Messy Mamahood

May 30, 2010

Remembering my baby brother


I'm flying to San Antonio and I wonder...are you up here somewhere? Can you hear me when I say I miss you?

As the clouds clear, I can see a lake with its many coves and it reminds me of the day we scattered you at the lake you so loved. I see crops for miles – squares, rectangles, even a triangle – all pieced together like a puzzle. This reminds me of how you always loved architecture.

There’s an enormous winding river with a boat speeding across the water, but from my vantage point it moves in slow motion. God, how you loved the lake! There is a smaller river feeding into what could be the “Muddy Mo” and it reminds me of your little girl – the one you can’t watch grow. The pilot just clarified for me – it’s the Mississippi. I wish there was a way to help Dae know her Daddy. But how when she’s so far away?

I don’t talk to you as much anymore, I know. I knew you were near when I heard “Good Riddance” in the wee hours of the morning. I felt a peace and glancing at your picture brought a smile to my face. How I miss you – your smartass comments and your crooked smile – the same as Dad’s. You know, he did always love you – the only way he knew how.

My two favorite pictures of you and me together – the one on Mo & Po’s deck when we were little (your curly blonde self!) and the shot taken at my wedding when you grabbed me and hugged me as we laughed. I love your face in that photo and how you’re nuzzled over me. I always felt you’d do anything to protect me, even though you sometimes acted like a complete jackass to me. Your smile in that photo reminds me of early Christmas mornings when you’d tiptoe into my room and whisper to me that Santa had come. The three of us would tiptoe together out to the living room to see what he’d left for us. Remember how we’d just sit there staring like kids in a toy store window? We didn’t dare touch anything until Mom and Dad woke up or they would...what would they have done? I don’t think we were ever brave enough to find out.

Do you remember swimming lessons in Albia, Royals games, Worlds of Fun (Dad and Dale puking – never drink and ride the barrel, a life-long lesson!). Remember how you used to crawl into the recliner next to Mom? I was always envious because that was your spot. Teddy – poor, poor Winnie the Pooh, stripped of his identity and forced to live the life of an imposter. Did you ever figure that one out? We thought you’d carry Teddy forever. Mom made sure you didn’t leave this world without him. I remember holding your ashes – the ashes of you and your Teddy – and sprinkling them into the lake. As always, we joked – about how you were becoming fish food. But I knew better – you’d kick their fins before they could get their mouths opened.

There are now acres of red dirt below. Remember spending summers with Granny and Papa and how, every time we visited our Okie relatives, we just had to bring home a plastic milk carton full of red dirt? Remember getting so mad at me and Dedrick that you chased us around the house with a table knife? And the day I decided to pack my stuff and run away from home...I remember thinking you’d be the only one I’d miss.

Remember using our "Matrix" moves on the gumball machine and that damned noisy glass cookie jar? Mom and Dad did bust us on those. That gumball machine now sits in my kitchen – but I’ve already taught my kids how to open the top with a coin and use a teaspoon to fish out their favorite colors. Yours was yellow. Maybe because Teddy was yellow. Blane got her hand caught in there once and I remember thinking I saw you in her face that day.

I loved the conversations you and I had toward what we now call "the end." I hated what you were going through, but I’m thankful it brought us closer and that you turned to your big sis in your time of need. We talked about God, you giving your life to Christ, your struggles, your baby girl...come to think of it, I believe one of those late night conversations was the last one I had with you. Can that be true? What would I have said or done differently that night had I known it would be the last time I’d hear your voice? I’ll never know. But I do know that our last words to one another were "I love you" because we always hung up that way. For that, I’m grateful.

Remember Anderson family Christmases, the Albia Country Club and driving Po’s golf cart? What about trips to Melrose? We didn’t wear seat belts then. Heck, Po let us sit on his lap and drive the car!

This morning at the airport Papa recalled the time you "learned" to like oysters. What are you – nuts? I KNOW they don’t have oysters in heaven. Nasty!

Whenever I wear that old flannel jacket I gave you for your birthday, it’s like a hug from you. Ugly as it is, I’ll never get rid of it. You know, I never knew you were such an awesome soldier but I should have because you were great at everything you long as you liked to do it (Hmmm...maybe that’s where Taege gets it). Keile loves remembering you – especially sending balloons up to you. She said "sorry" about the one that got stuck in the tree. I told her you’d come down to get it later. She cherishes you as her godfather. She’s my sentimental one. And oh, how I wish you were here to see Blane. She’s you through and through! Living up to her namesake’s attitude, my friend. Thanks for that because I know you had something to do with to the Big Guy about that one, did you? "Let's give her a challenging one." :)

So, what do you think about this iPod craze? I bet you would have one – the best one, I’m sure. Well, we’re getting ready to land. So, I’ll close for now and catch you later, okay?

I miss you and love you, Little Bro.
xo Sis

May 27, 2010

A new beginning

I just returned from watching my 6th grader's graduation and ceremonial walk down Belinder's school halls for the last time. I remember her first day of kindergarten and the little bit of trepidation she felt that morning as I kissed her good-bye and walked out, leaving her in her new classroom. And I remember her running out after school with open arms and a huge smile on her face. Confidence and joy.

I remember choir concerts, fall festivals, carnivals, poetry readings, the plethora of homework and papers coming home each day, parent/teacher conferences, report cards, awards, trophies, play dates, sleepovers, soccer, gymnastics, tennis, Brownies and Girl Scouts, violin, hero speeches, holidays and spring/summer breaks, the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, field trips, reading to her class, surprise lunches and being a room mom.

I know some of these things will continue during her middle school and high school years, but some of them are, sadly, left behind. And most of them will be forever different as she enters her teenage years. But as one poem from her graduation ceremony stated - this is a new beginning. A new start for Keile. And the start of a new kind of relationship for us. I have a little trepidation about that, knowing my relationship as a teen with my own mother. But I'm excited, too. And excited for my daughter and all the possibilities that await her.

I was so proud as she accepted her Presidential Award for academic excellence today, as well as her certificate of graduation. And, yes, I cried as she walked down the halls of Belinder, in her cap, for the last time. I couldn't help fast-forwarding to the day I'll see her walk across the stage at her high school graduation and again at college. But for now, I'll cherish the times to come and her new beginning.

May 24, 2010

Get your "bum-bum" on

I've recently lost 35 pounds and have rekindled an old love affair with my size 8's, moving closer to my size 6's every day. My dilemma now is two-fold: 1) that I need to tone and 2) that I've been watching late night TV. You know what I'm talking about - those infomercials selling everything from Proactiv to Heel-tastic (which, yes, I've tried). I'm just a sucker.

I don't get it. I'm not one of those people who falls for the internet "get rich quick" schemes or the "send us $50 and we'll send you a check for $5,000" nonsense. So why do I fall like a gazelle to the ravenous lion for these TV ads?

Recently, they've been running one for a contraption called the ShakeWeight, which is supposed to take you from granny flabby arms to toned and tightened guns in just six minutes a day. So, my kids and I are in Dick's Sporting Goods one day and my 12-year-old spots a ShakeWeight display. "Mom, you should get this," she says. "Yeah, Mommy," says my 6-year-old. "You can get rid of your flabby arms and I can, too." Right, Skinny Minny doesn't have an ounce of flab on her.

They keep hounding me until I finally relent. It's $19.99 - what's the big deal? And you know what, I've been using it and can actually feel a difference. I'm not ripped like the sexy blondes in the infomercial, but I'm actually getting a little more toned. Chalk one up for the ShakeWeight.

Flash forward a few weeks. I'm late night surfing again. This time I land on...wait for it...Leandro Carvalho's Brazilian Butt Lift. I'm not kidding - that's really their marketing strategy. Nothing like getting right to the point. I chuckle at the name and start to flip the channel but something sucks me in. In hindsight, I know what it was. Butt envy. These girls had butts you could bounce a penny off of - tight, round, firm butts. And I wanted one!

The Brazilian Butt Lift could be mine for just three payments of $19.95, plus shipping and handling. I debated and berated myself for being so stupid. But I eventually succumbed to the pressure of my butt envy. I secretly (so my kids wouldn't catch me and check me in to the loony bin) went online and ordered my coveted Brazilian Butt Lift.

It arrived five days later. As soon as the kids were off to school the next day, I popped in the first DVD. To my horror, I watched as Leandro led the girls through a workout that bordered on soft porn. They gyrated through the moves with these "come hither" looks on their faces. I tried to exercise along with the DVD but kept cracking myself up trying to stick my "bum-bum" (Leandro's word for butt) out with every move. It didn't help that his accent made him sound like he was lisping. I finally collapsed in a fit of giggles. There's no way I'll ever get through this workout. Back to Brazil it goes. Besides, I know I'll never get a butt like that. What was I thinking??

Have I learned my lesson about late night shopping? I hope so, but I doubt it. I'm now waiting for the Bombay Boob Lift DVD.

May 20, 2010

Love story

One of my favorite stories Papa ever told me was about the time he first met Gran. What was supposed to be a "blind" date – set up by a couple who were mutual friends of theirs – turned out not to be so "blind" on Papa’s part. He just happened to be peeking when Gran boarded his ship. He told me he had to make sure she was good-lookin’!

When I asked him his first impression of Gran, he declared (in no uncertain terms) "She was a beauty!" And the rest, as they say, is history. They were married there in Long Beach just over a year later. Theirs was a love story that defies description, but I believe I Corinthians says it best – "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures every circumstance. Three things will endure – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love."

I found this so true during Gran’s courageous battle with Alzheimer’s. Even when faith and hope seemed to wane, love never once failed with these two. Faithfully and endearingly my grandfather was by his sweetie’s side each and every day. And in the end, even when Gran no longer recognized the rest of us, his was the one face, the one voice, the one touch she always knew without a shadow of a doubt.

Just minutes before Gran passed away, I was reading to her from Proverbs 31, which tells the story of the good wife. It goes like this: "A virtuous and capable wife is worth more than precious rubies. Her husband can trust her and she will greatly enrich his life. She is energetic and strong. She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her saying – 'There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!'" You Gran, I said to her, THIS IS YOU!

And I told her what a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother she had been and that her work here on Earth was done. I told her that Jesus was waiting for her with open arms and not to be afraid. She closed her mouth which had been opened with labored breathing all day. Then she closed her eyes, which had been staring vacantly all day, and sort of smiled. She stopped breathing for minute or two and, as I looked up at her, she took one final gasp of air...and she was gone. More peaceful than anything I’d ever seen. It was such an incredibly beautiful gift to be with her as she took her final breath.

Recently, Papa shared with me that he felt so guilty for having left that night. (She died just minutes after he had gone.) Tears welled up as he insisted he should have been with her when she passed. But I reassured him and told him I believe she held on until he left because she didn't want him to suffer the pain of seeing her go. "Maybe so," he said, "Maybe so."

Both my grandparents were richly rewarded with the gifts they found in each other throughout their almost 44 years of marriage. Below is a short conversation they had just two years before she died, when the Alzheimer's had really taken its hold. They were sitting side by side, holding hands as they always did.

Papa: We’ve sure had some good times, haven’t we?
Gran: Yep, sure have.
Papa: I’d do it all over again, wouldn’t you?
Gran: Yep, I sure would.

How simply said, but how deeply felt. It's sometimes sad now to watch my grandfather without his "sunshine," but theirs is a love story that has inspired generations. One that will live on in all of us for years to come.

May 14, 2010

Focus on what's right

The poem below was published in 2001 following my appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. I wrote it to sum up my parents' relationship as I was growing up.

Dad always dances with me
But I never see my mother dancing

"I don't like this song," he says
Even though he hummed it
As we drove to the mall last week

She sits, a flower by the wall
Mesmerized with dancing couples
Or wondering why she hadn't married
That nice guy, Bob

"Dance with Mom," I plead
"Wanna dance?" he yawns

Her eyes brighten -
A school girl's first dance smile

They brush the dance floor together
With empty arms

Although this pretty much sums up the loneliness and emptiness between my mom and dad throughout their 23-year marriage, it doesn't include the anger, bitterness and lack of respect. But hey, they stayed together for the sake of the kids. That's something, right?

As a divorced, single mom I've often wondered which situation is preferable for kids. Two parents constantly at each other or living in a single-parent household. When I asked my son, he quickly said the single-parent household. Having come from the former myself, I'd have to agree.

Yet many times, we single moms beat ourselves up for not having worked harder on our marriages, as if we could have saved it all by ourselves. Why do we do that? It all goes back to that "mother guilt." We take the world on our shoulders. No matter what the reason for our divorce (or even if we weren't married to the father of our children) we sometimes think "If only I had loved him more" or "If I had just put up with _________" or "If only I had been better at _________" we would still be together and our children would be better off.

Let's face it, it takes two to make a marriage work and it takes vigilance to make it work well. But sometimes it just doesn't work and you have to cut your losses. That doesn't mean our children have to suffer. Living with a single mom is so much more beneficial to them than living in a household where they're constantly walking on eggshells. And when dad is co-parenting, even better. Sometimes it's just easier to get along when you're not together on a daily basis.

I've found that my days are better spent focusing on the things I'm doing right for my kids than on wishing for what should have been. And as a solo mama, I'm doing a lot right.

May 12, 2010

Loose Change

After being laid off from my job seven years ago, I was so worried about not being able to play Santa for my children, one of my greatest joys. I’d been fairly honest with my kids, letting them know money was extremely scarce. Initially, I wanted to protect them from the realities of living in a single parent, no income family, but what a gift my disclosure ended up being for all of us.

Just before Thanksgiving, our church hosted a family turkey feast and brought in handmade trinkets for a holiday shop called "Gifts from Around the World." Most of the one-of-a-kind items were made by the hands of women in third-world countries trying to provide for their own families. I learned I could drop off my children (and whatever amount of money I chose to give them) in the gift shop to do their own private Christmas shopping. The "elves" would help them choose and wrap appropriate gifts for me and/or other family members. About a week before the feast, I shared this information with my son (then 8) and my daughter (then 5) and they were so excited to shop for their baby sister and me.

The night of the dinner arrived and, after paying bills, I didn't have a dime to my name. On our way to church, I shared with my children that I didn't have the money to give them after all. They looked at each other and started crying quietly. I told them not to worry – that I absolutely cherished the pictures and “letters” they’d always made for me. I assured them I didn’t need a store-bought gift to know how much they loved me.

Their tears didn't stop until my son leaned over to his little sister and whispered in her ear. They excitedly begged me to "Please, please, pretty please, turn around and go back to the house" because they had forgotten something. I said we'd be late for the dinner, but they insisted. So, I turned around and drove home, watching them in my rearview mirror eagerly whispering to one another all the way. When I pulled into the driveway, they asked me to wait in the car while they ran into the house, giggling with excitement.

After about five minutes I got worried, so I took the baby into the house to find them. I grabbed the mail on the way inside and, as I was flipping through yet more bills, my children came running back out laughing and shouting that they were ready to leave. They each held in their hands a Ziploc baggie filled with every cent they had in their piggy banks. They were ecstatic, jumping up and down and chanting, "We can get you a present now, Mommy! Look at all the money we found!"

I didn't have the heart to tell them their mountains of pennies still may not be enough to buy anything in the church gift shop. I hadn't seen any prices, but I knew how beautiful the gifts were and I was so afraid they’d be disappointed again. So, I began digging through my own dresser drawers, coat pockets, purses, pencil holders, the junk drawer in the kitchen, under the sofa cushions – everywhere in our house I could think to look for loose change. And we kept finding more - a penny here, a dime there. We all squealed with joy when we came across the mother lode - a quarter!

I have no idea how much we ended up with, but when we’d turned the house inside out we stopped, looked at one another and laughed out loud the most blissful laughter we’d ever shared as a family. My children were so thrilled with our finds and I felt like the richest woman in the world, not because of the coins jingling in the plastic bags, but because of the richness and happiness we found in one another that day.

Both children were full of pride on Christmas Eve when they handed me their gifts. As I opened the beautifully handcrafted ornaments, we fondly recollected that day of digging for loose change. There are no words beautiful enough to describe the love I felt from and for my children at that moment.

As I hung each of their ornaments in prominent spots on our tree, I realized these items were more than just decorations. They were gifts from and to the heart -- made by struggling mothers in foreign countries and given to me by my wonderful children, who wanted nothing more than to show their own struggling Mommy their deep and profound love for her.

May 11, 2010

Toilette Connoisseur

That's my 6-year-old. The toilette connoisseur. I'm not kidding. The girl has an affinity for public restrooms. Restaurants, department stores, you name it. About the only public restroom she won't use is a port-a-potty. Hey, at least she has some discriminating taste, right?

It started when she was first potty training. We'd go to a restaurant and, inevitably, as soon as the food hit the table I'd hear, "Mommy, I go potty!" Now, I don't share her affinity for public restrooms. In fact, I detest them. And I have a bladder like a steel trap, so I never had to worry about it until Princess-Poops-A-Lot came along.

Oh, did I mention that's what she does in public restrooms? No, it's not just tinkle and get the heck out of Dodge. It's me being trapped in a stinky, tile-laden prison while Ms. Truck Driver curls up with a magazine to do her daily duty.

At least now I know to make her go before the food is delivered, even if she says she doesn't have to...because I know as soon as the food gets there...but even then, sometimes everyone else is half-way through the meal before she's through exploring the great tile walls.

I started thinking maybe she should start a ratings system of public restrooms in the Kansas City area. God knows she's visited nearly every one. I can see it now -

Target: 3 stars (a little on the stale side)
Macy's: 3.5 stars (scratchy toilet paper)
Blue Moose: 3.5 stars (nice ambiance)
BRGR: 2 stars (co-ed, REALLY???)
Jose Peppers: 4 stars (my favorite!)

I guess everyone has their little quirks. Hers has become a running joke in our family, and one I'm certain she'll never live down. I can see her first date meeting the family. Poor guy! And poor Blane. Let's hope she outgrows this before that time comes. I'd hate to see the boy left at the table for half the date. :0)

May 8, 2010

24 Days

I’m the mother of four incredible children – Matthew, Taege, Keile and Blane. I’ve talked a lot here about my youngest three, but today – after being through 24 of these days, 24 Mother’s Days – I wanted to share the story of my oldest, Matthew.

In late 1984, when I was 16 years old, I got pregnant by my boyfriend at the time – and my world pretty much came crashing down around me. I stayed silent about and hid my condition until I finally had to confess the truth. I was scared and didn’t know where to turn.

I first visited a local abortion clinic, with plans to terminate my pregnancy – only to have the sonogram show I was too far along for the procedure. That was my first clue that I wasn’t in charge of my life or my baby’s. That someone far more powerful was looking out for both of us.

A few weeks later, another doctor informed me that my tests had been miscalculated and I actually had not been too far along for the abortion at the time. By God’s grace, my unborn child’s life had been saved and I was so incredibly thankful.

During the last couple months of my pregnancy, I was determined to place my baby for adoption, and I don’t recall ever wavering in my decision. At the time, I felt I had a whole life ahead of me and trying to raise a baby was nowhere in my plans at that point. But all that changed when my son was placed in my arms the morning of August 5, 1985, following 24 hours of labor.

As he nuzzled up close to me, there was something in his big, blue eyes that struck me as familiar. They were the same eyes I’d been watching in the mirror for the past 16 years. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings this amazingly beautiful baby moved within me those first few hours of his life. I felt I’d aged and matured 10 years – and everything that had mattered to me before no longer mattered at all.

I held him, fed him, touched him and just stared at him, drinking in each and every detail of my tiny son. I wanted to remember everything about him. He never cried the entire time he was with me, until the morning the nurse came to take him away.

For days after that, I wrestled with my decision to place my son for adoption. I didn’t want to let go him because my future no longer meant anything to me if he wasn’t a part of it. I contacted numerous agencies that provided aid to unwed mothers; I talked with friends, pleaded with family members and, of course, prayed, a lot. But I failed to hear God’s response because it wasn’t the answer I wanted.

Ultimately, when he was 10 days old, I had to resign myself to the fact that I couldn’t give my baby everything he needed and deserved. In those 10 days, I had been through the most joyous and most painful times of my life – the joy of my son’s birth and the pain of letting him go. God knew how difficult it would be for me, but He also knew the strength I had within me – that which I could not yet see.

I was allowed to see him one last time before going to court to sign the final papers. And as I held him that morning he just cried and cried. At the time, I remember wondering if he knew I was saying "good-bye" and was feeling abandoned. Nothing I did could calm him. I remember feeling helpless – not having a clue how to comfort my own son.

My tears soaked the blanket he was wrapped in that day, as he once again was taken from my arms. I remember wanting to die as I watched the car drive off, carrying him out of my life.

I had surrendered and relinquished any rights I had to my son, placing my trust in God’s promise to me – to provide him a loving Christian family, which He did. My son’s adoptive parents gave him the name "Matthew" which means "a gift from God," and what an amazing gift he ended up being to so many people whose lives he’s touched. And I did move on with my life – never forgetting Matthew, but learning how to live again, despite the emptiness his absence left in my life.

About 18 months later, I was volunteering on the production crew at a Youth for Christ event. I remember walking downstairs to the vending machines, and as I opened my soda and turned the corner to head back upstairs, this sweet little boy toddled over to me with his arms up saying, "Coke? Coke? Coke!" I kneeled down and when I reached eye-level with him, something in his eyes struck me as…familiar…they were the same eyes I had kissed good-bye not two years before. It was my son, Matthew.

To be honest, I couldn’t have stopped myself from following him to the child care area if my life had depended on it. I was stunned and amazed that my son was standing there in front of me. As I sat down on the floor beside him, he crawled into my lap and just sat there, playing with Matchbox cars. The touch of him, the way he felt in my arms, the smell of his hair, his sweet little voice – all rekindled in me the intense feelings I had for him the day he was born – the feelings I’d been fighting to forget every day since.

When I share that story with others, I’m often asked if I considered sneaking away with Matthew in my arms. Strangely enough, the thought never even crossed my mind, for in those moments I spent with him, I felt more at peace than I’d ever felt in my life. I knew then that my decision had been the right one.

In fact, a few minutes later, Matthew looked up at me and started saying "Mama." Over and over, he said the word – "Mama? Mama? Mama!" I quickly realized he was asking for his one and only "Mama" – the woman who had received my gift, this beautiful child, and was raising him with the love and nurturing of a real mother. Because I had trusted God with Matthew’s life and had completely surrendered to Him, I believe that unforgettable moment was His way of gently telling me, "I told you so."

As I mentioned earlier, I was blessed with three children of my own – Taege, Keile and Blane. They are living proof that surrendering to God does bless you; He has blessed me three-fold.

My children have as much desire to meet Matthew as I do. To them, he is simply their brother and we pray for him regularly. A couple of years ago, my 12-year-old daughter Keile told me she had prayed about Matthew the night before. When I asked her what she had prayed about him, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, "That he’ll decide to come find us." I asked her why she was crying and she said, "Because I miss him." Having never even met Matthew, she already has this incredible love and longing for him. That is how much he has touched our lives, without even knowing it. As his name implies, Matthew truly has been "a gift from God."

There have been 24 days – 24 Mother’s Days – since Matthew’s birth. And, although my first few Mother’s Days were very lonely, ever since my three youngest were born this day has been incredibly special for me. And this morning, as I do every year on this day, I said a prayer for Matthew and his Mama – that wherever they are, they’re enjoying a wonderful Mother’s Day together.

May 7, 2010

Letting go

It's almost time to say good-bye to another school year. The kids are itching for summer break - swimming pools, camps, vacations. But the thing I'm thinking about is that it's another year down and only 3, 6 and 11 more years to go with each of my children, respectively. The years are fleeing. When did I get so old? And how did they grow up so fast?

It seems like only yesterday I was holding them in my arms, rocking them to sleep, listening to their first words and teaching them how to walk. Now, my high school son is driving. My 6th grade daughter is graduating to middle school. And my baby is "bridging" from Daisies to Brownies. Three different schools next year; three completely different stages of life.

Don't get me wrong - I love watching them grow and experience new things. It's just that as they gain independence, their "need" for me seems to dissipate more each day. And that's a difficult thing for a mama to take.

How do we do this as parents? How do we learn to let go a little more each year when all we want to do is hang on?

Share your thoughts in the pink "comments" link below.

May 5, 2010

25 random things about me

Remember doing this on Facebook? Thought I'd share it here since a lot have to do with parenting or how I became the parent I am today.

1. I rocked the soccer field in high school but haven't played since.

2. I was also a cheerleader for two years in high school...yes, me, a cheerleader.

3. I was on a theater scholarship and was a dance minor my first two years of college. Then decided I eventually wanted to make a living, so switched to a communication arts major.

4. When stressed out or upset, I clean obsessively.

5. My heroes are my baby brother, Corbett, who was killed in the Air Force in 2002, and my 92-year-old Papa.

6. I admire my son's sense of humor, my oldest daughter's tender heart and my youngest daughter's independence. (Don't tell the youngest that!)

7. I was a featured guest on "Oprah" in April of 2001 for a show titled "Pursuing Your Passions." I'm also a published poet. (My 15 minutes of fame)

8. I could clean up all the kid poop in the world, but vomit puts me over the edge. Can't do it. No way. Nope. Forget it.

9. I can't help but watch shows like "I Shouldn't Be Alive." They scare the hell out of me, but I can

10. My favorite vacation spot is Tan-Tara at the Lake of the Ozarks - our annual family vacation.

11. I have four older sisters (and six nieces) I never knew until I was in my 30s. And a little brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew I just met last year. (Didn't meet my biological father until I was in my 20s)

12. Being with my Gran as she walked into the arms of Christ was one of the most powerful and beautiful experiences of my life.

13. I placed my first son, Matthew, for adoption when I was just 16 years old (probably the reason for #14). He's 24 now.

14. I'm scared to death of my kids growing up and leaving home. I'm scared of them driving. I'm scared every time they walk out the door. I'm paralyzed with fear at the thought of something bad happening to one of them. I'm scared that I can't always be there to protect them.

15. I never knew motherhood would be the most rewarding and most exhausting job in my life. I never knew I could love so strongly and unconditionally.

16. The most beautiful sound in the world is my children's laughter. The greatest smell in the world is their hair after a shower. The greatest sight is their peaceful sleeping faces at night. And the greatest touch is their arms around me.

17. I went to the same college as Jesse Borrego from "Fame" (worked on a show with him and became really good friends) and Ricardo Antonio Chavira (Carlos) from "Desperate Housewives."

18. I love having slumber parties in the family room with my kids, then waking up and having a pancake breakfast and staying in our PJs all day.

19. I've been a Cub Scout leader, a Brownie leader, a soccer coach, a room mom (all three kids), a drama teacher, a teaching assistant, a PTA executive member and a youth group storyteller/actor.

20. I've been acting on stage and in TV commercials since I was about 14 years old, and I've been with my current agent for 12 years.

21. I hate white milk, carrots, sweet potatoes, coconut, pecans and walnuts.

22. I didn't start drinking coffee until my 30th birthday and now can't live without it. Okay, I'm a "fancy" coffee drinker...I like the vanilla and pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks.

23. My biggest pet peeves: ignorance, narcissism and hypocrisy

24. When I grow up I want to be a novelist and also manage my daughter's restaurant (that's what she tells me I'm going to do). :)

25. I truly believe God will never give me more than I can handle...sometimes I just wish He didn't trust me so much!

May 4, 2010

Solo Mother's Day

Mother's Day for a single mom can be very difficult emotionally. I've been very fortunate. The kids' day cares and schools have always been great about helping the kids make gifts or cards. But some single moms aren't as lucky. Here are some ideas to make your own Mother's Day extra-special with your children.

1. Show the kids how to make breakfast in bed. We've been doing this for years for birthdays and my kids love surprising me on Mother's Day morning.

2. Make sure they have plenty of art supplies, then leave them alone to create their masterpieces. Or go to a ceramics class together and make it a memorable project.

3. If the kids are old enough, let them help you around the house to earn money. My kids love having their own money to spend on gifts for special holidays. I then take them to the store of their choice and ask the sales associate to help them while I wait outside.

4. Get together with another single mom and swap kids for an afternoon to take them shopping for their respective mom.

5. Go to the park for a picnic and games. Let the kids pack the picnic basket.

If you're not a single mom, but know one, reach out to her and her kids on this special day. Invite the family to join yours for lunch or help the kids with one of the suggestions above. Just knowing someone remembered her will make her feel special and less alone.

Most of all, if you're a solo mama, remember that our greatest gift is that of our beautiful children and the love we share with them every day.

May 3, 2010

Got guilt?

We all know the legal definition of guilt, but have you ever looked up the medical dictionary's definition? "Guilt - feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy; morbid self-reproach often manifest in marked preoccupation with the moral correctness of one's behavior."

Now, how often do we share with other moms about the guilt we feel as mothers? I do, all the time. Whether its guilt over discipline, not spending enough time with the kids, working full-time, something I've said that I wish I hadn't, you name it. Heck, I even felt guilty after I posted what I wrote yesterday, even though it's a valid part of my life and feelings as a mom. But I'm not supposed to have those kind of feelings, right?

Until I read the medical definition of guilt, I had no idea of the damage we're doing to ourselves. Is a little bit of guilt okay? Maybe - it helps us strive to be stronger parents. But what stood out to me were the words "sense of inadequacy" which is sad because I believe we try to live up to this giant, pie in the sky ideal of MOM. Who wouldn't feel inadequate to that? We need to give ourselves a break and realize that we're doing the best we can with what we have. Especially as single moms.

Do I wish I didn't have to work? Yes. But can I change that? Short of winning the lottery, no. So, it's up to me to find a way to make life great regardless. And sometimes that means asking for help. There's nothing inadequate in that. I look for moments to spend one-on-one time with each of my kids by asking my mom to hang out with the other two for an evening. Or how about combining "to do" tasks with something fun - play a board game while you eat dinner or work on spelling words while you take a walk around the block. But remember, you're not inadequate. Being a solo mama is one of the toughest jobs in the world and you're doing it. That should count for something.

Now, the thing that really hit me the hardest in that definition was "morbid self-reproach." No more. We need to be our own biggest cheerleaders. (And if you know a single mom or dad, cheer for them.) Enough feeling sorry for ourselves and enough wishing things were different. We've been blessed with these beautiful children to raise. No, not every day is going to be easy. In fact, a lot of days are going to be pretty hard. But we can do it. If we believe in ourselves. After all, what are we teaching our children with "morbid self-reproach"? That nothing we do is ever good enough? Which trickles down to nothing they do will ever be good enough. Think about it.

May 2, 2010

Silence, please!

Honestly, I am so tired of listening to my three kids bicker, argue, fight, whatever you want to call it. It's exhausting. And it's constant. Today it was over what movie to see. "No, I'm not going to see that one!" "That one looks stupid." "Boring!" I finally made the decision myself and two of them had to suck it up and watch something they weren't thrilled about seeing. They both liked it. Imagine that.

But seriously, did God take them aside before they came to Earth and say, "Okay, now the game plan is you're to argue as much as possible and irritate your mother to the point that she'd see the nuthouse as a welcome vacation." I just don't get it. Don't they get tired of hearing themselves? It reminds me of growing up - listening to my parents' constantly at each other. Always trying to prove to the other that they're right. The thing is, after listening to my kids carry on, I don't really care who's right. I just want them to shut up! There, I said it. And I know I'm not the only mother who feels this way.

Taege and Keile are sitting behind me on the sofa right now arguing over their Nintendo games. Are you kidding me? "Stop!" Keile bellows over and over. Taege keeps irritating her. I swear they actually like to see me ticked off. "Look what he did!" "Go downstairs!" "Stop!" "You go upstairs!" "Taege! Stop!" "Mind your own business!" "Why don't you grow up?" "Stop touching me!" "Move your foot!" "Stop it!" This is the exact conversation I've just listened to. I didn't even bother to turn around and see what the issue was because it's never over anything remotely worthwhile. And I'm so tired of trying to break it up that I just let it play itself out most of the time, unless it escalates physically. Maybe if I act like it doesn't bother me, they'll just quit. A girl can dream, can't she?

The only thing better than listening to this is hearing all three of them harp at each other. A few of my older friends have told me to cherish this time because once you reach the empty nest, the silence nearly kills you. At this point, I'll take my chances. :0)