Solo Mama: “I Never Thought I’d (fill in the blank)!”

I have to travel for work this week. On one hand, it is nice to go to bed when I want to, not worry about monitoring minion behavior, and share a bed with two children and a dog. On the other hand, I typically end up missing my kids terribly and spend a lot of time on Facetime exchanging “I want you”s with my daughter and trying to get my son’s attention. In any case, they both spend a lot of time making faces or playing with their hair and looking at themselves on the screen rather than focusing on any coherent conversation with me.

GJ 11-2018-2

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to find an episode of Law and Order on TV. It is almost guaranteed that you can find an episode playing on some hotel TV. This time I found L&O Criminal Intent. What a great show. Vincent D’Onofrio is brilliant. Through unique detective work and clever interactions and pinpointed perceptions, he is always able to put together very quickly who committed the crime and the person’s intentions, motive, weaknesses, strengths, etc. Yes, it’s very make believe, but wouldn’t it be grand if that’s how crime was solved and criminals were caught? Like a beautifully scripted dance…which inevitably ends with the person charged with the crime crying out at the end “I don’t know why I do this!” or “I don’t know how I became this person!” This is exactly what happened in two episodes I watched tonight.

In one, a woman who had become a murderous monster on account of her greedy husband and a nightmare divorce (“Look what you turned me into!” she screamed as she was hauled off camera by two NYC police officers). In the other, a shy, socially awkward man in his 20s who performs lobotomies on women he drugs and kidnaps so that he can cuddle with them and care for them and they never leave him. He even eats some of their body parts to connect with them (“I don’t know why I do this, I’m so disgusting”). With tears and snot running down his face, the cannibal, played by Neil Patrick Harris, breaks down after being coaxed into a tearful confession by D’Onofrio, who has taken pity on this young nerdy guy who can never get the girl, and masterfully pulls the confession from him in order to avoid the death penalty.

I can relate to these revelations. While I have not murdered anyone, disabled people so I could cuddle with them against their will, or eaten human body parts (THANK GOD!!!!), I often find myself alone crying “How did I become this person?” or “How did I get here?” At first, I would blame something or someone, usually a husband, romantic interest, family member, or more recently, children. If I wouldn’t have met that person, made that decision, sacrificed for that partner, things would be different. Then it was unhealthily turned inward (and still sometimes is) with I’m so screwed up, I’m stupid, I’m unlovable, God hates me, I’m worthless. I once visited with a sort of “medium” who tried to explain to me what had happened in my past lives that had caused certain things to happen to me in this life.

I guess when we are young, we often imagine our future lives as something that is known or familiar already. So it resembles our childhood experience or something we saw on MTV Cribs (wow, that dates me). I certainly didn’t envision two failed marriages, having children by myself, dealing with several mental health diagnoses or living in my MTV Un-Cribs neighborhood and single in my mid-40s (yeah, I’m on the high side of mid but nearly 50 sounds totally inaccurate). These kind of thoughts haunt me on a daily basis. I imagine it might be a common experience, but people rarely talk about it unless it’s a positive thing.

“I never thought I’d win the Powerball!”

“I never thought I’d get to work with Lil Wayne!”

“I never thought I’d win a Grammy!”

“I never thought Bradley Cooper would discover me singing at a drag club and I would sleep with him!”

You get the point. Some days it’s hard to combat the “I never thoughts” with gratitude. And yet, on the positive side, I’m not killing people or eating them. There are no restraining orders out on me. I have a job that is in the field of my passion. I own a house (which is a privilege reserved for the very wealthy in Denver these days). I have great friends. I have two amazing children. I have a great family where there is relatively little drama (it depends on any given day how much I might be causing).

Do you ever think about the “I never thoughts”? How do you deal with them?

(Photo credit: Me)

Solo Mama: Don’t ever do this…..

My daughter makes her mark on my world every day. Every single day. She makes me laugh, she makes me cry, she makes my head spin, she makes me clench my teeth and raises my blood pressure. Lately she has been on this “Momma, never do “X” because…” mission. To the point where I’ve had to start keeping a list of everything I should never do.

I’m not sure where this recent focus has come from. She has been watching a lot of YouTube lately, but from what I can see, she mostly watches a really upbeat cute blond girl with an Australian accent talk endlessly about DIY projects – how to make a cute and colorful stress ball out of a balloon and cornstarch that you can tie to your backpack with curling ribbon, how to create a bright and attractive pencil pouch so you can sneak candy into class, how to make a fake cactus out of painted rocks and a flower pot to decorate your room when you can’t keep plants alive. The list goes on and she always has ideas for DIY. I can’t keep up and it has started to become a source of stress due to all the random things I need to keep on hand. 😑

Anyway, I felt compelled to share my list to date of things I should never do. Maybe it will also help some of you who had ever planned to do some of the following things give them a second thought.

  1. Don’t ever build your tent by a pile of rocks beause a bunny could come and throw rocks on your tent.
  2. (For God) Don’t ever build a volcano next to where you think a street might be some day.
  3. Don’t ever put a string on a tree and hang on it because a bunny might come and cut the string and you will fall down.
  4. Don’t ever hide in a fire place.
  5. Don’t ever play hide and seek in a car. Once, a little kid did this when his mom was on a date and he was stuck in the engine for 30 years. He survived by drinking oil.
  6. Don’t make a store with lots of money otherwise no one will come there and you will be broke.
  7. Don’t ever try on anything if you don’t know what it is, you might turn into a mermaid.
  8. Never use berries as lipstick. They could be poisonous.
  9. Never leave the house and go anywhere without making sure your purse opens.
  10. Don’t eat random things. You might be killed by people who don’t like America.
  11. Always check the boxes in your mail. Read the tag first to make sure it’s not a bomb.

She makes me laugh ❤️

Solo Mama: Where Do I Begin?

For anyone who has read my posts in the past…I love humor, I love telling stories about my kids and I love putting myself on front street for all bad parenting choices I make. I want to be a voice out there, speaking loudly that:

It’s ok to have bad parenting moments!

It’s ok to have a messy house!

It’s ok to have a headache on Tuesday morning because you had a little too much wine “trying to relax” on Monday night!

I could go on…but it gets darker…

Writing blog posts over the past couple of years has been an outlet for me and it has been a way to keep in touch with the outside world. I love it when people reach out and comment and say that they’ve had similar experiences, they are just afraid to share, or they found something hilarious in something I wrote.

So, at the encouragement of a good friend, who in one of my dark moments the other day reminded me that I used to love to write (as recently as this past spring), I’d like to jump back into posting. I honestly don’t know what’s going to come out. These past 10 months have been some of the ugliest in my life. I’m not sure what I can share or want to share. But I know that writing used to lift my spirits in a crazy way, and in large part because of friends who read and commented and reached out, and that made me a better person at life. And we all know that the world would be a better place if it contained people who felt their best on a daily basis. So, here we go…

Solo Mama: The Facebook Highlight Reel

Social media has taken over our lives. At least twice a week I hear someone say “I’m quitting Facebook” or “I’m taking a break from social media.” We hear more and more about how too much time on social media can be detrimental, not only because it’s making us forget how to talk to each other and interact as humans, but it is also giving people a false sense of the reality of other people’s lives, causing depression, anxiety and other ailments.

Strangely, it occurred to me the other day that I’m no longer affected as much by others and their seemingly perfect lives on Facebook, I’m more stressed out by my own highlight reel, which pops in as a “Facebook cares about you and your memory from x years ago” almost daily. Can anyone else relate? Pictures of my children’s happy faces, running through sprinklers, building snowmen, eating popsicles, taking vacations, drawing with sidewalk chalk and cheerfully skipping along in a beautiful setting, holding hands. My eyes tear up every day as I open up the Facebook app and see yet another memory of a happier time. I wonder, who are these happy children, smiling all the time at me and at each other? Will a study come out some day talking about how my Facebook memories can actually worsen my depression and make me think that I’ve already lived through the best times of my life? Instead of being jealous of all my friends, I will now find reasons to be jealous of myself, in my earlier, happier days?

Is it worth taking pictures of my kids right at this moment and posting them? One’s face is buried in an iPad and the other is writing incoherent sentences about a stuffed reindeer. Then in “x” number of years, this memory will come up and I will cry harder because at that time, maybe my son will be sitting across from me, smoking pot on my fake leather couch (which I will probably still have), watching reruns of Phineas and Ferb, while my daughter is hunched over on the couch next to him, texting some gross boy who is probably too old for her and complaining about wanting her own car. I liken this to seeing old pictures of myself, knowing that back when the picture was taken, I was probably complaining about being too fat, or having bad hair, or just generally being unhappy with how I looked and now I reflect back and think “damn, you were HOT!”

I need to cherish every day and live in the moment, because inevitably, Facebook will remind me that as the years pass, my children will get older, more surly, and more expensive as I get older, more poor, and less attractive. 🤪

This Solo Parent and Her Inability to Answer the Hardest Questions in the Universe

I was browsing the Internet doing some research for a job I’m working on, and happened to come across this article: Curious Children Ask 73 Questions Each Day – Many of Which Parents Can’t Answer, Says Study.

I’ve been asked to brainstorm thoughts about parenting tips and traps around some major concepts. I am thinking that this could be the most ill-assigned project I’ve ever been asked to do. It makes me laugh. Every tip I’ve brainstormed is something I’ve never actually tried in practice, and I fall into so many traps, I can’t even recall any to share. My life is a blur of one parenting trap to the next. When I came across this article, though, I had to stop and reflect.

My kids have been asking me so many questions about fathers, mothers, babies, biological relationships, donor dads, blood relatives, stepparents, same sex marriages, etc. The other night before bed I was dodging left and right and returning answers like a skilled squash player on the court (isn’t that reference great? I’ve played squash maybe twice in my life). I prayed my son would fall asleep mid-sentence like he usually does and that my daughter’s questions would devolve into some conversation about her stuffed reindeer Reiny’s father being King of the Forest. I was having a hard time explaining “blood related” and how two people’s blood can get into one person’s blood and really, blood related doesn’t have the same meaning it once did, so I just wanted to skip it.

The title states that kids ask around 73 questions each day and further into the article it says “while fathers field the most questions, mothers deal with 413 on average each week.” Laugh. My. Ass. Off. I did the math. If we use a 7-day week, at 73 questions per day, that’s 511 questions, with mothers dealing with 413 in a week. That leaves 98 per week for fathers. Taking the father out of the equation, and accounting for an extra child, 511 x 2 children is 1,022 questions per week. That sounds about right.

Some the most challenging questions for parents, according to the article, are:

1. Why do people die?

2. What is God?

3. What does “we can’t afford it” mean?

4. Is Father Christmas (ok, we’ll give this British author a pass) real?

5. Why can’t I stay up as late as you?

I WISH my kids would hit me with these questions. These would be nice and easy for me. Most of the answers they’ve already learned through life experience to date. Except for Santa Claus. We are trying to preserve that fantasy for awhile. And for the record, I go to bed at the same time as they do, sometimes before.

This article has inspired me to jot down as many questions as I can from my kids over the next couple of weeks and report back on my findings, as well as the percentage of questions I can’t, or don’t have the energy to, answer.

As a final note on this post, I would like to specially recognize the single mothers I’ve had the honor to meet over the past year, some of whom have more kids than I do. Bless you. Sometimes answering the questions is more tiring than providing for and cleaning up after a family by yourself.

Play date (aka when a saint offers to host your children at her house for a few hours while you are at work)

What’s new this week? Well, my children had a play date with a family they have never visited before.

The mother picked them both up after school. Nerve wracking. What can my children do to embarrass themselves and me between 2:30 and 5:30 at a new family’s house? I was at work, holding my breath. At 4:30, I jumped out of my seat, packed up and flew out. I set my map and headed north.

How fancy will their house be? Will my children already have mentioned how much cleaner and bigger their house was than our house? I was sweating now. What is my daughter telling the mother? It was my son’s friend and my daughter was invited along, despite my warnings to the mother.

“She likes adult women. She thinks she’s a grown up too. She will talk your ear off. She might not say age-appropriate things. She likes painting. Give her some paints and some paper. She will leave you alone.”

The mom reassured me that it would be fine. She didn’t mind. I was pretty sure my daughter would be telling this mom a bunch of weird things about me and our family. Or asking her questions that were too personal.

To my relief, the strangest exchange was my daughter asking the mom if she was Jesus’ mother (they share the same name). Not bad. My daughter painted in the basement the whole time, churning out miniatures on small wooden panels. My son, along with his friend, were acting a bit like crazed maniacs when I arrived.

I immediately felt a mix of sympathy, admiration and gratefulness for this mom. She had taken on a huge risk, supervising these two squirrels, her older son, and Vincent Van Gogh junior, who might have very well cut off her own ear during the visit.

I am so thankful for people like this in my life. People who are willing, whether they realize it or not, to lend me a helping hand by welcoming my children into their home. ♥️

Was v Were

Was v were. I never thought I’d be THAT mom.

“Momma, I were at school yesterday and -” my daughter starts.

“Was. You was at school yesterday.” I’m such a jerk.

“You was not at school yesterday, I were.” Correct. I were not, you was.

“No, I WAS at school yesterday, NOT I were.” My final attempt at teaching good grammar.

Her, exasperated: “You was not at school, Momma! I were.”

Like a nightmare flashback of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” in the making. Where are the cameras? I’m being punked.

Keep in mind, my correcting her is VERY recent. I’ve listened to was/were reversals for months now.

“Momma, if Reiny and I was at school together, is it was or were?” We are on to something here. If I can’t communicate this concept, maybe with the help of a stuffed reindeer, we will be golden.

“Ahhh, yes. If there is more than one of you, it is were. If it’s just you, then it is was.” I am pleased she is making the plural form connection, which we’ve touched on a few times.

“Momma, where is Reiny?” Uh oh.

“She stepped out back to smoke a cigarette.” Me, trying to cover for the fact that I forgot Reiny at home when I came to pick up the kids. Along with their snack.

“Reiny doesn’t smoke.” Seriously? Then who is leaving their butts outside my back door?

“Then she is at driving lessons, with Alec.” I took at stab here. Last week, my daughter swore Reiny had enrolled in driver’s ed.

“Reiny hates Alec. He makes fun of her in ballet class. Plus she doesn’t drive, Momma.” This is all news to me. In fact: Newsflash. Reiny doesn’t smoke, drive or take ballet. And who is Alec? We don’t know a single person named Alec. Yet these are all things that YOU, child, have told me she is doing over the past week when I ask YOU where she is. I was just playing the game.

“Ok, baby. I have a confession. Reiny isn’t feeling well and she’s at home in my bed.” I come clean. Kind of.

“Did she throw up?”

Oh my goodness. Really?

“I don’t know baby. She were not throwing up when I left her this morning.” BAHAHAHAHA! So bad.

And now you know why I am rechecking my medications, giving up gluten, catching up on past church messages, listening to soothing classical Indian ragas and meditating like a boss. All in my free time.

I Can’t Keep Go-Gurt in Stock

“Maybe we should go shopping tonight,” my daughter suggested as we walked in the door after returning from the after school program.

“Why shopping? What do you think we need?” I asked.

“We are out of yogurt again,” was the reply.

“Well, it’s not my problem that you and your brother consumed 16 tubes of go-gurt since we went to the store LAST NIGHT!”

“That was 3 nights ago,” says brother.

We have problems with time tracking and targeted consumption at our house. I can’t keep go-gurt in stock. Sour Patch Kids Go-Gurt flies off my refrigerator shelves like box fans at Walmart in August.

These kids get so pinpoint focused on one type of snack or food and then you can’t keep enough of it at home. I like diversity. It’s the key to a good life. With food and my kids however, the name of the game is sameness.

What’s for dinner this week?

Pancakes and sausage. We must eat this every night. If the kids come home and momma’s mixed it up with hamburgers and French fries, all hell breaks loose. This was pancakes and sausage week.

“Momma, what do you have for a snack?”

“Graham crackers.”

“I hate graham crackers. I’ve hated graham crackers forever.”

No, in fact, you haven’t. I thought we were still on graham cracker for snack week. It appears we transitioned to yogurt smoothies week and I didn’t get the memo. The kids only drink yogurt smoothies now. Graham crackers are passé. Hated even.

“Momma, can we have dinosaur chicken nuggets for dinner this week?”

Shocked. “I thought you hated those?”

Look of mild confusion on son’s face.

“No? When did I say that?”

Hm. Ok. It’s dinosaur nuggets and tater tots week. Search back of freezer for dinosaur nuggets to see if they have expired since the kids’ last love affair with dinosaur nuggets.

My freezer is full of once-loved food items, just waiting, like sad, worn toys, to be loved again by my children. Sometimes when I see expiration dates approaching, I will say at dinner time (over pancakes and sausage):

“Hey, remember those turkey meatballs that we loved to eat every night last March? Wouldn’t it be great to have those again?”

Blank stares on children’s faces.

Sigh. Looks like that bag of meatballs won’t be making a comeback before its time is up…

Swimming: “F*cking Sh*t” Momma

I came up out of the water and wiped my eyes off so I could scan the pool. Treading water in the deep end of the rec center pool, I tried to locate my daughter as the waves grew larger. Kids on inner tubes bounced above increasingly larger mountains of water created by the pool’s wave system. It took me a minute to locate her in the shallow end of the pool, bobbing crazily in a red life jacket, her head poking out above a clear, over-inflated inner tube. Our eyes met.

“Fucking shit,” her sweet little mouth formed the words as she glared at me.

Not the last time I would hear those words over the course of the two hours we were at the pool. They have become my daughter’s new favorite way to irk me when I’m not doing what she wants me to do. I’ve discovered that the only ways to reduce her use of these new words is to surprise her with random outbursts of the words in conversation and ignore her when she uses the words. Slowly, their attractiveness as one more way of naughty-making is becoming less appealing.

“Hey Momma! If you don’t come over here and carry me, I’m going to say F-u-c-k,” she announced from the pool stairs.

I swam small laps, as some strange little 6-year old sat on the pool stairs repeating “fuck” over and over. Whose child was that? What a weirdo.

Eventually, the cursing died down and I swam over to her. She hopped on my back and we floated around together. “Momma, I love you more than anything in the world,” she whispered in my ear.

Sigh…

The iPhone Police: Quinquagenarian v. Teenage Son

How many government workers does it take to figure out how to restrict a teenager’s access on their iPhone?

I know, a new version of an old joke. I’m so scared to become a parent of a teenager. Only 6 more years. Six more years until I will live in even more of a hyper state of hyper-vigilance. This is how the conversation went this morning between me and my co-worker about policing teen iPhones.

TP (Teen Parent, or Toilet Paper, which is what he really is right now to his seriously tech advantaged son): “I need to delete Instagram and Snapchat from my son’s phone. How do I do that?”

Me: “Hold the home button until the icons shake. There will be little X’s in the corner of each one? Press the X.” (Because at 5 years younger, I have a serious leg up on his tech skills and I know the terminology, like “icons” and “shake”).

TP: “The shortcuts are gone. But they are in his apps. Damn it. I told him to disable his password in the car today and he took his phone and he only had it for like 10 seconds and he was like this.” TP re-enacts son speed typing across the phone and hitting “send” 40 times in under 5 seconds.

Me: “Did you Google it? Google it. That’s what I always do. I don’t know what I did before Google.”

TP: “Yes, I googled it, I can’t find anything.”

Huge sigh from me. These seniors need so much help with their phones. “Ok. Give me a minute, I’ll go look it up.”

I find the information I need back in my office and call him at his desk.

Me: “Come down here. I have an answer for you.”

TP makes his way down to my office after a 60-second debate about why I just can’t go back to his office (we are literally 10 steps away from each other).

I read the instructions off my monitor about how to delete apps from his settings on the phone. He starts reading off apps as he begins deleting the obvious culprits: Instagram and SnapChat.

TP: “What’s Yellow?”

I quickly do a search on Google.

Me: “Looks like it’s the new Tinder for teens.” Scanning and reading aloud headlines about police and parent concern over Yellow, which has taken over every American teenager’s phone. My coworker breaks into a sweat and utters some words that I don’t like to print in my blog.

TP: “What’s Find My Friends?”

Me: “Oh, it’s just a standard iPhone app I think. I don’t use it. Whenever I turn it on, the only person I can find is XXXXX.” Insert name of another coworker who is seriously the only friend I can ever find with the app.

TP: “Ok. So those are all gone. I can give him access to Safari, right? I mean, that’s ok.”

I am starting to get lightheaded with all my tech expertise. What can I mooch from this guy? He really needs my help.

Me: “Wellllll……no. It’s not ok. I mean, all he has to do is go to the homepage of all of those sites and he can log in to them through Safari.”

TP: “I need to restrict access to those sites?” He is tentative, concerned, wide-eyed. Maybe he can buy me coffees for a week in exchange for helping him create a firewall between his son and the outside world. Did I use firewall correctly in that sentence, I wonder as I write this.

Me: “Yes. You will need to do that.” More Googling and giving him the URLs so he can block the sites from his son.

About ten minutes later, TP finally leaves my office, feeling a smug satisfaction, that he, along with the help of his much younger, more attractive and tech savvy coworker, has outfoxed his son this round. To be continued……..