Friday, February 28, 2014

On Family Court & Deadbeat Moms

I cried after court this week.

Yes, we went to court again.  Yes, we're dealing with Abby's mom again.  And yes, I don't talk about it too much for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that this is a very personal family issue and I grew up in a house where family issues stay in the family; and also because this is Abby's story and she has an opinion and feelings and I sometimes don't feel like it's my place to parade the junky parts of our life out there for God and everyone.

This time it's different and I'm not sure why, but it feels like I have to get this all out and off of my chest because I feel like I'm suffocating.  For years my most fervent desire was to find someone like me. Someone who is busy raising a kid that's not her own; a kid that she has no responsibility to other than the responsibility she puts on herself. Someone who understands me when I say that raising this child that I didn't grow - who I've really only known for about 7 years (and they've been tumultuous at best, downright impossible at the worst.) is easily the single hardest thing I've ever done.  Sometimes it feels like teaching an old dog new tricks and that it's easy to disassociate because she isn't "technically" my responsibility.

I don't have a legal stake in Abby, but I'm emotionally and financially involved in all of the things that make up the nuances of her life.  I've scrimped and saved for her. I've laid awake in bed at night discussing her. I've agonized over her decisions and I've celebrated her successes. I taught her how to shave her legs and I explained periods and boys and sometimes I advise her on her hair or make-up. I buy her school clothes and supplies and I make her lunch every morning. I drive her to and from sporting events and play practice; I cheer in the bleachers and in the auditorium. I go to her band concerts and her choir concerts and her plays and her volleyball games. I advocate on her behalf. I take her to the doctor's office and schedule her follow-up appointments and pay her co-pays. I sat outside and prayed during every single therapy session she's ever had. I wash her clothes and try not to make a huge deal out of her incredibly messy room.  I make sure she is fed, that she goes to church and learns about God and that she understands that her brother is not her half-brother, he's just her brother. I make sure she has chores so she learns responsibility, but I try to let her be a kid because she grew up really, really fast and all these years later, Uriah and I still mourn that; but we don't regret it.

In the grand scheme of all of the times we went to court on Abby's behalf - on our family's behalf - this week's hearing was very, very minor.  And yet it was huge.  Abby's mom requested a change of child-support.  She wants to pay nothing.  She wants to have zero financial obligation to her child.  No child support. No medical bills. And the sad thing is that, based on her "testimony," the court will probably side with her because that's actually how the law is written.

And so I cried in the car, in our driveway, after biting my tongue for the half-hour hearing because I wanted to scream to everyone in that court room that this whole thing is a big farce; it's a classic case of fake and dodge responsibility, which, based on our involvement with Abby's mom, is pretty much her M.O.

The thing is: Uriah and I can obviously support Abby without any financial help.  We've been doing just that for the 5 years that Abby's been living with us full-time.  And in 5 years, we haven't pursued help from any outside financial institution - not for medical help, not to enforce the child-support obligation that is owed. This doesn't make us awesome nor does it put us on a pedestal; it simply means that we've buckled down and done what needed to be done to raise our kids, it just so happens that one of our kids technically only belongs to half of us. But I don't believe in that technicality.  I worked a full-time job to make sure Abby's summer programs and after-school care were paid for. I made sure she got to her Girl Scout meetings and that she was able to play volleyball. And now I stay at home as much for Finn as I do for Abby, to drive her to and from school; to make sure she has dinner ready before she goes to her activities and that she doesn't have to eat alone or be home alone or have the obligation of constantly watching out for her little brother. I stay home so that there is always someone here for her when she needs us - phone call from school for tylenol for cramps or a request to stay after and be picked up later to get some work done.

I don't want to have to explain to Abby that once again, her mom wants nothing to do with her. She doesn't call, she doesn't write, and now she doesn't even want to support her from afar.

And I don't want to rant about Deadbeat Moms. I don't want to feel like the justice system is slanted - and not in our favor, which it doesn't need to be but I do think that it needs to be more balanced in general. I don't want to have to deal with the anxiety and annoyance that comes with listening to someone sing her own song of "poor me."

And so I cried in the car. It's easy to be frustrated when things don't look the way we'd like them to or when things follow a path that we think isn't the correct path.  I cried to clear my mind and my heart so that I can see more clearly this new path that is opening up to us.

I can see a little more clearly now that this has potential to be just what we didn't know we always needed.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Let's Pretend It's Spring! (Psych! It's really just another winter storm!)

We played this little game last week called, "Let's Pretend It's Spring!"

The weather got up to 39 degrees two days in a row and it was like a little bit of heaven on our white, frozen tundra.  Uriah and I decided to fully embrace the warm weather by wearing only sweatshirts outside - we were bold: no hats, no mittens; although I did cheat and wear a scarf.  Finn obviously was not allowed to play outside without his full winter-gear, but we did forego his hood and scarf.  The sun was shining, the snow was melting, it totally felt like spring.  I stood in the sunshine, the warm, warm sunshine and I figured that stupid groundhog was full of shit about his shadow and spring and 6 more weeks of never-ending-winter, so we cleaned the snow off of the grill and used it 2 nights in a row!  I'd forgotten how good grilling is...the clean up is so minimal.  I love that.

The downside is that the warm-ish weather causes snow to get sloppy and that gets tracked into the house and I tried really hard not to care was warm and spring-like!  I can handle a little melty, dirty snow on the kitchen floor if it means we can open windows (we did not, by the way, open any windows. Uriah was firm on that one.).  We came to the conclusion that everyone needs new rain boots before spring hits full-force; I really do hate having wet feet and wet pants legs and Finn wore holes in his boots last spring/summer/fall.  I'm not really sure why I didn't throw them away when I did fall cleaning.  The warmer weather also makes snow pants much wetter much sooner; and I resorted to putting his outside clothes in the dryer rather than on the radiator because Finn wanted to play outside often and dry clothes are necessary.

Then, you know...reality hit and we got 12 million feet of snow on Thursday night (actually is was more like 12 inches, but it all feels the same) and school was cancelled on Friday and our grill is once again a snow white mound in the back yard. No more grilling for awhile; back to coats and hats and mittens and boots. I plan to go to Home Depot next week to buy some grass seed.  I'm going to plant it and watch it grow and run my fingers though it because based on the height of the snow piles in my back yard, I will not see grass until at least June.  We might even be able to have a sledding party for Finn's birthday in July.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Bath

Nothing says "Happy Valentine's Day!" quite like a three-and-a-half year old crapping his pants and and apologizing "because I was playing too hard," trying to clean it up himself "because I'm a big boy, Mama!" And then having to spend your morning disinfecting the entire bathroom because, honestly, his idea of cleanliness just doesn't cut it.

Oh, and I stepped in some poo.  Barefoot.

I love my kid.  I love my life.  But seriously?  Wtf?!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What does the fox say? {14 Days of Valentines: 2014 Edition}

When it comes to holiday gift-giving, I think everyone has their favorite time of year. When we lived in Kansas City and my husband had a job that allowed us more flexibility around the holidays, my mother-in-law loved to fill Christmas socks with special things that were unique to each of us. We'd open them on Christmas morning under her tree - showers not necessary, coffee a plus - little things that she'd picked up throughout the year.  These socks could include any number of items: socks (I know, the irony!), our favorite candy, a CD, small bottles of booze that you get on airplanes.  You never knew what you'd be surprised with on Christmas morning.  One year I got pajamas - honest to God, blue satin pj's stuffed into my Christmas sock.

Some people really like Easter, and I'll admit, I like to fill Easter baskets for my kid's, too - colored eggs, malted milk ball eggs, peeps and a hollow chocolate bunny, a kite (although we should all disregard the fact that Finn's kite still sits unopened in our coat closet...maybe this spring we'll get around to pulling that thing out. Or maybe I'll just re-gift it back to him at Easter this year.  He's 3, he'll never know and I'll have saved myself $5.).  Whatever the holiday - Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Arbor Day - I always give my kids a book.  I like to give books as gifts.  You can never have too many books.  Until, of course, you move and half your moving van is boxes of books and those boxes are really heavy and your husband threatens to burn them if you don't whittle down your "collection" only he uses words like: "hoarder" and "obsessive" and "certifiable."  You know, really hurtful words. 

Anyway...I like Valentine's Day. A lot. A really lot. I love to come up with an idea and then find a little gift for my small humans for each of the days leading up to Valentine's Day because I don't love them enough the rest of the year, apparently. 2012 was the inaugural year.  Finn had no idea what was going on, being 1-1/2 and all, but he drank his apple juice and ate his teddy grahams happily.  Abby thought it was pretty cool and was excited most mornings to see what her small gift was and then telling us over dinner how excited she was to get her small gift, so I like to think we coasted in with a win, especially since I flew by the seat of my pants that year. Then last year I felt as though I should take it up a notch.  I'm hopeful I didn't peak too soon, because last year was so much fun to plan

This year I struggled a bit and enlisted the help of my (somewhat non-creative) husband.  At first I thought maybe we'd do 14 days of Love Song lyrics, but scraped that idea when I realized the only songs Finn knows are Wagon Wheel and T-Swift's We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. And also, my husband couldn't contribute any good love songs...a quick google search of Celine Dion is all it would have taken, obviously. Reference: Titanic theme song.  The Power of Love. Because You Loved Me. And about a million more chart toppers than Whitney ever had.

And then the light bulb went of in my otherwise dark mind.  Finn does know another song.  He knows that stupid fox song that is all the rage on YouTube. And it occurred to me that we could totally do that for a theme with all kinds of animals for each of our days.  And then it occurred to me that we could totally get a real dog for the "What does the dog say?" day. I almost peed my pants from canine-procurement-excitement. I looked on the world wide interwebs for the perfect addition to our family (one that didn't cost $1800; I knew my husband would throw up in his mouth if I suggested that dog. In its defense, it was cute and it came with "real genuine papers suitable for framing," so I guess that justified the cost.).  I made lists of doggy items needed. I even gave our new almost-dog a name! And then my husband said no and my hopes and dreams were burst like a hot dog in the microwave.  As it stands, he didn't say no-forever, he just said no-for-right-now; nobody wants to potty train a dog in Northern Minnesota in February.  Valid point, Mr. Hefter.  We shall wait until spring (maybe).

So here are this year's 14 Days of Valentine's (minus the climactic Get A Real Dog Day) in no particular order, because mostly, I still have to go to Target (and probably the Shopko) to procure a few extra items.

  • Zebra: "Our love is not black and white,'s read all over!" {books about love}
  • Elephant:  "I"m nuts about you, Valentine!" {Peanut m&m's}
  • Cow: "Will you be my mooost special Valentine?" {Chocolate milk for breakfast}
  • Bear: "I love you beary much, Valentine!" {Teddy Grahams}
  • Worm: "You wormed your way into my heart, Valentine!" {socks}
  • Unicorn:  "Valentine, you make every day magical!" {Sprakly pencils & crayons}
  • Chick: "Why did the chicken cross the road? To ask you to be mine, Valentine!" {chicken nuggets}
  • Fish: "I'm hooked on you, Valentine!" {Goldfish crackers}
  • Bee: "Just buzzed by to see if you'd be my honey, Valentine!" {Honey Nut Cheerios}
  • Dog:  "What we have is puppy love, Valentine!" {Puppy Chow}
  • Seahorse:  "Sea how much I love you, Valentine?" {bubble bath & body wash}
  • Sheep: "You can count on me for sweet dreams, Valentine!" {new jammies}
  • Moose:  "You make moosest days fabulous, Valentine!"  {Moose Tracks ice cream}
  • Fox: "Happy Valentine's Day!" {new Valentine's Day shirts}