Saturday Night and the Single Mom

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Here’s my latest column for Birmingham Parent.

Saturday nights used to be my favorite time of the week. After a day of fun, we’d be settling down for the night, looking forward to one more free day before heading back to school and work. Now I hate Saturday nights and bedtime. I feel guilty about what I did or didn’t do while Riley was with me. (Riley’s dad picks her up on Sunday mornings, and she’s with him until I pick her up after school on Wednesdays.)

When Saturday night rolls around, I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about everything I did wrong. Am I the only mom who feels this way? How do you stop the guilt? How do you balance “mean mom” with “fun mom”?

Did I tell her enough that I love her? Did I yell too much because she wouldn’t clean up the paper clippings and glitter after an art project? Will she smile thinking about cooking chicken burritos together? Or will she cringe because I got frustrated after telling her for the umpteenth time to brush her teeth?

Enjoying life with my 10-year-old is my goal – I want our days together to be more satisfying and less frustrating. More calm, fewer arguments. Of course, I know every single minute will not be a party. What’s fun about your mom making you put away dishes and laundry or making you write your spelling words three times each?

Lately, I’ve been focusing on taking a deep breath when I get frustrated instead of yelling. I admit it: I yell a lot. I’m not proud of it, and I’m working to chill out because hollering only makes it worse for both of us: Riley’s feelings are hurt, and I feel guilty. And the dirty clothes are still on the floor.

Maybe we should pull out the old chore chart again. She does what is on the list and gets rewarded with her chosen prize. Or she doesn’t do her jobs and faces the consequences. Dirty clothes not taken to the laundry room? Don’t fuss about your favorite shirt not being clean. Markers and glue sticks are missing? You should’ve put them away before I put them in the “earn it back” box. Either way, I stop yelling about it.

Besides, I try to balance the “boring” days with small outings at least once every week. We have season tickets to our local children’s theater and a standing Friday night dinner date. And during the week, we watch a couple of “Big Time Rush” episodes after homework, or she does my hair. Sometimes we just sit with my laptop and laugh at a slideshow of her old baby photos.

One Saturday night soon, I’ll be able to to drift off to sleep easily, knowing that even though I’m not a perfect mom, Riley understands that I have to be both “fun mom” and “mean mom” in order to be a good mom.

Warning: 2012 will bring honesty

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In 2012, honesty is the word here – I’ll be writing about what’s really on my mind. I’m tired of tiptoeing around because of who might be reading. I’m a grown woman, I’m single, and I’m a writer. I’m going to write about grown-up issues, and the joys and challenges of being mama to the best girl in the world. Besides, it’s easier for me to write about it than talk about it.

2012 To Do List
1. Tell the truth on my blog. Otherwise, why bother?

2. Wear these shoes. Often. Red peep-toe heels

3. Do 10 real pushups. Get off my knees and get it done.

4. Get to Dallas in September for Bamapocalypse II – Alabama vs. Michigan – and finally meet my Roll Bama Roll pals who’ve made the past year easier.

5. Run another 5K. Yes, run. A little walking is fine,
but I aim to run most of the 3.1 miles.

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Running my first 5K with my brother Michael

6. Return to a writing routine.
I have a book in me. Somewhere. I want to get it out.

7. Learn to embrace that I’m a woman with wants and needs. It’s natural and normal.

8. Read more books. I have stacks by my bed, on my dressers,
on the bookcase, on my desk that I want to finally read this year.DSC09426

9. Go to church more often. I want Riley to grow up
with faith in God like I did.Peace

10. Take control of my money. Learn what’s worth
spending it on and what’s not. Save accordingly.

11. Expect nothing from anyone except myself. And then expect good.Me

Christmas without my girl

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Light showEver wondered what it’d be like without your child at Christmas? Well, here’s what it’ll be like for me this year:

I’ve been a single mom now for two of my daughter’s birthdays, one Mother’s Day, a dance recital, one softball season, a year and a half of school, and this month will mark my second Christmas.

However, this holiday won’t be like any other – I won’t be with my daughter. And like Elvis once sang, “it won’t seem like Christmas” without her. Riley will be with her dad, visiting his relatives halfway across the country. While I know she will enjoy her time away, I’m dreading it.

What do I do on Christmas morning when she’s not here to wake me up, shouting that Santa left boot prints on the floor? How will I handle seeing her stocking on the mantel the day after Christmas? Do I want to go to my family’s big Christmas dinner with everyone else’s kids there? Or do I want to go to a movie alone and wallow in my sadness for a couple of hours first?

Keep in touch
Recently, I was clicking through Pinterest, an online bulletin board where you collect ideas for crafts, books, outfits, home decor, and I saw a recipe for a crockpot breakfast casserole with the note “great for Christmas morning.” It sounded yummy, so I repinned it to my board. Then I thought, “Oh, never mind. Riley won’t be here, and that’s too much food for just me.” It’s the little things that sadden me most.
Of course, I’m not the only one going through this – in 2009, 40,000 other Alabama residents saw their marriages end, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And many of us are wondering how to handle the holidays, especially the first one away from  our children.

According to Lee Block, a life coach, author of The Post-Divorce Chronicles blog, and a divorced mom of two, it should be a priority for children to talk to both parents, if possible, on the holiday. “It’s a great way to still feel connected and also help the other parent who is without the kids,” she explains.

Because I knew my daughter would be out of town over the holidays, I decided to upgrade to an iPhone with FaceTime, or video calling. When I message my daughter’s iPod Touch, we can actually see each other when we talk. If I can’t wake up to her smiling face in person, at least I will have the gift of seeing her via modern technology on Christmas morning.

IMG_0432If you don’t have an iPhone, try Skype to video chat – all you need is a computer, Internet connection and webcam. It’s easy to set up and free.

Invite folks over
Another way to banish the holiday blues is to make yourself do something fun, Block says. Fill your home with the sounds of laughter and friendship to ward off the melancholy.

I’m sure with all of the prep and planning and buying and wrapping some of my friends could use a breather right about now. A night of cocktails and cookies, no prep needed, would be a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays – just bring a favorite drink, whether it’s a hot chocolate or a hot toddy. Or how about sharing the wrapping duties while watching a holiday movie, sipping lattes, and making plans for the new year? Hmm, I think I’m on to something!

“Just because you’re alone on the holidays doesn’t mean you have to wait to get an invitation somewhere. Have your own celebration and invite everyone to you,” Block says. “Having a house full of people will keep the loneliness at bay.”

Start new traditions
Of course, because your family has changed, the way you celebrate will change, too, so Block suggests creating new traditions for your kids. “Because you are no longer the same type of family unit, it is important to do things a different way than you did them before.”

Each year, Riley and I open one gift on Christmas Eve, bake cookies for Santa and leave him a letter. We make reindeer food and sprinkle it in the front yard so Rudolph and his pals can spot our house from the sky. And each year we get out the Nativity sets and read Luke 2 aloud.

But this year will have to be different. Since we won’t have Christmas Eve together, maybe my daughter and I can make New Year’s Eve special. We could get dressed up and go out for a fancy dinner then to a movie. And top it off with some hot chocolate, admiring the gigantic tree at our favorite outdoor shopping area. Or we could invite a few friends over to ring in the new year with a Wii Just Dance tournament.

If we make it through December
Nothing will cure the ache that I’ll surely feel when I hear “Blue Christmas” on the radio around December 23 and I’m missing my girl but having a plan to lighten up when the holiday blues creep in makes me feel a bit better. And time apart will make my time with her that much sweeter.

And while I know Riley is excited about her trip to see her dad’s families, today my heart broke for her. As we were driving home from school I was singing along with the Christmas songs on the radio. Normally she sings too, but she had her hands over her ears and wouldn’t even listen.Pretty pretty lights

“Mama, turn off the Christmas music. I don’t want to hear it.”

“Why not? You like it.”

“I don’t want to listen to it.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“Because I want to be in Alabama with you on Christmas.”

Oh my heart! I told her that it was OK and that she will have a ton of fun on her trip. I reminded her that we’re going to do Christmas with my whole big family before she goes and with me and my parents when she gets back. She’s satisfied for now. I sure hope our FaceTime works while she is out there because it’s going to be hard without her.

Blue Christmas

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Every time I’ve come here to write, I’ve decided against it. But today’s the day. I’m going to talk about what’s been going on the past five months. But not in too much detail. Details suck sometimes.

I will be a single mom probably by the first of the year. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you’d planned. Sometimes two people just don’t fit together anymore. It hurts, but it’s time to move on and start a new life.

Y’all know how much I love Christmas, from the lights and trees to presents, shows and music. So this year, three of my favorite tunes – “Blue Christmas,” “Please Come Home for Christmas” and “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” – certainly apply to my situation. I love these songs whether I have someone to meet under the mistletoe or not.

While it will be sad that the three of us won’t be a family at Christmas, I won’t be singing these tunes about the past and love lost. I’ll be singing them and I may brush away a tear or two, but I’ll be doing my damnedest not to be sad and blue. I have Riley to make it bright and shiny and new and happy.

And I’ve got the rest of my family and friends, a job I love, my writing, a roof over our head and food in the fridge. And it’s Christmas! So while my happiness might have a little blue around the edges, it’s still going to be merry and bright. And I’m grateful for that.

That’s the way I like it

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Here’s a fun music survey from Music Savvy Mom. Post your answers on your blog and link back to me and MSM. 🙂

What is your favorite band/artist? (Specify “right now” or “all time”)
Elvis. See below for why.

What is your least favorite band/artist?  (Specify “right now” or “all time”)
Rascal Flatts

What genre of music do you LOVE? (Gotta pick just one)
Rock ‘n’ roll

What genre of music do you HATE? (Gotta pick just one)
Electronica, or whatever you call it.

What is a song that you love?
You’ll Never Walk Alone (Elvis)

What is a song that you find incredibly annoying?
Anything by Rascal Flatts, except Fast Cars & Freedom

What is your favorite “embarrassing guilty pleasure song”?
I don’t feel guilty about any of the music I like, even New Kids on the Block.

If you were in/involved with a hugely popular band … what “position” would you most want to fill & why?
Biographer … I’m a writer, and I’d like to travel and see what road life is really like.

What “position” would you NOT like to attempt & why?
Publicist … I don’t lie very well.

If you could meet one musician who has passed away, who would it be and why?
Elvis, because he took the best of rock and the best of soul and melded them into a whole new experience.


A change has come

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I haven’t blogged about this yet, but I love my new job (part time) as department secretary at Huntsville Hospital Pediatric Therapy – I feel like I’m making a difference for the children we see, and I feel like I’m giving back a little of what so many have helped us with during Riley’s journey to hearing.

The clinic sees patients for speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and now audiology. It’s exciting that families no longer have to drive to Birmingham or Nashville to have their child’s hearing tested or their cochlear implants mapped or their hearing aids adjusted. All that is available in Huntsville now.

It took a lot of hard work from the therapists, the audiologist, the volunteers, the hospital’s foundation, and many donors to help get the audiology program started. And it’s so worth it.

I’m learning so much about how these services really benefit these kids. I know first-hand how great auditory-verbal therapy is. Now I’m learning the benefits of OT. And about how you do PT with a 3-month-old. These therapy disciplines are fascinating.

Another cool thing? I wear scrubs to work. No futzing with dress pants and shoes. Or trying to find a shirt that fits. Or that isn’t too wrinkled. Just toss on the scrubs and go. I’m working on my color combos: Today it was turquoise and red; other days it’s been hot pink and navy.

I’m still writing, too. In fact, I’m working on a story right now for a national publication and another for a regional parenting magazine. And, of course, I’m still writing for VisitSouth.com’s Huntsville site. Stop by and leave me a comment there, too. The more links and visits and shares and tweets and posts I get the better.

In case you’re wondering, I took a buyout from the newspaper in January and was set to be a full-time writer when this opportunity at the hospital came along. Sometimes things have a way of working out, when the time is right. The good Lord knows what He is doing.

I’m loving my new schedule, and I’ve almost grown accustomed to getting up early. I’m still working on getting to bed early, as you can see. It’s nearly 11 p.m. and I’m banging away on this keyboard!

So that’s my update for now. Things are going well, and we’re enjoying life!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

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Riley has to finish these three before getting the next one.

I took Riley to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid a couple of weeks ago. It was a snap decision. We got home from my parents’ house on Friday evening at 4:30, saw the trailer about 5 and were showered and at the Rave by 6. She loved it! I enjoyed it, too, but the main character, Greg Heffley, was not my favorite. Rowley was.

Now, Riley has the books, but I haven’t read them, so I had no idea what the story was. Greg was not a nice friend, and having a pain-in-the-butt for an older brother was no excuse. Although, Rodrick was kind of cute. Rodrick is always getting Greg in trouble, and Mom never gives Greg the benefit of the doubt. Dad? He’s just clueless, while little brother Manny is adorable.

What I loved about Rowley (aside from his red hair) is that he’s just himself. He dresses how he likes, he plays, and he’s a good friend. Angie was a cool character, and I would’ve liked to have seen her in the movie more. She could be a great role model for girls.

Patty was hilarious. We’ve all known a super obnoxious kid like her, right? The girl who always has to be first, always in the spotlight and always makes sure everyone knows how great she is. Ugh!

Fregley (who is from Alabama) was disgustingly funny. But ewww! Gross! And Chirag … what a cute kid! The “cheese touch” cracked me up not only for its absurdity, but also for the way Chirag told the story. Classic middle school.

It’s worth the trip to the theater, and it led to a discussion on how to be a good friend. Like Rowley. Even if your friend is a little different. Like Rowley.

The movie made me want to read the books. And I will. As soon as I have time.

Today I am 38

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My birthday is today. I didn’t do much, but that’s OK. I took Riley to her MAPping session today at Children’s HEAR Center in Birmingham – all went well there. After we got back to town, we met Ryan at Phil Sandoval’s for an awesome Mexican dinner.

When we got home I was instructed to go to my office and shut the down. I sprawled in the floor and flipped through More magazine and waited. Riley came and got me and I noticed all the lights were out. She made me close my eyes and she led me into the kitchen, where a chocolate cake with chocolate icing was lighted by a 3 and an 8 and two gifts waited. It was very sweet, and the cake was good, too.

I’ve spent the rest of the evening in my pajamas, watching Riley do one-armed cartwheels, watching the Olympics, playing with WordPress plugins, and listening to music and watching videos like this one and this one and this one and this one and this one. And drinking Coke and eating Doritos and Chips Ahoy chocolate chunk cookies.

It’s been a good day. I’m not going to look back at my last birthday and all the things I wanted to do but didn’t. You can read the dirty details in the related posts below. No point in looking back and getting down on myself. I’ll just keep working to get where I want to be. Eventually I’ll get there.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! I love my friends!

And what better way to close out my birthday than with a little Jon Bon Jovi and a 16-year-old’s memories? Sweet dreams, y’all …

Focusing on my subjects

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Here’s the blogging schedule I’m going to try to keep so I’ll have some focus. If something comes up, I’ll be flexible even if it doesn’t particularly fit the day. Maybe this will help me be more organized and consistent.

Media Mondays (pop culture, writing)

Worth it Wednesdays (cochlear implants/hearing loss/family)

Fitness Fridays (sports, workouts)

Coping with a child’s hearing loss

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Ryan, Riley, Tiff at Lullabies on the Links benefit golf tournament

ADVANCE for Audiologists magazine featured my family’s story as part of a series on Maintaining Patient Dignity. The piece is called The Coping Parent:

“In many cases, the parents of hearing-impaired children may need more counseling from their audiologists than the patients themselves.”

The article talks about ways audiologists can make it easier for parents to understand and deal with a diagnosis of hearing loss. And do it without belittling or being condescending toward parents.

Frank Visco, the assistant editor, did a wonderful job telling our story and putting together a slideshow of Riley. He found us through my post Delivering the Diagnosis: Your Child Is Deaf. Please visit the magazine’s site and leave a comment if you enjoyed the article.

Have you ever had a doctor or nurse make you feel like dumb like our first ENT did? How did you handle it? What else can doctors do to help patients’ families cope? Leave me a comment. Thanks!