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

 

 

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.

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.

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 ūüėČ

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.

Kids caught in the line of fire

What do you do, as a step-parent, when your step-kids real parent is a bad parent?¬†Ok, so that’s unfair…¬†I can’t say that Kim is entirely a bad parent. She’s not a negligent parent. She clearly cares about the kids, even¬†when they’re not with her. She made all 3 kids valentines when they were with us,¬†(hopefully) so she could spend time with them when they were with her. I also suspect it’s so she can look like the better parent, but there’s no law against that.¬†It wouldn’t be our choice, we would have done them with the kids, but it’s still not bad parenting. The reason I say that she is a bad parent is because¬†she punishes the kids to hurt Curtis.

Kim won’t take the kids to ‘our sports’ on ‘her days’. I understand that’s a bit of a grey area, legally.¬†Her time is her time and she shouldn’t be required to take the kids to things that we sign them up for. The things is …¬†the kids¬†WANT to play and ask her if they can play and she says no. Similarly, she signs them up for ‘her sports’ and says that we are not allowed to take them on ‘our days’, even if the kids want to play and we are willing to take them. She will also not allow us to watch them play ‘her sports’ on ‘her time’. That issue is still outstanding on their custody agreement and has to go back to court. She had said that the kids playing sports was entirely dependent on how well she and Curtis got along. He took that to heart and¬†naively believed they were making headway. (I never believed it).

So, here’s the latest… Today, she found out that¬†Curtis called Taitum’s dentist to confirm some things about his appointment and the charges, insurance, etc. It’s sad that we had to put in their agreement that he has the right to contact any doctors, teachers, etc., but we put it in there so there would be no question as to his rights as an equal parent.¬†Still, when she found out, she has said that he is no longer ‘allowed’ to take Nolan to basketball at the school on ‘our time’ because it is ‘her sport’. She also said summer sports are a no go. All because he called the dentist to ask a question. Curtis has to call their family doctor every few weeks to find out what appointments he didn’t know about. I can only imagine how bad it would be if she knew that.

She seems to need to have all the power, all the control, and to look like the sole parent. She went so far as to lie to get government-funded insurance so she could control that, too.¬†(We have her application, this is not speculation). The moment she feels any perceived power struggle, she lashes out in the only way she knows to get to Curtis, and that’s to use the kids.¬†I could go on and on about the things the kids tell Curtis’ mom about her saying and the things they’re told to keep secret from us and the lies she tells them and other people.

How is this ok? How does the system allow this to happen? What can I do, as a step-parent, to help him and the kids through this? It causes strain on our family, it affects our mental well-being (I know my anxiety is through the roof right now and Curtis has to deal with way more than I can even fathom.) And, forgetting about us… let her do her worst to us… how do we get the kids out of the line of fire. I am so afraid of the long-term damage being¬†caused here.¬†How do we stop her from hurting them to hurt us? Is there anything I can do, is there anything we can do to help this? It looks like we’re headed back to court, but we can’t make her follow the agreement we have now, so how will that even help? What can we do… ?

#ihatevalentinesday

I have no use for Valentine’s Day. They jack the prices up on stuff for a ridiculous holiday made up by advertisers to help people assuage some kind of obligation or guilt. Ugh. Curtis and I went for a very nice date (because I think he can’t get past the obligation), but we didn’t do anything fancy or overpriced. It was a nice date. I wouldn’t dream of turning down a date with my man. And, to his eternal credit, he did manage to make my Valentine’s Day. He got the kids to make me lovely cards and he had picked up some of my favourite chocolates to support a coworker’s kid and save them so each of them could give me one. Reegan’s card almost made me cry. I love these kids.

We didn’t do anything for them for Valentine’s Day, we didn’t even do anything for their classes. We had every intention of doing it, we even asked the kids about what they wanted to do so I could collect all the pieces and we could do it together… and Reegan vehemently insisted he didn’t want to do them and Nolan said that their mom had already done all of them for each of them so we didn’t need to (explaining Reegan’s reaction). So… we didn’t. And part of me was sad. I’m sure hers were lovely, but she did it when we had the kids so the kids had no part of it. I was also looking forward to doing that with them. There was also something liberating about just not doing them. We weren’t fighting with her for the recognition or the shared experience… whatever it is we fight for (sometimes it’s hard to tell). If the kids had still wanted to do them, done, that’s worth fighting for, but I think we chose our battle this time. With all the other junk she is currently pulling each and every day… I kind of feel like one less fight is a win. Not a bad Valentine’s Day at all.