A to Z Challenge, P is for Provisions, Percussion and Potion

We got to spend Saturday with three of our kids.  I was able to snag a few pictures of our day together.

First, a little food.  We were going to go eat Japanese Hibachi, but we opted for Chinese instead, due to time constraints.  Every time we go to this particular Chinese place, we MUST take pictures by the fountain.

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Then we went to Landry Vineyard for a lawn concert, some good wine, and time with friends.

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My girl was “so bored,” she said, but I was able to snap a picture of the two of us watching the band.
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Cass, Jack and I. I’m not sure if they are in the same gang or what.
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The BAND. Flashback 5 plays the hits of 5 decades. We were mainly there to watch the drummer, who is a friend of Jackie and me. I wish I had taken a video of his drum solo, because it was awesome. I really like this band.
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My BFF, Nicci, and I, snacking on muscadines (and that’s after I drank an entire bottle of wine).
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Jack needed to lay in my lap, I reckon.

The BEST PART, though, was the grape stomp.  Lexi and Jameson both got to take off their shoes and step in the buckets of grapes set up for everyone.  They didn’t LOVE it like they thought they would, but I was still able to get a couple of cute pictures.

So, it was a pretty good weekend, with only a couple of anxious moments on my part (which I’ll get into later), and we can’t wait for the next Landry’s concert!

XOXO!

Meg / cC

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A to Z Challenge, O is for Out of Energy, Out of Patience.

I’m done. D. O. N. E. With this day and with this week. I don’t really post many complaints, but today, I’m allowing it, because I have had one hell of a rough go of it, and I deserve to vent.

Things that are bothering me today (specifically):

1. My dog is pissing me off. In the neighborhood where we live, Zeek must be walked on a leash, and he will whine until you take him out (God forbid I take a break to eat or sleep – not allowed – I must tend to Prince Pupper). It is literally 100 degrees here in the summertime, so when I get home from an exhausting day of actual work, I sweat to death while this 100-pound black lab jerks me all over the place searching for a pee spot. And he can’t ever just go once and come back inside. No, no, no. We are outside for half an hour or more, most days, while he damn near pulls my arm out of its socket, sniffing and peeing on EVERY BUSH FROM OUR HOUSE TO THE MAIN ROAD.

In addition, because this is Louisiana a/k/a Bug Central, and also because Zeek insists upon exploring every tree, bush, field and patch of grass in the parish during our sweaty walks, he gets into fleas. We’ve tried frequent baths, we’ve tried flea collars, we’ve tried the spray stuff, we’ve tried Dawn and apple cider vinegar. For anyone who doesn’t know, labs – especially black labs – have very sensitive skin with fur that is meant to be shiny and glossy, so we have to be careful about what chemicals we use. It seems inevitable – Zeek will always have at least some number of fleas.

Put 2 and 2 together – Zeek is an inside dog. Zeek is an inside dog who thinks he belongs in your lap, face, ass, bed, etc., at every waking moment of the day. So while he is inside, the fleas jump from him onto me, our bed, and our couch. It might be psychological, but I get itchy when I’m around him. He can’t keep a distance, so I’m sort of forced to deal with it.

And finally, because he has fleas and sensitive skin, he scratches and shakes himself off (like dogs do after they’ve gotten out of water). Long haired big black dog + scratching and shaking = SHEDDING. We literally sweep almost every day, and there is still hair everywhere. It’s disgusting. It’s on our sheets, on the baseboards and window sills, inside the air conditioning vent where the filter goes. It’s on the staircase (which isn’t easy to vacuum, by the way), in the bathrooms and on my area rug in the living room. No amount of dusting, sweeping, mopping or vacuuming helps.

2. And that brings me to my next gripe – the house. I kind of shoot myself in the foot when it comes to cleaning, because nobody can ever do enough to help me. It is my fault, and I should accept help when it’s offered and then do what I can as best I can. I am sure that I drive my family crazy, because when I’m in “cleaning” mode, I must get it all done – PERFECTLY – and I won’t stop until I’m finished. My attitude is almost obsessive when I’m scrubbing the shelves of the refrigerator and bleaching the sinks and showers and toilets like Jesus Himself is going to be coming over for dinner. I don’t even think my husband knows this, but the reason we go through so many Q-tips is because I use them to get into crevices of surfaces that a washcloth can’t reach. Jackie can tell me that the house looks great all he wants, but my eye goes straight to that dog hair that I missed, or that crumb on the floor, or the dust on the ceiling fan, and I vehemently protest. It’s not that Jackie is unwilling to help me – it’s just that “my way is the only right way,” and I get an attitude.

3. My phone is a piece of shit. Full confession – I keep my phone in my bra (and yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that). Out walking Zeek about a month ago, through the Bushes of Hell near our house, I got sweaty and my phone got hot. It’s a Samsung Note 5, so it’s not even a new one, and my contract is up in about 3 months. But the phone no longer recognizes my touch, so I have to use the stylus, which means I have to have two free hands every time I want to do anything on my phone. The battery is shot and I leave it plugged in at my desk all day, and then all night while I’m sleeping. I’m out of storage. And last night I started getting this weird error message about some setting, and I don’t know how to change it. The screen is cracked. But I can’t get a new phone without paying a bunch of money to pay this one off or adding money to our monthly bill. It’s just funny because Jackie gets a new phone every year, but I’ve had this phone almost two, and now, when I’m the one who needs an upgrade, it can’t be done.

4. In the way of technology again, I have been trying to get my email at work changed to my married name. When I started working at this company, my email was set up with my maiden name, megan.smith@blahblahblah. Then I got married, so they changed everything on my computer to my married name, Bunting, EXCEPT for my email. So the system showed me as Bunting, but my email was still megan.smith@blahblahblah. NOW, I’m trying to get EVERYTHING switched to Butler, because that is my legal name. And human resources is picking little pieces of things to change, so that I’m literally listed on different programs with three names – Megan Smith, Megan Bunting, and Megan Butler. And this confuses THE HELL out of co-workers, clients and myself. I got married in March, which means it’s been over 5 months and my shit still isn’t right. How long is it going to take?! I’m not asking for a lot here. I want ONE name for everything. Don’t tell me it can’t be done – this is 2017 for crying out loud. Dammit.

5. Someone told me yesterday that they were a “damn good mama.” And I know for a FACT that this woman is one of the worst mothers I’ve ever known (outside of my own mother). She’s just so narcissistic and entitled that she sees nothing wrong with how she parents (or doesn’t parent) her children. I have a HUGE problem with people who have absolutely no sense of self-awareness. And I wish she’d just get over herself and wake the hell up. She’s a horrible person, and an even worse mother.

6. Almost nothing bothers me more than to do someone a favor, out of the kindness of my heart, only for the recipient to act like my generosity is somehow owed to them. My sister is moving into the apartment across the parking lot from our townhouse – and she’s moving there because JACKIE AND I hooked her up with an application and a referral. And now she’s posting on Facebook all these “thank you” messages to others, but not once has she told me thank you for anything I’ve done for her, including but not limited to babysitting her children, recommending her for the apartment, helping her shop for furniture, and offering to pay her water deposit when she’s ready. Not a single thank you. And I know why – because it’s EXPECTED at this point. I’ve done so much to help her that she knows I’ll just roll over and give her what she asks for, and it’s so frequent, that she doesn’t realize that I’m helping anymore. Granted, she excludes me from almost every part of her life. I am never invited to go out with her. She never offers to watch my kids. Nothing. But the least she could do is say thank you, and I don’t even get that anymore. I deserve a thank you. I’m not asking for a lot here.

7. Since she is moving across the street from me, I have a feeling I am going to be the free babysitter that she needs whenever she doesn’t feel like being a parent, and I’m already dreading it. Jackie works nights on the weeks that my kids are with their dad, so I sit at home with Zeek by myself. And I have a sneaking suspicion that my alone time is going to come to a halt when she moves in, because those little boys will be knocking on my door wanting snacks or cartoons or video games or time to run up and down my staircase. No, I won’t get a thank you (like I’ve said). So I’m stuck. I love my nephews and I’d do anything for them. My sister knows this, and she uses those kids as leverage to get her way with EVERYONE, including me. But I can’t have my kids’ routines interrupted, nor can I go broke trying to feed two families when I can barely keep my own belly full. I have a hard time saying no, but that’s not necessarily a good thing, because it makes me a doormat. What are my limits? In how many directions can I stretch myself before I am no longer healthy?

It’s just been a really bad day for me, and I’m struggling to get through it.  Y’all pray for a fat, white girl.  It’s been a tough week.

Meg / cC

A to Z Challenge, N is for Not Babies Anymore

NotBabies Anymore

Today, Lexi and Jameson started 5th and 2nd grades, respectively.  I can’t really say much except that I’m very upset that my little babies are getting older and need me less and less.

Are these not the cutest faces you’ve ever seen?

XOXO.

Meg / cC

A to Z Challenge, M is for Momzilla

Today I am angry.  I just got to work, but I can already tell that I will likely be in a bad mood all day, so I’m going to do my best to just stay in my little office.  I’m sure upper management will even appreciate my being in a bad mood, because I am certain production will be at its highest.

A little back story before I get into the reason for my grouchiness.

My husband has two children.  His son, Mason, just turned 21 years old.  He is not biologically Jackie’s; however, Jackie raised him from the time he was a baby (when Jackie and Mason’s mother, who I’ll call Amanda) got together.  And Mason’s real dad was never around.  So Jackie sort of stepped up and took over the father role.  And even since Jack and Amanda have divorced, Jack and Mason have stayed in touch.  Jack helps Mason when he can and sees Mason whenever possible.  In fact, we just had dinner with Mason and his fiancée last weekend, and we are currently helping Mason look for a job.

Jackie’s daughter is 17, almost 18, and will be starting her senior year in a week or so.  Cassie is an intelligent, talented girl, even if socially anxious, who tugged at my heartstrings the first time I met her.

And I had a lot of fears when I decided to get involved with Jackie.  Not only did I not have a good motherly role model, but I also didn’t know how to be a stepmother either.  My mother was and still is HORRIBLE to her stepkids (and her kids, but just go with it).  So again, I had no example to follow.  Or at least not a good one.

So I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of becoming a stepmother, but I decided I’d try.  Mason was grown by the time Jack and I started dating, but Cassie was only 15, and she and Jack were close.  So I met her not long before her 16th birthday and made an effort to befriend her.  I never intended to be a “mother” figure, for mainly two reasons – one, she was not young enough for me to have any real maternal impact; and two, she had a mother and a grandmother. 

But very quickly we became friends.  She spent some time at our house, and we saw her a lot when she spent last summer with Jack’s mom, our Tut-Tut.  We went shopping together, we went out to eat together, we even went on vacation together a couple of years ago (where everyone thought we were twin sisters, by the way – see why I wouldn’t be a good mother figure?).

Fast forward to September of last year.  Cassie came down with a case of mono and she was out of school for a couple of days, and she spent that time with Tut.  A couple of days turned into 9 days total, and when we would go see Cassie, she didn’t seem sick at all.

So Jackie confronted Cassie and asked what was going on.  She was a junior at the time, and had already missed 9 of the 10 days she was allowed to miss for the entire semester.  She told Jackie she didn’t feel good about three times, before Jackie demanded specification, and then this little girl crumbled into a little ball in our living room.  She told us she hated living with her mom.  She told us she wanted to come live with us, and that she didn’t want to go back to her high school because she was being bullied. 

And I thought I might be of some help, because again, Cass and I were friends.  I knew her.  She suffered from social anxiety.  She hated big crowds, she was shy and passive and she used to cry over literally anything.  Her mother had forced her to walk on eggshells her whole life, such that this little girl had no identity or voice.  She hated herself, and knowing what that’s like, I decided that we would move my kids into a room together, and give her a space of her own.  We decided we would immediately get her set up with a therapist.  And once she got to feeling better, we were going to put her in online school so that she could get her degree without having to face any crowds or bullies.  And then we called my stepfather to see if we could get her a little job where she could earn some spending money.  We had a car and a phone lined her for her.  Everything was decided upon and set up within about 15 minutes.

She laid in my lap crying while we tried to figure out how to tell her mother that she didn’t want to live with her anymore.  And all hell broke loose.  We had to call the police because we knew how Amanda lived (and still lives) her life, and we wanted to try to help Cassie while keeping things as low key as possible, for her sake.

Anyway, Amanda wasn’t having it, so she went to the Sheriff’s office, where Cassie was returned to Amanda, like property.  She texted Jackie saying we were not allowed to contact her, and that if we did, she would file a restraining order against us.  And then Amanda said whatever she needed to say to make Cassie ignore us.  She cut us off from Cassie, and Cassie let her do it. 

That was literally 11 months ago.  Amanda told Jackie in a text yesterday (again, he only hears from her when she needs money for “Cassie”) that Cassie is traumatized and angry at us and she’s holding a grudge because of what “we” did to her.  Excuse me?  I believe we were doing what Cassie asked us to do, and Amanda in typical Amanda fashion, made things impossible for every party, such that the only happy person in the situation is Amanda. 

Listen, I know there’s an unwritten rule somewhere that mothers and stepmothers don’t get along, and another unwritten rule that doesn’t give nearly enough credit to stepmothers who choose to love like a mother, yet don’t get credit for being a mother.  And I also know that there are plenty of mothers out there who hate the stepmother, or stepmothers out there who hate the mother.  I understand that my story may not be all that unique, and I’m okay with that.  What I’m here to talk about are MY feelings – not Amanda’s, Cassie’s or even Jackie’s.  It’s MY blog, and this is the only voice I have sometimes.

1.       Cassie’s mother is a psycho, and I say that with no remorse.  She is a narcissistic, money hungry, lazy, entitled menace to society, who plays mind games with her kids (or any others who will fall for her lies) in order to get what she wants.  She’s told both her of children (and the government, since she draws disability for a half-truth illness while she works under-the-table at a motel) that she is dying in order to manipulate them into sticking around for her.  She screams, personally attacks, and deceives to get her way.  She is no good, low life trash and I wish nothing but awful things for her, since she has done nothing but awful things to everyone in her life, including my children, Jackie, and me. 

2.       There is a reason why Mason’s real father didn’t stick around, just like there is a reason why Jackie wasn’t allowed to speak to Cassie for 11 months.  That reason is named Amanda.  While ignoring Mason is inexcusable, I can see how a “baby daddy” would get sick of dealing with a piece of shit like that, and just wash his hands and walk away.

3.       Cassie is 17, almost 18.  Yes, her mother did manipulate her, and I’m not blind to that.  However, Cassie is old enough to make some choices on her own, too.  Jack and I did what Cassie asked us to do and it blew up in our face when Cassie decided she would be better off just staying with Amanda.  Cassie betrayed Jackie, my children and me.  Do I forgive her?  Absolutely.  Will I let my guard down again?  Never.  Am I over it?  Not in the least.  And that sucks, because I WANT to be over it.  I want to bury the drama and move on.  But I refuse to take the blame for traumatizing a child, when all I did was open up my life, my home and my wallet for her.  And only to end up being ignored for 11 months?  No thanks, I’m out.

4.       I cannot hear Amanda’s name or talk about her without getting upset.  It causes problems between Jackie and I because he often doesn’t say what I think he should say in response to her little jabs.  He’s decided to take the blame for everything that happened last September, and while I know he’s just trying to keep the peace so that he can see his daughter again, I also think it’s a copout to take those jabs without defending your actions, especially when he knows those actions were out of love for his child.  I understand why he isn’t speaking up, but he should also understand that I’m not going to keep my mouth shut when it comes to Amanda or Cassie. 

5.       In Jackie’s defense, though, I find myself often wondering what I’ll do when my children disappoint me.  They will eventually – it is inevitable.  I disappointed my daddy, and he has never and will never forgive me fully for all I’ve done to hurt him.  When my kids turn 17 and they don’t want anything to do with me, what will I do?  How will I react?  Will I do what my daddy did and wash my hands of it all?  Or will I do what Jack is doing and forgive my kids, wholeheartedly and completely, for those disappointments and betrayals?  I’m not sure at this point.  I hope I don’t ever have to find out.

6.       No matter what I do or how good I am to Jackie’s kids, I’ll never be good enough.  It’s the signature curse that has been placed on stepmothers, or maybe even just a curse placed on Meg Butler.  Amanda will always be their mom, and Mason and Cassie trust her by default.  She will always play her games and pull those kids away from me.  She’ll tell lies to keep them from desiring any kind of relationship with me.  I know from experiences with my own family that some people will only love you as long as they can use you.  I am disposable to my parents and my siblings already.  Do I set myself up to be disposable to Mason and Cassie, too, and set myself up for inevitable heartache?  Or do I give Jackie the room he needs to develop a relationship with his kids, and gracefully bow out and stay away from the situation altogether?  Again, I’m not sure.

7.       Let’s not forget about my daughter and son.  They were also really hurt by what Amanda and Cassie did to us, and they’re too little to understand betrayal.  And I’ve always said I would never allow anyone to just “drift” in and out of their lives, because I don’t want to expose them to unhealthy relationships and the behaviors therein.  So do I let this slide because they’re Jack’s kids, or do I stick to my guns and keep my kids as far away from them as possible?

8.       Cassie will be 18 in a couple of months, and I’m concerned about a couple of things.  Either she will continue to fall for her mother’s manipulation or she will get tired of the shit and come knocking on our door wanting a place to stay.  But will letting her stay with us also be manipulation or will it be a genuine apology?  Will I fall for it again? 

9.       Will this whole thing drive a giant wedge between Jackie and me?  He is such a good dad to my kids – so much, in fact, that Lexi gets somewhat jealous when Mason or Cassie are mentioned.  Does Jackie have enough time in his life and love in his heart to love my kids, too?  If my children become secondary in comparison to Mason and Cassie, I know I will resent Jackie for it.  Additionally, when I make a decision as to whether or not I will allow Cassie back into my life, will he agree or disagree with that decision?  How will he react?  Jackie and I don’t usually agree on how we raise our kids in the first place.  But he concedes defeat when it comes to Lexi and Jameson, because they are not his blood.  Will I be as gracious when dealing with Mason and Cassie?

10.   I am generally a sad person.  I internalize every bad thing that happens in my life, and in doing so, I drive myself crazy thinking about “what I should’ve done.”  I am trying my damnedest not to internalize this, but it is so difficult, because it’s all I know.  It’s who I am.  I’m left feeling confused, betrayed, hurt and most of all, played for a fool.  And in my mind, it’s my fault because trying to be the stepparent I wished I’d had, I opened up myself.  And sometimes – most times – I feel like that was a huge mistake.

We’re supposed to take Mason and his fiancée out for his birthday fairly soon and Cassie told Jack that she would come, too.  At first, I’d suggested taking out the whole family to celebrate both of the boys’ birthdays, since Jameson turns 8 on the 20th.  But thinking about it has made me super anxious, and I haven’t even told Jackie that I’ve driven myself to ugly crying in a fetal position in bed at night, thinking about how I’m supposed to act around these young adults who don’t give a damn about me, for one reason or the other.  I’m only me.  I shouldn’t have to change to make others accept me or love me.  I’m 30 and I refuse to be anything other than genuine.  But that means I risk being talked about and dogged when Mason and Cassie return to their mom’s.  I’m sure I’m they’ll all get a few laughs out of my fat rolls, my country twang, my hairstyle, clothing or make-up, and possibly even the age difference between Jack and me.  I’m grown and it shouldn’t bother me.  But it does.  And just the anticipation of our dinner out has had me in hysterics these last couple of days.  I feel like I have to go, but I don’t really WANT to go, if that makes any sense.

It’s been an interesting couple of days and I’m completely exhausted.  I’ll keep you all updated, but in the meantime, if you have any advice, please send me an e-mail – lexiandjameson@gmail.com – or comment below.  I need all the help I can get.

XOXO.

Meg / cC