Tag Archives: single mom

Life Lessons for this LA Mom and her Boys

I stumbled upon this wonderful article “25 Things I Want My Ranch Kids To Know”. You’d think I’d have little in common with this ranching family. But as I read through her list, I realized how universal so much of what she has to say is. I found myself tweaking her vernacular for my now Calif. kids. For instance, her #2: “Boredom is a Choice” I adored and in my mind I changed from: “If you can’t entertain yourself with a stick and a bucket full of calf nuts, we’re doing something wrong” to: “If you can’t entertain yourself with a surfboard/boogie board or a bikeride…I’m doing something wrong.”

Life in California—especially in a Southern California beach town—is dreamy for kids. Or so it should be. We have gorgeous stretches of sandy beaches, strewn with volleyball nets and a strand for bikers to ride safely for miles. Our town has plenty of parks and violent crime is low. We literally have beautiful weather nearly year-round.  Yet, my oldest cares more about video games than a day at the beach. Getting him to ride his bike or skate board or kick a soccer ball with his buds in the alley (we live in a beach house without a yard, but share an alley with loads of families with kids) takes an olympic effort. He’d rather stay inside and play Minecraft. So I bought a pingpong table and that’s helping a bit.

That’s just one issue I’m battling right now. Some days it seems that there just isn’t enough of me. I need at least two clones in order to be a better parent. I’m guilty of juggling my two boys and their drastically differing needs (and of course the loud three-year-old tends to get most of the attention) with other issues such as work and any social life. I’m not always there for both of them the way I’d like to be. (I’m sure my single parent friends and readers empathize with this feeling!) So, I’m inspired to come up with my own list that I hope will help my boys become sensitive and caring men—regardless of being raised in LaLa land!

Mom’s Top Life Lessons:

1. It’s okay to get angry, but it’s not okay to hit.
Life isn’t meant to be fair. You are guaranteed to get disappointed and frustrated when things don’t go your way. It’s okay to punch a pillow, talk with a friend or write in a journal about your disappointments. Hitting your brother, your friend or your mother is never ok.

2. Stand up for yourself.
Don’t go looking for trouble, as my mom used to say, but if someone is bullying you or threatening you, you have every right to stand up for yourself. Tell the person to stop, and/or get a teacher if it becomes violent. If that makes it worse for you, remember, bullies are weak. They thrive on putting other people down. Do not believe a word that person says about you and please tell me about the situation. I’ll always listen. I’ll always be in your corner. Remember you’re own worth. You should never put up with abuse.

3. Be kind.
Always think about how your words and actions affect others. If someone at school is annoying you, or if a friend starts gossiping about another kid, try your hardest not to say anything nasty or join in on the gossip. Putting other people down does not make you look better. Find other ways to deal with it. Think about how you would feel if you were that other kid.

4. It’s okay to make mistakes. (And don’t be too proud to apologize.)
We don’t always do everything the way we intend to. If you over-react or say something rash, just apologize. It’s not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is usually all you need to do to make things better.

5. You are special because of who you are: not what you have.  
Just because some neighbors and friends have more expensive toys than you, does NOT make them better. You are kind, smart, caring, loving, creative, curious, fun and inventive. These things aren’t created by owning a huge flat screen T.V. or a swimming pool.

6. Pursue your passions.
Sure, you’d like to vacation in Hawaii and drive a sports car one day—but don’t pursue a career just because it earns a lot of money. Do something that sparks your interest. If you love science or history, keep studying that in college and find a career that incorporates your passions. You’ll never regret being happy on the job and you’re more likely to be successful.

7. Be a team player.
It’s just as important to block a goal as it is to make one. You’re not always going to be the player who makes the most goals or baskets. But that’s okay if you’re giving it your all, supporting your teammates and HAVING FUN.

8. Don’t curse like a sailor.
Sure, sometimes things slip when angry, but don’t make a habit of cursing. It’s crude, rude and makes you look unintelligent.

9. Be Confident and Don’t Give In To Peer Pressure.
Just because some surfers are getting high every day before and/or after school, doesn’t mean it’s a good choice for you. And drinking and driving is NEVER Okay. I love you. Call me and I’ll always come get you or pay for a cab.

10. Don’t lie.
We all tell those white lies occasionally, such as: “thanks for inviting me,” even if you didn’t have a good time. But don’t lie about the big stuff and especially not to your mom. She’ll always listen and try to help you—even if you are in trouble. She will never stop loving you. You will always have a home here, no matter what you do. So don’t be afraid to tell her if something’s gone wrong or you’re in a bad situation.  She’s made mistakes too and can help.

11. Always be Courteous to Parents.
Say “nice to meet you,” shake hands, and look parents in the eyes when you are visiting a friend’s house. Do not EVER just walk into a friend’s room when you are teenager without addressing the friend’s parents. When you leave, say, “Nice to see you again,” or “Thanks for having me Mr. & Mrs. so and so.” Good manners NEVER go out of style.

12. Don’t Settle.
Remember that true beauty comes with integrity, intelligence and kindness (a sense of humor is a plus too!). If the gal you like is gorgeous, but is lacking in these other qualities, move on.

13. Focus on Gratitude.
By now you’re sick of hearing me ask you to say what you’re thankful for each night at bedtime, but keep doing it. Letting your mind drift towards what is good in your life, instead of what is bad, brings more good to you AND helps you feel safe and happy.

14. Meditation Isn’t For Sissies.
Staying active is great, but finding a way to connect your mind a body through your breath, reduces your stress and allows you to think calmly about your goals and intentions for your life. The sooner you learn this, the better off you’ll be. Sit still for five minutes each night or morning and focus on deep breathing while you let your mind drift to a positive, relaxing location.

15. Eat Something Fresh and Green Every Day.
The secret to staying healthy is avoiding junk food and remembering the simple rule of eating raw fruit and something green every day.

16. Get Lost in a Good Book.
There’s really nothing like finding yourself transfixed by a good book. In today’s hectic world where everyone multitasks, I will know I’ve done a good job if both of you can find yourself, at some point every year, lost in a marvelous novel.

Parenting a 3-Year-Old: Emotional Whiplash

I felt instant recognition when reading the poem “Duality” today by the blogger Ineffable Mr. Jones. (Here is a link to his beautiful poem.) I realized as I finished reading it, that it described today (and almost every Saturday for the past year) perfectly. I adore my three-year-old, but the tantrums and the screaming when I ask him to do or not do something, put me in a tailspin.

One minute I’m breathless and shaking. He’s thrown something again. He’s hit me. I’m struggling to pick him up, while he kicks, and put this 40 lb bruiser into his time out chair that I literally have to strap him into. I’m trying to stay positive, but typically fail. I wonder why I was chosen to deal with this all alone.  And then, maybe 10 minutes later, when he calms down, all I can think is how grateful I am he is here with me. I learned a few weeks ago that my rough and tumble three-year-old isn’t creating antibodies. Yup. It’s like he’s never been vaccinated. He has no antibodies to Tetnus, for instance, or Pneumococcal. That’s why he’s sick so much. That’s why he’s a cranky bugs most days. That’s why his adenoids are so swollen ALL the time and he can’t sleep well. That’s why he’s had pneumonia so often and is vulnerable to getting it again. After 20 days straight on antibiotics last month, I found a specialist and had his blood drawn. Thank God. We’re going to solve this. He’s going to be okay.  My heart swells with unconditional love and fear just thinking about it.

But…WHY he has to scream, throw things, kick and hit when he doesn’t get his way—to the extreme that he does—is driving me to the edge. It’s like emotional whiplash on a weekly basis. Today, I went from being madly in love with my little guy while playing sweetly with him—to choking down dark anger and frustration when he threw books off his bookshelf and screamed full tilt because I dared to ask him to put on his shoes a few minutes earlier. It’s the emotional equivalent of one minute cruising sweetly down a dirt road through the countryside on a gorgeous summer afternoon—to banging your head and neck on the back of the seat as you are jolted into Mach 5 speed—thrusting you madly into outer space. And this happened over and over again today, as it does on our weekends. I want so badly to stay in pasture thoughts and soul snowing love as Mr. Jones so eloquently put it. But my weekends with my little guy propel me like an emotional pendulum back and forth, again and again. I can’t let him get away with his tantrums and bad behavior. I have to be firm and put him in time out every time. I do. But it’s hilariously exhausting as I carry him up the stairs, still limping in my boot from my injury, to put him in his time out chair. But it’s what I have to do right now.

For those of you who may think I’m missing the forest through the trees, know this: Of course I’m madly in love with my little boy. Of course I’m meant to lasso this challenge and grow spiritually because of it. Of course he will grow out of this or I’ll find a specialist to help me if necessary. He has to get better physically and emotionally. I CAN do this. I HAVE to. So even though it’s been one month without a weekend off and I’ve got two more months to go, I’m going to mentally strap myself into this pendulum and remind myself to try to enjoy this maddening ride. Single parents out there, can you relate?
Here are Mr. Jones’ simple words. See if they resonate with your world:

“Duality”

by: Ineffable Mr. Jones

Turmoil…

an ocean mind..

spiritual avalanche…

bleeding….             bleeding…

Life!

* * *

Peace…

Pasture thoughts.

soul snowing.

breathing …. breathing

Love!

Life.

A Mother’s Legacy: Staying On The Brink

Mom and William, one week old, November 2001

“I want PIE!” Jamesy yells at me this morning. He has already climbed onto the second shelf of the pantry, which he knows he isn’t allowed to do.

“Well, I didn’t make the pie, and besides, that’s not a breakfast food, is it? Lets get down from there,” I reply calmly, trying to mask the tension that is rising like bile in my throat. I look at my angelic, chubby three-year-old with star-lit, midnight blue eyes and tousled blond hair. I know what is coming next—what has been happening in our house for months now.

‘NOOOO!!!!” he wails like a super sonic boom and then hurls a kitchen timer against the wall.

I take a deep breath and  pick up his squirming body. “Ok, time out buddy.”

His legs kick my calf. Hard. A zinger of pain flashes up to my kneecap and down to my swollen achilles’ heel. Why did I forget to put that damn boot back on? I think as I grimace with pain. Almost three weeks ago I tore a tendon in my left calf, so chasing after my three-year-old has now become an Olympic endeavor. I manage to strap him into his time-out chair—which is my second car seat. As I walk to pick up the now broken kitchen timer, he kicks his seat over, landing with a thud. His head is now on the floor, his feet raised above him in a sitting position. The crazy guy laughs, looks at me victoriously, and then starts screaming again.

“I HATE TIME OUT!!!” he screams.

William and I just shrug and sit down to eat our breakfast. We have gone through this scenario many times since we took the advice of Jamesy’s teacher who recommended that I place a car seat in my kitchen and strap him into it for a time out each time he throws things, yells, hits, climbs the pantry walls, bites, etc. Ignoring him, threatening with a consequence, taking away toys, and dare I admit, even a spanking, all don’t work on my little guy. Putting him in time out didn’t work before because he just refused to stay seated. Strapping him into time out is helping, believe it or not. It’s just taking an extraordinarily long time. I have a very stubborn three-year-old who hates to hear the word No or not be able to do what he wants to do. Like most I guess, but his older brother was never this ballsy or stubborn. Eventually, he stopped these shenanigans.  Plus, I didn’t have William and Jamesy close together in age. William is 10, James 3. I can’t imagine surviving life as a single mom with an insanely stubborn James and a brother only one or two years older. Seriously, with an ex in Europe and no family help, I might have ended up in Betty Ford or some mental facility.

Today, when I was taking James to school, I thought about my mom. You may be wondering what my son’s behavior, and how the scene I just described to you, has anything to do with a Mother’s Legacy. Well, a lot actually. My mother had four children and a husband who would work three-day shifts at the hospital. Back then, three-day-shifts were not frowned upon like they are today. She was virtually a single mom in Boston with my brother 3 and two sisters ages 2 and 1. They were all still in diapers!!

“Well, I just didn’t know any better,” my mom said to me 10 years ago when she visited me after I gave birth to William. “I mean, back then, you didn’t expect your husband to help you. You didn’t complain either. And I just thought it was fun,” she laughed. I clearly didn’t believe her last statement.

When she said this to me, I was in the throws of repeated sitz baths for a class 4 tear, (men reading this, DON’T ASK), sore nipples, engorged breasts verging on infection since I couldn’t get the milk to come in properly, and hormones raging to the point where at certain moments I literally wanted to die. Exhaustion, hormones, whatever it was, I realized that what I was feeling was akin to what clinical depression must feel like. Having three kids one right after another, and than four years later her oops child, (which I am), my mom must have always been on the brink of despair. But I don’t remember seeing her succumb to it, not over raising children anyway. Maybe she was just too busy.

Mom and William, three months.

Over the next two years after William’s birth, she graced me with her stories. But her stories about raising three babies were what inspired me most. She didn’t know why I was in shock, but clearly, she loves babies and has a higher threshold for stress, than I do. Her stories gave me strength, however. Luckily for me, once my breast milk came in with earnest and I could breast feed around the clock, my cloud of depression lifted. I listened to her stories and began to think I can do this.

“Every Sunday I called my mom and we’d talk about politics. I loved our Sunday calls,” my mom told me 10 years ago.  “Well, this one Sunday, I’ll never forget it. Your father was at the hospital and I looked around as I spoke with NiNi (her mother) and I saw your sister (and with her next description, I knew exactly which sister it was) climbing up the curtain rod! I started to go for her, but then I heard something and looked out back and your other sister was pushing down your brother from his bicycle. Well, I’m still on the phone, but as I go to your brother, I turn around and look back and I see your sister now putting a screw in her mouth!” Amazingly, the whole time she’s telling me this story, she is smiling. What lesson did she learn? Not to decorate, or put up curtains partially, and then take a phone call when you have three children. I, on the other hand, was completely horrified. I had my one and only baby suckling at my breast and began to think I will never, ever, have another child.

“Well, I laughed and laughed about that. Of course, I had to get the screw out of her mouth first!” my mom said. Over the years as her Alzheimer’s began to take hold, she repeated that story to me over and over again.

Mom and William, 2 years.

It was as if she knew that I’d need to remember it too. That I would need to pull it out of a file in the back of my mind to remind myself that this craziness is what it’s all about. We’re all pushed to the brink when raising children. But it’s how we handle it and carry through that matters.

Three years ago I was visiting my mother. She was still at home then, although we had assistants to help her. It was evening, and she had fallen asleep with her TV on. I went in to shut it off. She raised up and pointed to the hall light.

“I finally put a cover on it. Like it?” she asked me. I turned to look at the hall light and noticed a new sconce. “Oh. Wow. Yes, we finally have one.”

“I know, I never replaced the old one because I was so ashamed,” she said to me, clear as day.

When I asked her what she was talking about, she replied, “Well, one day, when you four were up to something. I can’t recall really, but one of your sisters was yelling and your brother was doing something, I don’t remember what, but I got so mad, I actually threw my shoe up the stairs and it hit the hall light. I never did replace it (the sconce) because I wanted to look at that ugly bulb to remember how stupid I was. I didn’t want to lose my temper like that ever again.”

I swallowed hard and held her hand. “It’s ok mom.”

“Oh, it’s silly. I should have known better. Don’t do that kind of thing, ok?”

The next morning, when I told her I enjoyed our talk she replied, “Oh? What talk? Didn’t you just get here?”

Well, call it Divine intervention, but I know we did have a talk and I’m so grateful—that even though she didn’t remember it—I always will. And I thought about her advice today after Jamesy threw his smoothie across the car and it landed with a SPLAT across the entire backseat. Sigh. I’m clearly on the brink too. But I’m going to be brave and stand on the edge and take a deep breath. I may have to dig in my heels and brace myself or a long stay. But my little guy will grow up eventually, right? And if I make it through with my sanity in check, just think about the stories I’ll be able to embarrass him with!

Single Mom’s Wanderlust: A State of Mind

As many of you may know, I used to live in London and traveled quite a bit. I moved back to California in the summer of 2008, when 7 months pregnant. Southern California is a great place to be when you’re sleep deprived and in need of sunshine and fresh air. But lately, I find myself starting to get that twitchy foot. The itch that, in the past, would make want to purchase a last minute rail ticket for a weekend excursion to somewhere in Europe. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss my old life at all. I really do believe that I was supposed to go through this mess: this divorce, this single motherhood thing and that it’s all part of a plan. It’s forcing me to grow and realize my inner strength and  I have embraced that better things are yet to come. BUT, that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes need to GET AWAY.

Now that I’m regularly sleeping through the night, (isn’t it marvelous when your child finally lets you??) I’m feeling the urge to hit the open road. I crave getting into my car and driving for long periods at a time with no real destination. I recall reading Ann Tyler’s book Ladder of Years where the main character, a 40-year-old mom, took a walk and just kept walking until she moved to another town altogether. I loved it. (Although I adore all of Ann Tyler’s books.)

Don’t worry, ya’ll. I’m not about to do that. But I realize that I need vistas. I need to explore. It’s always been a part of my DNA. My Ex hated that I rarely planned or structured our trips beyond arranging a house swap or renting a flat or house somewhere. I liked to meander and discover things—to sit at cafes and people watch or talk with a chatty local and get the low-down on where to go that evening. I miss spontaneity. In college, I’d take off and drive from Georgia to Maine with no set stopping places in between. I’d stop where it felt good to do so. I naturally gravitated to journalism as I liked the constant change of scenery or new voices. As a child, I wandered in the woods and horse trails. I love discovering by happenstance. With that said, I’m literally and financially too grounded to take off as a single mom of two kiddos.

But I’m realizing that I can still get a little bit of that flight feeling by opening my eyes wider and exploring closer to home. By being present and taking in my surroundings or taking short excursions with the boys, we can explore. So, I’m rarely without my camera these days. I’m far from a photographer, (and none of my pictures were taken with special lenses or have been touched up in some way) but I find that shooting pictures of the beauty that surrounds me in Southern California reminds me there are things to discover in my own backyard. It helps ease that yearning for an excursion I can’t have right now.

There will be days ahead for faraway travel. But for now, I’m going to keep drinking in my sun-kissed part of the world. When I take pictures and look at them later, I’ll remember to thank God for second chances at a new life. I am grateful to stay put at the moment. I am grateful to have the time to create and discover what beauty surrounds and lies within.

Grab Your Zen

SO … I’m just going to start off this post saying that I haven’t always believed that you could just choose to be happy. I mean, when you’re dealt some crappy cards, maybe you can muster a poker face and “fake it till you make it”, but really, how can you just choose to be happy? Well, it might start with baby steps that involve taking care of ourselves. If you’re a single mom who doesn’t get much relief or family help, like I am, it can seem especially hard to do. But really, it can begin with one commitment. Even if you have to force fitting it into your day, do it. You’ll be on your way to seizing your happiness. Here’s what it looks like with me on an especially chaotic day, such as today. (And I’m sure many of you single moms know exactly what kind of day this is.)

6:10 a.m. Three-year-old wakes me up by hitting the cat when crawling in bed, then crying because “I don’t want the sun to come up!” To this I reply, “Ok, so go back to sleep. Pleeeassee.”  “NO!!”

6:20 a.m. – 7:45 a.m. Re-edit and then re-print oldest son’s biggest report of the year, while keeping boys from killing one another as they fight over who gets to pull paper out of the printer. Breakfast, feed cat, feed fish, etc.

7:50 a.m. – 8:15 a.m. Yell at boys to get dressed, brush teeth, change a huge poopy diaper (Is there a potty-training fairy out there??), rush to the car. At school, realize oldest son has report, but doesn’t have violin for practice.

8:15 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Try to calm down 3-year-old who is now screaming because big brother didn’t kiss him goodbye. Race in to get violin. Get back to car (oh, still wearing jammy top with stretch pants) and smell more poop. Get baby out of car seat, change diaper, yet again, put him back in. More screaming over not being able to buckle the seat, then go to school to deliver violin. Then realize that I owe someone an edit of a big proposal, so we rush back home.

8:30 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Edit proposal with bullets for changes, send emails to editors, cancel appointment with accountant, wash face, freshen up. As I start to go to the car, remember the f***ing valentines! Go back up with the youngest to put together 15 Buzz Lightyear valentines for his party.

9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Mommy and Me class with youngest. Dance, sing, make valentines crafts, give away valentines … and almost go postal on a special needs child from a different class who hits my son over and over again on the playground. Not one teacher intervened, so after he tried to bang my son’s head into a play structure, I lean in and say, “NO. You don’t hit. You’ve lost your playtime” and walk my son over to the other side of the playground. As I play with Jamesy, I see this kid hit at least 5 more kids and no one stopped him. I’m starting to wonder about their discipline strategies. Go back in for circle time, listen to some younger moms babble about botox and leave early….For me.

11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. I race to take Jamesy to daycare and run like mad to make a community yoga class. While I’m racing to get there, I actually feel a twinge of guilt for taking the time out. But the minute I put my mat down and see my smiling instructor, I instantly know I’ve done the right thing. (Insert wind chime, Hindi music here.) The topic for the class: Choosing Happiness. How marvelous. We smiled through the difficult poses and it seemed a metaphor for my life. Instead of ruminating about a proposal from an attorney, or the surmounting work with demands from the kiddos and my own deadlines, or the fact I haven’t slept-in or had a break in a loong time … I took a time out. For one hour, I sweat, I breathed deeply and tried to hold insane poses. During meditation I focussed on lightness, happiness, and letting anger, stress, anxiety, jealousy and other ego-centric issues holding me down, lift up in a balloon and sail away. Leaving that class I was at peace and ready to race on with the rest of my madness:

1:30 p.m. Pick up oldest from school. Race to the high school for his honors strings performance rehearsal that I’m helping to coordinate.

2 p.m. – 4 p.m. – Assist the strings teacher with all the children, which included kids from five elementary schools, one middle school and the high school. The music is overwhelming. (I’m so proud of my son for making this honor’s orchestra. I found myself in tears at the back of the performance hall—overwhelmed with pride and gratitude.)

4 p.m. – Race with son to find white shoes for his orchestra performance uniform. (It’s harder than you’d think!) Buy more Sudafed for the nagging allergies.

5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Pick up youngest from school. Race home to start dinner and oversee math homework with oldest, while trying to keep youngest entertained. (Oi! Math is getting harder.) Struggle to get meatballs finished before both boys nosh their appetite away. Take picture of 3-year-old eating a huge meatball and send it to my godsend of a friend. Email a Syrian friend and former London classmate of my oldest son’s to see how his family is doing. (Long discussion ensues about Syria, The Middle East, democracy, etc. with oldest son.)

8 p.m. – 9 p.m. Bath, (resulting in water fight soaking all towels and bathroom floor with youngest peeing on oldest…I know…) books, teeth brushed, thankful lists said, and more water, before bed. (Why do kids have to have more water just after they get under their covers??)

9 p.m. – 10 p.m. Gently try to get youngest to fall asleep. (STILL having sleep issues.)

10:15 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. Clean up kitchen, do two loads of laundry, send an editor two pitches as promised, wash face … and … write this.

Why, you might ask, am I venturing to write this when I’m obviously sleep-deprived?? Because it’s a reminder to me (and perhaps to some of you too) that even when you are overwhelmed with responsibilities—take a moment for yourself. Doing so allows you to continue with this lovely chaos that remarkably means the world to your children. It’s essential for our health and mental sanity. It helps us be better parents.

And, over time, it might just help you to believe that you can, in fact, choose happiness. What do you think? Is happiness a choice? Maybe it is something you have to seize. Perhaps happiness is something that us single moms have to realize involves putting ourselves on the mounting To-Do list. We deserve a moment to take care of ourselves because our work is never, really done. I challenge all of you single parents out there to force yourself to take one hour a day, three days a week, for some exercise such as yoga. Get back to me and let me know how it goes. And, for those on a tight budget, check out community classes at your local studio as they’re much cheaper and usually for beginners.

Nameste, y’all.

Single Moms Wish List

Hi guys,

I have been blessed so much this season. I just learned last week that I have become a lifechanger for Dr. Drew’s Life Changers show. After polling more than 25 single moms from across the country, I compiled The Single Mom’s Holiday Wish List for Dr. Drew. You will be touched, as I was (but not surprised) by their simple requests. As a single mom, I understand the exhaustion and trials that we all go through and why having a few hours of free babysitting from a friend is higher on your wish list than a new sweater!

Please chime in and let us know what is on the top of your list this season. Click on my link that will take you to my story now posted on Dr. Drew’s site and please let us know what would help you most! I know the holidays can be especially hard for single parents financially and emotionally. Reach out to us and let us know what is on your list and just know that you are not alone. (Amazingly, there are almost 10 million of us single moms in America!) In a few days I’ll be posting a competition to win a few wonderful items, especially fun for new moms. Please check back as I’m excited to give back to those of you who have given me so much through your encouragement, community and friendship.

Love & light,

Laura

Asthma Attack

This morning, at 7:45, I had an asthma attack in front of my boys. Talk about vulnerability and panic crashing over me in waves. I was standing over the oven, cooking pancakes, and slowly started having difficulty breathing. I haven’t had an asthma attack in four or five years, so I brushed it off. Then the constrictions seized my chest, my heart is pumping overtime, I’m dizzy and then I crumbled to the floor. My poor 3-year-old, who has asthma, came over to me. I raised my arm and whispered, “Mommy isn’t breathing so well.” He ran to his older brother down stairs and told him to get his “breathing machine” aka nebulizer down. By that time, I literally couldn’t get up. It was so scary. My two boys helped me put the nebulizer with the elephant mask for kids, over my face. Within 20 minutes, I was able to drive William to school. Now home with my younger, I’ve had two more treatments, am still shaking a bit, and realize how lucky I am.

When I lived in London I saw an acupuncturist each week and she got me so healthy that I’m convinced she is the reason why I have Jamesy today. She also put me on mushroom pills for my immune system. Time to go back on them now. Too bad acupuncture is so expensive in this country. I guess it’s time to see a specialist again and get loaded on all the meds, inhalers, etc. that I’ll need before I lose health insurance when the divorce is final. Why is it that moms can’t stay on an ex’s insurance if she is the sole care-taker of their children? I mean, if mommy is sick, who takes care of the little guys? Well, this is a wake up call. Time to take care of myself.

Ahh—A Moment to Myself! (Wait, what’s the catch?)

This week has been nuts—even more than my norm. (Can you imagine?) And, sadly, I didn’t handle it as gracefully as I could have. To be fair, the lack of sleep and potty training is making me batty. My soon-to-be three-year-old just won’t sleep. What is going on? Is there a drug for this? (For either of us??) He’s been a bad sleeper his whole little life, but it’s been especially a struggle for the past three months. For a while I was Ferberizing him—you know, the Ferber method where you let him cry it out. Well, he shares a room with his big brother and his big brother needs to sleep to be present at school. When I was Ferberizing him, my stubborn little guy would scream and run out of the room over and over and over again until almost midnight. I would walk him back in, say he was a big boy and he needed to sleep on his own, put him back in bed, only to have him run out again. Needless to say, both William and I were going crazy. Eventually, I’d give in and lie down with him. Even then, it would take him an hour, maybe more, to actually fall asleep. He’d hug me and say, “I lub you mommy.” Often times, when we’re lying there, he’ll play with his animals, spin around like a top until his head is at the bottom of the bed or he’ll kick the wall … You get the idea. It’s maddening. Both William and I usually fall sleep before him. Typically, most nights I wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. with my body slammed into the small slat of the bottom bunk bed with his chubby arm up on my shoulder. I usually am still fully dressed and my teeth haven’t been brushed, my face not washed—I’m a complete mess. So I get up and start my day, not able to fall back to sleep after the five or so hours I did get. I’ve had a crick in my neck for a week over this due to the bunk bed slat business. I’m going CRAZY!

Twice this week I’ve actually hired a sitter in order to put the little guy down for me. Both times, I’ve returned at 10/10:30 p.m. and he’s STILL UP!  I found myself standing over my adorable cherub dressed in footy pajamas. I’ll put my hands on my waist, put on a stern look and ask why he’s still up.

His reply: “I fraid I lose you mommy!”

Pitiful right?

What’s a sleep-deprived, crazy mom to do? Well, one morning this week, at 4 a.m. I broke down and called the ex in London. NOT my most graceful moment. (Ironically, my first post four weeks ago was about how sleep deprivation and stress can cause decision fatigue and cause a person to make bad decisions. See: “No Wonder I Can’t Decide What’s For Dinner”) Since he hasn’t been with his boys since July, and I’m about to have a nervous breakdown, I let him have it. Not cool. I have no idea how many times I used the F word. Seriously, this was not my most zen moment. But you know what? I apologized later in the morning for losing my cool and explained to him rationally the extent of my sleep-deprived state. And you know what else? He’s called the boys at least two times this week and is squeezing in a one day layover on his way from London to Australia on Sunday and a weekend visit on his way back the following week.

Hooray for small miracles!

I’m SO excited. If all goes well, this Sunday evening I’m going to enjoy the most luxurious bath I’ve ever had followed by a good nights rest—in my own bed!

I don’t think I’ve been this grateful for one day off in all my life.

Adjusting My Attitude

 It’s about Survival. Keeping a positive outlook is important for us all, but especially for us single moms. And who knew that there are now 9.9 million of us in America? Robert Bernstein of the U.S. Census Bureau gave me this figure for 2010 and said single moms had risen at a staggering pace since 1973 when there were only 3 million of us. There are now more single mothers than the entire population of New York City. Wow. At least we have each other for support, right? And, more thankfully, at least some of us have gotten out of bad marriages in search of a better life. Experts agree that divorce was less socially acceptable in the 70s, so perhaps a few million women from the 1970s wished they were single moms!

But seriously, even if this single mom gig is by your choice, it’s still a hard job. If you don’t have family nearby to help and your ex isn’t, or is rarely around, to assist with the childrearing, it’s especially critical to not let your thoughts sink into self pity or doubt. Trust me. I have been battling with my conflicting thoughts every week for two years now. Sunday, or family day, can be especially lonely for us, but I tell myself that this is our time—my opportunity to create a better life for myself and my boys and just get on with it. Otherwise, I’ll likely sink into a funk that my children will get exposed to. I really don’t have the time or the luxury to crawl under the covers and not come out right now. And this might be a good thing. Raising two children alone is exhausting, wonderful and challenging—especially when the two-year-old temper tantrums heat up to mach speed—but this is my choice. When it comes right down to it, I could have taken my ex back, but after multiple betrayals, I decided that I wanted a better life for myself. I’m grateful for this opportunity and if that means that I have to endure some lonely days to get there, than so be it.

All things in due time. I choose to focus on the fact that I get to live with two adorable boys (even when they’re naughty!) and it’s my chance to do something amazing: to help raise two wonderful men. (Nevermind that last night I gave myself a timeout from my two-year-old!) So, with that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of tips and some positive spins on some negative thoughts—you know the ones that can become your reality if you let them. I’ve been thinking a  lot about this lately. It all boils down to attitude and I’m working on adjusting mine every day. Thank God we get a new day, a new beginning, to try to get this stuff right. It’s sure not easy though. Here are some positive spins and tips that I’m currently incorporating into my life, that I hope will inspire you too:

Think of your divorce as a springboard for positive change.
A friend said to me the other day (after I called venting …), “He abandoned you guys. That’s the reality.” Well, that’s not entirely true, and even if it was, I don’t need to focus on it. Instead of thinking of myself as a victim, I have to think of myself as a champion for change. This is our opportunity to live a better life. I thank God every day that I have this chance to build a better life and a better self for my children.

Your family is complete if you are.
Another well-meaning friend came over for dinner one night. I made a roast chicken, roasted vegetables and a salad. As we sat at the table with my two boys she seemed really sad. Later after the kiddos were asleep (which was a miracle!), she admitted to me, “I feel so sad for your boys. The family just doesn’t seem complete” (meaning without their father.) I know she meant well, but I told her that it has almost always been just me and the boys or just me and William, my oldest, as my ex hardly ever made it home before dinner time. I still think it’s important to have dinner and sit around a table and chat. She apologized profusely, but I still had her thought in my head.  To clear it out, I remind myself that we are complete. I take an even more concerted effort to plan dinner. As we sit around the table and chat, giggle or make fun of the two-year-old who wears more food than he eats, I say a silent thanks for my complete family as I watch them eat healthy food. (See my Cooking section for more inspiration.)

Be thankful.
Every night for the past 8 years I have made William, my oldest, say a list of what he is thankful for. Because he’s nine, he says the nine things he’s thankful for. Jamesy says the two that he’s “tinkful” for. It’s a great way to remind us to focus on what’s good and what’s working in our lives. Since I’m a bit in denial of my increasing age … cough … just know that I now have a long list to come up with each evening of what I’m thankful for—and what a great way to end the evening!

Become a planner.

I’m trying hard on this one as it’s not my strong suit. Every weekend seems to spring upon me and I end up a bit lonely as I shuffle to find things for me and the boys to do. (Most of our married friends are enjoying family time and there are few playdates to be had for my little ones on the weekend, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t stay busy!) If I don’t plan something ahead of time, I end up a bit blue with bored kids on my hands. Now, I plan day-trips and museum outings and am reaching out to other single moms who may want to get together for dinner, brunch etc, in order to stay busy and survive the weekend!

Continue with or make family rituals. 

Who says I have to have a husband to have family night with the kids? I love long dinners and board games. There, I said it. I am definitely not very hip. I love playing games of monopoly, charades, trivial pursuit, checkers, scrabble, etc. My oldest does too. Since I’ve been separated, I barely manage to do these things as the then baby, now two-year-old, usually grabs game pieces or makes it a bit tricky. I’ve decided to re-institute family game night slowly this time. It may be hard at first, but we’re going to try to do games the youngest can master too: big puzzles, for instance. We’ll see. It may end up as family movie night until Jamesy is at least four. But we’ll get there!

Stop talking about the divorce.

This is difficult, but I’ve learned the hard way over the past two years that it’s better not to talk about the impending divorce with anyone other than your therapist, trusted friend or sister who remains positive, or your support group. I find that when I do respond to well-intentioned questions from neighbors or friends, that I end up feeling badly when I might have been feeling great before I started talking with them. It’s weird isn’t it? Maybe it’s just that I start to see their pity. Or maybe they may say things like “He’s such a jerk!” or “How the Hell do you do it? If I were you I’d have slit my wrists by now. Your two-year-old is such a handful!” These are just two comments I’ve received from well-meaning friends over the past few months. Ok, they aren’t helping. So what I can do in response to a well-meaning question is just smile and say, “I’m really doing well. Do you mind if we talk about something else right now?” It’s a better way to go. Even on my bad days when I’m actually not doing well. Fake it till you make it, isn’t such a bad way to go sometimes!

Limit Drinking.

I’ve never really drank much. But I find that when I do have a glass of vino with friends on the rare occasions that I go out now, I start to feel worse, rather than better.   And, I still have to get up at 6:30 a.m. every morning. Enough said.

Work out!

Think of this time in your life as parenting boot camp. I take out all of my frustrations with the impending divorce and parenting solo on the strand. I’m lucky enough to live near the beach, so I run, walk or bike every day during the week. It’s the best way to clear my head and get the endorphins soaring!

Did any of these tips help you? What ideas do you have? Please chime in!

Rooftop Party or Park with my Boys … Decisions, Decisions!

Last week I was actually invited to a party at The Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. (How I managed that, I’m still not sure!) It was perfect timing as I’d been dying to go out and dance for a long time. I remember going to The Standard years ago and how cool the rooftop bar is, the music, the swinging chairs, the mojitos. Well, as you can imagine, I’m not exactly going to The Standard much anymore. But I could picture it like a siren’s call: a nice warm late summer evening, a sleeveless top, tan shoulders, my sexy jeans, heels, a simmering breeze, some thumping Euro Trash music. I visualized myself there and I mustered up the courage to even call a few babysitters. As the day wore on, however, I wondered if I really wanted to go to this party. None of my girlfriends were free, so I’d have to go solo. And sure, I’d like to meet someone, or just dress up and flirt a bit. But anyone I might meet at The Standard would likely have NO idea that nights out during the week for me are extremely rare. I doubt that I’d meet a man at The Standard who wouldn’t be intimidated by the fact that I have two children at home, or that I need to be back by midnight for the sitter. In fact, the only way I’d go to that party is if one of my girlfriends were available and I could just dance, sip a mojito, and enjoy the view. Besides, I just ended my first relationship since my husband. One year after my husband asked for a divorce, I began to date a man. He was the first person I had kissed besides my husband in over 13 years! It was too intense, too wonderful, at times too horrible, too gut-wrenching, too wonderful again and all-consuming. At the end of the day, sadly, loving him hurt too much. Enough said.

So now, a month later, I’m wondering: should I even try to date again?? My boys have been through a lot and I should focus on them right now. So, with that in mind, I hung up my strappy top, my sexy jeans and put away my heels for a T-shirt, shorts and sneakers. I made a picnic dinner, picked up my boys and one of their friends and headed to a local park for an evening playdate/picnic. It was definitely the best decision! No, there was no flirting, no lights, no dancing or mojitos—but my boys had a blast. (And, if you read my post about being haunted by playgrounds, there’s no reason to be in the evening. It’s chock full of dads and working moms who are getting some intense playtime in with their kids after work.)

We lucked into a pick-up baseball game too. While that may be no-big-deal to some kids, it was a huge deal to my nine-year-old William. William has actually never had a baseball lesson before. I could tell by the way this man positioned William and told him how to hold the bat, place his feet, and swing at a certain angle, that he knew what he was doing. I found out later that he’s the baseball coach for a local high school. William was SO excited when he hit a double and coach Mike encouraged him to take up baseball this year. And I was really happy to see this dad in action. (No, he’s not single!) It’s just refreshing to see a dad play intently with his kids. He didn’t pull out his blackberry or his iphone once. He wasn’t holding a beer and talking with another friend while the kids ran around. And his eyes didn’t glaze over while his children talked to him. (All scenes I see often.) No, this guy was playing with all three of his boys and now with William and Coco too. He was hands-on in helping them with the game and with conflicts. I could tell that he’s like this with his kids all the time. He reminded me a bit of my brother-in-law in North Carolina who’s a teacher, coach and a wonderful father. I always chalked up seeing men like that as rare in Los Angeles. You might even say that watching this man renewed my faith a bit about living in Southern California. Maybe there are a few good men here? It’s clear to me that there are some who put their families and their kids first. But it’s also clear to me that I’m not likely to meet a man such as this on a Wednesday night rooftop deck party at The Standard.