Monday, January 30, 2012

Moving On...

It seems GB is finally moving out of his mother's house. According to him (he's called quite a few times over the last couple of months), he can't take it there anymore; his mother "stresses him out too much" (makes me worry about Squeeks even more).

After he got his "you have two days to move out" note from her, he got a job. For now, he's getting minimum wage at a restaurant not too far from her house, but his plan is to either work his way up in the food chain there, or find another job closer to school... which is also closer to his new place.

He started with rooms for rent; knowing that's the easiest way to have a place without having to worry about his lack of credit history (any apartment complex is going to want either a good rental history, at bare minimum, or a co-signer, which we specifically told him we would *not* do). He interviewed a few places, then his mother took a downward turn & he called us...

He decided to just take the one that's best *right now*, and worry about finding "the best situation" after he's settled a bit (provided that one isn't working amymore). So, he's paying just over $400/m, which includes everything: rent, all utilities, as well as cable & high-speed internet in his room. Once he switches over the child support to his own name/bank account, he only has to worry about less than half that cost, plus feeding himself, making sure his truck is maintained & gassed, and getting to & from work & school.

Ace was going to take him shopping "when all the winter sales hit" to get him a new jacket, some jeans, and a few shirts he's needed for a while... but he's so busy, he asked if we could just sent him a Fred Meyer gift card. He also reminded me (not that I needed it) that I promised him a BB&B gift card when he got his own place. I told him I'd send it with his Freddy's card.

Last night was his last night at his mother's; he had homework to finish and didn't want to disrupt his "flow" by finishing moving out. Today, after his last class, he'll be removing the last of his things. I must say: I am so very proud of him. He's come very far in just a short while (heck, it was only seven months ago that we gave his room here to his sister). We knew he'd get there.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Other Bio Strikes Again...

What is WRONG with some people?!?! How does anyone in their right mind thing it's okay to use your child as a pawn? Maybe we should have known better, since Ace's ex hasn't been "in her right mind" for years... I guess she had decided she's done being a mother, but then she's not... then she is, then she's not. Well, to be honest, she's never been a "good" mother... and it takes a LOT for me to say that; especially since my own ex's wife has said similar things regarding me over the years. But, we're at the WTF stage, now!

Let's backtrack, shall we? First, in March, after their regular weekend with us, both my SKs went home & found their mother sitting quietly on the couch; waiting for their return. She basically told them then that she would no longer be acting the part of "mom". She would make sure there was food available to them & keep the roof over their heads, but nothing else. No rides to places, no help with homework (not that, with her lack of education, she'd be much help anyway), nothing.

Then, in June, after GB graduated, during the first part of our summer parenting time with Squeeks, her mother (I will be referring to her as "Maleficent" -- the evil queen from Sleeping Beauty -- from here on out) told her that she couldn't return home unless she got her driver's permit while she was with us (we had her mid-June through early July).

While, normally, that wouldn't have been a problem, I saw two things wrong with this: (a) "You can't come home until"...?!?! Thanks for (not) talking to the other two adults in this situation! and (b) One piece of the required documentation needs to come directly from her school's district office... which are closed until mid-August! Had she discussed this with us (preferably, before sending Squeeks, like a calm, rational person), we would have taken care of it. So, that "requirement" to be able to return home was discarded... for now.

Fast forward to mid-August. Squeeks asked if she could come out a few days before she was actually supposed to, so she could get things she needed from our house before she headed to camp (which we paid for, but her mom was supposed to get her to... guess she was "out to lunch" for that one). We, of course, said yes, and figured her mother decided she didn't want to drive her, even though she had already agreed to it; Ace took her shopping for the few things she didn't have, and the four of us all drove her up to camp that Sunday.

Since she was then supposed to go straight from camp back to her mom's, we never bothered going (an hour & a half, one way) to the district office for the permit-required documentation; figuring her mom would take care of it when Squeeks got back... nope. Maleficent found excuse after excuse why she couldn't take Squeeks to go get her permit & why she couldn't (wouldn't) help her look for a job (when you live at the base of the mountain, 2 miles UP from any main road, you need "reliable transportation" to get you to & from said job).

Fast forward again... mid-October. Squeeks still doesn't have her permit (but she does have all the paperwork she needs) nor any job prospects, and her grades are slipping. She's missed more than "a few" days of school ("didn't feel well" or "had a headache" -- translation: mama doesn't care, and neither does she). Ace & I tell her that if her mom hasn't taken her by Winter Break, & she brings back all the required paperwork, he'll take her then to go get her permit.

The following parenting time weekends were filled with cryptic remarks about some crazy, strange, weird, & just plain mean stuff Maleficent has said &/or done (mostly to Squeeks, although there were some things aimed at GB); Squeeks, of course, made up a multitude of excuses as to why her mother is acting this way... the main two seemed to be that she's trying to quit smoking (not really an excuse to call her daughter a bitch, but whatever) and that she's going through menopause.

"Um, no she's not," I tell Squeeks. She argues with me 'til Ace steps in & tells her that it's virtually IMPOSSIBLE to even start menopause at her age (she's not even 40yo, yet; she possibly is PREmenopausal). He also reminded her that Maleficent has lied to them multiple times... this is yet another lie. "We don't know why she's lying about this, but she is."

Our Winter Break with Squeeks started Saturday, December 18th. Sunday, Ace asked her about the paperwork... she brought everything except her social security card. Apparently, her mother had insisted (ok, in reality, she yelled at her about her irresponsibility) that she gave her her card, and that Squeeks had lost it. Ace told her that they could get a replacement, but that she really needs to keep tabs on that card; if lost/stolen, her identity could be stolen (and what better person to steal identity from than someone with a clean history?).

Squeeks insisted she'd never seen it, her mom never gave it to her, and that she didn't even know what the cards were supposed to look like! Regardless, it's actually pretty simple to get a replacement card when you're still a minor... but we had other things to take care of first. She hadn't been to the eye doctor nor the dentist in 4 or 5 years (I think; we haven't gotten a bill from Maleficent since she moved up to the mountain, except for GB's surgery last year & the oral stuff, and she never takes them to anyone covered by our insurance plan, so I really can't say for sure).

She also hadn't been to the regular doc, & hadn't had her hair done, in over a year! Although his court documents state that he can't take her to appointments unless it's an "emergency", he figured he could afford to risk it. What judge would berate him for making sure his daughter was being taken care of properly? None. (Oh, we found out after our Winter Break that Maleficent had NOT given her social security card to Squeeks, but had put it in her glove compartment in her car!! Irresponsible, much? She never did apologize...)

Ace had taken her to a local place for a simple haircut back in early December, and I made her an appointment with one of my salon's hairdressers for a re-color during Winter Break. Ace then made an appointment with our eye doc on Monday the 19th (they, luckily, had a same-day cancellation!) as well as a dentist appointment for Tuesday the 20th. We plan to get her over to my & Princess' "Family Practitioner" for a new patient meeting/paperwork soon (no later than Spring Break, if we don't actually get custody by then), & will get her scheduled for a check up (& shots, if necessary) asap.

Monday night (December 19th), she called her mother (just to check in, I suppose) and told her about her eye & dental exams, as well as her hair appointment. A normal response from her would have been something along the lines of, "Oh. Ok. Glad he took care of something for once". But, not this time. This time, Squeeks got something to the effect of, "Well, if you think your dad is so great, why don't you move in with him, then?!?!?!" and she hung up... on her own daughter.

I suppose that was Squeeks' turning point, but it got worse... As soon as she returned to her mom's after our part of the break, she was "booted" from her room. Her grandparents (even though they can afford a hotel) get her room, and she is supposed to sleep on the couch. When she posted something on FB about not being able to sleep because people were being loud, she was immediately grounded for "being rude".

When she got to our house for her next weekend (early January), she told us she was grounded, but not from what, and proceeded to get onto FB. Her mom then posted a wall message: "You are grounded; now you're even more grounded. Your Facebook is now gone." Squeeks freaked out, and used the deactivate button, so her mom couldn't actually delete it completely. Then, she asked how our finances were; if we could afford another kid. "You're always welcome here, hon... You know that."

Over the next couple of weeks, there were three or four more phone calls. We had a couple of discussions about her being welcome to move in with us, that her mother's behavior is not a healthy environment, that it isn't her responsibility to "take care of" her mother. The last call was Squeeks, in tears, asking that Papa call her back, no matter how late (this was Wednesday, January 11th). I told Ace, "It's time to talk to mama, you can't wait any longer." He agreed, and called Maleficent.

The next half hour was him listening, and trying not to smirk too much, while she berated him for everything under the sun. Apparently, every single problem she's had with the kids, her finances, her job, etc -- not to mention my SS's mental health issues & Squeeks' "attitude problems" -- are all Ace's fault. He got off the phone, and told me that all he wanted to know (& kept asking, since she didn't answer him) was what parenting time did she want. Apparently, none.

I said, "Ok... so, you're a shitty father, but she's just going to hand Squeeks over to you? That makes sense." (I told you she has mental health issues of her own, haven't I? Ones she refuses to get help for, or even acknowledge.) She also told him that she wants nothing of Squeeks' left at her house, and that she doesn't want to see her because we've "poisoned her" against her. They were due to bring a couple of car loads of Squeeks' things here on Monday, January 16th, but due to the icy/snowy weather, that was postponed.

Squeeks, as well as Ace, had each called the new high school a couple weeks ago to find out exactly what the requirements are for transferring. It's apparently an easy process, but she'll lose Winter term's credits if she doesn't take the finals. Finals are January 26th & 27th. We just hoped she could stick it out that long... Ace took a couple hours that Monday to go see his attorney; obviously, the custody arrangements needed to be switched over!

In the meantime, GB has been told to leave (by note, if you can believe that). Maleficent has "graciously" allowed him to stay a little longer, since within the two days she gave him to move out, he found a job and interviewed a couple of room-for-rent situations. We believed at the time that she was gearing up to move herself, without letting anyone know; perhaps to a one-bedroom? Or, in with a new boyfriend?

We've talked to Squeeks many times over the last year or so about just some of the potentials of living here:
1. Getting to & from a job -- easy; we live 1/2 mile from a large shopping center, as well as from a major bus route.
2. Getting to & from school -- easy; we live 5 minutes (walking) from the high school.
3. Getting her permit & license -- not "easy" as she'd have to actually study & retain the information, but we'd pay for the permit & driver's ed, and see how responsible she is with the process...
4. Sleep -- here, she'd have a reasonable bedtime (the idea of which is non-existent at her mom's), but she'd also be able to "sleep in" a full extra hour from her current scheduled wake up time. I think the schedule will help her perceived insomnia.
5. Homework -- we would, obviously, help when needed, and hire a tutor if she required one. Of course, in this house, homework & a snack are done as soon as you get home; before electronics of any kind (that will take some getting used to on her part). I fully believe, however, that part of her issues with school & schoolwork (as well as her sleep issues) are stress-related, as well as partly due to her mother's lack of involvement.
6. Meals -- we have specified time frames for certain meals, and she would have plenty of food options available to her (including the choice whether to take, or to buy, a meal at school).
7. Pets -- she has a cat. At first, we were hesitant to allow her, but when we found out Maleficent was planning on selling her (more likely: she'll give her away or take her to the Humane Society), we changed our tune. Besides, Squeeks is fully responsible for that cat, and we think it would help with her adjustment.
8. Counseling -- the few times Squeeks actually got to her counseling appointments, she spoke highly of her therapist. Again, her mom found multiple excuses why she couldn't continue taking her... her therapy's been sporadic, at best; even though we actually paid for ALL of it. She would especially need it now.
9. Extracurriculars -- Since the early days of the split, the children have been told that Ace refuses to help pay for them to take after school activities. In reality, Maleficent didn't want to be bothered with taking them. Squeeks has been part of the choirs since she was in middle school; we had hoped to continue this here.
10. Other Miscellaneous Stuff --
{a} Her cheapass freebie cell phone is trash. We're planning on getting her one like Princess', with the same plan. She would, of course, keep her modified iPhone since it's basically an iPod Touch anyway.
{b} I would need to redo a chore list; start fresh since I deleted my original. We also would need to modify some house rules. Mostly, though, she already knows what they are, and she doesn't have a hard time with them.
{c} We'll need to take her shopping; her clothing selection leaves a little something to be desired, ifyaknowwhatimean?

Back to my timeline... Since the weather postponed delivery of her things (& of course no one called to let us know), we had no idea when she was actually going to be coming down. Ace & I took advantage of Tuesday's "snow day" (for me; my scheduled clients couldn't get down the hill they live on) and went over to our local high school. We ended up getting all the information, transfer forms, etc (just in case)... and we spoke to the counseling office's secretary.

It actually *was* a snow day for Squeeks so Ace called her after he called her pediatrician's office for shot records (although, as I said, she should be a patient of my doctor's from here on out), and told her all about our visit. He also made sure she knew that her cat could come, that she could get counseling &/or tutoring at any time, and a few other things. She seemed genuinely happy about everything.

Then, yesterday, a complete 180... Ace called up to their house and Maleficent refused to allow him to talk to Squeeks. She said she was "reconsidering" the change of custody, and was leery about trusting him due to "all the times" he's "screwed" her in the past, apparently. He reminded her that she has no right to withhold the telephone from Squeeks... she countered with something to the effect of "When you have paperwork for me, I'll let you talk to her." So, later, he called back.

This time, he spoke to GB for a good half hour, but *he* wasn't getting in the middle of it, except to tell us that he's really working his tail off to get out of there himself. Squeeks then got on the phone, but she wouldn't talk much. We believe Maleficent was listening in, but Ace basically told her that we still wanted her here, it should be her choice, don't let her mom bully her into staying, it's not a healthy place for her, etc...

This morning, he had an email waiting for him. Maleficent basically said that she spoke to Squeeks last night, and found out he's "done some horrible things", and she can't trust him ever, and she *was* giving him the benefit of the doubt but after talking to Autumn about some of the things going on here (some said, some done), she's not coming... ever. Ace forwarded that, along with many of his own thoughts & frustrations about this whole situation, to his attorney; asking her to call him asap.

She called a couple hours later, asking if he knew what she was talking about (the "horrible things" he's done...?). Um, no. She then asked if he could ask; um, no... Maleficent can't have a calm & rational conversation. She ends up yelling at him; most of it not making any sense. B.A. had a couple of thoughts/suggestions/whathaveyou... and asked us to sit tight this week. IF Squeeks comes down this weekend, as is scheduled, she has a plan. If she doesn't, she has a different plan. We'll check back with her Monday.

Fingers crossed, please!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mattress Escapades

HAHA! Not *that* kind of post, people!

Back in May of 2009, we bought a new bed. The whole works: frame, headboard (no footboard; I didn't want one), pillowtop King mattress, the two twin boxsprings, new bedding, and a special waterproof mattress pad (heaven forbid Ace sweats on the damn thing; staining negates warranties!). Our queen bed was sent off to mom's beach house.

Two years later, we realized the pillowtop was sagging... so we rotated. And continued rotating every month or so; we also swapped sides for a bit - a couple of times. Finally, mid-December, I called the customer service hotline and complained. By this point, both of us had screaming back pain and Ace had missed three days in a row of work.

The representative gave me detailed instructions on how to measure the sag in the mattress; I came up with 1 3/4" on Ace's side and 1 1/2" on my side. Seems the minimum it can be is 1 1/2", so, just to be safe side, she was sending an independent evaluator to our house. She made an appointment for the Wednesday before Santamas.

The evaluator came about 1030am; she was great. She's an older woman, & was slightly chatty, but friendly. She took her measurements (she came up with 1 3/4" on my side and over 2" on Ace's side!) and photos required, had us sign the documentation (this is why you don't remove some of the tags, and make sure you don't stain the mattress, folks!) that we'd followed all the rules. As she left, she said that the company would call within 5-10 business days.

Saturday morning, the 24th (remember, this was only 3 days after the evaluator was at our house), the phone rang with a 916 area code. Figuring it was one of my sisters, I answered the phone. Nope; it was the rep from the mattress company. She basically said that since we had an "obviously defective" mattress, they were giving us credit in the full amount we'd paid (2 1/2 years ago). We had 30 days to use the credit.

There was some child-related drama over the next couple weeks (blog about that coming soon), so when it calmed down a bit, we finally went mattress shopping. We laid on four different types of mattress; all in the same brand (so as to retain our warranties) -- the whole process kinda reminded me of "Goldilocks"! Anyway, we chose a medium-firm mattress, with the agreement to try different toppers until we found one that was right for us.

Two days later, we went to Costco and picked up the Gel Memory Foam Topper by Novaform (with instant in-store rebate, it was only $124.99). The first night, we both slept horribly; possibly nothing to do with the topper, though... we were both still dealing with back pain and some stress from the child-related stuff going on. The second night, much better; although the paint smell, I could do without (if you get one of these, [a] read all instructions BEFORE trying to set it up, and [b] if you have space, you may want to think about letting it air out in another room for a few days/a week).

Day three was last night; even better. We both slept all the way through (highly unusual), and the smell is starting to dissipate. You really have to get used to no bounce, though... it's a bit strange. All in all, though, I'm so far happy with this topper. We'll see how long it lasts, and either get another one then, or try something else. Regardless, no more saggy mattress!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Get Out Of My Kitchen!

Why is it that when people are dieting, exercising, eating differently, following a new book's eating plan, etc... they try to drag their friends & family into it with them? I get that you're trying to be healthier... but perhaps instead of trying to force your new eating plan on me, perhaps you should see if I'm perfectly content (&, even better, HEALTHY) eating the way I've been eating for years?

For the majority of any given year, it's not such a big deal... but the New Year hits and people have their New Year's Resolutions. I get that. But, please stop trying to make me jump on board with you. I have a doctor; a REAL doctor... one who knows my whole medical history. One who knows how & what I eat. One who keeps track of my weight because I refuse to do so at home. One whom I see between 1 and 3 times every year.

For the record --
1. I am 5' 9", and weigh approximately 160lbs (completely within normal/healthy range).
2. My cholesterol levels (when checked last year about this time) were below the 200 number "everyone" worries about.
3. My blood sugar levels (also checked last year about this time) are also below the *worrisome* number.
4. My blood pressure is, and always has been, WAY below normal... so low, that (a) the docs sometimes joke about me being dead, and (b) my doc has told me flat-out to *not worry* about my salt intake (and has even read more current studies that salt intake isn't the only component, or even most important one, to high BP -- stress is!).
5. I eat 4-6 times per day; and YES, my mocha counts as a meal (stop telling me it doesn't; you're not my doctor).
6. I drink juice with my dinner, as does most of my immediate family.
7. My last meal of most days is usually cereal (hot or cold) or cheese & crackers, with juice.
8. We keep junk food in the house, but we also buy (& eat!) non fat milk, whole wheat bread, low fat yogurt & cottage cheese, 100% juice (not cocktails!), real butter, and tons of fruit & veggies!

I don't need to go vegan, or organic, or soy, or any other crazy crap that some doctor-of-the-month is pushing... I have no desire, nor any actual medical reason, to change how & what I eat. If I did, I'd cut down on my chocolate consumption and take my dogs on a flipping walk. I'd take my kid to the park & kick around the soccer ball with her. I'd start running my stairs at work instead of just walking them. I sure as hell wouldn't be doing ANY of it based on some book that some "doctor" decided to write about it.

So, leave me the eff alone, and get out of my kitchen... and my medical needs.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

SANTAMAS - The Story

As promised:

I had just barely turned six when my mother & father divorced; I was seven & a half when my father remarried. I don't remember when my smom ("mama") actually moved in, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't long after the divorce. She came with a baby girl.

The winter I was seven, I had already been questioning the whole "Santa" thing, so I decided to ask my mama for the truth. She took my hand, led me into their bedroom, picked me up, and placed me on their giant waterbed.

She told me a story about a man a long time ago who gave gifts to the children of a poor village, swearing me to secrecy for my little brother & sister. I don't remember all the details, of course, but I do remember the feeling of happiness that came over me. I remember thinking that I hoped to someday be able to do those things for not only my own family, but for the families of those who cannot afford to so do themselves.

Every year after, I chose a child's tag from a giving tree; I spent my own money (which wasn't much -- we were a poor family, as well), from allowances or birthday gifts. For most of the last 30 years, I've been doing this. There were a few years as an adult that I couldn't even afford gifts for my own family...

As smaller children, we went to church (first Methodist, then Nazarene) on Sundays, & Sunday School during the summer. At the age of 13 or so, I was given the choice to no longer attend. I've never really believed in any deity, so I chose to stop going. However, our family, like many others, always referred to the school break as "Christmas Vacation", and the holiday by its Christian name.

As a child, none of this really bothered me (although, I always skipped over the "under god" part of the Pledge of Allegiance in school). But, as an adult, I got to thinking about it... and it bothered me a lot. For the majority of people who call themselves "Christian" (or, at least, the majority of the ones I have come into contact with over the years), the idea of "Christmas" is rooted in Jesus' birth (& boy, are some people RUDE about it!).

I've said before, but I'll say it again for those who are pretty new to my blog, (1) no one knows when Jesus was born. Current estimates put it in the spring. (2) Pagans have been celebrating the winter solstice longer than traditional "Christmas" has been around. (3) Many other winter celebrations include Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Yule, & Saturnalia.

I realized that a lot of so-called "Christians" are very narrow-minded in their view of the holiday season (not *all*, of course), and I started to wonder if they even knew & understood the origins of their own celebrations. I also started to ask myself why I continued to refer to it as "Christmas" if I no longer identified with "Christians".

I remembered the feeling I had as a child when told the story of Santa, and the "warm & fuzzies" I had every time I was able to buy another child a gift, and I decided that the idea of Santa is the embodiment of what the season is truly about... giving. I started to refer to the holiday as "Santamas" -- *mas* is Spanish for more... so, "More Giving".

True, there are a lot of "Christians" I know who will always argue with me about the "true meaning of Christmas"... But, I know what I believe; and giving has nothing to do with religious beliefs.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year == Some Changes Around Here

A few days ago, I made a couple of comments inquiring about the health of Princess' new cousin, Liam (you'll remember -- the cousin that NO ONE told Princess she even had, so I did?) on another of her cousin's profile page on Facebook. A few minutes after, I get a notification that she had "Liked" my second comment, but when I went to view it, I saw that I could no longer comment or "Like" anything... so I went to her main profile page, and realized that I had been deleted.

So, I sent her a message asking why. There were some back & forths via PM; she basically was telling me that "some"one was giving her flack for my comments. When she said, "They're great people...", I about lost it. "Great people", I said, "wouldn't make you choose between two sides of THE SAME family." To which, she replied, "They're not making me choose..." blah blah blah... and something about "they're my family."

Really?!?! They're your "family"? What about Princess? She's not your family anymore? "Divorce is hard," she said... Yeah, it is. But the harder part is what comes after; when alliances are drawn. Princess didn't choose to be a child of a split family. She didn't choose to be kidnapped by her father & stepmother. She didn't choose to lose all the trust she once had for people who are supposed to care about her, and do what's best for her.

She didn't choose to walk away from anyone... But, EVERY. SINGLE. G******* family (& I use the term in its loosest form) member did! For the last four years, I've tried to maintain some semblance of contact with them. I've had Princess send birthday cards, holiday cards, photos of herself, & make the occasional phone call. I've sent emails, telling multiple "family" members about some of her activities, thinking that, just once, someone she actually wants there will come to something. I've made ALL the effort, they've made NONE!

But, one by one, they all have turned their backs. Some have stated, "I just don't want to get in the middle..." or "I just don't know who to believe..." Well, guess what? As the old RUSH song goes, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." By not taking a stand and fighting for what's right, you've made your choice. It is clear to me, and to Princess, that none of them want anything to do with her.

I am tired of knowing just how much that side of her family upsets her. I am tired of trying to maintain the "family" connections that no one else seems to care about doing. I am tired of seeing her shaking every time she thinks her father may show up to some event of hers ('cuz she thinks he may take her again)... I'm done being saddened & disheartened by the cold hearts of those people.

I've said it before, but I think it bears repeating: You All Suck. Go Away. Leave Us Alone. It's a new year, and we're making some changes around here... I'll say this again, too: Let us have her; permanently. Stop hanging on by a thread that she doesn't want, anyway. Ace is her dad in her heart, and if you're being completely honest with yourselves, you'd admit that. We're done trying to make you do the right thing.