Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Right to be a Parent

Many years have passed since the last reminder that I was, in fact, a "step"mom.  That word does not really exist in this family.  Not because it was forced on the older children...the last thing I wanted to do was to force them to make a choice about who I was to them...the only thing I wanted them to know was that no matter who they perceived me to be...I would always be there for them.  I will let you in on a little secret...when I first met my was the kids I fell in love with first.  A little boy with light blonde hair, and a smile that could light up a room.  A baby girl with cheeks you just felt compelled to kiss, and a personality as big as the world.  I, of course, then fell in love with the man who was their father...partly because of the father he was, and is today. 

Those first years were rough.  Custody battles, kids torn between homes...a mother who, after much turmoil, finally dropped out of their lives.  It wasn't until then that they had the courage to call me "Mom."  They told me they had the desire to long before that...but were afraid.  I told them that I would love them the same, no matter what title they gave me.  In my mind, however...they were always mine.

Since then, I have helped raise them...I have volunteered at the schools...gone on field trips...signed permission slips.  I have enrolled them in classes and after school activities.  I have taken them to doctors, helped them with homework, and argued with them about the appropriateness of various clothing choices.  I have worried, cried, laughed, and consoled.  And this day...I have no legal rights to either of them.  Only if their biological mother were to give up all rights to them would I be able to adopt them.  We don't even know where she is...and I highly doubt she would be willing to do so.

Recently a certain doctor would not let me bring one of them in for care.  My husband had to be the one to fill out paperwork, and would be the only one they would release information to unless he signed release papers for me.  How is this fair? 

If a person is legally married...and that parent has full physical custody of the children, I think the stepparent should have some sort of legal rights when it comes to taking care of the children.  Especially when that is the parent who is home and giving 90% of the actual care.  I understand wanting to protect parents' rights when it comes to divorce...but there are certain things that should be taken into account.  If the primary caregiver has no legal rights, how does this benefit the child?

I'm glad, at least, I only run into this issue on a rare occasion.  I suppose it shouldn't bother me so much...I know who I am, and the children know...and that is what is important.  However, I can't say it doesn't hurt a all of the struggles...everything we went through as a family...doesn't mean much somehow.  The courts...the doctors....they don't see past the fact that I did not actually give birth to them.  Someday it won't matter at all...they will be grown and making their own decisions.  Right now it does make it a bit difficult, though.  I only hope it doesn't happen again for a long time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Landscaping vs. Raising Kids

The neighbor is putting up a fence.  My husband firmly believes that this is because they no longer want to see our yard.  They have a beautifully landscaped yard, a nice deck, a couple of older kids, and a wandering dog.  I could also point out that they can also afford to have a maid service...but I don't think that matters much to my husband, who envisions our yard as having an abundance of fruit trees, a pond with a bridge leading to an island with a statue of Buddha in the center, and a perfectly cut lawn.  Of course, our yard has none of these...outside of an apple tree that seems to have issues with pests. 

Currently our yard is in need of some work.  We do not have a working lawnmower at the moment, so we have to borrow someone's...needless to say, this has not happened in a timely manner...and our grass is pretty tall, with an abundance of dandelions.  The garden areas are in need of some weed-pulling...and they need to be cleaned out in general.  The main probem is that I do not have the time or ability to get out there myself during the week...not with three little ones and no fence around the yard.  Although my husband says he understands this...he still cannot seem to comprehend why our yard does not look like our neighbor's. 

Now, I do not want our yard to get so bad as to be the center of the neighborhood's redneck jokes...but I do have to say that I'm not quite as concerned as my husband.  We will find some time to get out there and make sure it looks appropriate.  The grass will be cut, things will look clean.  Will we have big, beautiful gardens?  Nope.  I like beautiful gardens as much as anyone else...but I'm realistic.  We are at a different point in our lives right priorities are a little different.  I am busy nurturing a different garden right now, and helping it to grow.  And how well these little sprouts turn out will have a much bigger impact than whatever we might plant outside.

I'm sure that when our kids are older, and we find we have more time on our hands, our yard will start to take shape.  I'm not sure my husband will ever really be happy with it...but at least we will have time to dedicate to improving it.  In the meantime, he will just have to live with an "ugly" yard...unless, of course, instead of complaining...he would actually like to go out there and work on it...I'm only sayin'....

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dear Owen,

I know you do not want to miss a minute of life...or Toy Story, regardless of how many times you have viewed it today.  I know you do not think you are tired.  However, Mommy is tired.  When you do not nap, you get cranky.  You hit Mommy, throw fruit snacks, and steal your sister's Froggy.  I should not have to tell you that stealing your sister's favorite stuffed animal never ends well. 

Mommy needs you to start taking naps again.  So does the rest of the family.  And no, just because you are awake does not mean Connor needs to be awake, too.  Please, for the love of all that is good in this not wake up your brother.  Cranky Connor is actually much worse than Cranky Owen. 

I love you, son...but you need to nap.  I promise you will feel much better if you do...and Mommy's eye twitch will hopefully go away. 

Thank you.



Thursday, April 22, 2010

Three's a Crowd

I am not ready.  I should be...but I'm not.  The twins are developing an extreme interest in the potty.  We now have two potty chairs, side by side, in the bathroom.  They like to sit on them.  They like that one of the potty chairs will sing a song about toilet paper.  Irelynn likes to be a tinkle-time mentor.

"Good job, Owen!  You go pee pee in the potty!  Don't forget the toilet paper!"

Early on, with the first children, I was very motivated to potty train them.  It was like a of those odd skills that seem to bring out a competitive nature in parents.  I'm not sure why this is...however, I have even heard of parents attempting to potty train when they are small babies, by holding them over a sink or potty chair and making a sound resembling urine spraying into their ears.  I'm not kidding...there are books about it.  How this actually benefits the child, or the parent, I'm not sure.  My boys are 18-months...and I'm pretending not to notice that they like the potty.  The thought of training two boys at the same time is a little scary to me.  I'm not interested in the bragging rights....I find it much more impressive that Connor can actually choose and run apps on my Droid phone by himself, or that Owen can open the baby gate (when most adults can't) and count out the exact number of packages of fruit snacks to offer one to each sibling plus himself.  I mean, honestly...even the older boys (yes, I said boys) have yet to learn to properly aim when it comes to going in the potty. 

However, this new fascination, I'm afraid, cannot be ignored much longer.  It is prompting one of my boys to strip naked (or have Irelynn "help") and it is making the bathroom a new source of inspired naughty antics.  Upon changing laundry loads this morning, which could not have taken more than a couple of minutes, tops, I look around to find no children anywhere.  No sounds.  Nothing.  This is one of those moments where my heart starts pounding...because I realize two very important, wherever they are, they are all together (upping the ante on whatever mischief they might be causing,) and two, they will be causing some sort of mischief.  I see the light on under the bathroom door.  I slowly open it.

On one potty chair sits Irelynn, who I'm assuming came in to use it and forgot to shut the door.  On the other potty chair is Owen...naked.  Both rolls of toilet paper (we always have an extra one in there) are completely unrolled and covering the floor.  Standing on the actual toilet is Connor...with a toothbrush in one hand...licking the mirror.  I look at Irelynn.

"Owen had to go potty."

Although Owen did not, in fact, go potty...I still tried my best to remain positive, as I'm afraid upseting them might deter the future training process.  My little mirror-licker, however, was given a firm, "NO, NO!"  to which he grinned and repeated, "NO NO!"  I removed both boys from the room (with Owen singing the chorus to All the Single Ladies,) and cleaned up the toilet paper, calmly explaining to Irelynn that is Mommy and Daddy's job to help the boys go potty. 

I guess it's time. 

I'll tell you one thing, though...I will completely freak out the day I walk in on Connor taking a dump while he's inevitabley texting on my phone.  Then I can truly say he is just like his father.  Hmmm...perhaps his father should be the one doing the training....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Large Families

There are certain phrases that make me cringe.  I hear them quite often.  I'm considering asking each person who mutters any one of these phrases for a dollar, explaining that if I had a dollar for each time I heard it, I could afford a huge house like the Duggar family, along with a well-stocked beer fridge to keep me sane with all these children.  You know the phrases:

" must have your hands full!"
(Yes, yes I do.  Is that a bad thing?)

"Are these all your's??"
(Yes, they are all mi...wait...where did that one come from?!)

"You do know what causes this, right?"
(Yes, I do.  Would you like me to explain it to you so you can have a big family, too?)

"Better you than me!"
(Yes.  That is quite obvious.)

"You look too young to have five kids!"
(Thank you...I think.)

Is it really so outragous these days to have more than two or three kids?  And if so...why? 

When I think about families, I think about my family vs. my husband's family.  Our wedding was fairly side was so small compared to his (which is why I find that particular scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding so funny.)  I see my family getting smaller...we have no (great)grandparents left to enjoy the grandbabies.  Right now...the only little ones are mine.  Even my father has passed...leaving that side of my family tree completely gone.  Bruce, on the other hand, has a huge family...with great-grandparents that are very much a part of every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild's life.  They tease the grandfather if he ever mixes up a name...but with so many amazes me that he remembers them at all!  He knows my twins, when some people still can't tell them apart.  To go to a family get-together and see so many people enjoying themselves, teasing each other, helping each other, and makes me proud to be a part of such a big family.  I try to tell my husband how special that see his grandparents holding our babies.  My own father never got a chance to meet the twins.  My grandparents never got to meet any of our children. 

Is it stressful to have so many kids?  Sure, at times.  Do I have my hands full?  Yes...and I prefer that to having them empty.  In fact...I hope my hands are always full.  I have five beautiful children.  Hopefully that means that I will have lots of grandbabies of my own someday...and hopefully I'm around to enjoy great-grandbabies, too.  And hopefully my husband will remember all of their names...

In the meantime...I think I will start charging a dollar for every ridiculous phrase.  Then at least I can use the money to spoil future grandkids...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Eating Out

Why do I continue to trick myself into believing that taking children out to a restaurant would make for a nice family outing?  I remember being young and going out to eat...watching other children misbehave in restaurants.  I always thought, "my children will have better manners."  I was going to raise my children to behave better than that.  This, of course, would infer that a child has the capacity to not only learn how to behave...but to have the will and desire to do so.  This also infers that a parent actually has control over said child.  A laughable notion, anyone can attest to who has ever had to leave a grocery store mid-shopping to carry a screaming toddler out (sometimes in a football hold so as to avoid getting kicked.)  Or whose face has turned several shades of red as his or her child innocently asks why the stranger next to them (insert embarrassing question regarding stranger's physical appearance and/or odor.) 

We always seem to create situations for ourselves where we are out running errands at the wrong time.  Sometimes it is because it took much longer to get ready and leave the house than we initially planned.  Sometimes it's an impulsive decision based on the fact that we just really need to get out of the house.  Sometimes the errand just ran longer than planned (because we had to carry a screaming toddler out of a store and sit in the van while the other parent finished the shopping.)  Whatever the reason...we inevitably find ourselves far from home at dinnertime.  Such was the case a few days ago...and so we decided to stop at Red Robin...a family-friendly restaurant where we could sit down with the three little ones.  It was close to Irelynn's birthday, so I even tipped the waitress off that we had a soon-to-be 4-year-old dining with us that night.

It started off okay...Owen was entertained with my phone.  Connor was behaving.  Irelynn was...well, she was having issues with the booster seat, which she thought was funny, but other than that, she was okay.  Then it started going downhill.  She refused to eat the corndog she ordered.  Owen spilled lemonade all over himself.  Irelynn lost her shoes under the table, which I did not discover until I ran her to the restroom when she said she had to go...and she was in her socks.  Owen wanted to play with the skewers that the chicken came on...I took them away, prompting a temper tantrum which ended with him screaming and throwing his ketchup-covered chicken bits at me....leaving my white shirt with nice bright ketchup stains all over it.  Then...the staff surrounded our table to sing their birthday song to Irelynn and give her balloons and a huge ice cream sundae. 

Why do we continue to do this to ourselves? 

I do know that when my children are grown, and I am actually able to have a civilized dinner out somewhere, I will certainly have a new perspective on things. If I see a mother or father struggling with a child in a restaurant, I will smile warmly and know that they are doing the best that they can. 

In the meantime...I think I will wait a few months before trying to eat out again.  There is no shame in frozen pizza.  Well, no publicly visible shame, anyway...