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Being a Working Single Mom and Separation Anxiety

The phrase "working mom" is complex in itself. Moms work. Nonstop. From sons up to sons down and later still because some things can only get done after they are down. For most of my marriage I stayed home or went to work or school a few hours a week. For the most part I was home with the kids doing chores, finding hobbies, baking, crafting and carrying babies as a surrogate when I wasn't earning scholarships as a student. Most of this was concurrent multi-tasking.

Life for my 10 year old hasn't been okay since the separation started two years ago. All three still haven't smiled like they used to. I can see it in their eyes and the way it feels forced and fake. It's not obvious unless you have known what it is to fake happiness for someone else. I just had another talk about depression the other night and Kid2 admitted he still struggles.

For Kid3, his identity was the youngest in a family of five. When the family of five shifted to four, who he is became a fluid identity in a sea without a stable anchor. Add Mom and Dad living differently and having new relationships and he hasn't felt safely attached for a while. Not safely enough.  He's been struggling since then with what is normal.  He's seen a therapist.  I try to do things with him around the house. Actually, projects and catching up on housework on weekends because I spend most of my week at work or driving are my new normal.  I leave at 7:30 in the morning and don't get home until around 8 at night.

My latest project was to update my pond.  Pictured is Kid3 several years ago. As for the pond, it's still evolving.

 

Yesterday morning was a hard one for Kid3.  Honestly, it was a rough continuation of my day before.  I left for work at 7:30 a.m..  I left work early at 3:30 that afternoon, then drove through traffic so bad over about 20 miles that I didn't get home until 5:45 where I picked kids up for an Awards night at my older kid's school, not arriving there until 6:15.

We sat through the ceremony, took a few pictures, dropped the boyfriend off at home where he could decompress, then drove around a little more before landing at a new family favorite ramen restaurant. We got home and the meltdown started.

There's a pattern.  On days when school starts or they're going back to their Dad, my little one's separation anxiety ramps up and he refuses to go to school, begging instead to stay home with me.  Yesterday morning I was trying to rush out the door and take a phone interview on my way to work (yay me! I'm over qualified for this entry level position and he'll keep me in mind if any senior positions open up that will pay more).

Kid3's tantrum was so bad that I was now 40 minutes late for work, but I had him sit in the car as I finished the interview and hung up.  Tearfully, he told me he didn't want me to work. He wanted to get me fired. He was willing to leave because calling his Dad for support resulted in a threat to go back to court for custody.   As tight as money is when I'm not working, he wants me to stay home with him.  It feels good to be that wanted.  At the same time, this tells me I'm neglecting his emotional needs and his separation anxiety is a symptom of him not feeling safe enough attachment to me to want to be independent.

That's heavy.  That last sentence is full of density and I'll unpack it.

When my kids were little, their needs were simple.  Help them rest when tired.  Feed them when hungry.  Keep them clean enough to be comfortable but dirty enough to have fun.  As they're getting older and more physically independent, their emotional needs are shifting and they need more support.  I need to help them feel so surrounded by my love that they feel it even when I'm not around.  My youngest doesn't feel that right now.

A couple of years ago I read the 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.  It explored the five ways we can express or feel love.

  1. Gift giving - He often asks me to buy him things.
  2. Quality time - He likes playing board games or being with me to watch movies or throw a ball around.
  3. Words of affirmation - He needs to hear that I love him and that I value what he says when he's telling me about his day.
  4. Acts of service - He often asks me to brush his hair or help him with personal hygiene. When he's happy, he's willing to do things for me.
  5. Physical touch - He likes belly massages and bear hugs.

He actively asks me to do or engage in these things on a regular basis. So basically my son has shown and told me that he needs all of his emotional love needs met and he's starved for love.

The greatest lesson about the book is that it taught that the way you show love isn't necessarily the way others need to receive that love from you and love means finding out how to fulfill the needs of someone else, rather than assume what works for you is good enough in the way most of us selfishly do.

In doing projects I choose and having him join me, I assumed he was getting enough love in the time together, but over the last few days he was showing me that he was not.

At the end of the day, my relationship with my son is a relationship.  I can't assume what I've always done will always be enough because as he grows and walks in independence, his needs change and evolve.  I want to be the parent he is willing to talk to. It's a relationship that needs time and attention to detail . . . Just like any other relationship.

How To Make Bath Bombs

Quality time with Kid3 looks like projects Mom wants to do anyway.  We made bath bombs.  While my usual mold is the ball that you get your pantyhose in, I sometimes use the little paper cups I keep in my bathroom for brushing my teeth.  Last night Kid1 was being a teenager in the bathroom so we used little disposable horderve bowls.

Whisk together:

8 oz. Baking Soda

4 oz. Citric Acid (I get it from Whole Foods.  Sometimes with vitamins. Sometimes with canning supplies.)

4 oz. Corn Starch

2 oz. Epsom Salt

2 oz. Dead Sea Salt (I get the big bag next to the Epsom Salts at Walmart)

Separately, whisk together:

¾ teaspoon water

2 teaspoons essential oil (your choice, your scents)

2 ½ teaspoon almond oil (or olive)

A few drops of food coloring (going nuts will compromise how it clumps or if it reacts early)

Whisk the dry mixture while slowly pouring in the wet mixture.  It should begin to clump together and hold its shape if you squeeze it.  Too much liquid can start an early reaction and your bath bomb will bomb in your bowl.

Pack the mixture into your molds as tightly as you can.  Let it sit for a few minutes before carefully removing them from the mold.

I like to line a fluffy towel with wax paper to cradle them, but paper towels work too.  Let them sit and dry for at least a day before you use them.

Once dried, keep them in an air tight container, cellophane, or tissue.

Startup Culture as it Relates to Motherhood

I've been temping at a web startup in Santa Monica and I love it.  Mostly it feels like slipping on a comfortable glove, but only because I have the perspective to see it. It looks like the push and hustle that comes in the early days of motherhood when all you came to expect as normal is shifted for the little one that flips things around for you.

Identity

All startups want to first define who they are.  What are their values? What matters and how will they make their impact? As a new Mom, I had to figure out who I am.  Do I copy the mothers I watched on television? What do I want to take from my parents and grandparents? What is something I want to distance myself from?  How do I identify as a mom, or as an individual? What about my children's identity? It took many years to accept that my children were separate from me.  They had their own personalities and ideas.  They were going to need to do things their own way and all I could do is guide them from where I sat as Mom.  It was about defining us and setting boundaries that were flexible enough for who we were and wanted to be.

Relationships

There’s a lot of gentleness towards co-workers and inclusion through activities in a startup.  There are company-wide meetings and training with applause and congratulations.  There are company provided weekly meals and happy hours.  There are ping pong tournaments, though I've never seen anyone touch the Foosball table. The point is we want to like each other and I really feel we do.  In mothering, I want my boys to get along with each other.  One day when I’m gone, I know my kids will only have each other.  I often remind them that when they end up in therapy as adults, the only people that will understand exactly what their parents put them through is each other.  Without relationships, you can’t rely on others, and being unreliable and unwilling to trust is a weakness.  Relationship matters. This is taught and encouraged and part of the fabric of startup life.

Collaborative Environment

We work together.  Every opinion matters and we keep asking for it. This isn’t reflective of all mothers, but it’s how I run my house.  I try to get my kids to tell me what they think, know and feel.  If I don’t encourage them to see and understand the value within them, I can’t expect them to stand on the security of who they are.  If I don’t trust the boys I’m raising, how can I expect them to trust themselves?  Startups try to hire the right people so they can trust them with their ideas and know they’ll try to make the company successful.

Communication

Documentation and communication are everything in a startup.  It’s how we track progress and see where we came from.  Everything is written and talked about and brainstormed.  It’s about sharing what is in our heads so we can create something bigger together.  Mothering requires diligent communication.  Specifically, you have to be able to read your child’s language as well as their silence.  You have to understand how their bodies move so you’ll know when they aren’t moving normally.  It’s not enough to speak but to listen actively.  As a special needs mom and advocate, documentation is what gets the services you need. It's a skill that flows fluidly between motherese and Salesforce.

Self Care and Care of Others

I’ve noticed that those in startups rarely take care of themselves.  Give them a job and they’ll do whatever it takes.  There’s a fluid ability to flex your reach into things outside of what was originally defined for you.  Give a person a problem and they’ll analyze several possible answers into solutions.  It’s a gift that is part of mothering.  You do whatever it takes for your child, but with both, there’s an inability to take care of yourself.  In these startups, you’ll have fully loaded kitchens to nourish your body, machines to keep you caffeinated, games to keep you agile and relieve stress and drinks to take the edge off in a grown-up way. In the office I’m currently in, there are even dogs that sit with their people and follow them to meetings. These people consistently put others ahead of themselves.  They are natural at caring for the world outside of themselves.

Focusing on the dogs . . . They are so loved and pampered.  They have neat haircuts and trimmed nails.  Their coats are glossy and well groomed.  They go on walks throughout the day. These dogs make their people go on walks and care for them.  (Much like children.) On Fridays I’ve noticed far fewer dogs in the office.  Their people work harder and will work through lunch or run to the bathroom because they have put their workflow ahead of their bladders.

It’s like being a Mom.  We’ll do all we can to care for our kids and our self care often looks like putting their needs first and getting the latent benefit of our sacrifice.  It’s that same drive and personality.  Self sacrifice and hard work is the default setting. Self care is secondary.  But unnecessary.  If your company wants to make you happy, they understand and want to honor your commitment.  They also understand the value of your contentment means they can pay you less but make you feel like they want you to stay because of the many perks. It's like the harder exchange that comes in chasing toddlers and changing diapers.  It's exhausting and hard work but the rewards of a happy child make you forget the frustrations.

Growth Strategy

As a startup, the goal is to grow and be so amazing in the world on it's own that other companies will want to buy you.  So maybe it's terribly creepy if you are trying to sell off your child, but really, the goal is independence and that comes from exponential growth and secure development. In that way, startups are exactly like motherhood.

What Helps Me Through Miscarriage Grief and Clarity Through the Pain

The shock of loss is one of the most profound perspective shifting traumas I have ever endured.  I'm learning there's a gift through loss if you are open to it.

The gift of vulnerability.

I admit to being one of those hardened single moms.  I know I'm not the only one and that's the sad reality of families that transition.  I felt strong and independent.  I was making ends meet with family support.  I was making my own choices and doing my own thing.  Letting someone in was the hard part.  With the boyfriend that was consistently choosing me, no matter how hard I pushed him away, I was constantly on guard, and looking for him to fail me.

When we lost our children, I was completely vulnerable. I was lost and directionless.  In the past week and a half, I wasn't looking for anything as grief worked through us, but I found every time I started crying, strong arms wrapped around me and cradled me.  He took care of me, making sure I ate, and seeing to all of my needs.  I stopped looking for failure and discovered he's a better man than I deserve for the way I've treated him.

Problems that seemed to be insurmountable are now insignificant after going through our loss while holding hands.

Finding strength through adverse reactions.

I am a strong woman with an intense personality.  This is who I am and I am content with defying what is expected of me.  I've learned that my strength can inspire and offset others.  I've had people tell me they needed me to help them through my loss in the past week.

Finding your voice sometimes means saying nothing.

I've had people push their needs on me, and I've decided it's not my job to make others feel better about how I feel or what I am going through.  Sometimes that means ignoring calls.  I'm the only one that can decide how I grieve and what will comfort me.

Connection is healing.

I was lucky to find Natural Grace Funerals.  They have picked our babies up from the hospital and will cremate them for us.  Aside from the crematory fee, they work pro bono for miscarried children.  When I spoke with the director, she told me that she is also a mother to twins. We shared a moment of knowing that no matter how small they were, this was something I need to do and as a mother, she felt the same way. We'll release them into the ocean.

Earlier this week, I went to Armstrong Garden Center to look for the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow bushes we will plant in their memory.  My boyfriend likes purple and I do too.  I saw the plants in my neighborhood growing up and the idea of seeing them and thinking of our children (we named them Sunny and Rain) was comforting. I was asking questions of one of their staff and told her about the miscarriage.  As I was leaving, she handed me a couple of crystal angels with purple wings as a gift to keep my angels near me. Other than the plant, I never discussed purple or that I have a lavender scrapbook for them. She told me about a friend that had just lost a 15 year old child and we shared a hug and tears.

4.26.2017

Connecting with someone else is healing for me, but being open to the words she offered and the hug that came with it was healing for her as well.  Connection is what binds us through our community and with our humanity.

Letting go can feel natural.

I've been purging junk all week.  It started with heavy weeding in the garden.  Then I started clearing out things in the storage shed, and laundry room.  I started cleaning out things in the house.  For so long I held onto junk.

When I worked at a mini storage, a woman once told me that she had to go through her mother's things because she was tired of making monthly installments on delayed grief.

I was doing that too.

I finally went through that plastic bin full of pictures and sorted out what was mine and my ex's, and each of the kids.  I set aside family pictures and wedding things for the kids because who we were as a couple is part of their identity.  They'll want that one day.  As I was cleaning out the bathroom, I realized I still had a bottle of the ex's shampoo and I realized it didn't hurt to let go.  It felt liberating.

For the twins, I had started a scrapbook and today I will complete it and put it on the shelf.  I won't wait to process it all.  It's painful.  There is so much longing and I miss the feeling of life inside of me, but I can't be the mother my sons need if I'm intentionally waiting to live again.  I'll celebrate the process and really enjoy the memory of the time I had with them, but then I will give myself permission to let go and to cry, as I have been.  Sometimes several times an hour.

Grief and loss are natural, but not normal.

As I know this pain will ease up and pass as life cycles with change, transition and rebirth, I also know that I'm where I need to be.  I need to feel the loss.  I need to accept I will not always have a smile on my face.  At the same time, there has been laughter.  It's not that I can forget my babies or compartmentalize my feelings.  Life is full of variance and joy comes with the pain.  I'm experiencing each moment as it comes, specifically staying away from alcohol or anything that would numb my feelings.

Sometimes there's laughter.  Sometimes there's tears.  Sometimes I cling to my boyfriend with intense desperation because I can't handle the surprise gut punches that remind me I've lost something wonderful and incredible. What I'm feeling is completely natural, but life only offers moments of grief every so often.  We are built to get through it to appreciate the lows as well as the highs, but it's not constant.  This pain is natural, but living in it constantly would make it normal and that would take away from what we are given to grow through. And I'm growing through it.

Actively Grieving Through My Miscarriage

I woke up reaching for my children, knowing they weren't there anymore and sobbing that they were gone.  My nurse drugged me into silence with both dilaudid and percocet and a prescription for 800 milligrams of ibuprofen for when I was out of hearing range. Her relief began when I was too drugged to cry for a pain she couldn't soothe. Even through my pain and the opiates, her relief was such a contrast from what I felt.

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Pride isn't an Option in Parenthood

Motherhood breaks down a woman's pride fairly quickly.  Parenting will do the rest.

Your body will strip your pride in pregnancy before you realise how powerful it really is.

I'm lucky enough to only seriously experience morning sickness with my last pregnancy.  Having two placentas means insane levels of HCG which will make you feel like your thyroid is out to get you.  Specifically, it was terrible nausea and frequent vomiting, a racing heartbeat, severe weakness and weight loss.

Being sick for no obvious reason is specifically humbling.  Vomiting out of your car window and continuing on your commute is a bit hard to do with your head held high, but I managed.  Dry heaving because someone took a bath in their perfume is uncomfortable enough, but it's also insulting to the person who now knows they stink. In pregnancy, bladder control can be iffy and gas happens much more often with the relaxed muscles of pregnancy. Hormonal changes can mean your body is creating a whole new brand of funk. Breasts will swell, then sag.  That mom walk that feels confident starts to sway into a waddle because my center of gravity is constantly shifting. A grocery run with mild hunger becomes an indulgent pregnancy craving smorgasbord, complete with odd and indulgent smiles from strangers.

Giving birth and seeing the life created and growing in you is one of those powerful moments that really does make it all worth it in the end.

Strangers will claim ownership of your body.

I've had strangers guess the sex of the children in my belly.  I've had them question my sanity over carrying so many children (8 and 9 growing as I type). I've had strangers reach out to touch my belly. They'll critique and judge your parenting at all ages and stages because even if they aren't the community helping you raise your child, they'll expect being in public makes you subject to their judgement and opinions.

*Side note on belly touching: If you are on a date and touch a belly without consent, you're being rapey. Really, at 20 weeks, the highest part a baby reaches is mom's belly button (still mom's body).  Any time before this, you pat that area, and you're touching my intestines.  Even if lunch was epic, my bowels don't need the encouragement, and if you're going to reach lower to actually touch my uterus, I would hope for dinner first.  Maybe flowers.  Jewelry is always encouraged. When they start kicking, I'm likely to encourage the touching and show you exactly where my belly is going alien outtakes on us both.

Your children will change your pride perception.

Littles are sweet, but they will embarrass you.  They'll stink, and cry at the wrong times.  They'll puke on clothes not meant to experience spit up.  They'll make you into living zombies.  They are so cute and helpless that you'll put up with it and continue to try to make them into humans others would want to be around.

They will find their voice and repeat favorite and inappropriate phrases.  I remember my little one saying "fuck you" to someone when my mom took him to church.  They each went through phases where they learned the fastest way to hurt mom was to tell me that they hated me.  They took the one fear they had, of rejection and not being acknowledged and turned it into a weapon against bedtime and desired activities.  I had to push past that pain and by the third child, it was hard not to laugh at such pint sized rebellion. (Even on his worst day, my youngest is not capable of doing what his autistic brothers did in search of self regulation.)

They'll get older and rather than say they hate you, they'll try to convince you that you really don't love them.  They'll need more reassurance that they are loved and valued.  You'll learn in that first game of tic-tac-toe, that it's really not fun to beat the pants off of the kid you just taught to play.

Being prideful means you aren't being compassionate and that isn't the most connected way to parent. In my home, I'm frequently wrong and sometimes I lose my shit.  I try to always apologize to my kids.  I acknowledge the ways I was wrong.  I ask for their feedback and make communication safe.  Sometimes they'll call me out before I see what I've done. I don't get to always be right because that would mean I'm wrong. Sometimes I have to listen to well meaning grandparents, even if that brings out the rebellious teenager in me.

With my teenagers it's hard to remember that they aren't grown men.  I have to be intentional with reminding myself that they are still the sweet and sensitive boys that look to me when things are scary and painful.  I have to ignore their size and their attitudes and the ways they remind me of their father.  I have to be the one to come to them, over and over and likely into adulthood.  I think of the times older friends and my parents will talk about not being called, forgetting that the phone works both ways.  My mom is great with checking on me several times a week and I hope hers is an example I never forget.

You can't be prideful and parent at the same time.  At least I don't think I could.  You learn with your kids and pride assumes you know all there is for them to teach you, forgetting that the lessons never end, even into adulthood.

You Were Meant to Face What is Coming Because the Life We Live Was Created For Us: My High Risk Pregnancy Announcement

img_2502 A little over a month ago I did another Facebook live video.  I was in the hospital on pain meds for the gallbladder that was later removed.  I don't like being high, so I didn't handle it well and the video was kinda all over the place, but authentic.  Not one of my best Facebook live encouragements, but one I wanted to flesh out here.  While not on drugs.  All of my live videos are public and I'm easily searchable.

This year has so far been a series of events that were foreshadowed by something else in my life at some point. Something complex and scary before me was similarly experienced in a previous experience that is now part of my history.  It's about getting through on the strength earned before.

Taking it back a few years, I chose to be a surrogate mother after having my 3 children.  I did 6 IVF cycles.  This means weeks of intramuscular injections into the upper, outer quadrant of my rear end.  It was typically at least a shot if not two a day and I still have the scar tissue from it.  Any shot in that area is super painful because of all the shots I had before.

When I had pulmonary embolisms, I was given lovenox shots until my blood was thin enough to be sustained without the risk of blood clots on coumadin pills. I was already past the fear of injecting myself with medicine, and I was already accustomed to the schedule of medication because taking hormones on time is so important in IVF assisted pregnancies. It's just as important when you want to not let your body create blood clots that can travel to your heart or brain and kill you.

My last pregnancy was twin girls born at 29 weeks.  I was hospitalized at 25 weeks because my body was trying to deliver them early.  I was technically in labor for a month.  I have had five easy labors before that which means I didn't feel a thing until just before they were born.

Back to that hospital visit for my gallbladder . . . I started feeling pain and while doing standard tests to treat me at the hospital, I found out I was 3 weeks pregnant.  Too early to miss a period, feel body changes, or see anything by ultrasound. I knew the lovenox shots would start and they did within 24 hours of that positive test.  I have been here.  It was a stretch, but not one that was unfamiliar.

At the start of my 5th week of pregnancy, I had my gallbladder removed.  There was no way it could have waited for the pregnancy to end or the second trimester to begin.  It needed to be done. The pregnancy had already survived 2 CT Scans with Iodine.  We were already defying the odds and I hoped we'd get through general anesthesia and my surgery.

After surgery, refusing to take pain meds just 4 days after surgery (because I hate being drugged), and just before 6 weeks, I found out I am carrying twins. The baby split and they are growing in two sacs while sharing one placenta.  Identical twins with two older brothers on the autism spectrum.  I should be a gambling person.

At 8 weeks, I was feeling the strain of becoming parents with a man I had known 3 months.  This wasn't planned but I'm good at working with what I have, accepting that it's not the situation but my interpretation of it that gives me control and empowerment. All of my insecurities about being drawn to an abusive relationship because it's what I'm accustomed to and my pride over being a single mom doing well on my own hit me in a defensive way.  We're still figuring things out and making heroic efforts for each other, but part of me is content with being a single mom to these twins because that is the cowardly and easy road for me.  I was a wife, entirely dependent on a husband and I had to figure out everything on my own, and giving up that control is painfully hard.

At 9 weeks my doctor went over some of the complications that could potentially come in serious depth.  I have had embolisms, but it's a genetic thing I was born with.  I have Factor Five Leiden.  It means my blood is great at clotting but not so great at stopping the formation of those clots.  My doctor was a bit puzzled because it's usually seen in caucasian and europeans but I look black.  (My black genes can be traced back to slave ship America and there is history in my bloodline.) I laughed and told her it just means I'm special.  It's been that kind of a pregnancy and luckily she seems to see this as a challenge but not one worth giving up on.  This chat has me sitting in the present as much as possible because it's possible the pregnancy will be all I have. I've been a surrogate 3 times, so again this is familiar.

At 10 weeks, maternity clothes are a must.  I was sitting down and a stranger asked how far along I am.  Two prune size babies and I have an obviously pregnant belly.  I am in between jobs and going on interviews, hoping I just look like I'm sporting a stress belly. Since it's a pretty large momma belly, I'm ready to announce it because it won't matter what I write here when I show up for an interview as a party of 3.

I have been in similar positions on this road so far, and some areas are new.  I didn't know that my liver would have to learn to function without a gallbladder and it would look like a breakup.  Painful and messy.  New lands in familiar places. I have had to give myself injections before to sustain a pregnancy and prevent blood clots, and I'm doing so again.  I will probably have siblings or parents visit in the hospital but when I get home I don't know if I will be on my own, caring for my older kids, and figuring out life with two infants. And gosh,  I get to find a car big enough to carry me and my 5 minor children.

I'm looking at the future and I can see the road that lies in my past.  I can see where I am strong.  I can feel where I need to grow and how I need to ask for support.  The road I'm on was created for me.  No one could compare my journey to theirs because this life was created for me.  I grow as it forces me to and no one else can do it for me.  No one else can encourage me through it.  They have their own lives to figure out.

Be your own cheering section.  This road called life is a life you were called to.  It's meant to help you grow and reach places others will marvel at.  It's not what we're given in life, but how we choose to grow from it that defines where we will one day land and the impact we'll have on the lives of others.

Why Dad Has to Look Great, Even Through Divorce

I might give more clarity than is appreciated by my ex on my blog, but not to our kids.  They don't read my blog.  They don't always want to do the reading for homework and Mom just blathers on. I don't lie to them but I defend their Dad to them all of the time.  They are free to express themselves in my home, so when they call him names, I'll remind them that he loves them as much as I do.  When they justify their opinions, I remind them that we can all be a bit selfish or lazy, but that doesn't mean we love anyone else any less. I remind them that having them do chores around the house prepares them for life alone and their Dad is doing the right thing by teaching them independence.  They help out when I need them to but I resented feeling like a slave to my parents, and will never ask my kids to do work I won't help them with. I might not like their Dad as a person and my life is so much happier without him but I admit, my kids have a good Dad. Why do I defend him? Because even in the ways Kid1 splays himself across my couch, he is in every way his father's child.  I love my sons.  Every part of their personalities is special to me.  There are even ways where I see their Dad or grandfather coming out and those are special.  I know them and I know where they come from and they're my kids.  I want them to feel safe talking about him to me, and they do. Because I defend him even when I don't want to.

We get our first sense of identity from our Dads. It's how we fit in his world that tells us we matter.

My relationship with my kids started in pregnancy.  I was talking to them before they had ears to hear me.  I had that bond or connection, and I still do.  The act of growing up means we are part of our mothers and spend a lifetime learning independence from her.  Even as an adult, I see the ways I follow what my mom did and the ways I try hard to distance myself from her.  I see it in my sense of style and the way I give my kids affection.

When a child is born, they still rely heavily on the parent they attach to, but the smell of mom can soothe a crying baby because that feels like home.  It's instinct.  When they get older, they start to look to the other parent, (in my case my Dad as well as my children's Dad) to see where they fit.

Mom is different from Dad. There's a sense of safety when a child gives mom a melt down.  Mom understands and will make it better so they can safely fall apart.

With Dad, there's a distance that holds a different sense of security and safety.  They will behave differently.  It's not just me.  Most seasoned moms will tell you their kids are different people, depending on who is around.

When it came to angry tempers and who was more capable of losing their shit, it was always me.  The pressure of keeping a clean house, behaved kids and his needs met was overwhelming.  My needs were neglected and it looked like anger.  I was scary.  Without fail, I could tell my kids to behave or I would call their Dad, who was usually more patient, and they would behave.  They listened to his authority without him needing to raise his voice.

Our home feels different now.  I have certain rules, but I allow flexibility.  I will ask them to shower after dinner, but I'm flexible with showers as long as they happen before they leave for school in the morning.  I will ask them to go to bed, but in bed with devices is okay as long as they're asleep before I am, and even if they aren't, they won't be punished for brains that won't slow down. I don't worry about what they wear to school as long as their bodies are comfortable and warm.  Much of this is very different from their Dad and most homes because as mom and head of my household, I can do it how I want to and giving my kids more control and authority over their bodies is important to me.

But I'm not Dad.

When my niece was younger, I asked her brothers to step in and be the man in her life.  I asked them to take her out and play basketball and spend time with her.  I let them know that if the men in her life don't give her a sense of value, she'll believe any boy that tells her he's the only one that cares about her and that will groom her into his victim.

My Dad has always been part of my life.  To this day, I see my Dad fairly often and we talk.  I've become more open with him than he probably appreciates at times.  Growing up, I still had Daddy issues to reconcile.  It was mainly that he was present and my Dad, but he wasn't the person I imagined him to be.  He failed the rules I set for him in my head.

My Step-Dad was patient beyond measure.  He gave me rides, bought me things I wanted, was kind and patient.  I was terrible to him.  I called him "Penis" and sometimes to his face.  I treated him like the name Step-Dad meant I was to step on him.  It was years of patience and I couldn't see him as a decent man until 5 years into his marriage to my mom.  Now I'm so blessed to have him in our lives.  He's been a terrific grandfather to my kids.  He spoils them.  He loves and cares for them, and he looks out for me.  Step-Dads are really special and mine is a great Dad.

I'm lucky to know my brother in law as a great Dad to my nephews.  They live separately from me, so I don't know all that happens as they parent, but I've seen him guide my nephews in a way that they are respectful, responsible, and caring.  Of course, my sister had a great deal to do with that too (because my family is filled with badass warrior dragon slayer women), but I'm not writing about moms.   He has been present and involved in their lives.  He has given structure and discipline as well as encouragement.  He has put being their Dad above being a person in the ways where selflessness has been more common than selfishness.  That's a great Dad.

There's a holiday schedule for my kids.  Easter is coming and I get the Saturday before Easter and their Dad gets Easter Sunday.  We used to visit his family and I wanted the kids to keep that tradition and enjoy a quiet day with them where they don't have to house hop and we can just enjoy each other privately.  For Christmas I get Christmas Eve.  My mom started having celebrations on Christmas Eve so we could spend Christmas Day with our spouse's families.  Without a spouse I was planning a hike alone but a friend invited me to share their Christmas meal.  I sat at the table and watched a Dad hold a baby so his wife could eat her meal.  I watched him connect with his children and guide them with love.  He knew the needs of his children as well as his wife did.  I was so blessed that night by being able to watch a man be a great Dad to his children in supporting his wife.

I remember taking a picture of the mess Kid3 made in my hair when he wanted to brush and style it for me.  It was fun for him but it reminded me of all of my bad hair choices as a child.  I cringed.  I couldn't go out like that.  The smile on his face made it a moment worth remembering through the selfie I snapped.  Yesterday a facebook post almost moved me to tears.  A friend posted a picture of her husband with their girls.  He was proudly wearing the polo shirt and tie his daughter picked out to go out and spend time with his daughters and a niece.  That is a great Dad.

It seems to be an anthem among single moms that there are no good Dads out there, but that's not true.  There are many amazing Dads out there and it comes down to a choice to be that person.  Just like moms, it's a moment to moment choice. Sometimes we shine with patience, love, care and understanding.  Sometimes we fail miserably and hurt the children we love with impatience, anger and selfishness.  The great ones never quit and learn with the kids coaching them to greatness.

Entering the Pro Choice or Pro Life Debate

I'm pro choice.  I always have been.  I have had one of those in the trenches motherhoods that taught me not everyone is cut out to be a parent and it's not a decision that should ever be forced on anyone. When I was a teenager, my mom gave me a book on Christian abstinence, but also made sure I got birth control if I needed it at the doctor.  I had boyfriends, and I didn't always practice abstinence.  I had tried every temporary form of birth control available before I finished high school. With the amount of time I spent peeing on a stick, it's miraculous that none of those tests were positive until Kid1, 8 years after losing my virginity and after getting married.

I think back to the possible fathers in my expression of experimental irresponsibility and I'm grateful that I never had to face a pregnancy with the boys that were all ephemeral ideals of lust with hope for love. It was usually infatuation.  I liked the boys that liked me back, and it's only in my late 30's that I realize how much better it feels to be selective and picky.

When I imagine what life would have been as a teenaged mother . . . In a relationship that was built on teenage hormones . . . During a time when I was unable to take care of myself. . . A pregnancy created out of irresponsibility is what I escaped and  I'm so grateful I never had to choose when I was unable to make a decision from a place of empowerment. In my youth I was never put in a position to have to choose.  That only came once I was married.

I never had anyone force their decision for my fertility on me. The parts considered private have always been under my control. I couldn't imagine the way I would feel about a pregnancy resulting from incest or rape.  Still, we have politicians trying to use "Beauty from Ashes" as a natural consequence disguised as a euphemism to help stomach the idea of being brutalized and further victimized by legislation enforced by men who will never experience the consequences of their control. Thank you George Faught.

It's not just a financial decision.  It's emotional.  It's religious and ethical.  It becomes physical and affects families.  No one person's ideals should force itself on people they will never meet.

I would want the women I love to be able to choose when or how she has a child.  I would want her to feel safe and protected in making choices for her body.  I say this but as for me and my body, I'm pro life.

When I was pregnant with Kid3, I felt extremely lonely.  My poor OB doctor stood uncomfortably as I sobbed and contemplated a late term abortion over several appointments.  Late at night I would sit on the floor next to my sleeping husband and cry.  My son would kick and remind me of how much he wanted to live, and so he did.  My reward has been his light and love and hope.  He has inspired me and encouraged me with his sweet smile and the way his tiny arms would wrap around me for a hug, patting my shoulder with his tiny hand.  I made the decision then, that any child trying to fight for life within me, would have every opportunity I could offer.

The test of your belief is how firmly you stand on your word as difficulties and finances assert their authority over you. When you say you believe in life, do you put your money where your mouth is? Do you pass judgement from the high tower of the distance you keep from your own life? If you found a young mother in need, would you try to support her with a kind word, or anything she might need?

A pregnancy for me would involve daily injections of blood thinners and be high risk.  I know this. My last pregnancy delivered prematurely.  I'm 39 this year.  The risk of birth defects jumps with that 50% fertility drop once a woman hits 40.  My youngest is 10 and I have long gotten rid of all baby gear and maternity clothes.  I would need a bigger car for my minor children.  All of this said, my personal stance is pro life.  A child trying to stick to my womb deserves every chance I could offer it, but the point is, it's a choice I would make, no matter the cost.

A woman should have the option to do as she chooses with her body.

How We Compare Past Pain To Gauge Present Pain But It's All Relative

My writing feels broken. Life still moves at the speed of "slow down, WTF!"

That hasn't kept the words at bay.

My love life has been moving in a positive direction.  It has made change for me and my boys and we're riding the waves as a family.  For the most part we're okay but in one very specific way, we're not.

My firstborn is having a hard time with the changes and not having my home whole has made writing a challenge.  How do I write about doing what feels good, when so much of what I feel is tied into how my son feels and the ways we're not blending our lives into ways where I can proclaim we're all doing epic shit.

Friday I drove myself to an ER after pushing through a job interview and saying I had a little indigestion.  The chest pain was bad enough that I was crying.  Not sobbing or asking for attention as much as silent tears and gritting my teeth through the nurse's questions.  It was bad.  I found my sense of humor.  She was hiding out but given free reign, she's a bit snarky and had no patience for the whiny bitch next to me.  (If a nurse or doctor is trying to help you after you go see them for help, don't bother trying to justify kicking them.) I was sent home after being given really good drugs and felt better through the weekend.

Monday morning I called an ambulance after a night of chest pain, vomiting and being unable to sleep.  I know, pretty bone headed of me.  I kept thinking, it hurts, but it's not as bad as the pulmonary embolisms.  And then it was.  It went from kinda uncomfortable to more painful than full on labor pains pretty quickly too.  I think at some point I may have begged for death while running to the bathroom to vomit and it was only after getting through the night that I called an ambulance and had the paramedic act pretty bored as he realized I wasn't actually having a heart attack.  They hung out with me and waited for another ambulance to take me to a hospital where I was taken in and tested and poked and prodded and drugged.  The 7 am call included a transfer to my plan hospital and a discharge after 33 hours, with lotsa fun follow up appointments in my near future.  Gallbladders are like lungs.  They're supposed to function without using pain to grab your attention.  If you feel pain, play it safe and see a doctor.

I kept thinking of my worst possible experiences and I held them up to what I was going through.  I held up the past with the present in a way that let me see that I was not actually dying.  I matched up battle scars to see that I've been through bad situations and it doesn't make the current better or worse.  It reminds me there's no point in whining about it.  I will get through it.  There are no other options.

That moment helped me find the funny and crack some jokes.  That comparison gave me the clarity to see that I haven't been able to write, but it's about me.  It's not the boyfriend.  It's not wondering what I can write or if I should. It's my relationship with my firstborn that makes me feel so shattered that the words stopped.

It's new territory.  I get to learn and we get to stretch, and in time, this will be one of those battle scars in our relationship I will hold up.  I'll remember how hurt I am that I have hurt him.  I will remember how torn I feel by the directions my heart is pulling me in.  I'll remember that in this moment and every moment around it, I've been trying to go by my gut and do what is best for me and my family, without sacrificing myself for my family.  It's a marker.

I will see the parts that were broken.  I'll compare them to the next terrible thing.  I'll remember how we managed and the ways that made us stronger.  It'll be okay.  The words will flow again.

 

How I Use My Birthday to Plan Life and Death

It’s my birthday month. I know a few people that make it a month long celebration but I’m not that person. I might be too intense for those shenanigans. I spend a couple of weeks looking for my perfect birthday gift. I don’t plan what I’ll do. It doesn’t usually work out the way I want it to when I do. It didn’t work out with my ex, and now my kids are set in what they will and will not do.

February is the month when I celebrate my next lap around the sun, rather than the last one I just completed. It’s an opportunity to jump into this next year with a sense of direction and excitement.

I spend a few days dreaming big. It’s a time to think of the ways the year felt amazing and the ways I wanted more than I experienced. The thing about a dream is it hasn’t happened yet. No matter how big or small you dream, you get to create what you imagine. Why not dream big? It’s the difference between dreaming of a slice of cheesecake and owning the shop that makes them all day. You don’t have either in front of you and you get to create the steps to get the goal you’re after. It sounds silly until you imagine the ways you stop yourself from dreaming big. I didn’t dream big as a child. My only life goal was to make enough money to hire someone to clean up after me. It’s a gift I’ve handed onto my kids. At Christmas I saw how I have been living in scarcity to the point where my kids asked for permission to dream of a wish list. I get to dream big so they can see we limit ourselves and we don’t have to.

My first big goal is a trip to Canada. Kid1 wants to go to Canada and I would love to take my boys. That means getting passports and there are steps and documents I need for that. I need to figure out where he wants to go which is hard right now. He’s not talking to me. He hates the idea I have a boyfriend that I want him to get to know. I’m giving him space for a few days, but Canada is about him so we have to find space to make amends. I get to figure out the finances when the single parent rodeo is a difficult and expensive ride and I’m a temp that hops from agency to agency when opportunities present themselves. And permission. I get to see if their Dad will allow me to travel out of the state, let alone the country. There are goals and steps and I get to figure them out and step into each task.

I work out the kinks in my planner. My planner is really just a 3 ring binder with months broken up. Rather than a budget, I set up what is due and when it’s due because bills are my reality. I have goals set to tackle certain things as a priority. I have things listed I want to experience, and I have steps broken down. It outlines my goals, but also my 18-month plan. I have sections for my kids, and finances, goals, what I need to do, field trips and reading lists. The hard part for me is deciding what I can do each day to work toward those goals. It’s easy to procrastinate.

Normally my Christmas task is to write letters but I didn’t get to it at Christmas, so I’m doing that this month as well. I write letters to my loved ones so they have my final words if I unexpectedly die. I keep track of things I would add to my obituary, so it’s easier for whoever gets to arrange that, but I also write letters to my siblings and nieces. Unlike the times when I've been depressed and suicidal, writing this out (in it's morbid glory) is the one way I'm thinking of others.  When suicidal, I was incapable of thinking about others or beyond the next hour.

What is amazing is how the thought of dying really makes you appreciate what you have in living and it often makes me have conversations I would normally put off. It’s a way to force myself to clear the air and be present in my relationships. It’s a way to show my family how much I love them, even when I don’t make time for them in my selfishness.

February is my month to shoot forward into the next year and it looks like a month of planning.

Kid Behavior

I'm a firm believer that no child wants to be a bad kid. If they are acting out, there's a good chance that the grown ups in charge have missed something and the kid is trying to tell you something.

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The best way to gauge the needs of a child is to try your best to see things the way they do and see how you would feel if your needs were neglected.

Control

We all have a desire for control.  It's horrible when life spins out of control.  That's when people check out and escape. Putting on my big girl pants means I'm releasing control over situations I can't control and accepting the only thing I can control is my reaction and my mindset.  This comes from having full control of my life and knowing it's still not complete control.  There's freedom in this, but it's not freedom if you have absolutely no control.  Our children don't always get to choose what to eat, or wear or when to go to bed.  They don't always get to choose where they are going or who they will be with.  I get a little road ragey when I want the car ahead of me to drive like they had to get a license to do so.  I try to give my kids control where I can. My mom feels I give them too many choices, but I feel it's important to teach them that their opinions are valued and that I want to know what they think and feel.

Exhaustion

Children need much more sleep than adults do.  When we are asleep is when we grow and heal. It's when we recharge and reset from what was learned.  If you eat a large meal, your brain slows down and you get sleepy because your body needs the rest to process the work it's doing.  This is why multitasking means you get lots of less than stellar results.  Kids need rest. Dragging them from store to store and not making sure they are rested is begging for a melt down.

Hunger

We all have experienced hangry moments.  It's when hunger and anger merge and food makes us feel bad for our behavior later.  As adults, it's easy to be so driven by duty that we neglect our bellies, but we still know when we need to eat.  We have learned to listen to our bodies. Infants had a steady stream from their umbilical cord and don't experience hunger until birth.  It looks like rooting and mouthing their little fists, but it sounds like crying and anger.  They have little bellies.  Small frequent meals will help keep them calm.

Loneliness

No one likes to be lonely.  As adults, we crave company and connection.  I'm not dating right now because the people that want to connect usually want to connect in ways that I'm not interested in.  I want a mental and emotional connection, and often that means I can skip the rest unless I find someone whose juice is worth my squeeze.  For now that's just me.  My juice is worth my squeeze but I drew what loneliness is to me.  There's a vulnerability in standing alone and enjoying it.  My stick figures include a naked curly haired kid and a couple with clothes on.  She's wearing a bikini top (no nipples).  We all crave connection.  Our kids want us to see what they are doing and they want our involvement.  Humans need physical touch.

Boredom

My drawing is supposed to be a computer and a football, but you can see where my football took a turn.  Maybe my computer was offering porn.  I haven't decided, but you can.  I've never called myself an artist.  I craft words. My kids love being entertained.  It looks like Homestuck, or Minecraft or YouTube.  They are growing up in a world of globalization and computers in the classroom so learning is entertainment.  I was lucky enough to have a friend in high school point out that it's lucky when we can be our favorite company.  It's a blessing to be content when alone.  I can stand and watch a setting sun shimmering on ocean waves.  I can be present and feel the warmth of the sun and the breeze on the air and I can feel how wonderful living in the moment is.  It's a learned skill and not every child has learned it.  It doesn't help that I and other parents have used the television to keep them entertained so we can do laundry and dishes and be parents.

Love

We need to feel love and affection.  We need to feel valued.  We need to know that we are not cared for out of obligation but because we are deeply loved.  Kids need to know it from their family because the value we instill will help them see that they are enough on their own and they won't need to buy friendships or barter sex for affection.  Teach your children they are loved early and they will learn to love themselves, rather than seek someone else's love to fill the voids from a detached parent.

I love openly and freely.  I have no problem complimenting someone else.  If I see greatness in someone, I will call it out because I love what I see and want to honor that beauty.  Love is a gift that I enjoy giving.

What happens when we fail

When we can't give our children what they need, they will often react by acting out.  This can look like tears, or tantrums.  This can look like bad behavior and lying.  Why would someone lie?  They know that the truth isn't good enough for the person they're lying to.  They know that what they think or believe or feel should be shaded in someone else's approval before it's accepted.  How sad is that? I started this post by stating that no child wants to be bad, and I stand by it.  Getting your attention, whether through praise or a reprimand means that you are looking at what had been ignored.  When my boys act out, the first thing I look at is where I failed them, and I can usually spot it, but sometimes I have to ask and coax it out of them.

Meltdown vs. Tantrum

Being an autism mom means I have first hand experience of a meltdown and have had to learn the difference.  Most people see acting out as a tantrum, but a meltdown is a different beast.

A tantrum is usually about getting what is wanted.  The kid in question has probably had a tantrum that was rewarded in the past.  They will often act out as long as they are getting a reaction from you.  I don't react to my kid's tantrums.  Not anymore.  I will step over a crying child and keep walking.  They are aware of their personal safety and their audience.

A meltdown means there is so much going on that the kid has lost control.  Meltdowns mean they might end up hurting themselves.  Meltdowns mean they can't adjust to the situation and for my boys, I need to be their anchor, and hold them quietly until the moment passes.

Single Mom to Boys

Waking up to a full house with small fry snuggles and the pop of a toy gun means I stumble out of bed with sore muscles from too much walking to amuse ourselves and prepare to short order cook through breakfast.  Country fried potatoes, with ham, with no ham, and less ham, Mom.  One wants eggs, the other says no, the third thinks I'm crazy for asking what I should remember.  French toast and syrup but why are there eggs? No, not that, anything but French toast with eggs in it. My child is antsy and skates through the house.  My care is still in bed and I mumble about pads.  He throws an empty beer can down the steps into the back yard and I tell him to go put it where it belongs.  I didn't mention he should take off the skates because I thought self-preservation would tell him for me.  He descends and toward the bottom he falls and he's landed on his stomach, crying but not moving as I'm covered in soapy suds.  Water is turned off and my hands are wiped on my sleep shirt as I run to his side unconcerned about how exposed I might be or the neighbor that said he wants to see what I'm showing.  I help him up and get the skates off but force him to walk up the steps as much as he can.  I need to see if he is physically able or if a broken bone won't allow such movement because it's a knee that was injured and scraped and brings tears.

In the kitchen he's passed my test and I reach down and lift him and cradle him to my chest.  The mom that claims no upper body strength . . . The woman that is too old to carry her 9 year old.  I carry him to the couch and set the pillows up to elevate the source of his pain, and head to the kitchen for a bag of frozen corn because sensory integration dysfunction is what we've called the destruction of all of the gel ice packs I no longer buy.  "Mom, I'm thirsty and hungry."  He didn't want my short ordered breakfast but he wants food and he wants me to get it because Mom's attention makes the pain go away.   He settles on leftover tri-tip for breakfast and I hope this morning isn't counted in the Mom of the year award nominations.  

I'm running around to pick up dishes and laundry and scrub around the toilet where aim was more like point and shoot and adjust pillows and refill drinks and sit long enough to be noticed and asked for a snack and then get rewarded in hugs and exposed cheeks that I cover in kisses.

I want to go to Mom's house for food and love and it's a day where I need my Mommy.  The kids are entertained by technology and have no interest in going.  "We'll only be there a little while." And I get a sulk and sadness and dejection.  I remember it's his holiday too and he's old enough to be home alone.  I leave him for a short run and we head to grandma's house long enough to show off my latest tattoo and tell the family I finally shot back at the ex who hates me and wishes me dead.  I'm growing in ways they can applaud and I'm given hugs and healing.

We're home and they're hungry because they couldn't possibly eat from the table loaded with fresh fruits, vegetables, barbecue ribs, chicken and thai foods at Grandma's house.  That would be too easy.  I'm home and step into the slow progression of my knife chopping through pounds of spuds for homemade mashed potatoes and the dredging of cubed steaks in flour and buttermilk and flour again, careful that they don't see it's gluten free for me, or they might not eat it.  I use too much sausage in my country gravy and know at least half of it will end up in the trash because Kid1 doesn't like gravy. Kid3 wants to watch the neighbors with their fireworks while I'm frying up dinner and I say no.  He screams and cries and slams doors and hides underneath bunk beds.  And I say no.  He rallies and reasons and screams in fits and I start singing just as loudly Cosette, then Eponine's lines in a Heart Full of Love, because performance holds the rage that is simmering because I've had enough.  The song ends and I offer another no, but he thinks his rage might win me over because he can't see past the calm I force.  He says no, and I remind him of the videos on Instagram that prove he doesn't know how close is too close to fire and that he didn't see the wisdom in taking off his skates before descending a flight of stairs.  He goes off to cry and I know I've hurt his feelings.  I care.

I give it time for him to cry and for myself to calm the rage before I find and apologize to him.  He rages through his hurt and blame, and I accept that he needs to explain his feelings.  Kid2 comes in to tell me how much he hates summer school and that I am a horrible parent for making him go to boring summer school because he hates learning and exercise and I ask him to leave the room so that I can cry.  I know this trick is dirty, but I needed the moment to not be yelled at.  I fake a cry that is a slow whimper of defeat while I watch animal videos on Facebook and try not to laugh and Kid3 climbs out from under the bed to wrap his little arms around me.  I open my arms and shield my tear free face from him and hold and kiss him and he apologizes for the anger he gave me.

Morning comes and Kid2 reminds me he doesn't want to go to summer school. He stomps and slams doors and yells that he doesn't want to go and I know I can't have a day where I have to go to the school and calm him down, so he is allowed to go to Grandma's house and Kid1 flips me off because he wants me to be a firm parent with Kid2.  A couple of hours later he's asking for minutes to be added to his phone and I give them to him because I had already offered the day before.

It's Wednesday.  I'm grateful for work and grateful that it's Dad's turn.  I'm aware of the guilt I have.  The guilt that they have to house hop when they don't like it.  Guilt that they have two houses of not enough because two houses are struggling on a single income and they are stuck in the middle.  I know the rage I quiet when facing the ocean and watching a sunset and feel I am their ocean and the abyss needs to house their rage in a safe place.

Amusement Parks

Every summer when I was a kid was spent at amusement parks.  We went to Six Flags Magic Mountain the most and Knott's Berry Farm came in second.  There's sweet nostalgia in the biting smell of chlorinated water, the burn of heated oil frying funnel cakes, and the clank and roar of a roller coaster loaded with excitement. We would go in groups and make sure we were able to ride together, asking strangers to ride ahead of us. We were in large groups, playing hothands or slide in line as we would laugh and gossip and talk about cute boys.  Sometimes we would split off to ride different rides, and meet up for lunch at a designated spot and time.  It was an endless day of rides, plotting our day in a progression across the park, acre by acre, ride by ride, greasy treat followed by too much sugar.  And water rides.  The water rides were a morning, noon and night treat because in the morning and at night the lines were short, and at midday, we talked and got sunburns and didn't mind waiting two hours for a ride that lasted less than five minutes.

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." - Carl Jung

img_0532I was given about $40 and I had to really consider if food was more important than an airbrushed shirt.  All day in line with a cute boy and hand holding was different from back in the real world where we had friends that watched closer and had opinions.  I still remember a ride on Free Fall at Magic Mountain with a cute boy holding my hand and giving it a squeeze right when we dropped and for the first time really yelling on a ride because I generally smile and enjoy the drops and turns. He was flipping his baseball cap on and off his head with the visor and his hair was slicked back like a helmet. His name was Manny.  He changed the experience that day. 

"She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world."—Kate Chopin, "The Awakening"

Yesterday I took kid3 to Knott's Berry Farm.  His older brothers were at Anime Expo with their Dad so we had a mother and son date weekend. Age has done some wicked things to my body and things feel different.  They look different.  There was a determination to make the day one where my son could just be a kid.  It happened on our way into the park when I was telling him that my last trip was before I had kids when I went with my Dad.  Knott's honors our Veterans with free admission around Veteran's Day.  My son wanted to go then so it wouldn't cost me.  It was then that I realized he was so concerned about having enough that I wasn't allowing him to be a child.  He was worried about money. Before we set foot inside the park, I looked him in the eye and said the only thing he needed to worry about is how much fun he could have, and keeping me from puking.  He kept having moments of making a request, and then covering it up by saying he was just kidding.  I spent the day telling him that his thoughts, opinions and desires are important, and he doesn't have to be kidding, but any requests that had to be denied came with a reason that even he could validate.  If at anytime he had to go to the bathroom, was hungry or thirsty or wanted to see or do something, it was up to him.  There were limits, such as climbing on railings, but I wanted to stress how important his childlike innocence is to me.  Figuring out being a single mom is stressful and I didn't see until that moment how much it was weighing on him as well.

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"I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become." - Carl Jung

My stomach was different when I was younger.  It was stronger.  I was able to ride anything and shake it off to ride the next big coaster by the time we got through the long line. I loved the loops and riding backward. Now I don't.  Now the loops and spirals make me want to vomit.  Don't get me wrong, I've never been able to stomach a Merry-Go-Round.  I get dizzy.  But rides that twist and spin tend to make me want to vomit now so I avoid most rides that are not wooden coasters.

"Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people." -Carl  Jung

There were many rides where I stood in line with my son and waited with him, only to step through and wait for him to ride alone.  Or I asked if others would ride with him.  It wouldn't have been fun for either of us if I got sick and we had to sit the whole day.  I know my limits. Mind you, only a few weeks ago, I got car sick in someone else's car.  (It might have just been a bad date and a reaction to him.) Wooden roller coasters are made for steep climbs and tremendous drops.  I love the weave back and forth. While Ghostrider made me burp like it was a Beerfest, I didn't want to hurl.  I was smiling throughout the ride.

At one point there was a family behind us complaining about the long wait. My child started to grumble.  I pulled my son into a hug and told him the long wait wouldn't get any shorter if we started complaining and it just means more time to hang out and give him my full attention. Then we started tickling each other. 

"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." - Carl Jung

My son loves terrifying rides.  He feels fear and excitement and will talk about being afraid, but he's also very determined to ride in spite of his fear.  This is bravery and I am so proud of him.  At one point his determination made a grown woman suck it up and go on a ride she almost backed out of. 

Throughout the day, I was declining rides because of a fear of being sick.  It's a solid concern considering how consistently I get sick, but still, I kept chickening out.  The times I did get on rides, I laughed and screamed in joyful exhilaration while my son rode next to me with terror etched in his 9 year old features.  At the end of the ride, he was happy and excited and wanted to ride again while I was happy during the ride, and sick afterward.  I'm not sure what it means yet, but it means something, right?

"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." -Carl  Jung

Unringing the Bell

Sometimes it would be amazing to unhear or unsee something.  A chance at a do-over is the stuff of great novels and daydreams.  We all want to take something back and start over.  Sometimes it's impossible.  Sometimes you can use the point where it all fell apart as a launch pad for something new and deeper. The devastation I felt when my husband left me was traumatic but there is value in it.  I have learned so much about myself and I have found true joy in who I am.  There was a cost but I didn't expect the payout to touch so many various areas of my life in such a ginormous and beautiful way.

In 2012 I was hospitalized with my last surrogate pregnancy for about a month.  At 25 weeks gestation, a regular check up with the neonatologist showed that my cervix started funneling and the twins were trying to come out. Well, more like my body wanted to force an eviction. I've always been blessed with fairly easy pregnancies and contractions I couldn't feel until I was about ready to push. Why else would I be willing to be pregnant 6 times? I was planning a pedicure and Target trip that day but I was told to head straight to the emergency room. I couldn't stop at home for my laptop or Kindle or even extra panties.  I was in a hospital bed from week 25 until week 29 when they were born.  They eventually left the hospital and then the country.  During that time I was on complete and total bedrest, and allowed to take one 5-minute timed shower while sitting.  The rest of the time I was stuck having nurses give me bed baths, and I spent a week in the trendelenburg position.  This means my bed was tilted so I was laying upside down at a 45 degree angle to keep gravity from doing what is natural.  I will always feel like I could have done things a little differently to keep them in longer and give them a stronger start in life.  I can see most would imagine I did enough, but believing there is always more to do and that I could do a better job is just who I am. I deal with it.  You should too.

This time of being forced away from my family reset things for me.  It gave me a do over. I realized that motherhood was a gift I was squandering in superficial ideals of what I should do and what I should be while my kids suffered my short temper because I couldn't possibly do it all and be happy about it at the same time.  I came home and things changed.  I decided I would be the mother my children deserved, rather than the mother I wanted to be. I started putting their needs ahead of mine and the desire to whine about it settled into a version of peace for me.  I stopped feeling defeated because I felt what it was like to not be able to sleep with my kids near me and steal random hugs whenever I felt son sick and needed a refill.  I never imagined it as preparation for shared custody.  I saw it as patience when I needed it and compassion when they did.

In 2005, my oldest was 4 years old and nonverbal.  His pediatrician with too many letters behind her name told me he would talk when he was ready.  At the time I was a teacher's aide at an elementary school and had a friendship with a speech therapist.  She suggested I ask the school district for an assessment.  His assessment was the same day as his first IEP.  I took him for the appointment and the team asked me to come back in a few hours and bring the whole family.

A few hours later I was there with the ex and our two boys.  They psychologist played with our kids on the floor while the rest of the team explained what autism is and that it was in our home.  They explained the characteristics to us and I right away made the connection that they were describing everything Kid2 does as well.  From the floor, the psychologist told us that in her professional opinion, Kid2 was also on the spectrum and his characteristics were more severe than Kid1.  Kid2 was still 2 years old and an official diagnosis wouldn't come until later. Autism spectrum disorders can often look like normal toddler behavior and while it may seem like everyone has autism through some sort of connection, they really don't like to hand out labels unless they have to.

My emotions were swiftly all over the place.  Before I left that meeting, I had cycled through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression) and I was at acceptance. Every thought and action for the next few years became, "But how do I help my boys?" I had to field the questions from family, making them feel better about what it was like for me to raise special needs kids because somehow the stigma affected them even though I was the one dealing with meltdowns and being a bad mother in the eyes of everyone around me.  It was a long time before I allowed myself to mourn the loss of expectations that were born with my kids and died in that meeting.  I would deny myself the freedom to revisit those stages and emotions because it wasn't productive.  I would instead go through a moment of sensory integration messes like poopy painting on the walls and floor and beg others to envy me in snark and frustration, not realizing that there really are women that would give anything for the work I faced in place of the grief they felt.

There are fewer expectations and more pleasant surprises. I was told my middle son would never even say, "Mom." I smile when he has long conversations about Nintendo or tells me how loved he feels.

My boys are still autistic.  That doesn't go away or fade into the background.  It's in our face with meltdowns from time to time. We do our part to make others autism aware, it just doesn't look like stickers and ribbons.  I'm usually good at knowing where their limits are but I constantly remind them that they need to communicate their needs.  I don't mind cutting a day short, but I mind knowing they pushed through a day of torture because they felt my needs were more important than theirs. I will always run the risk of a total melt down with violence if I try to change routines too drastically without plenty of warning and coaching along the way. The difference is they have learned ways to regulate how they feel and they have learned how they are expected to behave in society.  It's not a perfect formula but it's one we have all learned to work with.  At the same time, I am at peace with the idea that they prefer to be home at all times because it's a routine they can predict.  It's structure they crave and when they are calm, we all have peace.  That is until Kid3 has a meltdown. He doesn't understand he's not capable of competing with what his brothers have already done before he was born and the part of me he is poking with a stick has long since been broken and looks at him with pity and amusement.

Would I ever unring this bell?  Probably not.  Of course I'm Mom and would love to protect my children from every moment of suffering.  The reality is they are often blessedly oblivious to most social slights. I'm the one that sees more than I should and I may or may not have wanted to cut a kid because of it.

There are things about being a special needs mom I would never give up.  I'm an advocate.  I know how to fight for my kids.  I have.  I've won.  Fighting Like a Girl and Pulling Punches is all about what my kids have taught me. It has made me grow in patience and empathy.  I'm the person that won't judge the mom with the crying child in a grocery store because I know that child is probably hungry, tired, uncomfortable and bored. I know that parent has been doing all they can think of to do for their children while doing what they need to do in order to take care of themselves and be the parents they want to be.  We all try to do what we think is best for our kids.   Being an autism mom has made me an optimist.  I will always look out for the best in a bad situation and find the silver lining because that is a necessity in the life we get to live.  We have to stay positive because it's not just our joy on the line, but that of the children we are blessed with.  Their peace and sense of self comes from me.  I'm responsible for the inner voice that I've helped shape from their infancy. I'm responsible for their ability to navigate the world outside of our home and the thickness of skin that protects them from discrimination and aggression.

As for Kid1, he has the ability to see the world with a fresh perspective that takes each part separately and examines it carefully before putting it all back together.  He has a gift for art that is detailed because one of his superpower characteristics is to fixate on one thing to the point of mastery.  He amazes me with how he sees things and the specific diction with which he describes things.  One of his loves is my mashed potatoes.  He's always called them "smashed potatoes" because that is what I'm doing when I make them.  (Not much in my kitchen came out of a box until recent months.)

Kid2 is completely guileless.  While he would love to lie, he's often incapable of it. He has an open appreciation for affection.  He understands the value of a great big hug and snuggles that hold you up and together. He loves video games and will research and obsess over them. He's passionate.  He will have moments of joy and laughter and moments of rage.  The only times he is apathetic is when he is experiencing a sensory overload and needs to reset with hugs, and a calming routine. Or when he's being affectionate.

I've heard some lines about special needs parents being chosen.  I call BS on that.  The learning curve has been sharp for all of us, and we haven't quit or died trying, so we're doing okay.  But we're far from the saintly.  We know how to live on call every moment and know that an emergency is seconds away at any given time.  We've been judged for our parenting and had our instincts go against professional opinions and we've been right. Given true respite where someone we trust has our kids, we can let loose and party harder than the average parent.  We know how to accept a break when it's offered and we trust the person that has our kids.  At the same time, not everyone is trusted with our kids.  We're not magical or unicorns, but we learn to choose our battles and let the small stuff slide.  The big stuff will be a bigger battle than you could imagine trying to bargain for.

Right now this first draft is being written with 9 year old Kid3 having a tantrum because I won't allow him to eat Funyuns in my bed.  It's been about an hour of crying, throwing things and slamming doors.  It's part of his fallout when transitions between houses gets to him.  I'm at peace and ignoring him, except when he calms himself enough to talk clearly.  I respond calmly and talk to him at his level while speaking slightly lower than he does until he has begun to calm his voice.  I wouldn't unring this bell.

Mother of My Othered

When individuals or groups make connections based on setting aside a group as intrinsically different, we've othered them and the cost is being paid in shootings and suicides that we are forced to compensate with loss and cultural anomie. We have done this based on race, sexual orientation, gender, disability and any other thing that could make one person believe they deserve more than the person next to them.  I do my best to keep an open mind and love each person because they are a person and that is enough.  I can't think of a group I'd discriminate against except maybe rapists . . . the irony sounds like, "they were asking for it." (And yet I will objectify random men with errant fantasies because I can.  Don't ask me to justify it.  I can't.  I won't.)

About six weeks ago my middle (autistic) son had a meltdown.  Meltdowns happen, but this one was bad and there wasn't much peace I could offer him.  I'll drop it on you, but you might need a minute afterward.  I did.

He was having a hard time with math and decided he would never be able to get a job to support himself.  It occurred to him that one day his parents would die and there would be no one to take care of him.

At 13, my child has absorbed the idea that he is disabled and can't take care of himself.  It is right in front of him and all around him.  He is sensitive and sweet but he's also aware of what others say and has no way to protect himself from the fears of what could be because tomorrow is uncertain and he is aware that he is different.  He knows that he's been othered by strangers and loved ones alike.  He has violent moments and I really don't have to wonder why.

Wow.  Right?! This is the main reason why my goal is to be a financial powerhouse and set up a trust account where they can eventually live comfortably off of the interest.  Or I just need to set up an amazing life insurance policy.

A couple of months ago my oldest (autistic son) admitted he's not as exciting as another kid.  His Dad's current relationship has built in play dates and these kids are full of what makes a cool kid envied.  Kid1's shoulders slumped a bit, and his deepening teenage voice lowered in shame as he admitted he isn't into sports or breakdancing.  (Kid3 is and they get along fine.) My response was typical of me.

"Has it occurred to you that he might be the boring one that wouldn't have a clue where to geek out if he was thrown in with your friends, and that your friends would probably welcome him before his friends welcomed you?  That makes you the exciting one to me."

Growing up, I was a loner by nature, but that didn't stop me from joining drill team . . . running for office in the student body (and winning that popularity contest) . . .  dancing on stage as well as the steps of City Hall . . .  singing a Les Mis solo in high school and later having a nipple slip while in costume for a Moliere play On the same stage . . .  learning to take down a really tall blonde god in karate . . . squatting for a bump in volleyball  . . .  learning to ollie off of a curb on a fat skateboard . . . swimming on a team each summer . . . or half of the other non-structured ways I played that my kids don't. I did these things, but valued my alone time to be stuck in my head.  I was an emo kid before there was a name for it.

I don't get all of the things my boys love.  It's not for me to learn. What they love has nothing to do with how I love them. Their superpowers are in technology and it looks like anime and gaming.  Kid1's talent is in his artwork that I will frame and hang around the house.  Child’s Play and Raising Gamers is a whole post on this.  Go on, read it.  This will be here when you hit your back button.

My kid brother studied marketing and has a clothing line.  I'm not part of his demographic and even if he offered it, I'm not made to wear his clothes.  I'm a Mom.  By some accounts on various dating sites, I'm beautiful with a great body and an amazing smile.  You don't get the vapid selfie moments that are all over my Facebook and Instagram, so I have to give you their word for it. My point is that my brother is looking for girls that wear their Daddy issues in the skin they expose.  These girls go out in mini skirts that give the illusion that they are in fact weather proof.  I used to be that girl.  Now I get cold and I'm not her.  He's looking for the up and coming young men that need to prove their virility and success most nights in clubs and bars all over the southland and Vegas.  I am not made to wear my brother's clothing line but I'm so proud of him. He can doctor up my resume any day.  (Then I'll edit out the lies.)

When I watched Man of Steel with my boys, there was a scene where young Clark Kent hid in a closet.  He was having a sensory meltdown. He could see and feel and hear too much and it was hard to just be.  He was going through everything an autistic person feels from time to time.  I pointed out to my kids that Superman can see and feel things that we just don't.  We would never call him disabled, and since autism offers those same super powers to a lesser degree, they are not disabled.  They are my super heroes. They gave me smirks of disbelief but I stand by this.

I plan to watch Finding Dory because I hear great things about Ellen Degeneres's portrayal of an othered child in the way she is constantly apologizing for who she is and feeling that she is not enough. Really, it was just this post on the Mighty.  I plan to watch it alone because I tend to ruin movies for people that want to be entertained because I can't shut that part of my brain off.  (I saw Superman vs. Batman with my Dad last and I don't think he's looked at me the same since I shared my thoughts on it.)

There is a flow of ideals that filter from well meaning people to my sons who can't ignore what they hear.  There is a struggle to show them that it's okay to be who they are and being themselves is perfection. I try to fill them with how amazing they are every chance I get.  It looks like more concern for them than broken things that I've had longer than they've been alive and it smells like stinky hugs from boys who don't enjoy wearing deodorant (might be a teenage boy thing).

Showing them it's okay to be in their skin means when Kid2 starts chewing his shirt because he needs the oral stimulation, I don't make him feel bad about a destroyed shirt.  It's a shirt that will be replaced, but his self worth is only what we build it to be.  They don't make eye contact often because according to Kid2, he gets easily distracted.  I once heard an interview given by an autistic girl. She said that faces have too many areas to focus on and it's hard to pick one thing, so she looked away instead.  My kids are okay with eye contact sometimes but other times it's too much to ask.  They will often be destructive.  Paper gets chewed into giant spitball wads. Couch cushions get stabbed with pens and scissors.   Even beloved toys get destroyed.  I have an ammonite that is broken in half.  My kid destroyed a fossil when nature couldn't. I don't get angry anymore.  It just means a need for a fidget was huge and the broken item filled a need.  One day my house may look like a museum but it won't feel like home.

Kid1 gets angry with my more destructive Kid2.  There's an ongoing boundary issue. I've had to learn the difference between a melt down and a tantrum.  A tantrum is intentional.  A melt down can not be controlled and it happens when I've failed as a mom to see when they were reaching their tipping point.  Kid2 punching grandma was a tantrum.  I know this because he would have never punched me.  When anger looks like aggression it usually means they have reached a limit of their needs and wants being put aside or ignored.  It means there is too much noise or they are over stimulated.  Or the teasing needed to be stopped sooner. (They can go from playful to murderous intent fairly quickly and I don't encourage horseplay.) Something needed to be adjusted for them and they can no longer soothe themselves and it looks like a tantrum or they are being loud or they need to lay in bed in sweltering heat under a blanket because they need to reset themselves and stimming movements are not helping anymore. A blanket fort is also a good place to hide the anime porn.

At the end of the day, accepting who they are means I have to meet them where they stand.  It started with my not forcing them to hug people.  If I tell them they can't control their bodies and must give an adult a hug, I have just invalidated their gut instincts that may be saying to stay away.

Forcing them to give affection (in a really extreme set of glasses) can look like grooming them to be victims of abuse.  Hug this person that makes you uncomfortable because making me look like you are affectionate and well adjusted means more than what you feel.  While you're at it, keep quiet and respectful because this is an adult, and their thoughts and feelings mean more than yours.

I don't force haircuts anymore.  It's their hair and I won't touch it as long as they brush through the tangles daily. If they want to be home, we stay home.  If it's not a school night and they want to stay up, I let them.  Even if random laughter wakes me at 4 in the morning. (Yes, I'm editing at 4 and this will suck later when I'm on my way home from the beach tonight.) On a school night, we try to stick to routines and rely on melatonin. If it's the middle of the day and they are tired, I let them sleep.  It's about letting them decide what is right for them and showing them that their needs are important to me and to them.  There is value in their needs and desires.  There is nothing more important than what they think or feel.  I ask them questions and their answers are never wrong as long as they answer with the same respect I offer.

I think all of our relationships teach us what we need to learn to help the next person grow.  I learned to mother my sons from daughtering my Dad (yes, I make up words and you'll get used to it).  I love him deeply.  He will never be what I hoped for as a teenager, but the day I decided to love and accept him as he is and meet him where he is instead of demanding he take my designated route to where I wanted him to be was the day I found healing.  I know that he loves me and will always do what he thinks is best and that is how he expresses his love.  I know my kids will surprise and amaze me but not if I'm too busy looking for ways to measure them up to someone else's ideals and expectations.  I find there is a great reward in flexibility and learning to meet someone where they are.  Sometimes they'll surprise me and return the favor. Sometimes they'll want to stretch because they can feel the warmth of my sunshine.

Daddy's Day

I love my Dad.  Even when I can't agree with him, I can always see that his beliefs are firmly grounded in love and that as a Dad, he has and will always do what he thinks is best for me.  He's the salt of the earth, man's man that I always look for when I try to see how a man measures up.  Dad took me to the shooting range and fishing.  He had me hand him tools when he worked on his cars, and I was able to walk around with "tool hands"  They were dirty enough to show I did more than stand and watch.  He taught me a few self defense moves before I took karate and taught me how to change a tire and check the fluids in my car.  He taught me how to make southern fried chicken (which is too greasy for my tastes). He loves me enough to flip out when he will see my latest tattoo tomorrow afternoon.  When my ex left and I was struggling for groceries and figuring out how to keep the house running, he stepped in and for a short while allowed me to fall apart and just be his little girl. It was a short while before I remembered my parents didn't raise me to sit by and be taken care of and I had to get it together.I can appreciate the Grandfather that my step-dad is. He became my step dad after I was 18.  I never saw him as mine, but in the years since I stopped acting like the title gave me a right to step all over him, I have been blessed with the grandfather he has become to my sons.  We recently had a heart to heart where he reminded me that I used to ask him, "are you dumb, stupid,  or both?" He has earned my respect and I have softened into a deep respect and love for him.

My ex's Dad will always be mine.  When I decided I wanted to keep my ex forever, I looked at his Dad and thought, yes, I could take care of this man when he starts to look like his Dad.  He is sweet and endearing and puts love into his cooking and his time.  He is likely to sacrifice his needs to make sure we're okay.  When we came to him with the news of his first grandchild, he had me rest (and napping on his couch was super easy) and he whipped up beef stroganoff from scratch.  He loved feeding me and he's always been generous.

My ex's step dad loves my children in such a way that they love and look forward to talking to him.  He's an angler and a biker and a mechanic. He's another solid man that I appreciate having in my kid's lives.

I was a surrogate Mom.  Three times.  These three Dads were all men that loved their wives and loved children and made me feel honored to be trusted with such a precious gift.

Then there is the ex.  I didn't want kids before I met him.  There was something special about him that made the idea of kids not so terrible.  We had our first and I was excited to give a second and third.  Being a single parent has made him a better Dad than I thought possible.

Before I became a single parent, I thought single moms had to do it all as both mom and dad.  I'm here now and it doesn't look like that.  My boys have a Dad and I don't have to fill those shoes because he's got them filled.  When I'm alone I'm not making up for a missing Dad.  I'm stretching who I am as Mom.  As long as I continue to do my best to be the Mom my kids deserve instead of the selfish person I want to be, we're going to be in good shape.  I'm not being someone I'm not, but I'm stretching who I am.  I'm not defined by gender roles.  One day there will be another man in my life and he'll be part of my son's lives.  He'll be a step dad and I will have to stretch again.  I will have to be open to accepting help and sharing responsibilities.  I have no problems giving this holiday to all of the Dads out there. Happy Father's Day.

Child's Play and Raising Gamers

When my kids were about 3 or 4, they loved lining up Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends or Hot Wheels. They were perfectly arranged and evenly spaced.  They had to be taught to imagine people driving or what a family might do on an outing. Nonfunctional routines were more likely to happen during floor time than functional play. Play times weren't always ordered.  These were the same older two that would dump out all of their wooden puzzles at once to piece them together because that was a superpower at one point.  These days I'm the only one that really enjoys jigsaw puzzles.  With each thing that held their attention they would obsess (much like I do with interesting men).  They would repeat the word "why?" in an echolalic refrain, but perseverative speech would cover every single possibility about a situation. They needed answers from all angles.  It was also an inability to comprehend receptive language. At first it required insane amounts of patience, but I've grown to appreciate and love the curiosity that drives a person to seek deeper meanings and answers. Lately my kids are all about gaming.  It feeds a need for repetitive behaviors and restricted interests.  Taking away their release for punishment has lead to meltdowns and tantrums and I eventually had to start defending their gaming habits to teachers.  It's not just my ASD kids, but my neurotypical 9 year old as well.

One year a teacher kept sending me articles about the negative impact of gaming on kids.  I answered her with the positives, but it was more defiance than anything.  My kids were developing relationships online with kids that were becoming friends.  They talked. They enjoyed each other.  I wasn't about to let anything stop their new friendships.  My kids have friends of all ages from all over the world, and surprising political views that I've never shared.

The latent benefits of gaming that I've witnessed include mastering fine motor skills and problem solving.  You have to be able to plan things and when working with others you are working on teamwork.  These are school and workplace superpowers.  My boys have been curious about history because it's woven into the histories of the games they play and I've caught them singing songs that I grew up with.  I secretly hope gamers will revolutionize modern music.  There's the mental exercise to gaming that can keep those neurons firing into older age.  I know how I feel when I'm mentally stretched and gaming does that for gamers. They have to be able to think on their toes and make quick decisions.  That gut instinct is something I hope to cultivate for myself.  For my middle son, I've seen a huge jump in his research skills.  Ask him about the next console Nintendo is rolling out next year and he has excited answers and will geek out in the most adorable way you could imagine.  He hops and I love it.

Like my reading time, when my kids are gaming, they tend to not overeat because sometimes they actually forget to eat.  My boys first told me about French Macarons.  I had never had them, but their friends made it sound like they taste like love feels and we tried them. Now I make them sometimes because I can and they ask nicely.  Sometimes isn't more often because they're sugar, almond meal and egg whites, but mainly sugar.  The direction that modern medicine is heading in would put my kids on the right trajectory for world star surgeon status. I can live with that.  I can also live with them doing exactly what they are doing now for the rest of their lives.  My expectations are low but they also tend to surprise me in a huge way.  They want to get paid to be gamers with snarky commentary. I once saw a studio where these things are recorded.  I can support that.  Other Minecraft mothers will recognize the voice of that creepy Brit.  That man has been an idol.  I checked out my YouTube and it's filled with recommendations for all sorts of cute girls playing Minecraft, Minecraft School and Five Nights at Freddy's. They're also big on anime.  Anime Expo is coming up and they'll be there with their Dad because cosplay is not my brand of geekology.  In the meantime I'm tasked with checking internet browser histories for anime porn because that is a fun thing for my 13 year old.

Gaming was always something I left to their Dad and I've only gotten involved in recent months because we have separate houses and they need their things at each place.  I bought a PS4 with Call of Duty for them for Valentine's Day.  Kid1 loved it but never touched it.  Kid2 had a meltdown.  He is all about Mr. Mario. His Dad told him two houses mean two of everything and I broke that rule by not getting a Wii U.  Kid3 liked it but also never touched it.  Last night I jumped into the role that is now mine and bought a used Wii U console and Naruto Game for the PS4.  I'm paying attention to the Minecraft games, forums and videos they watch.  I may even start reading Homestuck, but I'm not sure I'm there yet.  Kid1 acts like I'd love Splatoon, but I'm also okay making sure they're well fed and watered while I read and write around them.

You would think I was at one point a gamer, but I've never really been into it.  My big sister bought my Nintendo console when I was a kid.  It was the original console with Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt.  I had fun, but eventually got bored.  I'm one of those rare people that never beat the game.  In frustration I would shoot at the dog that laughed at me.  My other sister beat the game.  She is 7 years older than me.  She was the beautiful one that all of my friends liked.  It was especially hard to lose to her and I quit playing.  She had the cute boys that liked her and the body of a runner.  All of my friends liked her and I couldn't compete with her.  It took years to fall into mutual love and respect because it took that long to learn that she was never competing with me and wanted to see me happy as well.  I quit playing video games around the same time I was more interested in skating with the neighborhood boys and before I gave that up for getting lost in romance novels, warping my ideas of love and romance.

Allergy Warnings

My sons have allergies.  We've done the skin test which was pure torture on a four year old autistic child.  The rest of the tests were blood tests and both of my older kids reacted to almost everything that could be tested for.  Some allergies are more severe.  Kid2 reacts to peanuts on a blood test, but loves peanut butter and jelly uncrustables.  Give him soybean oil in his ranch, and he's going to puke.  He is also the kid that spent a summer getting familiar with bees.  He would open a soda can (when I used to buy soda) and set it on the porch and wait for bees.  He would then hold them and watch them.  His little hands were stung about 10 times in a week.  I keep baking soda in my medicine kit so I can make a paste of it with water for those stings. I keep an epipen or two in my purse. I had cat allergies as a kid.  I have a cat now.  She doesn't usually try to kill me, but somedays I curse her out for living.  I'll give her a bath and even though I try not to scare her, she is usually convinced I'm trying to drown her, and will fight me as viciously as she can. The battle scars from a cat battle are why I don't care when she wants to party all night.  She's fixed so I don't have to worry about her getting knocked up by some low life Tom Cat.

My latest allergy is wheat.  I was always a bread eater.  I love it warm and crusty and tender with softened butter or dipped in olive oil.  I love the taste of childhood found in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a grilled cheese sandwich with a little garlic salt.  I love almond croissants with the flaky dough and creamy granulated feel of the sweet almond paste inside. I was feeling constantly uncomfortable and I asked my doctor about food allergies.  She tested for celiac disease, which I don't have, but suggested I keep a food journal.  I did.

I wrote down what I ate and how I felt.  I just happened to go a few days on veggies, fruit and meat.  A few butter snap pretzels later and I felt like death was coming for me.  I'm talking diarrhea (I know you wanted to know that), dizziness, nausea, bloating, gas and gas pain.  I started avoiding wheat but wanted to test out the theory with a blueberry muffin and a few other innocent looking treats.

I loved Moscato d'Asti until I had a glass that made my face heat up.  Your booze shouldn't require a dose of Benadryl.  I don't react to margaritas at all.

Just before I graduated high school I had a recurring case of strep throat.  It would come and never really go away each month.  I was given erythromycin repeatedly until I had a reaction.  My chest felt tight and it was hard to breathe.  It only happened once, but why retest?

Allergies are interesting.  You could be fine with something for most of your life, then suddenly it wants to kill you.  People usually have a reaction to bug bites, but sometimes that reaction can get scary.  There are food and pollen allergies.  I've even read about an allergy to the protein in semen.

Mostly I've learned I'm allergic to drama.  I have a lunch date.  I'm just meeting an old friend but I would normally use the excuse to dress up.  Honestly, for a while I would dress up when I knew I was seeing the ex.  Today was a day where I'm meeting someone for lunch and I stopped by the ex to drop something off this morning.  It could have been the perfect excuse to wear something sexy and showcase my legs, but I didn't.  I have plans to hit the beach alone tonight, and my comfort was more important than the drama I would have invited.

Worth the Effort

img_0294 I had a birthday party for a friend Saturday night.  I won't get a sitter when I have a date.  That's what shared custody is for.  But I had a party to attend.  It was a party with Persian food and it was full of vegetarian yum and the beautiful art of kabob that satisfied the carnivore in me.  It came at a cost.

My son didn't want to go to Grandma's house, but he agreed if I would make him macarons.  He loves macarons.  He requested orange blossom.  They're a complicated piece of work with very few ingredients.

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I usually use fewer dishes, but I wanted to take pictures.

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At this point, the egg whites have sugar added and a bit of cream of tartar.  I had stiff peaks that stayed put when the bowl was flipped upside down.  The powdered sugar and almond meal were sifted together, then folded into the egg whites.

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Orange blossom water added the flavor and the gel food coloring made it pretty.

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This stream of yum is ready to be put in a piping bag.

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I use silpat mats with parchment over it.  It keeps the bottom from browning too quickly.

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I'm horrible at piping things with a bag. I bang the pan on the counter to release air bubbles. They rest a bit until the top is no longer sticky.

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They've baked and have cute little feet from released steam.

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I eyeball my buttercream.  Butter, powdered sugar, more orange blossom water and gel food coloring.  Normally the cookies would rest but my boys don't allow that.  I already had one thieved away as soon as the cookies were taken out.

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The cookies were made and gone by morning.  (I asked them to save some for Kid3 who thinks they're too sweet.)

The point is the work involved is where you find the love.  I was texting someone last night. It's the new form of dating I'm not sure I like.  Even in casual dating, people want to get to know you and I feel that's the point of going out for coffee and dinner.  I rely too heavily on nonverbal communication and body language to be comfortable with texting.  It skeeves me out when I'm texting someone that says he's willing to relocate from Dallas to Los Angeles for love or when you can't judge the tone of a conversation because it is something that pops up when you are in the middle of living.

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I wholeheartedly believe that if the juice is worth the squeeze, it's not work but anticipation.

My kids have on and off freak outs about my dating.  They are okay and then the anxiety kicks in and they are not. For the most part I keep it away from them.  They won't meet anyone I'm dating unless he's really special and we're talking long term and progressing toward cohabitation or marriage.  I'm still legally married and not at all interested in that right now.  I'm also not into "Netflix and Chill," now that I know what that means. (Yikes!) I try not to piss in my own pool, (to put it in the most vulgar form I can), but that means I'm not eager to date someone that knows my family.  That just feels like descabbing the scars our family faced last year when I was a sobbing mess shattered by a false friendship and deep betrayal. This morning I had a heart to heart with Kid3.  He's worried about a replacement Daddy. I assured him that he has only one Daddy and Mom is just going out to have fun.  He's special to me and someone has to be really special to earn the right to meet him.  He felt better about that.  He was curious about the many alerts and likes I get because my phone goes off all the time and I showed him a couple and pointed out that Mommy can't date the many 20 year olds that like me because that would be creepy. He started laughing with me and we both felt better.

This juice is worth the squeeze but I'm waiting for the wine glass to shine before I pour this mimosa.