Thursday, July 30, 2020

Fire, Fire, Fire

The kids and I have been playing Monopoly a lot lately. Well, actually we've been playing Chicago-opoly which, as the name suggests, is a Chicago version of the classic game. As a kid I LOVED Monopoly, but I could never get anyone to play with me. That may be part of the reason I had kids - to have willing players at my disposal. Although my own kids haven't especially liked playing with me either. It may have something to do with me jumping up and shouting, "Yes! Ha! In your face! That's $950, now pay up!"

Lately though, Clay and Brooklyn have really gotten into Chicago-opoly so we've been playing most nights after dinner.

There's a card in this game that reads - Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicks over another lantern.

I told the kids, "You know we learned a song about Mrs. O'Leary's cow in grade school."

Of course they were super-excited. They gushed about what an interesting childhood I'd had and how they were jealous of the myriad things I've learned. Then they begged me to sing it for them. At least I'm pretty sure that's what they meant as they sat there rolling their eyes while saying, "Oh yay, Mom's searching for the song on Youtube. Lucky us.

"Hey now! Do other kids your age know this? I teach you stuff so you'll be smarter than the average bear!"

I was met with more blank stares, motivating me to skip over the Yogi Bear lesson which was formulating in my brain.

I found a video of the Mrs. O'Leary song and started singing along.

Five nights ago when we were all in bed,
Old Mrs. Leary left a lantern in the shed,
And when the cow kicked it over, she winked her eye and said,
"There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight."

"Mom, roll the dice!" my kids complained that I wasn't focused on the game.

I threw the dice across the board then continued my lesson. "So there was a huge fire in Chicago in 1871 that started in Mrs. O'Leary's barn. There was much speculation about how the fire actually started. The newspaper stated it was Mrs. O'Leary's cow that had kicked over the lantern, igniting the fire that went on to burn 3 square miles of the city, but in 1893 the reporter of that article admitted he'd made it up. Finally, in 1997 Mrs. O'Leary was exonerated. Do you know what exonerated means?"

"Wait! So the cow didn't even start the fire?" Brooklyn asked, appalled.

"Well no, probably not."

"Then that whole song is pointless!" she insisted.

"I'm going to forget that story in 2 minutes," Clay stated. "Oh wait, nope! It's already gone."

I try to impart important knowledge to my kids. Like when, after Clay and I watched the movie John Wick the other night, I told him that I knew Keanu Reeves when he was much younger. I went on to play Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure for him. In related news, I'm not allowed to pick out the movie anymore.

But I try to teach my kids, and expose them to a variety of information that will undoubtedly come in handy one day. You know, like maybe when they're doing a trivia night at a local bar. And this is the abuse I get. Guess what we'll be singing on our 3 hour drive tomorrow. Oh yes. FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Drag Queens, Caterpillars, And Heath Ledger

As I said in my last blog post, I haven't applied makeup in weeks. Because why? I rarely leave my apartment these days, and I've just adopted a Who cares? attitude about the whole thing. But after the whole "cute guy at the gas station" extravaganza, I decided to put on makeup to go to the store in order to pick up a prescription. Because, you never know - maybe I'll meet the man of my dreams there, right? And then at least I'll be wearing makeup when I make a fool of myself in front of him. Because we all know darn well that's the only possible outcome when you put me near any attractive man.

Actually, it wasn't entirely the gas station incident that prompted me to don makeup for this outing. I'd been watching RuPaul's Drag Race because apparently my current goal in life is to exhaust every series ever made on Netflix, Hulu, and Prime. It floors me that these plain-looking guys can put on makeup and look like these gorgeous women. I thought - I have GOT to learn how to apply makeup better! I mean, I don't necessarily want to look like a drag queen, but you know, maybe I could look a little better than Hagrid.

So I put makeup on. My hand. I mostly put my makeup on my hand. Yep, I eyelined the heck out of my hand.

Don't ask. I'm pretty sure no drag queen applies their makeup like this. I'm pretty sure no human applies their makeup like this.

I finally got the eyeliner on my eyelids. I know better than to use liquid eyeliner. I'm a complete spaz with it. But this was magnetic eyeliner and I wanted to use my magnetic lashes so I gave it a go. And I mean, I had literally nothing else to do all day so I could take as long as I wanted to apply it.

Pro tip: After applying liquid eyeliner, wait for it to dry before blinking.

Or this will happen.

I tried to wipe it off, but this stuff stays on like Sharpie. So I grabbed a Q-tip and eye makeup remover and scrubbed it off. But then I was left with an obvious blank spot where my eye shadow had been removed. So I reapplied my eye shadow. Then I relined my eye. Then . . .

I did it a second time!

Remove the eye liner, apply the eye shadow FOR THE THIRD TIME, and reline my eyelid.

Fast forward. I get to Target, put on my mask, run in to pick up my prescription, grab some more coffee and yogurt while I'm there, and run out. It's all good. I haven't tripped or pushed my cart into anyone. I didn't run into any cute guys or students of mine. Woo hoo! I acted like a normal person! I'm feeling pretty good. I have prettyish eyes, my makeup is decent, I'm on top of the world!

As the cashier is ringing up my purchases, I see something out of the corner of my eye. I can't quite figure out what it is, but there is definitely something there in my periphery. I blink a few times and now I can see it even more. Oh no. No, no, noooo, please, please don't let it be my eyelash. My first instinct is to try to stick the eyelash down. I reach up but then remember - I can't touch my face! The 'rona! So I do some weird winking thing where I scrunch up my face and try to will the eyelash back into place by making demented faces. It doesn't work and now the cashier is thanking God for the plexiglass separating him from the crazy woman in line. Namely me.

I grab my bag and make a beeline to my car. After dousing my hands in sanitizer, I look in my rearview mirror to see what appears to be a baby caterpillar crawling down my cheek. Nice. I adjust the eyelash, aligning the magnets and it clicks back into place. I look in the mirror again to make sure all is well when I notice that although my eyes are once again fine, I have smeared lipstick, foundation, and sweat covering the lower half of my face. I look like the Joker.

So yeah. I'm back to my Why bother? theory of wearing makeup. In that I DON'T wear makeup. Or leave my home. Ever.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

It Just Fell Off. Really!

Although a tank of gas is lasting me a couple months these days, I had to fill up yesterday. In PC (pre-coronavirus) days, I would NEVER have left my house without doing my hair and applying full make-up. Now? I don't even remember how to put on make-up, and my hair? Well, I was mistaken for Hagrid last week.

Now I just don't seem to care. No make-up? No problem. My mask hides most of my face anyway. Pajama pants and a t-shirt with a bleach stain in public? Whatever. What's the point? Who am I trying to impress? I've clearly given up.

So I stop at the gas station, get out, start pumping gas, and notice a cute guy looking at me. Is he looking at me because I didn't put my mask on to pump gas? Is he trying to ascertain if I'm a woman or a man? (see: Hagrid hair) Maybe he's checking out my hot minivan. Why is he looking at me? I should've put on make-up. Maybe I haven't entirely given up yet. Maybe I just don't remember what it's like to interact with other humans, and therefore don't remember that it's nice to look presentable for said humans.

I fill my tank, go to hang up the pump, and the nozzle falls off. The nozzle separates from the hose and falls right off. IT. FALLS. OFF. Gasoline splashes from the hose and covers my flip-flop clad feet in the smelly liquid. The cute guy looks on in astonishment, and says, "Wow. Didn't know your own strength there, huh?"

I stand there in a puddle of gas for a second while my brain catches up to what just happened. I should tell someone. I need to tell the gas station people, I think. I grab my purse from my car and head toward the store. A few feet before I reach the door I remember my mask. I turn on my gassy foot and retreat to my car. The cute guy continues to look, mesmerized, no doubt, by my weird awkwardness, Hagrid hair, and the fact I can't even pump gas without looking like a monkey. I grab my mask and head back to the store.

"Hi, um yeah, I broke your pump. Or well, I didn't break it per se. But it's broken. The nozzle totally fell off. It's lying on the ground. You might want to um, I don't know, get it, or tape off that pump or something. I'm sorry. I don't know how that happened. It just fell off."

I felt like a toddler explaining to my parent, "I didn't break the vase. I don't know how it happened. It just fell off the table." The employee looked at me, eyebrow raised, like - Yeah, sure it did.

So, how's your week going?

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Stretch Clayton

A couple weeks ago, a shirtless Clay walked by, and I noticed a couple red lines on his lower back.

"What did you do to your back?"

"I dunno. What are you talking about?" he asked.

"There are some red scratches on it. Are they just lines from sitting up against something?"

Clay looked confused. "I don't know."

I snapped a picture with my phone and showed him.

"It's weird. They look like dents in your back," I said, puzzled.

"Hmm, I have no idea," he responded. He walked to his room to look at the chair in which he'd been sitting. There was nothing on the back of the chair that could've caused those lines.

"So I guess it doesn't hurt?" I asked.


Fast forward a couple weeks.

The littles and I went to the beach a couple days ago. Don't worry, it wasn't a 'Daytona Spring Break' kinda party scene. The beach was empty, and we were able to socially distance a good 20+ yards from any other people, including the tourists who, for unknown reasons, like to feed the seagulls. (But that's another story.)


As I helped Clay put sunscreen on his back, I noticed those marks were still there. In fact, they looked even worse. I inspected his lower back more closely and decided they looked like stretch marks. But who gets stretch marks on their lower back? And Clay's a skinny kid so stretch marks just didn't make sense to me.

I did a little searching online and asked my friend, Dr. Mike (who, the-way, has started a YouTube channel with medical topics explained in plain English that you can check out HERE.) Dr. Mike confirmed that, "Yes, it's possible with growth or a lot of weight gain."

I found articles online that claimed it's not uncommon for teens to develop stretch marks as they go through growth spurts.

The light dawned on me, and I recalled commenting several times over the past months, while giving Clay a hug, "You're so tall!" I measured him and sure enough, he's sprouted up another couple inches in this past year, putting him solidly at 5'11" now.

Have you noticed this with your teens? Have any of them developed stretch marks from rapid growth? None of my other kids ever got these. I've got them. But for entirely different reasons, namely Austin, Savannah, Jackson, Lexington, Clayton, Brooklyn, and Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk.

According to Dr. Mike, you obviously can't prevent stretch marks that are due to growth in height, but following a healthy diet and exercising to maintain a healthy weight can prevent some stretch marks. Unfortunately, as every mom knows, you can't just erase them, and I have yet to discover a miracle cream, so it can be tough for a teen who is self-conscious about stretch marks. My advice is to simply talk to your teen and commiserate with them. Let them know that the stretch marks spanning your abdomen are a symbol that you carried a baby, and that's a really good thing. And their stretch marks are a symbol that they're growing up and can reach things on the top shelf for you, and that is also a good thing!

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Wildlife Is Out To Get Me

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting on my couch, binging on Netflix productively working on my book when I heard a thud against the patio door behind me.

SIDE NOTE - The present participle of the word BINGE is binging. This bothers me. It looks like it would rhyme with ringing. Although some sources claim that BINGEING is acceptable also, that looks even more demented than BINGING. Stuff like this keeps me up at night.

Anyway, I was sitting on my couch when I heard a thud behind me. I had a mini heart attack and jumped up expecting to see one of my kids outside banging on the glass door. Because that's the kind of thing we do in my family. Scare the crap out of each other for fun.

Instead of one of my kids, I saw this:

That's right. A big ole hawk flew into my window. What the heck is it with these birds??? There was the mockingbird that kept me awake for months READ HERE. And there was the committee of vultures that congregated outside my classroom. Did you know a group of resting vultures is called a committee? Now you do. A flying pack of vultures is called a kettle, and a feeding group of vultures is called a wake. 

NOTE TO SELF: Stop giving random vocabulary lessons in the middle of your posts.

In short, birds creep me out!

Then, a couple days ago, when Clay opened the front door, he inadvertently let in a lizard. He let a lizard IN the house. I'm okay with lizards. They don't generally freak me out which is a good thing because there are approximately 3 anoles per square foot in this state. But when they come INSIDE . . . well, that's another matter.

Then today as I sat here once again, working hard on my book and not at all playing Words With Friends and procrastinating, I heard another thunk against the patio door. I jumped up, my heart palpitating and looked over the back of the couch expecting to see that stupid hawk again. Nope. No hawk. Instead, I saw this:

It made me remember the glitter frog that infiltrated my apartment. READ HERE.

I tell ya, it's like living in Jurassic Park down here! The wildlife is out to get me!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Preparing To Vacuum

I saw this on Facebook recently.

I glanced across the room to where my vacuum sat immobile. 
I had actually gotten my vacuum cleaner out a couple days prior, but it was still sitting there untouched in my family room, an avant garde decoration adorning my living space. When I first grabbed the vacuum, my kids were sleeping because, as I mentioned before, they're now nocturnal animals. I parked the vacuum intending to wait until the kids woke up before doing my chore. That was almost a week ago. Ahem.

So today I finally turned on the vacuum cleaner. I pushed it across the carpet a couple times, but it didn't seem to be picking up anything. I turned it off and set it down so I could see the roller.

Well, that would be why it isn't picking up anything. I shed more than a Siberian Husky. I truly don't know how I'm not bald. So every couple months I need to cut out all the hair that gets wrapped around this roller.

THIS is what it's SUPPOSED to look like.

This is the small wig I pulled from the roller.

And THIS is what happens when you want to start blogging again, but half your kids are grown and out of the house and the couple that are left, sleep all day so they don't provide you with nearly the amount of fodder they used to. And there's a pandemic so you don't go anywhere or do anything. And so you blog about hairy vacuums. That's where we're at. Thank you, Corona.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Might As Well Be Walking On The Sun

The little gym and the pool at my apartment complex have been closed since the beginning of March. When I walked up toward the office to get my mail yesterday I noticed there was a different sign on the pool. I walked over to see that it's now open with a limited capacity of 10 people at a time. Yay, I thought! I have a reason to get my lazy kids out of bed! If the pool's empty, we'll go swimming tomorrow, I planned.

So around 11:30, I opened Clay's door. "Come on! Get up, Bud! Let's go swimming!"

I was met with a grunt.

"Come on! Let's see the sun! It'll be fun! Fun in the sun!

He cracked one eye open to glare at me.

"Come on! This sleeping all day is ridiculous! Get up! Let's do SOMETHING!"

"No thanks," he dismissed me.

I weighed my options.
1.  Try to wrestle him out of bed. (He's stronger than me.)
2.  Dump a cup of water over his head to encourage him to get up. (Probably not wise to poke the bear.)
3.  Admit that he's now nocturnal, walk away, and try my hand with Brooklyn. (Check!)

I opened Brooklyn's door. "Hey baby! Let's go swimming! Come on, get up!"

Apparently I freaked her out as she jumped, her eyes flying open at the sound of my voice.

"Let's go swimming! The pool is open now. Let's get out in the sun. I'm going to put on my bathing suit and then we'll go."

She grunted, but got out of bed.

We put on our suits, grabbed some bottles of water, and walked over to the pool only to see a sign saying, "Pool closed." Wait, what? A maintenance guy walked by and I asked him, "Is the pool just closed today for cleaning or something?"

"Nope. It's closed indefinitely."

"What? I swear it was open yesterday!"

"Yeah, we just closed it again today because of the virus."

Dejected, we starting walking home. "Can I go rollerblading instead?" Brooklyn asked.

"It's like 100 degrees outside!"

"I don't care," Brooklyn insisted.

"Okay. I can walk while you skate."

So we drove over to a trail that runs near us. I told Brooklyn that she didn't need to keep pace with me; that she could go ahead and we'd meet up when we were ready to head home.

Actual footage of her skating off:


So I trudged along because
1. The most strenuous thing I've done in months is walk to the kitchen to look for chocolate.
And 2. It's roughly the temperature of the surface of the sun outside.

Basically, I leisurely strolled along while stopping periodically to take pictures because I thought I might have a heart attack if I didn't stop I LOVE photography!

I walked about a mile and a half then texted Brooklyn to let her know that I was going to turn around and head back soon.

"Do you want me to turn around and head back too?"

"Nah, if you want to skate a little farther, that's okay. If I get back to the car before you, I'll just pass out wait in the AC until you get back.

A minute after I started walking back, Brooklyn called me.

"Mom, can you pick me up? I just threw up."

"I was just going to call you and ask YOU to pick ME up. I may be dying."

"Mooom. I can't drive."

"Oh who will know? You can figure it out."


"Oh fine! Are you okay? Where are you?"

"Yeah. I'm by the post office."

"Okay, well sit down in the shade and take little sips of your water. I'll come pick you up, but it's going to take me a while to get back to the car."

I lumbered toward my car as little bugs swarmed around my face. As I futilely swatted at them, I envisioned hordes of flies teeming around animal carcasses, and briefly wondered if these bugs knew something I didn't. I did feel a little near death . . . I swished my hand around my head, attempting to shoo the bugs away, but they were now glued to my face with sweat. Lovely.

I finally made it back to my car and picked up Brooklyn.

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

"I feel better after throwing up a couple times."

"Oh yeah, puking always makes me feel better too," I returned, my voice dripping with sarcasm.

She spent the drive home arguing with me that it wasn't too hot to exercise outside, and throwing up while skating is normal. Because she's 14 and knows everything. I spent the drive home making a note to myself - don't go out skating/walking with Brooklyn again. At least not until November.

Here are the pictures I took along the trail while I was making up excuses to stop walking.


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Good Morning! Er, Um, Goodnight! I Mean, Morning. I Mean Night. I Don't Know What I Mean!

I was searching for a picture on my blog when I ran across this post I wrote ten years ago, in June of 2010. 

I sat on the floor of the girls' room while Clay, Brooklyn, and Lexi gathered around to hear me read them a story. Actually, they didn't so much gather around as they just tried their best to remind me why some parents eat their young. Clay bounced up and down on a suitcase because he has a genetic defect that doesn't give him the ability to sit still for more than a nanosecond. Brooklyn whined repeatedly that she couldn't see the pictures. In between the whining she interrupted the story with her questions. Lots of questions. In fact, I left her in her room two hours ago and I think I still hear her asking questions.

"Is that the owl?"


"Why is the owl sad?"

"Because the monkey landed on her baby owl."

"Why is there only one monkey?"

"Because there just is."

"Where are the elephants?"

"There are no elephants in this book."

"Why aren't there any elephants in this book?"

"Because it's not an elephant book."

"Why not?"

"And they all lived happily ever after, goodnight!"

"That's not the end, Mom! You have to read about the lion! (Duh)"

Hey, can't blame a tired mom for trying. So, after I gave Brooklyn her traditional "fishy kiss", I kissed Lexi and then threatened them to stay in bed told them goodnight. I left and went to Clay's room where I played the same game I play every single night of my life. It goes like this - I walk over to his bed and lean over to kiss him goodnight, but instead I kiss his stuffed monkey. As giggling erupts from the corner of the room where Clay is hiding, I exclaim, "What the? Hey! This isn't Clayton! This is a monkey! Where's Clay?" Yep, that never gets old.

After getting the youngest three tucked in, I usually head to my room to read email or write. Before my butt even hits the chair, Clay has gotten out of bed.

"Can I have some water?"

"Same as every night of your life."

He fills a cup, drinks half a teaspoon (yep, he really needed that water), then jumps like a kangaroo back to his bed.

Twenty-eight seconds later, he's up again.


"Yes, Clay?"

"Ummm, I just want to ask you a question."


"Ummm, Mom?"

"What?!" I snap because I get cranky when I hear my name repeated again and again for no particular reason.

"Ummm, Mom, is tomorrow going to be a good day?"

blink blink pause

"GO. TO. BED!"

This continues for the next five hours with each child taking turns getting out of bed just to be told to get back in bed. They don't tell you this part when you fill out the Mommy Application. Grandmas tell me I'm going to miss this when they're all out of the house. But I never hear these grandmas offer to come tuck my kids in to bed. Coincidence? I think not!

I laughed as I reread it, remembering those days. It seems like a lifetime ago. And you know what, I DO miss it. I totally long for those days. I'm not sure if it's because I truly miss those times with my kids when they were little and they adored me, or if it's because I have a selective memory and have conveniently forgotten the horrors of those never-ending days of messes and craziness.

Today, with only Brooklyn and Clayton still living at home, our evening routine is a little different. Especially amid a pandemic, things are um, quite different. Bedtime generally goes like this:

ME  AT 11:00PM:  Oh good "morning," kids. You just get up?

CLAY & BROOKLYN: No, we've been up since about 7:00PM, just hanging out in our rooms on our phones.

ME: Okay then. Well, goodnight. I'm going to bed.

The end.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Mirror, MIrror on the Wall

(This post was originally written, but not published, last year.)

Self-deprecating humor is my thing. I didn't set out to make it my thing; it just sort of happened. I open my mouth and a stream of sarcastic put-downs aimed at myself rolls off my tongue with absolutely no effort. I suppose, if I'm honest, I'd say it stems from a lack of confidence. It's somehow safer to preemptively make myself the butt of a joke before someone else does. Humor covers a multitude of insecurities, and really, this works fine and dandy for me. Or well, it did. Until I heard Lexi say, "I'm ugly."

"What??? Why would you say that? You're not ugly at all! Don't say mean things to yourself. Would you ever say that to a friend? No. So why would you say something so awful to yourself?" I asked, shocked and saddened by her proclamation.

"You do it. You say that you're fat or stupid or old or ugly all the time, Mom."

Punch to the gut moment.

She's right. I do. I put myself down all. the. time. Friends at work get on my case about it regularly and tell me I need to stop doing that. I tell them to relax; that I have a sense of humor so I don't take myself seriously; that I'm not hurting anyone. But apparently I am. And I'm disgusted that my kids have picked up on this bad habit. I always try to model the behavior I want my kids to emulate. It doesn't always work. But I try. Unfortunately I really dropped the ball on this one.

I just don't know how to be one of those people who exudes confidence. I made a comment to the deputy at my school (who most people agree is an attractive guy) about another deputy who had covered for him one day last week. "You should have that guy come back again, "I told him. "He was really cute," I said referring to the other officer who had filled in. Our deputy looked puzzled, and eyebrow lifted in incredulity, matter-of-factly responded, "What? No one is cuter than me." 

Seriously, how does one go about attaining that level of confidence? Or well, maybe not quite that level of confidence as I'm pretty sure he has trouble walking through doorways what with the size of his head, but maybe somewhere in the vicinity of that level of confidence.

I've been making a conscious effort to try, but I kind of suck at it. Even when I avoid putting myself down aloud, those negative feelings still permeate my thoughts. And I wonder what it would be like to have an abundance of confidence. [After I wrote this paragraph, I noticed that I put myself down in that first sentence where I talk about trying not to put myself down. How sad is that?]

Have you ever seen the movie I Feel Pretty? The protagonist played by Amy Schumer is an average girl who feels unattractive and lacks confidence until an accident where she hits her head causes her to see herself as drop-dead gorgeous. Suddenly, feeling like she's beautiful, she has the confidence to do all sorts of things she never did before - apply for her dream job, get a boyfriend, join a bikini contest, etc. I really liked this movie. It's funny and hits close to home. How many of us can relate to standing before a mirror while critiquing all that is "wrong" with us? :::Raising my hand:::

How great would it be to look in the mirror and see not your flaws, but see yourself as God must see you? Especially if you didn't have to endure an embarrassing spinning accident in order to see yourself as the jewel you are.

Now how does one go about doing that?

I went searching for some scripture that would encourage those of us who might have a difficult time with self worth and I found this article HERE with 25 encouraging Bible verses.

1 Peter 3:3-4  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I'm going to try, really try, to see myself in a different light and stop berating myself lest I pass those ideas on to my kids. I definitely don't want them viewing themselves with such a critical eye. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The One In Which I'm a 2-Year-Old

“Hey kids! I’m home! How was escuela?”

“It was escuela-y. The maintenance guy fixed the hole in the wall.”

“Really? Cool! I didn’t even put in a work order for that.”

I walked over to the wall where the hole had been & reached up, touching the patch. The patch that was still wet. It left a big fingerprint in it.

“Why didn’t you tell me it was still wet?!”

“How would we know that you would touch it?” my kids inquired, dumbfounded.

I tried to smooth out the fingerprint and managed to make it worse.

“Oh my gosh! I’m just making more of a mess! This is awful!" I continued to run my finger across the surface, trying to smooth it. "Oh no! I just need something to smooth it out! Grab me a knife! No, a spatula!”

“Mom, leave it alone!” my kids implored.

“I can’t now. I have to fix it! Grab me a spatula!” I called over my shoulder. When they made no move to help me out and instead just stared at me, shaking their heads, I made my way to the kitchen & grabbed a plastic spatula.

Back at the wall, I carefully moved the spatula along the surface trying to smooth out the plaster.

“Aaaarghhh! It’s not working!” I freaked out.

“Just stop, Mom!”

“No, no, no, I’ve got it. I've got it. I can do it!” I insisted. I ran the spatula along very lightly and although there was a sizeable lumpy area, I made it a little bit better. “Oh my gosh, I’m a two year old!” I came to the realization, laughing.

“The maintenance guy is going to be mad at you when he comes back to paint it tomorrow.”

“I’ll just tell him you guys did it,” I teased.

A few minutes later, we left to get Clay’s hair cut. As we drove along, I had a sudden thought!

“Clay, call Lexi and tell her not to touch the wall when she gets home from work.”

He dials her number.

“Hey Lex. Don’t touch the wall where it’s all wet and patched."
"The guys fixed the hole that was in the wall by the entrance to my room."
"I don’t know. Ask Mom," Clay said, looking at me pointedly.

He hung up and I asked, "What did she say?"

"She said, 'Why would I even think to touch the wall?'"

"Ha ha," I said dryly.

The kids laughed. "Seriously, Mom, you were like a moth to a flame." Clay demonstrated me reaching out E.T.-style toward the wall.

"Laugh it up, kids. Laugh it up."

Friday, November 8, 2019

5 Financial Tips For Single Parents

"Losing Hand" by Damian Gadal 
When I divorced nearly 10 years ago, the first thing I freaked out about was money. I had been a stay-at-home mom to our 6 kids for 16 years. I had no job, no degree, and no skills (unless you count diapering a squirming baby with one hand, making a nutritious lunch for the toddler to throw on the floor, and explaining to the preteen that they will not, in fact, die if I don’t buy them $100 sneakers. I mean, those skills are pretty impressive, but I didn’t think they’d help land me a job.)

I read all sorts of advice for single parents, but I found most of it geared toward parents in a slightly different situation. Things like – make sure you have adequate life insurance, make sure you have savings to cover at least 3 months of expenses, and create an estate plan to protect your children. Although it was all good advice, it completely went over my head because how do you establish a savings account with 0 income? So here are a few tips for those single moms who are drowning, or maybe just barely staying afloat.

This is a lesson I still haven’t fully mastered. I think a lot of us feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. If we were better parents, we wouldn’t need help, right? But when you’re trying to figure out how to pay for child care so you can work at a minimum wage job, ask. For. Help. Establish and enlist help from your support system. Maybe your friend can watch your little ones during the day while you watch hers in the evening so you can both work without having to sign over 70% of your paycheck to daycare.

Help includes searching out government-subsidized apartments, food stamps, and other programs designed to help people in your very situation while you strive toward finding a good job. It’s hard to ask for help, you say? I understand. It is hard. But a friend once told me, “You know how you feel when you help someone? It feels great, doesn’t it? By not letting me help you, you’re robbing me of that. You’re stealing my chance to be a blessing to you, and to feel good about helping someone in need.” Think about that the next time you’re hesitant to ask for/accept help.

I said above that one of my skills was explaining to the preteen that they will not, in fact, die if I don’t buy them $100 sneakers. That’s actually sound advice. Set a firm budget and stick to it. Shop at resale stores and garage sales. I joke that if I ever become a millionaire, I’ll still shop at Goodwill because I love finding new-with-tags, name brand clothes for a couple dollars. Score! When you sincerely ask yourself before spending money whether you truly need an item, or merely want it, you’ll find that you probably do a lot of unnecessary spending.

And teach these skills to your kids. My youngest son understands that we do not have money to spare on luxury items and he’s aware that even though most of his friends wouldn’t consider a trip to McDonald’s a luxury, we do. And not only is he aware of how much things cost, and the difference between wants and needs, but it serves as motivation for him to do well in school, earn scholarships, attend college, and get a well-paying job.

I think one of the most damaging things a single mom can do is compare herself to others. Money is tight, but you’ve established a budget and you stick to it, always asking yourself – do I truly need this or do I just want it. You celebrate the little things and get excited when you score a brand-new shirt with tags at Goodwill for $1.29! You have fun Friday night playing board games with your kids and taking a trip to McDonalds to splurge on ice cream cones. And then you scroll through Facebook. You see pictures of friends on vacations, out to dinner, buying new furniture, new cars, new houses. Suddenly those ice cream cones you treated your kids to become less special in comparison to the lobster dinner your friend is having in Barbados at this very minute. Comparison breeds discontent and can easily sabotage that long-standing budget as you try to squelch the feeling of inferiority by attempting to keep up with the Joneses.

Cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for the blessings you have. Step back from social media if you find it difficult to be happy for your friends without envy creeping in. Remember, as a single mom you may be on a tighter budget than your friends, but that doesn’t diminish your worth in any way.

Of course, emergencies come up and you may need to use a credit card for car repairs, or bills if you miss work due to illness, for example. I recently got a credit card to pay for a root canal I couldn’t afford. The card I got, which is designed for medical emergencies, let me save my tooth, thus saving me from an extraction and costly implant later, and it lets me repay the loan amount without interest. But don’t use credit cards to buy things you don’t really need and cannot afford to pay off at the end of the month.

Too late, you say? If you already have outstanding credit card debt, look into consolidating and paying down your debt by getting a low interest personal loan through a credit union, or if that’s not an option, using a reputable non-profit debt consolidation service. If you go that route, do your research, check the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau and make sure you understand what services they’ll provide and the total fees involved for those services.

When I first got divorced, I had been out of the work force for 16 years. I never went to college so I had few options available to me. I was quickly offered a job with a steady paycheck and medical insurance, which was important to me since my ex wasn’t working or providing support or insurance at that time, so I jumped on it. In retrospect, I wish I had kept freelancing back then instead of abandoning my love of writing in favor of a steady paycheck, but the fear of not being able to support my children overwhelmed me.

My advice now is to take a minute and meet with a career counselor, get on LinkedIn, go to job fairs, research possible jobs and determine if you’ll make enough to support your family. If not, look into going to school. As a single mom, you’ll likely be eligible for programs that will let you get a degree or certification for little money. Yeah, it’ll be tough taking care of your kids, working, and taking classes at the same time. It will be. But the payoff in the end will be worth the struggle up front. And hey, we single moms are superheroes! If anyone can juggle all that, it's us!

For more expert advice from single parents, check out this round-up HERE!

Friday, October 11, 2019

The One in Which I'm Tired to the Max

Cartoon Black Woman Sleeping At WorkI'm not so great at going to the doctor. Although I'm better at making doctor appointments than I am at dentist appointments. Then again, that's not really saying much.


I had been feeling really ridiculously fatigued for some time when I finally broke down and made an appointment.

"What are you seeing the doctor for?"

"Um, I want to see the doctor because I'm tired. I mean, like really tired. I'm afraid I'm going to fall asleep at school and the kids will videotape me and put it on Youtube, and I'll become a meme known the world over. Then it'll be, 'You know that sleeping teacher meme? Yeah, that's me.'"

"So you want to see the doctor because you're (pause) tired?"

"Not just tired. Tired to the max."

Yes, I felt like an idiot making an appointment because I was tired. I mean, hello? I'm a single mom; of course I'm tired. And this was back in May so all the students in the land were officially done with school despite the fact there were 3 more weeks left. This means they were acting like this:


I mean, the good ones were acting like that. The others were acting like this:


So it was perfectly normal that I was tired. I mean, I'd worry more about any teacher who wasn't burned out and tired in May. Because clearly, any teacher who isn't exhausted in May has access to the good drugs.

So I went to the doctor with my perfectly inane legitimate complaint of I'm tired. The doctor was too busy to see a patient who was "tired" so I saw the PA. I have issues with anemia so I asked her to please do some bloodwork to see if that was the cause of my fatigue. She did that as well as some tests to check my thyroid 

When my results came back, she told me that I was a little vitamin B12 deficient.

"But I already take B12 and iron because of the aforementioned anemia."

I swear I saw the PA throw up her hands and shrug her shoulders through the phone. "Well, you also tested positive for some thyroid antibodies."

"Okay? What does that mean?"

"I'm not sure. I'm referring you to an endocrinologist."

It took a couple months to get in to the endocrinologist. I paid my $45 and met with another PA.

"Your primary care doctor referred you to us?"



"Um, I guess I have some thyroid antibodies."

"Yes, but your thyroid function is normal," she stated, puzzled.

I shrugged because, well, I'm not the one with the MD. "I just don't want to be so tired anymore."

"Well, the antibodies are indicative of an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. It can cause thyroid problems. Your thyroid is fine right now though. You definitely need to have it rechecked every year because it could develop in the future especially with your family history of thyroid disease and autoimmune diseases. But it isn't the cause of your fatigue now."

"Okay. Well, just so I don't feel like that $45 was a waste, could you maybe hook up an IV with a caffeine drip for me so I can stay awake all day?"

Apparently not.

In August, I went back to my regular doctor, or well the PA that is, for my annual physical. 

"I'm still excessively tired, and now everything hurts too. My ankles, my knees, my hips, my hands, my left elbow, these fingers . . ."

The PA ordered some autoimmune tests. I tested positive (which sounds like a good thing, but isn't) for many of the antibodies, prompting the PA to refer me to a rheumatologist.

It took a couple more months to get in with the rheumatologist during which time, my hips have become so painful, I can hardly walk some days. I can't handle walking up stairs. I haven't had an uninterrupted night's sleep in 2 months and not just because my neighbors like to let their dogs bark all night, but because the pain awakens me every time I turn over. So I paid my $45 and saw yet another PA.

The nurse tells me to strip down to my undergarments, put on a "gown" (which, let's face it, is basically like when you were a kid and you cut a slit down the middle of a brown paper grocery bag to make a "vest" so you could be an "Indian" when you had your little classroom Thanksgiving celebration where you invited the classroom next door who dressed like Pilgrims.) So I stripped, donned my paper vest, and hopped up on the table. I'm using the word "hopped" here, but honestly, I grunted as I tried to maneuver onto the table because MY HIPS HURT SO MUCH.

It took almost 20 minutes before the PA came in. I nodded off twice. The second time my head bobbed, I looked down and saw a dryer sheet stuck to my underwear, which is always classy. Worried that the PA would finally walk in right as I was peeling the April fresh scented sheet off my unmentionables, I quickly grabbed it and looked around for a garbage can. No garbage can. What kind of doctor's office doesn't have a garbage can? I surmised it was probably in a cabinet, but I wasn't getting down to find out because A. MY HIPS HURT and B. It would be thoroughly awkward to be tip-toeing around the office, dryer sheet in hand, while opening cabinets in search of a trash can when she walked in. So I stuffed it in my purse.

The PA came in and asked me 101 questions. How long have your joints hurt? Are they swollen? Do you get any rashes? Do you have ulcers in your mouth? Are your eyes dry? Do your fingers turn white in the cold? What was the name of your first pet? What is the name of the street where you grew up? Coke or Pepsi?

In the end, they're treating me as if I have lupus even though she was hesitant to actually diagnose me with lupus at this point. They're running more tests. I'm starting some medications that will hopefully decrease my pain and fatigue. Oh and I have some pretty bad bursitis in both hips. Since I can't take anti-inflammatory medication because I'm on blood thinners for my antiphospholipid syndrome, I'll be getting shots in my hips next week. Although I don't relish getting a needle that's roughly the size of a flag pole stuck in my hip joints, I'm in so much pain that I say bring it on! Plus, it won't be nearly as bad as someone giving me a shot IN MY MOUTH! So there's that.

You would think I'd be upset that I may have another incurable autoimmune disease, but honestly, I had convinced myself that my diagnosis was going to be - You're crazy; it's all in your head. Oh, and you're old and fat. So knowing that something real is going on and there's medication to help combat it is actually a relief.

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