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.

This Solo Parent’s 10 Most Mundane Yet Creative Ways to Save Money

Ever wonder how I look so well put together and stress-free? No? Some of these are for real tips on saving money, folks! I don’t mess around 🤪

  1. Live in an undesirable neighborhood. We may know our neighborhood officers by name and may lose a few household or yard items occasionally, but did you know I have a super low mortgage in an unaffordable city and the best access to all the major highways in town? Every time a new store pops up, it’s a pawn shop or a check cashing store, not some cute coffee shop. I know some of the best drive through liquor stores in the metro area, and the parking lot of the abandoned strip mall makes a great place for riding bikes, as long as you keep an eye for cars cutting through to skip the light at the intersection. No cute coffee shop boutique yuppies are going to ever buy up property in my neighborhood, it’s a well-kept secret.
  2. Enroll in an automatic “round-up” savings account. I love this. Similar to the way the local grocery store cashier hits you up to round up by 13 cents to the nearest dollar to donate to a cause, some banks also offer this option to dump into a separate savings account. I’ve saved over $900 in 3 years. This doesn’t look as good typed out as it does in my bank account, but it’s $900 I definitely wouldn’t have saved for myself.
  3. Split sides at restaurants when you do eat out. I came across this fascinating practice when traveling to India over the years (prior to children – who can afford to travel with them?). I remember going to a small roadside restaurant with my former in-laws and watching my brother-in-law order soup “1 by 2” or “2 by 4.” I doubt any American server would clue into this lingo, but our portions are so huge here, ask for an extra plate or bowl and split it at your table. My Indian coworkers did this with their Starbucks every morning. Saved themselves a truckload of money.
  4. Have lots of low sodium canned soup on hand to resist the urge to eat out when you are too tired to cook. Our favorites are anything lentil.
  5. Don’t accept a dry squeeze as the end of a product! Cut open every bottle of any product (food, beauty, etc.) when you get towards the end and dig that sh*t out.
  6. Opt to gamble with driving a car old enough to be your great grandfather. Low or no car payments and the money you spend on repairs might not exceed what you’d pay on a new monthly car payment over a year’s time. The key word here is “might.” Try at your own risk.
  7. Enroll in something that is sent to your house for you to peruse and opt to purchase. I’ve seen people do this with makeup, athletic clothing and dog accessories. I do it with clothing. Some may argue this is not a way to save money. I think it has helped me. I receive a box of 5 clothing items every quarter. They always fit perfectly. I think it’s because everything is stretchy. I can try stuff on in my own home and send back what I don’t like. I have not gone clothes shopping outside my home in 2 years. Good riddance shopping! I hated you anyway.
  8. Order food from the grocery store online and pick it up. My brother and sister-in-law swear by this. I’ve tried it a few times. It prevents me from impulsively buying a bunch of stuff in the store.
  9. Use your exes’ phone numbers at the gas station to get the 10 cent gas discount they’ve racked up over this past month buying groceries. Just kidding. I’ve never done this.
  10. And just like it helps you lose weight, if you must eat out, because you are just too damn tired to create a meal, buy meals for your kids and pick off their plates (or out of their bags in our case). Then snack on popcorn, cuties, and cottage cheese when you get home.

Solo Parenting and 5 Secrets to Weight Loss

Just kidding.

I have no secrets to weight loss. In fact, these secrets can likely lead to weight gain.

  1. Be broke enough that when you take your kids out to eat, you can’t afford a meal for yourself.
  2. Cut gluten out of your diet when you’ve made so many sandwiches for school lunches you can’t stand the smell of bread.
  3. Co-sleep with your children and as they grow, stretch yourself into so many unnatural positions that your body burns calories as it reels in pain from awkward sleeping poses.
  4. Pay $30 a month for a gym membership that you don’t use. The stress from paying needlessly for something burns a few calories a month.
  5. Balance out the effects of extra cortisol generated by lack of sleep with a minimum of two fully caffeinated coffees per day, one for breakfast and one for lunch.

 

Solo Parenting and the Date

I went on a date recently. Nice guy. Employed, close in age, legally divorced (bonus), lives within 10 miles of me, has hair, can fix cars (also a bonus), has two young children, drives a Jeep and loves hockey. Did I say nice guy already?

As the evening wore on, I found myself trying to imagine what it would take to get to know someone. A lot of money in babysitting hours. Negotiating time to communicate when my only free time is really a small slice between 8:30 and 9 pm. Thinking up interesting conversation topics and thought provoking questions when I can’t even remember my name and where I may be sitting at any given moment. How trapped I felt when said date filled in awkward silence with “so, is there anything else you’d like to know about me?”

Guiltily, I was thinking, “No. This is the first chance I’ve had in weeks to eat without someone sitting in my lap or asking me a thousand questions or demanding a fork. I’d appreciate it if you would just shut up and let me enjoy my food.”

Instead I said, “ummm…..hmmmm….that’s a good question. I’m not sure….”

Awful response. I have to admit, I’ve been a convenience dater for the past decade. Which explains my track record of law enforcement and corrections personnel and lawyers. I’m too wiped to go anywhere to meet anyone, so I’ve been dating based on accessibility – people who work nearby at my job. Dating people in my field of work doesn’t lend itself necessarily to engaging with healthy mindsets. We’re all pretty much dysfunctional, cynical, suspicious and distrustful to some extent. The benefits are proximity and commonality. Coffee and lunches make it easy to get to know someone without paying for a sitter, and a common language and understanding of someone’s day without even having to ask, as well as some interesting and sometimes humorous material about the human condition just make getting to know someone that much easier. I’ve needed to expand the pool of candidates for some time, and this was one of my first attempts.

“The Date” aka Nice Guy said he was interested in pursuing something long term and getting to know me, in particular. He had a lot of nice things to say based on our limited conversation and exposure. At another time in my life, I may have jumped at the chance, especially since he was empathetic and could relate to having two small children (albeit only 50% for him). I’ve found that adding the fact that I’m 100% mother with two elementary-aged children to my online dating profile cuts down visits to my profile and messages from potential dates by 99.98%. Single men are just not interested in a woman who doesn’t have 3-4 days a week to go have some adult fun. Men can be so shallow.

I thought about what Nice Guy said for a couple days. Then I gave him a call and expressed that I just couldn’t afford to date and probably didn’t even have time if I could afford it. After all, I’m working an almost full-time job and have 3 part time jobs. I’ve given up the fantasy of a 4th part-time job – that of dating blog writer. There are lots of freelance opportunities out there for people who want to write about their online dating experiences. We are all voyeurs.

There you have it. My advice to myself? Quit while you’re ahead.

SUP?

I’m sitting at an intersection with my windows cracked and Jay Z and his friends busting out of my mom-mobile and a surly tow truck driver at about 2 o’clock from me looks back over his shoulder and eyes me. He is tatted from his fingertips to his eyeballs. I give him a traffic head nod like “sup?” He shakes his head and huffs then turns and takes a swig from a gallon of water in a bottle labeled Juicy Juice.

Really? Hey Juicy! You’re not so hot yourself. Don’t you know 40-something white ladies are probably one of Jay’s largest listening demographic? Lighten up. Maybe mix something stronger into your Juicy Juice.

I’m glad to have a few moments to myself after dropping the kids off at school and before I have to rush into work. How many coffees will I need today? I ponder.

What’s happening this week? I’ve been debating whether to join a softball team at work. Practices are once a week, right after work. I’m falling off the fence on the “no” side. The exhaustion that comes with figuring out who to bug to take care of my kids after school once a week is what forced me to take a hiatus from belly dancing. My job hangs in some weird balance, with a vote coming up in a month that will decide whether the unit I belong to will continue after the end of June. I’ve always taken government job security somewhat for granted. Guess what! I shouldn’t have thought this way! Your financial well-being and quality of life may lay in the hands of one senator who thinks he has come up with a brilliant idea and a legislative analyst. I’m sure this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened…

My daughter informed me this week that I have a fourth child (I can’t figure out what happened to number 3), whose name is Kool Tooley. It turns out that I gave him away at birth and she and her brother have recently discovered his existence. My son won’t confirm or deny this story. He sits in the backseat of the car, staring out the window, while my daughter weaves fantastic stories about Kool. My son already looks like a defeated husband with selective hearing. I’m hoping that wherever Kool lives, he’s in a financially stable home because I just can’t provide for one more child if he decides to come looking for me.

My daughter is also going public more frequently with her discussions about her absent father, or “donor dad.” She is wavering between whether she will continue to harass me about his whereabouts, or if she will just adopt a father. Because if people can adopt children, then they surely can adopt fathers, too. Another tricky issue I’ve had to address with her lately is why even half siblings aren’t allowed to marry each other and have babies. I’m always too tired to explain this in a way that a 6-year old going on 18 will understand.

“Because the baby may be born with an arm growing out of his head.”

Really? That’s all I’ve got? Way to go! Currently, I’m looking for volunteers to pick up their phone when one of my children calls with a difficult question like, “Can I play on the iPad tonight?” or “What will you give me if I pick up my toys?” or “Why does that boy have long hair?” I just don’t have it in me anymore…

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…