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I stopped at Trader Joe’s on the way home tonight.  I needed laundry quarters (even though I didn’t do the laundry after all), and so I picked up a bottle of Rose, and I was enjoying a slow walk home on a pretty spring evening. When all of a sudden my vision focused on a scene a block and a half in front of me.

And my stomach fell to the sidewalk.  I so didn’t want to see that person right now.  The person who is throwing so many nasty punches into my family’s well-being; causing so much stress – so many changes.  Such sadness and despondence in the life of one of my favorite people.

She was glaring at me.  Face all squinched up, disgust in her shoulders.

It was her.

The ExBFF.

I could not believe the reaction that I had to a 10 year old (well, 9 for another 3 weeks – she was born on J’s due date in 1998) child.

But she is the source of such anguish.  Such misery.

Another attempt at going to her mom last weekend.  Result was interesting.

I was told that the entire situation is MY fault.

In some ways, I was very relieved by this response.  I live in constant awareness of the fact that as much as J comes home with stories of Ex-BFF’s eviltude, BFF is likely going home with similar stories.

Turns out, not so much. Her mom was clueless.  She thought “everything was normal.”  But when she approached her child with my concerns, she was met with the allegation that I – Zuska – have sabotaged their friendship.  That I have “pulled them apart” and that if it weren’t for me, they could have worked everything out on their own.

i.e., J would have accepted the fact that she would be treated like shit forever – given “tests” wherein she is expected to be forever conscious of Ex-BFF’s moods and quirks and whims so that she can be sure to behave correctly and stave off her Wrath.

It was horrible of me to talk to my daughter about her self worth.  To teach her that friendship is not a pure sacrifice of self, and that self-respect is just as important as respect for others.

it IS all my fault.

“please be sure to tell J that this is not what I want, and this is not what [my daughter] wants, but rather what YOU want.”

Yah.  Okay.

_____________________

For the past 2.5 weeks, for the first time in my life, I’m dealing with consistent pain in my neck, back and shoulders.  Today it’s also in my right arm.  The pain is on the verge of debilitating.  People ask me what I did.  What I lifted.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Perhaps it was because I slept on my stomach?  And whipped my head up? (Similar actions hurt now)  Others say it’s where people hold stress.  Am I stressed?  No!  I said!  Work has been mellow.  My husband and I haven’t fought in ages (well, we sort of fought last night – he’s mad at me for increasing my responsibilities in the girls’ drama program at school –  but the question came before last night), my kids are doing well …. except that J is always sad.  And she’s waking in the night.  And her confidence is shattered.  And when I see Ex-BFF’s mom in public, I spend most of my energy swallowing my vomit.

I’m just so sick of it.

We have a meeting with the principal and guidance counselor next week.  I want to talk about the impact of this situation on the other girls in the class – about the way they all feel torn.  I would speak directly with the other parents if it wouldn’t make me seem like I was trying to collect allies in a fucking war.  I am not willing to take on that appearance.  To make the Ex-BFF’s mom find fault with me when I’ve tried so-so hard for both J and I and to take the high road – to not sink into the games.  But the other girls are also struggling.  They don’t know what to do.  They’re scared of being put in J’s position by Ex-BFF if they speak to J – they’re scared of J not wanting to be their friend because they’re siding with Ex-BFF out of fear.  They’re unhappy.

Everybody is unhappy.

I want this crap to go away.

I want to stop hating this child.

I want her to go away.  I want them to move.  Far, far away.

On Thursday – J and Ex-BFF had soccer practice together.  I was there.  Ex-BFF managed to pull every.single.girl. into her orbit with casual and carefree “come over heres!”  J was beaten down, wary, tired.  She ended up alone.  Two of the girls came to me to ask if J was okay – not to J.  They were scared.  Intimidated.  J was alone for the entire hour.  Her coach was perplexed.  The girls were skittish.  J. was lonely and sad.  She cried the whole way home.

Then Ex-BFF went away for the weekend.

Our phone rang off the hook.

The soccer game was lovely.

The girl scout meeting was fun and social and happy – J at the center; kids happy and good natured.

J had a sleepover with a friend on Sat. eve; she went to another friend’s house on Sunday afternoon; had another with her at E’s play on Sunday night.

Everyone felt safe for the weekend.

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I had a delicious time off.  It was absolutely rejuvinating, and a great time for the girls and I.  We had a lot of together time, including conversations, games of Monopoly, Frisbee sessions, walks, frappucinos, smoothies, races, long drives to Connecticut, a day in New York City, time with the grandparents and with the baby cousin, etc.

Now they’re singing, and it’s giving me a headache.  They’re bickering, and it’s like fingernails down the chalkboard.

Tomorrow, I head back to work ….

WOO HOO!!!!

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I had previously mentioned that J was having some trouble with her “BFF.”  Things have continued to be a roller coaster ride.  We have done the following since my last post:

  • discussed the issue with BFF’s mom (who I have been quite friendly with for the past 3+ years)  It was 1000% fruitless.
  • discussed the issue with J and BFF’s teacher
  • spoken with J at length
  • Read books (Beloved finished “Odd Girl Out,” I am in the process right now)
  • Listened to J as she cried that she “broke up with” BFF, because she was so sick of it all.
  • Listened to J as she complained that BFF — now only “F” (for friend) hasn’t stopped the games
  • Listened to J as she explained fight after fight
  • Spoken (coincidentally) with other parents who had the same problems with BFF, only in 2nd grade
  • Took J, BFF, and 2 other friends to the pool to prove to the girls that they could still be friends, and be friends with other girls, and all will be well.
  • Watched as BFF pulled out all the stops to manipulate the other girls at the pool, also scaring me, because when she was hiding behind the stairwell to see how long it would take the other girls to go looking for her, I was scared to death that I lost someone’s kid.
  • And, finally, just this evening, wrote to J’s teacher and the principal of the school to insist that J’s desk be moved.
  • Also this evening:  counseled J to speak with the 3 other girls caught up in this nasty disgusting poisonous web, and to tell them that she will no longer be playing with BFF at school, that she knows how much they hate “having to choose” between J and BFF when they are fighting, and that she will therefore play with others, and will call them on the weekend to get together outside of school.  I hope she has the guts to do it, and to stick with it.
It is so curious to me how people get the power to manipulate others like this girl has done.  I’ve spoken with other parents.  They don’t understand why their daughters are “scared” of BFF to the point of coming home distraught that they “weren’t allowed to play with J.”  They’ve told their mothers, “I would rather play with J, but I’m so scared of being on BFF’s bad side.”  I told J how perplexed I was, but stopped short of telling her she should gather them all and convince them to stop putting up with it along with her.  Because getting them all to gang up on BFF is no better behavior than what BFF is doing.
Which is why I told my daughter to extricate HERSELF from the situation, and assure the other girls that she was not asking them to choose, and will love to spend time with them outside of school.
This is my honest belief:  BFF really loves J, and really wants to be with her all the time.  She would be happy to be with ONLY J — all of the time.  J is a natural friend to all, and does not want to be friends with only one person – and never has wanted that.  This makes BFF feel threatened.  What’s worse, BFF sees how much every one else is drawn to J, and it makes her feel insecure.  While J can attract others to her just be being her funny, happy self, BFF finds herself competing with that through threats and manipulations.   The end result?
A miserable 4th grade full of girls.
ICK!!!

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I spoke with the other mom.  I was clear about my goals – I was careful not to spew accusations.

J sort of changed the landscape, because at school today – she got up the guts to say “I don’t want to be your BFF anymore.”

The reaction was tearful silence.

instead of calling the mom to say “your daughter is mean to my daughter” I had to call and say “I think my daughter hurt your daughter’s feelings.”

I tried to explain my hopes that our involvement – as loving and involved parents – can prevent our children from devolving into she-devils.

I think I’m optimistic.

I made it clear that if I am 100% wrong (I don’t think I am, and as of right now, either does the other mom) and my daughter is actually a meany-butt, I want to know, and I will deal with it.  I received similar promises in exchange.

I plan to organize a group outing for Saturday – several girls – including J and the ex-BFF – to go to the pool or to a movie or something.

I have to believe that kids are not evil, and that with a little support and encouragement, and a little bit of reinforcement that we are good people – we respect each other – they will follow suit.  They can watch their mothers talk, and they can watch us push aside our instincts – not our good instincts, but our mean-nasty-rip-her-throat-out-instincts — they can, too.  They can take deep breaths and realize that compromise and cooperation serve our interests more than do domination and castration.

Oh wait – we’re girls.

We can’t be castrated.

But whatever.

I want a KIND child.  I want a respectful child.

But a kind, respectful child who is no-one’s doormat.

——————————————————-

(and certainly not the doormat of her nasty-ass politician husband – Jesus, Sue – did you have to be so damned inflammatory?)

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It was a busy weekend.

  1. E had a friend sleep over on Friday night.  It went well.  It is a friend who I have had some issues with before – her behavior, her negativity, her influence on E.  There was none of that this weekend.  She was flexible, fun, and really pleasant to have around.  It was very nice.  She’s the daughter of a friend, so it was good that it went well.
  2. Both girls had basketball games on Saturday a.m.  Beloved took J to her early game (where she scored a basket, and was very proud, because it was against the Tall Team).  E and her friend walked to theirs alone.  No.  I did not go. There are only two teams in their age bracket (b/c it’s 6-8th grades, and 7th and 8th graders can play for the school teams, and usually choose that over the town team).  Every week, the two teams play each other.  It’s very casual, not competitive, and frankly — boring.  E doesn’t care if I’m there or not, just enjoys running around with her friends.  If I am there, she spends more of her energy monitoring my conversations with other parents (to be sure I don’t say her name …. even if I say “Oh, E is due for a teeth cleaning” or “E’s birthday is in September” she hears her name and has a fit) than she does playing the game.
  3. My parents came in at noon on Saturday.  Mom was having some back pain, so they were a little slow-moving, which was fine with us.
  4. E went to a movie with friends.
  5. J had a girl scout meeting – where she baked bread.
  6. Me, Beloved, Mom and Dad went to see a three bedroom apartment that is for rent. It was pretty nice, but short a bathroom and probably one room.  I also was totally put off by the other occupant of the 2 family house, which may or may not be the owner’s mother-in-law.  Things were a little fuzzy. I think that the space issues could have worked out, but the downstairs person was the deal killer.
  7. Once we collected the girls back at home, we all went out to dinner.  At your typical chain steak-house, which is the sort of place we always go with my parents.  They don’t like my favorite places, they find them “weird” – but I’ll take a steak any day.  J had salmon, and E ate a 1/2 rack of baby back ribs.  The food was pretty good.  My dad got all sappy on me when I offered to pick up the tab …. something about being so proud that I am now in a position where I can do that, but that he won’t let me until I’m “caught up.”  I don’t know waht that means.  Do I have to catch up with HIM?  Catch up with my bills?  Pay off all my school loans?  Whatever he meant – thanks for dinner, dad.
  8. Then, this morning, we cursed the time change as Beloved trudged off to a Sunday morning meeting and my parents and I left two sleeping children to go and see my office.  My parents were duly impressed.  They liked my view, the name plaque on my door, and the building at large.  I think my air-conditioning-fixing dad was a bit proud of his eldest child.  He couldn’t have said so more times.  Mom was just happy to see all the pictures of E and J around the room (and both her nephews, as well).  I think she was reassured that my job does not mean that I’ve forgotten that I still have 2 kids.
  9. We then came home and I dragged the girls out of bed at ELEVEN AM!!!  Shit!!  I know it only felt like 10 them.  And 10 is a normal weekend wake up time for them.  But today it was ELEVEN.  Which does mean that now, at 11:28 p.m., I can hear E tossing and turning and sighing heavy, frustrated, insomniatic sighs.
  10. My dad made waffles.  I don’t know what he did, but the house still smells like syrup.  What the fuck?  We had pancakes yesterday, and the house didn’t smell like syrup all day.  I think it’s because despite the real Vermont maple syrup that we stay stocked in, Dad brought his Aunt Jemima’s, and those artificial flavorings have chemically attached themselves to the paint.  Even Beloved’s stir fry couldn’t rid us of the smell.
  11. I did 8 loads of laundry.
  12. Mom, Dad and I went to 4 open houses.  As in – homes for SALE.  There were several nice ones.  I am not going to push to buy right now.  Even though our jumbo mortgage limit in the Boston area was raised to the point that I likely can buy a few of them.  I’m just not willing to do so just to find myself upside down in a year or so, wanting to move b/c my condo is too small for 2 teenagers and all their friends that they keep dragging home.  I’m resigned to be a renter for a couple more years.  Just not here.  It’s too small.
  13. Then they left.  My parents.  And I was going to go with E to a play, but I was quite frankly exhausted, so I bowed out, and spent some time organizing my ridiculous amounts of clothing, hanging out with J and Beloved, and resting for a minute, because I knew I had to …
  14. Go to the “let’s talk about our 6th graders” meeting that was scheduled for tonight.  Ugh.  That was stressful.  It was about relationships and dating.  About whether or not kids have sex in high school, whether there’s kissing in 6th grade, and whether kids are “grinding” on the dance floor at their little dances this year.   This requires a post of its own.  Because from that discussion came at home discussions, and things just went spiraling off into weirdness (as J called it, until I told her it was NOT weird, it was normal, because it all happens to everyone, and if it didn’t, then there would be no people).  Oh yeah, we had a sex talk, baby.  Replete with erections and ejaculations and the difference between semen and urine.  Beloved was dragged into it, and was stellar.  I shall try to remember to post more about this tomorrow.
  15. It’s a little more stressful that next time, I somehow ended up the chair of the meeting.  Ugh.  We will be talking about Freedom for 6th graders.
  16. Then E caught me snooping around on her phone.  I tried to turn the volume down, and was looking at who she called and who called her, and she came out of her room.  I had time to hide the phone in a towel, and she said, “I’m looking for a book.”  And Beloved told her to go to bed.  But then she found her book and said, “oh, I should put my phone in my purse.  Oh.  Where’s my phone?  I thought I put it right there.”  Dammit.  She totally heard me before I turned the volume down.  All I could was laugh and say, “fine, it’s right here, you snot, stop erasing your text messages.”  She laughed at me and said, “mom! They were all to you!!”  But she didn’t erase her call log, and there’s no denying that a certain boy has been calling her almost daily.  The calls are quick.  Not long.  She tells me that they involve questions about homework and such.  Hmmmm.

And that is what happened on yet another weekend where Zuska brought her work computer home just to leave in her bag all.  weekend.  long.

Fortunately, there are no deadlines until Wednesday.

I don’t blow off deadlines.

Really.

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I was tempted to just post a giant post of “waaaaaaa!!  I don’t feel good!!”  But, that’s boring.  I didn’t return to the blog for that.

Beloved and I are going to see an accountant tomorrow.  We don’t really have good reason to hire someone to do our taxes this year.  Even though it’s our first year as a married couple, it’s still pretty straight forward.  But he’s never done taxes with dependents to deal with, and I want to hear a tax person say, “y’all need to buy real estate!  you need the deduction!”

It makes me feel so grown up.

Why am I 35, and just now starting to feel grown up?  With an accountant, and a 401K, and research into mortgage rates.

I should have done this 10 years ago.

I’ve had so many realizations latley, where I notice that I am in fact growing up.

I can keep track of things that used to be difficult for me (things like my keys; events at the kids’ school; other smaller responsibilities).  My brain just seems more organized.

Mature, I suppose.

So this is why people wait until they’re my age to have kids.  Because they’re actually mature, and not constantly flying by the seat of their pants.

Huh.  I wonder how that would have gone.

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My daughters – two wonderful, intelligent, creative, funny, loving individuals – are spending their holiday vacation with their biological father. 

They arrived in his care on Monday (Christmas Eve) at approximately noon.

Christmas was Tuesday.

Woe – wait.

Guess when they last saw their biological father?

Well, that would be August 5th.

I spoke with E on Wednesday – her 2nd or 3rd day with her biological father.

She was telling me of some strange voice mail recordings on her cell phone.

I responded with, “Did you share them with [fuck-head]? What did he think?]

She responded: “I can’t, he’s been out all day – he isn’t here.”

OH.

I see.

I know that the vast majority of parents need a break. They want their parents, or in-laws, to give them a hand iwth hte kids – to give them some breathing room – some adult time.

But the vast majority of parents have contact with their kids more than 10% of the year.

Seriously – my ex does NOT.

Does he really need a break?

After 48 hours?

If I only saw my girls for a total of [quickly doing math] 25 – 35 DAYS!!! per year … you can be certain that I’m not “going out” for a day – or even an evening – while I am with them.

But I also would never make the decision to live first 1,000 and then 2,000 miles away from them. After moving 3,000 miles away — the distance only shortened by their other parent’s decision to go to law school on the other coast.

Why does he continue to take their summers from them? To insist on removing them from their everyday lives? I do not understand. If his time with them is so very disposable – why put them through it?

I am anxious for some explanations. If anyone has a theory – or a disagreement with my assessment – please, let it be known.

I do not understand.

They’re such great people.

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I had a nice holiday gathering with my family this past weekend.  I’ve had some strife with/about my brother in the past few years, but it seems to have dissipated if not healed completely.  I remember last year I was resentful over the fact that I was required to spend ANY money on his ungrateful, hateful ass, and I think I settled on an iTunes gift card.  Which is a pretty crappy gift, but was still too much for the relationship we had at the time.

This year, I was excited to pick something for his son, as well as for him and his wife.  I think I made good choices and they were happy.

I made my mother a photo album with a collection of photos from the year, and signed my dad up for a 2-wines-of-the-month club.  They each had little things from me to open on top of that.

Beloved also worked to provide the family with gifts, and helped the girls with projects so they had something to give as well.  I think we showed up with a nice bunch of gifts!

Beloved’s gifts rocked.  He came up with the idea before we left for Europe, and we (amazingly) followed through on it.   We took photos in Paris and Amsterdam, with particular themes in mind, and he had prints made and then matted and framed the prints.  They came out great, and the family was duly impressed.

We were also spoiled nicely.  My brother and his wife gifted us all with fun and personal assortments of gifts, perfect for each of us (J’s stripey knee socks with little toes are great).  My mom and dad got me a Martini set, complete with a recipe book, and my BOOTS!!!  They got Beloved an indoor grill and some socks.  Good socks, though.  Not complaining-inducing socks.

__________________________

We had weather issues, though.  Because this is turning out to be a delightful winter, and we are getting snow on top of snow.

This is a good thing.

The storm that brought me home early on Thursday created messes of dynamic proportions.  It was amazing.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been more grateful for my car-less status.  I apparently left work at the same time as the people who were stuck in traffic for up to SIX HOURS did, but I first walked 5 blocks to the T station, then rode the train (no traffic!) for 15 minutes, and then crossed the street and then went around the block to the girls’ school.  Once I had them in hand, we walked 3 more blocks to our HOUSE!  Where we spent the rest of the afternoon watching stand-still traffic out our living room window.

We knew even then that another storm was coming through in a couple days’ time.

Beloved and I wondered if we should change our plans.

We decided no.

But as the storm was closer and the predictions more reliable, we found ourselves more and more on the fence.

We knew we couldn’t skip the trip – there is no other time.  The girls leave to spend Christmas with their father in a week … then Beloved has a school/work trip planned, and there’s just no other time.

So we spent some time on Saturday morning – at my parents’ house – studying satellite images accompanying the various weather reports.  The question was – will we have dinner and open gifts in a rush so that we could get in the car late Saturday and drive 2.5 hours in the middle of the night, to be safe in our own beds before the storm?  Our would we stay in CT a little longer, waiting for the worst of the storm to pass.

I didn’t want to rush the gathering.  I didn’t want to feel on edge, I didn’t want to feel that I could not have a glass (or two or three) of wine because we would be driving (I actually don’t drink even one glass … or even a 1/2 glass … if I’m driving.)

So we stayed.

And driving home today was hard.

But no one would have been able to guess that my Beloved originated in Culver City, California.  The slush, ice, snow and varying temperatures were handled as if he were a native-born New Englander.  He was fantastic, and we are safe.

For now.

The temperature has begun it’s decline from 40 to 17 … all the mid-street lakes and flooded drains are in the midst of a deep freeze.  I think our morning foot-commutes will be treacherous.  And I’ll re-think that statement above about the joy of not having a car.

Although, I plan on taking a cab to work tomorrow, since I have to lug 7,000 pounds of BarBri books to the local office so I can get my $175 bar prep book deposit back … I can’t do that on the T.  7,000 pounds?  Ha!

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Yeah, so. All my complaining for naught.

Guess what my Momma got me for Christmas?

That’s right – my boots.

🙂

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Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking that I could move at the first of the year with the holidays coming right BEFORE the first of the year.

I’m getting the girls Nanos.  E has the older nano, which doesn’t have a video screen.  She didn’t realize that the non-video screen wasn’t compatible with the video games on iTunes, and had downloaded Tetris.  She can’t use it.  Sounds to me like she needs a Nano.

Beloved will take over her old Nano for the gym.

But since we have our solstice tradition, where we make each other gifts, this could be a little hypocritical.  Silly Zuska, always taking the easy way out and buying her way through the holidays.  So, I thought of a solution:

ipodcase.jpg

E’s will probably be very similar to the multi-color one pictured.  J’s will likely be a variation on the blue one, only in purple.  I may put straps on them, I may not.

First I have to re-teach myself how to crochet.  I used to know how …

And this year, I’m just saying it up front — I’m not making anything for Beloved.  I’m buying him something, and it’s a big something, but I’m not making it.  And I’m not crocheting a case for it, either.  Unless you want to think that I’m making him a crapload of work.

I mean, it isn’t easy transferring files — photos, iTunes, tons of word processing documents.   It will probably take him a very, very long time.

But then we have the other problem … what do we do when people ask us what we want for Christmas?  We have space issues, so we don’t want too much stuff in our house.  We’ve always had space issues, and my kids were raised with that in the background, and so they aren’t “stuff” people.  Oh sure, E wants a new MacBook, and they want new iPods, but beyond that … they just shrug.

They don’t want anything.

I told my ex-mother-in-law that they would like gift cards for clothes.  It’s so hard to pick for them now, but they enjoy being able to shop.  I also gave her some other ideas, as far as fancy papers and other craft items that they really enjoy playing with.  Also their ever-present desire for journals and drawing pads.

My mother, though – I didn’t know what to do.  I suggested boots.  You know, leather almost-to-the-knee boots?  But it’s hard, and she doesn’t like the styles they like, and sizes could be tough to pin down for a gift.

I almost let her have the iPod idea, but $150 is a little higher than what she usually spends (she usually spends $100 on one gift, and then another $100 on crap that we don’t know what to do with and that sits in a gift bag in the girls’ room until we finally go through and carry stuff down to the trash room in the basement).

Finally … I said, “Mom!!” they love to see shows.  She wants to take them to NY anyway …  do a day in the city with them.  Make them a little book to present to them when we’re together for our Christmas gathering – a collage of things they will do together.  She wants to do a museum (I’m not sure which), and a show.  She also figures once she settles on a show (we’re thinking Lion King), she’ll get them the soundtrack to open.

She loved the idea.

The city is a short train ride away from my parents’ house, and it’s easily a day trip.

She said my dad won’t want to go, though.

So I get to go!

I will chip in and do a fancy dinner out for the 4 of us.

I think we’re going mid to late January.  When Beloved is away matriculating.

But I think it’s a better gift than a bag full of crap.

We’ll have a good Christmas.

Or, Solstice.

The girls leave on the morning of Christmas Eve to fly down to the inside of someone’s mouth to visit with their father and his family.  And Beloved and I will hang out alone for a week, until they return and we celebrate 2008’s arrival together.

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