Tuesday, April 30, 2013

For the past several years - well, since I first met my husband - my step-kids bio-mom has done her best to isolate him from his children.  I noticed it immediately, and I hoped it was simply her way of trying to keep me from being involved; that she was "punishing" him for having a serious girlfriend.

Unfortunately, not much has changed or improved in the past eight years.  Some might think it's paranoia on our part, but I can assure we've given the appropriate amount of credit to her "simply forgetting" to tell us.  With regard to school-related events (school pictures, yearbook order forms, field trip notifications/permission slips, school volunteer opportunities, report cards, mid-term reports, etc...), we've been kept in the dark more often than not.  If a form or slip is sent to her house, we are not made aware of the event unless it occurs during our custody time.  Even then, we are given short notice; just enough to satisfy her requirements.  For picture day, we are told the day before to have the children wear the clothes she sends along.  For field trips, we are informed they need bag lunches, money, and transportation home after school hours; usually the night before the event.

More recently, the types of events have grown in significance as the children get older.  My step-daughter's Prom happened to fall on our custody week this year.  As I did last year, I made no attempt to involve myself in shopping for the prom dress or accessories.  I realize it's a special time that a mother and daughter can spend together.  However, I refuse to be accused of not pitching in when I know full well that my input would not have been welcomed or appreciated.   While I realize it is important for the bio-mom to do the prom shopping with my step-daughter, I also realize that the actual prom day is my step-daughter's day.  Therefore, I expected she would spend the day getting ready with her friends.  Unfortunately, her bio-mom felt differently.  She made plans for my step-daughter for the entire day, but made no mention to my husband or me.  A few days before prom, my husband emailed the bio-mom asking if she would like us to bring my step-daughter by so she could take pictures.  An all-out crazed reply followed.  Apparently, we were supposed to know she made plans for our custody week without anyone telling us.

Also, for the past month or so, I've been asking my step-daughter about her year-end testing for school.  Knowing we have a family wedding out of town, I wanted to ensure we weren't taking her out of school during any important testing dates.  Today, we were accused of not caring about her ACT testing and not having registered her for her upcoming ACT test date - which we knew nothing about.

My point is: it's beyond frustrating that the bio-mom intentionally removes us from all communication she receives regarding the children's activities; it serves no purpose to the children and keeps their lives in a constant scheduling nightmare.  It's even more frustrating that the bio-mom accuses my husband and I of not caring and not doing enough to support the children in the activities about which we have no information.

One solution is to have the school send these notifications directly to our house.  We've tried this in the past, but it seems every year the bio-mom calls the school and resets the contact information, removing us from the list.  Meanwhile, her mother-in-law and a family friend are added.  We routinely update the information to ensure we're added back to the list.

We also ask the children to call or text us anytime they receive information regarding their activity dates.  My 14-year-old step-son is wonderful about doing this; he will call, text, and remind us regularly as the event approaches.  My step-daughter is nowhere near that organized, so a lot of things fall through the cracks.

I doubt anything can be done to change this situation for our family.  At this point, I do not expect her to be kind to us and considerate of our schedules.  We do our best with the information we're given to be there for the children, and they know that they are a priority in our lives.

My hope is that my experiences as a step-parent can prevent even one bio-parent for making these types of choices.  They might hurt your ex (and I know sometimes that is incredibly satisfying), but your kids are worth more than starting and winning a petty argument.  Please communicate to the best of your ability so both (all) parents can work together and support your kids.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I realize it's been a while (read: a couple YEARS) since I last posted an update on the goings-on of my (step) family.  What a ride it's been!  There've been a lifetime of joys, sorrows, laughs, and craziness packed into that time - all of which I'll hopefully have the time to cover at some point.

Lately, my husband's and my time has been consumed with the little things: our jobs, school activities, sports, Prom, and our own social activities.  Spring seems to always present a chaotic schedule and this year is no exception.

Over the past two years, my oldest step-son (now 19) moved out of our house and into the BioMom's home full-time.  My step-daughter (16) went through the typical teen-girl-goes-crazy-possibly-taken-over-by-aliens phase, and we've since recovered (most of) her normal personality.  My youngest step-son (14) has shown us glimpses of teen angst, but is mostly still consumed with his friends, video games, and competitive swimming; not necessarily in that order.

And, although I'd like to say we have "seen it all" from the BioMom and Step-dad, I fear we have not.  There have been moments of calm, interspersed with moments of certain insanity, but mostly the same craziness we've experienced for years.  The only thing we can count on is that we can't count on them to be anything but unaccountable (said laughingly many times over the years, as a way to remind ourselves that we need to roll with it).

BioMom prefers not to communicate directly to my husband, and instead she sends messages via the children.  Hel-lo - ever read a parenting book at all?  Even the back cover?!  Pretty sure that's co-parenting faux pas #1 - don't have the kids be the messenger between parents.  Anyway... that's her preference, and therefore it's how she operates.

While it's nice to not hear from her, we can't really pretend she doesn't exist.  That would mean a significant portion of our household income would be sent... nowhere... and the kids' emotional problems would stem from... nothing... and we would be left scratching our heads most of the time.  Instead, we continue to live by the same morals and values we are attempting to teach the kids, and the rest is just the rest.

There are hundreds of stories I could (and probably will) share, as a means of venting and gaining insight from others.  I could share about the summer where my step-daughter was treated like an unwanted houseguest at the BioMom's house, or how the BioMom once again had the children stain an outdoor wooden playset using chemicals that had previously caused a systemic rash/outbreak of hives, or how the BioMom is a bit weird with the kids' friends (texting them, calling them, inviting them over to hang out with her), or how BioMom and Step-dad purchased a second home more than a thousand miles from here, but mentioned nothing about it to my step-kids or my husband, and are basically pretending it didn't happen... the list goes on and on... But those stories can wait for another time.

For now, I'll just say that I'm almost nine years into this craziness, and although there have been ups and downs, I'm blessed with a wonderful marriage and an amazing "bonus family".  It may not be a perfect life, but perfect is boring... right?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'm Entitled, Right?

I often feel guilty about buying myself things that aren't absolutely necessary. New shoes? Only if my old ones are unwearable. New pants? Only if they are on sale, and only if I can justify the need. Makeup? None of that "expensive, name brand" stuff - I'll buy my eyeliner at Target, thank you very much.

However, the same can't be said for my step-kids. Perhaps it's because I grew up in a household without "extra" income, or maybe it's because I work hard for my paycheck and I understand that my earnings shouldn't be spent on frivolity. Whatever the reason, I absolutely cringe at the lack of respect my step-kids show when it comes to our budget and finances.

Some liberties have been taken with the quotes below... just telling you what I hear.

"I need $185 for behind-the-wheel classes."

"My lifeguard training needs renewing, so I need to be signed up for the class. It's $235." The kicker with this one is that it enables my step-son to earn money all summer long. Money he spends without guilt. Yet we are supposed to provide the training he needs in order to make this money. Doesn't seem right to me.

"Soccer registration starts soon. It's only $75."

"I need green shoes. I'll only be wearing them once, for a show, so don't worry about spending more than $20 on them." Side note: Have you ever tried to find ladies heels in a cute shade of green that cost under $20?!?

"I joined the speech team. I know you already paid for a winter activity fee for me, but I decided that activity was too much work, so I joined the speech team instead. No, you can't get a refund for my previous activity fee. No, the speech fee is not prorated because I joined halfway through the season."

"About speech - it will require a parent waking up at 5:30am on Saturdays to drive me to the High School so I can get on the bus and spend all day at the speech meet. Then you can pick me up when I return to town somewhere between 2pm and 6pm. You might want to keep your schedule open so you can pick me up as soon as I require you to do so."

"Also, speech requires me to wear a suit. Jacket, shirt, tie, pants, belt, socks, and dress shoes. I have to look nice. Shouldn't cost any more than a couple hundred for the entire set-up."

"I'm taking four AP classes this year. I don't feel like studying for them and doing my homework, so I'm barely passing these classes. However, at the end of the school year, you will be required to pay $60/class so I can take the AP test in an attempt to earn college credits for said classes. We both realize there's no way I will be able to pass the AP test since I can't even pull decent grades on the homework and daily assignments. However, I really do want to take the tests. You can make the checks out to..."

You get the picture. Every time we turn around, there's another hand extended - palm up - waiting for the payola.

Today, I thought of all this, and made a guilt-free purchase for myself. I bought a new coat. It was on clearance. 70% off. I work 40+ hours/week. I can treat myself, right...? *guilt*

Thursday, December 16, 2010


... This year, when my step-daughter turned 14, it was once again our year to host her birthday party. About two months before her birthday, I told my husband that I was planning to give my step-daughter enough money so that she could either throw her own party or spend the money on school clothes. The choice would be hers, and I would not waste any time or effort in trying to plan something that would surely displease her.

A couple nights after I told my husband of my plans, my step-daughter told him she would like to take two friends to an amusement park for her birthday. Being that it was her request (and therefore, a birthday party that would please her), I considered what she wanted and agreed that I would take her and two girlfriends to the roller coaster park. Even though it was more money than I'd planned on spending, I figured it was a sure-fire way to give her a memorable birthday. We checked our calendars and found a date that worked for everyone. The plan was to leave our house early in the morning and get to the park when they opened. Being that it was the end of summer, the park was scheduled to be open until 10pm with a fireworks show after they closed, so we decided we would stay the entire day and watch the fireworks.

About three weeks before her party, my step-daughter asked if she could bring three friends instead of two. I reminded her that I was spending more than my original budget on her and her two friends, and told her that if she wanted to bring a third friend, I would not pay for that person. Either she could pay me, or her friend could buy their own ticket. My step-daughter agreed to this arrangement.

A few days after agreeing to bring a third friend, I went online to look for discounts and to buy advance tickets to the amusement park. There was a special ticket package available, in which an all-you-can-eat dinner was included with the purchase of a regular priced ticket. For those of you who have ever been to an amusement park and paid their prices for food, you'll know this package deal was a very good option. It meant I could pack a cooler of food & drinks for lunch, and then everyone would have a ticket for the dinner buffet, which included hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ chicken, side dishes, soft drinks, and ice cream. Although I wasn't able to use any discounts or coupons on the tickets, it was still a great deal.

Before I decided to purchase the tickets, I called my step-daughter (she had spent the night at a friend's house) to make sure her "extra" friend would be ok with purchasing a ticket at regular price. I explained the plan, and how with the tickets I was planning to buy, they would have dinner included. She said it sounded like a good plan, and I told her that if it was ok with her, I would purchase tickets for all four girls and that she or her friend could simply pay me back for the extra ticket. My step-daughter asked me if I would call her friend's mom and explain the cost and how I wanted her to pay for her daughter's ticket. I told my step-daughter that it wasn't my request to bring an extra friend and that it wasn't my responsibility to communicate the details to her friend or her friend's mom - it was her responsibility to do so. In fact, if my step-daughter had an issue with making her friend pay for her ticket, I reminded her that she could simply pay for her friend out of her birthday money. Of course, this was not an option she liked. I again asked if it was ok for me to purchase all the tickets at full price, and she said that yes, I should go ahead and buy them and I would be paid back for one ticket.

I purchased the package deal a few minutes after hanging up the phone, and printed out the tickets. Proud of myself for finding such a great deal and having planned the party my step-daughter specifically requested (and was therefore sure to like), I breathed a sigh of relief.

Five minutes later, the phone rang. It was the mom of the girl who was the "fourth wheel", and she wanted to know what the deal was. "I understand you have invited my daughter to a birthday party, but that you're only paying for some of the kids' tickets, is that correct?" (I could just hear my step-daughter explaining it to her "My mean ol' stepmom is making us pay for our own tickets for my birthday party.") So I explained how her daughter was actually not part of the original party I had agreed to, and that my step-daughter agreed to provide a ticket for her daughter - either paid by the friend or paid by my step-daughter. The mom explained that she had a free admission ticket to the park, so instead of paying for her daughter, she'd just send her with that free admission ticket. Which would have been great to know five minutes prior to her phone call. Ugh. So I explained how I'd just purchased tickets for all of the girls, and that the tickets were date-specific, as they included a dinner buffet admission as well as park admission. I understood that her daughter had free park admission, but that didn't help the situation. I told her the ticket was already purchased and that she didn't need to send along the free admission pass.

I'm very much a stick-to-your-guns type of person, and I believe that consistency is key in being a good (step) parent. Therefore, because I told my step-daughter she would be responsible for reimbursing me for one of the tickets, I held her to that. She agreed on the phone that I would buy tickets for everyone at full-price and that she would make sure I was paid back for one of the tickets. It wasn't about the money, even though I was over budget to begin with; it was more about the fact that I planned a and very nice party for my step-daughter, and she requested more. Since the plan was originally to bring her and two friends to the park, I felt I was being very accommodating by bringing a third friend and providing lunch for that friend. I wanted my step-daughter to know that the terms she agreed to were going to be upheld.

This did not go over well. She didn't understand why she had to pay me back for the extra ticket, if her friend had a ticket for free admission. I explained that the free ticket did me no good, since I had already purchased the package deal tickets as my step-daughter agreed to. I said it was unfortunate that things turned out the way they did, and that she might have communicated better with her friend, and with me, and could have avoided the issue. However, since I paid for the tickets and she agreed that I would be paid back for one of the tickets, that was the arrangement we would stick to.

Enter the Momster. My step-daughter texted her bio mom about how awful I was being and how I was being unfair and mean and ruining her birthday. Momster told her I was horrible and mean and ruining her birthday, and together they decided my step-daughter wasn't responsible for paying me back for the ticket. Nobody consulted me about this decision, it was just decided between the two of them. My husband told me I shouldn't address it with my step-daughter because it would only upset her. Sometimes I wonder if the three of them are trying to see how far they can push before I need medication...

We left our house early the morning of her party, and my step-daughter asked if we could stop at her bio mom's house because she forgot her money there, and wanted to bring along some cash for spending. My husband said he would lend her money so we didn't have to stop and bother the momster. For the record, my step-daughter paid my husband back within a week.

Two months after the party, I reminded my step-daughter that she still owed me for the cost of the ticket. She immediately became upset and defensive and told me she didn't have to pay me back. Then, she said that she paid her dad for the ticket already, when she gave him $20 after she got home. Nice try, but I recalled that the money she repaid to her dad was spending money he lent her when she left her cash at the momster's house. I reminded her of our agreement, and told her that even though things didn't turn out as she wanted them to (like I forgot she owed me money), she still had an arrangement with me and she needed to honor that.

Four months later, I have yet to be repaid. Again, it's not about the money, it's about her being accountable. Any ideas? I thought about taking part of the money she's sure to get for Christmas this year, but I just don't know if that's fair.

I think I'm going to give myself a nice tropical vacation for her sweet 16 birthday in two years. I don't think I can handle planning another party for this girl.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Party Hardly

Shortly after my July 21st post, things started to get complicated. Due to an unreasonable demand by the "momster", my husband and I are expected to host a birthday party for each of my three step-kids every other year. We are not allowed to throw a party on a yearly basis, nor are we to "skip" a year when it's our turn to plan and host the party. I think it's weird, but she claims she doesn't need to explain herself to us; we are supposed to simply smile and nod and go along with what she says.

Two years ago, for my step-daughter's golden birthday, I went all out. I am a planner by nature, and I came up with (what I thought was) the perfect party and surprise for a girl starting Junior High. Without my step-daughter's knowledge, I arranged for a limo to pick her and her friends up after school, where they would cruise around town for a bit, and then head to a "Hollywood style" photo shoot. My best gal pal is an amazing photographer, and offered her services for a couple hours so we could treat the girls to a photo shoot. The limo was to be stocked with sparkling juice (a.k.a. "kid champagne"), feather boas, and starlet sunglasses. It was something I was sure my step-daughter would love!

One catch; I couldn't tell her much about her party. I asked her to provide me a list of her most outgoing friends, and told her I would handle the rest. This did not go over well. She wanted to know what I was planning and the situation immediately turned stressful. I assured her I was planning a fun time for her and her friends, and reminded her that I knew her likes/dislikes, but that it was going to have to be a surprise. I desperately wanted to capture the look on her face when she walked out of school to find the limo waiting.

Anyway, it wasn't going to happen as I planned. The momster got involved and I ended up telling my step-daughter what the plan was, but asked her to keep it a secret from her friends so they could be surprised. Problem solved. Except, the momster planted a seed in my step-daughter's head that perhaps she'd be made fun of for having a limo pick her up. Maybe instead of kids thinking she was cool, they'd think she was nerdy. I received word that my step-daughter no longer wanted this party and instead she'd rather have a "normal" party with her friends. This, of course, was after I'd paid for the limo and made all the arrangements for the photo shoot. Shoot, indeed.

Big brother (my 15-year-old step-son) saved the day. He talked to my step-daughter and told her that in no way would anyone think it was nerdy to have a limo pick her up at school. In fact, some kids would be jealous, but most people would think it was really cool. Problem solved. Party back on. Whew!

Then I learned that the momster ordered the birthday cake for me. How NICE! By ordered, I mean simply "ordered". Not paid for. I received an email stating my step-daughter told the momster what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, and that the momster talked to her friend who makes cakes, and the cake was on order. The friend would be contacting me to give me the cost and collect payment. Needless to say, I was not at all pleased with this arrangement. It would have irritated me if someone I liked had intervened in this manner, but to have the momster step in like this was most unwelcome. Not to mention, my step-daughter does not like cake. She usually asks for jello with whipped topping as her birthday cake. To keep the peace, I paid for and collected the cake. As a side note, I learned a few weeks ago that for the momster's 5-year-old's birthday, the "friend who makes cakes" didn't make the birthday cake. Instead, the cake came from a local grocery store. I wonder why the cake-making friend didn't make the little girl's cake... my guess is that a $50 kids' birthday cake that feeds eight is a bit too expensive for most people.

What started out as a thoughtful, expensive (even before the cake) plan for my step-daughter, turned into a situation involving tears and tantrums and hurt feelings - and that was just me. Although the party was a lot of fun, and the pictures turned out great, and - for the record - nobody at school teased her about the limo, I swore that the next birthday party would involve minimal planning on my part.

UNTIL... (to be continued)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010 Christmas Card

Celebrate Family Christmas Card
Shop Shutterfly for beautiful photo Christmas cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Update

WOW - time flies! I took a break this summer to regroup and the next thing I know, it's December! I'll be catching up on my blogging in the coming weeks, and will fill in the gaps on what's been going on here in stepped-on-mom-land.