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October 2012

I Bet You're On Fire, Too

Over the years I've chosen theme songs for my life.   Everyone does this, right?  I mean, I can't be the only one who imagines walking in the door of any party, meeting, interview or parent-teacher conference carrying a boom box blaring my personal theme song to drown out my self-doubt and your critical eye. Thankfully Apple has made this scenario a lot less awkward with the invention of iPods and ear buds.

PlatformsWhen I filed for divorce, it's no surprise my theme song was "I Will Survive." Gloria Gaynor knocks it out of the park.  I went to the vintage store, purchased platformed disco shoes and bedazzled the crap out of them.  Not only do they lift my spirits, but man, they look good.

When the boys and I moved out of the long-time marital residence, my song was definitely from The Mary Tyler Moore Show: "You're gonna make it after all...." Can't you hear it now?  "Who can turn the world on with her smile..."

After putting on my screens at the new house, I was so impressed with myself, I couldn't resist doing an MTM (standard move of mine - throw hat in air, smile MTMand spin.)  Without a doubt, my sons thought I was nuts.  But in my head, I was feeling Mary-Tyler-Moore-screw-you-Mr.-Grant-take-no-sh*t-conquer-the-world-on-my-own vibes. And who can't use a little dose of that every day?

Unfortunately, self-destructive thoughts creep in my brain and camp out.  After receiving negative messages from a spouse for well over a decade, I believed them to be true. Even worse, it became natural to think that way.  If only I was prettier, thinner, smarter, richer.... Oh, you're right, sorry to bother you with my ridiculous thoughts, you've had a long day at a real job... Absolutely, you know best. What do I know?  You get the picture - and it's not a pretty one.

As a rational person (and after a lot of therapy) I know those negative messages are false. My opinions matter. I am smart. Changing my hair color, whitening my teeth or having bigger boobs won't make me more worthy of love. I'm already worthy.

But here's the kicker:  even though my brain knows those messages are false, my body operates on instinct.  When reminded of a past negative message like, "Do not call me, text me or email me at work;  I have paying clients that are way more important than you," my body automatically has a visceral reaction. I physically feel anxiety, loss of breath, and the sensation of being punched in my gut.  

The worst part is, instincts are hard to retrain.  After having the habit of being on the defensive for so long, I am amazingly skilled at interpreting things negatively and not feeling worthy of others' time.  And then what happens?  The old tapes in my head start to play: If only I were... You are right, that was a ridiculous idea...I am sorry I bothered you.

In summer I saw the movie, We Bought a Zoo, in which a father gives his son some words of advice and inspiration. He says:  "You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."  

You might wonder, how do we muster that twenty seconds of insane courage?  Get yourself a theme song. 

When I've got my theme song playing loudly in my head, it overrides the self-doubt, negativity and fear.  I get a I-don't-give-a-rat's-ass-that-I've-got-a-run-in-my-tights-and-screw-the-man-I-like-who-doesn't-feel-the-same-toward-me-and-yes-dammit-I-do-look-good-with-dog-drool-on-my-boob attitude. I don't have a glamorous life. I don't have a full social calendar. My jeans are too tight. I have fines at the public library. I'm lonely. I spend way too much time at Kwik Trip.

But with Alicia Keys in my head, there is no room for negativity and self-doubt.   As seen in my music video below, her words and music have the power to bring out the positive from deep within.   My overly-sensitive-average-single-mom-life makes me feel like a "Girl on Fire."  Just click the play button and enjoy.  I bet you've got some fire in you, too!

 

 

 


Road-Tested Travel Tips To Keep Parents Sane

Although I consider myself an expert in many areas of parenting, like how to maximize the longevity of boxers, using a double dose of cough syrup for any ailment, and how to clean fingernails with the tip of a paperclip while driving to school, I feel I have exceptional authority on long-distance travel with boys. As many schools begin their fall breaks later this week, I thought I'd share some of my road-tested tips in the event your family is heading out for a few days. 

There is no doubt satellite radio, a cooler on wheels, a DVD player with headphones, and a couple audio-books are all good bets to make a family road trip a bit more comfortable. But the stakes are just a bit higher when traveling with boys in a small, confined space for hours while simultaneously operating a large motor vehicle on unfamiliar roads at speeds of 75 mph.  Parental sanity, not comfort, tends to be the priority.

Tip Number 6:  Rolling Backpacks

Cornhead
Dude, we're from Wisconsin. We wear cheese. Besides, that cob won't fit in your backpack.

Rolling backpacks allow kids to haul their own stuff, even if it's heavy.  No more: "It's too hea-----vy. Can you puh-lease just carry it?" Each boy needs his own rolling backpack for his electronic game systems, chargers, books, games, blankie, and stuffed animals.  Any purchased souvenirs must fit in the rolling backpack which makes saying "no" to rifles, cone-heads and large rocks pretty easy. Pulling a rolling backpack inhibits kids from running too far ahead allowing you to keep up, and your blood pressure can stay down. In addition, unlike traditional backpacks, rolling backpacks are on the ground so they cannot easily be used as weapons against one another when standing in boring lines or crowded elevators. 


Tip Number 5:  Jobs for All

Hugo the Recorder
The Recorder keeping track of our s'more intake, crucial information.

As a single mom, I can't do it all, so every boy chooses a job for the trip.  My youngest is the Lookout.  He looks for bad guys, lightning, curves in the road, and booby traps. His job requires binoculars and a much needed diagram indicating his "left" and "right."

My middle son is the Recorder. He records unusual sightings like a bear peeing or a running cantaloupe (turned out to be an antelope.) He is responsible for writing down shopping lists, fast food orders, and game scores. His tallies of buffalo poop piles and creative abbreviations like "J.C." (just ketchup) keep us laughing.  

My oldest is the Navigator which requires attention to detail and excellent computer skills. Who needs Siri when I have my own Go-to-Guy? Before I can spit out the question, he's got the answer:  "Got it, Mom!  Check it out in 3-D."  Sketch Artist, DVD Master, Fart-Counter, Snack Man, and Mr. Muscles are some additional jobs to help a family trip run a little smoother. 

Tip Number 4:  Scooters or Ripsticks

RipsticksBoys feel the need for speed.  They are physically incapable of being restrained and confined for hours at a time.  And as a parent, unless I have some strong happy pills, I, too, am incapable of being confined for a lengthy period of time with them.  Don't fight nature.  Accept it. Although a stop at a park to swing or climb on a jungle gym is a nice respite, ten laps at full speed on a scooter or Ripstick around an empty church parking lot provides a faster and more satisfying energy release. Park the car. Turn up the tunes. Let 'em ride.  Not sold?  Scooters and Ripsticks never get flat tires or lose a chain. Pack the scooters, rent your bikes at the destination. 

Luggage carts
I love the anonymity of travel. I have no idea who these kids are.
Tip Number 3:  Luggage Carts

 Upon arrival, a group of luggage carts in a hotel lobby is a welcome sight for my sore eyes.  Kids are so wired to get out of the car, I let them each have a luggage cart as I pretend to completely not know them as I check-in at the front desk.  

Let them unload the car, one item at a time, in order to make as many elevator trips as possible.  Let them use luggage carts as over-sized skateboards, jungle gyms and bumper cars.  Hey, I figure, the longer you can put off going to that gross, under-chlorinated hotel pool full of strangers, the better. Right? I have used the luggage cart technique on many trips and have yet to be asked to leave a hotel.

Tip Number 2:  Gum

Get your butt to Costco and load up on gum - lots and lots of gum.  Hubba-Bubba, Bubblicious, Bazooka, with sugar, without sugar--- any kind will do!  

DSC09398
A quiet, happy traveler.
It is a fact that cars become quieter when kids chew gum. Boys do not yell or shout with multiple pieces of bubble gum in their mouths. They chew the gum.  They add more gum.  They talk about their gum. They compare gum. They inquire about others' gum. They blow bubbles. They add more gum and then they repeat the process.

Chewing gum is an activity in and of itself that lasts longer than coloring, Tic-Tac-Toe, or I Spy. So moms, don't be stingy with the gum! Don't be tempted to save the gum for a meltdown or moment of desperation. Leverage their love of gum.  Gum is your friend.  

In my experience, kids never, ever tire of gum. After chewing gum all day, when presented with the dessert tray in a restaurant, my youngest politely asked, "Do you have any gums?  I'll just have a gum." 

And My Top Traveling Tip:  Gatorade 

Eli w Gatorade
Gatorade: don't leave home without it.
Large, plastic bottles of Gatorade are the number one must-have for any long trip with boys.  Gatorade containers are so big, kids never ask for more! No one complains of thirst or fights over the last one. When the first boy finishes his Gatorade, the discarded, wide-mouthed jug conveniently becomes the communal urinal.  Peeing in the car results in hours of fun and conversation for boys:  "Mom, want some Gatorade?"  "I think I'm stuck."  

When a jug of Gatorade is in the car, the driver can relax knowing there will be no pressure to find a bathroom "Now!!!  Not five minutes, Mom, now!"  Your car now has a fully functioning urinal.

Say goodbye to finding crumpled, 6-ounce juice boxes and cellophane straw wrappers all over the back seats. Say hello to reducing your family's carbon footprint by bringing Gatorade on your next family road trip with boys.  Warning:  this tip could be disastrous with girls.  

 

DSC09404Yep, it can be frustrating, exhausting and down-right crazy when a family takes to the road together.  All the planning in the world will still result in some sort of not-the-end-of-the-world disaster.  But there are few things better in life than sharing an adventure with the ones we love!  

 

Happy Trails to you!

 

 

  



I've Got Something in My Pocket

As a young girl,  I dreamed I’d someday be the mother of two demure daughters.  I'd dress them in pink Polly Flinders dresses, white tights and black patent leather shoes. Quietly they'd play for hours, my two little angels, with Dressy Bessy and Mrs. Beasley. In my fantasy, we'd shop for the Barbie Townhouse, sell Girl Scout cookies, discuss Nancy Drew mysteries and debate which Hardy boy, Frank or Joe, was the cutest. 

 But then I gave birth to three boys. 

I'll be honest, my romantic childhood fantasies of motherhood never included:

buying Shout, Gatorade, and Goober by the case. 

falling into the toilet bowl...repeatedly.

washing urine off the walls, seriously guys, still?

stepping on piles of seemingly innocuous, yet unimaginably painful teeny, tiny Lego pieces.

Continue reading "I've Got Something in My Pocket" »


Soccer Mom on Steroids

Soccer sidelinesI’ve never thought of myself as a competitor. I’m not athletically inclined. On the 9th grade basketball team, I sat with my legs crossed on the bench, daydreaming of becoming Carol Burnett.  My disgusted coach would shout at the highest decibel level her manly, stout, body could exhort:  “Testwuide, this ain’t a Christmas tea, sit like a man.  Pay attention.”  What-ever… just puh-lease don’t put me in that game.

Continue reading "Soccer Mom on Steroids" »


Have You Had “The Talk” With Your Kids?

Recently I had "the talk" with my kids. I had put it off too long, which was truly irresponsible. Although my children are still relatively young, it's best to have certain discussions before they know everything and I'm just another embarrassing mom.  

I knew the subject matter of our discussion would be uncomfortable. Some could argue that not drinking, not smoking or not having sex are far more pressing topics.  But with three boys, I've got to pick my battles.  My gravestone and final resting place are far more important than teenage pregnancy or drug addiction.  

Instructions at graveAs single mom, I ponder what my final resting place will be like.  Walking through the cemetery, I panicked to realize I might land in the bumpy last row of our family plot, next to old Augusta Bach. A distant cousin, Augusta was a pathetic case who had no husband. My great-grandma begrudgingly agreed to toss her in the back for eternity. 

When I filed for divorce, I felt relief in being alone.  In fact, my epitaph might have read:  Beware of Dog.  However, now that time has passed, I can't deny I fear being alone forever.  I secretly yearn to have the words, "Beloved and super hot wife of...." engraved on my stone for all my posterity to see. 

The fear of being alone causes me to have unusual reactions around happily
married folks. When I witness couples holding hands at the grocery store, I want to smack that happiness right off their faces. Permanently dressed in a black turtleneck and yoga pants, like a middle-aged ninja, although lacking any sort of stealth, I fantasize about nailing three perfect flips at warp speed down the baking ingredient aisle and karate-chopping their hands apart.  Swish, swish, swish, hi-yahhhh!!  In my fantasy, at the last minute a bag of flour drops off the shelf providing a smokey veil into which my cart and I would vanish.
 

As a result of hating the happily mairrieds, I don't want to be stuck next to those annoying, well-adjusted couples for the next 200 years. Therefore I took the boys to the cemetery for a simple "do and don't" session.  Don't get me wrong, they don't need to go overboard.  I don't need a "statement" grave.  

I don't have issues about the size of a penis.

Boys at penis grave

Nor do I have a Napoleon complex. 

Napoleon complex FS

I don't need to pay homage to a lost testicle.

Indirect kick

But after walking the cemetery, surrounded by so many unique symbols of love,  I've decided not to give up on finding true love, the sequel.  And in the event I do get that second shot, all of eternity will know. The boys have strict instructions to order a hot pink, grossly bedazzled gravestone which reads:  "She's Goin' Down."