Catching Up

Five[+] Things: Catching Up

Lately, things have been going really well.

I’ve been pretty busy at work, which has been making the days fly by. My office is responsible for Commencement, and we are anticipating our largest Commencement ever this year… planning for 50,000 people! I love the planning and execution of big events at colleges and universities… that is a huge reason why I pursued my Masters in the field. I am thrilled for Commencement, and it’s closing in… just a few weeks away!

BM has a new boyfriend who it seems things are progressing rather quickly with… so she has been super low key and non-confrontational with my husband and I lately (whew!).

My husband has just been the dreamiest person ever… he is so good to me. He works so hard, gives me the sweetest compliments… he’s the best. I am so lucky.

My friend KH had her baby a few days ago! A little girl… she is so sweet. KH’s husband works with my husband, so she has always been such a good friend to vent to… I love having her around (plus I cannot wait for my girls to meet her girl!).

Our family beach vacation is less than two months away now, and thrilled is an understatement. I cannot wait to spend one week disconnected from everyone except for my husband and our girls. This is a much needed vacation!

My husband and I have also been scheming about a Christmas/Anniversary getaway. Since we won’t have the girls this year for Christmas, we want to get away so we aren’t home without them. We will need a distractions… some “Us” time. Since it will be just after our one year wedding anniversary, it’s going to be perfect timing.

I had been leasing my car, but just went through with buying it! Praise the Lord for this blessing! Side note: Don’t ever lease a car… literally a waste of money.

No complaints… life is great.

Not Everything is Black & White

One thing that really grinds my gears are all of these “un-provable’s” … The things that we simply cannot prove in court. The things that we know are taking place, and we know shouldn’t be, but we cannot document to a fault.

Like the hygiene… ugh. The fact that BM doesn’t brush their teeth before school, or even brush their hair before school. The fact that she does not give them baths every night, and doesn’t even wash their hair every time they’re in the bathtub. The fact that she does not clean their ears or cut their nails.

How she puts them in clothes that are too small for them. How she forgets to give them their medicine after doctors visits. How she ignores a red butt for weeks, but will keep them both home if one of them coughs one time in the morning…

Unfortunately, a four year old telling you these things are happening will not stand up in court. Unfortunately, BM knows to only admit to her faults over the phone and not in writing. Unfortunately, we may be able to see the small clothes and the filth, but it doesn’t always translate through into pictures.

And then, there are the lifestyle differences. The things that each parents has legal rights to make decisions on with the joint legal and shared physical custody. Like the food… the fact that she is vegetarian and believes that a small container of beans, 5 different fruits, and a chocolate dipped coconut bar is an acceptable lunch for a 2 and 4 year old. The fact that she keeps them out late, puts them to bed late, and gets them to preschool late. The fact that she will let them wear flats with no socks in the snow, but send them in long sleeves and tall socks with pants in 80 degree weather.

More than the un-provable’s and the lifestyle differences, I cannot stand the projection. How she will call and harass us about not taking care of them, not feeding them right, not dressing them right. How she has the nerve to call us bad parents.

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That her anger towards my husband has severely impacted her ability to reason, and that it is steadily taking a toll on the girls. [Then of course, she is constantly telling him that he is unreasonable… Classic projection.]

When you document every email, text message, and phone call, but you’re worried it’s not enough. When you’re constantly worrying about what manipulative play BM has up her sleeve. This shouldn’t be how joint legal and shared physical custody works. This should be smooth.

When all you want is to petition the court to make adjustments to the custody agreement, but you have no idea what lies she’s told, or who she’s convinced they’re true. It’s scary, and it’s frustrating, and it’s truly unfair.

Not everything is black and white…

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The Long Stretches

Because of the way my husband’s work schedule was at the time the custody agreement was created (and because of BM’s unwillingness to make adjustments without going back to court), we end up having a 6 day stretch where we don’t see the girls about once a month.

“The long stretches.” The weeks where I crave their company the most. The weeks I cannot do a simple household task without picturing them there to do it with me (such as folding clothes… our 2 year old loves to help me fold clothes).

The days I look back at their empty car seats, and feel tears well up in my eyes because I wish they were there to sing with me. The days I can’t even go into their room without feeling sick to my stomach, because their beds are empty and their toys are all put away. Because their room doesn’t look lived in.

The moments my husband calls them to tell them goodnight, but I can’t talk to them (Flip side: The moments my husband tries to call them, but BM totally ignores him). The moments I listen to our babies tell their Daddy how their day was, and how much they love him.

The times where it is just painful to not have them in my arms. The times where I could break down and cry because I miss them so much. These are my least favorite times. These are the times where being in a blended family hurts the most. It’s not how high-conflict BM is, or how chaotic decision making can be… it’s the long stretches when I can’t even talk to our beautiful, smart, hilarious daughters.

Thank God we are at the end of a long stretch. After work tonight, I will have the girls in my arms for four days straight. Our family will be whole again, together at last.

While the long stretches are painful, I praise the Lord for the moments we have.

Five Things: Potluck

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve done a Monday Five Things! So let me catch you up on the five first takeaway’s that come to mind…

ONE: I am so thrilled that the weather is getting nice again here in Virginia! My husband and I have even been fishing several times over the past few weeks. Although I still think it’s a little too cold for the fish, we have had the best time outside. Whether it’s fishing on an evening or weekend we don’t have the kids, or playing on the playground when we have them, we have loved every minute of this weather! Hello, Spring!

TWO: I cannot say these words enough… comparison is the thief of joy! Y’all, do me a favor… Remember that social media is just the highlight reel. Remember that everyone is going through or has gone through something unfavorable. I see people complain when others look “too happy” on social media, and I also see people complain when others “vent too much” on it. Personally, I’m a highlight reel sort of millennial, but cut everyone [including yourself] a break! Focus on yourself… Stop making comparisons.

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THREE: The debate over where our oldest will [hopefully] start Kindergarten is still ongoing. There were a few days just over a week ago where BM was super high-conflict about it, and then as soon as my husband offered to compromise to give her what she wants, we never heard from her again (like… not even to agree or disagree to the compromise). Those who have kids can tell you that whenever someone is silent, they’re typically up to no good… This could get interesting.

FOUR: We are planning a beach vacation for a week in June and it is almost all I think about. I grew up going to the beach multiple times every summer. Even through college, I made it to the beach at least 2-3 times a year. Now, I haven’t been to the beach since May 2012, my “beach week” when I finished undergrad. Y’all… it’s been almost five years since I’ve been to the beach! The only thing better than the fact that I’m getting my ass on the beach, is the fact that I get to be there with my husband and our girls. *Currently online shopping for Mom-kini’s suitable for chasing toddlers around*

FIVE: My car got hit at work in the parking lot… classic hit and run. Luckily, my husband can literally do everything, so he fixed it and made it look brand new! *Drool* (Drooling about my husband, not the car) Then a week later, my work best friend CML almost hit my car! She confessed (good friend- pat on the back) but if it had of got messy, we definitely would have had a Friend Breakup. (RIP to those best friends I’ve broken up with in the past) (Pour one out for the fallen homies) Moral of this story: My car and my friendship are still in tact, thank God.

Life is a wild ride sometimes! Never miss an opportunity to reflect, recharge, and count your blessings.

Advice

I had a close friend of mine from back home text me recently and say, “I need advice.”

I immediately assumed she was in trouble… “Oh no, what happened?”

Her response: “I think I’m about to start dating a man with kids, and I need tips.”

Then it hit me… I have become the Token Stepmom among my friends. I am the model for this. I am the source of experience and wisdom. Oh, no!

I am not equipped to handle these sort of questions! I have no magic answer for my friend. I have no idea if any “advice” I could possibly give would actually help her.

She gave me the quick facts (how many kids, how long he was married, BM is high-conflict, the Dad has primary physical custody…), and I decided to give this “advice” a shot. I thought I’d share with you all what came to mind first…

ONE: There is so much out of your control while dating someone with kids, and being a Stepmom. You have to focus your energy on the things you can control. You cannot let a HCBM destroy what you’re building. You cannot let her rob you of your time with your boyfriend or his kids.

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TWO: You have got to communicate with your boyfriend openly, even when it hurts. He cannot leave you out of the loop. You have to communicate the essentials- such as whether or not he is interested in or able to have more kids- early on. There is no room for secrets or surprises in a blended family.

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THREE: He has to model to the kids that you are someone who needs to be respected. I know different blended families do this differently, but whatever they choose to do, they have to be on the same page, and be consistent. I could never be in my relationship if my husband didn’t respect me, show the kids how to respect me, and consider me on the parenting team.

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FOUR: You have to be confident to be a Stepmom. There will be so many opportunities to be jealous, envious, or upset. There is so much room for unnecessary comparisons that are wildly out of your control. You have to be confident and overcome your insecurities. This step is so critical.

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FIVE: If he treats you right, and if you love the kids, this is totally worth it. Being a Stepmom is so hard… but if he treats you right and you are a good team, it is even more rewarding.

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Talking to my friend made me reflect on the early months with my husband, and made me remember just how far we have come. I am so blessed to have this family as my own. I am certain that I could not receive this happiness anywhere else. I am exactly where God wants me to be.

Maybe I won’t be the Token Stepmom forever… maybe my friend will be joining me on this journey! I’ve shared this site with my friend… let’s show her love and encouragement!

Letting Go

Why is it so incredibly hard to “let go” sometimes?

Literally the day that I posted Headphones, my husband received an email from BM that sent me spinning. I tried to take my own advice, process my anger internally, put on my metaphorical headphones, and let it go… Well, apparently that didn’t work, because then my husband just asked me 146 times why I was “in a bad mood.”

Nothing like someone asking why you’re in a bad mood, to put you in a bad mood…

So, then I cried in the car while the girls were behind me and couldn’t see me. I was so upset! There’s nothing like an email full of lies and manipulative demands to just really put me over the edge.

But I know that everything in that email was either false or petty (mostly both). So why couldn’t I just let it go? Why is letting go so difficult?

She definitely sent that email with the sole purpose of pissing us off. It did affect me, so she won this battle. Check. Why do I let her do that? Why do I let her emotionally deprive me of my happiness? It is so frustrating!

Although my night was only briefly stifled, she took away more “happy time” than I ever should have allowed. I’m making progress in my emotional response time… in the time it takes for me to cool down once I’m heated… but this is certainly just progress, not perfection.

After the weekend passed, more back-and-forth occurred between my husband and BM, and tensions were still high, I ended the weekend in an emotionally strong place. She doesn’t run me, us, or the kids. She will never ruin my time with the kids, and she will never scare me away.

She’s hurting, years later, and still taking it out on my husband and ultimately, the kids. I will continue to show her grace, even when she is consistently showing none in return. I will continue to pray for her. I cannot force her to “let go,” but I can continue in my journey to do so when the going gets tough.

And when all else fails, take this great advice…

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I’ve got this under control. Check Mate.