Friday, August 4, 2017

Back to School Co-parenting Blues

image here

And so it begins.

First of all, let me just say I’m so happy my girls had their back-to-school night last night, met their teachers, settled in with their desks and all their school supplies, we are good!  This is the first year that DD2 is attending the same school as DD1 and she’s REALLY excited about that (transferred her from her little private school, think she’s ready for the big leagues, lol).

Since DD2 is a little older, the first of the graduated visitation has set in.  So this is the first time the girls have been on “his” time on back-to-school night.  I’ve always invited him on back-to-school nights prior however.  And he would stick like glue.  The difference between this back to school night?  He kept hurrying the kids and I along so they could say goodbye to me.  /eyeroll.  The girls felt like they couldn’t walk with me all the time (I encourage them to talk/walk with him when he comes to events on ‘my’ time, but whatever).  DD2 was sweet and loving and effusive; DD1 was more reserved and didn’t even look at me to say goodbye.  /cry

So a couple of things leading up to this:

Last week end, DD1 had another sleepover, and it was on dad’s week end. She wanted to bring her electronic device, but I wasn’t comfortable with sending it to day camp and having it sit in her backpack in a giant cafeteria all day, so I worked it out with her BFF’s mom that I’d drop it off, and then pick it up from their tennis practice the following Monday.  DD1 was ecstatic because there were five girls total who would be there and they’d all be doing Minecraft.  (I know, I know, a big deal! Lol)

All went well.  Until this past Wednesday, at bed time, when DD1 told me that dad said he wasn’t comfortable that I brought the iPad to her sleepover on “his” time, and that the next time we do that she has to run it by him.  And I was like, sweetie it’s not okay for you to have to be the messenger; we’re grown ups, and if dad has an issue he can talk to me directly.  And she got super defensive and was like, NO MOM, you’re missing the POINT.  I just have to tell him, so he knows if he’s supposed to take it home or not or what.  And I was like, sweetie, I talked with YOU and Aunty that we were going to leave it with her since we didn’t want it going to day camp on Monday.  And the thing is, we’re grown ups so if dad has issues he can talk to me directly.  She got super agitated some more about me missing the point.  (Now I just feel bad.  I should have said, how does that make you feel or something.  Ugh. Mom fail.)  Anyway she was just exasperated at me, but we still had a pleasant good night.

Okay, so back to back to school night.  The school has been emailing for weeks about how you can check the lists posted at the school during business hours to find out which classroom your child will be in.  Since I’ve been in touch with the school about DD2’s transfer, I called and asked, they let me know over the phone.  I email Exie a couple of times about how to handle back to school night, let’s meet up at DD2’s class first, since she’s new to the school, then go to DD1’s class after.

All is fine until the day of, when he insinuates by email about how I must be keeping school communications from him, as how did I know what classroom DD2 is in and he does not?  (How about, thank you for letting me know about what classroom she’s in?  Or call the school yourself?  Ugh.)

So cut to back to school night, it’s “his” night, and I think that’s why the girls were acting squirrelly.  I see now that he has made a huge deal about “his” time, and the girls know they are to behave accordingly.  DD2, in her effusiveness, forgets, and bounces around like a jumping bean and is all cuddly and cute and friendly, and then suddenly remembers and is back at clinging at his side.  DD1 is a tween now, so it could just be tweeniness, but her behavior is also a result of his making her feel responsible for his “comfort.”  And it makes me sad.

At the end of the day, I have to remember that the kids are all right.  They seem happy and are doing well in school, learning, love to spend time with their friends.  I have to find a way to not let his nitpicking get to me and some days I’m great at it.  Last night, I went home super upset.  So I decided to channel my frustrating into lifting weights.  It helped for a time, lol, but now i'm sore on top of feeling a little blue.  DD1 and DD2 I love you with all my heart, I hope you can feel it. 



Monday, July 24, 2017

Vacation memories

It’s hard to believe we returned from our family trip a week ago!  We successfully carted my mom around two states, spent quality time with my uncle and aunty, two cousins and their hubs, and one adorable second cousin who is two, and with whom my DD2 tried to carry everywhere they went. 

It was so awesome that my Uncle opened his doors to us, we were there Friday, Saturday, Sunday, hanging out, or should I say, partying down!—for both Friday/Saturday nights, we didn’t get back home to our hotel until midnight or 1am!  My mom knows how to party with those board games, card games, making s’more’s in the chimenea off the back porch.  And it was so wonderful seeing the lightning bugs come alive in the wee hours of twilight—to my girls’ delight. Truly, I loved seeing my girls making connections with our family and also reconnecting myself with my uncle and cousins.  We’ve been seeing each other off and on through the years for a meal or an hour or two, but this was the first time in many, many years, where we spent extended time together.

My mom did surprisingly well due to her health condition; we strolled along gorgeous Smale park which is nestled on the banks of the Ohio river, water fountains spouting and inviting the kids to play in them, gardens and garden mazes, life-sized chess games and man-made streams with Rube Goldberg contraptions built in, and a working “when pigs fly” moving statue.  


We also strolled across over a bridge not too far from the Roebling Suspension Bridge (seen above), the design/construction of which was the template for the creation of the Brooklyn Bridge 30 years later, taking in the lights and pictures, having walked from one state (Kentucky) to another (Ohio) and back again! 

My college classmate and her family drove down for two nights to meet us and we oohed and aahed through the neighboring aquarium while my mom rested from the nights of partying, stroking stingrays and watching penguins dive in and out of the water, along with sharks swimming overhead in their tube aquarium; and after our six day visit with the family, we loaded back up and headed back to my mom’s place.  Next stop, off to a visit my bro and family at their farm.

Some of our views at the farm (well, this one was close by, but couldn't resist the baby foal and mom picture):



After dinner, my mom settled into her hotel room with our caregiver that we’d hired; the girls and I went back to the farm where my bro kindly blew up more fireworks into the night.  So exciting!  It was great having bonus time with them.  My daughters were able to ride the horses twice in a row with my sis-in-law; and my older nephew took me on the golf course to teach me all things golf which was hilarious and fun (considering I had no idea golf has a completely different language—he later told my bro that I have a natural talent and that I should take lessons and if I applied myself, I could be quite good! LOL).  Honestly it was just so much fun spending time with him—he is actually quite good, second on his golf team as a freshman, regularly participates in regional golf tournaments; my bro and sister-in-law are banking on at least a college scholarship, here’s to hoping! 

And, I even dared to tackle the mountain biking with my youngest nephew again—while my sis-in-law had my youngest daughter on the horse, DD1 hung with the barn cats, and the next thing I knew I was popping wheelies over roots and trees and getting my butt whipped by wild rosebushes.  To his credit, my nephew didn’t take us entirely into the middle of the woods, just partly, and when we circled back along the old train tracks, he took the lead (and the multiple cobwebs) by storm.  LOL.


Lastly, I came up with the bright idea to take my youngest nephew back to town with us for an overnight, so grandma could have bonus time with her grandson, plus her two granddaughters, and while she rested, I took the three of them to the horse park where we hiked around, went through a Smithsonian affiliated international museum of the horse, as well as interacted with different breeds of horses.

The one featured here is the Marwari horse—DD1 was super impressed at the backstory for the Marwaris, that they never left their riders in battle, and would defend them at all costs.  Awww, my darling DD1 and her fierce and loyal heart.




And the next thing we knew, we were home…

This past week end, we had a belated birthday sleepover for DD1—plus a pal for DD2 to keep her occupied (this backfired, so will re-think this in the future, as the little ones were way too interested in what the big girls were up to, lol), however all in all, everyone had a blast.  We had pizza at night and watched movies, at bed time, the littles did fall asleep way before the big ones and I let them do their group device games; in the morning, I had craft activities involving pipe cleaners, beads—hand made flower rings for themselves, as well as creating glow-in-the-dark beaded jewelry or ornaments and exchanging from a name drawing (they loved guessing who made what). 

So…now we’re back into the swing of things, the time-sharing “schedule” resumes tomorrow.  And I’m trying to be brave and supportive, and outwardly I am, for the girls’ sakes.  Inside, I’m dreading the nitpicking emails and the complaints and the demands that are just around the corner.  It’s been a nice two week break, I wish it could stay this way for a while longer. 


I love my daughters with all my heart.  Please let them be okay.  Please let them always know there is room in their hearts for ALL of the people in their family.  Please let love always win.  


Monday, July 3, 2017

Leaving on a Jet Plane - Summer 2017



We leave to visit my mom on Wednesday—another girls trip with just me and my daughters, so excited!

This trip was actually all DD1’s doing.  Since the holidays, she kept asking if we were going to see Grandma, and I kept saying, I wasn’t sure, we’d just gone last year, it’s really expensive to buy the plane tickets, etc.

And then one day, DD1 came to me, looked me straight in the eye and said:  Mom, you know Grandma isn’t doing very well.  She’s sick.  We really should go visit her.

Me: …

So, within a month, I’d figured out the budget and how we were going to do it.  Did I dip into my savings a little bit?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  Definitely, yes.

My mom is full time in a wheelchair these days due to her condition, but she’s raring to get out and go, so I rented a modified minivan that has an electric ramp for her to drive her wheelchair right up into it, plus we hired the same nurse assistant who traveled with us last year to help me manage the medication and assist my mom at the hotel.  We’re going to take a mini road trip to see my cousins and a brand new baby (okay she’s 24 months, so not that brand new, lol, but brand new to us!) and my mom is super excited to spend some time all together.

Last week, my brother called, the place where my mom is living says that mom needs more nursing care than they can provide, so they are recommending that she moves to a sister facility—likely closer to my brother.  This will turn out better in the end, and is also reinforcement that now, this summer, is the time to visit and take my mom around with us.  Could this be her last hurrah?  It might be.  Only time will tell.


In the meantime, looking forward to a trip where love rules!

Monday, June 26, 2017

She's a Wonder, Wonder Woman!




I’ve been walking a tightrope of co-parenting and work stress lately, but I’m so excited to share that I took a big break from all of that by taking the girls to see Wonder Woman, in full costume, with our lady pals!

Okay truth time, the little sisters and the moms dressed up, the tween and her BFF reluctantly wore one Wonder Woman glove each, but then later discarded them, to little sister’s delight, since then she could wear the “real” Wonder Woman wrist armor, ha ha ha.

I’ve cropped out some pics, but I hope you can feel the Wonder Woman love.





Sometimes, it’s just nice to share some laughter and love for an afternoon.

Sometimes, it’s okay to be silly.

Sometimes, it’s okay to let go of the stressors.

Sometimes, I have to breathe in this moment and love that my daughters get to see a feature movie with a superhero woman saving the world, directed by the first woman to command a 100 million dollar budget, to hear that love wins, and to have this experience be one that is “normal” to them.  That’s pretty dang amazing in my book.

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Now for the downside—after we left the theater, little sister was crying, because she didn’t want to say goodbye to her BFF.  She rallied after some theater goers were waving at us, saying bye Wonder Woman and baby Wonder Woman!  Which made her laugh and wave at them.  On the way home, on her daily phone call with her father, she mentioned going to the movies, then having a hard time leaving, and she said, I’m glad it wasn’t in front of you, because you’d say cut it out, or knock it off.  Straight out the mouth of babes.  (I hope she doesn’t get in trouble for saying that later.) L

And this morning, on the way to summer fun, we talked about how Exie’s birthday was coming up and I asked the girls if they wanted me to get a card for him; then the girls wanted to go shopping and I said, well, maybe you could talk to grandma (Exie’s mom) about it and she could take you this week end.  And both girls said, NO, mom, that won’t work, because Grandma and daddy fight all the time, and he’d never let her take us.  L

Ugh, what the heck is going on?  So I said unfortunately we didn’t have time to go shopping after school because of all of our after school stuff, but I could pick up a card for sure, and big sister said okay, please get a fancy chocolate bar, with no nuts!  LOL.  So I’m putting this out there in the universe—doing kind deeds for the purpose of helping my daughters.  I hope this doesn’t come back and bite me in the a$$, but if it does, oh well.


Because today, love wins.  !  And no one can take that away from us.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Extended Summer Visitation



 Image credit


The coping goes on.  I had a mini meltdown over the week end, it’s so hard to be apart from my daughters, but I know a lot of that is my issue, not theirs. 

And in some of my deepest corners of missing them, I feel myself stretching to understand how difficult it may be for my Exie to be apart from them as well.  For a moment, out of some kind of camaraderie as parents.  Then I pause and remember how we got here, which sobers me up somewhat and hardens my resolve to keep our girls as safe as possible.  It’s not my fault he broke toys, dishes, household items in anger.  It’s not my fault that he choked the family dog and threw him across the room on more than one occasion.  It’s not my fault that he kicked my daughter when she wouldn’t get up from the floor.  It’s not my fault that he kicked the fitness ball that my younger daughter was holding onto when she had just learned to walk, leading her to fall backward.  It’s not my fault that he would say he was sorry, but never followed through with actions on taking control and fixing his anger problem.  So F you, I may understand the sadness at being apart from my daughters during an extended visitation, it may help me empathize with your loneliness a little bit, but F you for making this an unbearable mess to begin with, and continuing to make life more difficult than it needs to be.

Erg.  So my last post was about not having information about where the girls were staying on their staycation with him—I had checked in with our play therapist in hopes he might have mentioned it, and she was like don’t sweat it, as long as you can communicate, that’s what matters, and now he’s setting a precedent that you also don’t have to tell him (which is kind of sad in that we as parents are so ridiculous that not sharing this information is going to be normal—when I have shared numerously in the past).  At any rate, guess what, when the girls called me, they let me now where they were—I didn’t even have to ask, they were just open and talkative and communicative and in good spirits, being at a happy place on earth.  And, I was happy they were where they were, I know that place has lots of water slides, it really is hotel heaven for kids.  I love those water slides, too, so I guess I’m just a big kid, lol.

So onward I went with my life of work responsibilities, spouse responsibilities, friend responsibilities, and then I got sick so was in bed for a couple of days and when I got better, went back to work.  And checked my email and realized that I had missed a real gem from days earlier:

Where he accused me of interrogating the girls, had forced them to “report” to me where they were staying, and that he was not comfortable with me knowing where they were because he knows my husband works in the hotel industry and did not want him to check up on them.

Me: …

Further, that I had never given him information on our travel locations and hotels and that communication via cell would be fine.  (by this time, they were home, had left the hotel days ago, it was just me neglecting to pick up my email).

After collecting my thoughts. I wrote a civil response.

Dear Jerkface (okay I didn’t say jerkface),

I have numerous requests from you about accommodations for when I travel with the girls, as well as my responses that include hotel information, contacts, phone numbers, and addresses of where we are staying.  I understand that in the future that as long as communication is via cell that is satisfactory to you.

The girls are open and communicative with me and I make every effort to ensure the girls feel comfortable and supported when they speak with you, I hope the same is happening when they speak with me.

Lastly, I feel sorry that you think my husband would check up on you; he has always been open, friendly, and communicative with you at the children’s school events.  I think that is an odd conclusion, so am merely responding that is not the case.

Sincerely

Ugh.  And notably, when the girls have called me since this email, the conversations have been fast and tense on their part, saying they have to go, and I worry mostly that they feel like they have to placate him by not speaking with me.  I actually make it a point to answer only on the every/other day situation, so as to lessen the stress on them.  L

So that mini-meltdown I mentioned in the beginning of this post?  It’s partly because I was overcome with worry that he was interrogating them, making them feel bad for talking to me.  Partly because I’m frustrated that I’m dealing with this craziness, and part of me worries that he will somehow “turn” them against me.  I realize now that is just crazy thinking.  Stay open, stay communicative.  Let them have a short call when they ask, as they are kids, in the moment, may not want to talk, or it may be their coping mechanism when being with their dad.  The good news is that he’s not kicking them or breaking stuff (at least I hope not).  The play therapist says the phone calls are something they’ll figure out with their dad at some point, but overall they’re doing fine.  I have to believe that I’m doing everything I can for them, by being open and supportive and loving.  Okay, I can do those things.  They’ll be home in less than a week. The final stretch.

p.s. I am doing adult time things, hanging with the hubs, catching up with old friends that I haven’t spent much time with over the last year, dinners with pals, brunch with pals, even a day drink or two, lol.  Coping with extended visitation is apparently a marathon and not a race.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Irony

Coparenting Life: My ex is taking the kids on a mini staycation. Yay for the kids! 

Now, he has refused three times to tell me which hotel they're staying at (as in, I've texted him asking politely, using please and thank you, and he's responded with not telling me). /eyeroll. The irony to this is that if I withheld information, he'd be blowing up my phone and emailing me nasty nitpicking emails until the cows come home. Part of me feels sorry for him that he's so petty, part of me is annoyed at the situation in general, and part of me is frustrated that he gets away with being a jerk.

I checked in with my therapist who helped talk through it with me--remember Jane, he has to feel like he's in control and that he's winning.  Somehow, withholding information from you makes him feel big.  He is Ex being Ex.  

Me:  yes.  

I also checked in with the play therapist to talk this through, and her response was--well, as long as you can talk with them, you don't really need to know in the end, and now he's set a precedent where you no longer have to answer his demands in the future.

And while I take comfort that I haven't completely melted down into a frustrated ball, that half of me is rolling my eyes at the pettiness, there is still that part of me that is just so sick and tired of the stupid bullcrap.

Of course it doesn't help that last week end, when I took the girls on their girl scout field trip, I was courteous and emailed him pictures.  Trying to be an adult and be the bigger person.  Oh well.

As they say no good deed goes unpunished!  Insert laughing and eyeroll emoji here.

On the upside, I'm going to see Wonder Woman tomorrow, yippee!

Happy Week End, All!



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sharing your Light is Kind of Complicated

Image credit


Over the week end, a close family member posted a caricature stick diagram explaining the problem of illegal immigration, pitting a stick figure of “John Legal” who is white (okay, light peach, if you want to literally translate the color in the picture), and “Juan Illegal” who is brown.  It then broke down the issue about how much money each of them made, with John paying taxes on his higher wage, with  Juan getting paid under the table for a lower wage and not paying any taxes, both having children who went public schools, a quick discussion of healthcare, and ended, ultimately, with Juan’s children’s excelling and going to the head of the class because of “minority” scholarships.  The takeaway is that John paid for everything and suffered for it, while Juan hasn’t paid a cent and is doing just great.

The one comment underneath this post was hand-clapping.  Eep.

Even at a quick glance, I realized the claims regarding wages and taxes were incorrect.  I didn’t even get to the end of the comic strip, because I knew there was something here that needed to be addressed and wasn’t sure how to address it.

My other family member, E, who is a legal, non-white immigrant family member began texting me—did you see “X’s” post?  I’m so upset!  I’m seeing red!  I can’t believe she’d post that!  E has a much longer history with the family as I do (having married into it just a few years ago), and her feelings were beyond hurt.  She and I discussed everything that was in error with the post, and I found myself, while just as upset and infuriated, strangely calm as I hunted for facts to put together a public response.  E said she was going to talk to the family member and spouse directly as she was going to see them soon—couldn’t deal with the hurtful implications just yet until she’d calmed down—all of which I understood and supported because I love E with all my heart.  For my sake, I felt it was time for me to say something, in a measured, and even loving way, but also in a way that could shed some light onto the situation.  I was hoping by appealing to our mutual love as a family she might listen.  (p.s. my husband was like, um, not going to change anyone’s minds).  And even with that lovely support, I thought, I have to try.  I have to say my peace and put it out there.

So this is what I wrote:

I love you, XXX, you're my family, and I can see how this explanation puts the immigration challenges in a way that many can read easily.

I'd like to share my thoughts as your sister and immigrant, and hope you can see I say these things from a place of love. There are numerous reports that show undocumented immigrants do not take native born jobs, and in fact do pay taxes, contributing 11.74 billion to state and local taxes each year, including personal income tax.  Also, the companies that hire them (construction, agriculture) who give them lower under the table wages, pay taxes for doing business. These same people who are paying taxes are not eligible for government programs that they are helping to pay for.

Re: wages, the wages for undocumented workers are much less than this diagram, instead of $15/hr, it’s more like $5/hr or a set amount for a job no matter how many hours (ie Texas reported $90/14 hour job). There are no protections, so those that hire them will use their status as a way to force them to accept deplorable conditions, and they are more vulnerable to exploitation.

I wish the challenge of illegal immigration, like many challenges that we face as parents who love our children and want to secure a future for them, had an easy answer.  Like this one and many others, tax reform, education, healthcare, it's not easy. Life is messy unfortunately.

I.e., I can't figure out how to fit my friend's story in the stick figure diagram: She has a patient that needs hospice, this patient is undocumented.  They are not here illegally, they were visiting family when this happened.  Now, there is no way to get them home.  And this person could have reasonably priced home hospice, but since they aren't an American citizen, they can't.  According to her, they will, however, spend the next month or so in the hospital until she dies.
  
I also realize I am a brown, legal immigrant, and that I have grown up with lots of privilege, for which has implications and is a wholly different conversation. I hope to reach out with love and kindness and use my privilege as much as I can to help others and I thank you for listening.
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After I posted it, I sent X a text saying I had posted (because I didn’t want her to feel blindsided), that I had put a lot of thought into it and that I loved her.  And then…a few minutes later—she texted back, “I love you, too, I’m sorry if I upset you.  I understand your view!”

Wow!  Wow oh Wow!  That was not the response I had expected, in fact I had been bracing myself (along with E) for a backlash.  Later, when I went back to X’s page to say thank you for listening, I couldn’t find it—and E said I had changed the world a little bit because she’d removed the post.

Wow. 

I felt happy that X listened, that’s all I had hoped for.  I don’t know if it really changed her mind about anything, but I thought, hopefully, this is something I can remember about how I can be the light and use my voice.  That it’s okay to disagree.

As for E, she’s still very upset and hurt by how easily X could post something that is erroneous at best, ignorant and racist at worst, and I agree with her.  It makes me sad to know how many people think and feel this way.

There’s an interesting, food for thought article posted at _The Guardian_ that discusses structural racism.   

I see it that racism is a system, and that while we didn’t create this system, we inherited it, and privilege runs up and down the structure.  Whether you’re white or of color, there are privileges that you may have based on your experiences and upbringing and advantages and disadvantages that are also inherited and it's difficult to understand one or the other because of them.  But we can try.  So let’s be the light, let’s shine, let’s use our privilege to uplift and help others where we can, when we can.

p.s. upon later researching, I found that the stick figure diagram had been discussed and debunked, so apparently this has been around for a while.