Monday, 31 August 2009

Dig Deep for Victory

DP and I have spent most of the bank holiday weekend trying to sort out this allotment plot that we took on. As I mentioned in another post, we took this plot on last year, but didn't quite know the amount of work that we were letting ourselves in for. The soil is stony, weeds flourish in no time, and I don't know what was there before but we are digging all sorts of stuff out of there including bits of an old toilet. Go figure.

We started off enthusiastic, as most do. But it tailed off, and as the weeds grew, our enthusiasm waned. We spent less time up there, and did less when we did go up. The whole task just started to seem too daunting. No matter what we did, the weeds came back in a matter of days. It's a wonder we got anything out of there really, but we did, when we pulled back the weeds, see that the onions and squash plants had actually done really well.

This weekend, we hired a mechanical digger to dig the plot over again, we've dug in some horse manure and the plan is to cover it over so that the weeds don't come through and we can, bit by bit, uncover and dig beds and paths and so on after the winter. We've strimmed back the overgrowing grass and weeds, DP and my
Dad have mainly done the digging, me, my Dad and SD have harvested the remaining potatoes and SD and I have picked stones out of the newly dug soil and raked the manure over it. Just a quick note on the manure - when we took SD for her horse riding lesson on Saturday, DP and I stood on a mighty mound of horseshit and shovelled no less than 20 bags of steaming poo. Yummy....

DP is now in the bath soaking his aches and pains after the weekend's work. SD has gone home to BM and the Hatchet Face, they insisted on having her home at 9am this morning, on a bank holiday no less. Not one extra minute is allowed any more. Oh, and by the way, we put the clothes BM wanted back in one of those Bags for Life, not a binbag! And I'm contemplating the allotment, and the fact that this year we are going to actually have to put more than a halfhearted effort in. We have been spinning too many plates this year to actually be able to concentrate on any one thing properly. I think it's time to get back to basics and figure out what it is that we want to focus on. DP and I both enjoy working outdoors, and we like the idea of growing our own, and being that little bit more self sufficient. But it takes work, and commitment, and it means that you have to be disciplined and devote time to it, or, like this year, it quickly gets overgrown and you can't see your veg for the weeds.

Things between DP and I are a little strained at the moment for various reasons and with all the dramas relating to SD/BM, I think the veg of our relationship might be buried under weeds at the moment. Pleasing each other and seeking out each other's company has certainly taken a back seat of late, that's for sure. And like visiting the allotment when you know it's going to be covered in nettles, reconnecting with one another when it's been tough isn't always the easiest thing to do, so sometimes it feels easier to stay away and stay busy doing other things. But that only makes the carpet of weeds grow thicker, and it's harder to see where the good stuff is, or was, or maybe you're even afraid to peel back the thicket of weeds in case the good stuff has all withered and died underneath. The bio-mama-drama certainly does choke the life out of everything around it sometimes, that's for sure.

I just hope that we can do a little work to find each other again, with our trip to China coming up soon, and that it won't take the same amount of effort to get back on track that it did to get that allotment back to a usable state. Like everything else, relationships need nurture, care, and effort, and it's not enough simply to abide in the same house side by side when both of you have your mind on other things. We've got to find a way back to each other somehow, and stop this ongoing crap with BM having the ability to drive us apart and make us forget why we are both here. An embargo on discussing her would be a start I think - she's had far more airtime over the last few weeks than either of us would like. Instead, I think we need to talk more about anything that ISN'T anything to do with her, actually. I have a feeling that our best inoculation against her is to concentrate on anything but - in other words, our future and the things that we want to achieve as a couple, as just us for once.

Friday, 28 August 2009

The Binbag Kid

SD turned up this weekend with 2 binbags full of clothes that have gone from ours to BM's over the last few months. BM's latest edict is that SD is to come back in exactly the clothes she came to us in from BM, and that none of her clothes are to stay at ours, and none of our clothes are to go to hers, apart from school uniform.

Well, I guess this means that less of SD's half decent stuff will get chewed up by BM's feral dogs, and we have an excuse to offload all the horrid chavvy "Golddigga" stuff back to BM.

I just felt so sorry for her when I saw her dragging the binbag of clothing in from the car. She looked so unhappy - all her stuff in there, basically any reminder that SD has a life with us has been ejected from BM's house, and the two lives forced to be completely separate. And of course, the whole life-in-a-binbag is a big sign from the BM that she thinks that her daughter's life here is trash that she wishes she could just throw away for good.

She mentions her mother cautiously now, looking for any sign from us that we are going to reciprocate the trench warfare that BM is now engaged in. But we will not. We sympathised when SD told us BM's beloved car had been stolen (although secretly thinking, boy, aint Karma a bitch) and that as a result, she hadn't been able to get to her allotment to care for her chickens and had had to give them away. We let her talk about what she's been doing all week. What kind of life would it be for her if she wasn't allowed to do this and she was constantly having to watch herself in case some reference to Mum slipped out? We could not do this to her. Much as I have a thorough distaste for the woman, BM is still SD's mother, and she won't get another one of those. I just hope that we will do enough to show her that just because one side decides to play dirty, doesn't mean that the other immediately has to follow suit.

BM and the Hatchet Face are now on permanent alert for any minor transgressions from us, and they are upping the ante with all these rules so much now that they are making it more and more likely that something will go wrong - will SD come home in a pair of socks that aren't from BM's? She won't have put the wrong pair of socks on by mistake of course, this will be us trying to get one over on them, us DELIBERATELY waging sock-war, we will of course have thrown her rightful pair of socks away, or something of the kind, and sent her back in these just to spite them. Sure, because we don't have full time jobs to worry about or anything, we just spend all our time thinking up elaborate plans to one-up the BM....

See this is the trouble. Because they care so much about this stuff, they automatically think that we do, and that we will be keen to engage in this charade of subterfuge and skirmish. They could not actually conceive that all we wish for is for SD to be able to move freely between the two homes, love both parents and both sets of step-parents, without remorse or guilt, and for everyone to, if not get on with one another, at least be able to show some degree of civility. If we ever express these sentiments, it is not seen as being genuine, but some kind of game-plan or strategy. But this is a CHILD'S LIFE that is being played with as though it is some kind of war-game! SD is not a pawn, she is not a trump card, she is not the spoils of battle - she is a human being. Why is it that the one person who professes to love her more, and better than everyone else in her life, is the one person who cannot see how much she is hurting, and thinks it's OK to stand her child on the street in the rain surrounded by binbags to wait for her father to pick her up.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

My Car Smells Like Feet (and other tales of procrastination)

It is undoubtedly true that I am a master of the art of procrastination when it comes to certain things of the life-administration variety.

Filing my paperwork is one of them. I hate doing it, and so it piles up and up on all available surfaces, and I kid myself that piling it up is a form of ordering it, so it kinda counts. I have a mammoth pile of it to do this weekend, and I really have to not put it off any longer.

DP and I also play the game of "Bathroom Cleaning Chicken". Anyone who has ever shared a house with a bloke knows that we never win. DP would say that I have the annoying bathroom habits, like leaving my make-up on the side of the sink in the morning, and forgetting, when I have used up the loo roll, to replace it. But we know that man-bathroom-habits top ours in the gross stakes. DP is nearly 34 years old, and he still can't aim that thing right. And don't get me started on the not cleaning the sink post-shaving.

Other favourite targets for procrastination in our house are, predictably, the ironing pile, descaling the kettle, and defrosting the fridge. It's meant to stay cold, isn't it? Surely turning it off is anathema to it's natural function?? And let's not mention the subject of the allotment plot we rented, started out enthusiastically earlier in the year, and then let it get overrun with's amazing that we have had anything from it really, but at least we've managed to grow a few potatoes among the nettles.

This weekend is a bank holiday weekend and largely needs to be spent confronting our procrastinations head on, and actually doing some of these less palatable tasks that we have put off the last few weeks in favour of doing more fun stuff. The allotment needs digging over ready for the winter, we need to go up to the riding stables and bag up a load of horse manure ready for digging into the soil so we might have something plantable next year. Not sure I'll get round to descaling the kettle, but the game of Bathroom Chicken does need to be decided at some point this weekend too. Maybe we could do "Paper, Rock, Scissors".

By far the thing I am looking forward to the least, however, is addressing the state of my car. I realised today when I got in it at the end of the day that it does actually smell like stinky feet, which is distinctly unappealing. And then there's the collection of parking meter tickets fading and curling on the dashboard, the boot that's covered in streaks of mud and chain oil from when I've thrown my bike in there. My windscreen is covered in a layer of grease on the INSIDE, now that's disturbing! So this weekend, I need to wash and clean my car.

I don't know quite why I am so averse to doing it, or why the task of cleaning my car makes me cross. I guess I just see it as a chronic waste of time, and that I could be doing much better things - I've always figured, if my car works mechanically, then it doesn't matter if I haven't cleaned it for months, right? It still does what it says on the tin, and the birds have to have somewhere to shit. But, when even YOU don't like getting in your own car, it's time to bite the bullet and get out the Auto-Glym.

I think it's because the idea of actually planning to use my precious leisure time to clean my car, instead of going out until 3am and sleeping til 3pm and having a vodka for breakfast, makes me realise the uncomfortable fact that I am officially No Longer Young. All those people I used to laugh at as I staggered home from the pub at 8am on a Sunday morning as they carried buckets of soapy water out into their driveways - oh my God, I am now you. On Sunday morning, or whenever I get up and schlep out to do the deed, I will stand there with my buckets and probably watch some panda-eyed students wobble home while shaking my un-hungover head and tutting. I.Am.So.Freaking.Old.

Ah well...maybe SD will be up for making some pocket money on Sunday and I won't have to clean the car after all. Stepkids have to be useful for something, and she will probably be more preoccupied with the smell of money than the smell of feet.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

When you get it wrong

Firstly, I'm going to apologise for my posts having been on such a downer lately.

Unfortunately, it's not been happy times this week, either in the steposphere or otherwise. After some umming and ahhing, SD did come over this weekend and we got to find out some (I fear only a fraction) of what's been going on the past 2 weeks.

Turns out that Hatchet Face Granny's blowout was partly because the Social Services have been round to BM's. Apparently there have been no less than 12 complaints made about her. We, of course, have got the blame. OH HAS gone to them with concerns in the past, but not recently. Of course, the finger was easily pointed at us, because of what SD went back and said to Hatchet Face about us saying she isn't keeping clean at BM's. I suppose given that we have expressed those concerns about the, ahem, quality of BM's parenting, it might be a reasonable assumption that it was us, but it wasn't. No use telling them that though, would be an utter waste of time, they wouldn't believe us, and anyway, the fact is DP's quite pleased that the authorities are taking an interest, and he plans to ring them on Monday and get the details of what's going on. If it concerns his child, he's got a right to know. We know SD has been interviewed, but we did not wish to press her for any details, as it seems the last two weeks have been very distressing for her. BM has been on angry rants about us several times a day, putting a LOT of emotional pressure on the poor kid, and we are mud with Hatchet Face too. SD is banned from even mentioning our names with them. We told her that nothing's changed with us, that she can talk about BM or Granny if she wants to, that she can talk to us about anything she wants, we won't get angry with her or shout at her to shut up (OK, I really HATE hearing about BM this and BM that, but I am not going to tell a ten year old she cannot mention her own mother).

There's a bit though that I have to confess to here. I messed up with something, and that, while not the main cause of the troubles, has certainly added fuel to the fire and upset SD. It seems she overheard part of a conversation that I had with my friend one of the days she was with us, and I didn't know she had been there listening. DP and SD had just had an argument, in front of my friend, about her having a bath when she got home. SD was telling DP she didn't want or need a bath and why does she have to, Mum doesn't make her. My friend and I walked off to go to the loo, and my friend asked me what all that was about while we were in there. I gave her the Cliff Notes version - that BM thinks it's OK for her not to wash for days on end and that she'd started to suffer from BO as a result so we were really trying to get it into her head that she needs to keep herself clean as she's approaching puberty. And - I may have slipped in a comment about thinking that BM is a sub-standard parent as well. Unbeknownst to me, SD came in the bathroom while we were in there and heard it. She was upset, and she told Hatchet Face when she got dropped home that I was calling her smelly to my friends and slagging her mother off to everyone.

DP talked to her about this and poor SD said that she'd been upset, and embarrassed that other people outside the family had been told about her not washing at BM's and she KNEW full well that telling Granny Hatchet Face would get me in trouble - which was what she wanted at the time. However, SD did not know that the social services had been in touch, and that it would escalate in the way it has done.

I feel just awful that I let my anger towards BM get the better of me and SD heard me speak this way about her. I wanted to apologise to her, but DP said she didn't want me to be told that she'd done this as she was afraid I'd be mad at her. But - I'm the adult here, and I'm the one who should have been more discreet, or at least more careful there were no little ears around. I feel that I've let SD down and that she's seen a nasty side of me that I really would have preferred she didn't see. DP has done some damage limitation on my behalf, saying that I wouldn't have said anything to be nasty, but that I love her very much and I would have said it because I was concerned for her, that we both are concerned, we want her to be happy, safe and healthy and we worry sometimes that her mum doesn't always do the things that as a parent, she should. DP told me that SD said "I wish that Mum was more like you and Wicked Steppie". Bless. He's tried to discuss with her as well that if we do ever say anything that she doesn't like, or doesn't understand why we said it, then she should ask us - we won't be cross, we'll explain things, and that adults get it wrong sometimes too so if we say things that upset her, she needs to say so. Boy, did I get it wrong on this occasion. I have to say, DP is not my number one fan right now, and I'm not really surprised.

But one thing you have to do when you get it wrong in life is LEARN from it. I realise that I allowed the red mist to descend, and that I let being angry at the BM for being such a slack-arsed parent get in the way of doing and saying what was best for SD. In doing so, I feel that perhaps I was no better than BM herself, but the difference between her and me is that I will learn and do things differently in future. It's sad that BM's had no wake up call from the visit from the Social Services, and that all she's done is use it as a reason to be more angry with us instead of look at herself and focusing on being a better mum. I wish she would do that instead of blaming everyone else for her problems, because in the long run, it won't help her and it won't help the child who is getting more and more stressed out with all this conflict.

The other thing that I have learned from this, is that the bonds between SD and I that have been built over the last couple of years, are actually stronger than I realised. I had a view of them as being tenuous, and easily broken by a few choice manipulative words from BM. I know she won't stop loving her Dad, but who is Wicked Steppie after all - just Dad's girlfriend, no relation, no long history with her - I figured I was easily dispensed with and no big loss to her. But this is the first time that we've actually hurt each other, and that those bonds have been under any kind of test, so to come out the other side and for her to sit happily with me this morning laughing and putting sparkly nail polish on, I've realised that the bonds are stronger than I ever knew, and that we've survived. She doesn't know that I know this, but DP told me that she'd said to him yesterday that she still loved me. Knowing that despite my faux pas, she was still able to say that meant the world. And I'm able to say that I still love her too, and that silently, we've forgiven one another.

I might have got it wrong this time, but it seems like I've got it right often enough for the scales to balance. Not such a wicked stepmother after all, perhaps....and I am still very useful for shopping!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Meltdown in spectacular style

This morning, I woke up with a banging headache. When I stood up, I got a wave of nausea, nearly lost my balance, and then went off to the bathroom to talk to God down the big white phone. My old friend the migraine was back.

Pounding head, my eyes started to go funny....I had to text my boss and tell him I couldn't go to work. I have sumatriptan, from the doctor, but it takes a while to kick in and while it relieves the pain, it still leaves me tired, drained and sometimes dizzy.

It was then I just started to panic. My heart started to race and I felt my chest cavity closing in and the room starting to spin. It was as if everything just started to come crashing down. I am, at this moment in time, completely overwhelmed by everything that's going on. I feel like I have very little escape from sources of stress, and it all just piled on at the same time.

I was worried as well about work, because they aren't exactly sympathetic when you're ill or stressed or have difficulties in your life. They like to keep piling the work on, and just thinking that you will magic extra time in the day to get it all done. My manager is also fond of the really helpful phrase "Just get it sorted" when he comes to you at 15 mins before home time with an urgent job that you don't even know how to do. I don't feel that anyone really supports us, or cares that we are firefighting all the time. We are just expected to suck whatever it is up and get on with it. We've asked for an extra staff member, a junior or something to help field the calls, and take care of little things like when people forget their passwords to stuff, but this is apparently too much to ask, they are hiring right left and centre in other areas but we don't get any help. I've also got a, ahem, debate on my hands with the HR dept right now, which is always fun. I got called out on Sunday night just after I'd gone to sleep as well, and I slept like shit last week so I've been tired as hell.

If you mix a stressful and conflict-ridden job with a stressful step-situation at home, you kinda tend to feel like there's nowhere to run. The walls are, literally, closing in.

Ugh. I haven't got much positivity for the blogosphere today! But - when in the midst of another attack I decided to make bread, so that I'd at least have the kneading to do with my hands to calm me down. It did help, and I bet DP won't be unhappy to come home to a fresh loaf!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Why Dogs Are Great (and better than stepchildren)

So life is sucking right about now in Wicked Steppie Land. There's a million and one things I could go into, trust me - it all seems to have hit the fan at once.

But I don't really want to turn this blog into a whinging platform. I deal with enough whingers at work. IT Support is not a job you should ever do if, like me, you have a low tolerance for whingers. You'd think the sky had fallen in when they call up to tell you that something is not working. And by the way, what exactly does whining "It's not working" tell me about the exact problem in hand? "Not working" can mean anything from the computer won't switch on to a bunch of psychotic monkeys just raided the office and trashed all the PC's. You ask them to tell you some simple details - such as "is there an error message?" and they sigh, and huff and puff and say "Can't someone just come over?" Well, sure. I don't have anything else to do, it's not like I'm sitting here with a massive list of IT problems just like yours to fix or anything, so why don't I just pause my game of Solitaire and wander on over to your desk just because you can't be arsed to take a screen shot and email it? And the great irony is, by the time they have finished righteously complaining about why they are Far Too Busy to provide you with this simple piece of information, you could actually have had it fixed if they had Just Co-operated. And then, by the end of the call, it's YOU that gets labelled "unhelpful"! Oh, and never tell a middle manager that their request to have their screen saver changed might just not be as important as the server crash that's just brought down critical systems and you might need to ask them to wait a few minutes while you try and make sure the company doesn't lose a couple of million quid. Yes, I'll put your lovely picture of flying ducks on your screen while I call in the tribe of psycho monkeys to come fix the servers, numbnuts. I hope the flying ducks shat on your head as you took that picture.

Oooooops, I said I wasn't going to turn this into a whingefest. FAIL.

So I was saying, one thing I didn't want to do was write on here every day about life in the suckosphere. I actually don't really enjoy that, and it makes me feel bad that anyone who has made the effort to click the link and read the blog has to read a big outpouring of negativity. So today, I wanted to write about the one thing in the day that actually made me smile. That was, coming home from a stinking day at work and being greeted by my two happy slobbery waggy-tailed mutts. Hey, it was the first time someone today has been happy to see me!

Dogs are great. Until I moved in with DP, I had never owned a dog, but I became "stepmum" to his cross collie Poppy when I moved into his place. 8 months later, we adopted our beloved cross Rottweiler Bertie (formerly known as Beethoven, but who wants to shout that across the park) as company for Poppy, as she was suffering separation anxiety. Well, she got company alright - an annoying little brother (though MUCH bigger in size)! Bertie is a real mummy's boy, he no longer realises that he is not a little pup any more and still fond of trying to bounce on to mummy's lap - ouch!

So here are my top reasons why doggies rock, and why I'm afraid I have to say that I like being doggie-mama far better than step-mama!

1. Dogs will always be pleased to see you
2. You can tell a dog off and they won't sulk for the rest of the week or go to their other owner and try and get a different response.
3. Dogs don't talk back. Nor can they understand other dogs, or humans, telling them not to like somebody or not to do what they say.
4. Dogs know their place. And are much easier to train than children.
5. Dogs will defend you when someone tries to hurt you, not join in.
6. Dogs are pretty easily pleased with a bone and a pat on the head. They don't have any awareness of trends or how much anything costs. Did a dog ever care if the collar was Gucci?
7. Dogs mean you HAVE to go out and exercise every day, no excuses.
8. Dogs are good judges of character. My dogs growl when they see BM. 'Nuff said.

There are a few drawbacks however. Here are some of those.

1. Having to pick up dog poo in a placky bag which always seems to happen just as that cute guy you keep seeing in the park walks past. Ah well, he's probably a flasher anyway.
2. Clothes and house permanently covered in hair
3. Bathing dogs gets you wetter than them.
4. Dogs pee when they're scared. Be afraid for your carpets in a thunderstorm.
5. Difficult to go away spontaneously, hard to find places that will take dogs. This also applies to renting property if you have dogs for many of the above reasons, landlords are not too keen.
6. Ticks. UGH.
7. Dog farts absolutely stink and are bound to happen when you have dinner guests.

If you're a dog lover, feel free to add your own!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Suspending the self-obsession

Inspired by the lovely Georgina at Dad's Second Whatever I have decided to take a break from blogging about Moi today in favour of the greater good!

The daily grind does reduce your enthusiasm for championing social issues, I find. Because sometimes, life does feel like one giant social issue. But it's worth remembering, sometimes, how comparatively lucky we are. And the following three organisations are being put up on my blog as a reminder of that.

Scope is a UK charity working with children and adults suffering from cerebral palsy. They are passionate campaigners for disability equality, through the "Time to Get Equal" campaign and help as many people as they can with the disease to live a full life, achieve independence and focus on their abilities not their disabilities, and they also support the families and carers of sufferers. DP and I are off to China in September in fact, to walk the Great Wall in aid of this charity and so far we have raised over £3000 this year. DP's mum is a sufferer, so this cause is close to his heart. I visited Scope HQ in London back in May and was completely blown away by the energy and enthusiasm of the team there. There was real commitment, real passion, these were not just people doing an everyday job to pay the piper.

Seedlings for Christ is the charity run, among others, by the fabulous Jojo at
Tapa Lapa of Life Sponsoring children in Gambia, the organisation aims to give the next generation hope for the future in making sure they can go to school and get an education. Now, I'm not religious in the slightest, but I think where those who are use it to put their beliefs in action and create a better world, it rocks supremely. Just a little look at the community that the charity helps in Gambia reminded me that so many people in this world do not have the things that we take for granted - plentiful food, access to education - and that we really are privileged here. It's a shame that we are so greedy in the Western world, because if we shared just a little more of what we have, no child need die in poverty and misery again. Jojo - hats off to you and your church. We need more people like you in the world.

This one is also for my DP. Mankind is a UK charity who help men suffering from domestic abuse. When my DP was going through this, yes, at the hands of the BM, he had nowhere to turn because all the help was directed towards women. Mankind run a helpline and refuge for men, they fund research into domestic violence and aim to help end the stigma surrounding men who suffer from this either from their female or male partners. They also support the education of boys and young men so that they neither become abusers nor victims. I won't go into the horrific things that happened to DP, but he is not exceptional I'm afraid. The fact is that anyone of any gender can be abused, and anyone can be an abuser.

Sometimes it does us some good to remind us of the REALLY sucky stuff that's going on out there. I had felt that my week had sucked pretty royally so far, but I can't really compare a run in with some irate chav granny, being accused of telling my stepchild she has BO, not making the cut for a sports team and being a bit skint to having no money to send my children to school, living in fear of abuse or living every day with a disability that made everyday life 100 times harder.

So today, I am being grateful. Grateful for my liberty, that clean water comes out of my tap, and thankful for the life I have been given, for whatever reason, whether by accident or design. And perhaps a little bit more motivated to consider these things a little bit more often as a privilege and not an entitlement.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Soapgate Scandal

2 blog posts in one must be Mad Monday!

Well actually, it's Tired Tuesday, seeing as I am still up, and it's just past midnight. I can't sleep.

Poor old DP walked into a right old trap tonight. SD phoned him during the day, asking if he'd drop off the clothes she had come to ours in at her granny's house. We had things to do tonight, but hey ho, DP never says no to these requests, whether convenient, necessary, or not. SD asks in cute little girl voice, he says yes. Every time.

He goes round to granny's house and is met not by cute little girl, but by BM's hatchet faced mother. Who starts yelling at him in the street.

It seems that we have committed a terrible faux pas. SD has had fun with us this week. This is never to happen again.

Apparently, we have "played mind games" with SD and emotionally abused her. This is because we had the temerity to wash the clothes that she came in from BM's. It seems that we have been telling SD she smells all week and telling her that she smells when she's been in her mum's house. Hatchet Faced Granny seems to be totally missing the point - or missing a sense of smell, if she is under any illusions that a kid will NOT stink when she lives in a smoky house (BM is a chainsmoker).

SD tells us herself that she does not wash for days at a time at BM's, and frequently, she has BO when we pick her up that testifies very pungently to that, usually competing with the smell of the secondhand smoke. So, we do tend to chuck her in the bath or shower, despite protestations. SD does not particularly like baths or showers. She tends to get The Face on when told to go clean up (any parents or step-parents of teens will know The Face well). So, we are guessing that BM doesn't bother making her do it, in the same way as she won't argue with her over bedtimes, or teeth cleaning, because she can't be arsed. It does feel like an uphill battle sometimes. Nobody said parenting, or at least good parenting, was always fun, or that your kids would always like you. DP is, unfortunately quite direct. He will tell her she stinks, and march her to the soap. Hell, he does it with me when I come in from football matches. C'mon, who didn't have that as a kid, you come home all filthy and dirty covered in luvverly muck and what do your parents do? Pick you up by your collar with a peg on their nose and throw you in the bath, of course! But these days, it's emotionally abusive to do so....your kids have a right, did you not know, to stink! Parents, be warned! Stinking is the new smacking. Insist on your kids washing too often and you too will find yourself facing Soapgate.

So this, on top of the litany of our other misdemeanours like "forcing" SD on hikes and bike rides, mean that DP is an unfit and abusive parent. Oh, and did I mention that taking SD on a scout camp is totally unacceptable because she will be sexually abused? Hatched Faced Granny is going to set her policeman brother on DP, apparently, because all scout leaders are obviously paedophiles. Yawn, nothing that they haven't tried before....they've kinda exhausted most avenues open to them when it comes to trying to discredit DP. But, on they will go with their tired routine.

All this means, now, that apparently they are withdrawing any kind of co-operation or flexibility towards us (uh, wasn't aware there was any in the first place) and they will be going by the letter of the court order from now on. Well, that'd be a first for them to actually stick to it, wouldn't it! Oh, and of course, I am not allowed to pick up or drop off SD, because I am not named on the court order as a person who is permitted to do this. DP laughed and said that he wouldn't want to expose me to their nastiness, so that suited us just fine.

It's plain to see that this is motivated by the green eyed monster. They can't be happy that SD has had fun for a week. They have to twist everything so that DP is awful, I am the Wicked Witch of the West AND the East, in fact, just about everywhere, and that SD is traumatised as a result of spending time with us.

I realise that there is little point getting worked up about this. OH does not, any more. It does not cause him insomnia - he's upstairs snoring his little head off. I guess he's so used to the periodic bouts of mud-slinging that he lets it roll off him, he's secure enough that he knows SD is not traumatised and that she'll come back next time she sees us and ask if we can go bike riding again. Funnily enough, I seem to remember the last big shenanigans like this were last summer. Ho hum, I guess the sun brings out the mad dogs.

I can't help but feel resentful that our night was ruined by these ignoramuses, and that instead of the nice cosy evening relaxing with a nice home cooked meal and glass of wine, OH had to spend the evening phoning up his Group Scout Leader and warning her that they'd threatened to accuse him of abusing kids. Then he was too cross and tired to cook or eat, so he just necked a beer and went to bed. And I am left, awake and seething. Hatchet Face would love this if she could see it - just the effect she's after! And then I get MORE cross with myself for allowing it to get to me. And cross with OH for having had a kid with that detestable woman. Why do men have this uncanny ability to just switch off? I envy that.

Well, I guess it's about time I bit the bullet and attempted sleep again, though it's a toss up between the sofa with a snoring dog and bed with a snoring DP. Perhaps those clothes pegs we went round with on our noses all week because SD smelled so bad would come in handy right about now....

Crap, I lost my post

I did write a long post. But it got swallowed up in the Black Hole of the Back Button.

It was quite an irony, really, since I was about to publish rather an Eeyore-esque post about my trials and tribulations of late. I was feeling really rather gloomy, and in need of some blogging catharsis.

And yet somehow, the fact that the computer has eaten my prophecies of doom, has cheered me up. How does THAT work?

Maybe it's because writing about all the negative shite that's happened today and over the past few days just didn't really make me feel better. But deleting it all (albeit accidentally) DID!

Well, in a nutshell, the week with SD has been a little tough - mainly emotionally, on me, because as I have mentioned before, SD is going through a Daddy-phase right now, and Wicked Steppie aint in line for much love at the moment. WS is, in fact, acting the part of the love-rival in SD's life right now. Well, she's too young for boyfriends I guess, so she's doing a little pre-pubescent Electra thing.

I realised earlier today that it wasn't so much the monopolising of DP that was getting to me. It's the fact that SD used to give me spontaneous hugs, tell me she loved me, or snuggle with me on the couch. Now, I am chopped liver, and it's all about Dad. Hard not to take that personally, or think "What did I do?"

Unfortunately, in Steppieland, all you have to do sometimes is exist. Your very existence can stir up a maelstrom, even at times when things seem to be smooth sailing. Let's face it, Steppies are a favourite scapegoat aren't they, for everything going tits up! Perhaps even natural disasters can be attributed in some way to the Met office hasn't thought of that one!

I'm also a little blue because I didn't make the team that my work is sending to take part in an adventure race later in the year, and I have been busting my ass training. And lets face it, for how many people does failure not suck? I don't take it well, that's for sure, but even those who are able to put a braver face on it than I probably go home and punch walls or something.

I felt that I'd failed at my sports this week and I'd also failed at stepmothering, because it obviously must be my fault that SD is not into me right now. And I wrote this whole treatise about how the human race was doomed! That's some leap, from not making a sports team and dealing with a recalcitrant pre-adolescent (they do hit puberty much earlier these days, I'd say around 3 and a half) to the destruction of mankind. Such is the effect that failure has on me. But, I'm glad the Back button killed it. I feel that there is now some point to my continued existence on this planet.

But lets round this up with a few positives. Out of my training regime over the last couple of months, I'm looking a damn sight more toned and lost some weight, despite actually eating MORE. I've also tried new sports that I probably wouldn't have done otherwise, and even though my fitness was not good enough for the team, it's better than it was. And the things I have done through training meant that we were able to take SD canoeing and mountain biking, neither of which she had ever done before either. OK, I know she'd rather be home playing on her laptop or texting her BFF (what does that even stand for anyway?) but I guess maybe she'll thank us for it one day that we bothered to take her places and do things, instead of leaving her to rot in her bedroom all day talking to potential paedos on the net.

Or maybe she won't. But at least we'll know we tried, which is better than not, right? Better I tried for the team and spent 2 months killing myself, sorry, getting fit, riding over huge rocks on a bike, desperately trying to make a canoe go forwards and running through mud, than didn't try at all and stayed on my couch with a bottle of wine?

Talking of which, seeing as I don't have to hit the trail tonight, maybe I'll go and open that nice chilled Sauv Blanc.....

Friday, 7 August 2009

Wednesday Martin I salute you

Courtesy of one of my fave SM bloggers, La Belle Mere at

I was lent Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin.

Now, I love this book, and Wednesday's blog, so much that I am going to sing it's praises to the rooftops on here and I have not even finished the book yet! After putting the world to rights with LBM on (very fittingly) Wednesday, I then headed to a coffee shop for a bit of peace and quiet to start the book and before I knew it I was 3 chapters in!

Thank you Wednesday, for NOT telling me to put the kid first. I can't even begin to describe how fabulous it is to find a book for stepmothers that's been written for ADULTS. See, I've read a few stepmothering treatises, and just found a lot of it patronising bullshizz. And, like after reading many well-intentioned books, I end up feeling worse than before. Because no matter how many times the book tells me to grow the fuck up and be an adult and realise the kids relationship with their dad is far, far more important than my relationship with him could ever be, y'know what? It's not going to work, because nobody, nobody, but nobody, is ever going to settle for life in second place. And finally, along comes Wednesday, and tells us we don't have to.

It's an intelligent, insightful look at stepmothering, from both an academic and real world perspective, however Stepmonster neither reads like a dry academic essay nor a self-help book. Nobody is going to ask you to make affirmations into the mirror, or to vow to change your terrible ways. Actually, the one thing this book is making me do is ACCEPT myself just that little bit more - and feel OK about the emotions that I have surrounding this whole minefield I'm tap dancing on. Instead of constantly berating myself for not doing better at it.

Check Wednesday out at
and if you are a stepmother, the husband or partner of a stepmother, or a stepchild, or you simply want to understand more about stepfamilies, read this book. I cannot recommend it enough. And if you are a stepmother, lock your significant other in a room and do not let him out until he has read it cover to cover and then again backwards.

Oh and massive thanks to LBM for being my personal SM library!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

There, that wasn't so bad was it....

I am sometimes a little guilty, in steppie-land, of treating the Return of the Stepkid a little like a medical procedure.

Let me explain how this works.

I've written on this blog before about how the bliss of kid-freedom makes it hard to return to the weekendly grind - a little like how it is when you've been off work, that first day back after a holiday. The tossing and turning the night before, thinking about the size of your inbox, and the hell of going back to the same old colleagues whinging about the same old crap round the coffee machine that spews out turd-coloured coffee that tastes NOTHING like the fabulous fresh ground nectar you've been drinking in Italy.....yeah, you know the feeling. But you can't stay in Italy forever, we all have to crash back down to earth, and the anticipation of that crash is far worse than the reality. Because you drag your sorry butt back into work, sit in the car or bus full of dread, resentment and resolve to check the job sites or the property listings for villas in Tuscany, and then you walk in the office, smell the inferior grade coffee, the receptionist gives you a surly snarl as you sign in, and then by 11am you're back in the tight bitching circle round the coffee machine like you've never been away.

You can also apply this analogy to medical procedures. You know the tendency we have to overestimate the pain and discomfort we are surely going to be in (I have this with PAP smears, ick). And then, though it sucks at the time, it's usually over and forgotten fairly quickly and life goes on as usual. Think ripping off a Band-Aid.

Talking of, I have to go get a smear test next week. Ick.

I guess if you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll realise by now that I hate the thought of the stepkid visits more than the actual reality. The reality is, it's usually fine, by and large. She does like me, I think, despite the best efforts of BM, and I do enjoy spending time with her, although she does kinda suck when she's tired and cranky and all over DP like a rash. And those are the times that tend to stick out in my head and make me dread the visits when I've had a bit of a breather from it.

So why do we have a tendency to latch on to the negative? Oh OK, what's with this WE. I mean me, really! Why the sense of dread? Why the arguments with DP the night before she's due to come about how he is going to ignore me for the coming week (well OK, sometimes he does). Seeing as it's my inner child that comes out during this time, I can only assume that it's a kind of regression back to the days when I used to dread having to take Calpol when I was sick (some people, even adults, actually LIKE that stuff - sick puppies!) and the thought of the taste of it was far worse than the actual taste. Like Calpol, I have a feeling that the SD visits, although at times unpalatable in theory, are actually good for me though. And maybe they are even good for her. I can hope, huh....