a decade

If I had stayed married, today would be my 10th wedding anniversary.

I guess it says a lot that the day doesn’t register much with me anymore. I didn’t even think about it until I looked at my phone this morning and noticed the date. I’m not sad about it at all, it just feels like some sort of notable milestone. Ten years. A whole decade. And I’m not sure my life could look more different now than it did ten years ago: I was in my 20s, had no kids, lived in Seattle, had a completely different career path. It’s all changed so much in a relatively short amount of time.

I guess it’s one of those Sliding Doors moments where you wonder what would happen if you’d taken another path in life. What if I had never married Dave in the first place? What would my life look like then? But I can’t venture too far down that road. Despite the failure of my marriage, and all the pain and suffering it caused, if I had chosen any other route in life, I wouldn’t have Catie and Lucy. How could I possibly regret any choices I made that brought those two amazing little people into my life?

I don't think I'll ever get tired of watching Catie read to Lucy.
I mean seriously. Just look at them.

My dad once made a comment about Chris, that “it’s too bad you didn’t meet him first.” I pointed out that if I had, he wouldn’t have the two granddaughters he adores so much. And besides that, I think the failure of our previous relationships is a pretty critical element of what makes my relationship with Chris work: we’re both keenly aware of our own flaws, and how things can go wrong in a relationship, and we actively work on not repeating those mistakes with each other.

Ironically, today is also Chris’s anniversary with his ex. Different year – his was 2004, mine was 2005 – but it’s a little weird that we share the same anniversary of the day we married other people. We also separated from our respective ex-spouses at nearly the same time; Dave and I split in August 2011, Chris and his ex split a few weeks later, in September 2011. I don’t really believe in the concept of fate, but it does feel like God or the universe or something was looking out for us, and made sure that we were both where we needed to be at the right time.

Chris & me at my cousin's wedding a couple of weeks ago. We clean up ok.

Whatever it was – God, fate, random coincidence, whatever – I sure am grateful for it.

Ten Years Ago Me probably wouldn’t recognize Current Me, but I can honestly say that if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. So in that regard, I guess I can say “happy anti-versary” to me.

visitation

(This post is a little rambly. Sorry I’m having a hard time collecting my thoughts lately.)

Dave flew back to Seattle on Sunday. All things considered, his visit here with the girls went exceptionally well. He texted me pictures of them when he took them out places (even the grocery store).

Girls take the wheel(s)! Look out!

In fact, one evening he came to pick up the girls a little early, and I had ordered pizza for them for dinner (because I thought he wasn’t coming until later and I knew they’d be hungry). So he hung out and we ate pizza together, and we talked about our kids and the upcoming election.

It was easy and familiar and completely freaking weird, all at the same time. I’d like to think that it’s the start of a trend, but I also worry that the other shoe is going to drop at some point. (It usually does, right?) But in the meantime, I have to think that it’s good for the kids to see us being pleasant with each other, so I’m hoping that we can keep it up.

On the nights Catie spent with him (we both agreed that Lucy is too young to spend the night away, she needs her crib and her normal bedtime routine), I made a point that I wanted to have a few minutes to either visit with Catie in person or Skype with her each day that she was away. It worked out really well.

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One time after spending 2 nights in a row with him, she started to whine that she was homesick, so Dave brought her home to hang out with me. This just happened to be on Friday, which was my mom’s birthday, so she and I put on our matching aprons and made Mimi a birthday cake.

me & my girls on Mimi's birthday
Ignore the fact that I’m a sweaty mess in dire need of lipstick. Look how proud of herself she is!

Oh, one more unnecessary picture because it cracks me up.
Happy birthday, Mimi!
That was taken while we were singing “happy birthday” to Mimi. The WTF-ness on Lucy’s face just slays me.

(And yes, the cake looks pretty awful. I am not a very good cake decorator under the best circumstances, but with my tiny sous chef, it was even more challenging. Doesn’t matter, though, because it was DELICIOUS.)

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So, that was Friday. Saturday, I took Catie to her cousin Elizabeth’s birthday party, and then the girls hung out with Dave for a few hours so I could take a nap (which was blissful). Saturday night, I had them both back at home because his flight left at 6 a.m. on Sunday.

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At this point, I know I don’t really have to worry too much about how Lucy handles things because she’s still so young and oblivious. She won’t be soon, and believe me I know that.

But I primarily have to keep a close eye on Catie’s stress level. I’ve figured out a lot of her stress indicators (crying frequently, getting physical with Lucy and pushing her, etc.), and I try to be sympathetic while not letting her get away with too much crap. I mean, hey, I get that you’re upset that you haven’t seen your dad for a few months, but that doesn’t give you the right to shove your baby sister to the ground, you know?

I’m also trying to get her to talk about her feelings more. One of the things she frequently and randomly bursts into tears about is because she claims she misses Teenie, our cat who passed away in February. And I’m sure she does miss Teenie, but I don’t think that’s the whole issue. The last time she had one of these outbursts, I said, “Baby girl, are you crying because you miss Teenie, or because you miss Daddy?” She cried, “BOTH!!!” And sobbed harder.

It’s so hard for her, and I try to make it easier where I can, but we have moments like that where she just breaks my heart and I don’t know how to comfort her because I can’t fix it.

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I knew it was going to be bad when he left, so I randomly said, “Hey, you know what? I know you’re going to be really sad after Daddy goes back to Seattle, so I think we should think of something REALLY SUPER FUN to do after he leaves, and I think you should pick what our adventure will be.”

She thought about it for a few minutes, and said she wanted to go see the dinosaur bones at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. She went there recently on a field trip with her daycare and she loved it.

Did I mention that admission to the museum is free? DONE.

Catie & Lucy at the NC Museum of Science

Almost every picture I took turned out blurry because both girls were having so much fun that they never stopped running the whole time.

I did, however, get one picture of my girl sitting with a dinosaur footprint.

My future paleontologist poses with a dinosaur footprint.

This is sort of how I see her as an adult, since she’s so adamant about wanting to be a paleontologist when she grows up. I can imagine her 30 years from now at a dig site in South America or God-knows-where, sitting just like this next to some brilliant discovery she’s made.

As far as distracting her from Dave’s departure? It kind of worked. She’s mostly been fine for the past couple of days. Maybe it’ll be a delayed reaction, I don’t know.

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Last night, she said that she wanted to make Daddy a card. I gave her one of my blank note cards, and she asked me to help her spell out her words. (We’ve been doing this a lot lately since she’s been practicing writing at kindergarten. I help her sound them out and try to help her figure out the next letter herself.)

She wrote on the card:

“I miss you Daddy. Love Catie and Lucy.”

Then she covered it in stickers and asked me to mail it. Even though seeing those words printed out in her little 5 year-old handwriting made me want to hold the card to my chest and cry, I put it in an envelope, stamped it, and shipped it off.

I have no idea if it’ll break his heart like it did mine. I guess that disconnect to each other’s feelings is just one of many reasons we aren’t together anymore.

On anger

It’s 11:30 at night, the girls are asleep, the dishwasher is running, clothes are folded and put away, daycare bags for tomorrow are packed. I should be sleeping right now.

Yet all I can think about is this rage I feel swirling around in my head, and I don’t know what to do with it.

I’m not generally an angry person. I don’t like to hold grudges. That’s not how I want to live my life. I don’t want to be one of those angry, bitter people. (You know the people I’m talking about. Everyone knows at least a handful of them.)

Lately all of my anger is aimed at Dave. Other than the obvious reasons, I can’t exactly pinpoint why. Generally we’ve been ok with each other lately. We’re civil, anyway.

But then I have a day like Monday – and of course, even though I texted Dave to let him know we were at the ER, I still had a lot of that resentment, that “your kid is sick, you should be here right now; or at the very least, you should be taking care of your other kid while I take care of the sick one” feeling.

I’ve also felt that way a lot over the past couple of weeks, when I’ve been having problems getting Lucy to sleep. Because yes, as it turns out, I do kind of need another adult in the house who can take over at 4 a.m. when I’m at the end of my rope.

I’m guessing it’s natural to feel that way when the father of your children lives 3,000 miles away, and is no longer a regular physical presence in their lives.

But it really hit me hard this past Saturday. Why Saturday? Because I spent all day with the girls, just me and them. And yes, it was exhausting (my god, was it ever), but there were so many good moments.

And I just stop and think, god damn you, you’re missing everything.

He doesn’t know how Lucy asks for her bottle, what words she knows, her favorite foods, who her favorite person is (hint: my dad), or the little “jokes” she tells. (Slapping her forehead and saying, “D’oh!” is one guaranteed to make me smile every time.)

He doesn’t see the way Lucy’s face lights up every morning when she sees her big sister for the first time.

He doesn’t get to look in his rearview mirror and see the two of them in the backseat, and catch a glimpse of Catie reaching over to tickle Lucy to make her laugh.

He doesn’t know what Catie’s favorite bedtime book is this week. He doesn’t know the songs she sings along with on the radio.

He misses the bad stuff, sure – he never has to do the grunt work of changing diapers or reminding Catie again that she needs to pick up her toys. But he misses all of those amazing and precious moments too. It makes me so angry FOR THEM. They won’t get to have memories of their childhood that involve their dad. At best, those memories will be sporadic and fleeting.

We have a lot of mutual friends on Facebook (obviously, we de-friended each other a LONG time ago), so I hear things about how he talks about the kids. He makes it sound like he’s this super-involved and loving dad. I guess that’s what he wants his friends and family to think, because the reality of it is just so unbelievably shitty.

And he brought it all on himself. He chose to leave. There’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t force him to stay in North Carolina and be a present figure in his children’s lives.

I’ve dated/am dating guys who are divorced with kids. So far, all of them have joint custody and see their children on a 50-50 basis with their exes. I’m jealous of that. I mean, sure, I’m jealous that their ex-wives get a break, some “free” nights off here and there. But I’m mainly jealous that their kids will grow up with their fathers in their lives. I wish to God I could make that happen for my girls.

I can’t fix this. I can’t change what it is. I just have to figure out some way to work around this anger that I can’t seem to get out of my head right now.

single parenting suckage

Ok, here comes one of those confessional type blog posts that I don’t normally write.

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I’ve been on Lexapro since last year. If you were reading my blog when I was pregnant, I blamed most of my anxiety on the house break-in, but the vast majority of it was that my marriage was falling apart while I was pregnant.

I would go to my OB appointments and see all of these happy glowing pregnant ladies in the waiting room, and when they called me back to an exam room and asked how I was doing, I would cry. I felt awful because there was no sense of excitement or joy about my baby’s arrival. It felt like my due date was just going to kick off the countdown to the end of my marriage.

(And clearly I was right about that, since Dave and I split ten weeks after Lucy’s birth.)

So, yeah, I’ve been on an anti-depressant ever since then. I think for me, this whole depression/anxiety thing is situational and not physiological. There are occasional times when I feel like I probably don’t need it anymore, but since it’s not hurting anything, I’ve decided that I’m staying on it at least until my divorce is finalized.

Honestly, the idea of not taking it scares me, because I have no idea how I’d cope without it. Maybe I’d be fine, but god, what if I’m not?

And really, there’s only one unpleasant side effect of Lexapro: I can’t cry. Or, rarely, anyway. Sometimes it’s awful, because something will happen and I really want to cry, and I can’t. I get a lump in my throat and the stinging in my eyes, but it never breaks through. I’ll get a headache because I just can’t get that release to get it out of my system.

The closest thing I can think to compare it to (be warned, this is not G-rated) is the feeling like when you’re juuuuust about to have an orgasm and for some reason, you can’t get there. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

(Btw, I used this analogy to explain it to the guy I’m dating. His response was, “I understand that there are words coming out of your mouth, but they make no sense.” Typical dude, I’m thinking. He also said that if he had to choose between not being able to cry and not being able to have an orgasm, he’d be fine with never crying again. I’m guessing 99.9% of the males on earth would agree with him.)

So, it’s a bad side-effect, and an annoying one, but most of the time, I can live with it.

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And then I have days like yesterday.

My weekend started off ok. I had a baby-sitter planned for Saturday night, but my date got canceled (emergency came up with his ex-wife and he had to take his kids; it happens, not a big deal). Catie was so excited about the baby-sitter coming over that I decided not to cancel, and instead, I went to the movies by myself.

(I finally saw the Hunger Games. I haven’t read the books, but I was curious about it. And I liked the movie, although I thought a lot of it was extremely disturbing. But I guess that’s the point.)

Sunday morning, when we woke up, Catie asked if we could go get pancakes. It’s rare that she asks me for something that I can say “yes” to, but that sounded do-able. We got dressed and went to IHOP.

While we were sitting at IHOP, Catie just very matter-of-factly blurted out, “Mommy, you love Lucy more than me.”

*RECORD SCRATCH*

WHAT?

I said, “Sweetie, that’s not true. Why would you think that?”

She said, “Well, Lucy’s cuter than me.”

I told her that was absolutely not true, that they were both beautiful and that I loved them both.

It bothered me, and I repeated it to her again later. Just sort of, “Hey, remember when you said that? Y’all are both my girls, and you are both beautiful, and I love you both the same.” She seemed to accept it, but man, that whole thing rattled me.

Really, if I look at it from a 5 year-old’s perspective? I get why she thinks that. I am constantly fussing at Catie to be gentle with the baby, share her toys with the baby, stop being mean to the baby, yadda yadda. But I don’t ever yell at Lucy, because, you know… she’s a baby.

And Lucy gets a lot more of my attention, because, again: she’s a baby. Catie is five and doesn’t need me to constantly watch her every move to make sure she doesn’t shove a choking hazard in her mouth or go tumbling down the stairs.

I don’t know how to fix that. It just is what it is.

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Sunday afternoon, we hung out at my parents’ house for a while. Then I took the kids to the playground, and we came home to do the whole dinner/bath/bedtime thing.

Oh! Big milestone here! During all of that, Lucy took 4 steps on her own. Left, right, left, right, then she fell on her tush. She was so proud of herself, and afterward, she kept standing up on her own with this look on her face, like, “Hey, look at this new trick I learned!” So far, I think 4 steps is her record, but she took 1 or 2 steps a lot last night.

And of course, it’s been 4 1/2 years since the last time I dealt with this, so I forgot how every new developmental milestone totally screws up their sleep schedules.

So bedtime rolls around, and Lucy is nowhere near sleepy. I let her stay up a little later than usual, hoping that she’d burn herself out and eventually go to bed easily.

That didn’t happen. What happened is that I let her stay up just a little too long, and she freaking lost it. She was so past the point of exhaustion, she didn’t know what to do with herself. So she screamed. And screamed.

I tried everything to comfort her. For an hour. Finally I gave up and put her in her crib and figured she’d eventually settle herself down to sleep.

She didn’t.

[Aside: Somewhere during the screaming, I got a, “Hey, how’s your evening going?” text from The Guy.
I texted back: “Teenagers should be forced to come to my house right now as an on-site demo of why they need to use birth control.”
Him: “Oooh, that good, huh?”]

After listening to Lucy scream for another half-hour (so, 90 minutes of screaming total), I called my mom. Both of my parents came over.

Catie was still awake, because it’s impossible to put her to bed while Lucy is up (plus, how could I expect her to sleep with ALL OF THE SCREAMING in the house?). So my parents showed up, and my mom put Catie to bed, while my dad paced Lucy around the house until she fell asleep.

(And yes, I had tried that exact pacing trick myself, and it had not worked for me. But my dad is the only person that Lucy wants right now.)

I took a shower while my parents put my kids to bed, then I came downstairs, sat on the couch, and burst into tears.

So, apparently when things are bad enough, even the Lexapro can’t hold the tears back.

I just felt like the most epic failure of a single parent. My 5 year-old thinks that I don’t love her, and I can’t even comfort my own baby to sleep.

I don’t know if I have made it through an entire weekend, ever, without calling in backup to some extent, and it’s usually my parents. I feel like I dump my kids on them all the time, and even though I know that’s not really true, and hell, they moved up here for the express purpose of helping me with the kids, it still feels shitty.

So many people tell me that they admire how I’m handling being a single mom, or that I kick ass at this, or whatever, and I just don’t see it. My ex-husband moved 3,000 miles away. What choice did I have in the matter except to deal with it? It’s not admirable, it’s just basic survival. I feel like I’m half-assing it at best, and on days like yesterday, I’m white-knuckling it until bedtime.

I try not to use the f-word on my blog, but really? I fucking hate it. There are two of them and only one of me, I feel like I will never be able to be “enough” for both of them. I keep hoping it will get easier when they get older, but I also know that just presents a whole different set of issues, and I’m not prepared for any of it.

It sucks, basically, is what I’m saying.

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I tweeted about it last night, and I got a lot of awesome responses because I have a fantastic online support system, and I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am for that. Really, you guys rock.

The Guy offered to come over and rub my feet, which was very sweet, but he lives a half-hour away, and no way was I staying awake that long.

I thought, oh, you know, it’ll all be better tomorrow after I get some sleep.

Then Lucy woke up 3 times last night.

Sigh.

I wish I had some cute, funny way to tie this up, but I don’t. I’m exhausted and I feel like hell.

I know it’ll be ok eventually. I know this. But for now, I’m bracing myself for another half-assed day at this whole single parenting thing.

seventh and last

Today is my last wedding anniversary.

I mean, the last one before my divorce is finalized. It would’ve been seven years today.

It makes me unbelievably sad to think about it. It’s not that I want to stay married to Dave. I don’t. Not anymore, I really don’t.

I guess it just makes me think about the actual wedding day, and how happy we were then, and how full of hope and promise and potential we were.

Poof. Gone.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk about it for the past week or so. Then I decided that I’d had enough of my stupid moping, and I was going to do something drastic to cheer myself up when the day finally rolled around.

So I texted my hairdresser and asked her if she was working today and had any openings. She did. (Have I mentioned that I love my hairdresser? I do. And I also love her teenage daughter who babysits.)

I decided that maybe a lighter hair color would lead to a lighter mood.

Keep in mind that I haven’t colored my hair in over 10 years. This was a very, very big deal for me to decide to do this.

Before:


(Ignore the frizz, I had just worked out & showered, so my fly-aways were out of control.)

During… And let me just say, that I don’t think there has ever been a sexier photo taken of me, ever:

Yeeeeeah, baby. You know that’s hawt stuff right there.

Aaaaaand, after:

I have to say, I really love it. The highlights are subtle, but they blend in my grays, and it’s enough of a change that it feels like a really big deal to me.

Overall, not such a bad way to spend my last anniversary. It was a nice distraction and has kept me from moping all day, so I suppose in that sense, it was a total success.