6/28/13

Hell, Fury, Woman Warmed...Part Two

Where was I? Oh yeah. Storm, lights out, flashlight. (part one of this too-long tale can be found HERE)

That first night was FUN. And for once I'm not being all bitter and sarcastic. It was! Henry was not into it, at all, so he found a friend with power and arranged to sleep over there. The friend's mom was nice enough to come get Henry AND she also brought a bunch of candles. Because Molly and I were going to have a fantastical girl's blackout night!

We lit a bunch of candles and then sat in the living room. I read an article in Rolling Stone by flashlight, which hurt my old lady eyes. We chatted and caught up with people via mobile Facebook (this was before it occurred to me that we had no way to charge our phones). It was, as the kids like to say, cray-cray. I even made a martini, took a big risk and opened up the freezer for ice. After all, the power was going to be on soon!

It was starting to get a little warm. We opened up all of the windows but then got kind of freaked out over how absolutely DARK it was outside. Molly asked, "Do you think there are looters out yet?" and despite my  concerned and loving mom response of, "Oh no. No! Not here. That's silly", I started to freak out a tiny bit. What better time for any potential looters..or murderers, to strike, than during a massive power outage?

We discovered that there really isn't much to do at 10:00 on a Friday night with no electricity. So we called it a night. Molly announced, "I'm sleepin' with you, Mom. No way I'm sleeping alone tonight." We carried candles into my room, debated back and forth about opening windows (middle aged peri-menopausal woman won...windows were opened) and then tried to sleep. It was hard to doze off, though, what with the plot-lines from every single horror movie I've ever seen playing in my head.

My inner Hysterical Lady fretted: "This is a serial killer's wet dream! Power's out! Single mom in bed with her 17 year old daughter! It's like a Buy One/Get One deal for psychopaths! Will the dog warn us?"  I consoled myself with the thought that surely this was going to be a one-night gig, this blackout. Xcel Energy would have everybody up and running soon. Eventually I fell into a fitful sleep, our lone flashlight clutched in my sweaty hand.

The next day was like one of those scenes in a disaster movie, where all of the survivors emerge from their homes after their town has been ravaged by Mother Nature. Neighbors out pulling branches down to the curb, standing around, arms folded, work gloves on. "Yah! Quite the doozy, huh? I guess the whole block is without power" said a guy down the street. There was mirth and merriment and lots of "Oh well, whatcha gonna do. It happens!". We found out, through the grapevine, that over 500,000 people had lost power the night before.

My broke ass started to worry about the stuff in the fridge and freezer.  At this time, it was also dawning on me just how dependent we are on the almighty electricity. My phone was dying. We had no wifi, so every time one of my kids went online I could hear a sucking sound that was AT&T standing next to my checking account with a vacuum. I became philosophical: if data is being used up in a blackout, can anyone hear a mom crying about overage charges?

Now, I consider myself a strong person. A patient woman. A chill, laid back, ride-the-waves sort of gal. And I was, for about 30 hours.

That's when the stuff in the freezer started thawing out. And our cell phones began bleating that sad warning cry...battery dying! Of course I had to obsessively check Facebook, to see if anyone in the surrounding area was getting their power restored.

Sure enough, one by one, my friends and acquaintances began posting things like "Ahhh...power!" and this one: ""And God said 'let there be light'", and a couple of them posted the video of "I've Got the Power" by Snap. I love my friends, but with each successive post about restored power, the urge to hurt someone grew stronger.

My first breakdown occurred around 1:30 a.m. that Sunday. I was huddled in my tiny car, charging my phone. The car charger for my phone is janky...you literally have to hold it at a very precise angle in order for it to charge. So there I sat, holding my phone in the correct, yet very unnatural position, swatting at bird-sized mosquitoes, sweating my fat ass off. My BFF was at the Wisconsin Dells with her family that weekend, and as she was enjoying her drinkies poolside she'd text me: "OMG this is so fun here!" "I'm getting buzzed!" and then she texted this: "Big Red (my former BFF) went to our house and took everything out of the freezer for us! Isn't that nice?".

I said, out loud to the giant mosquitoes: "Yes, that is so nice! In fact I'm going to start calling her Mother Effing Teresa! Don't you guys think that's nice???".  That's when the tears started falling and the first of several pity parties began.

The next day, a kind soul sent me a message: Do you want to use our generator?  My heart leaped inside my chest. This lovely friend had already loaned it out to a family who lives a couple blocks away. Their power had come back on, so they were going to bring it to us. The husband showed up at my door, and spent about 45 minutes showing me just how to operate this new toy. He even bought the first round of gas! There was a new-found spring in my step as I ran an extension cord from the garage into the kitchen and the kids and I paused for a moment as we listened to the sweet hum of the fridge coming back to life.

"HUZZAH!" I shouted, and began moving the dripping, semi-floppy boxes and containers from the cooler on the kitchen floor into the freezer. We had to throw away some of it, because even a poor chica like me knows that no matter how much you spent on those chicken sausages, it's not worth salmonella. But..we did save a lot of stuff. It was the most hopeful I'd felt in three days.

We lived simply during these dark ages. I used the grill lighter on the stove, so we were able to cook things that way. The salmon I had purchased that Friday was pan-seared and served up with boiled fingerling potatoes. It was delish. I made daily runs for my beloved iced coffee, and said a million silent "thank yous" to the preschool parents who love to give teachers coffee-shop gift cards.

The Golden Girls Porch of Love became Command Central. We sat out there for meals, to read, and to just complain back and forth about how hot we were. Oh, and bored. My kids were bored. At one point I became so desperate for a t.v. fix that I lugged the small but amazingly heavy television in my bedroom out to the porch. I dropped it about halfway there. Luckily, despite a large crack in the top (and a gorgeous bruise on my arm) it worked! Molly and I had movie night on the porch:


Ironically enough, the movie we watched? Warm Bodies. Yes, that's a giant martini you see. With about 10 olives. Don't judge, please. As my murderous rage increased, I decided to check the Menstrual App (yes, seriously) on my phone...and of course I was experiencing not only power loss, but full-blown PMS. That t.v. is lucky I didn't hurl it onto the driveway.

Where were the boys? They frequently abandoned us for friends with air conditioning and video games. Now I knew how the mothers who lived in Ben Franklin's neighborhood felt. "Uh..sorry to leave again, but the Franklins have LIGHTS, mom. Not candles, actual LIGHTS. See ya."

I missed the everyday grind. Laundry piled up, and I don't even want to know how much pee there was on the floors and walls of the bathrooms. My kids can't hit the toilet when the lights are on, y'all. The dishwasher, which had been running when the power went off, was starting to smell.  Our house also became quite fragrant: the scent was a mixture of sweat, desperation and cat urine. We don't have cats.

My next, and biggest breakdown happened on Monday afternoon. At that point we were going on 80 hours sans power, and as Henry and I were leaving to go get gas for the generator, we saw Xcel Energy trucks on our street! I gasped, Henry and I high fived each other. I took a very creepy, stalkery picture of the guys:


We decided to go ahead and get the gas, you know...just in case. But my glee was at full throttle as we filled the gas can and then headed back home.  When we arrived there, my neighbor's son, who had just been setting up a generator at her house stopped us. He held both thumbs in the air and said "IT'S BACK ON!!!".  Henry and I rushed into the house, and began flipping switches. Nothing. We checked the main breakers down in the basement.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I could hear neighbors yelling back and forth: "WOO HOO!" and "YEAH, BABY!". One by one the other generators stopped. Except ours. It was still chugging along, like a lawnmower running nonstop.

That night, I sat on the porch and called Xcel Energy. I finally got through to a live person, a sweet and unsuspecting woman named, of all things, Jenny.  Here's how our conversation went:

Sane Jenny: "Hi! This is Jenny with Xcel. How can I help you?"
Crazy Jenny: "Umm..hi..I was just wondering, all the houses on my block have power except us. (voice cracking) We're the only ones without it! (tears starting) And I need to know when it's going to be back on because, pardon my language, Jenny, I'm going APESHIT."
Sane Jenny: "Oh my gosh..I'm so sorry! You know what, it sounds like you might be one of those houses that are on your very own transformer. Here..I'm pulling up your account...."
Crazy Jenny: "Brjgglllshituerpwa" (which is what I sound like when I'm stifling sobs)
Sane Jenny: "Oh...oh no. I don't even want to tell you."
Crazy Jenny: (croaking now) "Wha?? What? Tell me!"
Sane Jenny: "It's just as I thought. You guys have your own transformer. And it says here you're slated to be restored....on Wednesday. At noon."
Crazy Jenny: silence, except for whatever it sounds like when hope dies.
Sane Jenny: "Are you still there? I'm so sorry. But if you can hold on just another day and one more night, it should be back."
Crazy Jenny: "Ahh..yes I'm here. Okay. Okay, I can do this. I'm sorry I swore. Thank you for your help."
Sane Jenny: "That's okay. Call us back if you have any more questions." and then I think I heard the sound of her blocking my number.

That was as bad as it got. Well...there was the time I found myself washing out the crotch of my yoga capris, in the bathroom sink, with peppermint body wash. Because who doesn't want a minty fresh cootchie during a blackout? Not this girl. I think that may have been my rock bottom.

Did I mention yet that this was the time the brakes on my car decided to go out? Yeah. That happened. I was bringing William to hockey on Tuesday when I noticed that it sounded like my brakes were going to snap in half. My BFF followed me to the repair shop, and took me back to her house so I could do some laundry. A couple hours later, the shop called. My car was fixed, and it would only cost me $475 to get it! Thankfully, at this point I had reached the acceptance stage of things. A mellow, calm acceptance. The phrase, "It could be worse", which just two days prior had made me want to punch someone, was now ringing so very true. It could be worse. Just ask someone in Oklahoma, ya know?

And then.  AND THEN...Wednesday morning, I happened to glance outside and saw THEM. I saw the trucks. I saw MEN IN VESTS standing by the poles in our yard. THEY WERE HERE! Sweet baby Jesus, the MEN WERE HERE. I felt something like lust and joy and sheer ecstasy. Running out the front door, I yelled out to them, "Thank God you're here!!! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!!". Of course, this was after five days of getting ready in a dark bathroom. So keep in mind, this is what I looked like:


But the power guys, they were awesome. They smiled and when I yelled out, "I LOVE YOU GUYS!" they shouted back "AND WE LOVE YOU!". It occurred to me then that these poor guys were the ones who had been working 16 hour days in heat and humidity, and despite my Baby Jane appearance, my loving welcome was probably quite different from other greetings they'd received. People get bitchy, ya know.

I should mention, to any prospective lovers reading this? If you show up at my door wearing a fluorescent yellow safety vest, I will be putty in your hands. Willing putty. Just saying.

Long story just a wee bit longer: We got our power back. The first thing my brilliant kids did was turn on the oven to 400 and make pizza.

That's when we discovered that our air conditioning didn't work. Today I'm waiting for the a/c service guy to show up.

You know what? This, we can handle.


Thus ends the tale of Blackout '13. I want to take a second to thank each and every one of you, near and far, who helped us. You offered up your homes, your air conditioning, your generators, your love. Those of you who live farther away gave me the opportunity to vent my frustrations and made me feel better just by listening. My friends who drove me around when I was without wheels for 24 hours, thank you. John, who helped me pick up a sofa (because when someone is offering you an Ikea sectional couch, you take it..even during a power outage), you rock. Danielle, for listening to me BITCH and feel sorry for myself without telling me to suck it up, I love you. Stacy, thanks for the delivered iced coffee. Kate? The generator. Thank you. Brook, who offered not only Cheetos and vodka, but also the use of your hubby's car? I'm verklempt. All of you who not only offered, but BEGGED us to stay at your houses (Gail, Susan, Sylvia, Lisa, Terri, Julie..I'm sure I'm forgetting someone)..THANK YOU. Please know the only reason I declined is because of the dog, and I didn't want to leave the generator running unattended. Robin..thank you for offering to pay for a hotel. That was crazy generous. Shennon, who showed up AFTER all was said and done, with a bag of meat? Thank you. For each of my facebook friends who didn't unfriend me, despite the increasingly high-pitched whining with every one of my status updates, thank you.

And last but not least, thank you to the uber sexy linemen who gave us our electricity. Especially you, the one with that big walrus mustache. Yeah, you. You know where I live, dude.  Bring the vest.




6/27/13

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Warmed: How A Power Outage Almost Drove Me Insane.. Part One

Friday, June 21st was just another typical summer day. The kids slept in, I did mom stuff in the morning and then they either hung out with friends or went to work while I spent the afternoon at preschool (yay for summer subbing!). There was talk about a big storm heading our way that night, but come on..don't we hear that at least once a week here in Minnesota?

After work I had to run to the Comcast office to exchange our cable box. I love that place. It's like State Fair Lite. All the people watching, none of the stench. The highlight of this visit was the chance to eavesdrop on two sets of parents, each armed with an adorable baby. The babies were about the same age and as I listened to the proud mamas and papas compare notes, part of me got all misty eyed about how fast time flies, and the other part wanted to barf a little. Did I sound like that when mine were little, I wonder? "Axel is way off the charts! He's so tall! He's the biggest baby our pediatrician has ever seen!!!! We have to get his clothes at Baby Gap Big 'n' Tall!!!" was countered with "Oh...well Magnus has this Little Tikes chess set and he's already beating me when we play!!!! Plus he can change the oil in my car!!!!".  Okay so I'm exaggerating a bit but you get the gist. I wanted to sit down between the Dueling Boasters and tell them, "Ease up, mammy and pappy. Enjoy your youngun's while they're young! You know who don't give two whits about where they were on the charts when they were 11 months old? The future kid who's gonna try and get your precious Magnus and Axel to try booze! Or pot! That's who! So who gives a whit how tall he is. Love him, teach him right from wrong and by the way, are either of you number 92? They're calling for number 92!". Apparently my inner bitchy old mom talks like a prospector in a 50's western. But I digress.  

I got my new cable box and nodded while the nervous chick behind the desk prattled on about the Big Storm that was coming. "Gosh I hope we all make it home okay!" she said.  As I walked out to my car, I cast a wary eye towards the heavens. Hmmm.  Nervous Comcast Girl may have been right to be worried. The sky was a deep, dark gray and the wind had picked up. I stopped at the grocery store by our house, and picked up some salmon for dinner, martini fixin's, and a RedBox movie. Because a stormy night just begs for a movie, and pretty much any night begs for a cocktail. When I arrived at Chez Hausfrau, the skies were even darker, and the wind was even feistier. My inner storm chaser felt a twinge of excitement. I love a good summer thunderstorm. 

The salmon went into the fridge because the lone heathen at home (Henry) couldn't be bothered to wait for a civilized dinner. You see, when I work, they find it difficult to open cupboards and prepare foodstuffs for themselves. Oh, sure, they can make it look as though they hosted Top Chef in the kitchen while I was gone, but this kid was STARVING and needed nourishment IMMEDIATELY. So I started up a pot of Annie's mac and cheese, which in our house has its very own spot on the food pyramid.  Molly had been out on a walk with Walter, and they walked in at about 7:00, soaking wet. "Holy crap!" mother of the year (me) exclaimed. "Is it raining?"

My lovely 17 year old daughter cast a sardonic look at me through soaking wet hair. 

"Duh."

I continued to stir the mac and cheese noodles, now slowly bubbling in the pan. Thunder could be heard, not directly overhead but close enough to shake windows. I heard a noise on the porch, which is located directly off the kitchen, and when I peeked in there to see what the what was happening, it was like that scene in Poltergeist when Carol Anne's closet became the portal to the supernatural world. My Golden Girls porch furniture was blowing this way and that, the little lamp, the picture frames (still filled with stock photos of strange children, my bad) and the books and magazines and the table were flying against the inner wall. I looked outside and saw an ugly greenish tinge to the air, and oh yeah: RAIN FALLING SIDEWAYS.  The last time we had rain falling sideways, there was a tornado. 

I screamed at the kids to get downstairs, and so they ran out to the living room to watch the storm. Charlie and William weren't home, so it was me and my two middle children. Henry has never been a big fan of storms, but Molly takes after me and is fascinated with them. We were enjoying Mother Nature's handiwork when BAM CRASH a huge branch from one of the massive oaks in the front yard fell on top of the power lines that divide ours and our neighbor's lots. Flames flickered briefly, even in the downpour, and the lines fell to the grass and out over the street. 

That's when we lost power. I scrambled to find one of the 412 flashlights we own, and found one in the kitchen junk drawer. Well, one of the kitchen junk drawers. We have a couple. I noticed then that the sole source of light in the kitchen was the still-lit burner under the roiling pot of noodles on the stove.  My inner bitchy old mom and storm chaser moved over to make room for another inner me, Cave Woman. "Keep flame lit" she grunted. I thought about it, for a second, because honestly...we have never lost power in this house. It was new and exciting and scary. But I decided that it felt a little dangerous so out it went. I made the mac and cheese by flashlight, and Henry inhaled it while nervously inquiring about stuff like candles and air conditioning.

"Oh Henry" I said, soothingly. "The power will be back on in a little bit."

Our power was out for almost five days. 116 hours, to be exact. 

This is getting long, so I'm going to go ahead and post it, and then get to typin' Part Two. I wonder which inner Jennys will be in that one? God knows there's enough room in here for dozens more. I'm like a personality clown car.

Stay tuned.

(read part two HERE)

6/21/13

"How Can I Help?" Single Parents Share What REALLY Helped...And What Didn't

Sadly, we've all been there: sitting around, gabbing with our friends...waiting for the kids at the parent pick up line or waiting for one of our kid's games to start: "Did you hear? Bob and Susie are splitting up.  She's really struggling."

(Let me get this disclaimer out of the way right here: this will be centered mostly on single moms. Because: 1: That's what I am, and 2: When I reached out and questioned people about this, I only heard back from women. Men? Please chime in sometime! Your voices need to be heard too.)


If you are like me, those little wheels in your mind get rollin'. You start wondering how you can help your friend in need. You sympathize, you get mad on her behalf. Your heart breaks for the kids.


"How can I help?" is often the first thing out of our mouths.


Well, I turned to my Facebook page and asked my readers there: When you first found yourself facing life as a single parent, what did people do that really helped?


Here are their answers (and some of mine, of course, because I like to blab), in no particular order. Some are pretty obvious, and some might surprise you.


1. BE THERE FOR THEM.  Sometimes, when a person finds themselves sans partner, they feel a bit ostracized. It may be that they have a large group of friends and family so everyone assumes that somebody else is helping.  It can also be because people simply don't know what to say or do. And that's okay. All you really need to do is be there. Physically, over the phone, via email...just reach out and let the newly solo person know you're around. Show up and offer to help with the laundry. Take her to the grocery store. Bring over a pizza. Or just give her a hug. Sometimes the smallest gesture helps the most.


2. "BUDDY, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?"..GIVE A LITTLE BIT. If you can, and want, to help her out with some of the financial burdens that come with single parenting, go for it. I'm not talking about sitting down and writing out a check for her mortgage, though. Sometimes it's the little things that cause anxiety in the single mom's life. She gets the biggies paid, and finds she has little left over for groceries. Her car is running on fumes. Her hair is an overgrown, Michelle Duggar-like mess (speaking from personal experience here..). Single moms are often poor moms, it's a sad but true fact. There was a time, not so long ago, when I rationed out trips in the car just to try and coax a few more days out of a tank of gas. We are a very resourceful group...but I won't lie: help in the form of a gift card or a gas card or even a bag of groceries left on the front steps can sometimes be the reason her kids eat that week (or eat something besides the free lunch at school and the 99 cent box of pasta for dinner).


Here is Liese's story (shared with permission):


"I was a single mom for 2 1/2 years. I lived in a very small town. After a stressful trip to the grocery store with my one year old I was checking out and for some reason a manager was watching a girl check me out. Halfway through my foods, the manager lady interrupted everything and picked up all of my stuff and brought it to the customer service counter where she redid all of my groceries and gave them to me. For free. She made a comment that she was a single mom once and she has seen me shopping and struggling every week."


Now, you know I have my own stories about how people have helped me, and my kids, over the past few years. There was the Christmas That Almost Wasn't: the year I was so broke I had literally no money for presents for my kids (actually, I've had a few of these...). Some anonymous "elves" provided for us that year, and the year after that, and to tell the truth, every now and then they'll still spring a little gift on us. It's humbling beyond belief, and I cannot tell you what an AMAZING lesson it is for the kids. A lesson in giving, in receiving with grace and gratitude, and of all the good that is in this sometimes scary world.


And I can guarantee you this: that single mom you helped when she so desperately needed it? She's going to turn around and pay it forward when she's able to. That's something I hear over and over. Your kindness to her plants a seed.  And that's such a good thing.


3. NON-MONETARY HELP IS AWESOME, TOO. I'm a shitty housekeeper. My friends know it, I know it, my kids know it. It's just something about me that is what it is, like freckles or skinny ankles. I have a couple friends who are more on the OCD side of all things housekeepery, and they will come over before something big happens at my house (like a graduation party or a hen gathering) and they'll clean. You can't put a price on that, my friends. Another biggie is hand-me-downs. Kids clothes are expensive, and no matter how little you feed them they just keep growing. I had a friend who lives in Ohio once send me a box of her son's outgrown clothes...I'm talking a HUGE box. That was a few years ago and to this day my boys are still wearing some of those clothes. Do you have furniture that you're getting rid of? Household appliances? They say one man's trash is another man's treasure. The same can be said of couches and coffee makers and even dishes. Some single moms are starting an entire household from scratch and would love to take whatever you have.  And don't worry about offending or embarrassing her by asking. Trust me. I have one friend who gives me any and all magazines she gets that feature my boyfriend Louis CK on the cover. She doesn't ask me what I do with them, either. I love her.


4. CARPOOL. This is something that all single moms will LOVE, no matter what their financial situation is. You know why? Because they are just one person, who works, and who has at least one kid who needs to be places when she can't get them there. Whether it's a ride to a sports practice or to religious school or to karate or just a ride home, offer to switch off driving duties with her. Many times the single moms are more than willing to do the later shifts of driving, after she's done with work and tended to the other kids at home or has simply had a little snippet of time to do something self indulgent, like go pee alone.


5. HOOK A SISTER UP. Get your mind out of the gutter. I'm talking about networking here, people. Chances are, you know someone who is in, or was in, a situation that resembles the one your friend is in now. Maybe you have a coworker who survived a tough divorce or a sister who just started the process. Few things in life are as isolating as single parenting...it can be a lifesaver just knowing you're not alone.


6. ALL THE SINGLE LADIES: TRADE, TRADE, TRADE.  Hey, maybe YOU'RE a fellow single mom wondering what you can do to help a newly single friend. You may not have a lot of time or money, but there is always something you can do: swap favors. Take her kids for an overnight and have her take yours the next week. Host family dinner nights. If she is still in the dreaded court date phase, offer to sit in there with her...or out in the hallway, ready with a hug and a smile when she exits. Nobody knows what she's going through as intimately as you do. 

7. DON'T LET HER WALLOW TOO LONG. There will come a day when you walk into your friend's house and notice that the shades have been drawn for too long, that she's wearing the same dirty yoga pants she had on the last time you saw her and that her kids are needing a mom who does more than feed them and sit on the couch, crying. If you think she may need some help, and you have the time, gently but firmly suggest that she gets some. She may just need a few meetings with a local DivorceCare group*, or she may need get in touch with an actual therapist. If she admits to needing this, you can be the one who nudges her in the right direction (or drives her to the meeting, or watches her kids while she goes, or helps her find a clean pair of yoga pants in the laundry baskets..you get the idea).

Sometimes just opening up the shades, pulling her off the couch and taking her for a walk out in the fresh air will help. Drag her to the gym with you. Take her to Target and spend some time stalking the clearance racks. Coming to grips with being a single parent is daunting, and can oftentimes leave a woman "paralyzed". Trust me when I say, sometimes all it takes is a lovingly annoying friend to help you out of that slump.

*I offer this as a suggestion, but a caveat: there was a DivorceCare group at my church, which a friend said might be helpful. I remember walking into the room, and it was a couple tables full of people who looked like their world had just ended (which indeed, for most of them, it had). A couple of them literally had their heads down on the tables. I decided that misery may love company, but you know what? Joy loves company too. I turned around that day, both literally and figuratively. But I have heard that these groups do help, if you find the right one.

8. MAYBE WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING CAN HELP.  I'm not saying that if you're a doctor, you give her free prescriptions for Xanaax. But think of what you do, what your abilities are...what you do 9-5 may be just what she needs. A few years back, a fellow mom who happened to be an accountant heard my story, and offered to do my taxes using the Friends and Family program at the tax prep firm she worked for. To this day, she's my tax lady and I love her. I've had friends who are hair stylists cut my hair (and my kids, too). Mechanic friends are utter lifesavers.  My BFF who works at a restaurant once brought over leftovers from the kitchen that fed my kids for a week. Another friend has a husband in the roofing biz: he helped out a poor single mama with a leaky roof. My pro-bono attorney was the direct result of another friend (who, unfortunately isn't a friend anymore..and that breaks my heart).  Which brings me to the next helpy thing:

9. DON'T GIVE UP ON HER.  Your friend is going through something awful.  She may make some really, and I mean, REALLY bad choices during this period. She is trying to figure out her place in the world, and it can take some time for her to find it. What she needs from you now is patience, friendship and please: no judging. If you see her doing things that you think might not be in her best interest, the right thing to do is confront her about it. Not in an Intervention sort of way.  In a friend way.  And please, don't walk away from her. That said, if you see her doing things that are putting her kids, or herself, in harm's way, you must do the right thing, which is to step up and help. Someday she will want to thank you...don't rob her of the chance to do so.  

Of course, one of the sad realities of divorce is that it changes everything. And sometimes one of those things is friendships. Some friendships will last, some won't. It's not always someone's fault, or because one person was in the wrong. These things just happen. But..there are some instances where one person does just walk away, without explanation or excuses. And that sucks. Being abandoned by a spouse or partner is hard...having a friend dump you can hurt even more. I've had it happen to me, and unfortunately, I've done it myself.  The good thing is, time does heal most wounds, friend-inflicted ones included. 

10. WINE. AND MORE WINE.  Or margaritas, or martinis or really good beer. This was actually the number one response I got on my little facebook poll. I know the funny/cool thing nowadays is to respond to any life crisis, big or small, with "WINE HELPS" or "IT MUST BE WINE O'CLOCK".  But you know..it really does help sometimes. Single moms don't usually have a lot of extra money hanging around, and when they do, it's usually not spent on booze (truthfully? It's almost NEVER spent on themselves at all). I know most single moms in my world love to sit down and gab and have a cocktail or two. Chances are, she got to keep the wine glasses in her divorce. Be a good friend and help her use them now and then.

Annoying but necessary warning here: There really is never an ideal time for any parent to get tipsy...and for single parents, there is NEVER an ideal time. Single parents are usually on duty 24/7, and puking kids or runaway dogs or broken furnaces don't care if you've had one too many or are nursing a nasty hangover. Easy does it, sisters. If you are lucky, there will be a weekend here or there when your kids are in the hands of trusted family or friends or your ex, and then you are allowed to get your yaya's out like a crazy lady. But until then, pace yourself. The last thing you need is a DUI or for people to start gossiping.

11. TELL HER SHE'S DOING A GREAT JOB.  Tell her this often, and say it like you mean it. Being on your own in this coupled-up world is tough. There will be days when she feels like she's failing, like there is no way she'll get herself, or her kids, through it. She needs to hear that she's not only doing it, she's doing the hell out of it.

12. BASHING THE EX: TREAD LIGHTLY.  During most breakups, separations and divorces, there will come a time when the former lovers have something less-than-complimentary to say about each other.  Here's what Amanda had to say about this one:

Sometimes, we DON'T want to hear what a douche they are because there is still a part of us that feels personally attacked when that happens and/or feels the need to defend (afterall, we WERE married to them!). And then, you're in the horrible position of defending someone you can barely stand to talk to (well, if you're overly nice like me, anyway!). Sometimes, just LISTENING rather than sharing your opinion can do worlds of good better than calling the rat bastard a rat bastard. 

Well said, Amanda. I will add that there are times when it's okay to point out that she was, indeed, married to a complete asshat. Sometimes it's nice to hear that you're not the only one who thinks he is a turd.  There is one thing to be mindful of here though, and that is no matter what you're saying about the ex, please be sure that the kids are not listening. In fact, it's best to do any ex-talk when you are nowhere near the children. He is, after all, their dad, and good or bad, he's half of their DNA. The kids will figure out his true nature (whatever that nature is) in time, they don't need to hear mommy and her friends spell it all out.  

13. THE HOLIDAYS. OH DEAR GOD, THE HOLIDAYS.  Holidays are fun! The world is decorated and there are lots of commercials the show families celebrating and things come in the mail that remind us that THE HOLIDAYS ARE HERE!  Truth is, for single parents, the holidays can suck. If you know a single mom, invite her over to your holiday gathering. And her kids, too. She may not have family in town, she may not have the time or the resources to put on a big holiday whiz-bang gala at home. If you have an extra seat at the table, offer it up to her. Be advised: she may say no. Don't take it personally, and don't let that stop you from offering again. Healing takes time.  


And there you have it. Some advice and some words of wisdom from those of us who have, at one time or another, needed and/or benefited from the help of some pretty amazing friends. 

I, for one, could have never made it through this without my hens. They are my sisters from another mister, one and all. I'd name names but this thing is too long already. I'm going to leave you with a song that I heard recently, that sums up PERFECTLY how I feel about my girlfriends (and guy friends, too..can't let you guys go unmentioned).

Thanks for reading, and seriously..thanks for wanting to help a friend.






6/16/13

Crazy Plaid Father's Day

Subtitle: Go right ahead and wish me, and every other single mom you know, a Happy Father's Day. Thank you.






Yep. Here I sit, it's almost 10:00 p.m. on Father's Day. I sit here with angry sad thoughts in my mind and a big glass of wine in front of me (with some ice cubes..dear God am I 90 years old or what?). I started the day with a positive outlook, with a spring in my step. With hope.

Hope that this would be a good Father's Day. I hoped this for my kids, and I hoped it for my ex-husband.  The high road is a tough one to navigate some days. It's awfully easy to take a shortcut down the other way. But for the past couple of years, me and high road...we've become travel companions. 

I want my kids to have a relationship with their father. I REALLY DO. For very altruistic reasons, of course: they need a dad, he needs his kids, they all so desperately need each other. I also have some less-pure reasons, reasons of a more selfish bent: I need a break now and then. I want him to do some, ANY of the parenting. I want a day off from teen angst and bickering siblings and driving duties. 

Bottom line is, these kids need their father. 

They didn't see him today. A couple of them called him, and received no response. I debated, for a long time, whether or not it is my job to nudge him. To remind him.  In the end I decided no. It's not my job.

I have no doubt he celebrated Father's Day. His shiny new wife seems to me to be a very traditional sort of gal, one who doesn't let holidays or milestones go by without due celebration. Last year they had a Father's Day pool party. Today was a gorgeous, postcard-perfect day in Minneapolis. A lovely day for a poolside soiree.  

I picture him unwrapping a gift from his 5th child, the one he actively parents. The one he sees every day and loves and takes care of like he used to tend to our babies. A necktie, perhaps. Maybe a gadget of some sort. Swim trunks? A framed picture of Baby #5 to keep on his desk at the office? I can see him reacting to the gift with exaggerated enthusiasm, eliciting a sweet gooey smile from his adoring son.

And then I think of how his first four children spent the day.  I think about their individual reactions to my nagging: "You should call your dad." And: "Have you heard anything from your dad?"

Each child had a different response. Charlie absolutely blew it off. "I called him earlier. Gotta go!" he said over his shoulder, on his way out to go watch his girlfriend's softball game.

Molly questioned me. "If it was Mother's Day, and none of us called you...how would you feel?"  

I answered her honestly. 

"It would break my heart, Molly" I said.  She looked at me, and in her beautiful 17 year old face I saw the face of the sweet toddler Molly who used to sit on her Daddy's lap and twirl her hair in the same offhanded way her father did. She still twirls her hair like that. Like him. 

Henry shrugged it off. "You really think he cares, Mom?" he asked me as we sat on the porch together. A surprise thunderstorm had popped up out of nowhere and we were enjoying the cool breeze that accompanied it.  "I'll see him on Tuesday. Maybe. I'll ask him what happened today. And I'll wish him a late Happy Father's Day."  Henry, the man child who just started shaving. The boy who tries so hard to be a Good Son to both of his parents.  The storm passed quickly, and the sun began warming up the porch again. 

And William. William is the one who incites the anger in me. All of them, separately and together, make me want to grab Big Daddy by the collars and shake him until he wakes up out of whatever mid-life coma he's in. But William...

William is hardening. My baby. The one who was so little when Daddy left. The one who was so quiet and easy going. He's still innocent and childlike, but now there's an edge. An edge that is new, and sharp. I don't like this hard-candy-shell that's forming around my baby boy, and I'm trying with all my might to keep it from advancing, from getting tougher. But it's not easy. A boy needs a dad. William needs his dad. 

"William, have you called your Dad today?" I asked him, as he was helping me put some groceries away. "I tried" he answered, his voice neutral and smooth as buttercream. I doubted him. Asked for proof. He got his phone and showed me the two calls he made to his dad. 

"He didn't pick up. And he hasn't called back." The neutrality of his voice was gone and I heard something there that was familiar, but sounded so foreign coming from this kid. 

It was the sound of someone realizing they're being written off. 

William has been making questionable choices lately, he was starting to hang out with a kid, a broken kid that I want so desperately to like and take care of but who sets off every alarm in my Mommy Security System. Another mom told me she'd heard some rumors about this boy, about a few of our boys and I put William on lockdown. Made him my very unwilling sidekick last week. Then summer hockey started, thank God, and my angry, confused little man was worn down, falling asleep before nine and not waking until ten the next day.

He wanted to spend time with some friends tonight. I talked to the moms of the boys and we concurred: it was okay. We went to the grocery store, William and I, and bought some frozen pizzas for him to bring along. When I dropped him off I wanted to hug him but I held back. Instead I said, "Do you have your phone?" He tapped his pocket..."Right here." he said.  I smiled. "You call me in the morning, okay?". He smiled back at me and then, my little boy hugged me. "I will, Mom" he said.

So I sit here tonight. I looked at Facebook and saw all the pictures of happy Dads and happy kids and had to shut it off. But not before I read something that struck a chord in me. A Dorothy Parker piece I'd never seen before. Somehow, it seemed to fit my mood, seemed tailor-made for the sourness I felt in my throat. For the defeat I felt in my heart.

"The Veteran"

by Dorothy Parker

When I was young and bold and strong, 
Oh, right was right, and wrong was wrong! 
My plume on high, my flag unfurled, 
I rode away to right the world. 
"Come out, you dogs, and fight!'' said I, 
And wept there was but once to die. 


But I am old; and good and bad
Are woven in a crazy plaid.
I sit and say, "The world is so;
And he is wise who lets it go.
A battle lost, a battle won--
The difference is small, my son.''

Inertia rides and riddles me;
The which is called Philosophy. 


I read that, and something in me folded. I had been so pissed, so disappointed, so hurt on behalf of my kids. So freaking sick of the permanent stain that divorce has made on every mother effing aspect of life, even something as benign as Father's Day. I had wanted to maim and cry and yell and throw things and then....

And then I didn't. 

"The world is so; and he is wise who lets it go".

I let it go. I let it go for my children's sake, for my sake, and for the sake of the man who may or may not give a crap.  

Our lives used to be a solid color. Maybe a pretty blue. Or a soft green.  

But now they're plaid. A crazy plaid. And we are going to have to learn to be okay with that.


6/15/13

A Single Mom Discusses Father's Day...


note: this is a recycled post. Edited a bit but I ran it last year on Father's Day. The year before that I ran one with a decidedly different message, you can read that one here, if you'd like. I was going to write a 2013 version, but guess what? I'm still on board with what 2012 Jenny had to say about it.  Happy Father's Day, to all the Daddy's out there. 


Since my divorce, my kids have taken to the custom of wishing me a Happy Father's Day.  At first it made me uncomfortable, but then I got to liking it.  Enjoying it.  I felt as though I deserved it.  After all, who was the one who dried their tears, made their lunches and cleaned their underwear?  Me.  I did it all.  Dammit, I was both mother and father.  Or at least that's how it seemed.

But I've had second thoughts.  Don't get me wrong:  I do the work of two people, just about every day of my life. I was talking to my attorney the other day, and he said something that really hit home:

"You take care of the kids 90% of the time, Jenny."

90% of the time.  That's wild.  Can you imagine missing out on 90% of your child's daily life?  I can't.

This Father's Day differed a little from last year.  This year, Big Daddy actually made plans with the kids, plans to pick them up.  "They're having a Father's Day pool party, mom!" the kids told me.  He picked them up, all four of them, at the time he said he would. I said, "Have a great day, guys" and then I prayed for rain (yes, I did.  Don't judge.).

It's been raining for several hours now, and that's given me a lot of time to think about things (the fact that I now control the weather is not the least of those things).  I've re-read my Father's Day post from last year, and I felt some of those old feelings again.  The anger at my ex, the disappointment I saw in my kid's faces...all of it.  But something is different this year.  Something has settled in me, mellowed.

I'm not the father.  Sure, I do the jobs of both mother and father in my day-to-day, but the reality is, my kids have a dad.  Is he Father of the Year?  Hell no.  I'm fighting to get him to pay child support, and he's hiring a lawyer to fight me back rather than just pay up, but at the end of the day, he is still their dad.

And even though he's dropped the ball in the dad game, even though his choices and his actions have had a huge, mostly negative, impact on the lives of my kids, I now know this:  It could be worse.  It could be so, so much worse.

All you have to do is read some of the news stories that seem to never end, the ones about men who are convicted of horrendous crimes.  Crimes against their kids.  Neglect, abuse, torture.  Murder.  When you compare my ex-husband to some of these turds, he looks like Ward-freaking-Cleaver (that's like Phil Dunphy, my younger readers).

It doesn't take a whole lot of work to become a dad.  Hardly any.  Just one tiny little sperm cell drilling into a larger, but still tiny, egg.  Boom.  You're a dad.  But it's what you do after that little miracle occurs that makes you a father.

My kids have a father.  He was there when they were born, he held them when they were babies.  He changed some diapers and pushed the strollers and watched them while I was at work.  Something in him changed, and made him leave us, but he was there, for a little bit.

For a little bit, my kids did have a pretty decent dad.  And that is why I can't take any credit on this day.  Because even though I may do the work of two people, even though he is now more of an extra, a stand-in in their lives, he is their father.  This is his day.

Not mine.

But don't worry, I can still be a snark.  I'm going to share a clip from one of the best movies ever made.  It's a line that made me cringe the first time I heard it, which was way before I had even THOUGHT about becoming a mom.   And it's a line that makes me sad now, but also makes me laugh.  Because I love what he does right after he says it...he kind of shakes it off.  That's what I'm doing, and I hope my kids can someday do it too..shake it off.




So, to those of you who may have stumbled here looking for ways to wish the single mom in your life a "Happy Father's Day", may I politely suggest that you find some other way to honor her today.  Save the Father's Day platitudes for the men, even those that may fall a little short in the dad department.  Single moms, like yours truly, we do work our asses off...every day.  We do the work of two people and we do it quietly, without (too much) bitching.  We do it because we know that nobody else is going to do it, and we do it because we love our kids.

If you have a single mom in your life, do this:  give her a hug.  Hang out with her.  Go see a movie with her.  Buy her a drink next time you're out (Stella with a lime, or a big old dirty martini would be good).

But instead of saying "Happy Father's Day", try something different:  tell her that she's doing a good job.  Tell her that you're proud of her, tell her not to give up.  Tell her that her kids are good kids and that they'll grow up to be good adults.  Tell her that what she's doing may be the hardest thing she's ever done, but it will be worth it.

She'll appreciate it.  Believe me.

Now go give the dads in your life a big hug.  They deserve it.

6/4/13

Advice to Young, Fresh Mommies from an Old, Tired Mom

I've been wanting to write this down for some time, but I've been busy. Parenting is like that...every now and then it will occur to you to do something, and then you promptly forget about it. Things like showering, paying a bill, getting your sleeping baby out of the car..you know, things of that ilk.

I became a parent in 1994. And then again in 1995. And 1997. And then, because all of the cool people were having Y2K babies, once more in 2000.  That's four kids. Four kids who are now all teenagers. No, there was little math done prior to conceiving these angels. But I wouldn't change a thing.

Throughout my parenting journey I have learned a lot. I've learned things that have benefited me (and my kids) and I've learned things that have made me cringe and doubt myself. When I first became a mommy, 19 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I went from self-absorbed party girl to a crying mess wearing giant mesh underwear, pleading with some poor soul on the 24-hour hospital nurse line to come take the shrieking red-faced baby-like creature writhing in the bassinet. "YOU LET ME LEAVE THE HOSPITAL WITH HIM!" I screamed "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO!". Not my best moment.

I've had several "not my best moments" since then. And also, some really good ones. In my line of work I get to spend some time talking to moms who are younger than me, moms who are where I was 15 or so years ago. Sometimes they ask me for advice...sometimes I'm able to give some. Other times, all I can do for them is just listen.

Young fresh mommies, I see you everywhere I go...I see you at Costco, at the grocery store, walking on the trails near my house. You are young, your kids are young.  You remind me so much of my past self and my past babies. I want to talk to you, want to admire your beautiful children...but the creepy factor and the realization that I'm going to be late for something always stops me.

Creepiness be damned today, people. Because I'm going to talk to you now. I want to tell you stuff I've learned, things I wish someone had told me about all those years ago. Would it have changed the way I parented, made any difference at all? Who knows. But humor a tired old woman, okay? Here goes:

1. Don't spend a lot of money on baby stuff.  Unless you are rolling in the dough, that is. If money is no object? Go ahead. But for those of you who don't have a money tree growing in the back yard, go easy. Remember that baby equipment is a lot like a new car..it loses value the second a baby poops all over it. Of course you want to be sure Baby is safe, but please consider buying used, or getting hand-me-downs from well meaning friends and/or relatives. Your baby doesn't care. They'll be just as happy in clothes from Target or the kick ass clearance rack at Baby Gap as they'd be in a super adorbs Burberry outfit. Trust me.

2. If you can, breastfeed your baby. But realize I say this as someone for whom breastfeeding came as naturally as breathing. I know it's not for everyone. However, nursing my babies is one of my favorite memories as a mother. I have never once regretted it. I do want to add that breastfeeding did not make me lose the baby weight. I think that's a rumor spread by women who would have lost the weight even if they had used a wet nurse to feed their babies. So don't worry if that baby weight doesn't fall off even though you have an infant latched on 24 hours a day. It's not just you.

3. If you don't breastfeed your baby? THAT'S GREAT TOO. Some of you can't do it. Some of you don't want to do it. And that's awesome. Don't let anyone make you question your decision. This is your baby, it's your body. Your choice. Period. And know that as a breastfeeding mom with babies who wouldn't take a bottle...I was insanely jealous of YOU.

Ladies, if you're feeling guilty or judgy about how you feed your babes, go to a high school cafeteria and ask the giant kids there if they were breast or bottle-fed. Guess what? They usually don't know, and if they do, they certainly won't tell a strange woman standing in their cafeteria. Take my word for it.

4. Cloth or disposable...who gives a crap (pun intended). For real, ladies. I'm not getting into this one. You know the arguments here, the environmental ones, the economical ones, blah blah. Again, it's your choice. I used disposable with mine, despite having every intention of using cloth. This one is a loaded subject (the pun never stops!) but one that you'll have to get into somewhere else.

5. If you are a stay at home parent, be sure to thank your spouse/partner who goes to work every day. I'm divorced now, and can't think of many nice things to say about my ex, but I am so very grateful that I was able to be home with my kids when they were young. Staying home with your babies is a privilege, one that many parents would love to do, but can't. I know it feels like drudgery some days, but trust me when I say this: some day you will look back on these times and the wistful joy you feel will take your breath away.

6. If you take your kids to daycare, surprise them and show up early once in a while. I know this isn't possible for a lot of you..I get it. You work your ass off every day, and the truth is, some jobs are truly 9-5. Or 10-6 or 7-4. Without exception. I'm there with you now, ladies. It's hard. But take this from someone who works at a preschool/daycare now: your kids miss you. Don't get me wrong..when they are there, they are LOVED and cared for. But some of them are there for 8-10 hours, and that's a long time. Towards the end of the day, they start craning their necks, looking for mommy's or daddy's car in the parking lot. There will come a day, sooner than you think, when they won't press their face against the window, waiting to see you. So if you can, go ahead and make their day. If you can't? Don't feel bad. Know that the second they see you walking in, their entire being changes. You make their day just by showing up.

7. When they start school, get to know their teachers.  Start with preschool, and don't ever stop. Get to know the people who are with your kids for the day. These people work hard, oftentimes for meager wages and iffy benefits, because they LOVE what they do. Stop in and say hello. If you have time, offer to help. If you don't have time, be sure to keep the lines of communication open and don't be shy...let them know when your child tells you something wonderful that happened at school. Teachers hear a lot about what concerns parents...let them know what makes you happy, too.  Keep an open mind when dealing with the teachers, and try to keep a level head. It's scary, sending your kid off into the wilds of school. Their teachers know that..most of them are parents, too. As your kids get to junior high and beyond, the opportunities to meet their teachers become less convenient and take a little more work. But they are there, and guess what? They still love what they do. And, for the most part, they'd be happy to meet you.

8. Trust your gut. Actually, this should have been number one. But I'm in a hurry, so it's going to stay here at number eight. Your gut is trying to talk to you. Listen to it. This is one thing I've learned a little late in the game, and I do regret that. I remember stifling gut feelings way back in my children's lives: a situation didn't feel right. A kid they started hanging out with didn't feel right. Something a teacher said (or didn't say) felt off, somehow. Mother's intuition is real. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. That said, there is a difference between the pangs caused by intuition, and those caused by guilt or worry or temporary insanity. It takes a while to figure out that difference, but it will happen. When it does, stand up for your gut and take action. If it means being "bad cop" with your kid, or "that parent" at school, so be it. When all is said and done, YOU are your child's number one advocate. Never forget that.

9. If your kid needs help, make sure they get it. Don't let pride or shame or ignorance get in the way of your child getting help. Academic, mental, physical...if they need it, make it happen. Thank God, there isn't the stigma surrounding these things like there used to be. Most schools do a great job of helping kids in a sensitive, discreet manner. I know that time and money are precious commodities, but if you can get help for your child via a tutor, a program outside of regular school, a good therapist, whatever...find a way to do it. The earlier, the better. A kid who needs a little help isn't something you need to be ashamed about, something you should hesitate to address. I denied the fact that there was something not-quite-right with one of my kids, and it haunts me to this day. He's okay now, and he's growing into a wonderful young man, but I know there are things I could have done to make his earlier years better. I was scared, I was in denial, and I buried my head in the sand. Don't do that, please.

10. Get to know other kids. And their parents. This one is easy when they're little. As they get bigger, not so much. You have to work at it. My kids have had some of the same friends for YEARS. I have wiped some of their butts, these boys who are now over six feet tall and boom out "YO, JENNY" as they walk in my front door. But some of these kids, I don't know from Adam. I have no idea who they are, who their parents are, what they're like or even where they live. It's taken me a while but I am now comfortable with finding out more. I'll even call a parent I've never met, just to introduce myself. It's hard but I think it's necessary. It takes a village, people, and sometimes you have to be the one to round up the villagers.

11. Be aware of what you're feeding them. I'm not saying you should go buy a share in an organic farm. But there are a lot of scary things in food today. Do you hear judgment in my voice? No, you do not. I have the number for Costco Pizza on speed dial, we get slushies from Super America and I love me some Twizzlers. But read labels, people. Do a little bit of research about additives and preservatives and artificial sweeteners and nitrites and hydrogenated oils and CORN and everything else. It's overwhelming, but try to do a little bit. Feeding your kids things that aren't processed and full of chemicals takes a little getting used to, but it can be done. Believe me..if my broke ass can do it, anyone can.

12. Don't judge. Well, try not to, anyways. It's natural for women to judge each other. Time was, I hung with a different group of women. They were awesome ladies, in some respects. I enjoyed their friendships. But I remember going out to dinner one night, and talk turned to a fellow mom from our ECFE class. It wasn't just gossipy crap, either. This was mean, mean stuff. And I partook in it (grammar cops? Don't be too harsh). When I got home, I felt like shit. I said to my then-husband, "I need to make some changes in my life." A few days later, the woman we had been verbally eviscerating over dinner was injured in an accident. I made dinner, and brought it over to her. We became friends. Our friendship lasted several more years, and then, like some friendships do, it faded out. But I'm glad I decided to take the high road.

You are going to cross paths with many other moms over the next several years. Some will be your friends, others won't. But let me tell you this: the more you put yourself out there, and the kinder you are to others, the better you will feel at the end of the day. For every mom out there, there is a life story just waiting to be heard. Get to know as many as you can.

Don't get me wrong: there are some seriously Mean Girl-women out there. The good thing is, they make themselves known pretty early on. And they find their own twatty groups to hang out with. The only trouble you will run into with these ladies is when your kid becomes friends with their kid. We can talk about that one later on.

13. Spend some absolutely free time with your kids. At least once a week. Preferably? Once a day. We schedule our kids to death. They have swimming and soccer and baseball and t-ball and Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and Hebrew and Confirmation and Interpretive Dance and karate and basketball and EVERYTHING ELSE. Try to find some time when there is nothing scheduled for either one of you. Time where you can just chill with your baby and talk or watch clouds or match socks or observe your dog twitching in his sleep. Time where the two of you can connect. Time where you aren't on your way from A to B. Time where you're not worried about whether or not they have the right uniform with them or if it was your turn to provide snack. Clean and pure mommy/kid time. They crave this. You need this.

14. Be prepared to let go of dreams, hopes and expectations. Be ready to replace them with different dreams, hopes and expectations. It threw me for a total loop when I discovered that one of my kids had a hard time reading. Me, a voracious reader since I was four...my older kids were the same as me. Picked up books and just took off. Same with spelling. Never once had to help them with spelling words, they just knew. When my sweet, youngest baby began school, it became apparent that he'd be different. And I'll be honest with you...it baffled me. I didn't know how to handle it. So for a while, I didn't. I figured that it would work itself out, this reading thing. Guess what? It didn't. He needed help. I had to accept that.

Nobody becomes a parent and thinks, "Gosh..I hope I get to know everything there is about Aspergers or ADD or speech impediments or developmental delays or juvenile diabetes or (insert any sort of childhood detour you can think of here)". We have these babies and we picture them doing everything that "normal" kids do. We dream of our little ones playing peacefully at the playground, side by side with other cherubic kids, and growing up to be productive, happy members of society.

You who doesn't care what we dream and hope for? Our kids. They come to us as they are. Perfectly imperfect little beings, flawed and beautiful. The mommy who dresses her baby girl all in pink and surrounds her with dolls may have to get used to the fact that her little princess wants to wear boy clothes and play football. That little boy you had hoped would inherit your math prowess and go on to great academic success may surprise you and instead be fascinated with cars and become a mechanic. Or, you may find yourself struggling to get that child out of bed in the morning because he's too depressed to face life. You may be the parent sitting in a doctors office, learning the next steps in your child's treatment. Who knows? Maybe your child will grow up exactly as you had hoped. Stranger things have happened.

I remember reading a fact once, something about how the chance of egg meeting sperm, about zygote becoming embryo, embryo becoming fetus and fetus becoming baby are slim.  Something like only a 10% chance of getting, and staying, pregnant each cycle. Having kids, whether you make them yourself or adopt or find yourself inheriting them through marriage, it's a miracle. A blessed, everyday miracle. I consider my children to be my masterpieces, the best things I've done with my life. Would I go back and do some of my parenting differently? Yes, of course I would. I'd also go back to my size 4 self and tell her "DON'T START EATING YOUR FEELINGS!". It is what it is. There are no do-overs.

There is only today. And this worn out, frazzled old mom hopes that YOU have a great one. Remember this one thing: You are a good mom. You'll make mistakes and you will second-guess yourself sometimes, but you ARE a good mom. And nobody can take that away from you.

Now go on out there and be that good mom you are. You, my dears, are the face of parenting today. Those of us who have gone before you are cheering you on, feeling a mix of melancholia and nostalgia over those days gone by. We wish you nothing but the best...and want you to know that most of us are available for advice, or support...

or an old, tired shoulder to cry on. We've got your backs, young fresh mommies.

Love,

An old, tired mom

P.S. Please remember to take any and all advice from me with a grain of salt (or even better, with a rim of salt around a big margarita)...I am the woman who just this morning accidentally sprayed my hair with foaming bleach cleanser instead of the Frizz-Ease I thought I had grabbed. Oops. This is what happens when you no longer keep the cleaning supplies locked up, folks. #oldmomproblems


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