A Quick Breakdown

I know I’ve been gone for a bit, but, well… life. Lots and lots has happened in 9 months (not THAT!) and I’m proud to say we’re officially engaged and getting married in a small, family and close friends ceremony in May.
There’s also been a good bit of co-parenting drama, and my next post will relate an overview of it. I’m currently of the opinion that co-parenting with a narcissist is pretty much impossible, because they will never get their heads out of their own asses long enough to see how others perceive their actions.
But before that, a little Zoo news: we now bring the canine count to three, and the feline count to three. We had a beautiful orange boy who had a tragic accident and passed, but we have his sister now and another orange tabby who, if not the same, is still a great kitty. They all have their own personalities, but the fun thing about that is that each kid has a corresponding dog and cat matchup. Too.much.fun.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m enjoying some Jameson after my incredibly irritating week and my first preteen sleepover. God help us all.


A Letter to My Husband’s Ex-Wife

It’s been a tough year so far for the Zoo household. There have been some major wars between the Exes, and unfortunately, this week brought a few things to a head. As a result, I wrote and just submitted this to Scary Mommy for consideration. Extremely personal, but if you don’t know us, you could really replace some of the nouns and adjectives and allow this to apply to anyone you know.
*** warning: some language***

In an ideal world, people just get along. Marriages that break up are rare, but exes always get along, and no one ever gets their feelings hurt.

When I decided to date *****, I knew that I was accepting and taking on his former life as well, and I struggled with it. Not because of the kids, but because of you. It’s always been about you. I know you like to think that all the drama and issues originated elsewhere – or at least, you put off as much of the fault as you possibly can—but one thing I caught onto very, very quickly was that it was your side, and then everyone else’s. I literally did not meet a SINGLE person who felt that ***** was the reason for your divorce. Nor did I meet a SINGLE person who liked you—and many hadn’t liked you for a very long time. That includes people still on your “friends” list on Facebook, and your own family.

Some of the stories I heard were about you not really being involved in the care of your children. When you’d go to family gatherings, ***** was expected to take of “his kids.” If he was late coming home from work, you panicked and called him because you “couldn’t take it” or “couldn’t handle them” anymore. Your mood swings got increasingly worse as the years wore on. You were disinterested and distant.

You were surprised, though, that ***** was taken completely aback when you wanted a divorce. I was able to see the Facebook posts leading up to that day, and I think everyone—including your parents, by the way—was shocked and felt it came out of nowhere. You met a cute guy and you wanted to see what freedom was like, so you walked away from the person who took care of you and spoiled you for almost 10 years. You didn’t know just how complicated and long-lasting walking away would be, though. You SHATTERED the best man I’ve ever met in my life, and even now, he’s afraid that he’s going to lose me because of YOU. Because of what YOU did to him.

Divorce is ugly and it fucking hurts. All you thought about was getting laid by someone else, to the point that you were actually asking your soon-to-be ex-husband to help you find out whether guys were who they said they were, and sharing your “great connections” via online slut sites with him. You agreed to a 50/50 split with him regarding the boys, but were constantly either dropping them off with your parents or pawning them back off on him. Single parenthood is a bitch, isn’t it? You have to do some goddamn WORK, and you don’t get any applause or pity for it. You had no sense of budget. No sense of what HE took on so YOU wouldn’t ruin your credit.

I think you were surprised and jealous when he met me, because you expected to walk away and get to do whatever your selfish, immature little heart desired. You got fucked (pun intended) over and over, and he didn’t. You were bitter and resentful. I recall a text to the effect of, “must be nice having help with the kids!” once from you to *****. You HAD all the help, and all the latitude, and you walked away.

Another example of having or doing things when it suits you: The idea of a dog was good at first, but became too inconvenient—so you started dropping her back off when he got the boys. You were FINE to give her back until you realized you couldn’t use her as a crutch or for pity (your Facebook post when she got attacked? You hadn’t even HAD her for MONTHS at that point.) You’re butt-hurt because MY name is on her collar? Nothing in that house is yours anymore, not even the house itself. It isn’t yours. You walked away, and you don’t get to come back when it suits you. You can’t use it as a storage facility; you can’t come and go when you please. You lost that right in September, 2015.

As far as the boys go, let me make this clear to start: I NEVER ONCE said ANYTHING about wanting full custody. Regardless of how I feel about your parenting style, they are your boys, and I know you love them. What I was suggesting is that we have them more, because up until the DAY I sent that message, you never, ever, ever asked to have your children a single moment longer than your “time,” and still haven’t asked for more time, nor paid us back the nine days from last year. You didn’t engage with them, buying them toys and junk instead. You haven’t taken them on a vacation since before you two got divorced. You were more concerned with getting laid than with the boys. When **** had a seizure, I remember walking into that hospital room to see ****** on the bed, comforting YOUR son, and you sitting next to your mother, showing her a picture of the guy you were supposed to have a date with and saying, “I guess I’ll have to cancel THAT date.” Your mother had a horrified look on her face. It wasn’t the first time I wanted to smack you across the face, shake you, and tell you how much you were fucking up.
Your primary issue is that what you say, how you say it, and what you do simply do not match up. I could use any one of your hateful/whiny/dismissive/bitchy texts to either both of us or to ****** to illustrate, but I won’t. If you want to see one, though, please be sure to let me know. You live in a world where pawning your children off is “good parenting” because you give them candy and toys. You are bipolar, ********. You are. Acknowledge that or not, but you are JUST like your father. How you’ve managed not to run **** off yet is beyond me, but I guess you’re a good actress. I think you’re spoiled, devious, bitter, resentful, disingenuous, and obsessive. That just covers a few of the things I don’t like about you. You expect that, if you put things off long enough, someone else will take care of them for you. Well played, really, because I’d have put all your crap at the street a LONG time ago.
I will probably never really like you. I never really have. Your mention of respecting you for the boys’ sake and “not as a person by any means” (text 3/17/17) is laughable for two reasons: I don’t have to like you OR respect you to be part of the parenting of the boys. I simply do not. I have never said a thing against you in front of, or within the hearing of, the boys, because I know I wouldn’t like it if ***** dad did that to me. Your boys will figure out what kind of parent you are on their own, and it won’t have ANYTHING to do with ANYTHING I’ve said—it will be your actions, which ALWAYS, ALWAYS, speak louder than words. My goal for those boys is that they are respectful, considerate and contributing members of society who take care of their responsibilities and understand the words “no” and “patience.” That they do not grow up thinking the world owes them something, but work hard for what they want and what they get. You’re a much more permissive, “do what you want” kind of parent… and I can tell you from over a decade of experience, you will be setting them up for failure if you don’t set hard and fast and consistent rules for them NOW. I’m by no means the best parent, but I’m pretty much an expert at what never telling a kid “no” and always giving in to their whining will do. I see it in my classroom every single day. And you think they’re difficult NOW?

I’m glad we’re doing separate birthday parties. I’ve been fighting for that for a year. I hope that whatever you’re “working on” with yourself is productive and that you make a really big turnaround. I hope your actions CAN match your words someday. And I hope that, when you read this, you can take it to heart for yourself instead of trying to make me a villain for saying what many, many people think and feel and know to be true. You cannot change your past behavior, but you can prove me wrong from this day on and be a truly badass, amazing parent.

Eating My Words

I’ll just go ahead and say that I’m not always right. Let’s get that out of the way. It hurts to say, usually, but I am glad to say it this time because it means that things are getting to a better place in the Zoo.

The ex-wife is finally dating a really nice guy. Though he hasn’t been married and doesn’t  have kids of his own, he has dated women with children before and therefore understands the dynamic of exes and children. It took awhile for us to meet him, but now that we have, it almost feels like a Modern Family sort of thing ( have I mentioned that her family loves me?)…he might even be moving into my apartment complex!

She told me something over this past weekend that really made me feel good. Because of all the boundaries and craziness that plagued the first few months of mine and M’s relationship, hearing her say this was a big moment, and I can only hope things stay this good between us. She told me:

 I’m VERY grateful that M has such a wonderful woman in his and our boys’ lives 😉.

And, FYI, I, firmly, believe that God’s brought the best possible “bonus mom” into their lives, and I can’t thank you enough for showing them love and being so amazing to them when you’re around them 😊.

Maddie is, extremely, lucky!!

Needless to say, I was speechless. I am grateful for the cooperation and ease with which we now communicate and hope it continues! Yay for new boyfriends and yay for getting along!

Time for Dessert!! 

I love to bake. Back when I had a huge kitchen and plenty of counter space, I used to do it all the time. Now, not so much. I have a tee-tiny space and very little counter space to speak of. Plus, it gets hot fast and I have a gas oven. So it’s not a usual occurrence anymore.

Lately, though, I’ve been pinning lots of delicious-looking recipes and decided to try one out last night. I don’t eat lots of sweets so this was totally for M. I found the recipe here:

I didn’t write down anything while I was baking; just took pictures. I’m a bit messy, but the end result was me licking the beaters and M eating two of these for breakfast (they had to chill completely before eating, which ended up being this morning!) these also seem to be in reverse order! Oh well! Enjoy!

Who Do You Love?

If there is one thing that can break up a couple, it’s the kids. You know what I mean if you are in a blended family situation: parental rights, parenting styles, and variant personalities all play a ginormous role in the dynamic of a couple where each of those adults has their own kids. Hell, it can be the elephant in the room when a couple ISN’T working on blending!

We had our first argument a few weeks ago, and I think it upset me more than it did him. It started because, as usual, the ex was being bitchy about not getting her way and I felt like M. was giving in to her. Which I feel happens a lot. I THOUGHT some boundaries had been set. We had just made a rule that, unless an emergency arose, we were not going to keep the kids on each others’ weeks– if for nothing else but consistency’s sake. (The boys are already with M a week, their mom a week, which most judges don’t like to begin with).

I’m not an expert, but I have five years on M and the ex and trying to make things work with kid time. And I guess I come off as bossy and wanting my own way a little more than I’d like, because M and I finally got into it– the “parenting style” argument that is so often the Beginning of the End for many couples.

I am a drill sergeant; I freely admit to it. I am the oldest child, a teacher, and OCD. I THRIVE on order and routine (so this whole situation with M and the kids and the chaos of their lives has already been hard on me). The kids don’t have a set bedtime. They are constantly asking for things and take FOREVER to actually go to bed. M is far more permissive (read: a big softie) than I would be, or was, with my own daughter. I’m not saying divorce has left her unscathed, but I know routine and rules have been helpful for her. I tried to share my experiences, but I guess I sounded like a bossypants.

I got mad because the ex was trying to get her way and I just feel as though she takes advantage of M. He’s a wonderful father and his priorities are always about the boys, and I don’t fault him for that. But just because SHE doesn’t want to keep them during her time and is constantly trying to make dates and pawn them off doesn’t mean HE is a bad father. I think he needs to tell her no– not because he doesn’t want to keep the boys, but because she needs to learn to do her job as a mother. That’s my position and I’m sticking to it.

Well, I came off as harsh and a know-it-all and not wanting to be around the kids. While M admitted that the things I said about consistency and order made sense on one level, the truth is that he is just a different parent than I am. Not better or worse– just decidedly different. I have a hard time swallowing the fact that no matter who I am to him, I am never going to have the final say in how the kids are handled. No matter how crappy a job she does sometimes, ultimately I will probably always have to defer to her. With her bipolar antics and track record of flipping her shit every other day, I told M that I wasn’t sure I could do this for another 15 years. I have enough chaos in my own life to deal with Drama Queen for the rest of it.

To my surprise, M didn’t really fight me there. He simply told me that while he loved me and wanted to be with me, if I couldn’t handle it, it was better to part ways.

Well, I don’t WANT to “part ways”– do I? I love him, I love the boys. It is definitely an adjustment and not one that’s completely comfortable for me, but at the end of the day, I DO want to be with him.

Luckily, just two days after this argument, the oldest had a soccer game. M is the coach, the ex came to the game, and she and I talked about a few things. I might not be able to change her mind about much, but I planted some seeds. I hope that things calm down. I hope that, as all the kids get older, this all gets easier to manage and there isn’t so much damn drama all the time.

Stepmoms out there, tell me it gets better!


Griswold Family Vacation

Spring Break. Two words that strike fear in the hearts of parents around the world and which are almost as sweet as Christmas break to the teacher. I happen to be both parent and teacher, and Spring Break ’16 brought both excitement and apprehension. We had plans to attempt a blended family trip– first, to see my daughter’s volleyball tournament and then on to our friends’ house for a few days of kid-centered fun.

The tourney was in Nashville on the first weekend of break; we’d originally planned on heading up there that morning, but found out very last minute that she actually played first thing in the morning. Scramble, scramble to get everything together and find a hotel for the extra night.

I should note here that I haven’t been on a vacation with little people in QUITE some time. Although my parents, sisters and their families live down in Florida and I do visit, I haven’t even been on a trip with those small people — as in, ever. I’m a bit out of practice, which I learned last week.

The friends we stayed with also have three kids under age 8, two of whom are still technically in diapers (Pull-Ups count, right?)– so naturally, the volume level was always high and at least fifteen times a day we heard screaming, “he has my toy!” “I don’t want that to eat” and other such phrases. I love them all dearly, but I was ready to get back to the quiet of my own apartment.

The trip DID go well– aside from small people arguments, we had a great time and all the kids got along. It gave me a preview of what family trips will look like for the next 5-10 years, and I have to say… where are the adult vacations?

(L)earning My Place

I have been thinking about this post for awhile. How I feel on a given day is largely controlled by the state of the union between my boyfriend’s ex wife and the rest of us. I have never been involved with someone with an ex wife and kids and it has been quite the learning curve so far.

Before their divorce was final, the boys’ mom was more than a little difficult from time to time. She freely told M about her dating escapades but if he asked her a question about someone she seemed to have a “great connection with” she would get defensive and a little nuts. The tipping point came for me when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and her reaction was childish, inappropriate and way beyond the pale. I was livid and intended on telling her exactly what I thought of her. As soon as everything was final.

Lucky for her, she realized what a twat she had been and things have been fairly copacetic between them ever since. She still tries to get out of her time with the boys on occasion (and many weekends), but she has also been extremely helpful and cooperative on other occasions.

Recently she got on my nerves again and I’m not proud to say that I lost my shit about it. Several small things got under my skin– she called M when someone was knocking on her door; she got in a small fender bender and called him; she was trying to date a guy who M went to school with and asked him to help her stalk the guy’s page on Facebook– and I finally exploded about it.

“She is not your wife anymore!” I screamed. “she cannot keep asking you for things. She gave up those rights and privileges and she is pissing me off with this neediness!” She has a father and a brother and a best friend to call and whine to, I continued. She needs to stop.acting.like.his.wife.

I want them to get along, but I don’t find it acceptable that she is constantly texting him when it doesn’t have to do with the boys. She was threatened by my presence early on in our relationship, feeling that I was trying to replace her with her children. Now I want to take my place by M’s side– a place SHE gave up- but I feel thwarted in that.

Friends, give me your opinion: am I too sensitive, or do I have a right to be upset about this? Chime in!

Is that…CAT PEE?!

I cannot keep my eyes open this morning, which is bad, because I’m a teacher and I can’t exactly crawl under my desk or hide in my cubicle until I feel like adulting. All the Red Bull Cranberry in the world isn’t going to keep me awake today. It will take Jedi mind tricks… if that even works! (Side note: I basically turn into a tallish three year old without sleep.)

Last night, in addition to my day job, I taught my night class and went over to my man’s house after. (He has the kids this week, so I usually stay there when he does, and help when I can.) I also took the two newest furries (the cats), Jethro and Severus, with me this week to help acclimate them to his house full of dogs. It took me several loads of crap to get everyone there and situated on Sunday, only to discover that the cats would prefer to hide under the bed and hiss wildly at anything else on four legs. Alas.

They were fine the first night as far as sleeping. I vaguely recall one of them coming up on the bed during the night on Sunday, but it didn’t bother me. The four year old boy child also came into the bed, and he and his father proceeded to steal most of the covers, but I’m used to that. I’m embracing the chaos. (My daughter rarely slept with me, ever, and now she’s too big to share my bed and prefers alternate sleeping arrangements when she’s with me anyway!)

Last night did not go too well. It was close to 11 when I finally fell asleep after a long day of teaching. Around 1:30, my guy shook me awake and said, “I think the cat peed in the bed.”

Well, I’d never heard of such a thing. Were they stressed out? Probably; the dogs had been accosting them for a day and a half. But SURELY they could make it to the litter box, especially because the dogs are locked up at night and while everyone is at work. SURELY THEY DID NOT PEE IN THE FREAKING BED.

Surely they did. One -thirty am meant stripping the bed and the comforter and waterproof mattress pad (thank God for that!), changing the sheets, and re-depositing the four year old in the bed. It was after two before I fell back asleep, once again without the benefit of covers.

Around 3:30 or so, the cats decided that it was time to cat– that is, scratch, frolic, jump on the bed, and insist upon belly rubs (which they got, albeit only to keep them still for a few moments). Obviously this woke us all up again, and it took me another 30 minutes or so to fall back asleep (I think it was sleep, anyway. At this point, I’m not so sure). All the while, I was writing this post in my head. True story.

My Fitbit alarm vibrated FAR too early this morning. I drug myself from the bed and woke M. up to have him help me get the cats into their carrier (they hate it— they meow and growl pitifully while inside), got their food and litter box, and hauled them back to the apartment. It was ALL I could do not to curl up on the quilt and fall asleep at that point, and needless to say, the cats immediately came in to the apartment and lounged around, watching me get ready and, I’m certain, laughing their little evil cat laughs on the inside. 10985889_10152816637831491_4891704157345699344_n



Welcome to the zoo!

If someone had asked me fifteen years ago where I’d be today, I probably never would have said, “twice divorced and dating another divorced parent” or “attempting to re-define myself and my career” or “living in the coolest neighborhood in town and training for a half-marathon.”

Yet here I am, and all those things are true of me, in my late 30s. Welcome to the zoo– or, my life, in short. In an attempt to share the Wisdom of My Age, as well as the Hilarious Things Children Say, Some Amazing Recipes, Other Hilarious Stories, and General Good Times (and to  generally write myself into sanity, some days), I have for you, dear reader, a new blog: Me, You, & the Zoo.

I should perhaps provide some context. In 2000, I was graduating from undergrad and fell in love with a boy. We got married in 2001, but in 2011, divorced. My daughter is now 11 and a sassy, brilliant combination of both her dad and me. In 2013, I remarried– a younger guy who I began dating after my separation from Hubs #1 but before our divorce was completely final (don’t judge me). This turned out to be a Phenomenally Horrible Idea, and we divorced just last year. I guess some statistics are right. He was Mr. Always Right and Determined that Everyone in the Free World Should Know That. That didn’t last too long.

Now, at closer to 40 than 30, and with more than a few life tips and mistakes to my name, I am starting over again. I am dating a wonderful man who is himself freshly divorced with two young sons. Between us, if you’re counting, we have:

  • three kids
  • three dogs
  • two cats
  • two households
  • three failed marriages and a called-off engagement
  • complete and utter chaos most of the time.

So that’s where I am– learning to embrace the chaos, the mess, the strategizing that goes into the simplest and most basic of tasks. I’m a pretty organized person. I’m a planner. The last few months have been a struggle for me, just learning to be okay with a different kind of life. But I love it, and here I am to share it with you, dear reader.