Competitive Me.

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been competitive.

Whether it was who could clean their room quicker, sister vs sister

Winning soccer and softball games.

Getting my name called first to be a helper in school.

Having the best baked cookies.

I don’t “take it easy” when we play board games with kids. I play to win.

Whatever it is- I will race you at it and I sure as heck plan to win.

But how does that work out when you’re a parent? How does that work out as a step parent? Simple: It doesn’t. Competition doesn’t belong within our four walls. Competition should stop there. It shouldn’t be a race to see who can wake the kids up the quickest or in the best manner. Shouldn’t be a game to see who can fold the most clothes or do the most tasks for the kids. Shouldn’t be a contest who the 12 year old will spill his guts to first. Or who 17 will text message first. But for me, it sort of is.

It’s somehow become a game. If Prince Charming walks through the door, I’m the winner if he greets me first. If he hugs 9 before me, I’ve failed. Something is wrong. I’ve told him it bugs me. That if he says I’m first than he needs to show it too. That he is happy to come home to his wife. and that things are different now that we are married. The kids cannot speak over top of me to get their dad’s attention. things are different.

So what do I do? How do I stop?

How do I change the way that it feels when I am aching for attention from my husband who works almost full time and goes to school full time and spends 25 hours in his office studying… and he reaches for the kids first? How do I respond when he misses the kids but I am breathing a breath of relief that I get 2 hours alone with my husband and don’t have children climbing on me asking for their next meal (because they know I can cook now.) How do I not get upset when he wants to spend one on one time with them but doesn’t have time for me? How has this become a competition? Who am I?

I don’t want to outweigh the kids. I don’t want him to not spend time with them. I don’t want him to ignore them. I think I expect him to be superman and it’s disappointing when he can’t be. When he can’t fill 19 roles like I hope he can. Because I have to fill a lot of gaps right now and I think I always expect him to swoop in and say, “No babe, I got this tonight.” So when I overexert myself and try to make everything work out, it’s his call at the end of the day whether the quality time was spent with the littles or spent with his wife. They both like to do different things. One doesn’t like to play board games with the other because of the age gap. One doesn’t like the outdoors and the other wants to be active and live a little bit outside of our own four walls. One I butt heads with and the other can be my best little friend at times. How do we mix ourselves together and act like a regular family who can handle having time away from other members of the family and get quality time when we can?

 

Do you struggle with this? Competition? How do you fight it? How do you win against it?

The big, green monster

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Proverbs 27:4New International Version (NIV)

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
    but who can stand before jealousy?

Jealousy is something I’ve never struggled with, until now. I’m not sure how to handle it- but Proverbs has said it perfectly. Who can stand before jealousy? Who can even try to compete. Who can win against it? No one. Your mind eats at you. Your thoughts are overcome by negativity- worst case scenarios. It creeps in and spews darkness in all of the wrong places. Lord, help me.

SOS

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This weekend started with me quickly sending out SOS texts to some of my closest friends. “What do you do when they drive you absolutely batty? I can’t escape.” “That’s it, I’m faking my death. No, if I actually die, then they really can’t find me.”
It started when 17 came over with gbaby. Prince Charming was supposed to be home and 17, boyfriend and gbaby were due to visit us. They show up early and all is fine, this means I get to snuggle gbaby all on my own and not fight off the other baby-obsessed folk in my home. grandma wins.  Except that ten minutes into it being just me and them home, 17 says “I THOUGHT Dad was going to be here. Where is he? I thought he was leaving?” girl. your dad and time do not go well together, you should know.
As soon as PC, 12 and 9 walk through the door, 9 starts asking for dinner. He’s been with PC all day, so why hasn’t he ate? He asks at least 7 times before I begin cooking. Then, mid-stir, WHEN. WILL. IT. BE. READY.
and i do the crazy lady head tilt. I swear if you ask me one more time when we are going to eat, i’m banning you from dinner. do. not. ask. me. again. After all, I’m in the kitchen, standing in front of the stove, putting things in the oven, setting the table, getting the drinks and trying to be cordial with 17. She volunteers to help, but simultaneously forgets and starts doing something else. Awesome.
After dinner is served, 9 complains about the types of cheese, that they ate spaghetti with mom earlier in the week, that there isn’t enough bread (there was enough for each of us to have 2. that’s plenty.) 12 hits him in my defense. I love that one. I sit in silence and eat.

I can’t explain how the rest of the weekend went. I felt aggravated the entire time, without prompting. We spent Sunday at church and at the community college pool, while PC went to get some study help.  I am exhausted. Noise is overwhelming. We packed lunches and ate them before we swam, this should buy us a few hours.

We get home, I hadn’t eaten anything because I don’t like sandwiches. I grab a cold piece of pizza and try to eat it before they can see me. They try to tell me they’re hungry, but they just got donuts as treats on the way home and had lunch not too long ago. It’s not even 5:00. They won’t leave my side while I try to eat one. slice. of. pizza. So i shoo them. Go read for a few minutes. Please. Just go read. Go somewhere, Please.

12 is yelling answers in my ear to every question i ask PC. I tell him to shush. He gets louder. I ask PC to repeat himself because I can’t hear or handle anything right at that moment. 12 is yelling again. I scream. I scream like I have never screamed before. I turn red. I feel something different in me when I scream. I walk into my room and shut the door and I cry for what feels like days. I don’t want to be a monster.

I cry until I can compose myself and walk into 12’s room and apologize, hanging my head down low. He said he deserved it, he knew he was wrong for talking over me and not letting me just ask a question to his dad. No kid. You don’t ever deserve to be talked to like that. But you’re right, you were annoying the shit out of me. I’m sorry.

I go across the hall to find my Prince. I am red in the face and my eyes are still wet. I tell him I need him to give me time alone when it’s a weekend with kids. That I need him to recognize when I need a break, because I know I won’t. I need him to just give me ten minutes to breathe. He tells me I don’t have to ask for breaks and to take them when I need them, but he doesn’t understand. I fall apart and i cry. I have never walked up to him and cried before. except when I found out my step dad had cancer. He hugged me like he finally saw me. He apologized and told me he’s worse at yelling than I am and that the kids know we lose our cools sometimes and we’re humans and its okay. He told me to apologize and smiled when i told him I already had. I told him it hurts to try to love on kids who shut you out. They love you.

I know, but it’s different. They love me but when they sit by me on the couch and accidentally find themselves with their leg against mine or they are leaning on me, they realize it and scoot far away. If they pull my hand to show me something, they quickly realize that they can’t touch me and drop their arms down. They don’t tell me they love me or hardly even tell me good night. I don’t expect them to say much or be very affectionate, I just wish I could hug them every now and again. Or feel like it isn’t wrong if I do. I tell PC that the only night they’ve ever hugged me was when their mom came and ripped them away from me, and I had to ask for it. 12 had to convince 9 it was okay for him to hug me.

PC suggests that I think about how chaotic life with kids is, because I want to have a child (not right this second, calm down.) But i tell him it would be different. The chaos would be different. the consequences would be different. the love would be different.

He nods like he knows. It’d be different because it would be yours.

Yeah.

The Matthew Challenge: Day 8 Verse 8

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Any time we get to talk about Healing, I’m all about it. My God is so incredibly GOOD. Some people are scared, some are afraid and some are uncertain of what He is capable of. MY God is capable of healing cancer. He feeds the hungry, he heals the lepers.

In Matthew 8, the passage opens with a man with leprosy who simply kneels before God (so simple) and asks if He would be willing to heal him. Jesus TOUCHES him and commands that the leper be clean. He tells the leper not to share it with anyone, just to go see the priest and offer the testimony of Moses to him.

HE JUST TOUCHES HIM. HIS LEPROSY IS GONE. FINETO.

Just. Like. That.

Now, I am also particularly interested in Jesus’ healings because of my own physical ailments.

In 2012, I was rear ended by a truck going about 40mph while I was stationary. It impacted more than 20 of the joints in my spine and put me in physical therapy and required chiropractic treatment for 2 years. I started with chiropractic 5 days/week and finally dwindled down to once every six week a normal, healthy visit to my chiropractor.
I was left with brain trauma that the doctors couldn’t heal and couldn’t even see. They tested me several times and just had nothing for me. My family doctor finally caught onto the fac that my brain was LEAKING FLUID. So he put me on an antibiotic to slow it down. I could physically feel the fluid in my brain freezing (it was winter) and no one believed it until I saw this doc.
I was also left with a bout of (self diagnosed) PTSD. 100% of the signs are there, I don’t really need to see a doctor for him to tell me that it’s what’s happening in my mind.
One particular night at prayer, I felt God speaking to me. He told me to lie down on the ground, face down, as low as you can get. Be still. So I did.
Don’t move. Be still.
The worship team was strumming some music, which we didnt do every week, and the pastor/worship leader started playing Healer by Kari Jobe. and I immediately started sobbing.
Don’t. Move.
One member of the band stepped away and came to me, placed her hands on my head and started praying over me. She told me she felt uncomfortable but knew she needed to pray for me.
The next member stepped away from their instrument and came near, I felt a hand on my back. Then another by my feet. That was my pastor. I could feel her tears dripping on my legs.
Don’t move.
We all sang the chorus over and over.
God grabbed a hold of my mind and showed me this whirlwind. These bright pink and purple connections and dots with lines pulling them together. Some were bright and some were dull. Some were functioning right and some seemed distant. It was my brain. He showed me the inside of my HEAD. And of course I just started sobbing.
My mind was spinning a million miles an hour and all I could see was this almost lava-lamp replica of my brain. It’s not something I could ever draw or paint a picture of, it’s not the typical scientific image of a brain. It was my broken brain.
And then God just whispered to me: Time.
Time. Time. Time.

So I am still holding onto the promise that He spoke to me in regards to my own healing. That it will come in Time. When I get to read about His miraculous healings, it reminds me that my time will come. That He hasn’t forgotten me. He sees my spine, now that I’ve been in a second accident and it has a physical curve in it and I’ve shrunk an inch and am only 26. He sees me. He sees my brain get overwhelmed and my speech slur. He knows when I can’t form proper sentences or when the keys bring up letters that I didn’t mean to punch in. He sees the fogginess, 5 years later. His time. Not mine.

Back to Matthew.

“He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

Immediately following this story, we have the parable of Jesus and the men on the boat. You of little faith.
You think I can’t heal the curve in your spine? I created you. I have stopped the seas from crashing in on my men. I have removed Leprosy from my people. I have cast out demons. You of little faith. Where is your heart?

Matthew shocks me with healing stories. It humbles me and grounds me and forces me to turn my face to Christ when even I have forgotten to pray for my healing. It seems so long ago and as if it’s just a part of me now. Me, of little faith. My God doesn’t break His promises.

Time.

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I don’t think I’ve mentioned this on here yet, but my step dad of 19 years was diagnosed with Stage 3 Lung Cancer over this past summer. He was a smoker for about 40 years, worked in a shop most of his life, likely to be a recipient of this awful disease.

When we found out, the doctors had us convinced he had the equivalent of Stage 5 cancer (which doesn’t exist). They made sure we knew that it was bad and to prepare for the worst. So we did.

When we heard that lovely little “3” it was oddly relieving. Most people would grieve over stage 3, but we thought they were going to give him a death sentence.

Two weeks ago, my step dad had a scan done do see how his first round of treatment took to his body. The cancer doctors told us there was no change. We were shocked, but at least it hadn’t grown.

5 days later, his regular physician came back to town from a vacation, reviewed his charts and declared him CANCER FREE. They found a spot of something on his stomach, but didn’t know what it was at that point. And we decided to ignore it until we learned more about it. We were going to celebrate that he was at least lung cancer free!

Until today.

When my dad texted me.

It’s gone.

IT’S GONE.

The spot on his stomach was an “irritation” from having bronchitis and pneumonia. and it is gone, too.

My step dad is cancer free and on the road to recovery, starting today.

My God, I am so grateful that you hear my tiny voice. I am so grateful that you hear the voices of my friends and family who have cried and prayed and begged for his healing. I am so grateful that You see his sinful heart and You still love him through his brokenness. God, i am so grateful for your healing powers. That You are bigger than a monster like Cancer. You have the victory. You have the glory. You are bigger than even the radiation and chemo used to treat him, I don’t give them any thanks- i give all my thanks to You. Thank you Jesus. Thank you for hearing me.

Don’t let them stop you.

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I’m still not sure how to talk about this without feeling like the world is crushing me and caving in on me. It still feels dark. It still hurts as bad as it did the night it happened. But it’s important and you need to read it, and I need to share it.

Last month, the inevitable Deer Season was upon us. Prince Charming was geared up, his club dues were paid, all of his tasty snacks were packed away, and his favorite hunting cap was atop his head. He was ready to get away for a week of relaxation, no work, no kids, no stepmomma (how dare he!), no dogs- he was excited. My feelings on hunting season are a LOT different than his. I become overwhelmed with anxiety, fear, depression, loneliness- all of it. I go from 100% to nearly nothing and it’s exhausting in itself.

I’ve never wanted to be the wife that my husband had to “get away from.” I never wanted to be a deer widow. Never wanted to have weeks away from my spouse. But I married a hunter.

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I actually really want this sweatshirt. You can buy it for me Here. Size 2x-3x. I’m not kidding at all.

Fast forward to the day after Opening Day. Prince Charming hasn’t seen any deer at this point and he is cranky, not even a pesky doe. I am still unsure if the kids are coming to stay with me on our night or if I’m just going to be kicked to the curb at this point. Most of me longs for them to stay the night, to get good, quality time with them. Some of me is scared and terrified because I can’t entertain a 12 year old and an 8 year old on my own. PC assures me that it’s fine for them to come over, their mom approves. She had recently made a decree that I am not allowed to be with them alone, it’s PC’s parenting time.. not mine. So I was trying to be sensitive to this.

I scoop the boys up from their grandpa’s house and we head home. I made tacos, because I can’t cook real food. We get into a screaming war (this is actually a fun thing for us, I swear), we chase each other around the house. We are giggling our hearts out. Smiles from ear to ear on all three of us.

Then 12 wants to call his mom and ask her a question. The conversation develops and she learns that Dad is hunting and the kiddos are home alone. With me. I am eavesdropping as I stir the taco meat.

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Stepmomma, Mom wants to talk to you.” I stop breathing. I know what’s going to happen.

“So PC isn’t there huh?”
“No, he’s hunting. He’ll be gone til Sunday. I’m gonna take the boys up to him on Friday so we can all see each other at least one night this week, I’ll bring the other kid back to you Saturday.”
“Well. It’s his time with them. Not yours.”

“it’s our time.”
“No.”

The conversation continues on and I’m told that the kids have to want to spend time with me. That I need to earn their trust. I promise her that I have. That we are laughing and having a good time. She reminds me that this isn’t my time. It’s my husband’s. And if they’re not with their dad, they should be with her. She reminds me that she was a step mom and she gets it. And she wants us to have a good relationship with me, she really does. But they need to be with her. So she’s coming to get them. I told her I didn’t think it was right and requested that we at least be allowed to eat the dinner that I was making for them, permission granted. *click*

I am sobbing. I walk into my bedroom and shut the door. By sobbing I mean.. I am SOBBING. I can’t help it. I don’t want to get mad and upset and have the boys think their mom is a monster. I don’t want them to think I’m a pushover, either. Then I hear 12 get on the phone and say “Mom. You’re wrong. This isn’t right. Let us stay. We’re having fun. You’re being mean, you’re just being mean. She’s not doing anything wrong.”
12 is defending me to his mom. out of his own will. out of his own leading.
I came out to see what was happening, wiping tears away, and I hear him say “You’re being unfair, Mom.”
I turn directly to him and tell him “12, you don’t need to do this. Thank you, but you don’t need to get involved here.” and he looks at me, doesn’t even cover the mouth piece, and says “No. She’s being crazy.”

My heart has never been so full and so broken at the same time.
This woman did the equivalent of taking my heart out of my chest cavity and stomping on it. She ripped it out. She shredded it to pieces. She made me feel small.. in a way I haven’t felt in a very long time. I felt obsolete.
And here comes 12, defending his invisible step mom.
We ate dinner pretty slowly. We continued to laugh. I sent her the “We’re done” text and waited. She didn’t even come to the door.

They hugged me for the first time since I’ve been their technical step mom that night.

They walked out the door and I broke down. I called my Prince but he couldn’t handle it. While I was soaking up the last few minutes with my boys, she was text-bombing him. Telling him how terrible he is, treating him like he abandon his kids (instead of the reality that he missed one night away from them.) She ripped into him and he couldn’t take any more.

When he called me back, he had been ripped apart and had fought via text with his ex-girlfriend for the past few hours. I just wanted to cry to him and have him tell me he was sorry and that he loved me. I sorta wanted him to come home and wave the FOC papers in her face that say that it’s LEGAL for a parent to assign someone to pick up the kids if they are 1) present in the children’s lives (I live with them), 2) someone they are comfortable with (I see them in their underwear more than I see my husband in his), 3) AS HE CHOOSES. I wanted him to tell her they were mine and the time was mine, too. That I fight for them and that I defend her when they are angry with her. That I won’t let anyone speak down on her and I won’t ever come in the way of their relationship with their mother. I wanted him to tell her that I love those boys as if they were ones I carried myself. I wanted him to tell her that they love me back. But he didn’t. He said “What do you want from me?” and I told him I didn’t know, because I couldn’t hardly speak. And he hung up and went to bed.

That night my entire heart got crushed.. a few times. I feel like I am still rebuilding from it and it’s been 1 1/2 months.

So yesterday, when I picked them up from their mom’s house, while 17 was babysitting. 17 invited me inside- the first time I’ve ever stepped foot in their mother’s house. And she came home while I was standing in her doorway. And I think, just for a moment, I made her feel small. I made her uncomfortable. She made comments about how the kids didn’t clean up during the day and she rushed to their side to help them pack. She put on a little show for me, now that I could see a snippet of her world. I don’t strive to make people feel poorly, but it felt good to watch her squirm, even for just a second.

The hurts come so unexpectedly. They come without any warning. They leave marks. They dig their claws in deep. I feel wounded- and it’s a strange feeling because I haven’t given someone the opportunity to hurt me in a long time. I let my guard down and she came crashing in.

Dear sisters, I am sorry if you have felt pain from exes. I am equally sorry if you have felt pain from your kiddos and from your husband. All I can tell you and all I can hope you get from this story, is that you aren’t alone. We get attacked. We get bruised. But we keep on. My head is still up. I won’t give up these boys. I won’t stop fighting for them. I won’t ever look away from them. I hope you’ll keep your littles at the forefront of your own minds, as the arrows get shot in your direction. Don’t let them stop you.

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*Disclaimer- my husband doesn’t talk to me like he did on that phone conversation.. ever. He cares for me. What happened with their mother wasn’t something that I was aware of. It was doubly crushing to have the blow that came from her and then have the blow that came from him. He was tired. He was weary. I was broken.

Making the Switch

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There are times, like now, where the anxiety is high and the tensions are high- mainly because we are stressed about the upcoming holidays (okay, mainly it’s me that is stressed, but Prince Charming has to deal with it so..), and I cannot handle the general public. And it seeps into my daily life.

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Yesterday, I had one of those miserable Christmas-shopping experiences. I waited in line for 12 minutes before it was my turn to pay for my $1.98 purchase (2 birthday cards, I couldn’t NOT get them or I’d have to go wait in line somewhere else). The cashier was very friendly, but that was the problem. She talked and talked and talked and I wanted to gouge her eyes out for not being more productive in her cashiering. (I’ve was a cashier for about 10 years, I can critique her skills.) She took so long, I was late coming back from my lunch. It irritated me- I am not a late person. My work was slow yesterday, so all I could do was stew about it and let my anxiety continue to brew.

By the time I have gathered the kiddos from their grandparents house and brought them home, I’ve been driving too long and my head hurts, it’s time for stepmomma to take a nap but we all know that can’t really happen. 8 and 12 are pure chaos. It’s the first day of Winter Break, after all. They fight and scream and 8 cries at least two times. Prince Charming isn’t home when he says he’ll be, there’s too many dishes and too much laundry and two very stinky dogs. Too much for a Wednesday. 8 gets sent to bed, 12 goes berzerk because this means that’ he’s locked out of his room! I still can’t take it and Prince Charming is still not home.

What do I do?!

It’s so hard for me to transition. To have weekends on with the kids and weekends off from them. My mind can’t handle it. Plus the holiday craziness e v e r y w h e r e  we go. My mind goes at a billion miles an hour. I can’t come home and unwind, like a normal person. I clean, I wash the dogs, I do laundry, pick up the garbage all of the littles leave behind, and then I finally sit down to finish a photo session I’ve been working on all month- it is unending.

Two hours later, 8 wakes up and comes to sit next to me on the couch. I know it’s because my blanket is the softest one in the house, but I pretend its because he wants to be by me. He actually scoots closer. He’s almost sitting on my lap. But I’m editing, so I can’t handle distractions and I look at him and say You’re too close. I can’t do this right now. and he moves. and I forget that that moment is what I have been striving for for TWO years. and I push him away over someone’s wedding photos (that will be finished 3 weeks ahead of schedule). Is it worth it? Is it worth making my business name a bigger name than my stepmomma name? Is it worth ignoring the chance to snuggle my boy because I am full of irritation and ready to snap?

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No.

But I don’t know how to switch from “Daily Life” to “Home Life” and I don’t know how to switch from “Newlywed couple” to “Parents.”