Parenting, the hardest job I’ve ever had!

Being a parent is hard work. Yes, there are lots and lots of rewarding times thrown in but when you get right down to it, it’s tough. Being a single parent is doubly tough. In a 2 parent household, in theory, you have a partner to help you out with those rough patches. You have back-up. When you’re a single parent you have no back-up. It’s all you, baby! I have all the respect in the world for military families who have one parent deployed while the other is manning the home front. Those are a different kind of single parents. Having to parent without your partner and having the extra worry for their safety would be unimaginably hard. I can’t imagine the stress that would add to a family and I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart for each and every one of those who are defending our country and making the world a safer place. Please don’t think I’m discounting those parents in that situation. I’m not! It’s just different.

You see, when you’re a single parent, whether by choice or by circumstance, you don’t have back-up. Ever. You have one income that has to work for everything. Food, clothes, housing cost, medical bills, utilities, transportation, repair bills, hair cuts, toothpaste. All of it costs money. Lots of it! When you’re a single parent you don’t have the luxury of an extra income coming in to help with that. Some are lucky enough to get child support from the absent parent. Not everybody is. Sometimes the amount of money you get in child support is such a small amount that if I told you what it was I’d be laughed right off the internet.

In the last 20 years I’ve done it all. The 2 a.m. feedings? Yep, that was me. The 4 a.m. run to the E.R because your child won’t stop throwing up and you can’t get the fever down? Done that, too. Sleeping in a chair for 3 nights with your 2-year-old who has the chicken pox and won’t lay down? Been there. The preschool assessment lady asking your 3 1/2-year-old her name and being told “My name is Shark Bait Hoo Ha Ha!”? Not my finest parenting moment. Really funny and a great story now but at the time? Not so much. The call from the school that your child was in a “situation” on the playground and they are considering suspension, IN KINDERGARTEN? Yeah, that really happened.

When you’re a single parent with a single income trying to raise a family sometimes you have to make a choice between eating lunch (even one you brought from home) or putting gas in your car. Wearing the same coat for 3 years just so you can get a new one for your child at the thrift store is sometimes just the way it works. Losing your job can mean losing your home. I’ve been very lucky that I have family around that has, more than once, taken in my girls and I so we could get back on our feet. I’m lucky. Not everybody has that kind of safety net.

Being a single parent has also been the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. Now that Beauty is almost 20 (How the heck did that happen???) I look at the beautiful young woman she is becoming and I am proud. I did that! I look at MiniMe who just turned 14 and I know that even though some days she still makes me crazy, she’s a good girl who loves her family and cares about those around her. I did that too!

Yep, being a parent is the hardest, most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

 

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Mooooooommmmm….

I’m going to change my name. I’ve decided. I can’t tell you what it will be because one of you will tell my kids then I’ll be screwed.

7195 days ago I became a mother. I suppose you could add 9 months to that if you wanted to get technical about it but I think that number is overwhelming enough as it is. Little did I know that I was about to embark on the most difficult, sometimes heartbreaking, often terrifying, frequently enjoyable, always rewarding adventures of my life! Almost from the beginning I was mostly a single mom. When she was 3 months old, I became a really real single mom. Thankfully I had MY mom to help me. Those early days were tough as we learned about each other and got to know one another. My baby Beauty was my first true love. She taught me things about myself that I never knew. I didn’t know you could function on so little sleep for extended periods of time. Not function very well but still able to be semi-coherent. She opened my eyes to the little things I had never noticed. She was excited about pretty much everything and learning to see the world through the eyes of a child is an amazing experience. For the first 6 years of her life we were a team. It was her and I against the world. 5019 days ago her sister was born. Beauty was such a great help when I was pregnant with MiniMe. She loved to cuddle with me on the couch and lay her head on my baby bump. 2 weeks before MiniMe was born we moved into the hotel I worked at and were living in a room there. 3 days before MiniMe was born my parents arrived and stayed in a room across the hall. Because of complications during childbirth (I almost died! For real!) I had to stay in the hospital for a few days. Poor Beauty had never really been away from me for that long and wasn’t happy about it. That first night she decided she was going to sleep in my bed since she couldn’t be with me. Grandma couldn’t get her to change her mind for anything. MiniMe brought many changes to our lives. Beauty was the very best big sister around. Right up until her baby started getting into her stuff and trying to eat everything. Then the days (and nights) were filled with “Mooooommmm she has my…” or “Moooooooommmm she wants my…” That never really changed even as they got a little bigger. Except instead of only 1 of them saying it now I had 2.

MiniMe was my “no leg baby”. Not literally of course but the kid seriously had the shortest little legs it was crazy! Beauty was 7lbs 6oz and 21 1/2 inches long at birth. Long and skinny. MiniMe was 7lbs 15.5 oz and 19 inches long. She was the Gerber Baby. Most of that 19 inches was her torso. She didn’t even hit the charts for height until she was almost 4! Beauty was off the charts from the beginning and finally stopped at 5’9″. She didn’t get that from me! MiniMe is now 13 and a couple of weeks ago we measured her and she’s 5’1″. Yep, that’s my girl!

The other day I was making dinner and MiniMe just randomly yelled “Moooooommmm”. I’m pretty sure it was just to see if I’d react. That’s when I told her I’m changing my name and I’m not telling her what it is. She didn’t find the humor in the situation.  Right now Beauty is taking some time away and visiting family and working on herself. The last year has been a rollercoaster and she needed to get off the ride for a while. MiniMe is keeping me on my toes this summer. We now have a kitten so she’s been busy with that. Horse Camp Season will be ending soon and it will be time to go back to school and get our routine back. She is definitely a creature of habit and not having anything to really do during the day is driving her a little crazy.

10 days from now we will be at our family reunion with my aunts and uncle and cousins on my mom’s side. The day we get there will mark the 3 month anniversary of mom passing away. I’m glad I’ll get to be with my extended family on that day. But I guarantee I’ll still get to hear one or hopefully both of my children call me Moooooommmm… And ya know what? I’m gonna enjoy every single minute of it!

How am I?

Well, that’s just a loaded question right there.

In the last 12 days:

  • Monday – Beauty was admitted to the hospital with kidney problems again
  • Tuesday – My mom was admitted the following day to the same hospital with internal bleeding. I also had my first ever anxiety attack
  • Early Wednesday morning – My brothers and sisters and I had to make the decision to let mom go. I had another anxiety attack
  • Thursday – Mom passed away. I had 2 more anxiety attacks. It was also my step-dad’s birthday 😦
  • Friday – Beauty was released from the hospital because the doctor is an idiot. My sisters came from Idaho
  • Saturday – Had a service here for mom. Another anxiety attack
  • Sunday – Went to my old church (also the church my parents attended). It was good to see so many of those who have been praying for us but still hard to be there without my mom.
  • Monday – Worked all day and ended up taking Beauty back to the hospital to be re-admitted.
  • Tuesday – Worked all day after getting 2 hours of sleep in a chair at the hospital with Beauty. Doctor released her again because they can tell us what ISN’T wrong with her but can’t figure out why she’s still in so much pain. Really dissatisfied with our healthcare system right about now!
  • Wednesday – Worked all day, probably the most uneventful day I’ve had in a while.
  • Thursday – Got to see the little boy who is like my grandson. Haven’t seen him since Thanksgiving. He’s growing so much! **I didn’t cry for the first time in a week!!!**
  • Also Thursday – A truck with an oversized load hit a bridge on the freeway about 30 miles from where I live and the bridge fell in the water. Thankfully nobody was seriously injured! Bad news for me is that I have to drive that way today after work! Yep, that will be fuuuuuunnnnn!!!! NOT!
  • Today is Friday and after work we are leaving for Idaho for a second service and burial for my mom. Good news is that I have Valium!
  • Tomorrow is Saturday and we will be having the above mentioned service for family and friends that weren’t able to come to the first service. I expect I will cry a really lot.
  • Sunday we will be driving back home.
  • Monday I will sleep and clean my house that I’ve barely been at in the last 2 weeks.
A very sick girl and her very sick Grandma

A very sick girl and her very sick Grandma

During the last 2 weeks I have learned just how amazing my friends are. I can’t thank you guys enough for being there for me during this difficult time in my life. Y’all know how to make a girl feel loved!

Living with RA

Mt Baker (2)

This picture has nothing to do with RA but this weekend we got to house sit for my brother and sister-in-law. This picture was taken from the back yard. Beauty took it early Sunday morning. She spent the night with us and woke up early. She grabbed my phone and took this picture. It was a great surprise when I woke up. One of the local coffee shops is having a photo contest and it was suggested that I submit this for it. I did but got an email back saying they needed a higher resolution copy. Unfortunately, I don’t have one. Oh well, I like the picture anyway. Those of you who are Facebook friends have already seen it but I just love it so thought I’d share here too!

I’ve mentioned before that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was diagnosed in February 2006. I had spent a year with what I called “The Amazing Traveling Pulled Muscle”! I was at the doctor nearly once a week with pain in a different location every time. The first was my right shoulder. My brother, Beauty and I made a quick trip for my uncle’s memorial service. A very quick trip. We were gone a total of 20 hours and about 15 of that was spent driving. I went to work the next day and couldn’t lift my right arm. My shoulder felt like someone was stabbing me with a red hot poker right in my shoulder joint. Any movement at all was excruciatingly painful. That was the first time I went to the doctor and was told “You have a pulled muscle. Here, have some narcotics!” They didn’t work. Three days later I was sitting at work and watched my left hand swell up and turn red. My left arm started hurting as well. You may recall that my dad died when I was 12? He had a massive heart attack. My mom? She’s had 3 open heart surgeries and a mild heart attack. Pain radiating down my left arm? You can bet I headed for the ER. Interestingly enough they didn’t even check anything with my heart! They ended up telling me “You have a pulled muscle” and giving me more narcotics. Really? And we wonder why so many people are addicted to pain pills???

Over the course of the next year, like I said, I was at the doctor multiple times only to be told that I had a pulled muscle. Finally after doing some research on my own I called and asked for a referral to a Rheumatologist. I ended up going in to my doctor’s office but saw a different doctor who FINALLY ordered lab work! Yes, I had been in this much pain for a year and my doctor never even did any labs! The very last time I saw the man who kept blowing off my very real pain he actually said to me “I got you in here on an emergency appointment. I don’t have time for this.”!!! Needless to say, that was the very last time I saw him. He’s still practicing. He’s even in the same office my girls and I still go to. But I’ve made it VERY clear that none of us will EVER see him again. I would rather take my chances at spending 12 hours in the ER than see him again. Lucky for us we now have an AMAZING primary doctor who actually listens and seems to genuinely care about what is going on with us. I was able to get in with a Rheumatologist that I really like. He understands that I haven’t had insurance for the last couple of years so he works with me for my appointments. He also has been instrumental in helping me get the most expensive of my medications ($2400 a month?!?!?) for no cost.

Now, 6 years after my initial diagnosis and 7 years after the onset of my symptoms, my life is mostly normal. Yeah, I have to take it easy some days and the cold generally hurts. Now that I’ve been on this most recent medication my flares are not as frequent (maybe 1 a month unless I completely overdo it) and aren’t nearly as severe as they were. When this first started I didn’t know how I could live my life with this horrible disease. Now I know I just do. Yes, it’s still horrible but I’ve learned that my body has certain limitations and as long as I remember that, I do ok. I have been blessed with a great job where it’s not overly stressful on me (which causes flares really bad!) and it’s physically not a difficult job. My last job before this was at a big box store and I walked 6-8 miles every single day.

Interestingly enough when I started writing this I was feeling great. This morning I woke up and could barely open my mouth because I’m having a flare in my jaw. Let me just tell you how much fun THAT is! If you have ever suffered from TMJ this is pretty similar. I can’t open my mouth all the way and I can’t bite down all the way. Makes eating interesting for sure! Today was the busiest day of the week at work and all I wanted was to take a nap! That’s what happens when I take my meds before work. Luckily I don’t get all of the common side effects associated with Chemo medicine, mostly because I take such a low dose. I just put a reminder in my phone to take meds on Friday night or Saturday morning so this doesn’t happen again. We’ll see how that works…

Loopie Moms!

Back in the dark ages, like before wi-fi, there weren’t a lot of options for internet. I had an awesome boss that actually helped get me online. I worked at a local hotel and we had one computer at the front desk that we could use to access the internet, with dial-up. Remember that? It was sad really. Anyway, one of my co-workers set me up under his AOL account and I was off and running. Those slow evenings at work consisted of sitting at the front desk and going into AOL chatrooms with my boss on her computer from home. Talk about a fun boss! I met some really fun people that way, some of whom I am still in contact with today. Chatrooms wasn’t the only thing I did tho. I was a young single mom with a preschooler. I found a couple of websites for moms and signed up for them. One day I received a random email from a random person asking if I wanted to be part of a mom’s email “loop”. I had no clue what that ment but figured, what the heck, I’ll give it a try. Honestly, that was the best “what the heck” moment I’ve ever had! That was 1998.

I started getting emails from young moms all over the place. It was awesome! At one time there were 25-30 of us spread all over the U.S. These ladies helped me through so much. They helped me through the final split with Beauty’s father. They encouraged me when I started a new relationship and let me vent when it ended badly. These moms whom I had never met in person actually helped me name MiniMe. When I had the ultrasound and found out I was having another girl I came home and emailed everyone that I needed ideas because I already had my girl and had nothin’. Not even joking when I say they named her. They totally did!!! Another of the mom’s got pregnant with twins the same year. Her girls recently turned 13! I remember calling her right after they were born and congratulating her. That was the first time I’d ever heard Kay’s voice.

A few years ago we got word that one of us had taken her own life. That hit all of us really hard. I know for me, I will always wonder if there was something more we could have done to support her. I was going through some old papers a few months ago and found a couple of poems she had written. It makes me sad to think that she’s not here anymore. I hope her girls are doing ok.

Over the years many moms have come and gone (we even had a dad at one point!). Each one of us has had more children and all except me have been married and some have since divorced. A few years ago I had an opportunity to finally meet 3 of my “Loopie Moms” in person. The original Loopie, Erica, was graduating from college and invited a couple of us to fly to Texas to attend her graduation. I got to hang out with Chelle and Erica the entire weekend and Kay met up with us a couple of times and we got to spend some time with her too. It was Mother’s Day weekend. It was AWESOME!

I honestly can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I had not responded to that first email. These ladies have helped me through so much and likely saved both of my children’s lives more than once. In the last few years we have been able to stay in contact through Facebook more so the whole email thing has mostly gone away. That kind of makes me sad because although I get to follow them a little closer it just isn’t the same as getting that more personal connection we used to have. Maybe some day I’ll get to meet Stacie and Andie but at least I know that we can still stay in touch through Facebook. Hopefully soon I will be making another trip to Texas to see my BFF Loopie Erica and help her plan her happily ever after.

Mostly, I’m really really glad I have my loopie mom friends and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without them.

Live you guys!!!