Thursday, July 21, 2016

In sickness and in health and …divorce.

Who would be the most likely candidate to call for help with injecting myself with meds 3 times a week? Umm…my ex-husband?  If you think that is weird- you aren't alone. It started back in January when I knew I would need meds to help with my newly diagnosed MS treatment.  The pharmacy provided a visiting nurse to come out to train me to do the injections. I had used injectable meds years ago to help with pregnancy related complications when I had The Goofballs, so I was not concerned. In fact, when the nurse called to schedule a visit, I basically told her I already knew what I was doing so she didn't need to bother. But, it was policy and blah, blah. SO I scheduled an appointment for her to come to my house.

I didn't give it much thought, but the day before she arrived, the Wild One mentioned that maybe I could video the teaching session so that if I needed help, he or my mom could know what to do. It seemed like a good idea.  Oz was going to be at my house that evening with the kids so I asked him if he would video. He agreed.

When the nurse called to confirm the "training" she told us videoing was not allowed but that there was info and video on the med website blah, blah.  Something like that.

But, she said most people have someone there to be trained to help if needed so if I had someone that could come over that would be great.

When I told Oz there was not video allowed, he said he would still sit through the training class with me and help if needed.

When I introduced my ex-husband to the visiting nurse, she said that was a first for her to have Exes being trained together.

Yeah, I guess it is a bit unconventional.

The class was the longest hour ever, she gave me so much information and paperwork and techniques that I never thought I could keep it all straight. I suddenly felt very overwhelmed.  I quickly found that the "auto jet" injector that is supposed to help make things easier is in fact a pain in the ass and difficult to operate!

I did the very first injection with the nurse there and only messed up a little. But, when I tried on my own in the days following I knicked myself with the needle and wasted more than one shot.

Luckily Oz was patient and and really payed attention to the class.  He did a MUCH better job with the shots that I did.

SO I set up the injection schedule for the 3 days a week Oz is at my house to visit  the kids already. The nurse said most people did Monday, Wednesday and Friday and she thought that I should do that instead.  I stopped just short of telling her to go fuck herself. Then made the schedule I wanted.

I figured for the first week or  2 it would help if Oz could assist.

And then…6 months went by.

Oz went on vacation in early July and that is when it fully hit me that he has been giving me 98% of my shots since January.

The injection sites are rotated arms, legs, hips and stomach. Really the stomach is the only spot I can do without help. I had to stop using my legs because the injection sites would swell up and hurt for a week.The meds burn my skin so the arms hurt like hell!  And I can't reach my hips very well.  But, the excessive fat in my stomach makes it a perfect place for the meds, too fat to feel the burn!

I have talked to other people with MS that have a relative assist them as needed with injections. Or some that have even gone off the meds because the burning at the injection site is awful or the swelling gets to be a bit much.  I haven't met anyone yet that has an Ex help them though and when they ask me about my "support person" they get a really puzzled look.

Even people that know us well have had an odd look when they try to process that Oz is the one that helps me.   I know, I get it. I even agree that it's funny! We are not above the Dr. Oz jokes!

But, I am thankful for the support system I have.

The Wild One has also been great about helping me with the shots when Oz isn't here or our schedules change, etc.  He does a fantastic job with it!

 Even Oz's girlfriend Dorothy is great about entertaining the kids when she is here so Oz can help me.

All in all the system has worked well. But, I know I can't take for granted that my ex-husband or anyone is going to be committed to helping give me meds forever. This isn't a temporary thing. I think in the beginning I thought it was.  Like it would just go away or stop being MS. Or something.
But, it is finally sinking in that this condition is permanent.

At some point I have to stop needing an assist. I have to find techniques that work without relying on someone else.

But, in the meantime I am so very grateful that Oz has stepped up and helped so much! It really put things in perspective and has given me a new outlook as we co-parent together. When he needs flexibility in his schedule or asks me to consult on a parenting issue, I am much more aware of the fact that I am dealing with a person who cares about me and my family and my health. Instead of looking for a fight or thinking he has an ulterior motive every time he speaks, I have come to appreciate that he is a good and thoughtful person. He goes above and beyond his co-parenting duties by helping me even though he doesn't have to. It is good for the kids to see we work together still when it comes to the things that matter.

Despite Divorce we still maintain a family unit that functions, even if it looks a little crazy from the outside.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Something Else

Sometimes it takes temporarily losing vision in one eye to realize that some of your friendships have really grown into what is more like family.  Over  this past Thanksgiving, I wasn't feeling well.  I had a blasting headache and my left eye hurt and was a little blurry.  I had convinced myself it was a sinus infection.  But, my good friend Bethel had suggested I call my doctor before the holiday in case it was something else.  I called and said I felt like maybe I had a sinus infection starting up and they told me the first opening they had was in 3 weeks.  So I continued on with holiday plans. My children were with Oz the night before Thanksgiving so I met up with friends at a local pub to see a band.  The headache persisted and the blurriness seemed worse, but I attributed it to the loud music and lights.  After a couple chocolate martinis….well the blurriness didn't seem that bad.

On Thanksgiving Day, I wore my glasses because my eye hurt too much to put my contact in.  The headache persisted, but family and friends had me laughing enough that it didn't bother me too much.

On Black Friday, the vision was noticeably blurrier.  I mentioned it to Bethel again and she convinced me to get an eye doctor to check it out since my regular doctor's office wasn't open.

I had now self-diagnosed the problem to be a sinus infection that had been aggravated by a ripped contact.

But, the eye doctor said my contact and eye were not ripped.  She said there was swelling behind my eye and she gave me steroid eye drops and said to see my regular doctor on Monday.

That Saturday, lights were bothering my eye.  I met a friend for breakfast and could barely see out of the left eye.

I felt my sinus infection getting much be worse and thought I needed an antibiotic so I went to a walk-in clinic.  The person that checked me out said my eye was definitely swollen. Continue to use the eye drops, take an antibiotic for my sinuses and see my own doctor on Monday.

By Sunday vision was now brown in the left eye and so blurry I wasn't sure I could really see out of it.

I decided if the antibiotics had not worked by Monday afternoon, I would see a doctor after work.

When Bethel heard that, she COMPLETELY advised against that idea of waiting and going to work.  She and her husband called me.  He is an APRN and he said I should go to the emergency room because blurry vision is nothing to mess with it.

I didn't want to go to the emergency room because who would watch the kids, the copay was too high, the wait would be too long and about 10 other excuses I came up with.

But, Bethel's husband had made his point clear - blurry vision is serious.  I should NOT go to work. I should call my doctor and say I need to be seen immediately.

Since everything was very brown and blurry at this point and my head was aching bad. I thought I should listen to advice of my friends and called my boss to say I would not be in for Monday.

Monday morning once I got the kids off to school I called my doctor and explained the weekend events.  They said to come in immediately.

I thought it was great because I could get a stronger antibiotic for my sinus infection.

However, when I got there ~ the doctor restated what Bethel had been saying for days...  IT WAS NOT A SINUS INFECTION!

 I sort of heard her say that and still thought I would drive myself home and schedule the MRI she suggested for some point in time.

The doctor looked at me like I had lost my mind.  Since I could barely see her, I ignored her sideways glance.  Then she spoke to me like I was an idiot and she very slowly let me know…It is NOT …a sinus are NOT driving yourself out of here…you will go right now for an MRI …I will be in touch with you as soon as I have the results.

I did NOT want to hear that. So I stayed in denial, but called my mom for a ride.
She took me to get the MRI.

The whole time I was in that Tunnel of Hell getting my brain scanned I was thinking- "I hope it really is just a sinus infection."

Because the alternatives were scary as Hell!
And… I am a single parent of 3 small children ...and I work full time…. and I have a classroom full of children that I teach. .. they need me.

I did not have time for something more.

Alas, it was something more.

 But, thank GOD it was not a tumor like I had subconsciously been fearing.  My doctor said vision loss could mean a lot of things,  and she definitely had not been smiling when she heard my father had died of Lymphoma in his brain.

So when she called to tell me to come to the Emergency Room immediately because she thought I had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) I was taken by surprise.  Because in my thoughts the MRI was supposed to rule out a tumor, not find something else.

It was supposed to be a sinus infection!

MS?!! What was that?  Shit! I had not really considered something ELSE. Something long-term else.

My friend drove me to the ER and my brother aka "Loser" and his wife met me there.    "Loser" and  our other friend "Lou" are my friends from my college years.  Once back in 1993 we saw a scene from Ace Ventura Pet Detective where Jim Cary said, "Loser" in such a funny way that we have been calling each other that for 23 years! In college, people even thought Tammy's name was really Lucy because I called her Lou. She calls me Lou too! We're a Loser Club and proud of it.

Anyway, that ER visit began a 3 day hospital stay that included bloodwork, MRIs, and Lumbar Punctures to rule out MS.

Or as it turns out…rule it in.

My diagnosis was Optic Neuristis caused by MS.  As months have gone by I have started to learn what the Hell that is and what it means. I learned it's manageable and treatment exists and my nerves calmed. It's not that bad. It could have been so much worse.

But during that 3 days in the hospital and days following, I realized I have the most amazing friends and family and that I am so very blessed!

As soon as the doctor said I would have to be admitted, Loser disappeared for a few minutes.  When he came back I asked what he had been doing. I thought maybe he was getting ready to go home. But, he said he had been ensuring that I would have a private room and he asked for a cot to be brought in so he could set up camp to keep me company.  I didn't want him to be inconvenienced.  But, he insisted he was staying.

I have to admit I was so relieved! I didn't realize until that minute how scared I felt.  A million thoughts were racing through my mind and so many unknowns and all I could think was, "OMG, I am completely alone in this world. Who will take care of me and the kids if there is something wrong?"

I have always felt like getting divorced is like free falling off a cliff without a parachute and you just never know if you will land in one piece.  Having something wrong with my health while raising 3 kids on my own was one of my worst fears.

But, I should have known better. My family and friends rallied and I was FAR from alone!

When I was transferred from the ER to a regular room, Loser already had a cot set up. And about 5 minutes after settling in my mother and 2 aunts came in.  It was 10:30 pm and they were dressed in cute, comfy clothes with scarves and their purses. I couldn't help cracking up! My favorite ladies were there to rescue me! I had tried to avoid inconveniencing my mom or anyone, but they were there because they wanted to be.  I was so grateful to see them!

Loser stayed over and we talked and talked until we finally slept.  We always laugh in any situation so it was great and took my mind off of everything. We met in college while Loser was on the "Student Patrol." He was wearing his fluorescent security jacket and telling people what to do. At first I thought he was bossy and opinionated.  When I go tho know him I realized, he IS bossy and opinionated AND one the most loving and generous human being on the planet! He is loyal and dependable and has never, ever let me down.  My family loves too, so much in fact that they adopted him a few years ago.  Now I have 2 amazing and crazy brothers.

The next morning, Lou showed and camped out for the day.  I couldn't believe it!  I had met Lou my first day of freshman year in college.  She walked into my dorm room and saw me sitting alone and said, "Hi, do you want to be my friend?"  I am always thankful I said yes!! She is my BFF and has stood by me for life.

A little while later, Bethel showed up! I met Bethel my first weekend at college also.  We became instant friends and eventually roommates.  We have always had a ton in common and have not run out of things to talk about yet in 23 years! We spend hours on the phone and quite frankly Bethel has saved my sanity on more than one occasion over the years! She is an incredible friend and if  she was charging by the hour, I would owe her about a zillion dollars for therapy.

It was like a mini-reunion! My Soul Sisters stayed with me throughout the day of testing and bloodwork and made the day entertaining.   Loser checked in and out on us all day and had us laughing.  He even stopped by while I was in the MRI and the x-ray teach told me how lucky I was to have such a protective brother! SO true.

Throughout those days in the hospital and then while recovering at home, I had much to be thankful for!  My eyesight came back 100%!! And my "Big, Fat Italian Family" and so many friends rallied around me.

For only the third time in my 41 years of life, my mother was scheduled to go away on a trip.   I wanted her to go. She needed a vacation. I was really fine. But, she as worried.

Fortunately, she works in the hospital and Loser, Lou and Bethel stopped to see her and reassured her that I would be fine and they would stand by me and take care of me.  With their encouragement she felt comfortable keeping her plans.

And my friends kept their word!

Many others helped out too.  My cousin stayed at my house to take care of the kids overnight for days, my coworkers called, stopped by to visit and took great care of my kids and students
at school.  Another one of my cousins visited and checked on me each day and my other brother stopped by to  keep me company.  Even neighbors reached out. I  had so many phone calls, texts, emails and get well cards! People dropped off food, drove me to doctor appointments and even helped me administer meds I needed at home.  Oz jumped in to help to by staying with the kids and helping me get adjusted.

MS is a thing I will figure out about as I go. It's treatable.  I'm sure there will be some learning curves ahead. But, now I know I will be ok no matter what because my kids and I have our "Village."  Our family. Our friends that have become family over the years too. The way it all works out is really something else!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Wisdom from my Baby Doll

Dating with a family of young children can have some challenges. I have learned some lessons over the past year, some more than once. My children have learned too. It always amazes me just how smart they are and how much they understand. Dating with a family is interesting. For starters, everyone has an opinion. My kids are each so different and have their own interests and concerns and things that they like or dislike about people. They also have hectic schedules and live with me full-time which gives planning a date a whole new meaning. Especially when dating someone with their own young children.
Between coordinating time and going through the clearance levels of all co-parents/Exes involved and then actually finding a day, time and activity that works for everyone. Well... you arrive at the moment and there is the reality of actually managing a crew of small children with only 2 adults.

Finding someone that's good with Netflix and take-out dinner works well for me and the schedule of my little ones.  When we do go out with the whole Crew my children like the fun activities like go-carting, bumper boats, or long drives in the country.

But, along with the fun times there are struggles too.  Those are the times that I tried to protect them from. I worry about them getting attached to a man that might not be around long term. But at the same time they are with me all the time so they are going to meet people that I care about. And sometimes they will care about those people too. Sometimes arguments happen and/or relationships end. Children are aware of it all no matter how hard you try to shield them.

One of my friends told me her Ex gets concerned when she introduces her daughter to a boyfriend because he doesn't want her to learn that men leave.


But, the reality is people leave sometimes. And...Single Moms date. Women with children have the right to have people in our lives, but with that right comes great responsibility.  Our children deserve honesty. There is a fine line between not introducing a new person because it is too soon and outright lying to children when a relationship is ongoing.

I try to balance it. They have only known one person that I have dated since I've been divorced. He has been in and out of our lives over the past year and a half. They know him enough to care. But, not so well that he is part of their daily lives.

The difficult part of dating as a family is that you are trusting someone with your childrens' hearts. When the relationship ends it affects them.

Since I have known the Wild One, we have taken "breaks" a few times.

Sometimes it affects the kids and sometimes they barely notice.  It depends on the degree of the incident  that caused the Time Out and the duration it lasts.

 The last time we were on a "break" in the early Fall, my kids didn't get to say goodbye to him or his children. We didn't see him for a month.  At first, I didn't mention it. I just let him fade out. My sons didn't seem to notice that we hadn't seen him in a while. Although one of them asked about his son on a regular basis.

But, Isabella is a little different. I was worried because she seemed to get more attached. She liked to have dinner with us when he visited, she thinks he's funny and looked forward to spending time with his children. One time Bella asked to call him to say goodnight, but it went to voicemail and she was too shy to leave a message.  After that, she never asked again.

When I first started having him around the kids, I had tried not to encourage any type of dependency on him. I didn't want the kids to think we needed him or had to count on him for anything. Despite that effort to assure everyone of my independence and capability,  my boys started to think that anything that goes wrong around the house we would just call him and he would fix it. Which was true, but I didn't want them to think there was no other way for me to handle things on my own.

Over time, I began to realize it is ok to need someone and to rely on them. As I came to that conclusion and became more comfortable asking for help when I needed it, my children opened up too.

At one point right before our "Autumn Break,"  the Wild One had made Isabella a promise. Trouble had been brewing in our relationship and I was afraid he would break his promise to her.   He told her he was going to to build her something for her birthday and even showed her the designs he had drawn. She was excited about it.

But, a few weeks before her birthday we took a break and the promise broke too.
When I told her that she was not going to get the gift that had been discussed, she handled it very well.
She was helping me scrub the tub at the time.  She just shrugged and said, "Well we have other friends that love us and that's what matters."   Smart little lady!  She just scrubbed away any disappointment she may have been feeling.

He had called and offered to fulfill his birthday promise to her, but in the moment I was being stubborn and refused his offer.  I wasn't ready at that moment to let him back in.

Eventually the Autumn Break ended and The Wild One has been back in our lives.  Isabella was more cautious this time around. She took longer to warm back up to him.  She still thinks he is funny and still loves when his kids visit.  But, she wasn't seeking him out like she did before.

She is wise beyond her years and instinctually knows to protect her heart.  It bothers me that she is learning this lesson so young.  It amazes me how children really learn what to expect from people based on their actions.  The old saying is true…actions speak louder than words.  The more the Wild One shows he is reliable, the more my children accept that he is. But, with caution.

Recently the Wild One made it up to Isabella by going out of his way to do something very thoughtful for her.  She was very appreciative of his effort. The next day, she was struggling with assembling something and decided she would leave it to the side to ask for his help next time she saw him.

 Faith in someone is a beautiful thing to see restored! However, it makes it all the more heartbreaking when the relationship ends.

Life lessons are tough. Dating with a family involved is tough.  Trusting people is tough.  But it can be worth it!  New people add new ideas, new opportunities, new experiences.

People do leave, relationships end. People argue and sometimes see life differently. There might not be a happily ever after every time. Maybe it is not about protecting children from that idea that makes them better?  Maybe it is about  teaching them how to be resilient that makes them stronger? I want them to know that caring about someone is worth taking a risk. I don't want them to be afraid to love and to trust and to enjoy the people around them.

Maybe it's a good lesson, maybe not.

Either way I am going save money for when they all grow up and need therapy and blame me for everything that ever went wrong in their lives just in case.

Monday, January 4, 2016

EVERYthing is Mama's Business

When I rifled through the pockets of a jacket forgotten by Oz, it caused quite a debate with the Goofballs and raised some interesting questions!  In my defense I did not intentionally pick through his pockets.  I was cleaning and found a small, thin puffy jacket on my couch. I assumed it belonged to a child or a woman.  As I was guessing who it's owner could be it never occurred to me that it was Oz.  I held it up and felt something in one of the pockets and at the same time the children, aka The Goofballs, noticed what I was doing. They started saying, "that's Daddy's jacket."  When I proceeded to pull small items from the pockets it raised their attention and they came storming over. Immediately they repeated that it belonged to their father. Still disbelieving that such a tiny, thin jacket could belong to a man, I continued to look at the pocket items.  At that point, Isabella could not stand it any longer and said, "Stop going through the pockets! That jacket is Daddy's and it is his business!"

Excuse me small child that I gave life to???

I took that moment to gently remind The Goofballs that anything that was in my house is MY business including the humans I made and anyone or anything connected to them in any way.

They disagreed very much.  But, I reminded them that I had spent a decade of my life with Oz and created an entire family for him so his abandoned pockets and anything in them are also MY business.

I could not help laughing at their protection of Oz and his "business!"  FYI- the only things I found were a Dunkin Donuts gift card and chapstick. Not exactly state secrets. But, I appreciated their thoughtfulness in protecting his privacy. I only hope they will extend me the same curtesy if ever needed. Especially since they live with me and spend almost all of their time with me and therefore know much more of my "business" than their fathers.

The jacket search however, did raise some interesting questions. Cenzo immediately seized the opportunity to remind me that I had been married to Oz for quite some time and then he asked the dreaded question…."Why did you get divorced?"

We haven't really had that question in a long, long time.  The kids were little when we split up. The boys were 5 at the time and barely remember that fate changing day 3 years ago when Oz moved out and Bella was 2 and barely remembers him ever even living with us.

So it was interesting, in a gut wrenching and devastating way, to hear that question from my sweetest little guy.  Especially since it was the week of Christmas. The most dreaded of all holidays for their single Mama.

Since I was blindsided and ill prepared, I bravely faced the 3 children and told them "Life happened to us and we didn't make it through the difficult times together."

Then I waited for about 3 breathes until I could speak again and asked if anyone had any other questions. THANK GOD they all said no!!

If they had said yes, I was prepared to offer them Oz's chapstick and gift card as a bribe to get them to stop asking me heartbreaking questions!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


So last night I arrive home to find Oz and the kids in distress. Oz had misplaced his ring from Dorothy and everyone was in a tizzy. The next thing I know, I'm elbow deep in a garbage pail praying to Saint Anthony as I sift through yesterday's mac and cheese and other grossness in search of Oz's ring.  Now, is it normal for me to assist in looking for a ring that had been exchanged between my ex-husband and his girlfriend on Valentine's Day probably as an undying symbol of their love? Not really.   Do I love the idea that he dates a girl 15 years younger than he is? Not really.  (Her age may explain why he is 42 years old and wears a promise ring, but I digress.)  Was it a jarring experience the first time I caught a glimpse of that silver ring that looks exactly like a wedding band on his finger? Yes.

However, once I had the chance to get to know Dorothy a little bit, I realized she is very sweet.  So nice in fact and so far good to my children that she is nearly impossible to dislike.  Also, she proved her intelligence to me one day when she stood witness to an argument between Oz and I and she knew enough to keep her mouth shut and not make eye contact with me.  That brave girl stood there and endured the situation knowing enough to not engage an angry Mama Bear.  She earned my respect that day.

Despite any misgivings or protests I may have had (there were a "few"), it is nice that my children see a couple that seem to truly have a connection and care for each other.  They enjoyed helping Oz set up an anniversary dinner and flowers one time and a birthday surprise for Dorothy another day. They are always telling me how much Oz and Dorothy love each other. (At first that made me fluctuate between wanting to puke and wanting to punch someone - now I'm like whatever. Light and Love Bitches! I have my own shit to deal with.)

 Isabella was 2 when we split up, she doesn't even remember us being married and living in the same house. The boys only remember a little.  Now that they all live with a single, dating mom it does concern me that they won't have couples to look up to as examples of what love looks like.  My parents had a great relationship but my dad passed away last year and the kids might be too young to remember how romantic my dad was with surprising my mom and making things special.  So it's good for them to see that type of relationship.

They know that ring means a lot to Oz, we all do.  Dorothy has been away and will be returning this week so Luccio was concerned that she would arrive and discover the ring missing.

So the search was on. After we all thoroughly checked the garbage bins, laundry baskets, and under every piece of furniture Oz finally gave up and went to wash his hands in the bathroom.  And... there was the ring on the edge of the tub.

We all thanked St. Anthony.  Peace was restored.

This reminded me of when one of my students asked me, "Are you a character on a TV show?"
Nope. This is my real life.
Seriously?! WTF has happened here?!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

On This Day

Twelve years ago on this day I walked down the aisle, escorted by my father to meet Oz. To swear before God and family and friends that we would bet our lives on forever.  This morning, 12 years later, we met at a commuter lot to exchange our children.  It amazes me how life can change in what feels like a minute.  Forever seemed like such a great idea. When you know, you know and all that.  I was 28 years old and knew exactly what I wanted, marriage, children…a family.  Here I am today at 40 years old and I'm still trying to piece together what exactly all of that means.  Oz and I are not the same people we were that day.  I don't even recognize myself sometimes.  And very often I don't recognize him anymore.  I thought for a long time we are so aligned in our goals and dreams and vision of what was important. But, over the years since our divorce I realize we are sometimes on different pages for so many reasons.  People change. I hear that all the time in different contexts.  It's true. To some degree.  People do change.  We grow up. We grow old.  The world knocks us down.  Each time you get back up, you are changed just a little.  Each person that comes into our lives now steers our paths in different directions.  Divorce has opened our family up to new people. More people. Since I went back into the work force, my community has widened and expanded.  My children now have "school moms" that look out for and love them.  I have "work sisters" that are my support system and my team!  And my lifelong, close circle of friends all rallied around me over the years, they are my village, my family!  As my babies are growing up they have friends that they are getting to know and making their own attachments now. Each person Oz and I bring into our personal lives now become part of our children's lives.  In marriage, you trust your partner and believe and hope that they will have your best interest at heart because they love you. Divorce is different.  Its the biggest leap of faith there is. After a divorce you have to blindly trust that a person you could not keep a forever promise to will effectively co-parent the most important people you will ever know.  In the beginning I would watch my children leave with their father and think "My God my entire life is driving away right now."  After a few years this life has become our "normal."  We have found new patterns that work for us. New schedules, new routines, new rituals, new rules, and new lives. Oz and I still have our disagreements and there is no one that has ever made me feel angrier on this entire planet. But, we have also reached a place where we can talk about things that are important to us again, including the relationships we have with other people. (Nothing weird or awkward about that, right?!) At the end of the day, forever may not have been what I thought it would be or last nearly as long, but I have faith that I did bet on the right person for my children. When push comes to shove, he does have my back and I have his (even when he really pisses me off!)

*In the picture I chose, one of our sons is hiding in the background refusing to take part because he is too cool.  We don't have many post-divorce family pics. SO this one is it, LOL!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Organizing chaos

What started as a few house projects turned into a transformation of our family life.  In June, I was at the beginning of my first summer off in 3 years.  The Wild One visited for dinner one night.  I asked for his help moving an old tv and entertainment center out of the house.  He agreed, but as he searched for tools he ran into one mess after another. First, the back porch was pretty much a fire hazard of art supplies and garden supplies piled up so high I couldn't reach things any longer.  Then he went into the basement playroom and that was a heaping mass of toys and books.  Finally, he headed to the garage to try to find a screwdriver and only found more mess and piles.  That was when he started to think perhaps I was a hoarder. He may have been joking a little, but deep down I think he was worried. It was the first time since I had met him that I felt truly vulnerable.  Prior to that I usually saw him at his house or out.  He had been to my house, but we didn't really hang out there.  It is easy to seem a little bit more like you have your shit together when you are not in your own mess. To get dressed up to go out for a few hours can be fun and I can leave the chaos and stress behind.  But, having someone in my home it was more obvious that I didn't have a handle on things.  I was struggling with working 50 hours a week, taking care of 3 kids primarily on my own and trying to keep up a house that I had put little or no effort into since being on my own of the past 3 years.

I was so used to my Dad doing everything that I needed around the house, when he got sick I started to hire people to help with years projects etc.  But, he still did all of my laundry and my mom did the ironing and they had us at their house for dinner 3-4 times a week. SO I rarely grocery shopped or cooked.

This past year without my Dad, I struggled. I was barely making it at work, missing deadlines, having trouble managing it all.  But, with the help of an amazing friend I got organized at work.  My friend Danielle came in with a truck load of plastic bins and labels and put my classroom together and helped me tweak my schedule.  It made all the difference!! Thanks to a great snowy winter we had a ton of snow days so I got caught up on lesson planning.

But, I never quite got caught up at home. I had been paying someone for the last 2 months of the school year to clean every week.  I could just barely catch my breath and felt like I was drowning in laundry. So help cleaning was a life preserver.  But, it wasn't enough to jus upkeep. I need to make changes.

That first week home it really hit me.  I was a mess! My life felt out of control.

The Wild One realized that I was overwhelmed and that joking about it was just sending me over the edge.  Luckily, he switched tactics and instead helped me write a list of priorities.  And he brought over GIANT garbage bags.  Once I had a plan for where to start, I began taking small steps each day.  Starting with the playroom, then back porch, then the garage, the living room, the kitchen cabinets and eventually the kids' bedroom, I systematically worked my way through the entire house over the summer. Organizing and dumping or donating things we no longer needed.

I even managed to get some outdoor work started, but there is still more to do.

As I started making changes and getting chaos organized, it became VERY obvious that the kids needed to get on board or I would be back to drowning fast!  As quickly as I cleaned messes they made more.  So I started to insist they pitch in.  I was met with resistance to say the least.  SO MUCH WHINING!! It was easier to do it myself.

But, the Wild One was doing a lot of the projects with me and pointed out that we had 3 able bodied helpers sitting watching us.  At one point, Vincenzo said, "I like watching him. He knows how to do everything. He is better than TV."  Hmmmm….it made me realize that when my Dad was alive he had the boys helping him and that was how they learned.  Now that they didn't have a man around to show them how to do things, they were stuck with me and I just didn't know.  I did a lot of watching too and let my Dad do everything. I didn't bother learning.  I don't want that to happen with my kids. SO all 3 of them were encouraged to help.  Isabella ended up being the strongest helper. Lifting small tree branches didn't make her bat an eyelash! Her brothers whined and cried and acted crazy.
At one point, Vincenzo told the Wild One he should just "go die!"

Umm..yeah.  It's hard to come back from that moment.

When we were chatting that evening, the Wild One said a few things that were hard to hear, but made so much sense.  Having spent more time with the kids and seeing a bigger picture he was able to give valuable input.  He noted that Vincenzo was maybe acting out because he does the brunt of the work.  He suggested maybe it was time for my "Little Bear" to help out more.  Also, he suggested figuring out a way for each of the kids to have their alone time with me or Oz so they could feel special and then maybe that would open communication and cut down on the whining and complaining

 I knew the inmates were running my asylum.  Things had to change.  I spoke with Oz and luckily he agreed with all of the suggestions and jumped on board 100%.  We began setting times for each kid to have time alone for a few hours with me, Oz or my mom each week.  They LOVED it!! So did I.  I forgot how cute they are and how smart!

Also, I had to get control of the house back, reset the rules, give everyone chores, expect more as they are growing up.  Oz got on board with that too.  He spends time at my house each week with the kids so it was essential that he enforce the rules and chore schedule too and he did.

Weekly chores were assigned for Laundry, Garbage, and Dishes.  Each child gets one of those chores to be responsible for the week. They must do one load of laundry each day, one load of dishes each day and take out one bag of garbage each day.  At the end of the week they can pick out of the prize box. They can also earn extra prizes for volunteering to help siblings with their chores without complaining.

We just finished week 5 of this new system.  I cannot believe the difference!  The first 2 weeks were tough because Vincenzo was the only that knew how to do all 3 chores, so the others needed to be taught. Also, Luccio screamed and cried and loudly protested having to lift "heavy" bags of garbage and touch "disgusting" dishes.  Since his tiny, 5 year old sister did each chore without problems and actually enjoyed those same chores, I knew he was not only physically capable but also possibly going to be on Broadway someday! His acting skills are stellar!  Once everyone realized these are not negotiable they started to keep up with them and it is now a daily habit.

Special time with the kids did improve their moods, rewards for doing chores helped with morale.
We ended up having a great summer and the house looks so much better. I even managed to grocery shop and cook some meals and we all ate at the table on several occasions. Back talk and whining lessened, I have started to hear more I love yous again!!

It has changed my life! Now that I am back at work, I realize how important it was to assign chores.  I made it thorough my first week back and was able to enjoy the weekend without laundry, garbage and dishes piled up and suffocating me!

It's better! Although I must admit there have been some funny moments.  Like when I opened the cabinets and saw how Luccio stacked the bowls and dishes together instead of separating things. Or when I notice Isabella's system for putting away glasses and mugs on the same shelf. And someone rearranged the silverware so I now have to look before I grab a fork.  I have learned to let go of thinking there is one "right way" to do things.  Now I am just happy things are cleaned and put away.

I was able to have company this summer without stressing!
The day that stands out the most is when Oz brought his girlfriend here for the first time and the kids were so excited to show Dorothy the house that they even opened kitchen cabinets so she could see our dishes.  I was certainly glad that day that we had gotten our shit together around here!

The one last place left to organize is my bedroom.  It still looks like a disaster of laundry baskets.  I am still a work in progress...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fake Ghost Papa

On July 4th the kids made wishes as they each sent lanterns up into the sky. When it was Luccio's turn he said, "My wish is for Papa."  The next night at bedtime, he reminded me.  He said, "I wished for Stregga to have Papa by her side for all of her weeks."  He acknowledged that he understood that Papa (my father)
is no longer alive when he said, "You know I mean fake, ghost Papa.  You know the part of a person that stays when their body leaves.  Like the spirit.  That Papa. I want his Spirit to always be by her side." Oh Bear! You precious, amazing little boy.  That is a beautiful wish. I know Papa heard it and will always be by Stregga's side and in all of our hearts forever.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mama's Matchmaker

My son, Vincenzo, told me he thinks I should get an online dating profile and he will help me write it up. He is working on a list called "What My Mom is Looking for in a Guy."   Apparently, he got this idea from Despicable Me 2 and Mall Cop.  The kids in both shows try to fix their single parents up and so now he thinks this will be a great idea to try for me.  Although his advice is completely unsolicited and possibly a bit overstepping into my personal space, I have to admit it's pretty good and quite thorough!

"What My Mom is Looking for in a Guy"  by Vincenzo (8 years old)

-A guy that is nice
-Doesn't play with guns, machetes, bazookas, knives
-Doesn't rob or murder
-Shouldn't be a "Smarty Pants"- he should be smart enough, but not too smart because then he
wouldn't be fun to play with.
-Likes my mom's kids
-Is not a jerk
-A guy that would not marry you in the first 5 months     (he pointed out that did not work out too well for me with my first marriage - OMG!)
-He should only visit and/or sleepover if he is invited    (sort of like a vampire?!)
-Be nice with animals - but does not like bugs or rats or mice
-Be a Holder of all your secrets     ( I did not realize I have- secrets yikes!)
-He should have a good job.  Like maybe he should work for NASA and gets lots of money. Except then you wouldn't get to see him a lot, so maybe not.
-A guy that would build something like a dollhouse or a castle and not say "ew" about it.
-He should be a good writer and not play too many video games
-He should not waste water! You do not want that happening in your house.
-He should do laundry
-If my mom asks him to go somewhere - he should say "yes" or "no"- NOT maybe
-He should love to read
-He would mow the lawn
-He shouldn't spend all day looking at himself in the mirror checking to see if he looks good
-Be a good hugger
-He shouldn't go nuts if he sees a beehive or a clogged toilet like Daddy does.