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Connecting the Dots



This morning as I was backing out of the garage taking our little one to daycare, my husband waves and then tells me to look out because Jane (made up name) is behind me. One of our daughters has a medical appointment this morning and her Mother has come to take her to it. As we back out of the driveway our little boy says Mama, is Jane (insert girls names here) ‘s Mama?  I kind of set up straighter knowing I had to take care to help him understand. I said yes buddy that’s right. he said to me and you’re my Mama. I said right. Then I said and (daddy’s name) is your sister’s Daddy. Then he said and he’s MY Daddy. I acknowledged he had all that right. Feeling the need to go further I guess, I said buddy your sisters were never in my tummy like you were but I love them, and help take care of them too. I’m called their Step Mom. To this our boy says…oh…I don’t like StepMoms. I had to laugh. To which I answered oh, they’re not so bad!


A while back we got in a discussion about all this. To our boy, his sisters would just be home and then not for a few days….he asked where they were a couple of times, but I think because he’s just used to it, he never asked much about it. On this particular day, our little one had said to me you’re (sisters names) Mama. We had been in social settings with the kid’s Mother several times with our son in tow….she held him for the first time when he was about 6 months old…I’ve always referred to her and expect him to refer to her as Miss Jane.  You know although we have referred to her as the older kids’ mom this entire time, a fellow just can’t process things till he’s ready. Our little boy has grown up experiencing the comings and goings of his older siblings.  Of course initially he didn’t care or maybe even notice…he was first too little then sort of wrapped up in his own stuff like learning to crawl, walk, run and talk.  Then he’d start to look for them, and we’d try to explain that big brother was at school and his sisters were at their Mamas. He got kind of used to that until one day he responded to me, but you’re their Mama. At that time he was pretty little still so I think I said something to him like, yes the girls have two Mamas. That seemed to do it for a time.  Then he developed to the point where he’d miss them a little and pout a little when they would come and go.  Since big brother doesn’t come around all that often…holidays is about it…our little guy is always just thrilled to see him and plays and rough houses and laughs and hangs on his big brother the entire time. When he sees that red car in the driveway it’s game on and he gets so so excited. The girls, he has at times given them a bit of the silent treatment as they come and go…a couple of weeks ago for the first time he actually cried when they said they had to go, he said why do you have to leave? This upset the girls too…he hadn’t made them feel quite that way before. I know he’s maturing emotionally because one of his sisters opted to attend her boyfriend’s soccer game instead of attending her baby brother’s 4th birthday party.  Later in the day as she waltzed in and attempted to wish him Happy Birthday, he took one look at her and calmly said in a very wounded tone..”you missed my party” to which she looked at me and I could only look at her as if to indicate hey, you made your choice, you have to live with it. She said to him I know I did buddy. Again he looks right at her and said “I was 4″.  Ouch!


As the girls go to college whatever that ends up looking like….I wonder how our boy will do? For certain he’ll have a busy and full life…but at that point the thing which my husband and I discussed before we decided to have this baby later in our lives will be upon us. He’s really going to be for all intents and purposes an only child. His will be a unique journey. I see it as he will perhaps have more maturity, perhaps be less flighty and more grounded in his studies than his siblings. He’ll be athletic I’m sure and so he’ll have team mates.  He seems to be a kid other kids flock to upon arrival anyplace…so I know he’ll always have friends. What we miss for him is having that brother or sister to lounge in bed with and watch cartoons, to make mischief with and giggle as they get a rise out of their parents, to blame for things…maybe a younger sib to help raise….but this little man is the last dot in our little family circle. I hope he has a good healthy and strong relationship with his brother and sisters as time marches on. It’s important. We don’t want him to ever be alone, he’s such a great little soul. We wouldn’t have not created him for all the money in this world, though we take full responsibility for putting him in this birth order situation. His eternally glass half full Mother hopes and prays that it will help build a strong character…he’s off to a pretty danged good start!


Lessons learned


Living in a split family is hard.


Though we have come to think of divorce as unfortunately the norm anymore…it isn’t what you want for your kids. They are resilient little people…but still…it presents a number of issues that the kids have to deal with and maneuver through and it’s hard for them. I have seen it cause kids to be mature faster than they should be and cause some to struggle to mature at all.


Little kids like our boy, at first don’t understand the dynamic into which they’ve been born. Our boy knows who his siblings are and naturally he believes I’m the Mama.  For him to figure out now that his sisters have a different mother than he does introduces him to a concept a little beyond his years.


Kids process what they can when they can. As I watch our little one figure out the family dynamic…I am reminded that when I begin to lose patience with the girls…they are just 18.  They have a lot to figure out, and a lot of time to do it. I would do well to remember that. I get frustrated at times that they don’t do this or that or they just don’t get it…they too process what they can as they can…patience on my part required!








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R E S P E C T….








As Aretha says…find out what it means to me!  A few days ago one of our girls asked to borrow the sweater she got me for Christmas. She’s trying to branch out, wear things more dressy to school which for this daughter is a nice step. She was always the one perfectly happy with jeans and a big old floppy T shirt. So I said yes…she wore it…there we go. It dawned on me I hadn’t seen it again and I want to wear it to work tomorrow.  To keep their little brother out of their rooms I had shut the girls bedroom doors but we got a severe winter storm through here on Tuesday so I cracked the doors a little because if I don’t, the girl’s rooms get really cold. Something wadded up in her floor caught my eye. Not that something was wadded up in her floor was at all unusual…ahem….but it looked like it might be my sweater.  So I did it..I went in, picked it up and yep…my sweater. So I text my daughter and asked her what happened to my sweater she borrowed.  I thought maybe for a second she had one that looked like mine and maybe had worn mine to her Mothers. Alas she said I think it’s in my room….  So you can imagine how the rest of the conversation played out. Needless to say guess what my answer will be next time she asks if she can borrow something? So this got me to thinking about respect….respect in general and why some people have it and some people don’t. So I write this post.


As the mother of a small child, I have come to think about…when is it exactly that a child learns what respect feels like. What is it that we do or don’t do that spurs that on or doesn’t. I know with our boy, we get on it right as the attitude comes out of his mouth. Currently working on not interrupting…we don’t put up with back talk…tantrums…not listening and not minding. Not that he doesn’t do all those things…sure he does…but he pays a price for it. When I met the older kids…especially the girls…I remember stepping in and getting on to them for interrupting their Dad and I when we were talking…they were 10. My then new boufrind (later husband) would say to me…they’re just kids…and I would say to him..yes and they should already know better than to do that. Ultimately they got it. I have written in earlier posts about the kid’s disrespectful attitudes toward their parents at times, toward me at times and now toward their Mother’s SO at times.  Our kids aren’t unique but I also think that saying it’s entirely generational is an over generalization, inaccurate and a cop out. Saying that allows us not to feel partially responsible for this condition some kid’s seems to suffer from. I do think there is a generational “it’s all about me” component to it all but I also think its learned or at the very least subconsciously encouraged by tolerance of it.


I used to wonder if this started really with lack of self respect. Maybe to some degree it does.  However speaking for my girls and many young people I have dealings with, I’d say they have a pretty healthy dose of “I like me most of all” going on, so I don’t know.


I think about my parents and how I was and am toward them. My Dad died a few years ago. When I was growing up it really meant a lot to me that I had his approval and as a grown up I felt the same. I tried very hard not to bring shame on myself or our name. I was taught that. I remember being told that in the end, all I really summed up to was my reputation and my word. My parents’ feelings and their reputations meant something to me and were always an element as I made my way through my teens and young adult years making more and more of my own decisions. Our home meant something to me. Helping take care of the daily needs of the family is just what we did, I wasn’t paid for it…I just was a member of the family and pulled my weight.  I was taught that. My baby brother was important to me …..that was all me…he was my brother and I took care of him. He needed me to and he looked up to me,  I’ll bet though that had I acted otherwise it would have been met with firm parental disappointment and therefore correction. I borrowed stuff, clothes from my Mom, cars, it never would have occurred to me to treat those things with disrespect.


Swinging back to my kids…I feel like every day when I come home past 6pm from having worked all day and I walk into a mess and 18 year old “kids” who make messes then wait for me to come home to clean it all up and start dinner, that it isn’t a show of respect. I feel like my husband has spent their entire lives making sure they had everything they wanted and everything he didn’t have…and every time they disinclude him from an important decision…or speak to him with that smart alecky tone they get sometimes and that I unfortunately have heard so many times, they are showing complete disrespect for him.  I feel that they don’t really respect the home we provide for them because the only time they help take care of it is pretty much either when they want something…or because they are told to.  I feel that having to be forced to remember to thank people for the gifts they give you is a sign of disrespect.  My husband thinks I’m a southern throw back to an era gone by….I am left wondering though…..when do they get it….how do some kids get it and some kids not? Those who don’t get it, I believe will have trouble in personal relationships, in their careers, and ultimately will have trouble teaching it to their own children so in turn they will probably be disrespected.


I continue to try to rub off on my older kids and certainly together with my husband steer our boy into being a respectful sort. I hope when it’s all said and done that my older kids appreciate what I try to teach them in this regard because I surely do care that they grasp what respect means…what it feels like to give it…and then what it feels like to receive it.


Lessons learned


This stuff isn’t inherent I don’t think.  I do think it’s learned, and I think respect is learned through observation and consistent reinforcement.


It’s hard to teach a respectful attitude when you don’t have that many people in your own life you actually do respect.


You should never give up trying to teach your kids important life lessons.  Heck I’m still at it and our older kids are 18 and 22.  They know they are still going to hear it from me if I feel they need to. What kind of parent would I be if I just said oh well that’s just how they are.


Respect and the lack of it show up in many ways..subtle some, other not so subtle. Nip it, nip it nip it and don’t tolerate it. One of the biggest favors we can do for our kids is to show them how to be.  I think at the end of the day most of us look back at our parents and see them for the human beings they were…faults, good qualities…but I think the lessons we try to teach our kids for the most part sink in….it’s not if…I believe it’s a matter of when.  I hope to be around long enough to find out if I’m right…even with little man.









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What to do?




What to do…..what to do…


I remember when I was in High School…trying to figure out what I wanted to be….what I wanted to do with my life. First let me say that in my birth family I never remember there being any discussion about whether or not I was going to college. I think it was just assumed I would.  If I look at my immediate birth family…neither of my parents have a college degree…my Dad attended I think two years, my Mother never went to college. Of course none of my Grandparents or Great Grand parents did either. My Dad had one brother who is a college graduate…journalism major.  He made a good career for himself in the newspaper business.  My Paternal Grandmother had one brother who got an Engineering degree, he had one daughter who got a degree in Education. Of 10 people on my Dad’s side then, there were 4 including myself who attended and graduated college. My Mother has three siblings.  One has a law degree, none of the rest of them attended college. My maternal Grandmother had  3 sisters and 3 brothers, My Grandfather had  one sister, none of these folks had a college education. That wasn’t uncommon in those days…hard working people all…just few had the means to to go to college. I had a brother, who died at the age of 34.  He attended a junior college and trade schools trying to find his way but never attended college per se. So you can see, a very small number of my family members got to go to college.  So….see to me, it’s a privledge for sure to even GET to go to college. My kids…all different. They see college as an imposition…just one more thing they have to do. Their Mother has no formal education and has had her fair share of struggles to show for it. Their Father has an Accounting degree. My husbands parents don’t have college experience, neither did their Mother’s parents.  So….here we are faced with three older kids who have all the breaks many of their relations didn’t…what to do?

One challenge we’ve had is that their Mom doesn’t preach of the importance of a higher education despite her struggles, Dad does. So the kids are somewhere in the middle, but they have had such a privileged life they really haven’t a clue.  The oldest hem hawed around…procrastinated his preliminary exams despite being smart enough to be considered gifted. The only reason he finally got moving is that his girlfriend declared and moved away to go to college so he followed. He’s doing well…very well so that’s good. He did decide to go to the absolute sworn enemy of our alma mater but oh well what the heck. We have a healthy in-state rivalry between the state agricultural school and the liberal arts college so of course he decides to major in something that other school is best known for!  In his defense he had declared he wanted to study Veterinary science when he was like 10 years old1  Then  the girls come along and really never gave much thought one way or another about what comes after high school until the end of junior year.  They procrastinated taking their preliminary exams till it was almost too late.  I think they thought they would just ace them. Well guess what, they didn’t and they weren’t happy about or proud of their scores.   Statements like Mom does ok….met with my hopefully gentle yet respectful… does she?  Now that she has someone sharing her life who can help  with her living expenses she’s ok…but I can remember times when she talked about the kid’s coming here full time because she couldn’t afford to take care of them…her cutting out cable tv…phone service… things like that…that’s not ok really….it’s barely making it. Then once they started to think about what comes next, they started reaching…I want to go to school in Florida….California….ok….and how exactly do we pay for that?

Then the unheard of happened. Remember me mentioning that in- state school rivalry?  Well…..daughter number one who is all about the social experience…wants to be in a sorority…well of course she does!  Her big brother’s girlfriend (grrrrrrr) has talked that up…a big help I might add, as she is in a Sorority at what we’ll refer to as “That other school”……so of course based not off of the quality of the education (though the quality is just fine at that other school) not upon whether or not they offer or specialize in whatever she thinks she wants to study…but simply upon her chances of being able to get into a sorority, she (under the table) applies to our local school and that other one. Gets accepted to both. Letter comes in the mail….Dad opens it…Oh joy. In the meantime daughter two, who started the college application process way before her sister did had applied locally and made a big deal about how she been accepted….making Dad proud all that stuff….then what does she do? I guess because she can’t fathom not doing something her sister had done, she also applies under the table at that other school and also gets accepted there.  My poor husband. It’s like pick your number one school rivalry and then have all your kids want to go there.

So again…affordability is a concern. Three kids in college at the same time. Away means paying for housing as well as school. So then we started trying to tell the girls about scholarships..that applying for them..most of them..all of them… increased their chance of doing what they want to do….the career choices so far we have heard about let’s see …we have one girl who has talked about law (she argues every single stinking point anyone ever attempts to make to her, so someone once sarcastically told her she’d make a good trial lawyer), a pharmacist, now back to lawyer….our other daughter let’s see….artist, marine biologist, nurse, physical therapist, fashion design, marketing medical field undecided.  It’s to be expected that a kid switch back and forth on and off and change their mind on what they want to do…I just think its interesting.  So we had this talk with the girls about the affordability of having three kid’s simultaneously in college…and tried to clear up any misconceptions they might have had about what we mean by you can live at home and go to college. I think they saw it as an extension of childhood….still under Dad’s thumb, that sort of thing.  We clarified during that conversation that what we mean is that we wouldn’t expect to actually ever see them but that they could sleep here, grab food and use the washer and dryer….save some money up and probably get their own place, especially if they were willing to room together in an apartment or something.

Where are we today? I don’t know really. They say they are applying to scholarships. Did you know they have scholarships for twins? For left handed people? I didn’t. Daughter number one said quietly to me the other day that she’s decided to go locally. Actually if she wants to go into,the medical profession at any level, that’s a good choice. Her odds of getting into a sorority decrease….but she may not have thought of that and I’m not bringing it up.  What I imagine will happen is daughter two will change her mind. If money weren’t an object, I actually think separation for these girls would be the best thing for them from a maturation stand point. But I think while sorority girl would be just fine separating off from her sister…..other sister I think, has a harder time with that. Always has.

So well see. It’s February, so soon they will have to settle on a plan. Should be interesting….I’ll keep you posted.  Hey that’s funny!

Lessons learned

  • It’s an exciting and scary time for a kid. Eighteen, whole life ahead of them, uncertain what the future holds. It’s at once fun and petrifying to watch unfold.
  • On the one hand I am ready for them to get on with it, on the other hand they have a lot of growing up to do.
  • My frame of reference is as a child who wanted to be out, moved out and stayed out. Nineteen. And I know because I chose that route, I matured dog years…quick…had to. But I was a mature kid anyway.  These guys are not. I don’t know what that looks like or feels like. They’ll either soar or crash a couple of times, but that’s what we do isn’t it?
  • When I go around picking up clothes slung across the back of my sofa….socks…shoes…book bags.  When I clear dishes that aren’t mine; when I put away the peanut butter jar for the sixtieth time that day when I haven’t eaten any that day, I am so ready for them to get out…see what it’s like to have to do it all. I know though that when that finally happens, whenever it happens, ‘ll miss them. I know that I will.







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Petty ain’t Pretty





I’m sitting here tonight upset.  I’m not even fully sure why. But I think it has to do with pettiness.  I’m pretty sure it’s pettiness.  It’s either that or being less than truthful…sort of two faced if you will.  It’s either those things or it’s irresponsibility.  I’m not sure.  You be the judge.  I can go any of those three ways on this deal frankly.


So two weeks ago my husband says to me light heatedly…hey do we have plans next Friday…to which I said no I don’t think so.  He said well we do now.  I asked him what was up and he said we had been invited to a good bye get together party with a group of people he used to work with.  A nice group of people I’ve met him with twomor three times. I said ok cool.  I reminded my hubby that the girls were with their Mom this particular week to which he said I’ve already arranged for (insert daughter’s name here) to watch our little boy.  Ok I said.


Today I am ever mindful of the time at work as I got into the bottom half of my day.  I was run clear into the end of it in a meeting.  An important meeting.  So I dash out after it, danged near tore up the highway as I weave my way through traffic trying to cut that half hour commute in about half. On the way home I’m in a pretty good mood, and my husband calls upset that he can’t find the dress shorts he wants to wear. There goes his mood.  Swell.  So I come in and one of our daughters, our little boy and my husband are sitting in the hearth room and I can tell from the look on his face he isn’t happy.  For added flavor I’ll say that other daughter had told me she was coming to spend the night so that we could sleep in as she is helping me work a habitat for humanity project for my work. So I come in greet everyone and I can see from the look on my husband’s face things aren’t good.  So I shoot upstairs try on four outfits, reapply my makeup, fix my hair perfume up…to come downstairs and have my husband say..I don’t feel like going.  I think well just stay home.  Really?  So I look at our daughter and she says he can’t find anything to wear. What is he a woman?  So I look at him and he proceeds to tell me that the girls mother said they had plans, could daughter bring our son to her house. Um… Nice as that might be…probably not.  So in the matter of a few minutes I’m sitting there made up, daughter says goodbye with a genuine air of hey I tried.


So in trying to pry out of my often non communicative husband..what was wrong, he says the girl’s Mother says she had something planned, wanted to know if (our little boy) could come to her house…not fair we should always expect the girls to baby sit. I am immediately irritated because these girls…who by the way have always been paid to watch their little brother ( I don’t like it or agree with it, but that’s what we do) in the sum total of about 1280 days their baby brother has been on the planet..maybe between them have been asked to actually babysit hiablest than 10 times.  Taken as a percentage I have to go out three decimal points to even hit a number…it’s so low.  I am not counting times when he’s just gone down for a nap and I put the monitor near them while I run get groceries or something and ask if they’ll listen out for him. I don’t count this because really they don’t even get up off the couch or off the computer or cell phone to do anything as a result of it.  Those times do happen and no I don’t pay them to sit there and listen out. So reality is that we don’t always ask them to baby sit and when they do it’s paid time that they agree to. They always have the option of saying they don’t want to, in which case we have kids we know who gladly would. I don’t see their beef.  At any rate my gut reaction is that it will be a cold day in the nether world before I will ask my daughters to ever babysit their brother again.  I figure since I pay a fee anyway…even if it’s their night with us…and I hire a kid to come sit right beside them and pay that kid to watch our son…so be it.  That’s what they want…that’s what I’ll do.  So upstairs I go and out the sweat pants come.  I text our other daughter because now that she’s not going to be with us that night I wondered if she was still going to work on the Habitat project with me. She writes me back and says she’ll be over early that next morning.  To her credit she was. My husband doesn’t get asked out all that often so I thought it really stunk that for whatever the real reason was, he felt like he had to cancel our plans.


Our daughter shows up the next morning early WITH a coffee for me.  Knowing her as I do… This is a clear-cut indication that she feels bad and partially responsible for the night before or she wouldn’t have brought a peace offering. During the course of the day and remember this girl can’t keep a secret…can’t can’t; I find out that babysitter daughter had actually been complaining to her Mom that she always gets stuck with baby sitting…blah blah…so then their Mom sent a text that was hurtful to my husband and that’s why he shut down.  You know what the previous plans were?  They stayed home, watched a movie and made s’mores.  Ok…..


I am left with the following possibilities rattling around in my brain..1) our daughter who was supposed to babysit lied to us that she was happily totally there and ready to babysit but Dad just inexplicably called her off.  2) our daughter who was supposed to babysit lied to her Mother and greatly exaggerated how often she’s actually inconvenienced by babysitting her little brother for some self serving reason unknown to me 3) our other daughter had a hand in flipping the evening for whatever reason then felt guilty she did it 4) their Mom just saw an opportunity to throw a wrench in her ex-husband’s plans and since technically it was her night with the girls, she did.  No reason…just because…


Really none of those appeal to me…which brings me back to my original statement.  Sometimes I just feel bad the way things play out.  I have no control over it really. I don’t understand it, nor do I really even know what the truth is…nor what the motives behind my kids or their Mother’s actions are at times. I know we don’t do that to them nor to her…create hard feelings for no reason…Justnreqch out and stir the pot…  It’s not necessary and just drags us all through the mud for no good reason.


Lessons learned


I have come to believe that there are really three basic personality types.  Those who thrive on drama, those who strive to maintain calm water and those who are neither of those two personalities. In my family we have our girls.  One neutral, yet with smart mouth tendencies. The other a pot stirrer.  We have my husband….neutral yet hot headed.  Me, I’m a calm water gal. We clash at times and don’t always understand the others…but we love each other never the less.


Kids need to learn that when they are less than honest, exaggerate and play sides…there are consequences and sometimes it all gets bigger than they intended.  I hope they take those lessons out into the world as they try to operate in it. It’s one thing to cause unrest in your own family…but friends, jobs etc…not going to work out so well for them I don’t think.

Good Stepmom





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Never say never…..





And that was the last time….

I no longer shop with my daughters when they are both on a mission to acquire something. I did so many times in years past and the last time I did, I just plain put my foot down, said no more and I’ve stuck to it….that’s been probably 3 or 4 years ago now.

Many years ago when the girls were about 12 or so…they began to carry their sister drama and jealousy of one another into the shopping experience. Once on a family vacation I went with them to a clothing outlet store in Colorado.  I had seen glimpses of this before, but what would usually -happen is our daughter “the pleaser” would try things on that were trendy but bless her heart invariably too small. The good news is that she had moved from big old over sized floppy sloppy T-shirts to cute stuff. Thing is that she was a little chunky in those days and there was a good deal of sensitivity and tact required to steer her toward cute clothes that fit and flattered her while at the same time not discourage her or hurt her feelings. Her sister “Cheer girl” lacked both of those skills. So since the girls were not only sisters but same age students, the “pleaser” would honestly ask for her sister’s opinion and that would often be met with rolled eyes, smart alec hurtful comments or the oh so annoying highly dismissive “it’s fine”.  I hated witnessing this. I would just want to strangle “cheer girl” and by the same token I couldn’t understand why “pleaser” would keep asking the opinion of someone who obviously found pleasure in hurting her feelings. So I would usually swoop in and try to save the situation.

This started early on.  When these guys were little girls, and we’d go school clothes shopping with them…pre”cheer girl” would just take something off the rack, put it on and it would fit…but she was picky as heck…it took hours for her to decide on 3 outfits. The elastic wasn’t right….the color wasn’t right,,,it was too loose here, too tight there….it had two stitches instead of three….wrong color thread…it was enough to make you want to run out in front of a moving vehicle I swear to God.   Her sister would just struggle to find something age appropriate that fit well. When she’d ask her sister if she liked something she was thinking of trying on, most of the time all she would get was “no”. Not real nice and certainly not real helpful.  Painful.

So each school year, and usually to some degree on summer vacations, we would go through this and I would rather eat mud…all it did through the years was escalate. Then at some point….I’d say at at about the age of 15 or so…”the pleaser” over compensated, became a martyr and just became nasty to shop with when her sister was along, most especially if there were any sort of cooperation required…like something for their room….it became whatever….let the Princess have what she wants… She gets everything she wants anyway…why ask me, my opinion doesn’t matter…there were times the Princess actually took some satisfaction in this…I could tell from her expression; other times she didn’t.  However it was a bed she had made with her sister after years of peppering her with emotional spit wads….so there were times too when it was aggravating for her….but there was little to be done about it by then. I would just look at the martyr with exasperation and shrug my shoulders at the other.

So….die cast…..we happen to have moved into a new house and they each got a nice room out of the deal.  Unfortunately for us the two rooms available were vastly different. After two weeks of fighting….”cheer girl” finally settled it by telling her sister to just take the larger of the two rooms and be done. Ok and thank you. Daughter two doesn’t really capitalize on having the bigger room from what I can tell…it was just something she won out over against her sister.  It simply provides more floor space to cover with dirty clothes from what I can see ha!  Now these rooms share a bath. So we had to decorate it.  That meant each girl could choose a little rug for their side and they needed to select a shower curtain. Sounds simple enough right? So I take these girls to Bed Bath and Beyond. To spend my money ,to get them some nice things to decorate their new bathroom. They had not had their own bathroom before so I thought this would be a cool and fun thing to get to do.  I shall not forget this trip as it was absolutely the last time I went shopping with the girls together. I have been shopping with them separately since then, but never again together.  So we hit the rugs first and looked at the different colors they had and our oldest finds one she loves. So what does sister do? She turns into shopzilla and declares bathroom rugs to be stupid. She didn’t want one, didn’t want anything they had. I explained that bathroom floors get cold and it’s nice to be able to stand on something when you stand at your sink….that was stupid too. Ok. Fine, don’t get one and have cold feet.  So then it comes to the shower curtain. Our youngest begrudgingly walks over to the display and starts to go through them. Obviously with one tub…they had to come together on this decision. No dice. Our oldest asked what her sister thought of one….and the girl lost her mind. Ugliest thing she’d ever seen, stupid…figures you’d like that one, its completely ridiculous…you get the idea…I had my fill at this point so I tried to disengage, leave them to make a decision and I sat in a chair off to the back of the store to wait. What happened next was just embarrassing. The girls got into a real doozy.  In this one, it wasn’t picky pants who was being unreasonable in my opinion, i t was our new martyr.  It was as if this girl had decided to unleash 5 years worth of pent up angst and anger right there over choosing a shower curtain. Everyone in the store heard them, it was awful. So I went to collect them, we went out to the car empty handed and I let them have it. I told them that I wasn’t sure what they lacked in their character that they weren’t  embarrassed by their behavior in that store. That they would act that way toward each other at all was one thing, in front of God and everybody was to me just unbelievable and inexcusable. They were 16 years old for heaven’s sake.  I told them that in my opinion their issues with each other were beyond normal sisterly tensions and that I was absolutely done. I told them that from that point forward their Stepmother would not be going shopping with them together ever again.

That was years ago. Though I have been in stores with them separately or together when only I was after something or when only one of them  was looking for something or for their baby brother, I meant it…never again with them when they were both shopping.  Only now at almost the age of 18 do I see some change occurring, giving each other opinions on things like when they shop on-line…so maybe one day…just not yet…jury’s still out for me!


Lessons learned


  • A person can only be picked on for so long.  When the table turns it can do so abruptly, irrationally and whether or not it’s in public can apparently be of no concern.


  • If you have picked on someone for a time…you’d better be ready..because a person can only take so much…and it’s going to come back on you. You won’t know how or when…but I believe it will and it isn’t pretty.


  • I, who have an inordinate  amount of patience for most people, most of the time….can only take so much as well!


  • I’m probably overly concerned with what people think.  My roots are Southern and English so double whammy on that.  My girl’s seem not to care at all and will show their back sides whenever they feel like it…..wherever they are. I’m aiming for a middle ground…..that would be nice!

Good Step Mom






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It ain’t a duck yet





If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck but it won’t swim, it ain’t a duck yet.


I had another brief discussion this morning with one of our daughters about acting as you want to be treated.  I have told all three of the older kids at one time or another, that they are going to start wanting to do things, and be trusted to do things that are more adult in nature as they get older. That being the case, their behavior in turn has to start being more like that of a young person who is growing up, instead of like a little kid. I have tried to explain to them that if we see that they are coming along on the home front i.e. pitching in and helping without being asked, cleaning up after themselves, doing for themselves instead of expecting others to do for them, not pouting,  those things show maturity…to me, as long as they are behaving in the ways described, they are lacking in maturity.  Why then would we be comfortable trusting them on any sort of adult level?


One of our daughters has been after us for the past four years to let her travel with a school group on an international trip. Now putting affordability aside, and it’s certainly for us a big factor, I think there is a lot of benefit to be had for the right kid to be allowed to do such a thing, Speaking as someone who hosted an international exchange student when I was in Junior high, and who went overseas to work for a summer when I was 20…  I know that it expands your horizons, teaches you to trust in yourself, gives you great confidence and shows you that there are ways other than those you are used to.  I say for the right kid.  I was mature beyond my years and a trustworthy sort.

And of course like all other parents, my feelings about kids going on school trips have changed post Natalie Holloway. Now, even for the right kid, it’s more of a gut wrenching decision than the kids can even imagine.  And they won’t understand it until they have children of their own. Let’s look at the behavior of this daughter of ours.  Her room is an absolute disaster at all times. Clothes in the floor, her half of their bathroom is also a disaster.  Up until just this year, I did her laundry if it was to be done,  Now…she usually talks her sister into putting her clothes in when she does her laundry.  If she asks for something or asks to do something and the answer is no, she storms off and pouts about it.  She is defiant and lippy. Almost everything ends up in some sort of verbal arm wrestling match. If left to her own devices, bless her heart, she’s lazy. She’ll usually do something if you ask her to, but you have to ask her to. Then whether it’s sweep, vacuum or wash dishes, or dust…it’s half assed…every time. We left her in charge of watching her little brother one day while we were home but otherwise occupied.  When I walked through the living room, he had a pair of scissors in his hand, no fooling, and he was standing right in front of her..but she was watching TV.  He was around 2 1/2 years old. We haven’t felt like she can be alone and in charge of our little boy and she’s 17.  She just doesn’t pay attention so we’re not comfortable.  If you ask her to do something, you had better set a timer and remind her multiple times or you can forget it.  She fibs regularly. She still calls my husband Daddy.  In some areas of the country that isn’t unusual for a child over the age of 16, especially for a girl; where we live…it is and usually reserved for girls of a much higher social bracket than our daughter. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good kid and I love her.  Is she there yet? Asked and answered. If maturity were the goal post, then she’s barely at first down and 15.


Other daughter.  A more subtle lack of maturity and of a bit different sort.  She did start to do for herself much earlier and on her own initiative.  She has only been caught fibbing a couple of times.  Extraordinarily organized.  Sometimes pitches in and cleans, but usually in exchange for something she is about to ask to do, or sometimes out of boredom. She acts out too when she doesn’t get her way, but this one just pushes and says snotty things, goes to her room for a while, then usually turns a page and comes back to join us without holding a grudge.  This girl we trust to watch our youngest.  We trust she’ll watch over him and stay on task. Even trust her to give him a bath and take him to the pool. She is an extreme perfectionist and this gets in her way at times.  She is an absolute Diva when it comes to her personal appearance or herself. She is a bit of an exhibitionist and has always rubbed her sisters nose in the difference between their physical makeups.  She still doesn’t clean up after herself without being asked to over and over and over… she has no idea how fortunate she is compared to alot of other kids. She plays her parents against each other and manipulates others to get what she wants. I think she has few friends because she’s a bit selfish and self absorbed.  Pardon me for saying so but she’s a cheer leader.  I know that’s a generalization….but I think she’s probably a snob and possibly not very nice to kid’s at school who are outside her circle including her own sister.  We are the victims of tee peeing and unwanted car decor frequently. So far, and as far as we know, she has steered clear of getting into trouble with booze and such.  She might just be smart enough not to get caught but maybe she just doesn’t care to do those things. She got a job and is way over scheduled.  In this her senior year I fear she’d rather wreck her grades than admit her Dad was right, that she should cut back somewhere.  She asks to go out late, to go to girl’s houses we know haven’t made good choices, she wants to make her own decisions; which classes to take, which extra curricular activities to participate in. Now again if being mature is the goal…then this daughter is probably at the 50 yard line and running with the ball. I just hope she doesn’t trip over her own feet or get tackled.


Both our girls are seniors in high school.  Neither has visited a college or asked to.  Neither has applied to any colleges.  Neither has applied to take the ACT. Neither has a plan, neither has decided on any course of action past high school and frankly we’re concerned. Another show of immaturity in my opinion.  No preparedness or thoughts of the future past Senior pictures that I can tell.


Lessons learned.


The whole teenage experience from my perspective is like watching someone drive blind folded.  They go too fast, have no idea where they are going, get repeatedly off course and then hopefully correct. None of us know where they’ll end up, we just know they’re going there in a hurry and we hope they don’t take too many pedestrians out along the way.


If a kid wants to be treated as mature, then they need to act in mature ways.  They can’t have it both ways.  I’m grown when I think I am, but I have no real desire to be grown at any other time.


If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck but it can’t take to water….that duck ain’t ready to fly or wander far from the home pond!



Good Stepmom







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Keeping up with somebody’s Daddy




Before school even started this year, the girls were talking about getting senior pictures done.  Gone are the days of just worrying about your hair and outfit on picture day.  Used to be…Day happened, girls came home, sort of forgot about it and later they would bring home an order form, 2-3 poses, we chose, we paid, we received we framed.


I was lulled into a false sense of security by our experience with our oldest son  His Mother found a photographer.  Our son asked us to take him out and get him a couple of outfits, so we did that. Then he asked if he could take his pictures in our yard with our gardens as a backdrop.  I was flattered by that.  He invited his Mother over, he wore a couple different outfits, did a few poss and one pose with his dog.  I’m glad because we lost her shortly after and he had grown up with her. He came home later with a little booklet with all the choices of photos in it, we chose, we paid, we received, we framed.  Done.  Well if I thought it was going to be the same way with the girls. I had another thing coming.


It started slow…we need to find a photographer for senior pictures.  This declaration escalated in frequency until they I am sure campaigned equally hard at their Mother’s house in ear shot of her SO who you know I like to call Marcia. After that, out of the blue one day they said that their Mother had found a photographer and the date was set.  It was several weeks away. Good deal.  So in the 2-3 weeks before time for pictures, they started the hunt.  The right clothes the right jewelry. Lord. Thankfully their Mother and Marcia took them shopping. Two or three trips later….the acquisitions were secure.  And thank you Mother and Marcia they seem to have footed the bill thus far.


Up till now we see no real grand differences in the girls experience and their brothers right?  Well here’s the kicker.  We’re home one night and one of the girls says, do you guys want to come to the photo shoot?  Hmm?  Get this.  Two days, and mind you this their senior year their Mother takes them out of school for this (after one of our daughters has already missed a week due to mono).  What the heck happened to a Saturday like their brother?  And on location? Some in a studio and some out of town on location.  Seriously?   I know things have changed since I was in high school.  I remember going to a photographer, some inside shots, some outside, two outfits done. Pardon my tone and language, but who in the hell is responsible for raising the bar for the average teenaged girl to this level? Come on. It’s a bit of ridiculous if you ask me. I mean who do we all think we are, anyway? If my daughters were interested in pageants, acting, modeling or stuff like that…ok I could look at this more like a portfolio and go with it. As is, knowing how expensive photographers are now, this to me, would be beyond reason if we just had one girl…but two? So what’s going to happen is that they are going to go through this elaborate process just so they can remain competitive with who they view as their peers, we’ll end up buying way more photos than we use or give away….but hey…they’ll have kept up, right?


So we get to the day before and it’s the whole deal.  One of our daughters who wears the French mani pedi thing I hate because I think it looks cheap, says hey Christy look at my toes.  She has a French pedi. To me the worst.  I said that’s nice, because of course that’s what I’m going to say. She said, it’s for the photo shoot.  I asked do you plan to have pictures of your feet taken?  She looked at me like I had a tree growing out of my head…I don’t know she said sheepishly.  I realized I was killing her buzz, so I think I recovered and said something like…well if they happen to shoot at that angle I guess you’re covered.  Sheez.  I mean I don’t want to spoil their fun but I think it’s all so over the top.  Other daughter starts to talk about getting her hair done the next morning.  Should she do an up do, a half do a do do..The night after the first session, she comes home complaining about how much hairspray is in her hair. She also shared that her sister had been a complete diva that day and made the entire experience miserable for all of them. I had to admit that though I felt for their Mom, because I’ve seen this behavior and it isn’t pretty at all….but part of me was thinking oh thank God I got out of this!  Then she let slip that she was thinking about having her hair straightened for the next day.  Really?  Should she get her make up done differently too? OMG.

The next night they come home, weary from their ordeal…apparently our diva was better behaved that second day than she had been the first day, that’s something at least.  We’re supposed to go for the viewing tomorrow. I have to work so I’m sitting this out.  The girls mother is taking them out of school yet again for this.  We’ll all spend way too much money and photogenic little monkeys that they are I’m sure the choices will be really hard.  I hate the choosing part so I’m  not sorry to miss it.


As I said, things have changed, the bar seems so much higher… only happens once though…right?

Lessons learned


I’m glad the girls’ Mom got to have this experience with them.  Maybe it makes up for a couple of the dances she missed out on preparing them for. This was exciting for all of them.


I know that as their Mom and Dad sit together tomorrow for the viewing they will be very proud.  We have two very lovely daughters and we all want them to feel part of the crowd….get the full high school experience.


Between the “coming out” sweet 16 party they wanted and this….and i’m quite sure they expect a big 18 year bday party and also expect a big graduation party… We’re going to have our hands full keeping one of their feet planted on the ground and affording these expenses..this says nothing about the cars and the college tuitions looming over the horizon.


Please pray for us.  Twins are two times everything…..



Good stepmom










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Sophie’s purpose….





I had a German Shepard dog named Sophie and yesterday we had to have her put to sleep.  She made it almost 12 years.  She had developed long term chronic kidney disease and ultimately they failed.  She became unable to eat, wobbly and weak. It was help her or watch her literally starve to death.  She deserved better, much better than to have to go out that way. For her, our choice was the right thing to do.  For me, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make and one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.  I loved her, we all did; she brought more to us than we probably ever did to her. Sophie’s life was a lesson in tolerance and unconditional love.


Sophie was a beautiful, regal and elegant dog with a heart as big as the ocean, a beautiful gate when she ran and in her prime, could heard a ball or four nobody’s business!  All Sophie ever wanted out of life was to be with me and those she loved. How often can you actually say that about another being?  That alone was pretty cool.


Please indulge me as I tell Sophie’s story.  Hers does eventually weave into the story of my new second family so bear with me.


My late husband and I waited 8 years after the death of our little dog Dynamo before we even thought about getting another dog. Unfortunately, Dynamo had a violent heart attack on Columbus Day that year. She was in pain, she was scared, we rushed her to the Vet where she died in the midst of chaos and it was horrible. After several years went by, my late husband began to talk about wanting another German Shepard dog because he had grown up with one they called Jill. I had heard many a story about her and was open to it, though I had never been in charge of a big dog nor of a dog with a pedigree. I bought some books and studied up.  My take away was beautiful dog, good reputation for families, smart, needs to work, easily bored, mischievous when bored, brave, loyal and sheds like crazy.  That description was spot on by the way.


I began to research breeders in our area and stumbled upon a White German Shepard breeder in Abilene Kansas. It seemed that to keep her white blood line strong, she would occasionally introduce the standard Shepard back into the mix.  As a bi-product of that process she would get colors other than the pure white dogs she was actually after…so we struck up with her. We had visited a couple of private homes and the puppies were cute…we just weren’t impressed with the people.  We made arrangements to visit this gal’s operation. And it was quite the operation indeed! She’s since gotten out of the business unfortunately, but she ran a professional breeding business from an old retired greyhound ranch she had purchased. She liked visitors because her theory was if folks would come sit with the pups and rub their tummies, play with them and help socialize them, it was better for her pups and made them more easily adoptable. We talked to her about what kind of dog we wanted. Had to be a female, had to be black and silver tan…no other dog would do. What she would do is hear you out about what you wanted and try to match you to a pup. For us, we just wanted a good family friend. Others were after work dogs, helper dogs etc. When the pups were a few weeks old, she would put them through a battery of temperament tests and adopt accordingly. Just after Thanksgiving in 2001 we received a phone call.  I remember the lady saying…I think I may have your dog.  So the next weekend we could, we drove back out there and when we arrived we were lead to a stall in the barn where the mother and her litter were gathered. The pups were drinking from a pan of milk and my late husband pulled up a bale of hay.  We had already picked a name for her.  So he calls out Sophie!  And do you know out from this pack of pups walks this one single pup.  She sat front and center.  We knew and she knew, she was our dog. We stayed and played for a while then headed home.  We came up twice more before we got to take her home. That day we went to pick her up, it was cold and had begun to snow. On that pick-up day all pups of that litter were picked up. She had a sister go to Europe to be a rescue dog and a brother or sister who went to New York city to be a police officer. Sophie came to live with us.  I’ll never forget her screaming all the way home (some 125 miles) and my late husband mouthing to me he was sorry after shoving her inside his coat to try to calm her down. My knuckles had turned white as I grabbed the steering wheel and just tried to get us home as fast as I could. We stopped in the dark and blowing snow to see if she needed to go potty. She did and I looked down at her thinking how little and defenseless she was against these elements. I had no idea at the time of course that this would be the last road trip the three of us would ever make together. I had taken time off work, my husband had been in ill health for a couple of years so wasn’t working and that little girl screamed and cried for two days solid. All of a sudden though, she just quit and looked at us as if to say…ok…I guess I’ll stay with you two a while.  We got to know each other and played together for eight weeks before my late husband passed away.  He was 42.  He was so proud to have her, the pup he’d waited for. Then it was she and I alone, suddenly. I left her with good friends while I took care of things, then thank God I had her to come back to and focus on caring for.


Over the course of the next few months and then years, we grew together and took care of each other.  We went through obedience school together. We went on walks, played ball, went to the off leash park, went traveling together on many road trips, we went antiquing and shopping.  We got lost together, we got found together.  We spent a lot of time outside gardening and sitting together enjoying the fresh air.


Sophie had a quirky personality. She was scared of storms and we spent several times hunkered down together waiting a storm out.  She could predict them. As I said, loved balls…all balls..any balls..a little OCD with them really. She didn’t like to walk on wet grass. She talked to things that perplexed her…like big concrete statues or odd sounds. To a small handful of songs, she would reliably sing.  I’m not talking a little bit, I’m talking sing big and long and with enunciation, like she was singing words. She was a tad claustrophobic and she didn’t like to be held or restrained. She had been known to pass out when she got too upset (like when we moved). She didn’t like clothes on herself or any stuffed animal, when given one, first thing she’d do is rip its clothes off, then she was fine with it.  She could open doors and let herself in and out whenever she wanted to. If you wanted her not to do that you had to lock it. If you were outside, especially recreating and you tried to leave her inside, she would practically chew through the wall or door to get to you. Like I said earlier, all she wanted to do was be with us.


We had funny things happen. She caught a bee in the throat and I helped her with that. I locked her in my car…she forgave me for that. Busting balls and then being scared of that sound….she jumped in the ocean and sank off the back of my uncles boat. She drank sea water and had an upset tummy all night. I helped her through that. She chewed the bottom of my Dad’s bathroom door off when she was closed in there, accidentally turned the light off on herself and got scared. She nipped at flies that tried to bite me as I worked in the garden.  She put up with me when I was seeing a guy everyone knew wasn’t good for me…and I wasn’t as attentive as I should have been with her in those days…she forgave me that and loved me anyway. She loved to play in the snow….she did so many funny things….we had some good times her and me.


We had a pretty severe medical crisis back when she was about 3.  My main challenge with Sophie back then was two fold.  One, I worked all day and she got bored.  She escaped every containment system known to man until ultimately after a carpet munching episode upon her escape one day…I decided we needed doggy day care. Once she started going there, at a little added expense and drive time for me…she loved it there and we had that part figured out. Then her challenges became medical. Turns out she had severe food allergies.  I almost lost her to intestinal disorder a time or two.  After my taxes, bonus money and a chunck of my savings later…she got better and onto a dog food that was a gagillion dollars a bag, but I had my girl. A guy I knew at the time saw the invoice laying in my kitchen and made the comment that if she had been his dog she’d be gone. Well I thought, lucky for her she’s not yours!  But so too began her medical troubles I’m afraid.


After about five years by ourselves, I met my current husband and the children. Sophie had always liked who I liked, so we had a short list of good friends. She immediately liked my new boyfriend too though.  She didn’t remember having a man around the house before.  She liked it.  She liked the attention he gave her and I think it broke up her monotony. Soon after she was introduced to the children. I remember her kind of going for them, not aggressively just checking them out and one of the girls ran and screamed and jumped up on the sofa to get away from her. She did sort of look wolf like. I thought it was funny. Sophie just was confused by the little girl’s reaction. Over several months we spent time at their house with their three dogs and 2 cats. Most of the time though they spent time at our house. The cats and Sophie never got along fully.  They went in spurts.  Mostly Sophie thought they were for her know, to chase. Sophie co existed with the other three dogs.  I wouldn’t say they were best friends and played together and all that but they lived just fine together for several years. Sophie saw us through dating, into a years long engagement.  After school was out and before we married, we decided to move the kids then….and since our house was the bigger house, they moved west with us. So Sophie then took the squeeze in stride as her house filled with not one, two or even three more people but four more people and 5 count them 5 other animals. Sophie never once pouted, sulked or complained.  She took all I gave her though during all this there was slowly more time spent devoted to the children and a little less time for her.  She was always just happy with whatever time she got.


I wouldn’t say the kids were demonstrably affectionate with Sophie over the years, but they loved her and I hope she knew that.


Just when I’m sure Sophie thought her life couldn’t possibly get more complicated, at the age of 48 I became pregnant with our first child together.  Sophie saw me through my pregnancy…then as our new baby came into the world.  She was curious and vigilant. If this latest addition didn’t push her over the edge I figured, nothing would. I had an idea she would be good with children before I ever had any.  She would see kids playing, back when it was just the two of us , and just whine and cry to get loose to play with them. At the off leash park she’d “rent a boy” I called it and play and chase ball with someone’s kid till she and I went home. Once my wonderful yard guy had come by with his new little family as he blew snow from my entryway. His new baby was just walking and started for the stairs.  Sophie jumped up and literally put herself between that child and those stairs.  It was pretty amazing. Too, I had a young couple living next door to me when Sophie was a baby and we became acquainted. They had a little terrier who became Sophie’s best bud. They also had two severely handicapped little girls. That gal would ask if Sophie could come over to play (not me, just Sophie) and she would take those little girls out in the fresh air and Sophie at what, 3 or 4 months of age, would just splay out in front of those children…ever vigilant. It was neat to observe. So when children came into our lives, though they may not have been as active with her as she would have liked, I wasn’t really surprised at her blind acceptance of them.


Our baby was born and again, Sophie accepted him from the start. Even more of my attention pulled away for her.  She was extremely excited and curious.  Licked that child up,and down and he loved it. I know my husband was hesitant and thought germs! I thought it was sweet and did little to,step between it.


As happens in family’s, the children get older and have activities that demand their attentions, the family pets are taken somewhat for granted. They’re always there after all, right?  We had one go off to college.  When he’d be home he would love on the girls but he’s not home but for breaks. Our girls are teenagers and completely self,absorbed. What can I say….dog…chair….oh wait, mirror!!!! My husband, who by the way is forbidden from ever talking about the future again…said, I’m worried Sophie is a dog who is refusing to age, but then when it happens it’s going to hit hard and fast.


Our one remaining Golden and Sophie, the only ones left…actually as old broads, bonded and even played at times. It was cute, they enjoyed each other in that way as our baby boy grew…and for the past two years they have had each other and done well. Our golden, 5 years younger than Sophie, began to act lethargic. She was heavy, had always been inexplicably heavy set, but we knew there was something the matter.  She was diagnosed with cancer of the spleen, it ruptured and she painlessly and over the course of 2 weeks internally bled out and died one morning at home. Our vet told us we could have put her to sleep, but that she wasnt in pain, just weak. She rallied there for a few good days…we saw no harm in letting nature take her when it was time. Always best to go at home I think. We knew the right thing to do was not to let our young boy see her that morning, but was it the right thing to do to keep Sophie from seeing her? I don’t actually know, I mean here….gone…is that fair?  After my husband took our Golden to the vet to be cremated, we watched Sophie walk every square inch of this house and yard looking for her friend. She audibly cried and whimpered. It was so sad. Her health then begun to spiral. She began to get sick. She lost weight, she ate but nothing stayed down. We got more meds, put food through the grinder, fed her by hand…tried everything. We gave her antacids to fight her nausea. The problem was when kidneys fail, stomach acid skyrockets and it’s just miserable. My husband took Sophie in. And they drew blood. They called and talked to me.  They gave me no hope, her kidneys had completely failed and nothing they or anyone could do would bring them back. My choice.  Let her starve to death, or help her over.


Sophie, even when she was so sick was full of grace. She just took it. She still had that spark, class act all the way. That last day my husband stopped everything he had going on and just sat with her out on our deck, loving on her..I had to be at work. I sat with her after I got home and in fact we all had a nice quiet night outside with her till quite late.  She pulled herself up all those stairs one last time to get into her bed up in our room. I was restless all night and up early that morning, her appointment was at 10. Our vet, who has taken care of Sophie all her life, came in from going out of town on a Saturday to help us. I sat and watched the clock wind down and took a few pictures of her. She wasn’t really into it and I didn’t blame her, neither was I. As the time to go to the clinic approached, I called my baby son over and told him to give Sophie a big hug. He already knew she had been sick. I tried to explain that Mom and Dad needed to take her to the doctor and that she wouldn’t be coming home, she was going to heaven to be with our other dog, Karmen. In his little way he tried to process what I was saying and hugged her and cried. Our daughters happened to be home and right there..they loved on her too. So we put her leash on and started out the door. Our son insisted on walking her out to the van so his sisters brought him along. We put her in the back and he gave her a final hug as I climbed in the back with her…NO, he cried, I don’t want Sophie to go to heaven I want her to stay here at home.  It tore our hearts out. We pulled out of the driveway and she was restless too, she didn’t want to lay down even though it would have been safer.  She wanted to look out the window so dang it I held onto her and we looked out that window. She took one last look at her house and the kids were all standing out in the driveway. She watched as we went up her street.  Then as the familiar turned into the unfamiliar she sort or lost interest and laid down.  The ride was entirely too short. We took our time walking in as she sniffed the bushes and sniffed the air. We walked in greeted by a somber vet tech crew. We were lead into the exam room with the cushion on the floor and we waited a minute or so. In came a vet that had seen us a time or two. She had paperwork, loved on Sophie and expressed her sympathy. In a few more minutes in walked our doctor. Casually dressed and not in a lab coat, he entered somber too, hugged me and sat in the floor with Sophie and me. She had gotten sick again while we waited…poor girl. Our doctor spent some time with us, talking about memories and how remarkable she was that with all her health problems she still made it to almost 12 years old. He said heck 12 is something to shoot for in a Shepard with no health problems. He went over again the clinical reasons they couldn’t help her recover from this disease.  He said she seemed to always remain positive and just took what life gave her and persevered. He said she had a great life and a loving family and that she was one of the most remarkable dogs he’d ever had the pleasure of caring for. He said she was an ambassador for everything that was good about her breed.  I asked one more time, it’s the right thing to do, right? He said to me Christy, for her right now, in this circumstance, you are absolutely making the right decision today. It gave me some peace I guess.


She had to be made to lay down.  My poor husband had to help do that. She didn’t like the looks of the set up right then, not one little bit. Our vet said do not be fooled by that spark you see…it will distract you from helping her.  After a time he asked if we were ready or if we needed more time or to be alone with her.  I said no…I didn’t want to drag it out for her though I could have sat there with her for a real long time. My husband was holding her, I took her head in my hands as she looked nervously around the room not knowing what was coming…I told her how much I loved her and what a good girl she was…I just got right up close and kept repeating to her just look at me, just look at me, just look at me…and she did.  As my face was the last thing she saw, she slipped away very quickly, very gently and very quietly. We all sat there with her for a while, still petting her and talking about what a good and pretty girl she was. We all hugged each other and our vet thanked us for letting him be a part of her life. He gently removed her collar and handed it to me. We left the building as the crew all looked on in silence. It was done, and Sophie was gone.  It was a very quiet rest of the day at home….each in our own thoughts I guess. I did what I do when I’m upset.  I couldn’t look at the dog bowls and dog beds and toys, so I cleaned them and stored them away. We had a really clean house by evening.


Our girls did what they could. They cleaned up for themselves a little more, gave me a big hug, helped a little more with their baby brother.  That night our little son was crying as he tried to go to sleep. I went up to talk to him and he said Mom…Sophie could get sick in Heaven too. I said no, you know what’s neat that I’ve heard about heaven? No one ever gets sick and everybody is happy all the time there, every day. That seemed to make him feel better. As we lay trying to go to sleep my husband silently reached for my hand and gave it a squeeze.  Our son got up and uncharacteristically hopped in bed with us a few hours later which meant Mama was pretty much done sleeping. I was so wrung out, I went in his bed and fell back asleep. In the small hours of that morning I dreamed Sophie was singing.  She wasn’t singing to me necessarily, I didn’t even see her in my dream…I just heard her.  It was definitely my dog. It was so vivid I sat up in bed…then I sort of just wanted not to be alone….but hearing her like that brought a smile to my face…it made me feel good.  After we got up as we sat drinking coffee, I relayed my dream to my husband. I heard myself say…I think Sophie was saying I’m still here, I’m still me and hey….I feel like singing today. I think that little gal punched through…just for a brief second to leave me that thought…I’m good…..I’m always here…and I feel much better…I needed that and as usual I guess…she’s still taking care of me.

Each day since we lost Sophie, highlights a little more how quiet things are….with both girls gone…no letting the dogs out…no medications to give….no treats to hand out….no food no water to keep filled. No more getting onto them for being too close to us as we try to eat…no poop scooping. No reason for balls outside.  No snuggling at our feet….no sleeping beside us and my poor husband who works from home… no companion constantly at his side as he works….no Sophie carrying a ball and constantly chirping at him as he mows the grass….come on Dad…for just a couple throws? He misses her. We all miss and loved both our girls very much…it’s just that losing Sophie as the last one, was the end of that chapter of our lives….so was particularly hard for us all.


I have had lets see….1,2,3,4…5 dogs now in my life. If you add Jeff’s three I have been the steward of 8 dogs total. I know each one taught me something and I could list it all out if I thought about it. But Sophie…it’s like she was in my life for a particular reason. I have come to believe that though you may not see it at the time, we choose our paths for a reason. The minute I found that kennel my fate with Sophie was sealed. I was being cared for through widowhood, remarriage, parenting….right there and right then, I just didn’t know it at the time. This was Sophie’s special purpose in life. I believe it’s why she came to be.


If Sophie could accept with grace her own imperfections and mine, unconditionally love all who were brought into her fold, accept everything life gave her, adapt as she needed to and take the best from every situation…I would be ashamed if I couldn’t do the same. As my new husband came to be with me and all that came with him…the children, the ex wife, all the pets, the in laws, the friends co-workers and acquaintances ….. She showed me how to do the same.


Lessons I learned from my dear friend


  • When life throws you a curve ball; something devestating happens to you or you lose your way…and you think you’re not needed anymore…guess what?  You’re wrong.  Sophie needed me at a very crucial time for me.  Look how many people count on me now. She gave me the courage not to give up…to keep going.
  • Caregiving is a virtue, there’s nothing demeaning about it and only those who can do it well, should…not because they have to either but because they want to. I took care of my late husband in the final years of his life, I never thought about it…I did it because I loved him and I knew he would have done the same for me….then I had Sophie to take care of after I lost him and as much as that, Sophie took care of me. Now I take care of a whole family.
  • Whatever life gives you, just accept it.  And this is huge. Your health, someone else’s health, a change in your family you had no choice about…accept it. Sophie was much better at this than I have been.  I will now try to do better.
  • Be patient. Be patient with your kids, with each other, with your family and with your friends.  Sophie loved everyone I loved. I am trying to practice that with my family members and their choices. If you love them then I will. Sophie did this so instinctively…I will try to learn from her and do better.
  • Where a door closes one opens.  Absolutely. Life has chapters, like a well crafted book. We should try to appreciate each one…the good, the not so good.  They make us who we are…that book is the story of our life.
  • Take pleasure in simple things….they are what matter anyway. She did.  Throw the ball….eat a treat…sit in the sun…play in the snow…snuggle by the fire..see if someone will hold your hand….give hugs…laugh…cry.
  • Hold your head up… And try to act with class…always, no matter what.  She did that so naturally.  I’ll try to emulate that from now on.
  • What’s really important is your family. At the end of the day….that’s who you have, against all others…and though your family may be comprised of all kinds of people…some you choose, some you don’t.  Love them, unconditionally and completely and practice tolerance and forgiveness with them. No one’s perfect.
  • Life isn’t fair sometimes…but that doesn’t diminish how wonderful it can be. Sophie knew that somehow. I will try to appreciate mine more.
  • Doing the right thing is sometimes incredibly difficult. Stay your course, hold your ground and do what you need to do. And most of the time…you know what you need to do. I pray our girl understood my decision or at least knew or felt that what we did that day, we did out of love and respect for her.
  • Be strong, be loyal, be protective, be vigilant, love others, trust others. Protect those you care about.
  • Life brings you twists and turns and new people and experiences.  Be open to that. The outcome can be really terrific. Look what happened to me.
  • Never forget the souls who move through your life.  Each one had something to offer, something to teach you and something to leave you with. Remember and build from that.
  • Be honest with your children and help them through hard lessons. Don’t sugar coat life, but try to explain what’s happening in terms they can process and understand ..they will trust you then, though it hurts to watch them hurt, and they are scared when you hurt…truth is better.
  • It’s ok to miss someone and it’s ok to mourn….but soon as you can… go to the good and turn to your memories. It’s what they would want. I was meant to grieve my late husband yet move to the good because of this sweet girl. She saw me through his loss and later that of a boss and friend, my stepfather, a grandmother, my dad, a dear cousin…she was always there, guiding me through. Not just me, but my entire family benefited from that.
  • The world was better because Sophie was in it. I’m a better person because Sophie was part of my life.
  • I could go on and on, I loved my dog.  I’m sure no more than many can say they loved theirs. But I will always believe that this kind, gentle, resilient, tolerant, patient and loving little soul was put on this earth specifically to show me how to conduct myself…what a blessing.  I do hope I meet up with her again when it’s my time.
  • Rest well pretty girl, thank you for spending your time on this earth with me, I’ll never ever forget you…I promise.




Good StepMom











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Virtual us….are you what you watch?


Man I hope not but maybe we can tell a lot about ourselves by our choice of television programming if we think about it. Why are we interested in the programming we like?  Let’s take each of my family members…barring my oldest son because I really no longer know his viewing habits and I suspect they lean towards sports. They always did. ANY sport, as long as it was a sport.  Football, baseball, soccer, Texas hold em…tiddly winks…as long as there is no human emotional factor, its competitive and there is a clear winner and a clear loser.

Now let’s take me. I’ll go first. I don’t understand me at all. First, let me say that my TV viewing is extremely limited and usually someone else is choosing what we watch and I just kind of sit down WHEN I sit down.  That or I’m in the kitchen cleaning it or cooking and so since my TV is THE tv in that area of the house, it has to be on a kid friendly show because my son hangs out with me most of the time.  I watch a lot of animated children’s programming now a days.   Let’s say I choose though. Before I got this family, I used to watch biographies, or what I called crazy B@$& movies. A drama where a woman went crazy or a guy did, and how the good guy or gal prevailed. Sine I was widowed maybe at that time in my life I was looking for examples of people who overcame adversity?  I got into John Edward for a while, speaking to spirits of those who have passed..that’s an obvious one.  I mixed that with I’d call an obsession with law and order.  All of the versions, any of the versions.  Was I looking for justice? Wrongs being righted? I began to watch American idol. Someone rising from nothing and being discovered….hmmm. I meet my husband and the kids and introduced them to Idol and Law and order and they too got hooked. Then I landed on I Survived. Have you seen that? People who make it through horrible things.  Again, interesting. I become a Step Mom and I start to become interested in Snapped. As I write this, now that’s funny!   Men and women who just get to a point where they snap! Then I became interested n Millionaire match maker.  Ok that’s random. Real Housewives of New York City and Jersey. Bs and thugs, I don’t know. I get onto Gene Simmons Family Jewels… I like him, i think she’s a saint in many ways, but she’s a mama who kept her family afloat in spite  of his behaviors. Hmmmm. Then we move, go through stuff, have sales, de clutter and what’d I find?  Hoarders!  My late husband was one of those, bless him…so I get that. Also though, I am interested in what leads people to just give up,and give in. And they get better usually.  We’re all into Criminal  minds. The twisted human condition and the minds who unravel it all and put the bad guys away. We all like Big Bang.  That’s a funny show,  who doesn’t?  And with my new life….my new husband, kids and my baby…now I like Storage wars.  They go through a lot of junk, but come out with a prize. Again interesting. I like Dance Moms. Talented people and the family issues that get in their way. That’s my viewing history these last few years, in a nut shell.  NOw who am I would you say?

My husband. Sports. Competition. College sports, loyalty. He likes storage wars now. Finding a prize in the course of the ordinary. Hmmmm. He likes CSI.  Dead person, figure it out. Convict. I think he likes the figure it out part amd the linear simplicity. And they catch the bad guy, they always catch the bad guy. He likes old sit coms….Friends, Will and Grace, Frasier, and Cheers, Mash even…loves them, who doesn’t? I think he’s trying to lighten up maybe. He needs to.  He likes the mentalist. A good guy, sort of misunderstood…who un ravels the mysteries of life, but again gets to the bottom of the problem and catches bad guys. He liked Lost…weird show.  Action movies…any action movie.  He is a guy after all.

Our youngest.  Easy. Mickey, Octonauts, Ozo, Dr. McStuffins, Sophia The First, Paw Patrol and a host of animated movies, if it’s musical, about cars, robots, fairies, animals…he’s all about it.  Lately its Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and anything Super Hero, Disney Disney Disney….When he was a baby, he’d fall down and he’d always pop up and say I’m ok! We always wondered why, then realized, Goofy says that every time he prat falls!  My son is goofy! That fits! If you knew me.

The girls.  Let’s see. First of all, they both still watch Disney channel ad naseum and they are 18 years old. I do wonder If Disney sends subliminal,messages but I can’t prove it. They got some hook those people.  Absolute marketing genius. And staying power like no one’s business. I don’t know what Disney is about, all I know is it works. He should be extremely proud of his legacy.  Good lord millions of children are educated and socialized through this machine. It’s amazing, Even I watch his animated stuff.Ok now, miss Harlequin romance. Watches love stories over and over and over and over and over…..also likes CSI and sports, but I think ,it’s to bond with Dad. Watches Dance moms.  Mean girls. Been the victim I think.  Loves to hate them. Likes idol. Sides with the underdog. Criminal minds.  Why people do the things they do? And mush mush mush. Scary movies so she can cling to her man!   She’s pretty easy to figure out,

Other daughter.  Dallas cowboy cheerleaders, Pretty Little Liars, Dance moms, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Sponge Bob…doesn’t like most dramas, doesn’t like scientific, doesn’t like mysteries, doesn’t like educational, likes girly… toddlers and tiaras. All fluff, fantasy, cotton candy, pink, no cerebral what so ever. Hmm. Either who she really is or Dear Lord I hope, an escape from who she really is, let’s hope the later.

Lessons learned

So take  a look at your own viewing habits and those of your family. Am I right?  Is it where we are?  What we identify with at the time?  What we fear? What we don’t want to become? How we see the world around us?  How we see each other?  I don’t know.

Maybe we could understand each other better if we watched each others programs?

Is this the virtual us? Dang…

Come to think about it, maybe we just watch way too much tv,  anyway….food for thought!

TV program choices,..what do they say about us?


Good StepMom






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Unexpected Benefits



    I have wanted my kids to join me in a community based project for years ever since I started occasionally giving my time to participate in one. I have rung bells at Christmas time, I have served meals and cooked meals at serving kitchens, I have worked a number of habitat for humanity projects and have run coat and food drives. Seems that there was usually something that stood in our way.  Mother’s weekend, lower age limits, sports schedules…still I know that it’s important for kids, especially those from this entitlement generation to do,this type,of work. First, it’s work. Second it is giving in exchange for nothing other than the good feeling you get by helping others, third, it shows them that there is a very different way of living then what they are used to. Not all kids by any means have the roller blades, skate boards, bikes, motor scooters, bats, skates, balls, hoops, iPods, iPads, laptops, cell phones, TVS in their rooms, closet full of shoes and clothes and good food on the table and in the pantry, need I go on?


    So the oldest gets out of the house without ever doing this with me. Both girls are now working, so I had a very small window from about 16-17 didn’t make it so now,with jobs it’s next to impossible.  I volunteer for a Habitat in the town in which I work, for my company and I mention it to the girls. One works all the time when she isn’t in school and cheering. Our other girl, works but fewer hours so she says she’s in. Cool. Last minute they change her soccer schedule so she’s out. Then something happened and she’s in again, even though technically it’s her Mothers weekend.


    She shows up plenty early that Sat am….and off we go.  We get there and there is a little more than the usual milling around. No one seemed to be really in charge.  There was one guy in charge but then he left pretty early on.  That is after he told us our to do list and materials were in the kitchen.  Okay…


    A few of my co-workers were standing around too and a few other people I didn’t know. I introduced my daughter and myself to everyone. We ate a donut and tried to figure out what we could knock off that list and what to do. At one point the homeowners arrived.  Nice young couple…overwhelmed by the process and had no opinions on anything.  Where do you want your door pulls and drawer pulls on your kitchen cabinets?  I don’t know…where do you want your towel racks in the master bath…oh I don’t know.  How do you want your address on the house front, up and down, across?; oh I don’t know…. Splendid. Very chaotic, very disorganized compared to all the other Habitats I have worked…so we dove in.  We saw a box of door knobs, a nail, a hammer, a screw driver, ok we had to actually hunt around for what we needed and borrow a drill.  We assessed the box, there were privacy knobs and regular ones.  A couple of my co-workers dove into the door knobs too.  We all were smart enough to figure out the two privacy knobs were for the master and the bath, the rest of the doorknobs were throughout the house. We grabbed a privacy knob and headed to the bathroom.  I mean we had no one show us ok heres how you install one, now go.  It was on us.  After some amount of trouble we, ok mainly she, figured it out and we got our first one done…we tested it and it worked, high five moving on. We installed two other simpler ones.  We SO had this. Then we helped attach a stair rail to a basement wall.  We also worked with a lady I work with and her husband on putting the address on front of the house.  We heard a ruckus and someone told us that one of doors we had installed failed to re-open after we closed it.  They had to take it off from the hinges and fix it.  Oh dear.  Then we were chided that yet another door knob we installed same.  Ahh.  We didn’t check them as we did the first, our error and a good joke on us the remainder of the day. At the end of the day we made nice with the homeowners, wished them well and said our goodbyes.  We grabbed lunch out, and I got her home so she could make it back to her Moms in good time. I took a shower, and reflected on the day.  This community service day had unexpected benefits.  I’m only sorry I couldn’t have gotten all three of my Step kids to work a project with me, I do intend that my little boy will do so regularly.


    Lessons learned and what I hope my daughter took away from this…


    When new to a situation, jump in…introduce yourself and connect. Others will appreciate that and follow suit.


    Sometimes things aren’t lined out for you, you just have to get going and figure things out.


    When you cooperate with others things done,  if you keep to yourself, it’s more difficult, takes more time and isn’t near as fun.

    Another person always has something to contribute that you can learn from, but you have to be open to that and you have to listen.


    If you don’t have what you need, go get it. Don’t expect others to come to your aid. Be resourceful.


    Sometimes you have to listen and learn from those who know more, even if they are very different than yourself and don’t wear a suit or have professor as a title. You truly don’t know everything.


    This was a simple house, but these kid’s were proud of it.  There’s something to be said for that.


    Helping others feels good.


    When you mess up own it, laugh about it if you can and be ok if others do. Learn and move on.


    Even though my daughter may think that I portray myself as one who knows all….I don’t. And hopefully she saw me be a good sport about it and laugh at myself when I messed up.


    Sometimes StepMama hasn’t got a clue.   Hopefully I became a little more human, understandable and likeable in my daughter’s eyes that day.  I hope so.


    Who knew….



    Good Step Mon














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