A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words...

Or several thousand calories, apparently.

A friend of mine sent me a picture last night. It was sent via email. I clicked on it and seriously gasped when it blossomed up on the screen.

It's a picture of my BFF, her mom, and me. I am easily the fattest one.

I know this is a tired old rant of mine, God knows I'm sick of hearing myself bitch about it. But that picture was like a slap in the face. My BFF and I were pretty much the same size, same proportions just a few months ago. And dare I say, back in my "Wellness" heyday, I think I was maybe even getting smaller than her. Not anymore. She looks like a tan little pixie in the picture, sandwiched between Giant Jenny and her sweet mom.

How does this happen? How does someone go from being on the right track, working out constantly, monitoring what they're putting into their mouth 24 hours a day...to being a big, oafish person trying to shrink themselves for a picture? I think that may be the saddest part of the photo, the way you can see me literally trying to curl my body up into itself in a scrambling attempt to look 4 sizes smaller.

I've had my share of stress. The actual bankruptcy court thing was incredibly anti-climactic. No sexy bailiff in a short robe, no hissing creditors. It took all of 5 minutes, me sitting there clutching my seatbelt purse, my attorney looking bored (the only time he moved was when he had to manually put my hand down after the swearing in process. Apparently you don't keep your right hand up for the entire procedure.) When it ended, I felt ok. Not sad by any stretch of the imagination. I think I'm plum out of tears at this stage in the game.

I felt good, actually. I wish I had done this a long time ago, back before things went from pretty bad to oh-my-god-is-there-a-dead-animal-stuck-under-the-deck awful. But hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it?

Charlie is having issues, just like I feared. Only this time he's lashing out, thank God, instead of inward. He's taking his frustrations out on me. I won't go into all of it now, but over the past week and a half or so he's been awful to me. Trashed my office (like rock star/hotel room trashed), punched my arm, called me some pretty awful names. It got so bad one night my BFF called Big Daddy and asked him to come get Charlie and keep him for a few days. I didn't want that to happen, since that seems to be akin to sending a soldier back to the scene of his scariest battle, but it was the only option at the time. Charlie, and my other kids, need a father figure in their lives, and right now Big Daddy is the only figure we've got.

Secretary hasn't popped yet, that I know of. I've been referring to her as Orca now, thanks to my wry eBay friend who sent me a facebook message the other day. It was one sentence, one short sentence that made me laugh. "When is Orca due?". Thank you, Kelly. I needed that.

And yes, I do see the irony, people. I'm making fun of another woman, a pregnant woman no less, in my very own "Goddammit I'm fat again" post. The irony is thick, and like pea soup dotted with bacon chunks, it's delicious. They could be cutting a hole into the wall of my bedroom and taking my fat ass out of here on a forklift and I'd still be jabbing at Secretary. Because A: she deserves it, and B: it's my favorite defense mechanism.

My mom had a heart attack on May 18th. I haven't written about this one...but I will. I love my mom, of course, but our relationship is a tricky two-step dance with lots of skeletons that trip us up. Seeing her in a hospital bed, and later, in a nursing home room, has changed things. I am realizing that as far as being a daughter goes, I kind of suck. So I'm trying to change that. And that's been a wee bit stressful.

Yeah, there's stress. But nothing like the stress other people are experiencing. Another eBay friend, for instance. Her son wasn't feeling well this Easter. She took him to Urgent Care the next day and by the end of the week this 13 year old kid, this tall, good looking, sweet boy was diagnosed with leukemia. He's fighting it, his mom is fighting it, we are all praying for him and holding both of them tight in an embrace I hope they can feel. That's the kind of stress that makes my shit look like a bubble bath, a walk in the park and a good nap all rolled into one big perfumed ball.

So I can't really be using stress as an excuse for the reappearance of my muffin top. Which has now, once again, passed muffin top and can be classified as something between bundt cake and tire swing.

This was supposed to be my summer. The summer of cap sleeved t-shirts and size 12 capris. Instead it's become another blur of oversized t-shirts, baggy black pants and me avoiding human contact and my dog's hopeful, plaintive stares as I once again tell him, "No Walter, I'm not taking you out on a walk right now. It's daylight and I'm enormous and someone might see me."

This was supposed to be the summer I was maybe going to meet my friend's neighbor at her cabin. The one she's been hoping to fix me up with but has now stopped even mentioning it because I'm not losing weight like I was before.

This was supposed to be the summer when someone looking me up and down wouldn't sting.

Well...it's not. And it's my fault. I'm not blaming anyone, or anything other than me. It's pitchers of margaritas with friends, it's the order of french fries at TGIFriday's on Trivia Night, it's the olive hummus and that damn bag of Stacy's Pita Chips from Costco. The one that can be used as a child size sleeping bag when you've inhaled all the chips. Nobody has forced me to do any of this, there's no gun to my head and some menacing person whispering, "Don't you dare go to the gym, you fat mother-effer".

It's all on me. Literally and figuratively. I'm wearing my old plus-size cloak of awkwardness and anonymity again, and I hate it.

But, I believe in comebacks and second chances. Like Rob Lowe, Drew Barrymore, Charlie Sheen and countless other celebrities I have nothing in common with, I can crawl out of this hole. I can climb this mountain, clear this hurdle and do many other things that I can't think of analogies for at the moment.

So I'm logging back in at MyFitnessPal, I'm taking my dog for a walk, I'm getting my butt and my children's butts to the gym and I'm going to just say no to the pita chips and the french fries and the pitchers of margaritas.

This may have started out as yet another Fat Summer but I cannot, I will not, let it end that way.


Happy Father's Day to the Single Mom

Yes, another holiday that makes me a little nutty. What can I say?

I was greeted this morning with a warm hug and a "Happy Father's Day, mom" from my youngest. And you know what?

I deserve it.

There are so many dads out there who do what they're supposed to. They do more than provide the baby batter and then ditch. They're there for the long haul. They're the dads who show up for parent/teacher conferences. The dads who hug their kids. The dads who buy their daughter's maxi pads and tampons without flinching. The dads who don't take a sullen teenager's angst as an insult, but as a challenge to better their parenting skills and in turn, strengthen the relationship they have with that teen.

My kids are fortunate to have lots of these dads in their lives. Neighbors, the fathers of their friends, our sweet landlord, Dan. Henry's beloved 7th grade social studies teacher comes to mind. That man did more for Henry's self-esteem in 9 months than Big Daddy has in almost 14 years. Men at our church, the husbands of my friends, counselors at camp, coaches of teams. The world is full of good men, and I'm thankful as hell that my kids come in contact with some of them almost every day.

My kids had no idea whether or not they'd see their dad today. I asked them, repeatedly, if he had mentioned any special plans, if he'd set a time when he would come retrieve them today. There was no word, no email, no text, no call. And so we planned our day like any other day. Charlie had to work, William had his first Little League All-Star practice, Molly slept til ten and Henry continued to beg for more Microsoft Points for some super-important purchase on the XBOX.

Then, around noon, he texted. There was a BBQ at a relative's house, and were any of the kids available? I answered succinctly, politely. "Charlie has work, William has practice. Don't know for sure about Molly and Henry." And then I added, "To be honest with you, since we hadn't heard from you until now, they assumed you'd be celebrating the day without them." Should I have added that? Probably not. But I did. Because I want him to know that the kids feel like four afterthoughts when it comes to life with daddy. Four loose ends that need to be tied up.

And that's not me projecting my shit onto them. Honestly. I encourage them to be more proactive in their relationship with their father. I see how the fractured relationship with my own dad has a ripple effect on so many aspects of my life, and even though I know the kids already bear some impressive scars from the divorce, I don't want them to follow down this same path. I know there's still time for them to forge some semblance of a relationship with the man who makes up half of their DNA, and I push them to do that whenever I can.

But not today. Today I lobbed the ball onto his side of the court, and let it stay there. You know why? Because I'm sick to death of having to guess what his next move will be, of trying to keep my life with the kids flexible enough to accommodate his sporadic attempts at parenting.

I'm tired. Being both mom and dad 98% of the time is exhausting. My life is a milkshake of driving, parenting, cleaning, shopping, bill-paying, and working. And the cherry on top is the ex-husband with spastic communication skills. Life would be infinitely easier for everyone if we had a clear schedule, a firm grasp on what our responsibilities are.

Molly saw him last weekend, for the first time since April. She says she didn't speak to anyone over the weekend, other than a few brief exchanges. When he dropped her off on Sunday he said, "See you in a few months, when you need to catch up on your sleep again." Molly is 15 years old. Conversation with her is not only tricky, it's like a chess game and a tooth extraction all rolled up into one big frustrating ball. It's not something that you sit and wait for, it's something that you warm up for, you stretch and strategically plan. You learn to interpret the standard responses of "Nothing!" "NO!" and "Whatever." Sarcasm fails, every time. When she told me about her dad's farewell words, she was quiet, and her cheeks were red. What could I say? I did the awkward "try to hug the one who won't be hugged" move and told her I'm sorry.

William and Henry came home that same night, both claimed to be starving. I sighed, because these two are always starving, even if you can see bits of food from their last meal still clinging to the front of their shirts. But this time, they weren't sated by the slices of apple and chunks of cheddar cheese I tossed their way. They really were hungry. "Didn't you have dinner?" I asked. They both nodded, but then Henry added, "All we had was a pack of ramen each." Trying to be the Switzerland of ex-wives, I bit my tongue. But I had to ask..."Doesn't Secretary cook anymore? She used to make dinner for you guys, right?". The boys looked at each other, at the floor, then at me. William piped up. "Well, they had a nice dinner ready and I asked if it was for us. Dad said it was for him and Secretary. He said she needs the good food for the baby." Did I say I was biting my tongue? Biting it off is more like it. It took every single atom of restraint in my body to not say anything.

I got some bread, some lettuce, some ham and some cheese out of the fridge and I made my babies some big ass sandwiches.

It's these moments, and dozens of others just like them, that chisel away at me throughout the year. It's these moments that float through my mind as I lie awake in bed at night, trying to figure out what I can do to make life easier to handle for my four kids. It's these moments that crank up the heat under my heart, turning the simmer into a slow boil.

It's these moments that make me say "Thank you" when someone says to me, "Hey, Jenny. Happy Father's Day."

So, to all of the single mommies out there who bite their tongues, make those sandwiches, hug those teenagers and do it all while juggling a million other things? I say Happy Fathers Day. And I will leave you with an eCard someone sent me today. Yeah, it's kind of bitter, but it made me laugh a little.

Enjoy your day, friends.


Today's the day..I'm officially Bankrupt.

I'm supposed to be getting ready right now, but here I sit, procrastinating by reading old emails and trying to ignore the knot in my stomach.

At 10:00 this morning, I'm going to go into a courtroom of some kind and declare my bankruptcy. It's officially called the "meeting of the creditors". The people/companies to whom you owe money to are allowed to come and protest or object to your bankruptcy. Or something like that. I kind of imagine a big, heavily-wooden courtroom like the kind they have in every John Grisham movie, with a stern, grizzled judge sitting at the helm, readers perched upon his nose, a gavel gripped in one hand. Me, standing before him, wringing a hat or maybe my sad little pile of documentation papers in my hand. Then I imagine the people representing all of the debt in my life standing at the sides, trying to bum rush me but being held back by burly bailiffs. Mr. Discover card at the front, "God Dammit, you owe us, Jenny!!!" he'll be screaming. The dentist, a former family friend and fellow resident of my peaceful little town standing there, fist in the air, "WE PUT SEALANTS ON THEIR TEETH AND YOU OWE US!!!".

I'm sure it's not going to be anything like that. I'm sure it will take place in a benign, mostly beige or white room. I've heard that none of the creditors ever show up, and that you are just asked a routine list of questions and then *poof* it's done.

I dreamed about it last night, though. In my dream I of course left my essential paperwork behind, and only realized it as the burly door-managing bailiff was locking the door so the flogging meeting could start. I begged him to let me out so I could find my paperwork, and he refused. In my dream I started crying, but WAIT...I saw a computer and printer in the corner. "Can I use those?" I asked the bailiff. He said I could. I printed out my essential documentation and then the bailiff came over, only now instead of his khaki bailiff uniform he was wearing a short terry-cloth robe, loosely tied and open all the way to his navel. He hit on me, and after the bankruptcy proceedings we made sweet, crazy love in the courtroom.

Sometimes, being me is kind of fun.

Wish me luck, friends. This is the second-to-last big duck in my row...after this one is gone, all I have left is Big Daddy, the child support in arrears and the remix of our divorce decree.

This will be an interesting summer.

Your bankrupt friend,



We Saw Super 8, and I Saw Time Stop...

So school is out. Our last day was June 4th. Believe it or not, we haven't had the requisite Hell Week that always happens in the days immediately following the last day. There's usually a transition time for the kids (and honestly, for me too) where we all simultaneously decompress and prepare for almost 3 solid months of togetherness. It hit me, last week, that Hell Week wasn't hellish at all. One more advantage to the kids getting older, I wonder? Or are we perhaps all in a better place for the first time?

Anyways. Last Friday, I wanted to do something with all of the kids, all four of them and just them. No friends. Don't get me wrong, I love most of their friends but the opportunity to do something with just the five of us rarely comes up. This past Friday we were all available, there were no sleepover people still lingering, there was no baseball, Charlie didn't have to work.

So we went to the movies.

"Super 8" opened up last week, and I have been DYING to see it ever since I first saw a trailer several months ago. I am a sucker for "kids band together to overcome obstacle" movies, and this one had not only that element but several other compelling features: it's set in 1979 (I love to be swept back to a sweeter, more innocent era), there's something scary in it, and just from the brief trailers and the reviews, I got a total ET/Goonies vibe. I had to see it. And I wanted to see it with my kids.

We have a new-fangled theater here, a luxury movie house with comfy seats and a big, beautiful lobby. You feel special and pampered at this theater. I've only been there two other times, once with John McCain to see The Blind Side (hated it) and the other time with two of my favorite hens to see Bridesmaids (loved it). First-run movies are not something that I indulge in with great frequency. Back in the day, when I had plenty of spending money, I'd take the kids out to see the latest new releases, let them get whatever they wanted at the concessions, and sometimes even let each of them bring a friend. So, I decided if I was going to splurge on something as crazy as a new release movie, I'd totally pimp it out and go first class.

I felt very Judy Jetson as I ordered the tickets online. Amazing what you can do in these new techno times. I picked our seats, the first row of the upper section, where there is nothing but an aisle and a nice big railing in front of you, so you can put your feet up, lean back, and drink it all in. I had told the kids that we were going, and three of them, the ones with boy parts, were excited about it. One of them, the girl, wasn't. "I don't want to go" she said, rolling her eyes. I explained to her that it was too late to back out, that I had paid for the tickets and we don't have $7.50 to just throw into the wind. "It looks like a stupid movie" she said, this time not even looking up from her laptop. The time to get going was rapidly approaching, and as much as I wanted to yank the laptop away from her, pull her to her feet and force her to be as excited about this as I was, I simply said "Ok."

The rest of us assembled by the front door, and as I gave the boys the rundown on how this was going to happen (stop at the gas station to get some contraband treats, ONE treat per kid, one drink at the theater, ONE drink per kid, no begging for more, no negotiating, no exceptions), I heard Molly shuffling out from her room. "Wait!" she said..."Wait! I'm coming!". I smiled a huge smile as we left the house. My girl gave in. This was really going to happen, this rare little family thing.

So the time finally came. Treats were purchased and were shoved in my purse, Icees were purchased and were being slurped. We sat in a row, me and my four babies, legs up on the railing, the anticipation of a fun, scary movie heavy in the air. The lights began to dim, and as they did, I looked down the row. Looked at my kids. My big Charlie, my sweet, soft-cheeked Henry, my baby William and next to me, my girl. When was the last time we'd done this? I couldn't remember. I wanted to freeze this moment, like so many others, and put it somewhere secret so I could take it out and feel exactly like I did just then.

I'm not going to say much about the movie, except that it kicked ass. And it delivered everything I had hoped it would: nostalgia, more than a couple jump-in-your-seat scary moments, some eye candy for Mommy (Kyle Chandler, who most people know from "Friday Night Lights", but since I'm a fossil I still know him as the kid in "Early Edition". Mama like.) and lots of action to keep the kids focused. There was even a little weeping done by me, just a couple of tears, but I am the fool who cries over YouTube videos of kittens that my friends post on facebook so no big newsflash.

As we walked to the car afterwards, there was chatter. Excited, post-movie chatter about favorite scenes and actors and "was that what things really looked like in the 70's, mom?". The kids were due to be picked up by Big Daddy in just a little bit, so we headed home for a late lunch.

On the short drive home, I thought about how our lives have changed, and how wild it was that something as seemingly simple as a movie could bring us back in time a wee bit, make things seem normal again. I silently vowed to myself that doing things like this, not just going to movies, but things with just the five of us, together...is something we need to do more often.

Seeing my kids in that theater on Friday, all of them sitting in a row, next to each other, next to me, did my heart good. This summer is the last one that I have when all of them are still in school, when there's a defined beginning and end. Charlie is going to be a senior, and William will be in his last year of elementary school. Things are going to change next year, big time.

It was nice to steal that moment in the theater, those few seconds as the lights dimmed, to take a mental snapshot of my kids, a picture I burned into my memory. Even now, as I type this, I can see them as they were, and my eyes are welling with tears once again. Happy tears, for sure, but also some bittersweet tears.

They're growing up, right before my eyes. I want to stop time, or at the very least, slow it down a bit, just so I can have a few more moments like that one in the theater.

A moment I can remember when things change.

To sum things up: the movie is great, go see it. See it in a theater, if you can. It's not quite as magical as ET, but it's up there.

And hug your kids. Tight.


My Kid is Depressed...and this may be why

So Charlie has been doing much better. He and I had a wonderful talk that night he had his "episode" at work. I feel like I got through to him, finally, and for the first time I think he understands that these awful black moods are something that he can work through. They are scary, for sure, and can feel like doom itself has crawled into your brain for a little vacation, but they can be dealt with.

School ends this week, and he's finishing his junior year with awesome grades. I've read a few of his final papers, and to say that I'm proud of my budding writer is a gross understatement. I've always known that my boy is smart, to see actual proof of it is a mother's dream.

He came home from school today, and as I made him a snack in the kitchen, we gabbed. He told me about his day, told me that he spoke to his counselor at school about a summer plan. He seemed like a different boy than the one I was trying to console just a few days ago.

I asked him how his night had gone. Last night, a Tuesday, he had decided to sleep at Big Daddy's house. He had two papers to write, and needed the quiet.

"It was ok" he answered. "I got a lot done."

"That's great" I said. "You're pretty lucky to have a quiet place to go, you know?"

He agreed, and then I noticed his expression changed a bit. From clear to cloudy, in an instant.

"What's wrong, Charlie?" I asked him. I'm starting to feel like a meddling, hovering mom with him again, like if even an eyelash is out of place he needs help.

"Well..." he began, eyes down, his mouth twisting like he'd just tasted something sour..."Last night, I was downstairs at Dad's, doing homework. And I could hear Secretary yelling. Yelling at Dad."

You ever get that weird combo feeling, the one of dread mixed with a little something else? Not joy, not happiness. Something on the other side of dread, but not all the way to the other side? Like a twist-cone of emotions. That's what I get when the kids mention any strife or turbulence at Big Daddy's. I certainly don't wish anything bad for anyone, and I absolutely don't like my kids to be around domestic disputes, but at the same time it makes the evil bitch in me sneer. Because no matter how hard I try to be an adult, a mature, even-keeled adult, sometimes the revenge-seeking Woman-Scorned in my heart gets a say in how I react. Deal with it.

I cleared my throat, silently pushed Woman-Scorned aside to make way for Concerned-Mom. "What were they yelling about?". Did I really want to know? Well, do you really want to look at that car accident off to the side of the road, the car accident that has kept you parked on the highway for 20 minutes? Yes. Yes you do, and yes, of course I did.

Charlie hesitated. He walks the thin line between parents very carefully, very respectfully. I used to bug the kids for details about what went on in the House that Adultery Built, I used to want to know every little thing that happened: what they ate, what they watched, were they disciplined too much, too little...what their bedrooms were like, did they have carpet or wood floors...I crossed that thin line myself too many times back then. Now, I've become so used to NOT wanting to know anything about what goes on over there, that asking one of my kids about it felt foreign. Forbidden.

But obviously, something was bugging my kid. And this particular kid has a habit of not talking about things that are bugging him until it's blown up into something spectacularly awful in his young mind. And I'm not going to let that happen anymore, even if it means I become that questioning, snoopy mom again. The let it lie approach quite obviously wasn't cutting it.

"She was yelling about me."

I didn't say anything, just looked puzzled. Yelling about Charlie? What about him? He needed a place to do homework, not to cook meth. What would she have to complain about?

"She told Dad that she doesn't want me there."

"She said that she doesn't want me around her baby."

"She's done this before. I can hear her yelling. She hates me."

I felt sick. I asked him if he'd talked to Big Daddy about it. Apparently all that Big Daddy could offer his son was "it's the pregnancy hormones talking, don't worry about it."

Newsflash, Einstein: Pregnancy hormones make you cry when you watch the news, make you want to kill people who ask you why you haven't had that baby yet, make you want to bake and knit and clean even if prior to being pregnant all three of those actions were foreign to you.

Pregnancy hormones don't make you say horrible, cruel things about a troubled, sweet, vulnerable teenage boy. They especially don't make you say those vile things within earshot of said vulnerable boy.

That's not pregnancy hormones talking. That's a malicious, vindictive, ignorant person talking. Pregnancy doesn't have a thing to do with that.

I asked Charlie how it made him feel, to hear these things being said about him. He said, of course, "It makes me feel like shit." He didn't add the "Duh" but it was implied. I wanted to trash her, and Big Daddy, right there in front of Charlie. Wanted to call them names, wanted to curse them, wanted to point out to my son that this was why I dreaded the two of them ever breeding.

But I didn't. I told him that I was sorry he had to hear that. I told him that it's her loss if she doesn't know what a great kid he is. And I told him that he was the kindest, sweetest big brother ever, and that baby is damn lucky to have a half-sibling like him. I told him that from now on, if he hears that kind of talk over at Big Daddy's house, to walk up and call them out. Ask her what her problem is, ask Big Daddy why he lets her say those things about his son.

And if I could, I would say something myself. Something like, "Hey, you dumb bitch. You don't want your baby around Charlie? Guess what? HE WAS HERE FIRST. If dealing with teenagers and the crap that they come with skeeves you out so much that you can't bear the thought of your precious spawn breathing the same air, guess what? YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE PICKED A GUY WITH FOUR KIDS. These four kids were there long before you set your sights on him, and they'll be here for a good long time (probably longer than you, sweetheart). Maybe you should have thought about this before deciding that a father of four was the guy for you. Maybe, just maybe, you should have considered the fact that unlike a wife, kids are usually around forever. And maybe you should consider that you may be causing harm...irreparable harm to whatever remains of a relationship between your Trophy Hubby and his kids.

I was beyond pissed to find out my son had to hear this tripe. Beyond heartbroken to imagine how he felt, listening to it. Beyond bewildered as to how a grown man could allow his own son to be maligned like that, and not do or say anything to stop it.

But in a strange way, it brought another little bit of closure, another little piece of the Charlie puzzle. I am searching now, looking for clues as to why my boy is so sad, and how I can help him not be this way anymore.

This was a big clue.

A corner piece of the Charlie puzzle.
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