About Me

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I am a wife, mother, and step-mom. I am not perfect, but try my best to reduce damage control. I have incredible family and friends that encourage us on this adventure. My mom always told me that motherhood isnt for whimps... and I couldn't agree more!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Daddy Shopping: My Series For Solo-Moms Regarding Dating

Dating is challenging enough as it is- then add a wee one into the mix??? Yikes!! I have decided to attempt to tackle a subject that has been heavy on my heart. I am a solo-mom, which is a little different than a single mom- especially in regards to dating. I have full custody of my daughter. I am also an engaged mom that doesnt believe in missing out on the fun with her for a silly date. So I cant have a weekend boyfriend while the kiddo is off at dad's. I have made some mistakes and have learned some things about dating with a child... I want to share these things with you. I want to give you the research I have found in a practical way. Kids learn from observation, make dating a life-lesson in contentment, vision, confidence, and security for your little one. Hopefully you will be able to learn from my mistakes and have more success avoiding unnecessary casualties and little broken hearts. I dont have all the answers... but I will share the ones I have! Please share yours as well!!
Happy Dating!


Daddy Shopping

Part I: Do you take Cash, Credit, or Desperation??

I have to admit... after 5 years of marriage- I was in a hurry to find a daddy for my baby girl! I did not know how to stand on my own two feet. I had no confidence in my ability to be able to parent her successfully alone. I felt incredibly insecure on my own, and I desperately missed having a "family"! I felt that having someone would help to soften the heart breaking blow of the affair... and the failure of my marriage. I felt like I was wronged- and since I made such a fabulous wife (TootToot<-- my own horn!) I deserved to do what I was good at. I didnt want my daughter to miss out on anything because she didn't have a daddy in her life. So I set out to find her a daddy stat! I went daddy shopping....

Lucky for me... I came home empty handed. But not for a lack of trying!!  (Note to Self: you cant purchase a dad with emotional baggage!)

Ok- confession time: (I cant believe I am about to tell you this!!)
I managed to scare off a great guy with my desperate psycho-clinginess right out of the gate. Quite possibly my most epically embarrassing period of desperation.We had hung out a couple of times- would talk on the phone... but then he stopped calling as much. I called and called and called, leaving message after message after message and text after text after text! I made him four different types of cookies, drew funny pictures on each gallon bag of cookies I made for him, and drove all the way to his house to drop them off on his door step. I called him some more- leaving message after message- text after text. This embarrassing madness continued until I found out he was dating someone. In my psycho desperation I missed signals, mixed up other signals... and never saw that we were just friends. Nothing more. My desperation was blinding. My emotional baggage was all over... I was a mess- and not in a hot way!

I wasn't even close to being in the right place to start dating- I was Daddy shopping for all the wrong reasons, and I had nothing to offer in payment for a daddy of value. 

So, after a divorce... when is it ok to start dating again?

I think that the first part of this process is a healthy dose of grieving. Enter the 7-steps of Grief...

Step 1: Shock and Denial
I was still in love with the wonderful side of him... that I hadnt seen in years. He was sweet and loving and funny and protective. Someone that I shared adventurous memories with doing the most ridiculous things (ie: driving our motorhome to the Walmart parking lot to stay the night- because we couldnt afford the gas to actually get past the city limits!). I had witnessed a darker side of him over take the man I fell in love with as he fell deeper and deeper into his addictions. I choose not to dwell on those things- because I knew I wasnt strong enough to change them. The man that I had a restraining order against wasnt the man who's last name I carried.

Step 2: Pain and Guilt
Wow... this stage was hard on the finances! My daughter and I called it "Retail Therapy"... and oh it felt sooo good! We would be feeling a little on the blue side of the spectrum and would jump in the car with a retail store in mind... spend hours strolling the isles and picking up things that we didnt need- but wanted!! Ha ha ha. In retrospect- probably not the best thing. Ha ha ha! It was hard at this point for me. I felt guilty for putting her in danger by allowing him to watch her while I worked... I felt guilty for choosing to have a baby with him (not that I regretted her!! She was the best thing that I EVER did!!)... I felt guilty that I had to work and earn a living... the list went on and on. The pain at times was palpable and written across my swollen face. I lived on water-proof mascara and coffee... why try to sleep when my empty bed was only another bitter illustration of my loss?? 

Step 3: Anger and Bargaining
I was bending over to pick up a stuffed animal one day... when it hit me like a semi-truck... how could he do this to me?!! I picked up the toy and flung it with all my strength across the room- I ran into my room and began punching my pillows and throwing things across the room in an intense fiery of tears and burning anger. I couldnt understand why God would allow this after I had trusted Him to redeem my marriage from failure. I couldnt understand why my (then) husband would do this to me after I gave him everything that he wanted and needed with a happy heart. As incredibly intense and gut-wrenching this stage was... it was also kinda redeeming. If I didnt get mad- I would have never acknowledged that I knew I deserved better... both my daughter and I deserved better. 

Step 4: Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness (... and just when you think that youre on step 7... Step 4 slaps you in the face like a stinky dead fish.)
I challenged myself to untie the old memories and make new ones. I usually picked locations that had a memory of me and him. (Some of them not great memories... but still it was a place that screamed him- and I was sick of him). My natural reaction was to avoid that place... but I knew sooner or later I would encounter that location again. So, I would choose that as our destination for the day with plans to recreate some new memories. Sometimes it left me with intense sadness until I realized that I had just tied new and better memories to that location!! I was slowly burying the old memories and making new ones, one adventure at a time! This was the weakest stage. I hated the way I felt: lethargic, tired, achy, irritable, frustrated, and completely chaotic. I had no peace- and my mind was always on overload of what I didnt have. I forgot the simplest things... bills, my wallet, keys. This step seemed to be all encompassing when I allowed it to be. I learned to control it to avoid letting it spill into my daughters' life. I found naptime, showers, and the garage to be consoling places to squirt a couple if I needed to cry. 

Step 5: The Upward Turn (My favorite!)
In the movie Runaway Bride, Julia Roberts plays a character that eats her eggs however her fiancee likes his. Eventually she needs to learn how she likes to eat her eggs solo. Whether you are reminded of how you like to eat your eggs, or you are learning for the first time... this is the step where you begin to build and get settled into a life that is your own. I loved this step! It was empowering to plan a vacation without him. It was incredible to decorate my house the way I liked it with things that I liked , cook the food I liked- all because I liked it! It felt so good to see the pictures hanging on the wall with smiling memories to illustrate my success. The painful sting of being alone began to transform into a victorious crown of glorious success. I could be independent apart from him, raise our little girl on my own without his help, and have a wonderful quality of life... AND PEACE! I began to remember things easier and started to tackle small challenges like our old file cabinet. I could see the future for the first time... and it was pretty bright!

Step 6: Reconstruction and Working Through
This is hard work... and really more a constant process than a step you breeze through on your way to bliss. Sometimes my emotions hit me hard... and I find myself being weighed down by the intensity. I want to curl up on the couch and sleep. Instead- I grab a shovel, rake, bush wackers, and get outside into the sun for some good old fashioned hard labor. This is a productive way to work through my emotions. When Im done- I have glorious blisters of success, and a gorgeous yard. Its a win-win. I have also begun to tackle things that were otherwise overwhelming for me... like my vehicle and credit. I finally had the mental capacity to handle the stress without breaking. 

Step 7: Acceptance and Hope
I have accepted that I am successful on my own. I soooo content with only my daughter as my plus one. I love not having to check in with anyone or asking permission. I have embraced my freedom that I otherwise before saw as a prison of loneliness. Yes- I do have my moments I wish I had a partner with me to make my life easier, someone to share my life with. However I love not having the added drama that can also come with a relationship. I love the peace in my home. I love the availability I have to my daughter. Most of all, I love that I have demonstrated several life lessons to her in the past two and a half years. The most important being that she doesnt need a man to complete her... and resilience. I am no longer angry with my ex personally. I no longer wish that things would have worked, and rarely think of him unless it is in respect to the daughter I have the privileged to raise alone. I know I walked away with the best he had to offer!

I finally feel after giving myself time to grieve, I have something to offer when I decide to go Daddy shopping! And it isnt desperation or emotional baggage; rather an incredible package of two stellar chicks that love to rock... and we aren't cheap! I am no longer looking to do the leg work... I'm content on my own. HE's gonna have to work and do the legwork to catch and earn this gift! And it is her and I that ultimately will get to pick "The One" for us!


Monday, June 13, 2011

True Intentions: A Mother's Guilt

Babies come with oodles of warning labels: "Dont use pacifiers" "The breast is best" "Make sure to use Dreft detergent" "Dont burp that way..." "Hold the head"  "watch out for belly button" ... the list goes on. But the one that someone forgot to warn me about was the Mother's guilt. It was intense and would evoke me to tears on occasion. It could motivated me to go three days without a shower, spend sleepless nights rocking her, Work a 10 hour day to afford diapers, make sure she was content and full before touching my own meal, hold her hand in the back seat even though my arm was going numb... the emotion changed my life.

I got the job with the fire department when she was 2 years old. I was working long hours and had an even longer commute. My ex, then husband at that time was our daughter's care taker while I was working. I would come home to find him high and intoxicated. I knew without the drugs he was intolerable and had a temper that left bruises, both physical and emotional. I hated leaving her with him, but knew I had to provide for my family- because no one else could. I was afraid what he would do if I suggested we find a daycare for our daughter while I worked- and placed her in danger to avoid his temper. I had a lot of guilt over my long hours, her inadequate and abusive caregiver, my willingness to place her in harm to avoid his wrath... and that is when it started. I would come home with small gifts for her every day: M&M candies, candy necklace, PEZ candies, chapsticks, small flashlights... etc.

After we left her dad, it didnt get any better... in fact I am pretty sure that it got worse. Now, in addition to carrying the guilt of long hours at work, sacrificing her safety with knowledge of abuse, I also piled on the guilt of being an only parent, her grief for her absentee dad, my shattered dreams of raising my baby with a loving and doting father, my personal desire to have some adult time, added guilt when I yelled at her, guilt for feeling like I require too much of her... the guilt piled on my plate. I already was in the habit of bringing home small surprises for her, and with the additional guilt it felt easier to make her smile with a bag of Skittles. But it wasnt just a bag of Skittles... it was chocolate milk at bed, that toy, and that movie, and that pack of gum, and that dress-up makeup... I found myself bribing her all the time. This did not alleviate my guilt either; in fact I felt more guilty that I was bribing her, giving her unhealthy things to eat and drink, not teaching her a good work ethic, teaching her that instant gratification was best... I couldnt win.

After reading another mom's post regarding bribes and rewards, I decided on the following plan to wean myself of giving unhealthy bribes, and my daughter of expecting them.
To read the full post on why bribes are bad, and creative forms of rewarding check out this:

I took a baggie of pocket change and put it to good use. When she does something good, I will pay her... ie: putting her plate into the sink after dinner, picking up her toys before bed, and listening to her nanny while Im at work...

We cut a piece of paper the size of a small Mason jar. She decorated it with glitter, and stickers, eyes, and markers.
We used a small mason jar. This way it gets filled up quicker and is more encouraging.

This idea makes me smile too! It teaches her the value of a dollar, it can be hard to earn it... and even harder to save it! I really hope this works for us!! I will let you know how it goes!!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to Help Your Child Celebrate a Daddy-less Father's Day: A lesson in Resilience

A daughter was complaining to her mother about the drama of her life. As she whined, her mother was in the kitchen boiling water. When the daughter was finished, the mother said,  "See the three pots of water? All three have the same heat, the same harshness, the same intensity. In one pot I have placed carrots, in the second eggs, and in the third is coffee. The carrots have become weak, the eggs have hardened, but the coffee has remained relatively the same- with one exception. The coffee has also produced something useful after enduring the same element as the rest." The mother poured her daughter some coffee, and the daughter smiled understanding what the mother was trying to tell her.

This is a story I read in some email sent to me years ago, but it has stuck with me; I even coined the motto : Be the Bean. Resilience is an important quality to both demonstrate as parents and to teach our children. It is the plain truth of life that we will not get everything our way; Life isnt fair. This is a harsh reality written in the disappointed look of a child with one parent.

My daughter's father and I couldnt work things out. We both can play the blame game and point fingers at each other, neither one of us is innocent. We both carry responsibility for the failure of our marriage. The end result of this failure: our daughter not being raised with a dad in her life. She is completely innocent. This is completely unfair to her. She made no choices to bring this upon her, yet here she is.

Since the first Father's day after we left my ex-husband/her dad, I have struggled with helping her to celebrate "a day of dad". The first year, we made cards for Grampa... her dad, although still local, was busy and didn't arrange a visitation that weekend. The second father's day, we wrote poems for her grampa and all of her uncles- her dad had moved to Massachusetts by now and his calls were infrequent at best. We wanted to honor the men that choose to be in her life and willingly accepted part of the role as "dad" (aka: loving protective male role model) This helped to focus her mind on what she did have in her life, the amazing men that didnt have to- but willingly choose to step forward and take on more responsibility, and most of all, took on loving her!!

This year is a little more challenging. Her dad decided to start calling for a month (or so) on a regular basis just before June- because this lasted short term, her disappointment is still fresh. She is also enrolled in Preschool this year... which means they are going to do the dreaded Donuts with Dad  brunch. She already struggled so badly missing her dad since starting preschool, mainly because the rest of the kids had moms and dads. She wanted a man to hold that role in her life so bad. I cringed when her teacher asked what my plan was for Donuts with Dad. It wasnt fair to her... I wanted to protect her from the pain... but knew I couldn't protect her forever. So I needed to help her develop coping mechanisms and ways to gracefully accommodate the Hallmark Holidays she wouldnt classically be able to celebrate. I decided to call my dad and ask if he could arrange to go with her. This ended up to be the best thing ever, not only did my dad enjoy the morning with his granddaughter... but she felt sooo special to be the only one with a grampa! She actually felt like she was "cooler" than the rest of the kids that "only had their boring dads there"!

Merriam-Webster defines resilience as the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.  I have heard people tell me that children are resilient, and the context in which it is said implies it is in a child's nature to be so. This is far from the truth. No one is resilient by nature, children are no exception. Although resilience will help you greatly through life, it is a learned characteristic. Children learn best from example- therefore teaching yourself resilience may in the end be also teaching your children. I try not to wonder why her dad choose to not to be a part of her life, but try to remember that I walked away with the best he had to offer; her dad is the one missing out- not her!! 

Try helping your child to look at what they have in their life, rather than spend a  hallmark holiday focusing on what they dont. Yes, there is a time and place to hold them as they grieve that missing role in their lives... but dont let them focus on that. Instead, help them to focus on what they do have, and find ways to show how thankful they are. Make a list, write a song, make some cards, cut out pictures of all the people in your and your child's life that you are thankful for. We like to play a game called, who loves me? We verbally name off everyone in our lives that love us and we are thankful for. A thankful heart is free from the bondage of anger and bitterness. A thankful heart is free from the depressive grief and sadness that can reduce us to tears. A thankful heart takes a not-so-great situation and turns it into a blessing. A thankful heart will find ways to honor the man (or men) in their lives that have willingly taken on all or partial role of the massive gift and responsibility of a male role model in their little lives and hearts.

As mothers all we can do is help to teach them to withstand the elements of life, take what they have been given, and make the best of it with a thankful heart. Teach them to Be the Bean.


Friday, June 3, 2011

And the Moral of the Story is...

I have a yacker on my hands. She talks non-stop... in fact, the only time she doesnt talk is when she is sleeping! I love it. Anything that comes to her head, she tells me. I guess I could say that I am never lonely for conversation... but I rarely get quiet time unless she is napping.

I have used this "gift" of hers to help me parent. Her tendency to want to converse has given me the ability to correct behaviors in a positive and fun way before discipline is required.

My daughter has always been into animals, and more recently this past year has been really fascinated with horses. I have taken that fascination, threw it together with her imagination and ability to verbalize ideas... and out came The Adventures of Sugarcube and Trouble. Sugarcube and Trouble are imaginary horses that encounter situations similar to the ones that my daughter encounters daily. Sugarcube will usually do the correct thing, and Trouble... well you can imagine he rarely does anything right.

I will usually set the scenario up for her... and sometimes she will help me with the storyline by telling parts of it herself, and we take turns building on the story. Other times she wants me to tell the story while she listens, but I am able to ask her questions about what she thinks would be the right thing to do, and what happens when the wrong choice is made, etc. This encourages her to think outside the box and problem solve. It also teaches her to have forethought and anticipate the outcome based on the choices each horse made.

I hate to nag! So, I love that I am able to tell her a story about Sugarcube and Trouble to correct a problem without being the bad guy. For example: Sugarcube and Trouble: The time they needed to pick up their toys; the time they had friends over to play together and share; or the time got really angry at mom because she wanted them to take a nap and they didnt want to. She sees the good consequences that come from Sugarcube's right choices, and the bad consequences that come from Trouble's wrong choices. Before long, she is choosing to clean up toys up without being asked... or clear her dinner plate from the table without me asking.

Its an easy way to build a relationship with kids that can be mutually beneficial and educational at the same time! Remember, the more positive energy invested in their good choices, the more you will instill in them a will to please!

(This was based on an idea I watched my sister in law do with her son... check out her blog for amazing ideas!!  http://amomwithalessonplan.com/ )