Back to the Blog

I feel a bit guilty (only a bit).  I have been so busy that this blog has just Stopped. Existing.  The daily grind became just that.  I got so caught up in the ins and outs of life, and the adjustment to our living arrangement with Hub’s ex wife, that I just found a norm and things settled in.  This blog was always been a mechanism to help me cope with this living arrangement and to being a step parent.  I guess I just stopped needing it to cope – which is a good thing.  Instead of talking to my blog, I started talking more to my husband.  That really turned out to be quite wonderful.  He and I seem to be in a good place; but once again, inexplicably, I am feeling the need to journal, blog, chronicle – all of the above.

Those moments you have.  You know the ones.  You just can’t believe how much time has gone by.  Sure we know that we are getting older and the years do tend to slip by a little faster – but man – in stumbling back into this I feel like I’ve just come back from trip through a worm hole.  It is a bit disorienting.

For all the time that has gone by, so much has changed, and yet not so much has really changed.  I still live with Hub’s, the ex, my Hub’s oldest has moved back to Kentucky and is soon to be married.  The Hub’s two kids with ex have grown up so much – one is graduating high school in a week!  (That will be two out of the nest!)  I am pleased and proud to announce he will be going to college…  the downside is that he will be far away.  That will be quite the adjustment for both us and him, I am sure, but I am excited he has the opportunity.

Hub’s youngest is now sweet 16.  She just got her learner’s permit.  I wish I could say things are just a little less crazy where she is concerned, and I can say she is maturing – a little.  I will take what I can get and be thankful for it.  She is a real pleasure right now and I am enjoying these moments while I can because they are disappearing so fast the older they get.

For now I guess I am back.  I have so many stories to share… I miss writing about my crazy life.

 

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Title Optional (I like that and think I’ll run with it)

Not sure what I will write about today – let’s see where the mood takes me…

It has been ages since I have sat down to do any type of writing.  I feel like I must reacquaint myself with the process.

Not much has changed since my last post.  Still kickin’ it with the husband, his ex-wife and the myriad of children they possess.  Although, the oldest has recently flown the nest.  After much deliberation and drama with enlisting and separation from the Marine Corps, she has gotten on with life and is starting to get herself established.  (YEAH!)  I think I won’t actually breathe easy until she is financially stable and off my heath insurance and on her own.  Then I will feel like she is truly an adult out in the world on her own.

The two middle children are still struggling with their respective disorders and all of our time and attention seems to be fully engaged on them.  Between struggles in school (continued run-ins with bullying, ), with the schools (504 plans and being denied IEPs), their grades and their therapist appointments, we are never short of things going on.

Hubby and I still struggle to find time for ourselves.  I suppose that is married life with full time children, but when you throw an ex into the mix things tend to be a whole lot more interesting and intense.  We are still surviving together with all of us under one roof.  

Oh… duty calls… the now 16 year old just got home and wants a ride to his girlfriend’s house… Hope I will be back soon to post again!

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Trust and Judgement

This is what my daughter has to write me a one page paper about today while she contemplates the fact that she does not trust our judgement as parents, does what she pleases, when she pleases and how she pleases, even if we have told her “No.” Trust and Judgement: Why I Should Trust My Parent’s Decisions and Why If I Do Not, They Won’t Trust My Judgement.  In this one page paper I expect to see discussion on the impact her decisions have when she chooses not to follow and respect our rules and decisions on our ability to trust to her judgement with important things like getting her cell phone back when she turns 16 (since the Police confiscated it), like getting a Facebook account when she turns 14 (if the Police ever return her likewise confiscated laptop), like getting a DRIVERS LICENSE when she turns 16 and like DATING when she turns 18.  If she cannot learn to trust our judgement, how are ever supposed to trust her judgement when it comes to stuff that can really affect her future and her life?

Of all the recent issues we have been experiencing with her, this issue seems to be an ongoing one – one she has struggled with since she was very young.  She is told she cannot have a snack as a consequence of a bad behavior – no problem, she just waits until we are all asleep and get one without us realizing (until the morning comes and we find out anyway).  She is told she has to ask permission to take/use other people’s belongings – no problem, rules that apply to the rest of society do not apply to her, she is special, she’ll take what she wants, when she wants and use it how she wants.  Tell her she can’t paint her closet at 8 o’clock at night because it is too late to start that activity – no problem, she’ll do it anyway and leave this in the bathroom overnight that she shares with her brother:

Paint Mess

Why does she act this way?  Why does she do these things?  Why can’t she just listen and behave?

I don’t have the answers to these questions.  I do know from my experience with my older daughter, that 13 is a notoriously difficult age.  With my oldest, it passed and by the time 14 rolled around, things were better.  With this one, my faith that this will pass has been rattled by three words: Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD – I realize that says “odd”, and believe me, it is odd at times, but for these purposes, O-D-D).

My youngest has a new diagnosis as of recent.  She has been diagnosed with ODD.   To quote Wikipedia, “Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a childhood disorder described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM) as an ongoing pattern of anger-guided disobedience, hostility, and defiant behavior toward authority figures which goes beyond the bounds of normal childhood behavior.”

I know as teenagers, testing the bounds of authority is normal and expected – this diagnosis takes us to a whole new level of defiant behavior.  I do not know if I am ready for it.  How can anyone ever be prepared for this?  But whether prepared or not, it is here, it is real and we have already had a glimpse of it when the Police became involved in my daughter’s life.  Not the way you want to meet ODD.

So, we know where we are (which even though it is not where we want to be, knowing where you are is still helpful information), we know where we want to be (to have a child that behaves within the normal range of testing boundaries), now we just have to find the way there (easier said than done).

We will continue working with her behavioral counselor, although this new diagnosis will likely change the therapist’s strategies.  We will begin group counseling to help teach her much needed social skills to ease her interactions with her peers and maybe with her family too.  And we parents will have to adjust.  Negativity begets negativity.  It is hard not to be angry when confronted with defiance.  It is hard to keep calm when your child is disrespectful.  But somehow, someway, we must do our best to not feed the negativity – she has plenty of that innately.

The new school year is also coming and we will be actively pursuing an IEP instead of the current, inadequate 504 plan.  And I know that I will be doing lots of praying that we get through to her, that she sees truth of the disorder and learns to beat it back to something manageable so that it doesn’t steal her happiness and her future not one day more.

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Child Study, 504 Plan, IEP: What does it all mean?

Two of my step-children (who I refer to simply as my children), have been diagnosed with different disorders.  My son has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) with a co-morbid (occurring at the same time) Eating Disorder (non-specific).  My youngest daughter has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  There is more developing with my youngest daughter, but I won’t go into that in this post.  But I promised more about 504 plans vs. Individualized Education Program (IEP), so here I go…  Before I begin, I just want to emphasize that I am not an expert in this – just sharing stuff we have learned along the way to give other parents a place to start.  There is so much information out there and available, but making sense of it and knowing how to use it is what will make the difference.  We have had some help along the way from Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Counselors and most importantly for this post: an Educational Advocate.

When our youngest daughter was first diagnosed with ADHD; there was a mix of emotions.  It finally made sense why her behavior seemed to be so extreme without cause – but in the long term, we ended up wondering (and still do): what happens next?  A diagnosis is only a starting point.  There is work to follow – work that is never-ending.  The disorders don’t go away.  Sometimes, through natural maturity, the symptoms may naturally lessen; but this is not always the case and especially with my youngest we are finding her needs increasing as she is heading into the tumultuous teen years.  One thing both these children have in common is that we, as parents, are working closely with both their schools to ensure the schools are both informed of our children’s special needs and to coordinate those needs so that they can have every opportunity to be successful.

If your child has a disorder and you feel they need additional assistance at school, the natural first step is to contact the school about setting up a meeting to discuss your child’s disorder.  This usually is called a Child Study.  It will involve a team of people at the school. Usually someone from the Special Education Department, a school Counselor, a school social Worker, possibly the school Nurse, your child’s teacher (one will represent your child’s other teachers if they are in Middle or High School), and possibly a Vice Principal may all be included in the Child Study team along with yourself as a parent.  The participants may vary depending on the child’s need.  The Child Study is only the first step.  The purpose of this group is to determine what needs your child has and how to address those needs.

One of the pitfalls we ran into early on with my youngest daughter was that we thought this Child Study team and the accommodations the school made through the Child Study was a 504/IEP.  We were wrong, although we were not aware of it at the time.  We didn’t look any further into learning about 504 plans and IEPs because the school had made some accommodations through the Child Study.  What we didn’t know at the time was that this was not enough for our child, and although we knew intuitively that the school should be doing more, we didn’t fully understand our rights and how to appropriately request additional services.  The school system hasn’t, to this day, been a good source of information about 504 plans and IEPs.

When our youngest daughter moved into Middle School, we met with her new Child Study team, and they suggested a 504 plan.  We were under the impression she already had one and stated as such.  They informed us she only had a Child Study and that they would go ahead and initiate a 504 plan.  According to Wikipedia, “The ‘504’ in ‘504 plan’ refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act,“.  A 504 plan basically spells out modifications and accommodations that your child will need in order to have an opportunity perform at the same level as their peers.  Examples of accommodations for our child with anxiety and ADHD included the ability to have extended time for taking tests; to potentially have the child complete a subset of homework if the child was having a difficult time concentrating and completing homework; to have stress reducers such as stress balls in the classroom,wiggle seats, velcro strips, the ability to stand and pace in a small area of the room; specified seat assignment/placement; and behavior charts/reward system.

Although her elementary school provided these accommodations for her outside of a 504 plan, she technically did not have a 504 plan and therefore, was not identified specifically as a person with a disability.  The 504 plan formalizes this and therefore offers further protections because it provides specific procedures that must be followed and provide safeguards from the initial evaluation through impartial hearings, if necessary, with the right to have counsel if you chose.

Now, although she has the 504 plan in place, as does her brother; our youngest is still struggling and has gotten into trouble at school, which has on more than one occasion resulted in her suspension from school.  This is distressing as a parent, who has coordinated closely with the school, has sought help outside the school from doctors and psychologists and counselors and yet the child is still struggling both academically (standardized test scores are failing and/or below average), and socially (developmentally).

We have now, upon the advice of doctors engaged an Educational Advocate who has explained that under an  IEP, our daughter would have additional protections, testing and accommodations than currently provided under the 504 plan.  The protections were an important consideration for us as her behavior is something that while we are working on it outside of school, the school is not inclined to address.  As a result, the IEP would allow us to refute and/or appeal a decision to suspend before the suspension could be carried out and noted on her school record.

The IEP makes critical evaluations to assist us in what her specific academic needs are and to put accommodations in place to assist specific to her needs.  IEPs are covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  There are more specific qualification criteria the child must meet to be eligible for an IEP.  There are also debates about which is better, the 504 Plan or the IEP.  It will depend on what your child’s situation/needs are that will determine which is a better fit.

We are preparing to move forward in the next school year to request the eligibility determination for our youngest daughter for an IEP.   The Educational Advocate has been an outstanding source of information for us to include how to specifically request services from the school and how to hold the school accountable should they not follow through with their responsibilities.

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ADHD Challenges: Heart Break, Bullying and Social Development Edition

So, I am catching up on the chronicles of my step daughter (the 13 year old, herein after referred to only as Daughter) and our latest episode involves the dissolution of friendships over not only the heart break incident, but throughout the year, and our fight with her school over bullying and their lack of response.

So the heart break episode and subsequent episodes of retaliation ultimately involving police “action” was high drama at my daughter’s Middle School especially amongst her group of so-called “friends”.  Frenemies would be far more accurate if you asked my opinion, but, hey, what do I know…  I can’t possibly understand teenage angst, nor do I apparently understand what being a teenage friend means either.  As you can imagine, people were talking about “the crush” and the “crush” (of a different kind) that followed when Young Man devastated Daughter in a really mean way (and I am not being biased at all when I say that; no sarcasm this time; hard to believe, I know).

The manner in which Young Man made known his feelings about Daughter’s declared crush was as follows:

–       Young Man gives Daughter cold shoulder and refuses to speak to her

–       Daughter sends him a text after school asking him what is wrong and why he is mad at her

–      Young Man responds with (and I’ll just put a couple of the highlights): You are a “troll”, “flat-faced”, and “b*tch”; “You know” what I am mad about, “F*!% You”

–       Daughter apologizes to Young Man via text and tells him she removed the post on Instagram in which she had declared her crush on him

–       Young Man responds via text with (again just some highlights): “F*!% You”, You a “stalker”, Stop texting me

–       Daughter then hurls some swears and insults back: “F*!% You”, You’re an “A**hole” followed by an annoying string of emoticons a mile long I’m sure that was meant to annoy Young Man and emphasize just how heart broken she was (they were the crying face emoticons) then to put final emphasis on it, tells him something to the effect of: I wish I had never liked you.

After some more “F*!% You’s” between the two of them, Daughter took to Instagram to retaliate by questioning the Young Man’s manhood and Young Man posted a neat poll asking how many people hated Daughter.  Isn’t young love fun???  This escalated until the final culmination which is detailed in my last post.  But truly, the fun didn’t stop there.  At this point, I will say Daughter was foolish for thinking it was a good idea to so publicly announce a crush on somebody and that she had positioned herself to be rejected by Young Man, and to alienate him.  I will not defend, however, his cruelty in the manner in which he rejected and alienated her.  And at that point; if she hadn’t responded and had chosen to lick her wounds less publicly and not continue to fuel the text drama, we wouldn’t be where we are today.  However, those with ADHD children know that there is rarely an “off” switch for these youngsters.  Once engaged, they tend to stay engaged and at least in the case of Daughter, do not have the sense to stop before they cross a line.  Not an excuse, just reality for children like Daughter.

As I said, the fun hadn’t stopped there.  At a track meet, the day after our meeting at the school when we found out that the local Sheriff’s Office was now involved with the heart break drama, Daughter’s bio-parents were in attendance to watch Daughter.  Young Man was sitting three rows behind them (unbeknownst to him) and had his friend go down to the row behind them where other friends were sitting (mutual friends of both Young Man’s and Daughter’s) and said, “Hey did you see the texts [Daughter] sent to [Young Man]?”  They indicated they hadn’t and this friend invited them to view the string of texts on Young Man’s cell phone in the bleachers, while Daughter was out on the field participating and unaware of the evil afoot.

The next day, we parents drafted a letter to the Principal informing him of the incident and informed him that we felt this type of behavior, in our opinion, was bullying.  Young Man and his friend were trying to turn others on Daughter and make her an outcast.  We weren’t having it.  The reply we got back from the school, however, was not at all what we expected and was mind blowing to us: Daughter brought it on herself, she shouldn’t have posted or sent things that she would later regret and they couldn’t help us any further unless we provided names of the individuals involved.

We were shocked.  We were flabbergasted.  She had posted that she had a CRUSH on a boy (true, she shouldn’t have posted the retaliatory stuff; but that is not what the children were taunting her over – they were discussing the way Young Man “handled” her via text after the declaration of the crush had been removed by Daughter because it had made Young Man angry).  AND they were WELL AWARE that this incident was between Young Man and Daughter because they called the Sheriff’s Office, so this argument about us having to identify the individual(s) involved was garbage.  All they had to do was speak to Young Man.  Supposedly, according to the school rules, no incidents of bullying would be tolerated.  Here we had some kids encouraging other kids to involve themselves in the drama between two people and to choose sides in order to alienate one or the other child involved… sounds like bullying to me.

The REALLY irritating part of all this was that this was becoming a recurring pattern with the school.  3 months earlier, our daughter had reported to us that there were people on the bus who were being mean and taunting her, calling her names and constantly pulling her in to join them only to cast her out and taunt her.  This was a different group of kids and happened over the course of several days, and she came home crying enough times that we eventually called the Transportation Department indicated the days these incidents occurred and asked them to pull the tapes because we were going to report the incidents to the school and request an investigation.  When we reported it to the school, we were assured that they would look into it and pull the tapes and get to the bottom of what was going on and in the meantime, they would assign seats on the bus.  The next day, we got tears again after the bus ride home.  All the kids had so courteously “Thanked” her for the seating assignment.  We reported that as well and again got reassurances that they were looking into it.  We heard nothing.  So when we got this response to the incident at the track meet, we went nuts.  We were tired of the school paying lip service to how well they handled incidents of bullying when we had reported four different incidents and to date hadn’t had one response indicating that the bullying had been addressed.

We ended up sending letters to the School Board and Superintendent explaining about the previous incidents of bullying we reported and about the latest along with the response we got from the Principal.  And we made a stink and kept making stinks until we finally got a response that they had identified the members of the track team involved in the incident and were taking action for that matter.  Not too long after that, “Bullying Reports” showed up in classrooms and teachers were telling their students that the report forms were available and that if anyone was experiencing bullying to complete one and turn it in to their guidance counselor.

Baby Steps.  We were glad to see this action by the school.  Until…

Two weeks later the kids on the bus were throwing around a squishy ball and it repeatedly hit our daughter (on accident or purpose we and she aren’t sure).  When it happened again, this time to her head, she took the ball and wouldn’t give it back to the students.  When she got home, I had to call and report it because we didn’t want her to get in trouble for taking matters into her own hands and keeping the ball.  When I spoke to the Principal, he asked for names and then reassured us (yet again) that they were still trying to get those videos from the bus (from 4 months ago at this point) and that they would look into it.  Now the school year is over.  *sigh*

Sorry for the long post; because this is just the tip of the iceberg.  We were amazed that although Daughter has a 504 Plan in place with the school; there was little to no understanding from the school at all with regards to the behavioral challenges we have identified to them as part of her 504 Plan and the fact that we had to fight with the school to get her some protection from bullying from her peers largely due to these identified behavioral challenges related to her ADHD was frustrating.

In the past, we have always had a behavior plan/behavior chart in place as part of her 504 Plan to help keep her behavior on track and in check; given that she has impulse issues, and really struggles with social interactions.  The school felt at the onset of the year that the behavior plan was not necessary.  We acquiesced to their suggestion but agreed to re-evaluate should she begin to experience issues.  When the issues on the bus began and we understood that the school was investigating, we did raise the issue of her 504 Plan, but since there was no indication that the issues on the bus were related to her behavior, and they were still investigating, we held off.  After the seats were assigned and the initial retaliation occurred for that, things quieted down and we assumed (foolishly perhaps) that the issues were resolved and that Daughter was not part of the problem.  When this whole thing with Young Man exploded, we brought up with the school the issue of her behavior plan, and this being precisely the reason she needed one; we were told unequivocally that the 504 Plan was not there to assist her with behavior; it was in place to help her with her academics, which were fine (A/B Honor Roll).

Needless to say, now that the school year is over, we need to re-address this issue at the start of next year and we have been busy formulating a plan.  Next post will cover 504 Plan vs. IEP (Individual Education Plan) because we have learned A LOT that may help other parents who are treading this delicate balance with their ADHD children between learning academically and learning to manage social situations which they may not be well equipped to deal with due to impulsiveness that tends to accompany ADHD.  Whether the school agrees or not, social development is learned primarily at school where the bulk of peer interaction occurs.

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The Terrors of Technology and Teen Angst

It has been a little while since I have posted.  It seems like life is always happening.  There is always something more important or more demanding that impedes my desire to be out here chronicling and venting.  Here lately, the trials and tribulations of my youngest have overtaken the family again.  I will just focus on one incident for today and will make it a point to get to some of the others where she is concerned because we are advancing in our understanding of ADHD, of how the school fits into her struggles and how we are getting her additional help, because as you will see below, she has started a downward spiral in a big way – one which we have to stop NOW before she gets further into her teens.

As you may recall, my youngest (now 13), has battled with ADHD for most of her life.  She has her ups and downs; and here towards the end of the school year experienced the beginning of a downward spiral.  We have literally been living our own personal soap opera around here.  It began with a crush.  And like some teenage girls, she was not shy about letting her feelings be known to anyone who showed an interest in the subject.  Instagram, her social media of choice since she is not allowed to have a Facebook account, became the platform in which to display her beacon of unrequited love for a certain young man.  This certain young man did not appreciate the public beacon and sent her a very nasty text message to let her know about his disapproval of her actions.  Lacking impulse control, my daughter returned the volley of age inappropriate language and insults and in her vast wisdom decided to do the only thing she could think was in her power to do: Retaliate. On Instagram.  *sigh*

Ok, so some immature posting of “I hate so and so” or “I have a crush on blah blah – Just kidding” seems like no big deal right?  Well, if that were the extent of it, then I would agree.  However, what transpired was far more dramatic.  She carefully reasoned (please read that with dripping sarcasm) that if he did not return feelings for her, he must be into his own gender.  She publicly stated such on Instagram. *sigh*

Thankfully, we parents were alerted to what was going on because her behavior changed drastically. She was emotional, she was secretive, she was also very disrespectful and lost her phone for a day because of it.  While the phone was in our possession, we were alerted by a teacher that she was crying in class.  At that point we went through her texts and onto her Instagram account to see what going on… sure enough it was all spelled out right there for us to see what was going on.  Okay, no problem, we deleted the Instagram account for improper use and counseled her on how to properly express feelings in a manner that would not be so shocking when she may experience rejection (i.e. not to do it quite so publicly) and how to properly deal with a broken heart (i.e. singing loudly and poorly along with Pitch Perfect and Rock of Ages while painting our nails and eating inordinate amounts of ice cream – hence why I now need to run 5k every other day).  We thought we had this whole situation back on track.  She got her phone back on Monday and off to school she went in a better frame of mind to deal with the situation she had put herself in.  Then I got the call from school.

This is the call that every parent dreads – although I didn’t exactly understand it at the time.  The Vice Principal (VP) calls and says, “I have your daughter here and we have her phone.  Are you aware of what is on her phone?”  I told her I was aware and asked her why she had my daughter’s phone – did she have it out in school?  “No, she didn’t have it out in school.  You need to come to the school though, she is with a Resource Officer.”  Now, at the time, this statement did not register with me.  I was too busy trying to rationalize why some bad language on my daughter’s phone had become such a monumental issue when the texts and Instagram posts hadn’t occurred during school and she didn’t have her phone out inappropriately at school.  None-the-less, I told her I would be there as quickly as possible and called the other parents and told them to hightail it out of work and to the school (a good 45 min to an hour drive for them).  I made my way to the school and walked in to find a Sheriff speaking to my daughter and holding her phone.  My hackles went up immediately.  To say I was startled and pissed was an understatement.  Pissed that a Sheriff was questioning my daughter without one of us parents present, pissed to know what my daughter could have done that a Sheriff was even necessary, and pissed that VP hadn’t made it clear to me that “Resource Officer” meant “Sheriff.”  People had some ‘splainin’ to do PRONTO!

VP indicated a student reported seeing a picture my daughter posted to Instagram that was unsuitable for minors and that because said student used the term “boy” to describe the participants of the picture, she had a responsibility to call the Sheriff’s Department and report it.  Sheriff requested permission to search phone.  At this time, daughter’s parents were still on their way, and were only marginally aware, as I was myself, of what was going on.  I knew there was nothing on the phone like was being described to me as we had been through her phone when it was in our possession, and we went through that thing with a fine toothed comb after we saw the language she had been using.  Even though I knew there was nothing there to suggest that she had anything like that on the phone currently (because I wasn’t ruling out the possibility that it had been on there and deleted before we took the phone into our possession), I wasn’t going to help the Sheriff do her job – I told her if she wanted to search the phone that she could get a warrant, and oh, by the way, she needed to stop talking to my daughter.  Since none of this happened at school or during school, the VP decided that no action would be taken by the school, they would let the Sheriff’s Office handle the incident.

2 days later, another Officer appeared on my doorstep to serve a search warrant on the house for possession of – wait for it – CHILD PORNOGRAPHY.  I’m thinking to myself, this cannot be for real (along with a string of arguably appropriate language for that situation that is not appropriate to post here).  I asked him to see the search warrant before I let him in.  He said, as he was standing on my doorstep, that he was just there for my daughter’s computer; yet as I looked at the warrant in my hand it listed all electronic devices, storage and media.  Basically they could take anything electronic in the house or anything electronic files were stored on.  I eyeballed him for a moment and then said, “You realize that is not what this warrant says.”  He said he was aware of that and that they had gotten it written broadly in case I “gave them any more trouble.”  So my requiring them to obtain a search warrant before I would allow them to search my daughter’s phone was apparently deemed, “trouble.”

Now, when we came home from the school that day, I had immediately searched my daughter’s computer and had found nothing on it.  I went through her files, pictures and even her browser history.  There was nothing on it that, as far as I aware was illegal, and even the age appropriate questionableness wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting to find.  I invited the Officer in and retrieved the computer and gave it to him.  He had some questions as to the back story (i.e. wanting to understand how this situation escalated – it was apparently related to the retaliation for the heart break).  I relayed what we knew and how we knew it, but again indicated that nothing we had seen on the phone or computer indicated she was involved with CHILD PORNOGRAPHY for goodness sake.  (I realize that now every time someone searches for CHILD PORNOGRAPHY) my blog post is going to appear… I’m sure I will be THRILLED to see the increase in traffic to my site (in actuality, this depresses me greatly, but I’m trying to find a silver lining here!).

True to his word, once he had my daughter’s computer he vacated and we haven’t heard from them since.  Who knows if we’ll ever get the phone or computer back.  Either way, my daughter won’t see the internet unsupervised for a VERY LONG TIME and she won’t have a cell phone again until she is 16.

We sought a lawyer after the search warrant incident and were reassured that it was very unlikely that we would see any charges brought.  It sounded like this was retaliation for the retaliation.  Needless to say it was stressful and scary to go through.  The days of technology have apparently given scorned women everywhere access to reach further and humiliate more publicly both their targets and unfortunately, also themselves.  There are lessons to be learned here.

Lesson #1: Once something is out on the internet, it is always there even if it is removed.  People can take screen shots and post and re-post and there is nothing that can be done to stop it.  This includes texts and emails (and blog posts).

Lesson #2:  Retaliation is never a good idea and you often bring even more misery upon yourself (or your family) in one way or another.  Learn to let things go – you’ll be much happier.

Lesson 3#:  Know your rights and don’t be afraid to exercise them.

Lesson #4:  Take the time to teach your children about the pitfalls of using technology.  If you don’t know them, learn them, and talk to your kids about them.

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Bypassing Teachable Moments a.k.a. Choosing Your Battles

Today I stumbled across a note from my youngest child.  At first it had me a bit perplexed, then a bit taken aback, then it had me chuckling.  How could one little note do all that you ask?  Well, I fully intend to demonstrate, and in the process, will take you step-by-painful-step through my thought process of the many “Teachable Moments” this one little note presents.  And then I’ll explain exactly why I will bypass the Teachable Moments.

Just to give a little context, I found this note on the counter where the dishwasher is located next to the sink in the kitchen.  I found it when I brought my coffee cup downstairs to rinse it out.  There is one other piece of information that will assist this demonstration: it is my 12-year-old step daughter’s chore to empty the dishwasher and put the dishes into the dishwasher when she gets home from school.  Usually, that just means unloading dishes from dinner the night before and loading any dishes from the morning.  Without further ado, the note:

ummm yeah

On the surface this note seems somewhat straight-forward (if you overlook the lack of punctuation and some nouns that would have made reading this easier).

The dishes in the dishwasher are dirty.

Got it.

But the more I read, the more I discovered a treasure trove of Teachable Moments.  And I got carried away.  Seriously. Carried. Away. (I mean look, I’m devoting a post to it for goodness sake!)

 

Teachable Moment #1:  The DISHWASHER is not dirty, the DISHES in the dishwasher are dirty.

Part1

I realize this seems nit-picky but it really provides a fabulous foundation for some of the confusion caused in the next section.  But, even without this correction, if the note had just ended here, all that needed to be conveyed would have been and the rest of these Teachable Moments would have been lost…

Teachable Moment #2: If you want people to understand you, you must communicate clearly.

Part2

When I saw this next sentence (I use this term loosely due to the lack of punctuation), I instantly became confused.  How could dirty dishes be in the dishwasher if she did not have time to put the clean dishes away?  A quick check of the dishwasher verified dirty dishes were in the dishwasher.  I didn’t see any clean dishes scattered about the counter tops awaiting placement in a cupboard.  Hmm…. curious….. never mind, carry onward! (Perhaps all will be revealed as I keep reading…)

Teachable Moment #3: Context can provide clues to aid understanding.

Part3

Upon reading this next bit, I thought, “Ah ha!”  That is what she didn’t have time to “put away.”  She didn’t have time to put the DIRTY DISHES in the sink into the DISHWASHER.

Part4There.  That’s a little better, right?

But. Wait.  There were dirty dishes in the dishwasher.  And there weren’t any dishes in the sink at all.  Curiouser and curiouser… (and yes, I know curiouser is not a word…. Alice in Wonderland….hello?!?!?)

Teachable Moment #4: Adding the word “please” does not make something less rude.

Part5

Although I am a big champion of people picking up after themselves and have no issue with the request she is attempting to make here, the problem is, she makes a demand and then tries to make it somewhat nicer by adding in that “please.”

Nice try.  Doesn’t really fly though.

So, in one note, I have four solid Teachable Moments.  FOUR in ONE!  What kind of deal is that?  One too good to pass up on, right?  Well, as I said before, I am bypassing these Teachable Moments.  Why?  Oh, there is this parental phenomenon my husband says is all the rage and apparently I am missing out on it.  It is called something like, “Choose Your Battles.”  That’s right. Apparently, my “Teachable Moments” someone else refers to as “Battles.”  I can see the rational…  start to “teach,” child feels like I am picking on them, they resist my “lesson” and may argue, which will lead to arguing and no longer teaching….

I am really trying to give this whole picking your battles thing an honest try.  So, I am bypassing this precious opportunity to “teach” lest we have yet another battle… and over what?  Some bad grammar and a lesson in communications and etiquette?  I sent the picture of the note to her father… let him decide if that’s a battle he wants to fight.  I think I’ll just decide to see the humor in it and let it live to fight another day.

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Another gem of a post from The Childless Stepmom… this is a doozy for me. Keeping my mouth shut is a near impossibility. It goes against every impulse I have, but I think she is right, and since I do believe this is a journey, I think I am ready to embark on this part of that journey (although, I have to say, I feel like I have multiple journeys going on at once)

The Childless Stepmom

Many stepmom haters would agree that ‘our biggest issue’ is knowing when to mind our own business. Funny, as I’ve gone along on this journey, I’d have to say, I agree with them. I had to learn the hard way, the value of simply keeping my mouth shut. Many of us come into a broken situation, DEAD SET on fixing it. I am no different. And boy was the situation BROKEN. SHATTERED. UGLY. And in desperate need of a hero….ME, OF COURSE!

I had to learn to keep my mouth shut to and about BM. That was hurdle #1. That was HARD. It is still hard. When someone wrongs you and your family, your defense doesn’t always come from a dark place in your heart; a place of hatred, jealousy or disapproval. Although, sometimes it does, admittedly. But more often than not, your defense against such wrongdoing comes from a…

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I Miss My Husband… Ironically He Hasn’t Gone Anywhere

I think there comes a point in marriage where daily events overrun everything and that sense of connection you have to your spouse seems to evaporate.  Here of late, that has been the way I have been feeling.  Between my day job; keeping up with the housework (see yesterday’s post); volunteer work with the horses; and taking care of the newest addition to our “zoo” (this will have to be a different post, suffice it to say we are now the proud owners of some actual livestock), in addition to the rest of the inmates, both human and animal; there has not been any real connecting going on between me and the spouse.  I think this is a relatively universal phenomenon among married people and nothing to panic over.  Set up a couple of date nights and you are usually back in business.  We have a slightly more complicated set up with living with the former spouse and all, which brings forward new challenges of their own.

My husband and I are always trying to cultivate a sense of family in our home.  Everyone is included in evening meals (even though half the time I feel like taking my dinner elsewhere), we have family movie nights usually once a week (sometimes I’d rather have my nose in a book or on the computer running commentary on one topic or another), as a family there are some TV programs we like to watch together, like “The Voice” (which again, selfishly, I’d rather watch upstairs alone with my husband from time to time).  And we try to get out of the house together as a family even if it is just an outing at the mall or even working in the yard together.  And this is GREAT!  It really is FUN and the children have the opportunity to build memories of their family together.  This is becoming more difficult especially as the children are getting older.  My oldest has now graduated from a two-year Culinary Program and has her Associates in Baking and Pastry (and we anticipate will soon be flying from the nest), my middle child is getting ready to drive, we actually got him his first car (I feel so old) and my youngest is blossoming into a teenage girl and rarely takes her nose out of her iPhone long enough to have a conversation.  So getting everyone to come together for family time voluntarily is getting more difficult.  But you know what’s getting even more difficult?  Getting time alone with my husband.  My husband and I bailing on the family to have date night runs a little contrary to whole concept of encouraging Family Time.

With 7 people in a house, we are NEVER alone…. EVER.  There are occasions we try to slip out just to run an errand together (something we sadistically enjoy because it seems to be the only way to get time alone), and inevitably, either his ex or one of the kids will want to tag along for the ride into town so they can accomplish an errand too and not waste gas by having to out in separate vehicle.  How can I argue with the logic?!?!?  I am ALL about logic!  So, then our attempt at that alone time has vanished into a puff of smoke.

As my husband and I sometimes lament our decision to move into this house with his former spouse because of the challenges it now places on our marriage, I still find it hard to regret the decision to do it.  There is much talk these days as the Supreme Court hears two cases related to marriage (purposefully staying away from politics here) and there is much ado being made over statistics that go something like this:  64% of all children today live in single-parent homes.  There is also a lot of rhetoric over children needing both a mother and father.  I agree that where the children is able to have both a mother and father, that is probably for the best, but for those of us with experiences around the family situations surrounding the 64% of all children that are living in single-parent homes, we know that there are widely varying degrees of parental involvement.  In some of those cases, there is a parent that is a danger to the child and the possibility of both parents being there is impossible.  Then there are the abandonment cases where one of the parents decides not to be a part of their child’s life anymore.  And then there are the alienation cases, where the custodial parent does everything they can to prevent the other from being a part of the child’s life.  Then there are those pains in the rear that are somewhere in between… they flit in and and out and are generally around, but not truly engaged.  And there are some that manage to live apart and successfully raise children from two different households (these seem to be rather rare).  I am glad to say that my children, although their parents will never reunite, have both their mom and their dad raising them together under one roof and that the statistic above no longer includes my children.  BUT, I won’t lie to you – it is rather lonely for me.  The rhetoric is not that the child needs a mother and a father and a step mother or that a child needs a mother, a step father, a father and a step mother – or any other combination you can imagine.  And now I understand why: While I am glad for my children, my husband and I really do suffer and end up a little bit miserable because we miss each other and the solace we find in each other and haven’t yet been able to find best fit for a compromise between family time and “us” time.  Because this living arrangement is not about what is best for the adults, and because it is about trying to provide the children with the mother and father they deserve to have, anyone else outside of that picture fades away.  That is good for them, not so good for me.  It puts a LOT of responsibility on me to balance the conflicting emotions so as not to tip the balance, which admittedly, I have yet to master (not even in the ball park yet).  That pressure can be tremendous and drive a wedge even further between my spouse and I because his loyalties are divided between me and his children.  People, I acknowledge that this is less than ideal.  But this is the reality of being a step parent.  If you can’t take the heat – don’t set foot in the kitchen.  I personally, am learning to don a fireproof suit.

I know I make this all sound hopelessly tragic.  It’s not.  Will we eventually figure it out?  Yes, but in the meantime, it just sucks missing my friend and my rock even though he is right here with me.

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Why I Deserve a Medal (or at least a cookie)

So life has been a little chaotic and I haven’t been out here nearly as much.  I am happy to report that life here at Casa de Crazy is still as “normal” as usual, which I realize is not very normal at all, but is still a positive.

But lately here, I have been feelin’ the pressure of our extended family living situation.  So much so, that I feel like a maid in my own home from time-to-time.  Not that my home is pristine, mind you, a quick tour through my office and bedroom would convince you that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES could I ever successfully make a go at being a maid.  However, in the main parts of our house, we like to try to keep things as tidy as possible, because with 7 people in the house, things can get out of hand very easily.  Because I am the only adult that works out of the house, much of the tidying falls to me and the children to try to accomplish before my husband and his former spouse return to the house every evening from a long work commute.  The frustration of this constant exercise in futility is beginning to take its toll on my sanity.  One day, as I came downstairs from my office after the kids all got out the door to school, a quick survey told me that it was going to be another typical day of cleaning up after others and/or nagging children to clean up their messes upon return home.  I decided to record this effort for the sake of posterity.  I never really realized just how much stuff there was to chase day in and day out.  I started to think, “you know what, I deserve a freakin’ medal.”  These children, not biologically mine, I ensure get to school everyday and then either pick up after them so that their biological parents don’t have to come home to a mess, or be the b*tch to make sure that their biological parents don’t have to come home to a mess… either way it is THANKLESS.

Without further ado, I present my photographic evidence for why I deserve a medal (or at least a cookie):

Image

So this picture demonstrates a normal day for our kitchen table.  This is the first thing I notice when I come downstairs.  Please note that the evening before, this table was cleared for dinner.

This next photo shows some of the other random messes I find as I continue through the kitchen area:

Image

So after setting this stuff straight and prepping to clean the rest of the kitchen, I go to the fridge to clean out leftovers, only to find some more interesting things:

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Upon going to take out that nasty trash bag full of leftovers that were never touched, I found out that perhaps someone was actually raised in a barn in my house, because…

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Clearly someone opened that door at some point in the morning and never fully closed it.  Upon returning back into the house, I am confronted with other random messes around the main floor of the house.

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And the cycle will repeat itself almost daily, certainly a couple times a week.  Such is life at Casa de Crazy!

 

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