When You Enter The Uncool Zone With Your Kids

We’d all like to think we’ve still got it. I’m not talking about that “it” factor that makes people attracted to you. You know, like when the college boy working the ice cream counter appears to have done a double take, and you walk out of there with an extra skip in your step.  I’m talking about the cool factor with your kids. Somehow, we’re hip in our kids’ minds for a certain time. We are infallible for a hot second and, on occasion, they look up to us. Maybe it’s because of the stories we share with them, or the things we participate in with them, or perhaps it’s purely because they feel the love.

Don’t be fooled friends, this can all change on a dime. I’m sure some of you are already being nicknamed and called things by your kids as they chuckle under their breath. You’ve crossed over into the uncool zone if this is happening. On this note, according to my 6 year old, I am what he likes to call “Derpy“.  He learned this word from the FTG family on YouTube and, apparently, it is the opposite of cool.

We went out to dinner recently and I was shamelessly pointing and whispering about a famous person that was dining nearby. Kids, that guy is definitely famous. Teetering on being obvious, I tried a bit too hard to be enthusiastic to hype them up about it. For what reason- I can’t even tell you. I guess I wanted them to have the same excitement I was having so I was behaving like Lenny Kravitz had just blown me a kiss. I guess you could say it’s never quite as fun to spot a celebrity without someone else to enjoy the moment with.

We carried on with a relatively uneventful dinner and about half way through I connected the dots with who the guy was. He was simply someone who worked in the same building as I had for many years. A celebrity he was not! Once I realized this, I almost spit out my delicious margarita. I proceeded to laugh off and on about it throughout the rest of dinner. I thought it was hysterical. My kids and husband sat there shaking their heads at my ridiculousness. Mom, you’re SO derpy my youngest proclaimed.

I pick my kids up from school each day and usually we’ll pass by someone I know. According to my 6 year old, even the way I say hi to my friends is derpy. Mom why did you say “hi ladies” like that? You’re so derpy.

During a playdate, while making him and his friend a snack, I started chatting with my son’s buddy. He whispered to her, she’s SO derpy and rolled his eyes.

Now it’s a face I make in a photo, an outfit I wear, etc….it’s all…you guessed it….SO derpy.

This is surely payback from the universe for all the awful things I nicknamed my mom growing up: Splinter (the rat from Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles), Skeletor (the bad guy from He-Man), and Bronto, short for brontosaurus (because of her long neck and smallish head).

My 6 year old calling me derpy is way better than the mean things I called my mom the moment I deemed her uncool. Think back to what you called your parents or teased them about and get ready for it my fellow P’s.

Mom, you have my permission to call me Derpy whenever you want.

Sharing Stories & Supporting One Another

In the last six months I’ve written two stories about interesting and persevering women who deserve to have their stories told. These stories were submitted to an informative and thought provoking site called GirlTalkHQ for their Wonder Women series. The Wonder Women series was a call to writers to share stories about women who inspire us, have overcome adversity, and can teach us a thing or two based on their personal experiences. When I first saw the writing prompt Calling All Wonder Women, I couldn’t wait to get to work on these stories.

Continue reading here.

Bon Voyage! The Adventures of Traveling Solo With My Kids

Traveling alone with children is a feat in and of itself. When it’s over, you’re ready for a real “vacation”. On our latest adventure, so many unexpected things took place…

It had been exactly 4 years since I had traveled on my own with my two sons. I’m not talking about driving a long distance, I’m talking checking luggage, waiting in the security line, and flying on an airplane kind of travel. I didn’t really think much about it, I just went for it and hoped for the best.  This is sort of my MO and sometimes it gets me into trouble. While flying by the seat of my pants when making plans can cause me some of the usual parenting strife, undoubtedly, my kids always have a blast. Whatever discomfort or stress I sometimes need to overcome as the parent,  it is typically worth it on the other side of the adventure.  In the end, these experiences will be tucked away pleasantly in my sons’ memories for them to look back on fondly.

This close-my-eyes-and-jump travel decision with the kids, was quite a learning experience for me as a mom. So many unforeseen hurdles cropped up, by the time we returned, I was ready to hit up Home Depot to buy some lumber and build myself a lady shed in the backyard where Enya played on repeat and a masseuse was on call.

My sister had recently moved back to Chicago. I had initially decided to help her paint, hang stuff, and unpack without the kids in tow. However, the price was right, and it had been so long since I had brought the boys to their grandma’s house in Illinois or to visit Chicago, that neither of them remembered it. If they came along on this trip, they would get to see Grandma’s house, see their Aunt’s new house and maybe even visit with a friend or two and their kids also. These reasons were solid enough for me to make the decision to bring the boys. It would be another mom and sons adventure! So why not?

Fear of Flying

Upon mentioning the trip to both my boys, my 9 year old was elated. My 5 year old- not so much. He told me he was afraid to fly and that he was not going. When I told him it was not a joke, and we were really going, he burst into tears. This continued on for the whole month and a half anytime the words “fly”, “airplane”, “Chicago”, or even the words “Disney World” would come up. He would shake and cry and say again and again how afraid he was to fly.

Because his reaction was so severe, I decided to bring him to my EMDR therapist. He completed one session of therapy, and by the end, he was excited about flying. This alleviated his sudden breakdowns about flying. However, I only brought him to therapy once. It was not quite enough to solve the issue wholly. Unfortunately, there was no way for me to know this, until seeing how he reacted while boarding the airplane.

Luggage

My mom offered some pretty good advice regarding luggage,”Just bring one large suitcase and one carry on bag.” I took her advice and it worked out much better than trying to have the boys bring their cutesy roller suitcases.

When packing stuff for three people, one has to watch out for the weight so that there are not charges for oversized bags and so that you are not forced to pitch stuff due to it being overweight. Learn from my mistake, and check BOTH airlines if you are taking two different ones. It turns out one of the airlines had a 10 pound difference with their weight restriction than the other.  So on the return home, I had to throw away some of the gifts my sister gave me and shove all of the footwear we had brought into my already overflowing over-the-shoulder bag. Take it from me: mail extras, souvenirs, and gifts home. Otherwise, you’ll be frantically deciding what you can and cannot live without in order to get the weight of your bag down.

De Plane! De Plane!

The crying started once my husband pulled into the drop off lane at LaGuardia. My son was suddenly behaving the way he had been before the therapy session. He clung to my husband and begged to stay behind. We knew this meant boarding the plane was going to be a nightmare. My son latched onto my leg throughout the security line and whimpered quietly. I tried psyching myself up by telling myself in just a few short hours it would be over and we’d be in Chicago. I would help him get through this-it would be fine. We got to the gate and the attendant issued our seats. I saw that they were the last three seats on the plane and thought to myself, um, no way. I knew how loud it would be in that last row, and my son hates loud noise. I also knew that walking to the last row of a large plane with a frightened child would be like running the gauntlet. I let her know about his fear and she said she would absolutely help. Thank God for nice people. She moved us all the way up to row 14, and for a moment, there was relief.

The same Delta agent asked me to get on the plane first with the kids. She said this would likely ease his anxiety versus waiting in a long line. This made a lot of sense because waiting in a line would only allow his fear to fester.  We got to the front of the line and started down the ramp. This is when my son came undone. I knew instinctively his first move would be to make a run for it, so I was already latched onto his wrist with a death grip. He kept sharply turning and trying to dash back to the boarding area but without any luck. Somehow I got him down the ramp and as we stepped onto the plane. This is the part we’ll all never forget. He lost all control and started kicking, biting, punching, and worst of all, screaming in what I can only describe as an animalistic like terror. The pilot and two flight attendants stood and stared aghast.  The one flight attendant had this look just dripping of judgement-I felt like she rolled her eyes with all of her face. She kept looking at her flight attendant buddy and I wanted to shout at her for having the empathy of a gnat. She would have never heard me over my son’s screams.

I finally got him in his seat by dragging him by his wrists with his back, bottom, and legs dragging down the aisle. I still had my carry on bag over my shoulder as well as my purse, so I was basically pinballing off the seats as I pulled my poor child to our row. As if the demon that had just possessed him was suddenly excorcized, he sat down, buckled up, and said, “I faced my fear mom.”

Huh?

We hadn’t even taken off yet. I was confused, but I smiled and hugged him and told him I was proud. In my head, I was concerned that this had just traumatized him worse than anything else I could have ever imagined. My older son turned to me and whispered that he could not believe what he just saw his brother do, and that it really scared him. He also confided that he was now feeling very afraid to fly himself.

I gave them both a pep talk while they fought over the window shade being up or down, held their hands, and hoped for a good take off and smooth flight.

Silently, I was cursing the world for my having to give up alcohol and coffee that week for a health issue I was having. Either one or both mixed together would have really helped in that moment.

The Airplane Lavatory

You may be wondering if the flight attendants came by to check on us or ask my son how he was doing. The answer is no. And as if to add insult to injury, when he had to go to the bathroom, I walked him up and asked if he could go in by himself with me standing there in case he needed help. Nope, the flight attendant said. I either had to go back to my seat while he was in there, or I had to go in with him. I could not block the galley.

So I squeezed into the bathroom with him. I also had to use the bathroom, as I had been holding it for the last hour. He refused to stay in there with me, and to his credit, we really didn’t fit in there together.  I poked my head out and asked if he could stand right outside the door while I went to the bathroom (his brother was using the bathroom at the other end of the plane), I was nervous about him making his way back to his seat on his own. Nope. He could not block the galley she told me coldly. I walked him back to his seat and realized, I was actually going to pee in my pants if I didn’t sprint back up to the bathroom. As I ran back up, I see the flight attendant stand with her arms above her head in an “X” like manner blocking the bathroom and looking at me. I cried out, “Are you kidding me right now?”

I wanted to scream, and I’m usually a pretty calm person. She made me walk my child back to his seat and was now blocking me from going to the bathroom? What kind of jerks do they hire to be in customer service these days? I thought to myself.

Turning and running to the bathroom in the back of the plane meant that the faucet was starting to drip if you know what I mean. I finally went and when I was finished it was upsetting because I basically partially peed my pants thanks to that flight attendant.

As I exited the bathroom, I was immediately met by the cold flight attendant, who was standing right outside the bathroom door, waiting to greet me.

“Ma’am, do you know why I was blocking you from using the lavatory? It’s important that you know why I was doing that. I saw that you were upset.”

To which I replied, “I have a bladder condition. You told me I had to walk my son back to his seat before I could return to the bathroom, then you blocked it. I was already in discomfort, and then I had to run to the other one and basically peed my pants.”

Unmoved and stoic, she said with that same face where she’s doing an all body eye roll, “There was a law implemented after 9/11 where if the cockpit is open for any reason, no one is allowed to use the bathroom closest to the cockpit. That was why I was blocking it.”

“Thanks for explaining.” I went back to my seat with her staring daggers at me. What was I supposed to say? I get that there are rules and laws, but did she really have to be such a jerk? I should have just made my son wait outside the lavatory and not even asked her.

After an uneventful flight, except for me kind of peeing my pants, we made it in one piece.  What did I learn? It’s really hard to fly with kids by yourself. You feel weird leaving them unattended, when you have to use the bathroom it’s a real hassle, and you have to constantly apologize to the people in front of you for the kicking and tray slamming.

The Pick Up

When we approached my mom’s car at the airport pick up, I unexpectedly broke down. I hugged my mom and sobbed like a baby. It’s hard to articulate the emotions that overtake you when you force your child to do something they don’t want to do. Could that  cause them trauma? But could it also help them to face a fear? The emotional aspect is heavy.  Once I had a good cry which thankfully was behind her open trunk, I pulled myself together and got in the car. About ten minutes into driving, my older son starts shouting that my younger son is going to throw up in the back seat. I look in the back seat and sure enough he’s got his hand over his mouth and his cheeks are full. He has somehow managed to hold his vomit in his mouth. We were in rush hour traffic, thankfully, so I told him to roll down his window and stick his head out to empty his mouth. He did this and we later learned it all went down the outside of the car door. Still, I was impressed with his ability not to get it all over the interior of the car. When I asked him if it was because of his scary morning, he said no, it was because he decided randomly to stick his finger down his throat and it made him throw up.

Oh, OK.

Don’t Touch Anything- My Sister’s New Place

My sister had shockingly done almost everything on her own related to moving in. She had hired painters, and set up all of her furniture and emptied all of her boxes. The only thing left to do was hang pictures and set up her balcony furniture. Her whole place was decorated in mostly white and her walls were a very light, freshly painted color as well. I don’t know about your kids, but mine love to run their dirty hands along the wall. She also had new flooring so we had to be careful on that. We mostly had to try to stay out of her new apartment because it was so beautiful, clean, white, and new. This meant we hung one picture out of the 10 she planned to hang while we were visiting and we set up her balcony furniture. That was about the extent of my “helping” her.  Her place was so nice it reminded me of a museum. Remember that kid that broke the museum statue and the parents were fined $132K for it? Yeah. It was very relaxing at my sister’s new place with the bulls, I mean kids.

A trip to Urgent Care

There is an amazing pizza place in Chicago called Lou Malnati’s. I have to get it everytime I visit. It takes awhile to make the pizza and since my kids don’t behave in restaurants, we preordered it so that when we arrived we could sit and eat right away. My little one and I decided to meet my mom, sister, and older son there since his shoes were soaked from him running through playground sprinkler  in them. They were taking forever to dry, so I wrapped his feet in plastic wrap and stuck them in his wet shoes. We walked to the restaurant and sat down at the table with everyone. Just after they served us drinks, my little guy started playing with his straw. He decided to drink a bunch of his apple juice quickly. Then he sucked it into the straw and blew it out and all over his Grandma’s shoulder. Just as I started to scold him, his face turned red and he put both of his hands to his throat. He started coughing and gagging and crying in a panicky sort of way. I asked him if he was choking and he nodded. I picked him up and brought him into the bathroom (which was right next to the table,thankfully) and gave him the heimlich maneuver. He started crying harder and pointing to his throat. He could talk which was a bit of a relief. He said something was stuck and it was sharp. The only thing it could have been was a piece of ice, I thought. The waiter came over to set down the pizza on our table, so I asked him to bring warm water quickly and he nodded. I called an Uber to take us to urgent care. My son drank the warm water to try to melt the ice, but it was no use. Whatever it was appeared to be lodged in his windpipe and not the throat. It was not something that could be washed down per se.

We ran down to the Uber and it felt like an eternity before we got to the urgent care facility. He cried and held his throat the whole drive. It was about 15 minutes before we got there. Another 15 in the waiting room. Finally we were seen and they took an X-ray to see if there was a foreign body lodged in his throat or in his lung because now he was saying the pain worked its way down to his lung. We stayed for two hours and the doctors listened to his breathing and heart and asked lots of questions. They had me find out if the straw had broken into fragments somehow and if it was either lodged or cutting into his throat. The answer was no. Fortunately, my sister and mom thought to inspect his cup and straw thoroughly along with the Manager of the restaurant and text me those details. That was the missing link that the doctor was waiting to hear. After observing him and debating on whether or not to send him to the ER, followed by the X-ray coming back with no liquid in his lungs and no foreign bodies lodged in his throat, he was cleared to leave. It was deemed that he had aspirated apple juice. This can cause a sharp burning sensation that feels like something is cutting your throat or is stuck. Because it was not enough fluid to show up on an X-ray he was released. If it had shown up, he would have been admitted to the ER. Parents beware of your kids playing with straws.

I do have to say that both the urgent care center and Lou Malnati’s were amazing. Both followed up later that night/the next day and Lou Malnati’s covered the cost of our meal. My son and I ravenously dug into our delicious pizza later that night.

When I See Others Traveling Solo With Kids

This is my message to single parents or parents traveling alone with their children: You are brave and you are no doubt, physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  What I wish for you is nice, compassionate people along your journey. May you be surrounded by understanding strangers, family members, and people in customer service positions. And may your children enjoy and appreciate all of the fun adventures you take them on.

Talking To Strangers Is Not So Bad As An Adult

No one likes waiting in line. Most people also don’t like talking to strangers. So it probably sounds a little off to say that talking to strangers while waiting in line is actually enjoyable. In the last year, especially these last few months, I’ve come to notice that strangers are randomly chatting with me, while I’m in line, and surprisingly, I’m loving it.

Continue reading

When Your Child Discovers The Big Lie

Standing in the toy aisle in Kohl’s and concentrating on which item to buy for a friend’s son’s birthday, I hesitated before asking my son to repeat what he had just said.

“Can you repeat what you just said, but can you whisper it to me?” If it was what I thought it was, I didn’t want his 5 year old brother to overhear.

“I know that Santa’s not real, Mom.”

The color likely drained from my face as it was probably the last thing I was expecting him to say at that moment, but it was, in fact, what I thought he had just said.

giphy

“Ok, if you want to have this discussion, it has to be in private, with both me and your father. It needs to be away from your brother.”

“Oh! So you’re saying he isn’t then? I knew it!” His voice getting more shrill with each word.

“I said let’s talk about this later. Now is not the time.”

Thankfully, he forgot about it.

Two weeks later, after walking in the door from school, he reminded me that he wanted to have that talk. He said he knew about Santa and the Tooth Fairy because he had set up his iPad to video us sneaking around.

“That’s bologna.” I said. He smiled and admitted to fibbing.

“Well, I know they’re not real because you say you will tell Santa if we are misbehaving. That made me realize you’re lying. How could you tell Santa? It’s not like you have his phone number. What you think you can fool me by saying you’ll just dial him up? Or email him! It’s lies!”

“We’ll talk about it at bedtime.” I silenced him for the moment.

At bedtime, his father and I sat down and told him in so many words that he was right. Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny were pretend magical stories to make the holidays and losing teeth more fun and special for children. It was a lie coming from a good place (uh, confusing), and he would understand one day and do the same for his children.

Anger was the emotion that seemed to settle right in when we confirmed the bad news. He got emotional and went on to say he was hurt and surprised we had lied to him for 8 years. Then my husband corrected him and said, “Well, actually 9. We lied for 9.” Thank you, husband.

giphy3

He pushed us away when we tried to hug him. We didn’t “deserve” hugs. We were horrible parents. He was sulking like an irritated teenager. Then he asked about Elf on the Shelf which we only started doing these last two Christmases. He seemed more upset about the Elf for some reason. We gave him the ol’ “you can help keep the magic going and be part of it for your brother now…” spiel and it simply ignited more upsetment.

“How can you ask me to LIE to my own BROTHER? What kind of parents ARE you?” The drama was over the top. I wanted to laugh, but then I couldn’t, because he was so genuinely upset, the humorous vibe evaporated. We explained that he better not tell his brother or his friends.

The saga continued as he ran into our bedroom and grabbed his framed baby picture off of my nightstand and stared at it. I felt like we were in REM’s “Everybody Hurts” music video except it was, “J’s found out there’s no Santa.” This was like a made for TV moment.

giphy1

For the first time, we didn’t get a warm goodnight (he’s a lovey dovey kid), and we were sad about this phase being over. We shuffled back to the living room feeling a sort of grief only parents that have just gone through this experience can understand. It was the end of an era, which is sad for parents too. As your children go through different phases, some good and some bad, when the phases come to an end, there is a small sense of mourning. Not really for the bad phases though… adios to those!

We thought about any possible way to lift his spirits. Since our son had stayed home sick that day, we didn’t know if he had made drama club.The school had a lottery system in which they select children who are interested at random and there are a limited number of spots. My husband posted on the school’s parent group on Facebook to see if there was a way to find out and wa-la (thank you Facebook and the parent who got right back to us) we found out he had made it!

giphy2

We agreed to tell our son right away in hopes to cheer him up, but he was pretty stoic after we shared the good news. He wanted to crash in our bed for the night which he hasn’t done for years. He kept saying he didn’t know how he would fall asleep because this was the worst day of his life.

The next morning he was still thinking about it and said to his dad, ” So what’s up with the Santa tracker then?” It was obviously still on his mind. So much for hoping it would pass!

I guess with parenting, one never knows how much something will impact their child until it actually happens. My son clearly believed HARD in the magical things we told him about. For that I’m glad because those years were SO MUCH FUN. This was definitely a learning experience. The anger carried on the entire next day, but slowly it dissipated and we got him to agree not to tell his friends or his brother. I do believe we just witnessed his first major disappointment in life. Sure he’s had other let downs, but nothing to this degree. Of course there will be many more to come. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s so interesting what we learn from parenting. It’s a front row seat to the growing changing of the human being you’ve created-physically, mentally, and emotionally. You can’t help but be riveted, worried, and grateful simultaneously during the whole experience. Hopefully, we can still get a few more years of Santa, the bunny, and the Tooth Fairy with our youngest!

adult-background-beard-716658

My Identity Crisis:Financial Dependence

She works hard for the money, so hard for it honey. She works hard for the money so you better treat her right.

But what if she’s no longer bringing in that money? OK, maybe it’s a shift in the amount of money. Does that mean we don’t treat her right? How would that song go if THAT were the case? I don’t know the answer. I’m asking myself the same thing…that’s the crazy part!

♦♦♦

Don’t ever depend on anyone for money. Specifically, a love interest aka a husband. Mom taught me that at a young age. I was raised to work hard and always fend for myself financially. The song Miss Independent was my jam. Ne-Yo should have collaborated with me for the video. I could see it vividly — a dance number in a chic suit, taking calls on a sleek retro phone, while swinging around a briefcase, and kicking up my heels on a fancy desk. But in the version I’d star in, the desk I’d be dancing around on would be covered in credit card bills if we were really being authentic! Making it rain white envelopes in a sassy outfit sounds attractive doesn’t it? But hey, I was the one paying those bills-wasn’t I? At least THAT part actually is attractive. I’ve been responsible for a long, long time and making my own money has always been an important part of who I am.

Are there things about you that are hard wired and likely impossible to change? Yes, I think so. It made me wonder just how much a part of me is tied to being financially independent. For men, it’s been tied to how they define their worth over many decades. For women, we couldn’t even open a bank account in our own name until 1975, so it’s doubtful our worth was tied to our own hard-earned money until maybe the 80’s. Perhaps over time we’ve grown to feel in a similar fashion to men. Or perhaps it’s our experiences related to money and stress that linger on. Particularly because these occurrences were most prevalent during the most impressionable years.

Continue reading story here

 

Could Teaching Empathy Start With Bugs?

Here’s my latest on Medium. Be sure to clap for my article if you enjoy it and follow me on Medium so you don’t miss my future stories.

I used to think it was a little much. My husband was firm with the kids when urging them not to hurt or kill the ants, spiders, ladybugs, or any other random bug they were toying with outside. Over time, I grew to love how gently they would handle the ants that were building their little sandy huts on our patio in the backyard. They would pick them up with great care, and talk about how cute each one was, while it scurried in between each finger across their little hands. This little teaching about being respectful to bugs, seems to have stretched across all living creatures for the kids and it seems to have stuck. Our sons treat our cat with great care, express concern when someone gets injured or sick, and have randomly shown empathy for birds’ “feelings” as of late. Maybe this “be nice to the bugs” business has transformed into more than we could have imagined in the way of teaching life lessons.

Continue reading here.