A Money Talk

Me: Well, I spent more than I meant to.

Tornado S and I were leaving Barnes and Noble. Why, yes, I do buy more than I usually should at a bookstore. Today was different. I didn’t know that Barnes and Noble rarely sells paperback picture books. So that easily add $10 a book. Then Tornado S saw a book he liked, and Tornado S never sees a book he likes. So I had to buy it. But I did not buy the five other books that wanted to. And I really, really wanted to.

Tornado S: You say that a lot.

Huh. I know I think that. I know I kick myself when I’m auditing, but that’s more of I-forgot-that-I’m-the-working-poor-and-I-shouldn’t-beat-myself-up-for-not-saving-more-when-there’s-not-more-to-save. I don’t remember the last time I misbudgeted for a store. Most months I do everything in cash to help me save more.

Me: Do other people say that about me?

The silence changed. Ah-ha!

Tornado S: I don’t know.

But he does know! Who would say it? My mother? My father? Or my-

Me: Does Daddy say it?

The silence changed. Ah-ha!

Tornado S: I don’t know.

Well, I did present him with the bill for school supplies. This year the sales were late because we started so damn early. The boys need tons of things. So yeah, it was a hefty bill we split.

Me: Was it recently?

Tornado S: I don’t know.

Not that it matters. The ex has a hard time with spending money not directly related to him. Like he never understood how I could spend so much on groceries or toiletries. His friends would explain that toilet paper is indeed kind of expensive. And then there were the arguments about my book spending and his entertaining. So many stupid fights.

Me: Daddy has always said that about my shopping. I did all the shopping for the house, so he assumed I was always spending even if it was food and toiletries. He also didn’t like me buying so many books. But I love books. Daddy likes to go out, so he likes to spend his money going out and treating people. He buys more expensive clothes than me too. But that’s ok. When you get older and share expenses, as long as you talk about it and compromise, you both can get what you want. You will spending money on things your partner will find silly, and your partner will buy things that you find silly. But as long as you budget and compromise, you’ll be ok.

The silence became introspective.

Tornado S: Ok, Mama.

And that too was a good answer.


The house feels empty. No screaming; no yelling. No whining; no fighting. No video games; no cartoons. No toys- scratch that. There are toys scattered through the house. I let them swim to the last possible second, instead of making them pick up toys.

But without my boys running amok, the house feels empty.

In theory, I could go out and see a movie right now. I can go out with friends, grab dinner or drinks and dessert. (You know, if I wasn’t poor and unemployed.) In theory, I could sleep in tomorrow. I can read in bed. I can have ice cream for lunch.

But I would give it all up for more time with my boys.

The hardest part is when I don’t get to talk to them. Every night they are at their dad’s house, I call them at 7pm to ask them about their day and to tell them I love them and to wish them goodnight. Even if I’m out with friends. Even if I’m out of town. 5 minutes to know my boys are fine and to let them know I love them.

More often than not, the ex doesn’t answer his phone. Some times he lets them call me back. Most of the time, he doesn’t. When I had more money, I bought them a cheap little flip phone with monthly prepaid minutes, but they often did not answer.

After two years, it still sucks so very much not to talk to the boys. After two years, the ex still doesn’t think it’s important, even though we agreed upon the phone calls in mediation and it’s in our divorce agreement. At least, I got to be with them after school for a few hours.

It’s harder after having the boys for a long stretch. I had them for nine full days because the ex had a business trip. I’m grateful to have them so long. It reminds me of the first three years of the separation when the boys were always with me.

Tomorrow I’ll bug my friends with texts and calls, asking to go out. I’ll wash the sheets and pick up the toys. I’ll scout the bathroom and go through the piles of weekly school paperwork. I’ll get the last few things for our trip next week. I’ll figure out a bridesmaid hairstyle I can do. I’ll take the Cub Scout volunteer classes and tests. I’ll brush up on 7th grade math and prep some cool activities. I’ll write poetry and edit the novel.

Tonight I feel like eating chocolate and staring at the TV.

Or eat chocolate as I do laundry and clean my room.

Because I just realized I have a lot to do.

Sleepless Nights

My boys, mainly Tornado E, have a hard time sleeping through the night. One, two, or three boy(s) end up in my bed sometime in the night. Before in the last house, it was just annoying. Now it’s difficult because I sleep in a double. Three kids and an adult don’t fit. When this happens, I slip out of bed and crawl into a twin bed in the boys’ room. If I’m lucky, I sleep through the night and wake to my alarm in the next room. I’m rarely that lucky. Usually a boy or two slides into bed with me. The third child is told to sleep in one of the other beds.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a good night-parent. I get grumpy when woken up in the middle of the night.  With a good reason, I become less grumpy. Trying to crawl into my bed is not a good reason to wake me up.

Last night Tornado E was already in my bed, when Tornado A started crying out to me because of a nightmare. When I cuddled with him to make sure he was fine, he asked me to stay. I slid into bed for just a minute when Tornado E entered the room.

Aha! A scheme! I would let Tornado E fall to sleep in his bed; then I would creep back into my own bed to sleep alone. What could go wrong?

An hour of whining, arguing, pleading, Tornado E begged me to return to my bed. Somewhere in the middle of this barrage of craziness at 2:30am, he threatened not to go back to sleep.

Right. That’s it. This was the hill I was dying on tonight. I will not negotiate with terrorists.

He fell asleep. Finally.

Only to wake up 30 minutes later to resume his whining, arguing, pleading, begging-0h-my-god-stop-it! He went on for an hour as I dozed off and on.

Finally Tornado S asked me if he could play video games.

Me: What time is it?

Tornado S: 5.4.5

5-4-5? Right. 5:45.

Me: No. Not until 6:00.

A moment passed.

Tornado S: Can I play video games now?

Me: No. What time is it?

Tornado S: 6.

Me: Yes.

Tornado S and E jumped out of bed.

Me: Except Tornado E. He has to stay in bed until 6:30 because he was up all night.

I left the room before he could start whining.

I really could use a nap.


One of the things I’ve learned being a single parent is organization.  I’m not a natural organized person.  I take that back.  I have my own organization.  If I have a stack of papers, I could tell you that paper X was the 12th one done and paper Y was the 35th.  But with three little tornadoes, that doesn’t work.  God, it doesn’t work.  So slowly I have built my own system.

My chores are divided by days.  I have a mini filing system on the counter.  I have a place that I have all the business cards I need at easy access.  I have two calendars.  My phone is becoming my personal assistant. (Hold on, I need to set a reminder to ask the Ex something.  …. Done.)  And like Homer Simpson, I’ve learned to utilize the power of the hook.

But last year, while I was busy with school on top of other things, I found cracks in my system.  Book report instructions would go missing.  So would school packets.  My spare counter became the junk counter.  My junk drawer- um, yeah.  I hated bath toys.  Just more stuff to pick up.  And my car became overflowing with toys and trash.  Nevemind the time to vacuum it.  And somehow with soccer this summer, I can’t keep straight the stuff we need.  We’re always run late.  I’m never late.

Another thing I learned, probably a week after the Ex moved out, how much I love a clean house.  I like finding stuff.  I like knowing I’ve accomplished something.  I like having control over Something!  So letting a few things slip through my grasp is f-ing annoying.

So this summer, I’ve been working on organizing better.  After a month, I had the junk counter conquered, with new filing system.  Woo.  I cleared off the student desk the boys don’t use and placed paper-holding baskets for the boys to put those important school instructions and homework packets.  I took to Pinterest and found a better solution for storing wet bath toys.  It’s a shower rod hung at soap dish level with hanging baskets.  I’ve placed more hooks with more bags to keep the boys’ sporting equipment.  My mom suggested we make bags coordinating with the sport.  Not a bad idea.  I’m working on a system with the car, but I have figured I’ll need to stock it so that kids can do homework on the road if need be.  I hope this makes my life easier come two months into the school year.

Now to tackle my office.  It is my work space after all.

And yes, I feel like a nerd.


The clock is ticking

Lately I feel like my time is stretched thin.  There is always something to do.  Some chore needed to be done.  Some child needs something.  Something needs to be cooked or baked.  Some errand needs to be done.  And if I have a free moment, I should be studying.  Guess how many days has it been since I studied?

In answer to freeing up my time, I’ve been writing short post, playing with dialogue.  But now I sit to write something with some meat, some piece that needs a little thought and effort, and the damn thing comes out a mess.  Worse than free association.  It’s not organized.  It hardly makes sense.  It doesn’t read well at all.  (And right now, Tornado S is begging me to play video games with him, and now after a firm no, he has gone to sob in the hallway next to the closed-door of the nursery, where Tornado A should be sleeping, but Tornado S has woken Tornado A up already once with a temper tantrum.)

Um, I think I figured out where the problem is.

I miss nap time.  God, I miss nap time.

I keep thinking I need to track how I spend my time.  Like I used to track my diet or the boys’ TV watching.  Maybe I can figure out where I’m loosing time.  But that sounds a bit anal to me.  Granted, a day or two usually was enough to figure out the problems in my diet or how many hours the boys’ watched TV.  (It was always too little vegetables and fruit and too much TV.)

I keep thinking I’ll have to juggle faster now.  And it will only get worse as I finally start taking classes and Tornado E gets more involved in extracurriculars and the parenting classes start up next month.  And I wonder what ball will slip first.  And I wonder how I can get help and where I need help.  And then I get overwhelmed, nearly crushed by the responsibility of it all.  Then I have to stop.

And take a breath.

And remember, first thing first.  Just do the first thing.  And then the next.  And then the next.

And as I write this, I remembered a saying from a cartoon I used to watch as a kid, “Work smarter, not harder.”

So maybe I should write at night, when I’m less likely to be interrupted and do my math studying during rest time and homework time.  And breathe.  I have to remember to breathe.