So many questions

Do you ever get the feeling you should be feeling something, and yet you’re feeling something completely different?

Last year for Mother’s Day my brothers spoiled me. MutantPirate gave me a gift certificate for a manicure/pedicure at a little spa close to my house and MutantWino got me a gift certificate for an hour massage at a different little spa by my house.

I never used them.

I’m strange with “nice things” and am guilty of the “save it for something special” as often as I’m guilty of the “use it right now” method. I found the gift certificates again a month or so ago and realized the massage one has an expiration date of March 16, 2013. I didn’t book the appointment right then but I kept telling myself, “As soon as I have money for tip I must book this. And the mani/pedi too.”

My kids’ school is having a gala this year at Fairchild Tropical Garden. Tickets are $85 a person and out of my league. I have become friendly with a lot of the moms there and some of them are aware of the situation at home. But still, they asked if I was going. “No, I can’t.” “You have the kids that weekend?” they would sweetly ask. “No actually, I just can’t afford it,” I’d reply. Which really sucks to say out loud, especially to people who are several levels of wealth above you. It’s awkward for everyone. One of the room moms for Daughter’s class pulled me aside and told me she had a family that wanted to donate a pair of tickets for someone to go to the Gala and would I be interested? YES! And so it is that suddenly I was going to the gala.

The thing with the gala is that in my mind I kept putting it off as a thing that was happening far away and suddenly, it became a thing that was happening this weekend, today in fact. So on Wednesday the light bulb went off and I made my appointment for my mani/pedi and got my nails done yesterday.

manipedi

OPI Thrill of Brazil is the color

It. Was. Amazing! They gave me a glass of wine. And they were sweet to me. And the lady that did my nails didn’t barrage me with questions or small talk which is nice because I usually just like to sit and be quiet and enjoy the fact that I am being taken care of. I came home feeling all pretty and lovely and stuff. And then I got stressed out about what on earth to wear because I have nothing for this event and the dress I had planned on wearing, I realized is missing the belt that came with it because I lent it to a bridesmaid. My mom had the idea of calling MutantWino’s fiancee and so Stallion finished up bedtime so I could run over to their house and try on dresses.

I left with a pretty ivory lace sheath dress which I will be pairing with an awesome vintage red swing coat I’ve had in my closet for a couple years that I got for free when my friend was doing a garage sale.  And I will be wearing that with these really pretty black and grey peep toe heels my cousin gave me from her last Purging of the Shoes. And I will be carrying a really cute red clutch my BFF gave me for my birthday. Funny, I just realized my outfit will cost me zero dollars. Oh wait, I did buy the knockoff Spanx thing I’m going to wear under the dress but I bought that several months ago– does it still count?

Oh yeah, and my massage is booked for next Wednesday night after work.

So all of this awesome and I am feeling… completely exhausted, drained, and worried. Baby is going through something and I’m stuck. He wet the bed again last night and yesterday he got in trouble at school. My mom told me he was absolutely wild with her yesterday. This morning he was absolutely crazy with me too. On Monday I have an appointment with a counselor. My job gives free counseling on-campus and they also give referrals. I’m going to talk to them about the situation I am in with the kids and their father and also explore the possibility of the kids going to therapy. I have a FSA I contribute to so the money is there, and it looks like they need it. It can’t hurt.

On top of all that I’ve been dealing with this coughing, congesting, voice hoarsening thing for a week now. The NyQuil is making a mess out of my mornings. I keep passing out on the couch. I have a midterm on Tuesday. I really need to see my friends more often because I’m feeling lonely and too dependent on Stallion. I’m anxious about tonight because I’ve never been to a gala so will I be overdressed or underdressed and I don’t even know where they ended up seating me so I have no idea who will be chatting with me and big things make me anxious these days and  seriously aren’t I too old to be caring about this crap anyways?

So there you go. Trying to shift from Eeyore into Jem (she knows how to have a good time, right? SYNERGY!) is not easy. But I am trying. And hopefully I will enjoy my awesome weekend and accomplish everything I want to– enjoy the gala, crochet, hang out with the BFF, do the Google+ hangout I have planned, study, see my other friends, build Baby’s bike, ride my bike, and enjoy alone time with Stallion (yes pervs, that’s exactly what I’m hinting at).

What are YOUR plans this weekend? How can I make an extra $25 a month so every other month I can get pampered with an awesome mani/pedi? Why don’t my nails look like that when I do them myself? Have you ever put your kids in therapy? What’s it like when kids get therapy? Am I being silly and stressed for nothing? What do you do when you’re being silly and stressed for nothing? Am I asking too many questions? Do you ask this many questions? This is too many questions isn’t it?

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Single Parent Stories: Mom and Her Drill

Katy is a mechanical engineer who likes building and renovating houses in her free time. She’s also a single mom of three little ones. You can read all about her, her family, and her building adventures at Mom and Her Drill. This is her single parent story.

I got married when I was 23, right out of college, and had our first child. I was a stay-at-home mom for those first 6 years, and I had 3 kids pretty close together.

My husband left us when the kids were 2, 4, and 6. He told me he was moving out, I had better get the house sold (or else), and he gave me 2 months to prepare. I was blocking his path to happiness, and he had waited long enough. He moved in with his new girlfriend (now wife). My kids only have to visit them on holidays a few times a year.

In the beginning I was bewildered. How would I survive? How could I work with three babies? And pay for all that daycare? How would I even find a job after so many years out of college and in a terrible economy? I stopped eating and sleeping and lived on raw nerves and caffeine. I managed to sell the house and move cross-country to my family. I drove from San Antonio to South Carolina in my old minivan with 3 toddlers, packed with our clothes and car seats, praying that I wouldn’t get a flat tire.

That first year was about survival. Finding a place to live. Trying to pay bills with nothing but child support. Getting my older children in a school. Potty training my baby. Job hunting. Constantly talking with and trying to help my children deal with our new reality. Praying, praying, and more praying. Grieving. (I can’t describe the grief other than occasionally having to lock myself in the bathroom, lie on the floor, and sob for a little while.)

It has now been almost 4 years since I became a single mom. My kids are turning 6, 8, and 10. Wow!

Here are three things that I have discovered about this new life that I never would have guessed:

  1. Your courage might surprise you. If your children are threatened you will find out quickly that no man is a match for you. (Unless he’s got an assault rifle and really good aim, but even then I wouldn’t make any bets.) Once you find that part of yourself, trivial little things like insurance and rent and “Daddy’s new girlfriend” aren’t even worth breaking a sweat over.
  2. Single life brings incredible freedom. I couldn’t see it in the beginning because I was so hysterical over how I would pay for things. Once I got back on my feet and looked around, I discovered that I had something priceless: the ability to make my own choices and follow my own dreams without needing anyone’s permission.
  3. You are precious. Popular wisdom today says that “single moms” are most likely on food stamps and our children will end up in prison. While it’s true that this may be the hardest road you’ve ever traveled, and some days you might need to lie down on the road and cry, that doesn’t mean your destiny is to be less than everyone else. You have value, and you can bring that value to other people and be a blessing to your children and community.

At this point in time, I am saving money to build a tiny beach house which I hope to start in a few
months. My carpentry skills are getting better and I’m able to build things for other moms when the
need arises. I’m also including my kids in all of my dreaming and planning. They keep asking me when
the beach house will be done, because they know we’re going to build a mini farm next!

So my advice is to change that diaper, make yourself a cup of tea, sit down with a notebook and start
dreaming big. Because anything is possible with God, sister.

Family Portrait
©Katy L. September 2012 @ www.MomAndHerDrill.blogspot.com momandherdrill@gmail.com

Life’s a beach

Welcome back from the weekend everyone! Here’s hoping you had a nice one.

Saturday was a very strange day for me. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I know this is every day for most people, but this Saturday was something different. My cell phone fell and the battery came out so I didn’t have any calls coming in. My grandmother came knocking on my door because my dad had been trying to contact me and I could barely speak to her.

After she left, insulted I was so “serious,” I just went and climbed back to bed, broken cell phone be damned. I did take enough time to make sure the kids had food and entertainment. But mostly, I just lay in bed.

It wasn’t nice. Honestly, it was a very dark feeling. I cried more than once and was thinking some pretty crazy stuff. I remember thinking, “This is depression.” I don’t know why it attacked me like that, I really don’t. But it did.

At some point, Baby came to me and he was just having a rough morning too. He climbed into bed and slept for hours with me. A really nice thunderstorm was our lullaby. When I woke up, it was 5:30 in the afternoon. I wasn’t feeling awesome but I wasn’t feeling badly either. I was ok. I got out of bed and started getting around the house fixing things up, teasing the kids, and playing with Mutant Kitty.

I found my phone, pieced it back together, and found a slew of messages. Figures that when you’re feeling depressed and unloved and you turn from the world because you think no one would notice, you get slammed with people reaching out to you. One of them was my Dad who’s the best Dad in the whole wide world. How awesome is he?

On Friday, he watched my kids for me so that I could go to the Parent’s Orientation at the school. My mom is a teacher there so she had to be there as well. When I came home, my Dad emptied out the dishwasher, reloaded it and set it running, and cleaned the kids’ bathroom. All three kids were happy and fed. And then on Saturday, he came after I emerged from my coma and took all three kids to his house to enjoy the pool for a little while.

As completely shocked as I was by what happened on Saturday, I can’t help but wonder if in some way, I just needed it. I slept horribly the night before and Baby ran in and woke up the whole world at 8:30 AM. I don’t know, I just couldn’t do it. When I woke up, it was just a matter of time before I was quickly back to normal and Saturday was nothing but a strange memory that almost seemed like a too-vivid dream and not actual reality.

I did some straightening up and cleaning. I did some reading and finished the Poisonwood Bible. I listened to some music and danced while I worked around the house. I was me again. For the record, this was a No-Spend day but this is not the way I like getting them thank you very much.

The next day, I made the kids chocolate chip banana pancakes and made a double batch so I could freeze some for breakfast this week. My parents came and picked up Eldest to accompany them to Church. This will become pretty standard this year. Eldest has his First Communion this year and from this point on, attendance at Church takes on a role of relative significance at the school and also socially.

But, I’m not into it. My parents are. So we think it’ll be good if he goes with them. We explained to the little ones they can go when they get to Second Grade too. And we’ll manage it that way. Unless of course I find God or something and start going to church every Sunday…

I read the newspaper, especially this article on taking back your weekends at my mom’s urging. I picked 24 more avocados from my tree including one giant one that is just gorgeous. I did some more laundry and more straightening up. I made a friendship bracelet with Daughter. I put everyone down for a nap and even I settled for a cat nap. After, I woke everyone up and we went to the beach for a couple of hours. We were so excited until we got to the beach and found these everywhere.

BAD Jellies!!!

So we took advantage of the marine biology lesson, I taught the kids how to find them in the low tide and keep an eye out for them in the water, and we played in the shore when the high tide washed away almost all of them. They dug holes, chased seagulls, ran down the shore, and enjoyed the breaking waves.

At home, after they washed up, I put on the DVD of old Speed Racer episodes I’d gotten from the library and made dinner. They ate up and I got them in bed and did some crocheting while I waited for the silence of sleeping children to fall into place.

Thinking back on the weekend and what was essentially a tale of two days, I have to wonder at what’s going on here.

The article I read wasn’t exactly targeted at me, yet it spoke to me. Maybe I’m not doing a really great job of disconnecting and really relaxing and enjoying things. At first, I’d always talk myself out of things because they “cost too much money.” But then it got to them being “too much of a hassle”.

I went through this after having each of my babies. I just never wanted to leave my house and would tell myself how hard it was to go anywhere with a newborn and would just stay shuttered inside.

Not healthy.

And I’m doing it again. Nine times out of ten, I get irritated when my kids and I are invited to go somewhere, anywhere for absolutely no reason at all. When doing their birthday parties I was equal parts excited and anxious.

I always feel badly asking someone if they want to do something because I feel like I’m butting into their lives and if they wanted to do something, they’d just reach out to me. But that’s not true. And there’s no excuse for me being a shut-in on the weekends I don’t have the kids. I should at least get out and do something one of the days.

Needless to say, this will definitely be something I’ll be thinking about as August ends and it becomes time to think about September. One of my favorite tips on the article was about planning mid-week. This weekend, I saw evidence of that fact.

I’d mentioned to the kids that I’d wanted to take them to the beach days ago. Well, they remembered and kept at me. On Saturday, I was off the hook because of the thunderstorms but there was no excuse on Sunday and they knew it. Lots to think about the next few days, that’s for sure.

Mutant SuperModel and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I went to sleep with wet hair and now my hair is sticking up everywhere and when I got out of bed this morning I stepped on my son’s Legos and by mistake I dropped toothpaste drool on my silk blouse while brushing my teeth and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

At breakfast Eldest tipped over his juice cup and Daughter dropped her cereal bowl and Baby peed his pants and the coffee pot cracked right when I was going to pour myself a cup.

I think I’ll move to Tahiti.

In the car Baby kept rolling down the window. Daughter kept singing out of her window. Eldest said he was being scrunched. Eldest said he was being smushed. I said, if everyone doesn’t be quiet right now I am going to be carsick. They only got louder.

I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

At my morning meeting, my boss liked Phyllis’ five agenda items instead of my one agenda item to not have morning meetings.

At my desk, he said my music was too loud. At my afternoon meeting, he said I left out page sixteen of my budget report. Who needs page sixteen?

I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I could tell because Angela said I wasn’t on the party committee anymore. She said Phyllis Peterson and Kelly Clark were on the committee now and I was only on the helpers’ list.

I hope you break a nail, I said to Angela. I hope the next time you get your hair done it falls out in clumps and lands in Tahiti.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

That’s what it was because when I left work early, it was to go to the dentist and Dr. Fritz said I needed a root canal. Come back next week and I’ll fix it, he said.

Next week, I said, I’m going to Tahiti.

On the way to pick up the kids at school I was cut off and while the kids were scrambling to the car Baby made Daughter fall where it was gravelly and when she started crying Eldest called her a crybaby and when Daughter tried punching Eldest for calling her a crybaby she punched me instead.

I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day I told everybody. They only got louder.

So then we went to the shoestore to buy some sneakers. Baby needed velcro ones in size 9. Daughter needed white and velcro ones in size 10. Eldest needed white and lace-up ones in size 13 but then the shoe man said, We’re all sold out. He showed me some expensive light-up ones the kids wanted instead, but they can’t make me buy them.

When we got home, I said they couldn’t play with my laptop but they forgot. I also said to watch out for the pile of folded laundry, and they were careful except for their hands. I also said don’t fool around with my cell phone but I think they called Tahiti. I said please don’t come near me anymore.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

There were tantrums at dinner and I hate tantrums.

There was Spongebob on Tv and I hate Spongebob.

The bath was too hot, they got soap in their eyes, a Lego clogged the drain and they had to wear pajamas. They hate wearing pajamas.

When they went to bed Daughter wanted water and Baby bounced on his bed and Eldest’s reading light burned out.

The cat wants to hide under the couch instead of cuddle with me.

It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

My mom says some days are like that.

Even in Tahiti.

*This was written 100% completely and totally inspired by the amazing Judith Viorst and her wonderfully timeless Alexander. We love you Judith! Please don’t sue me or I’d have my most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day ever. XOXO -Mutant

Parent vs. Mother

Discipline
“Discipline” by baladeva_d on Flickr

A couple of weeks ago, I read this apparently ancient article and like most well-written things it parked into my brain and has been idling at times more loudly than others.

It turns out, I hate parenting. There’s a difference between being a parent and being a mother. As a matter of fact, it’s not that there’s a difference, it’s that they have very little, if anything at all, in common.

  • Parenting is figuring out how to keep your children nourished at healthy levels and facing the various obstacles to such a feat. From battling childhood obesity to figuring out how to get one serving of veggies a month into your child much less five a day, the daily (hourly) food battles are parenting at work.
  • Parenting is dealing with the child’s educational life. This includes mining book bags and folders, looking over homework assignments, helping a child prep for exams, drilling facts, reading together, establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship with teachers, managing all forms sent home for parental review, participating in school activities, not allowing for an abundance of absences and/or tardiness, etc.
  • Parenting is managing the health care of a child– setting appointments for check-ups, tending to illnesses immediately, alleviating pain and discomforts, administering medication and care as directed, and monitoring a child for symptoms.
  • Parenting is assuming the role of judge and jury in all potentially hostile  inter-personal relations in your presence (think child and sibling or child and playmate) attempting to maintain an environment that is impartial and fair as possible. It is also making the active decision to remain a silent observer in the hopes of fostering an opportunity for negotiations and peace-making independent of your involvement.
  • Parenting is creating and maintaining a healthy, safe, and comfortable physical environment. It is implementing a maintenance schedule and routine that involves all parties’ participation to maintain the levels of organization and cleanliness to a suitable standard.
  • Parenting is the education of a child in acceptable or even desirable societal behaviors, mannerisms, language, etc. It is teaching a child to cope with negative situations, manage emotions healthily, and build confidence in a real, results-oriented way.

It has lately struck me sharply how much parenting is so similar to running a business. You are building a business from nothing. Most likely, returns will be zilch or at the very best, minimal in comparison to the investment. The hours are long. The environment is often highly stressful with little downtime. Burnout is high with little reprieve. The opportunity to delegate is often rare and can itself lead to a contentious situation. In some situations, delegating is simply not an option. Not to mention, the product’s performance is entirely a reflection of your abilities—whether you feel such judgment is deserved or not.

Like any method of management, the above list is general. Each manager must pick and choose among these things, prioritizing according to their own agenda, eliminating and adding as seen fit. It is here you see styles emerge—Tiger and others. Not only in which topics to advance, but also to what extent each area is enforced. As the list suggests, it also becomes apparent that parenting is not limited to the biological mother and father of a child. Many adults can, and do, assume parental responsibilities in the life of a child—with positive and detrimental effect. At times, biological parents choose not to parent.

It’s hard not to understand why. After all, where parenting is extremely exhausting and exacting work, mothering is not.

Mothering is nurturing and affection. Mothering is kissing boo-boos all better and playing silly games with no educational purpose. Mothering is hugs and kisses without prompting or expectation of a desired result. Mothering is favorite colors and foods, chocolate chip cookies, singing lullabies four times in a row, and reading “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late” in the most dramatic over-the-top way because they giggle in the most contagious way. Mothering is putting aside the Very Important Thing you’re doing because your two year old is walking around the house in a weird funny way singing this little chant that goes something like “Dance, I’m a robot. Dance, Dance, Dance. I’m a robot” and he’s doing so in his best stiffest motions and with his best digital voice and it’s absolutely hilarious and uncannily creative and you’re just unable to comprehend how this amazing little creature came up with such a thing! Mothering is doing things not because they’re the right thing to do or because they’re going to help your child in one way or another, but because they make your heart swell so much you can hardly breathe. And it’s not swelling with pride, it’s swelling with this overwhelming surge of unrelenting love you can’t even explain it.

Of course, the two things may be very different, but they don’t work at cross purposes. And loving mothers, single or otherwise, understand more often than not, parenting is necessary. So, as much as I love being a mom, I hate being a parent. At the same time, because I do love my kids so much, I also understand it’s in their best interest for me to be a parent and to assume as many of the parental responsibilities as I can and to do so in as graceful a style as possible—whatever that may be.  

For what it’s worth, I think this is where Amy Chua went wrong. The excerpt from her book that flew around the world was focused too much on parenting and not enough on mothering. I’m not saying that’s how she was and I’m not saying the rest of the book was like that as well, but the excerpt was. The excerpt was 100% unadulterated parenting and in an aggressive management style. People went ballistic because The Wall Street Journal was heralding this excerpt as the reason Chinese mothers are superior and yet there wasn’t a shred of mothering in the piece!

So, mental note to self: When the parenting becomes really overwhelming and is threatening to push me to the brink, stop and do some mothering to get back to center. Kids need, and want, both. More importantly though, so do I!

The Problems in Congress- Where are the parents?

A Fight in the Souq
“A Fight in the Souq” by Karl O’ Brien on Flickr

Watching, reading, and listening to the news generally depresses me. But when things feel really just out of control, I feel it is my duty as a human being to tune in and get a grasp  of what is going on in the world around me.

Of course, this week my attention has been on the Budget Bickering Debacle going on in our Congress. The thing is, every time I read or watch or hear a piece on this issue, a very clear image plays out in my head. Let me lay it out for you.

Baby and Daughter are playing side by side. Baby puts down Toy One to play with Toy Two. Five, ten, fifteen seconds pass and Daughter picks up Toy One. Five, ten, fifteen, thirty seconds pass and Baby realizes Daughter has Toy One. “No! It’s mine!” he yells as he lunges for Toy One. Daughter is swift though and yanks it just out of his reach in the nick of time. “You weren’t playing with it!” she contends while stretching her body in unimaginable ways to keep the toy even further out of his grasp. Baby is determined though. He knows that Toy One is his toy and there’s just no way he’s going to concede that fact. He pulls forward and maybe climbs on her. “Mine!” he screams a bit louder and more desperate. Daughter starts to fight back. “Get off of me!” she’ll yell as she squirms and twists to manage her way out from under him—no small feat considering he weighs as much as she does. Within seconds it happens—the two start screaming and wailing endlessly repeating their claims to Toy One frantically and loudly, neither willing to give up their claim to their precious Toy One, neither even listening to themselves much less each other.

Now, let’s pretend for this post’s sake, that the above situation is taking place in my house and there are lots of people over perhaps for Easter brunch. The screaming is piercing. The wailing is cringe-worthy. Everyone sits and waits. For what? For me.

All of these very uncomfortable people are waiting for me to step in, yank Toy One from their hands, separate the two terribly entwined bodies and demand in my best Angry Mommy Voice, “What on Earth is going on here?” This would then be followed with something along the lines of, “If you can’t share Toy One no one plays with it. Now sit and play nicely or you get time outs, both of you!” Depending on how worked up they are, it may take a few more sentences but eventually it ends the same way every time—I get to walk away from two kids peacefully playing and Toy One is even back in action in some function.

If you’re not sure what on Earth this has to do with Congress and Budget Bickering, let me explain. I get the feeling the vast majority of mothers (and possibly a good amount of teachers and child care providers) in this country are watching all of this unfold and shaking their heads thinking, “You let me in that room and I’ll have those spoiled brats working together nicely in ten minutes flat. You’d have this damn ridiculousness done with in an hour max.” I’m actually pretty sure if they let me into Congress, I’d probably yell at them something similar to what I tell my kids—“What on Earth is going on here? You’re behaving like completely spoiled brats! Now I want you all to sit down and quietly explain to me what it is exactly that is preventing you from behaving like adults and finding a resolution. And if you can’t get yourselves under control by the time I count to three, no one gets a paycheck for the next three months! Am I understood?”

Obviously, Congress doesn’t allow frustrated American moms into their chambers to end these ridiculous disputes (recurring way too often if you ask me). So, we need the next best thing. We need members of Congress to take it upon themselves to assume the mantle of parent – I mean, leader. We need members of Congress who have the courage to not worry about Election Day 2012. We need members of Congress to have the courage to step forward and say, “Right now I don’t care about my party, I don’t care about my constituents, but I sure as hell care about this country and the crisis it’s facing and I am determined to do whatever it takes to fix it right this moment.” We need members of Congress to understand we’re the uncomfortable party guests wondering when in God’s name the parents are going to step in and take control of a situation that has gotten completely out of control and made everyone exceptionally uncomfortable. You can sit there and proclaim you’re a really great parent/leader, but at the end of the day effective parenting/leadership isn’t about the words that come out of your mouth to people around you—it’s the actions you take in parenting/leadership situations. Finger-pointing, complaining, ignoring, pouting, proving a point, and bullying is not behavior befitting a leader. It is what children do. It is what followers do.  

So I ask of the Congress—Where are the parents? The children are acting out and need your immediate  intervention.