanity to what has become an almost unbearable situation.

I need to figure out a way of not letting Maleficent be MY problem.
I cannot control her but I can try to control my reaction to her.
I can focus on being the cure for Cinderella's pain while letting my husband deal with the cause.
I can stop advocating for her. She does not see or appreciate it anyway.

In making me the enemy, Maleficent has lost the only ally she had in this house.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Stepmom Strikes Back

Maleficent did not take too kindly to me calling her out on her choice to call Hansel & Gretel Cinderella's half-siblings. It was self-serving and intended to belittle our childrens' relationship with one another.
I criticized her for being so petty and accused her of being threatened by our ability to provide a loving family for Cinderella. I told her she was pathetic.
I told her that we had all grown weary of her and her bipolar issues and that she would one day soon regret her actions as of late.
She didn't like what I had to say. She didn't like it one bit:
I am so tired of you it isn't even funny. You have gotten way too big for your bridges!!! I don't and won't continue to explain to you about any conversations my daughter and I have. Prince Charming and I made Cinderella you were just a thought later. You seem to think Cinderella is YOUR daughter. I owe you NO explanation PERIOD! I don't want any more emails from you. The emails are between Prince Charming and I. Mind your own business. As far as I know Prince Charming is raising Cinderella (She is OUR child!!!!) I DO NOT want to here from you again. No more harrassing me.

I read her email and felt an immediate rush of adrenaline.
I might have even recited this prayer once or twice.
I was shocked (and secretly pleased) that I had managed to elicit a response from her. I obviously struck a nerve in some way.
Her anger was all over the place, her comments erratic and nonsensical. In fact I don't understand what half of her statements were supposed to mean or how she expected me to react to them.
"You were just a thought later."
Huh? Isn't that usually how it works? People get married, people get divorced, people move on. No?
I was not surprised to see the harassment accusation thrown in at the end. A single email can hardly qualify as harassment. But she is a coward. That's just how she rolls.
I resisted the urge to correct her typos, l'est my bridges get any bigger. ;)
But I did need to make one thing very clear to her:
Anything that affects my family, especially that which also affects Cinderella's brother and sister is my business. There is much more to parenting than simple biology, and I will never stop defending or standing up for what is right for the kids.
Prince Charming also came to my defense. He was infuriated by her behavior and her language.
He chose to call her, to let her know he was aware of this little exchange and that he felt as strongly about it as I did and that he did not like the way she was talking TO and talking ABOUT his wife. The mother of the home in which Cinderella lives.
He might also even have stated that I am more of a mother than she will EVER be.

There has been no further backlash. Maleficent is acting as though this never happened. No retorts. Certainly no apologies. Nothing more has been stated - verbally or in email.
She is happy in her land of make-believe and has mastered the art of avoidance.
I can learn something from her in that department.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

When BioKids Are Affected

"Hansel and Gretel are..."
My half-brother and sister.

We sat for a moment in stunned silence at the dinner table.
Prince Charming and myself. Hansel, Gretel, my Dad and Stepmom.
Cinderella's words hung overhead like a dark cloud.
It's been nearly three years since we've heard that phrase in our home.
And now it was back rearing it's ugly head.
And this time we had Maleficent to thank for it.
I shouldn't have been surprised what with the recent state of affairs and the downward spiral that's been taking place over the past several months.
I should have let it go. But the words hurt because our Little Ones were now being introduced to that term. I don't know if they understood what Cinderella said, but I am certain they heard it.
I don't want any of you to think differently, or LESS, of one another. And that label can be hurtful.
I know all about how labels can affect a relationship. I think most Stepmoms do.
It's bad enough when Maleficent's poison affects Cinderella , Prince Charming and me. It's worse when that also reaches to Hansel and Gretel.
I couldn't let it go.
I have spent the last ten years trying to advocate for this woman, empathize with her and she has slapped me in the face for the last time.
I had enough of turning the other cheek and of letting things go or let others handle her. Now she was talking about my biokids and trying to belittle Cinderella's relationship with them (and vice versa).
I fired off an email.
I might have called her out on her bipolar disorder.
I might even have referred to her being threatened of our family as pathetic.
I most definitely asked her to mind her business when it comes to Cinderella's relationship with her brother and sister and to let us handle that OUR WAY.

I also made the mistake of checking email during a holiday visit with my Dad and the even bigger mistake of reading her response to me.

To be continued...