Sunday, April 21, 2013

Her Crazy Has An Undercar Garage.....

The Girl has been a pistol today.  Her sassy mouth has me living in fear of her teenage years.  I am sure we'll survive.  One way or another.  I hope we are raising her to be a kind, caring, loving, productive member of society.  I hope we are not raising a future PDM.

You may ask yourself, who is this PDM you speak of Mrs. Sassy Pants?  Those who are friends with me on my personal Facebook page know EXACTLY who PDM is.  PDM is short for Play date Mommy, the Mommy of a little girl who was in The Girl's kindergarten class last year.  For those of you who are new here, allow me to share some of my experiences with this woman.  You may very well have your own PDM experience.  Maybe you can tell me what to do (or not do) about her. 

I seem to attract crazy wherever I go.  True story.  It's happened my whole life.  I attract them like bees to honey.  This woman is a different breed, I am convinced that she needs meds or she is just as clueless as they come.  Before you go & get all on my case about being snarky about this woman, please know that I am sharing true experiences, & I am constantly trying to justify her actions (a friend told me that I am over kind to PDM) so I can explain away the crazy.

PDM is a person who will call you at noon and say, "L would like to have a play date with the Girl, would that be okay?"  Just as you are about to say, "sure, when would be convenient for you?", she says, "great, I'll bring her by in an hour."  The first time she did this, I was flabbergasted; I had to pick my jaw up off of the ground.  Isn't the "rule" that if YOU initiate the play date, then YOU are the one to host it?  She brought her child over at 1:00pm & said she'd be back at 3:00pm.  This woman didn't show up until 5:30!!  This happened many times.  She called all. the. time.  Whenever the kids had a day off of school, she'd call.  She is a school teacher, & had to work many of those days, so rather than send her school age children to daycare with her infant, she'd call me & tell me that L wanted to come & play with my child. 

One day last summer she called & invited the kids & I to meet up with her & her children at the neighborhood swimming pool.  When I declined because of a prior commitment, she spazzed out on me.  I kid you not, she said, "well what am I going to do with my kids, I have errands to run!"  WHAT?!?!  She did not just say that to me, did she??  She used a pool play date as a means of getting us there to watch her children?  I asked her if she could take her children with her on her errands, I mean that's what a parent does, right?  She said no.  I said that perhaps she needed to enlist the help of someone in her support system, like a parent or sibling of hers or her husbands? She said nope. I said that she just may have to wait for her husband to get home from work to run her errands child free.  She shouted, "he can't babysit all three of them!"  First of all, it's not 'babysitting' if it's your own children, it's called pulling your weight & being a parent.  Secondly, if MY husband even tried saying something like that, he'd be in divorce court faster than he could get the sentence out of his mouth!

There are many other instances that my poor Facebook friends have had to read about.  Many are appalled at this woman's behavior.  Some try to get me to see that I don't live in her house, & I don't know her situation, so perhaps I could put up with a little bit of her craziness since our daughters like each other so much.


This afternoon the Girl had a play date with her friend, L-2.  She, L, & L-2 are three little peas in a pod.  We've never had L-2 here before, so the Girl was so excited to have her over.  When L-2's Mom came to pick her up, we stood in the driveway talking about getting the girls together again soon, when her phone rang.  L-2's Mom groaned & said, "I'll let it go to voicemail, that woman drives me nuts."  About 30 seconds later MY phone rang; caller ID said it was PDM!!  I said, "we'll see if she leaves me a voicemail."  I looked up at L-2's Mom & said, "sometimes you have to screen calls."  Well she started to carry on about about PDM!!  I heard about how PDM's husband called L-2's Mom a 'Stupid Fat Whore' for parking on the wrong side of their driveway when she had to bring their daughter home after a play date that lasted 6 hours (it was planned to be 2-3 hours long, & he refused to come & pick up his child).  L-2's Mommy told me several stories that mirrored my own experiences with PDM.  She asked me if the Girl had ever had play dates with "L".  I told her yes she had, & I try to limit them, as I don't like to be taken advantage of.  I told her that PDM had just left me a voicemail.  "ME TOO!! she screamed.  I told her that being up front doesn't work with some people, & that we have to weigh the pros & cons if & when we decide to let the kids get together.  I told her that some people just don't get it. 

I also reminded her that the kids have a four day weekend coming up at the end of this next week......

Friday, April 12, 2013

Reaching For The Brass Ring....

Document, document, document. 

Praise and reward the good behavior.

Don't allow the diagnosis to be an excuse to be naughty, do a half baked job, or to not work up to potential.

These were things that we were told by the child psychologist when we started working on a way to control his meltdowns.  We wanted (& still want) him to be able to recognize those feelings inside when things start to get confusing & too overwhelming for him.  I said it before & I'll say it again, we want him to be the best him that he can be.  We want him to be a happy, healthy, productive member of society who is compassionate, kind, caring, & loving.  We want him to know he is loved beyond measure, & that we will do whatever it takes to encourage & foster these qualities in him.  Yes yes, we want this for all the children in our family.  We want this for the children in your family too.  Please know, we really want this for all children, but this is about the Boy.  My child.  My firstborn.  The child who likes to be the oil to my water.  The one who is teaching me about patience in a way that is frustrating yet wonderful, all at the same time.

Four months ago, when his psychologist implemented a reward program for him not having any outbursts/meltdowns at school, I thought she was out of her ever loving mind.  C'mon now!!  In the real world, we don't praise someone every time they do what they should already be doing, right??  I was resistant, but I knew that we all had to be on the same page, & I didn't think that this was going to work.  When this child was potty training, he had a sticker chart for taking care of business in the potty.  He would peel the stickers off of the chart & throw them in the trash.  We tried using fruit snacks & M&M's.  He didn't care if he got a treat; he could take them or leave them.  Bribing with a new toy or book??  Meh, who cares??  But like I said, we had to be on the same page, so I got on board with the doctor.

It started out with 1/2 hour increments in his school day.  For each half hour that he didn't lose it, he'd get a 'guy' on his chart.  When he got 11/14 guys, he's get a pull from his grab bag.  These slips of paper were rewards such as a toy from the dollar spot at Target, family swim time at the Y, 15 extra minutes of TV time before school, & having a friend spend the night, to name a few.  As he made progress, we made things more challenging for earning the reward.  He also started refusing to do his schoolwork, so more stipulations were put in place.

His latest goal has been to earn 14/14 'yes' spots on his charts (he no longer wants to 'guys'--the chart was too large, & he was embarrassed for his friends to see it.  We made the chart a yes/no chart, & it is in a small enough format that it can be kept taped in a corner of his desk so he can see his progress as the day goes on.  He is no longer embarrassed, because many children in his class has yes/no charts that go home each day also.  We just told him that his must be kept in plain sight, taped to his desk.  No ifs, ands or buts about it; he needs to see his progress to help remind him of the reward at the end of the day.

There is a little more to it than what I've shared, but you get the idea.  The Boy  & I came up with an additional reward.  I told him that if he could 3 days (in a school week) of 14/14 yes spots filled, I'd let him pick out a video game for his DS or for the Wii.  He's had so many weeks of struggle, where he'd get 2 days, then that third day of '14' was just out of his reach.  My husband & I have been encouraging him, & the Boy has been so frustrated.  He told me, "it's never going to happen; I'm just going to have to put the game on my wish list or save up for it & buy it with  my own money." 

This school week started off with two phone calls from the teacher on both Monday & Tuesday.  We kept plugging away.  We kept encouraging him of his potential.  We assured him that he could do his work.  We assured him that he is so smart.  We assured him that it's okay to use his 'good coping skills' when he gets frustrated.  We constantly assured him of our love for him (even on those days when he & I didn't like each other very much).

Wednesday was fantastic-he did it!!  Yep 14/14 yes spots.  Thursday was the same.  YAY for the Boy!!!  This morning as I was taking him to school, he looked at me & said, "Mom, I'm going to get it today; I'm going to use good coping skills if I get frustrated.  I just KNOW that I can do it!"  I was so proud of him (he's usually quite negative in the morning, especially if one speaks to him too soon).

Little Boy & I went to visit the Girl at lunch today.  When the Boy's class came in, he was scowling.  Uh oh!!  He came up to me & snarled, "it's your turn to sit with ME, not HER!"  I calmly told him that it was our turn to sit with the Girl, not him.  He turned on his heel & ran towards the wall at the oopposite end of the lunchroom. I though to myself, "great, here we the teachers & principal will get to witness him doing "it" to me.  They'll see that he has outbursts with me too."

My Boy did NOT have an outburst!!  He did NOT have a meltdown!!  I watched him as he was facing the wall.  I watched him wipe his eyes before turning around & walking back over to me.  He breathed in deeply, & said, "Mom, when you & Little Boy are done with lunch, would you like to come & sit down with me & my class?"  THIS WAS HUGE!!!!  He handled this situation in a way that was appropriate!!  I was so proud of him.  To you this may be nothing, but I'm telling you it really & truly was a positive step for this boy of mine.

After school, he came walking up to the car really really slowly.  My heart fell to my feet, as I figured that I'd have to console him & encourage him that he'd earn his video game another time.  He had a somber look on his face, looked at the ground, then looked up at me.  He was grinning from ear to ear!!  He'd earned all 14/14 yes spots!!  His smile got even bigger when I told him we were going straight to the store to get his game.  He looked at me & asked, "right now?"  Yes son, right now.  His smiled got even bigger.

After we got the game, I asked him to pose for a picture with his new DS game.  For once, he didn't give me a cheesy grin; you know, the grin that is fake & not the real child.  He smiled a real honest to goodness happy smile. 

His new goal?  He wants to have 14/14 yes spots FOUR days of the school week!!  I'm thinking that the child psychologist knows what she's doing.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Read The Job Desrciption Before You Apply....

There is no harder job than being a parent.  You've heard that adage before, right?  Well there is.  Want to know what it is?  It's the job of stepparent.  Remember the Step Mom in Cinderella?  Or the Step Monster in St. Elmo's Fire?  Yep, when I married my husband, I also married his four children from his previous marriages (yes, that is plural: marriages).  We have some friends who joke that it just took him a few rides around the block on the short bus to finally get it right (& nope, you don't need to get all offended because I joked about the 'short bus'; he is the first to admit that often times it takes him awhile to get things right).  Anyway, I proudly tell people that when I married my husband, I also married his four children.  I was thrilled.  I finally had the family I had always wanted, & I was thrilled when we were able to add the Boy, the Girl, & Little Boy to the family.

It hasn't always been a walk in the park.  You are not their 'real' parent, & there are moments when they make sure that you haven't forgotten this fact.  There are times when they will show you so much disrespect, it puts your spouse in the predicament of my kid vs. my spouse.  They will test their boundaries & they will test your patience.  They will do what kids do.  And you will love them.  You know that if you & their Dad were to divorce, they are still your children's siblings.  You know that if their Dad were to remarry (not my husband; remember, he finally got it right), you would want THEIR step mom to love them & treat them with respect.

I've had one of my step children call me while in an elevated state of mind, & tell me that when I married his Dad & gave birth to "those brats", that we took everything that was rightfully his.  He said that money that should be for him was being spent on "brats who shouldn't be here." 

While running a 'clean up' on the computer one day a few years ago, I opened a file that contained a conversation one of my step children had had with a friend.  It appeared to be a chat room type conversation; it took me a bit to figure out exactly what it was that I was reading.  It was all about what a bad Mom I was.  My step child didn't like how I was parenting my young children, & that a monkey could do a better job than I was doing.  It talked about what a "stupid fool" that I am.

Then there was the note.  One of the kids had gotten in trouble while at our house.  As usual, I had to be the bad guy.  I'm no different with my step children than I am with the children I gave birth to:  if you do wrong, you suffer the consequences.  This child "accidentally on purpose" left a note that in part said this:  "Sheila is so far on my shit list that even saying sorry AND MEANING IT won't change a thing.  You really dug a grave for yourself this time; you need to die, because being nice at this point won't change a thing."

I am only sharing these examples to let you know that things aren't always perfect when you are a step parent, but that they aren't all that bad, either.  I am human, they are human, and I love them like my own.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  My husband & his ex-wives have given me some of the most wonderful (& ornery) gifts that I could ever ask for.  They ground me & show me that I need to have a sense of humor.  Their three youngest siblings love them like there is no tomorrow.

So why do my older daughter's friends keep breaking MY heart??  Don't understand?  Allow me to explain as best I can.

I have three step sons and a step daughter. ( I HATE saying 'step' children, but I don't really have another word for it, since I am not their Mom).  The boys live here in town, but my daughter lives in Washington with her husband & her three young children (yes, my daughter & I were pregnant at the same time for part of 2 of our pregnancies).  I will tell you this: it is awful not being able to be close to them.  I'd just about give my right arm to have them live here, but they don't like the Midwest summers & we're not fond of the rainy season that they seem to always have. 


About 6 months ago, my daughter started having some serious health issues.  She had a diagnosis of Lupus, then there have been autoimmune issues associated with all of that as well.  She has been unable to work, & has been in the hospital at times.  It has been very difficult being so far away from her while this is going on.  She & her husband are hard working proud people.  They are the most loving parents you could ever meet.  I just want them closer to us.  Since she's been "under the weather", many people have said, "don't hesitate to let me know if you need anything."  I've seen it on her Facebook wall.  I've said it to my own friends as well. 

Lately, when phone calls have proved ineffective, my daughter has taken to Facebook to ask friends for help.  Maybe for a ride into town, or for some help with the children. or simply for company.  The response to her request 99% of the time is something like this: "I wish I could, but..."

But what??!?

If you offer help and don't/won't can't follow through, then DO. NOT. OFFER. TO. HELP.  Period.  End of story.  Do not say it just to make yourself feel better for saying that you offered.  Sometimes when people need our help, we have to rearrange our schedules a bit.  Just a little bit.  That little bit means the world to someone who needs us at the time.  I am just livid that she has the same small group of people to help her, even though an entire group has offered.  She doesn't want to burden anyone, & feels like the ones who are helping are going to burn out from helping so darn much.

It has me in knots.  I want to be in Washington.  I am in Nebraska.  I want to help my family.  When her own Mother was alive, I promised her that I would love her two children (my oldest step children) as if they were my own.  I promised to respect them & do anything I could do to help them.  Her Mom hugged me & said shewas thankful that I made her ex-husband & her children happy.

It doesn't matter if you give birth to them, adopt them, foster them, or marry them, they need our love, support, & respect.  This parenting job is not for the weak at heart, you've got to be a ninja (or something like that).

Monday, April 1, 2013

Reward or Punishment??

Chores.  Homework.  Dinner.  Showers & baths.  Downtime.  Bedtime.  That was our night tonight.  Tonight was the night to add up points on the children's chore charts from last week.  We usually do this on Sunday evenings, but Easter took it's toll on the kids, so we waited until tonight.  If the kids earn a high enough number of points on their chart, they receive a set dollar amount for that week (ranging anywhere from a quarter to a dollar) AND a ticket from our chore bin.  These tickets include things such as alone time with Mom/Dad, an ice cream cone, the chance to pick out dinner one night, a 15 minute delay in bedtime, & having a friend stay the night, to name just a few.

Tonight there was a lot of whispering when it came time to pull tickets out of the bin.  Everyone had earned tickets, & usually they are all fighting to get their drug of choice prize.  After we put the bin away, the Boy asked me if he could use one of his tickets tomorrow after school.  I told him yes.  Then the Girl asked me the same question.  Obviously, they were up to something, but I said yes to her also.  THEN Little Boy asked, "Momma I use my ticket to you tomorrow too?"  (Great, they involved my baby too)  I told him yes; why spoil their fun now?

That's when they all showed me their tickets.  They carefully planned it so they would each pull the ticket that read, "Someone will do a chore for you".  They were being too silly to be ganging up on each other, or they didn't think that one of their own could do a chore for them, and Daddy is out of town for work this week. 

I played along.  "Who would you like to do a chore for you tomorrow?"  Of course, they said that I have to do a chore for each of them tomorrow. 

Tomorrow I will be vacuuming upstairs (the Girl's chore), vacuuming downstairs (the Boy's chore), & taking the hampers to the laundry room/sorting the laundry (Little Boy's chore).  The catch??  I can't do it while they're at school.  They want to supervise & make sure that I do it right.

Yep, they listen more often than I give them credit for.....

Personally, I would have picked the ice cream, but apparently watching Mom do chores brings greater satisfaction.