Balancing Act

This week is sure to be another crazy balancing act in our house. Curtis and I both have extra work training to try and fit in this week, and there’s not a lot of compromise that can be done to work around it. It is what it is. But we’re communicating with each other and with my super understanding co-worker (thankfully) and I think we have it sorted out… in theory… knock on wood… standby and go…

We has to make some tough decisions about sports this week. Nolan and Reegan have baseball practice tonight and all 3 kids have soccer games. Curtis also has a baseball game and a soccer practice tomorrow. Allowing him to go to both games would require switching with his mom, but not for practices. Nolan hasn’t swung the bat once in 4 games. He’s done very well at the other aspects of his game, but he’s not swinging… he needs the practice. So does he go to both practices (ball tonight and soccer tomorrow), or is it more important to play both games (soccer tonight and ball tomorrow)? (Hard to follow? …Yeah, for me, too) Sigh… Well, he wants to play the games (what kid doesn’t?) so we had to make that tough call. We did end up deciding to let him go to the games. Reegan’s coach had said ball practice would be cancelled tonight, too. It wasn’t, but we had already told their mom, so all 3 kids will go with their mom to soccer tonight. The only good thing about this is that it will let Curtis visit his dad in the hospital. It does allow us to fit that one important thing into our week. We can’t both go, but we’ll take the wins where we can get them.

Tuesday, I have all-day training, and I have to go into work early and stay late. Both Reegan and Nolan play at 6:30 in town so Curtis might have to do that on his own. I’ll meet him there when I can. Then he has ball Tuesday night. Wednesday, more all-day training for me, same deal, and then Reegan has ball again and Curtis has training at 7 so I have to be home for that. Thursday is the last day of school and Curtis has ball. Somewhere in there, we have to pack for our trip to Ottawa on the weekend and just do regular life stuff. I’m tired already.

I’m just hoping we can stick together through all of this. It was a rough weekend. We have trouble finding the balance we need when his sister is visiting. There’s no middle ground, it seems. It all has to be his way. His sister may have the run of our house when she’s here and I am not supposed to feel uncomfortable or anxious about it because that’s how his family does things. I find the whole thing wholly unfair and that in itself makes me feel anxious and he doesn’t deal very well with my anxiety…so we argue. It’s an exhausting downward spiral. When we stick together and work together and respect each other (because I’m not devoid of blame for the arguing on the weekend), we can accomplish so much. So here’s to balance. And baseball. And family. And wine… because sometimes, wine is the answer.

I also wanted to share a moment of appreciation I had for my boys (yes, I just called them my boys). I have started walking in the evening with a neighbour and she was telling me that when her husband goes out for the evening, her step-daughter goes to her mother’s. She will never stay with my neighbour. She even chose to walk in the rain to the bus, rather than take a ride from her step-mom. My neighbour never takes her step-daughter to sports or just has one-on-one time, and that made me sad for her. She’s fine with it, she has two girls of her own to be an amazing mother to, but I still felt sad. She is one of the nicest, most generous people I know. I would be devastated if the boys did that to me (and her husband would be devastated if her girls did that to him). The boys would always choose their father, and I’m (mostly) ok with that. Even Reegan, who is usually ok with me, clung to his dad yesterday. And that’s ok. I still got to be there with the team and write the recap and be a part of their lives. That feels like a step-parenting win. So, here’s to my boys…

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Reegan’s ball team waiting for Team Pictures

 

 

Put On Your Big Girl Panties

Our life is never dull. Never. I booked a chiropractor appointment thinking that Reegan didn’t have ball tonight. But he did. And I had exactly enough time to get there if my chiropractor was on time. So I went early to pay before. And she was late, and mildly annoyed that I had to run, and says I need a massage because my shoulders are crazy tense. Worse than usual. Sigh… who has the time…

So I get home and I had asked Curtis to leave the car seat and all Reegan’s ball stuff in the garage. I saw his ball bag and shoes (separately). No uniform, no car seat. Turns out he didn’t leave the car seat and I had to borrow one from a neighbour. Uniform was in the house. He feels really bad. I’m over it now, but I was pretty stressed. I can feel it in my newly-adjusted shoulders. 

On the plus side, it took my mind off the fact that I was picking up one of the kids at Kim’s for the first time. She had once said that I wasn’t allowed to pick the kids up but since then her husband has been picking up Nolan so.. well, time to put my big girl panties on. She terrifies me. I’m afraid of her volatility when I’m there, and the aftermath when I’m not. The whole thing made me really anxious, but I mostly forgot. So… take the win. 

When I got to her house, she was outside with the boys and hightailed it out of there when I got there. I guess we’re still pretending I don’t exist. Well, it’s better than her volatility. Taitum came right over and gave me a hug. That seriously made my day. He even showed me his snails. Reegan was happy enough to go to practice, although he wanted to sit in the front seat and didn’t like Tao’s seat. (Side note: I suspect they let him sit in the front, even though he’s too young (and too small). I’m not sure if I’ll tell Curtis. There’s nothing we can actually do about it and it’ll stress him out.)

So we’re at ball. And I think he’s disappointed that it’s a practice and not a game and didn’t want to wear any of his ball stuff. And that’s ok. We’re here. Without drama (that I know of… she still might take it out on Curtis). Right now, we’re not those parents who have say that they’ll only be there half the time. So if he wants to be the only kid not in uniform because it’s only a practice, that’s ok. We’re winning.


Can you spot him? 

Dealing with parental envy

I always thought it would be the boys mom that I would be jealous of. They adore her and I know I will just never be their mom. And I’m ok with that. I think I have a pretty healthy view of what my role in their life is.

Today, it’s Curtis I’m jealous of. I would never begrudge him a close relationship with his kids. I love how much his kids adore him. And he deserves it because he is a great father. I wish he could see how much they love him. 

While I think the kids all like me well enough (most of the time, anyway), I’ve really only developed a palpable bond with one of them. Reegan (7) wants me to read to him. So every night I read to him. It started because Curtis always fell asleep while reading to him but it became our little thing. Until tonight. Curtis has been asking Reegan for a little while to read to him and Reegan finally agreed. So out I go. Taitum only wants Daddy and Nolan gets both of us. I feel like he crushed the one parenting win I had. I have spent two and a half years trying to build that bond. That was our thing, and now it’s not. Not that the bond is gone, it still exists, of course. But he won, he gets to have that, too. I’m hurt and I’m sad and I’m full of envy. It’s one of those moments where it’s very apparent that I’m not a real parent.

Stepmom Wins

I am getting more involved with the kids stuff. I am (with Curtis’ help) the person who does the write-ups for Reegan’s ballgames. And so far, they’re being very well-received and we’re having fun writing them. (Here’s the link if anyone is interested in learning about how Reegan’s team played: https://mitchellminorbaseball.com/Teams/1143/). So my friend Meghan (Coach’s wife) and I were without our other halves yesterday and we drove up with the kids together to the game. At one point, the kids on the team wanted to practice hitting so I grabbed the pole for them to practice. Reegan took a while to notice and when he wanted another turn, the reason he gave that he got to go ahead of Sean was ‘that’s my mom’. Now, that’s a complicated thing… I’m actually not trying to be his mom, I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to replace Kim. And if he calls me his mom, that must mean he calls his step-dad his dad (and that will break Curtis’ heart). That being said, my heart melted a little and I let him take an extra swing before letting Sean have his rightful turn. Because… well…

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Here’s Reegan looking very much like his dad in this picture. I always thought he looked the most like his mom, but he’s so much like his dad, it’s a little uncanny at times.

So… remember the thing about Kim taking my mother’s day present… well, on the above-mentioned topic… We got an email today asking for frames for Reegan’s class’s Father’s Day Gifts. And the teacher specifically said that if any kid has two Father’s to send two frames to school. So let’s unpack that… That means she complained. I’m not sure about what, exactly, given that she got the gift with no fight from us… but those words are almost identical to the words that Reegan used. But that also means that no one seems to be questioning the validity of me getting a Mother’s Day gift. What the what? Is Kim not questioning it because she wants a Father’s Day gift for Mike? And Reegan and the teacher… So is she recognizing that he gave it to me? All of this feels a little much for me to process… but somewhere in there is a great, big, stepmom win.

 

Too Good to be True

Well, we knew it wouldn’t last. She needs money and if her favourite ATM won’t give it to her, she’s going to stop letting the kids go to sports until she gets what she wants. She sent her message through Nolan last night. He’s 10 and said to Curtis that ‘Mom said you owe her money and she’s going to stop the sports thing if you don’t pay her tomorrow.’ The thing is… we don’t actually owe her money. She wants more in child support and, technically, she has to go to court to get that. She’s threatening court now, and we might beat her to the punch after how she’s crossed the line. We put this verbiage in the agreement about how the parent will not have adult conversations with the kids or use the kids to communicate a parenting issue, but she just ignores the agreement. I can’t even imagine the effect this is having on Nolan. The very thought makes me feel sick. How can she be ok with putting that poor kid in the middle of this? Just let him be a kid. Don’t punish him to get a couple hundred dollars from your ex. It makes my heart hurt so much. I had no idea. He didn’t say anything to me. I shared my prize for the hat he helped me make (for the contest at my recital)… I let him stay up to watch his hockey team in the playoffs… he made his own strawberries… I thought he was good, but Curtis said it was like he was waiting to tell him, said he wanted him to know. It all makes me sad. I’m hoping it means he understands how much it means to Curtis for the kids to go to sports and how hard he tries… it all sucks…

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The award-winning hat that Nolan helped me make.

So here’s the thing… how can we protect them if she ignores a court order? How can even a judge enforce that if she just doesn’t care what it says? She ignores it all… She ignores the fact that is clearly states that sports are an outstanding issue and tries to bully us into doing it her way, she ignores the fact that she can’t change doctor’s appointments without Curtis’ permission, she ignores the fact that he’s allowed to talk to doctors and goes so far as to remove his name from the kids’ files, she ignores the fact that she’s supposed to turn over the kids birth certificates and the fact that she’s not supposed to bad mouth him to the kids, she takes the kids to the US without telling him… and she’s ignoring the fact that the agreement does not call for them to review child support every year, it just says that this is the amount to be paid. Well, the agreement is about as good as toilet paper as she will continue to do what she wants, no matter the damage done to those kids. So what are we to do? We’ve said we’re ready to go to court… but what can a judge do? Can someone make her do the right thing, or just obey the court order? We’ve been afraid of the emotional cost paid by the kids as she tries to exact her revenge on Curtis, but she’s already doing it… How do we know when the good outweighs the bad? Curtis is so angry at her right now, he’s ready to take a stand. We are ready to take a stand.

A Step-mom Navigating Mother’s Day

This really felt like my first Mother’s Day. When I got home from work on Friday, Reegan gave me a gift he made for me at school. When I booked lunch for my mom, he told me to say there were two mothers, and when he planned a Mother’s Day meal with his mom, he meant that to be for me, too. We ended up arguing about it and that’s how I found out, but certainly the intention is there. I really didn’t understand that they would celebrate me… a step-mom is its own unique thing and I know I’m not their mom, I know my role is unique. My gift from Reegan

The kids woke me up this morning with home-made cards, and I love them. Can I wake up that way every day? Lol.


Today, the boys went to be with their mom, as they should. Reegan ran back into the house so he could show his mom the gift he gave me. He ran back to find his coat, without the gift. When Curtis asked him, he said his teacher didn’t know he needed two. She kept it. Part of me feels bad for her, how awful to find out that your son gave your Mother’s Day gift to his step-mom, and part of me is furious at her for putting him in the middle. Of course I’m sad, that was my first Mother’s Day gift, I was going to hang that baby in a place of honour. I was so proud of it… poor kid must have felt so awkward. Curtis said he took it out of his backpack and said he made it for me. It must be hard to be a kid with two families. 

I worry about what she is going to say, I worry about the fight we caused. Will she stop taking the kids to sports, will she keep all of Curtis’ Father’s Day gifts for her husband? Will she make us out to be the a-holes who stole her gift? Or will the taking of the gift and what it represents be enough? 

I am not their mother. I am my own special person in their life. I am secure enough in myself as a person and in my role in their life to understand that. And to feel bad for everyone involved in this – her, Reegan, Curtis for having to see that, myself. Shared custody is a hard thing for everyone. And on the other hand… that woman stole my first Mother’s Day gift. 

A big week, even when our life is never dull

It was a big week in our house. I have zero idea what prompted the change… but BM let the kids go to baseball this week on her days and took them to soccer on her days. O.M.F.G. WOOOOOO! Curtis thinks she wants something, his mom thinks she needs a break from the boys, I wonder if she knows we were planning to take them to soccer and this was the way to stop us… who knows the reason. In that way, it was a great week. I’m making friends with the other moms and not being treated as the “step-mom”. It’s good.

In less good news, rumour has it that BM is moving the next street over from us. Neither Curtis, nor I, are comfortable with that proximity (he’s ready to move right now), but I’m willing to give it a chance, because in some ways it would be so good if it could work. They’d be close enough that the kids could always play with their friends. That itself gives me the willies because we’re friends with their parents and that’ll be weird… but his cousin sometimes comes over and plays and we make that work… I’m trying to be positive. In a ‘get your own darn life’ way. I’m just shocked. She is so insistent that we have separate lives, why on earth would she want to live a 2-minute walk from us? Our life is never boring. that is for sure. There are other concerns… I’m not sure how they can afford that house, given that’s it’s way more than ours was and I’m pretty sure we make more than they do (but that’s not my business). The only real concern I have is that BM is going around laughing about how she is going to take us for more money when she’s on mat leave. I don’t want to pay her giant mortgage at the expense of being able to afford our own house. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

So… it’s Mother’s Day… I should have been announcing my pregnancy this weekend. Instead, a very good friend of mine just told me she’s 6 weeks along (SO HAPPY FOR HER!)… But that makes me a bit sad. And my sister-in-law is down, which always stresses me out. Work is really stressful, and I’m still crazy exhausted as my body recovers from the miscarriage. This has led to some arguments, which reminded me that Curtis is a real jerk when in an argument. In a very weird way, some good came from it. In the way he hurled at me the fact that Nolan called me his step-mom specifically to hurt me, he both referred to the fact that we are going to try for another child and the fact that they kids have Mother’s Day plans totally in ways to make me feel like an a-hole. It worked, I feel like an a-hole… and I’m also angry he used those against me… but there is good there.

I feel so tired and emotional and I’m not sure how much of it is the miscarriage and how much is just how freaking busy we are or even how much is “Mother’s Day” when you’re a step-mom and not a mother. It’s funny, it’s only me who is acting like I’m not a mom. His mom, the kids, Curtis, they all act like I’m a mom (of some kind, anyway). He even said that he wasn’t sure why I felt like I wasn’t a mom. When they asked me how many mothers for the brunch we’re going to, he told me to say 2… I guess it’s only me who doesn’t feel like one. Even my chiropractor gave me Mother’s Day flowers. I mean, I’m sure my own mother doesn’t think I am. On the other hand… I’m tired, overwhelmed, and all I want for Mother’s Day is to get some sleep (so in that way I feel like a mom), but when they have a real mom… I dunno. Something for me to work on, I guess. We all need things to work on.

A post about loss

This post is about infant loss and may be TMI for some people, but I hope it can help even one person not feel alone. 

When I realized I missed my period, I was terrified. Curtis wasn’t entirely on board with the idea of more kids, although we had made progress on that front. I picked up a pregnancy test and I finally told him that I was late and he took it really well. The test was positive and he could not have been more lovely about it. I was over the moon. We were so happy, it felt like the answer. I felt pregnant, but wasn’t too sick. It was a wonderful time for us. We were planning for our family, all of our family. 
About 6 weeks in, I had some spotting so my doctor told me to come in and have an ultrasound. The spotting was over before I even had the ultrasound. About a week later, my doctor called and said they couldn’t find a heartbeat, I had to have another ultrasound. He called me with those results and told me it was an unviable pregnancy. My baby stopped growing at 6 weeks, 4 days and had no heartbeat. He told me it could take a few weeks but my body would probably work it out on its own. He told me it was best for my body and for trying again if it did it on its own.

And so began one of the hardest two week periods I have even been through. My vision of our happy family was gone with our baby. 

The morning after I found out about our baby, I went to NYC with two of my friends. I wasn’t sure I was going to tell them because I didn’t want to ruin the weekend. They were also supportive and lovely. And it was a bit of a damper on the trip, I noticed I was tired and not myself. I barely took any pictures. I had some red spotting and walked around terrified, waiting for my uterus to explode. It didn’t. But everywhere we went, I had an exit strategy, where was the bathroom, where were my pads and wipes, where were my friends… I had a pad for the bed and my travel medical card and googled hospitals… it was stressful.

When I got back, I took a day off. I was convinced it would happen. It didn’t. So I went back to work, stocked with pads and wipes. At every little thing I went to the ladies room… was that a cramp or just gas, did I feel something? Am I bleeding? I wasn’t. It was pretty gross, but always a false alarm. So we kept going, family parties, baseball games, where’s the bathroom, do I have my pads and wipes, is this starting, will I be bleeding, will I need to go to the hospital, what’s my exit plan? Wash, rinse, repeat. Every day. Everywhere we went. For two weeks. 

I saw Curtis’ therapist because infant loss is something she deals with. It was nice to have someone listen and explain some things to me. I also hope it will help her understand us better so she can keep helping him. Eventually I stopped feeling pregnant, which was a blessing and a curse. I trying to move on, but still no miscarriage.

I did all the things you’re not supposed to do when pregnant or at risk for miscarriage. Exercise, wine, anti-inflammatories, hot yoga, cinnamon… no miscarriage.

I had what was supposed to be my “1st Prenatal appointment” and my doctor sent me for one more ultrasound so they could determine what to do. I had mostly come to terms with what had happened. I know it’s not my fault, I know that Curtis has an increased risk. I understand all of that. I just really needed it to be done. I couldn’t move on. I carried the burden of my morbid dead baby any longer. I was stressed and scared all the time. I was constantly worried about it happening at a bad time. I was just stuck. Half pregnant with a dead baby. It was awful.

I went for my ultrasound and, surprisingly, he told me that it hadn’t passed. I mean, I knew that, but I was surprised and relieved he would tell me that. He did an internal ultrasound to get a better look and by the time I got home, I was definitely cramping. I made dinner and by the time we got home from baseball, it was much worse. We read to the kids and I grabbed a heating pad. The cramps were bad, but not as bad as I expected. I had heard horror stories. Some increased spotting, but still nothing.

At 3:30 this morning, I woke up, and ran to the bathroom. It came. I felt it when it passed. I felt something leave my uterus. It was weird. And then… I just felt better. The full feeling in my stomach passed. The cramps stopped. And I felt sad. Surprisingly sad. Like maybe there had been the smallest chance it would have been ok, even though I knew it wasn’t. 

I took the day off today. I’m ok. I’m sad, but I’m ok. Before we got the results of my 2nd ultrasound I asked Curtis if my pregnancy made him feel any differently about having kids with me. Despite how great he was about everything, he said no, he was still not saying no, but not saying yes to trying again. Before I left for NYC, he stopped me and hugged me and said we could try again. And that has helped me get through this. If you have followed me, you know that is something we struggled with. This was not our fault, and there’s no reason we can’t try again, now that this is finally over. And maybe something wonderful came out something so difficult. We are going to be ok. I put the kids on the bus this morning and I’ll be here when they get home. I still have my family, and we’ll try again for a baby. If it doesn’t happen for us, I can live with that, as long as we try and are in this together. We will be ok. 

If I learned anything, it’s that I don’t need to be so afraid… except maybe of the internal ultrasound because that was finally the straw. You can be completely careful and these things can happen and you can do all the things you’re not supposed to and it still won’t happen until it’s good and ready. 

We Step-Moms Have to Stick Together

I joined a few “Step-Mom” groups on Facebook and that’s been really nice for me. While I agree with one particular poster that sometimes it’s a little too sunshine and rainbows for those of us in the trenches, I find it really helpful to hear other step-moms with the same issues as me. Today one talked about feeling like an outsider and, while it’s MUCH better than it was, I still can’t help but feel like that sometimes. Especially when you want to be a mother yourself, as she said. So true. On the other hand, it’s also nice not to wallow in the mud. Nothing good comes out of dwelling on negative feelings.

Our situation hasn’t changed, really. BM (as they call her) is her awesome, cheerful self, demanding money and not compromising with sports. We still haven’t heard back from our lawyer (which is definitely frustrating) so the worst of that is still to come… stressful times. We are also pretty sure our child support offset payment is going up so we have to figure out how to pay for that. My father-in-law is still in the hospital after complications from his kidney transplant and that’s really brought our family together. For the most part, I’ve managed to keep any petty feelings at bay. It’s been good for us. My back went up when his sister started asking for pictures again (which I HATE), but I’m going to send it today. Other than that, it’s been good. Curtis has been lovely and supportive and things are better as we go through a lot together. I’m really hopeful that we have turned a corner and things will be good for us. Karma has to have our back eventually, right?

My favourite part of the weekend was when I found an app that lets you photoshop the Easter Bunny into a photo. I added him to a photo of our kitchen and then sent it to Nolan (SS10) – I should probably go back and make all of these without names – saying that he “stole Katrina’s phone”. The boys were really excited about that, although Taitum was surprised the Easter Bunny was so big, he thought he was little. It was a fun Easter with the kids, for sure. I already miss them since they’re with their mother today. With everything going on, I wish they were there today.

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Off to NYC in a couple of days with friends for a much-needed getaway. I’m wishing a little now I had chosen a trip with Curtis instead of the girls, but I couldn’t have known where we would be now. Just have to enjoy the time, enjoy the friendship, enjoy the theatre… And breathe.

 

It’s Family First and Family Last and Family By-and-By

It’s been an eventful few weeks in our house, being topped off this weekend with Curtis’ dad getting the call for his kidney transplant. It was already a crazy, crazy weekend. Another two hockey tournaments (one B winner and one A runner-up) and a practice, the fireman’s breakfast, two hockey parties, laundry, taking the ice rink down, taking the Christmas light down, grocery shopping, plus we brought our dog to his new home (all on top of Curtis being on call). When we got the call, we finished Nolan’s hockey game and arranged for the kids to stay at the neighbour’s house for a sleepover, got coverage for Curtis’ on-call shift, and off to the hospital we went. His sister came the next day to stay the night. I’m happy to say that the surgery went well, and Gary is recovering very well. We made cards for him to put up in his room and brought the kids to see him last night (with a stop at the movies after to see the movie that Reegan wanted to see this weekend). Actually, we got it all done except taking the kids to see Curtis play hockey on Sunday morning. It amazes me how much we can accomplish together. I always get the impression that they don’t have the crazy runaround life with their mom and I sometimes wonder which they prefer. I never ask, but I wonder. Do they like all the stuff we do?

Normally, that much family stuff stresses me out. I’ve been super snappy about Easter with my mom because it’s so hard for me to deal with. And my mom is really hard for me to deal with. And I have to admit I had my (internal) catty moments, but fewer than I expected. I have a lot of my own stuff going on now , but we really managed to pull together. That’s the thing about family, you come together when things get rough. I may have warped feelings on family sometimes, but that’s what you do. What’s funny to me is how his family keeps thanking me… I don’t need a thank you, that’s just what you do. Gary is family so there was no question where’d we be. It’s one of those things that makes you see how they really don’t see me as family.

The highlight of my weekend was my bonding time with Reegan. I wouldn’t say he’s my favourite, but we have our own special relationship. It causes me problems when we go grocery shopping because I always buy too much because of him, but it means a lot to me. Worth the sunglasses he talked us into. lol. He even came home in the car with me last night after the movie. These little moments are the things that makes everything worth it. He chose to come with me. All the stuff with their mom (and with her mom this weekend, apparently it’s genetic), all the craziness… it’s all worth it, when Reegan asks me to read to him.

No kids tonight… off to the gym. Gotta find a way to keep up with them somehow 😉