The Struggle Is Real

I took a day off today. I struggle with anxiety on the best days and, for the most part, I think I do pretty well. This past week pushed me past my limit. I was on the verge of tears for days. I went for a run last week and was crying when I started and felt lighter, happier, the further I got away from my house. When I rounded the corner to go back up my street, I started to cry again. There was no one home, but getting back to our house was too much for me. So I sat on the corner and cried. I decided I needed a day for me. And Curtis doesn’t understand. I know it hurts him to know I need time for myself. Real parents don’t get time off. He doesn’t get it to the point where he asked me to make him lunch so he can come eat with me. It’s lovely that he chose to come home and spend lunch with me, and I started crying because all I want is for one day to not be beholden to anyone. I even took off my Fitbit to not have to worry about steps. I just want to be alone, on my own time, on my own terms for a few hours. And he admitted he wasn’t sure if he should, and I thanked him for wanting to spend it with me. But I really wanted to just be me. No one’s partner, no one’s parent… just me.

I was in such a state, I was going to skip Reegan’s hockey practice. I was actively planning to not be home when he came to get Reegan’s hockey gear. I wanted to be alone. I’m not sure if it was from watching too many episodes of This Is Us, or if it was the exercise I did, or if choosing to miss Reegan’s practice was a step too far for me, but I strapped on my Fitbit and running shoes and chose to walk to the arena instead of missing out. I walked home, too. And stopped to enjoy the view. And I feel a bit better, not all better, but ready to face this week’s hurdles. And I will take that small victory. 

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Our Summer

After my last post, I decided to post something a little more positive. I’m a little behind, but it’s a good problem to have to be too busy to write blog posts. I am actively trying to live in the moment and not document every little thing, lest I miss something by staring through a lens.

We had a great summer. I had really high expectations for the summer, and it didn’t work out to be quite as fun as I thought it would be, but it was a really wonderful summer. I try not to get hung up on my expectations, but it’s hard when things don’t go as you planned. As one of my favourite singers said, “Expectations are the killer of the good sometimes”, and it’s so true.

We didn’t do much without the kids, although we did manage to take a trip to Ottawa to see my brother and celebrate Canada 150. The celebrations themselves were a letdown, as was my mother, but Curtis got to meet some of the family members I hold the most dear.

The rest of the summer was filled with ball, ball, and more ball. 5 tournaments, plus regular games. We did have more success with the kids going as we could make a deal for soccer with their mom. It felt like progress. The boys improved so much this year, I am so proud of them. One of the coaches even said that he wants Reegan to come out for the Tier 1 team next year (provided he can come to all the games), so that’s a really big deal. All his friends will be on that team. It’s a long way away, but fingers crossed we can make it happen. We just have to think positively.

IMG_3375Notice the little monkey in the background. Best photobomb from Taitum!

We took one trip as a family to my family cottage. As with any family property, there are politics and rules, but we had a great time there with my aunt and uncle and even my mom. The boys are even excited to go back next year and have already requested my brother come with us. It really warms my heart that the boys like the cottage. That’s my favourite place in the world and it was really great to spend my birthday up there with my family. I got a family breakfast and a family pic by the lake so it was a pretty good day. We may have the opportunity to own a piece of the cottage property through my mom’s inheritance and we really want to find a way to manage that financially. I want to give the boys the kind of summers I had.

IMG_3617My birthday present 🙂

Curtis and I both had a friend get married this summer – funny, though, it was HIS friends who kept asking us when we were getting married. It’s a bit of a touchy subject. I tried to make a joke about it once, and it didn’t go over well and I just ended up feeling bad about the fact that he doesn’t seem to care if we get married. I care. I definitely still deal with feeling like an outsider… most of the time, and it would really help if he would actually make me a part of his family, part of the kids family. I want to make a sign for our ice rink and I stress about what to call our family. Do I call us by his last name (even though I don’t have his last name and that is painfully, acutely clear to me)? Do I hyphenate the last name? It’s awkward. I think I’m going to avoid last names entirely. I know, though, he won’t do anything until he’s good and ready. Of course, we tried to pack too many things into those days and we had last-minute babysitter drama, but the weddings were lots of fun. I’m glad we made it work to go. It rained both days and, of course, they were both on nights when we had the kids, but we still managed to get all dolled up and go and have a great time. Definite wins.

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Taitum had his first real birthday party with friends this year, which was pretty cool. His mom had just had her baby so she didn’t do a party for him this year so we didn’t have to worry about who was inviting which kids. We did a fireman-themed birthday party so it was really cost-effective, too. We took them to the fire hall and they got to see the trucks and try on Curtis’ gear. We also took them swimming and had a fire-themed obstacle course in our backyard and cake and lunch… I think we’ll try taking it easier next year! It was fun (and easy) to have a party in the summer for once, though! What’s important is that he had a great time.

IMG_3869That face! Look how happy he is.

Curtis and I both have birthdays in the summer and we decided to not buy gifts for each other, just to spend it on our trip. We wanted to take the boys to Chicago to see the Jays play, but that didn’t work out financially, so we ended up at the indoor waterpark in Niagara Falls. The boys’ choice. I wanted to do Wonderland, because that’s what I did growing up, but they were more excited about the waterpark. (Their mom ended up taking them to Wonderland, where they had a great time, which irked me to no end, but they had such a great time with us, it’s hard to feel bad about the choice).

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The summer ended with the Fall Fair. As the summer progressed, we found that they probably had too much freedom because trying to get them back into a routine (even on our trip) was painful. (See my post about aliens stealing my step-kids). I was hopeful that we would have a drama-free fall as organizing that and back-to-school with their mom was (mostly) stress-free. So far, though, the fall has been pretty stressful as hockey will once again be a bone of contention. As we took Reegan into the arena this weekend, he said, “That was a QUICK summer”. That it was, Reegan, that it was.

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The Real Cost of the Ex-Wife

We all know the tales of the costs of divorce. Tens of thousands spent in lawyer fees. Especially for the good fathers out there, who the law does not favour one little bit, fighting for shared custody, fighting for equal rights in regards to their kids, fighting to enforce agreements, fighting what is best for them. We have spent a literal fortune fighting for those kids.

So, we all know that story and we all think we know the cost. But the cost of an ex-wife is so much more than just lawyer bills.

First, there’s the support payments. Even with 50/50 custody and her being remarried, we still pay his ex-wife $500 a month child support. She is currently on mat leave with her 4th child (with her new husband) and she is laughing to people about how much more we’ll have to pay next year because of her leave. And that’s money we don’t have. We will likely have to sell our house to pay her extra support to fund the mat leave for the baby she had with the man she cheated with and left Curtis for. The law is supposed to make it so that they kids have an equal life at both houses. She just bought a house worth way more than ours, she has tons of expendable income to buy them anything they want and take them on lavish vacations, where we scrimp and save and borrow just to give the kids something a little nice. We will have to sell our house to maintain her level of spending and she is laughing. How is that an equal life?

We could fight it, and incur more legal costs fighting it, and hope we can at least maintain the $500/month status quo, but the law doesn’t have a lot of grey to protect fathers in that way.

She tells the kids how much money we have and makes a big deal about buying them whatever they want, portraying us as the rich people who won’t buy them anything. They know they can have whatever they want at their mom’s. So we try our best to keep up in the ways that we can, the name-brand clothes they want, day trips.

We try to make up the difference as best we can with quality time and sports. We pay for all their sports and their sports equipment. She won’t let them go to sports on her time (because it’s more time with us), so we give up our quality time in recompense so she will let them go most of the time. We’ve already been told that one would be on a rep baseball team this year if we can get him there, so we are trying our best to find ways to make it happen. Those are costs no one figures. And their agreement says that there is no time to be given back, but what is agreed upon in court is not what happens in reality.

On top of the physical cost and the loss of time, there’s also the emotional cost. So much time and energy is spent fighting her, or worrying about what she’ll do and adjusting our behavior before it’s an issue. We drive different ways to avoid seeing her (which is hard since she just moved around the corner from us), we fold the “M” clothes separately so we can send them in her clothes on her days and make sure she gets them back, we keep an extra set of everything (shoes, hats, mitts, boots, snow suits) at our house in case she doesn’t send them since it is difficult to get these things from her, (as I mentioned) we give up our time with them so they can play sports-full time… and these are just a few. The worst is that we let her get away with bad behavior where we have the legal and moral high ground (such as meeting with the school and teachers behind Curtis’ back, not telling him about doctor’s appointments, changing doctor’s appointments deliberately to make it work for her and not work for Curtis, not telling us she was in the hospital over night, and so on) because we’re afraid of the consequences. She’s mean and a bully and she doesn’t seem to care about the effect that will have on the kids… so we have to. And the emotional toll is great. Curtis tries his best not to let it affect us, but that doesn’t always happen. So sometimes we fight about her or because of her… sometimes we let her win.

If it was just her, that would be one thing. The ex-in-laws are in town as well… they go between spreading rumours about Curtis to make his ex look better, to complaining about her behind her back, to trying to fight for the kids when it comes to sports, to supporting her so they don’t have family issues (going so far as to turn the kids’ heads so they don’t see us)… Her sister and her parents will sometimes act like nothing is wrong and chat away like we’re besties (umm… seriously?) and will sometimes act like we have the plague. The emotional costs are never ending. I personally find the whole lot of them – the ex, the ex-in-laws, the new husband – terribly stressful. For me, the ex pretends I’m not there. Literally acts like I don’t exist. It’s less aggressive than it used to be, though. She doesn’t glare at me before putting her nose in the air anymore, or deliberately turn her back to me… I’m just not there. And for the most part I’m ok with it because it’s one less stress to deal with.

There’s one further cost that affects only me. And probably because I let it. She makes me insecure. About myself as a parent, about how I look… I feel like I constantly live in her shadow. It’s not that I don’t understand my role as a step-parent, I completely do. It’s little things like how she is organized enough to beat us to doing things and dictate the terms of it all (sometimes because Curtis doesn’t get his butt in gear and I have to be able to live with that), or how she had a baby and was up and about and taking the kids on trips the next day, or the fact that she had a baby a month ago and she is already back to being half my size while I sweat my butt off and swear off carbs just to lose 1lb in that same month. She is putting the image of a super mom out there and while I know it’s not that simple, I’m buying what she’s selling. She makes me question my worth… and that is one of the biggest costs because it affects how I act (for better and worse). I am trying to be the best I can be, I am always trying to compensate and be a better (step)parent… but I am also letting her win and make me doubt myself and that’s not good for anyone.

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 😉

A New Perspective

I haven’t posted much lately. I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy when being a step-mom is such a great thing. Things with his ex are increasingly difficult and I don’t want this to be a daily rant on how I think his ex is a horrible person. That’s as unproductive as it is boring to read.

I had an interesting weekend, which, unfortunately, ended with me losing my patience with the kids. Our hockey weekend was pretty normal, 4 games and 2 practices. Taitum didn’t end up playing hockey because he was still sick. That was a tough choice because he REEEEEEALLLLLYY wanted to play. Curtis eventually had to tell him he got the week off because of his tournament because he was determined to play. (So much for the theory that they don’t like hockey). We all went to watch Nolan’s early-morning game and the ex’s sister was at the arena. She started talking to Reegan and said that her son was supposed to play Nolan’s team last week but Nolan wasn’t there. Reegan looked at her and said, ‘oh yeah, because we were with our mom’. This is her sister. I couldn’t hide the look on my face, so I’m glad she didn’t look at me. I wonder what she thought of that. We signed the kids up for summer sports and for hockey next year and I toed the company line. I never lied, but I expressed that we hope they’ll be able to play more than half the time and I also hope they’ll get the opportunity to play travel (which will be limited if they can’t make it every other week). I hope at least one person sees the truth of what is going on. And I hope that we can make it work so the kids can go.

Sunday Curtis was sick with the same illness that took down the kids. Really sick. Couldn’t get out of bed sick. I just want to express my appreciation for single parents, and for how well Curtis handled everything when I was out entire days for the show. I took all 3 kids to Reegan’s practice to give Curtis some peace and quiet. Now, I think I caused some of my own problems by telling them they could have a treat at the arena, but it got them in the car and us to the arena early. We were the first ones ready to go out on the ice and they were mostly pretty good while we were there. It all went downhill when Nolan bought chips and they had sharing issues. Then we went to get gravol for Curtis and they all wanted junk. When we got home, they all jumped out of the car, leaving all the hockey gear and such in the car, and it was the last straw, I lost my patience with them. I think it all ended up ok. I didn’t lose my mind on them or anything, but Curtis (in his sick state) was a little like ‘whoa… what just happened here’. He even managed to drag his sick butt upstairs and take the reins during bath time when they all climbed in the bathtub and it ended in tears. I appreciated his firm hand there.

You know… I got it all done. Laundry, dinner, lunches, hockey practice. I was completely wiped, but I got it all done. I realized, though, that I take for granted how hands-on Curtis is and how much he is able to handle on his own. Nothing but respect for all those single parents out there. I’ve glibly said that I would be able to do it, and I probably would if I had to, but I don’t know that I would fare so well with 3 kids as a single parent. I’m still exhausted today. It was an eye-opening weekend. I’m very grateful that Curtis is such a great, hands-on dad… and I will learn not to take single-parenting so lightly.

About This Weekend

It was an interesting weekend, full of ups and downs. First, it was my first show weekend as a step-parent and I’m not sure I nailed it. I stayed out late on Friday night with the director, Tina, and then I missed Nolan’s game in the morning. And he asked why I wasn’t there. Parent fail. I feel pretty crummy about it. Curtis was clearly upset with me, and so he should have been. I didn’t go because I was exhausted, and that was my own fault. I’ve never tried to balance both before, my show weekends have always been about me, about the show, and I need to do better. The show itself was excellent. The kids came on Saturday night and, for the most part, really liked it. Taitum fell asleep, but Nolan and Reegan liked it. I took Reegan up to the booth after and let Nolan and Reegan go on stage to check things out, which they seemed to enjoy. His sister and her husband were also down for the weekend and enjoyed it. And it was great because I was out for most of the weekend so I couldn’t get stressed by having houseguests. Cathy told me this morning that the kids talk about me “all of the time” to their mom. I guess they told Cathy that they told Kim they were going to see my show and her response was ‘don’t talk about her’. That was interesting for me. Kind of threw me off, really. I know they talk about her a little, but I didn’t really think about them talking about me. Or that she would say that. Or maybe that sounds exactly right.

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Nolan and Reegan sword-fighting backstage

I do think having kids and learning to change my approach has made me a better SM. I only had one person tell me that I was mean, and more may have thought it, but mostly I got really nice compliments. And I have the kids to thank for that.

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Me in the booth

After the craziness of the show weekend, we also had a house full of people for the superbowl party, lots of food, lots of kids running around. I think everyone had a good time. It looked like the kids did, which is the only thing we want. I’ve definitely lost them for good as Steelers fans as Curtis’ Patriots won again. That’s all I will say about that, lol. Yuck. An interesting conversation came up at the party, we invited neighbours we don’t know that well, who also know Kim’s sister. She asked specifically about how we handle the kids not being there, do we go to all their games, or whatnot? I answered her honestly, without saying anything bad about Kim, that Kim doesn’t take them so they only play half the time. She said if it was her, she would be showing up at her ex’s house demanding that they would go, I said that Kim would call the cops if we did that. (True story, she’s threatened before). I also told her that Curtis went to court for that and got nowhere. All of those felt like calculated questions, although not presented like that at all so maybe I’m wrong. It’ll be interesting to see what the small town gossip train makes of that if she did ask on purpose.

Speaking of Kim, the lock broke on our front door (while Curtis was on call, I was at the show, and we had a house full of people… eep!). Our neighbour picked up a new one for us and it’s one of those key code locks. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I feel like that’s an invitation for Kim to get in my house. I’m sure she can get the kids to tell her the code and I worry about that… a lot. I’m not sure if it’s some kind of anxious paranoia, or if she’s really capable of that. Our dog is the worst guard dog ever and would love to let her in to our house. If we ever go away, I wonder if we could change the code… the whole thing makes me uncomfortable. But… it will be better for the kids, so here we go…

The new lock led to a conversation about money, of course. We’re struggling right now and Curtis wants to move to a smaller house. In theory, I support that, but I can’t move until everything is settled about us and where we’re going. I need to know we’re on the same page about kids and marriage (because now, apparently, he doesn’t think we need to get married), and that we’re moving towards that. I can’t move, only to move again and break up the family. I think I’ll have an answer soon, although not as soon as I would like. It was a good conversation, and I think will give him some motivation to make a decision – once his therapist comes back from her month off. I went in thinking I was in the same place, but I feel a tiny glimmer like maybe things are a little better. He asked me if he had said “No” to kids, to which I replied, “Yes”. So he clarified that he had not said no since he started therapy and that maybe I wasn’t in exactly the same place as before.

The money thing is a problem. I have a bonus coming and there are a million things I could spend it on and I really want to go to NYC with my friends. I should spend it all on debt payment, but I want to get away, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to go with my friends in case this doesn’t work out and I end up even angrier at him for missing out on things. I know I hurt his feelings when I said that because he wanted us to go away together, so I feel like a giant jerk for that, and now he won’t take any of the money for bills because it’s “my money”. I’m exhausted today. It was a long weekend.

In the words of the great Gomez Addams, let’s be happy, completely happy, and a tiny bit sad.

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The Addams Family Cast

Happy Anniversary?

Our anniversary came and went with no fanfare. We didn’t even acknowledge it until tonight during an argument where I pointed it out (not in angry way, just in a ‘I thought that’s what that good thing was about’ way). At one time I had visions of us reliving our first date every year to celebrate. But we said nothing. And I’m mostly disappointed by how ok with that I am. I don’t know if it’s because of the uncertainty of it all, or because it was just so damn busy. I think it’s the former. It’s hard to celebrate living in limbo for so long.
I spent our anniversary taking Taitum to his hockey tournament and watching him get his first goal. And then rushing to watch Reegan win his tournament. And feeling like a parent. And totally not when I couldn’t fill out the waiver for the kids for Skyzone or when I don’t know anyone because I’ve only been around for 2 years. The former turned out to be moot because we did not plan ahead. And we yipped and sniped at each other because that seems to me what we do right now. I see all these pics come up on my frame at work and I never feel as happy as I look there. We fought about his creepo uncle, and about how to handle Reegan’s birthday, as we dropped the kids off after midnight, and about who was going grocery shopping. While I had a great day with the kids. It was not a happy anniversary, not for me. 



The funny thing is, he had no idea I felt that way. He thought everything was ok. He thought it was simply a great weekend. And it was, for us as a family, but I thought he was angry/frustrated/disappointed with me all weekend. I felt like we were constantly arguing. And somehow that’s my fault for not understanding the frustration he was showing when talking to me was not about me. When I brought it up, then I got the real argument. After such a crazy, great weekend with the boys, it had a really crappy end. 

I really do feel lucky that he is (mostly) so supportive of what I do. He was pulled in a million directions today and there wasn’t much I could do except help with groceries, which I did (without complaint, for once) And we yipped about what time was good for his sister to call and why I need him to focus on a grocery list. He wasn’t happy that I wouldn’t be home for Reegan’s cake, but he understood. I am exhausted. We woke up one kid with our (quiet) discussion. He said he was surprised and happy that I never felt overwhelmed by it all, and while that it’s not entirely true, it was mostly true. I just did what had to be done. So maybe I’ll take that as the win for the weekend.