Parenting: Optical Illusion?

April 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Melissa Mensavage, Single Parents

By Melissa Mensavage



Last week I attended a webinar offered by the boys school corporate marketing department.  This company is no different than any other major corporation, has a corporate headquarters, department heads, etc.  However, they are expanding their community outreach programs and making themselves more reachable to the parent community.   They are still far removed from the typical daycare center family community but when the topic of the webinar was ‘Tips to Keep Your Family Organized’, I signed up almost immediately.

You see I am all over the place.  I have no organization in my day, other than get up, get coffee and get to work.  I will start a load of laundry, get interrupted by one of the boys and later that same day I will find the washer filled with clothes and water, but the cycle never finished, let alone started.  I will put clothes in the dryer one day, and three days later I will pull them out when someone is out of socks or undershirts.

Then add in doctor appointments, birthday parties, tumbling class, t-ball, etc.  I feel like we aren’t living life.  We are just moving from one task to the next, with me completely unorganized.

The tips I took away from the webinar were:

-Find ‘good enough’ housekeeping.  Things do not have to be perfectly cleaned all the time.
-Menu planning.    I am working on this.  For whatever reasons the grocery shopping/having things on hand has really got me stumped.
-Rescue bag.  You know for those times when we are stuck at a doctor’s office or we are out to dinner, a bag that includes crayons, coloring pages, puzzle books, trains, etc.  Goal is for it to be non-electronic.
-Inquire on a grocery delivery service.  I’ve used Peapod in the past and would use them again, but I sometimes struggle with paying more for something I clearly know is cheaper at Target or Walmart.

Listening to the women speak on this webinar sharing their stories of how they run their families, it felt like it was almost like running a business and not so much like a family.  It also appeared as if they had it together as mothers.  They didn’t sound like they’ve been reduced to spanking on some occasions, or screaming their heads off for children not getting along and the whining was just too much.  They seem like they have well-adjusted children.  They have this illusion life is easy, organized, good.

Knowing that its pretty much not the truth, I tried to take what they said as a grain of salt.  Their tips are great.  However they are just tips.  I have to use my common sense with parenting and go with the moment.

Going with the moment is part of my problem with parenting and being stuck in our routines.  This past weekend I took the boys on an adventure.  I was tired of the mundane.  The laundry could wait.  The dinner will be simple and I’ll just have to make an effort on meals this week (instead of preparing).  We piled into the car on Sunday morning and headed into the city and went to the shore.  The lake shore.  Yes it was cold, it was sunny, windy, but it was the best thing we’ve done this year.

The boys loved being on the sand, throwing rocks into the water.  I loved hearing the mini waves, lake style.  The fresh air and the sun was good for all of us.  We walked along the lake front and enjoyed what it had to offer.  We went by the boat slips that were covered in snow and ice.  We counted the ducks sitting on the ice.   We had fun exploring.

I posted a picture of this fun on Facebook for my friends.  Not soon after I posted it, I realized that maybe I am giving off an optical illusion.  The illusion that we are always doing fun things.   I can honestly say that we typically do all sorts of fun things – whether at home or out exploring.  Its not an illusion.  We are fun.  We are having fun.  People make comments to me about it –‘do you always have fun with your kids?’ ‘where do you find the time?’ …I make the time.  I also make the fun.  This is not an optical illusion.  What you see is what you get with us.  Come on with us and have some fun!


Parents: The Longest Winter. Ever.

March 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Family, Melissa Mensavage

By Melissa Mensavage

Trapped with kids in cold Chicago weather

Photo Credit: Arvell Dorsey

We are nearing the end of the winter season, from a calendar perspective.  In 17 days it will officially be Spring.  However, on tap for this week is another three inches of snow in the Chicagoland area, in addition the lovely frigid temps of less than 15 degrees.

I love living in Chicago, its my home and well, because we typically see all four seasons.  Some years, one may last longer than normal, or start earlier or later than expected.   So when I hear about snow storms or extreme heat, I am not phased.  I mean I live in Chicago.  Anything goes here.

However, this current winter season has just lingered a bit too long.  And its seems even longer with two young boys.  My house feels like it’s the size of a box of matches.  We are crawling all over each other.  We are all tired of being cooped up.

When cabin fever hits, along with it comes short tempers, irritability, laziness, too much screen time.  It dosent make for any fun in my house.  So this past weekend, I purchased a group pass to our community’s recreational center’s indoor jungle gym.   The best $20 I’ve spent in a long time.   Of course, as I was sitting there yesterday morning watching the boys run all around crazy and screaming and having a good time for themselves, I thought, ‘WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS SOONER??’ … hindsight.  It kills me.

boys playland

 Its hard to write this months post because I most certainly have the winter blues.  Not a serious case where I would need to seek help, but surely the ‘I am SO breaking up with you Old Man Winter!’.   Not much goes on here during these boring months and I find cheap entertainment for the boys.  (see above)

As I surf Pinterest and other websites that are advertising Spring, I am so ready to start doing these activities.  Man, I’ll even settle for temps above 40.  We can at least get outside and ride our bikes or play with our trucks, let the fresh air inhabit our lungs and minds.   Now that is a great feeling!


Look Ma, No Hands!

February 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Family


being hands free = diy a-frame tent

As of January 1, the state of Illinois passed a ‘hands free’ law while driving.  As we all know that means no talking on the phone while driving, surely no texting, email or surfing the net. 

When Max was a toddler and I had just gotten my first smart phone, a pink Blackberry Pearl, I was in love.  I loved the idea of the internet at my fingertips, the texting instant thoughts to my sister and snapping a photo to capture those fleeting moments.  However, I didn’t have any rules of when I was allowed to use these awesome features.

One day driving home from work, I was dabbling on my phone and not paying attention and was SO close to hitting someone.  Max was in the back seat, babbling about something, while I was white knuckled on the steering wheel hearing my tires screech on the pavement and screaming, ‘oh shit!’.  After the realization settled in that I did not hit the car in front of me, I had to sit there for a moment and collect myself.  A few beeps from the person behind me and we were on the go again.

I didn’t pick up the phone in the car again for a good month.

I did eventually pick it up while in the car, however I’ve gotten into this habit of only at stop lights.  Instead of just waiting patiently I am on my phone, surfing Facebook, Instagram, eBay, etc.

Here’s the thing … I find I am on the phone in the house or the library or the restaurant.  I am CONSTANTLY on my phone.  It could be considered an addiction.  Why is this so important?  Why cant I just put it down and talk to my boys?

I recently purchased the book, Hands Free Mama by Rachel May Stafford.  (nevermind the fact that I am trying to read a page a night and that is quite the challenge as I typically fall asleep.  she also has a blog of the same title, however I am refraining from looking at that as I will get overwhelmed by the amount of data and information on the site and then do nothing.) Simply, the book and the blog are about living hands free – no phones, no computers, no to-do lists, etc – for the sole purpose of enjoying life and your family.

I’ve been doing about one of two or three days of intentionally putting the phone down.  I need to make it a practice.  I want to be free of this addiction.  I don’t want to measure my life based on Facebook posts or trying to incorporate countless activities that all these ‘perfect’ moms are doing with their kids.

Being hands free, I will not be missing out on brotherly love between Max and Theo, watching my boys grow and learn and share special moments with them nor will I be giving them memories of their childhood of Mom always being on her phone.  Instead I will be engaging with my boys, engaging with my life, engaging with nature and family.  How exciting does that sound?

So many possibilities are out there being hands free.  I cant wait!

(though I will make proper time for meal planning, blog writing and bill paying … though most likely after the boys go to bed.)


Single Mom: Another day, Another year.

By Melissa Mensavage


Today is the last day of 2013 and I feel like its just any other day.   I have been sad the last couple of days because though its just another day, it has pretty big significance.

We are getting older.  My boys are getting older.  After this year I will no longer have any kind of baby in my house.  This era of baby-making and baby-caring is over for me.  This era comes to an end for every mother and father, but its front and center for me now.

I am wondering if I have some regrets for not being smarter when I was younger and found Mr. Right, so that I could have had more years with my kids.  But then had I had my kids earlier in life, who’s to say that they wouldn’t be the kids I have now?  They might be different kids and our life path could be in a different direction.

I have been hugging my boys a lot more lately.  I have been putting down the phone, staying off the computer and just embracing their all-around awesomeness.   Yes I am sad the baby era is coming to an end, but I am more than excited to embark on all the fun things we can do together as they get older and are capable of being just a bit more independent.  (I am talking water parks, hiking without the stroller!!, movies, etc)

I’ve never really written any personal goals for myself, and I have always had the same New Years Resolutions, financial health, physical and emotional health, have a date or two, etc.  This year I am putting together a plan, in writing, and I am going to do my best to stick to it to make 2014 one of the best years we will have as a family.

It sucks getting older, and ending eras in my life but I look in my boys eyes and I can see a vibrant future and I want to do all that I can to help them embrace that future.

Happy New Year Everyone!  Max, Theo and I wish you much health and happiness!


Walk the Line

By Melissa Mensavage


For the last few months I’ve felt stretched very thin.  No solid focus on any one thing.  No completion of a task fully.

I hate unfinished projects or tasks.  I mean literally, I’ll wash half of the dishes.  Or get one of three loads of laundry done.

Is this motherhood in general? Or is this single motherhood?

Either way, its driving me crazy.

A perfect example is the due date for my writing.  It comes every month and its on my mind, but a three year old and an 18 month old suck the life out of me playing referee.  Mind you, we are getting better at playing together, but that is only roughly 15% of the time.

I love this task.  This lets me take what is on my mind and in my life and put it into words.  LOVE IT!!  Brandy has been very kind, and I swear I will do my best every month to be on time.  I know as a mother she gets it, but as an editor … she has a responsibility to get content published to keep her readership.

I digress.

They say raising a child takes a village … or whatever the saying is.  I’ve been trying to do it all on my own lately because I feel like I rely too much on my village.  I don’t want to burn that bridge for when I REALLY need them.  So here I am doing all of the doctors appointments with two kids, referee, illnesses, parties, household chores, etc, all on my own.  And I guess that is why I am stretched so thin.

Will this burn me out? I am pretty sure of it.  When?  Don’t know.  I do know that I am seeing the signs – I’ve been yelling at the kids quite a bit lately.  I hate that I yell.  Or I get frustrated with the fact that they don’t know everything.  (I mean how stupid is that?  They are kids, babies still and they shouldn’t know everything!)

As you can see this post is short this month because I am multi-tasking my passion for writing with my passion-less job.  Need to cut it short so I can make sure I still collect a paycheck and have insurance.

Maybe someday in the near future I’ll be able to focus again, or maybe this is the new way of life.  I am so unfocused right now I cant even come up with a closure to this jumbled post.

Le sigh.

Happy Holidays everyone.

(Where’s the egg nog?)


Dealing with Post-Partum Depression: “These are NOT the Baby Blues”

November 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Melissa Mensavage



At the end of this month I will have what I hope to be my final appointment with my doctor for my post-partum depression diagnosis I had received after I gave birth to my youngest son, Theo.  Eighteen months of periodic check-ups with my primary care physician, bi-weekly therapy appointments and countless mornings where I forced myself out of bed.

I had no clue I would ever suffer from such severe depression.  I had mentioned previously that I had situational depression episodes throughout my life but nothing a night out with friends drinking my sorrows away didn’t cure.  Or a few weeks time of eating and watching sappy romantic comedies.  Though neither of those solutions would have worked in this case.

My world was black.  My thoughts were fuzzy.  I couldn’t comprehend too much.  I was in care-taker mode of an infant and a two year old.  I didn’t sleep.  I cried.  A lot.  And then I cried some more.  I hated myself.  I hated my kids (oh do I have guilt for that).  I hated the world.  I hated that I wasn’t married.

My mother and I fought constantly.  She was trying to help me, and I was being a perfect bitch.  She comes from an era where you either just deal or you brush it under the rug.  She didn’t get it why I was so crazy.  So when I showed up at her house, sobbing, to drop off Max so I could go to the doctors, I think she might have gotten it then.  I know she was concerned.

And during this whole time – this first 4 weeks of Theo’s life, all I said to myself was, ‘What have I done?’.  What had I done to my family dynamic?  What had I done to bring this kid into the world – who is not perfect in my eyes (yes, of course he was he just wasn’t what I knew – Max.).

About a year prior to this I sat in my fertility doctor’s office saying to him with confidence I wanted to try for another baby.  He smiled and said, ‘fantastic!’.  I smiled knowing in my heart this is what was right for me and my life.  I got pregnant after the first try.  I was shocked, I had expected it to take a bit longer.  I was then excited and felt SO blessed beyond means.  Little did I know about the change that would occur when I brought Theo home from the hospital.  When people ask how it went, or how it was going, I was honest.  It was hard.  It was a huge change for all of us.

Yet, we made it.  We made it through the tough parts.  I started taking an anti-depressant after my initial appointment.  I started feeling better about three days after that.  Therapy helped.  Getting some sleep made it even better.   I started to research this diagnosis on the internet.  (A big fat no-no.)  Women die from this.  For some reason they couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I pray for them.  I pray for their children.  I am thankful everyday that those types of thoughts NEVER crossed my mind.

Its been a rough October for us.  We were plagued with illness after illness.  The boys are finally healthy.  Though I had a pretty bad case of bronchitis, and now an ear infection, I feel great.  I feel happy.  I am SO thankful for my two beautiful boys.  Life is good.

I never could comprehend why people would take their own lives.  I never understood why they didn’t think they were worthy of  living.  After the black period I experienced, I now get it.  It breaks my heart to know that people don’t feel worthy.  I wish a hug would help.  And maybe it does in some situations.  So to anyone who might be feeling this type of pain or know of any one, you are worthy.  You belong here.


Single Parent: And Just Like That …

September 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Melissa Mensavage, Single Parents

… Summer comes to a close.


I usually write about the struggles or experiences I have as a single parent, but this time I want to show you that we are a happy family.  I tend to forget this when in the thick of parenting, when I am the bad cop and I am walking around the house like a screamin’ meamie because the house is a disaster or if one more fruit fly comes out of the kitchen sink drain I am putting a bomb in it.  (kidding of course)

So in between all of that, and even as I sit here and write this on Labor Day morning I can hear my two boys upstairs talking to each other in bed, we have a lot of laughs, smiles and fun.  Here, have a look.

beachcousins firsthike theobombed theofrosting wish


We went to the local pool with a giant sandpit, where I learned I need to work on my sandcastle building skills.  We explored a local park with our cousins.  Then we went on our first hike together (man I missed this activity!).  We enjoyed fresh fruit smoothies almost every day and learned that Theo can photo bomb with the best of them!  Theo’s choice dessert was teddy grahams and left over blue frosting.  And finally we  had a sole flower in the yard so Max made an End of Summer Wish.  It was a good summer indeed.

And you can see we do a lot of things together.  When I am away from work I hardly ever spend any time by myself unless its 4:30/5:00 in the morning where I get up just to veg and plan my attack on the day.  And maybe this contributes to the screamin’ meamie but the guilt of being away from them kills me.  Just yesterday Max got dressed all by himself.  I stood in the kitchen and rewarded him and had a little of relief but it hit me, he is growing up.  No more little sweet boy.  Now he is a boy who likes to wrestle and play with trains, can go to the bathroom all by himself and get himself dressed.

I will be honest, its great that the boys are gaining their independence, frees up time for us to do fun things.  This internal struggle I have I am pretty sure does not go away, hence why I rarely do anything now.  I figure when they are older and I have much more time to myself I’ll be able to date, have dinner with friends, read a book, etc.  And I will know when we do our seperate activities we will all be happy.


What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

By: Melissa Mensavage

boys backyard

Is this career burn-out, just plain ol’fashioned boredom or a midlife crisis?

I sit here at my desk in an office cubicle that has beige walls.  I hear the pounding of keyboards all around me.  People are huddled by the coffee machine, moreso now that the company has decided to offer free coffee, albeit crap coffee.   The world is gray in my eyes.  People are overweight here in corporate America because they sit all day long.  People are grumpy for having to do the same thing day in and day out.  People are always rushing in from being late due to traffic or oversleeping, and rushing to leave to get to their next activity whether its with kids, parents or the couch.

I started in corporate America right after college because I needed a job and health insurance.  And things just evolved since then.  Being so ‘I need to find Mr. Right’ focused, I never took an interest in my career.  Then my thirties hit and still no Mr. Right, though one failed marriage was behind me, I threw myself into my job.  However, I still viewed it as a job, and not something I was passionate about.  I traveled the world, something I was passionate about.  Then I became a mother, still with no Mr. Right around.

So I sit here today, most likely bored out of my mind with the mundane of corporate America.  I am done sitting at a desk.  I am done with staring at a computer for eight hours a day.  Yet, I am locked to this desk and computer because of my chidlren.  How can anyone make a career change with children?  And on a sole income?

I bet people do it all the time.  I bet people throw caution to the wind and jump.  My analytical and practical self cannot do that.  I chose to be a single parent on my own without a partner.  That means no breaks from the boys, as in every other weekend or one night a week.  That means I am the sole provider for the boys.  That means I need to make sure I have health insurance for them, and myself, and other benefits to keep everyone safe and secure.

That also means, corporate job for now.  It is here that I can get those necessities.

Yet, every day as I drive to work I feel an empty feeling in my stomach and my heart.  This isn’t what I was meant to do.  Recently I had a conversation with my sister about jobs and what I was meant to do kind of slipped out.  I wasn’t expecting it, it wasn’t something I was hiding, but it just surfaced.

Early childhood education, preschool or working with the elderly in senior centers or nursing homes.

Working with people.


I Googled salaries for those types of careers and estimated starting salaries would put me in a poverty situation.  I wouldn’t make enough to cover my necessities, especially with two children.  And I am torn, why cant I have the job I love?  Why cant I be doing what I really want to do?  Is it true that things find a way of working out when doing something you love?

I don’t know the answers to those questions and I am not sure if I’ll ever find out – probably by choice because I am too chicken to jump.  Knowing at the end of the day when I leave my desk and I get to walk to the other side of the company campus to pick up the boys, this is worth it.  My commute home with them in the backseat and we talk about the day or what we are going to do when we get home, worth it.

As a parent, you have to make hard choices all day long.  For me, one of them right now is to be in a job that I am not passionate about.  A sacrifice I am willing to make for my two boys.


Sleep Training, Again.

July 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Melissa Mensavage

By: Melissa Mensavage

Boys @ bedtime.

Boys @ bedtime.

Will this ever end?  Or is this cyclical like the seasons?  Because when this started up again, I became rather annoyed with it.

I’ve written about sleep training with my oldest, Max, a couple of times previously.  He was just a baby and a toddler and we had a bad habit of sleeping in my bed.  I did break it.  Then we had this awesome long stretch of him sleeping all by himself in the crib.

Then my youngest, Theo, came along and I took Max out of the crib and put him in a twin bed.  Thankfully I was smart and transitioned him before the baby arrived, though it was a rough month or so.  Once Theo arrived, we had some adjustment issues altogether, so I was patient (or as much as I could be with post-partum depression).

Fast forward a year and now that Max is potty trained he’s gotten the idea of getting up in the middle of night and going to the bathroom – KUDOS!! to him for recognizing that while sleeping.  However he has to come into my room and tell me.  Then there are the nights when he doesn’t make it to the bathroom and the bed is wet.  When I check it I am so tired I just tell him to get in my bed and go back to sleep.


I should be changing sheets at 2, 3 in the morning??? I probably should be.  But I don’t.  Any maybe I might start.  See, I can’t even make a decision on this.

Have you noticed that Theo has not even made an appearance in this conversation about sleeping? In his crib by himself, without waking throughout the night?  Yeah, he’s my sleeper, has been since he was 7 weeks old.  (Is it bad I called him my favorite in my PPD?)

What kills me is the crying.  It killed me back then, still kills me now.  And I know why they do it, they just want to be with me, but I need my rest.  I cant be a happy single parent who handles everything possible – job, chores, parenting – if I don’t get my rest.  I do send Max back to bed most nights and he will cry or stall (saying, ‘I have one question.’) and then I get annoyed with him.  Then I get annoyed with myself for getting annoyed with him.

All the waking up makes Max a very tired boy, so he takes a pretty decent nap during the day.  This then causes a later bedtime.  Another vicious cycle.  Just thinking about all the changes I need to make makes me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over me.

I can do it.  I can get back my evenings to myself.  I can have a peaceful bedtime routine (did I ever mention that bedtime is almost a nightmare and I dread it?).  This is tough for any parent – single or married.  I think its just a bit harder for a single parent because there is no one to trade nights with or basically help.  Did I know about this when I became a single parent? No.  Would it have swayed my decision?  No.  These two little people are the absolute joys of my life – sleeplessness and all.

Time for another cup of coffee.



June 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Family

By Melissa Mensavage

boys mailboxes

My mind is blank on what to write this month.  May was a whirlwind month for us.  It started with my oldest’ s third birthday.  Ended with my youngest’ s first birthday.   It also included officially calling potty trained and moving to pre-school for the oldest.  It included the elimination of baby food for my youngest.  Somewhere in there I had to find time to actually process all of these changes.  The ‘me’ time that I had prior to getting pregnant with my youngest is now making a very welcomed come-back, albeit small.

I’ve done quite a bit of reflection recently due to I am not having any more babies so I want to savor as much as I can of the baby time because this is it.  I want to remember the snuggles, the sweet breath felt on my neck as I rock them to sleep and the toothless smiles.

Its been one year since I gave birth to my youngest, and I felt that chemical shift back into ‘me’ again.  I had this shift with my first but it was earlier, around six or seven months.  I had very bad post-partum depression with my youngest.  I was given an anti-depressant and have been under my doctors care since.  He wont release me at the earliest 18 months post or when he feels I am doing good.  I’ve been in therapy to help with this.  I’ve dealt with situational depression throughout my life, but never did I experience the black days like I did during the first six weeks of my son’s life.  I still cry thinking about that time.  Though I am thankful I am fully functional, living life, enjoying my boys and working.  (I had googled PPD a while back and boy oh boy.  My prayers are with those women and their families.)

The other day I was sent home with leftover diapers and wipes from my oldest’s cubby at school.  He’s a full-fledged kid now.  There is nothing baby about him.  Though he is only three, he is certainly demonstrating attributes of an older child.  The phrases, ‘just one piece mommy’ when wanting a piece of his brother’s cereal bar.  ‘I have something to say mommy’, interrupting me when I am trying to talk to him about being nice and sharing.  Before it would be him silent, and me bribing him with candy or using reverse psychology (‘no you cant have that…then put away your toys’) but now he just flat out doesn’t listen and will proceed with what he set his mind to.  This is all unchartered territory for me, having a kid, a three year old.  I fear that trying to maneuver this territory will make me forget the baby and toddler stages.

I’ve also noted that it was around this time two years ago I started writing for The Next Family, sharing my story.  I took a break because I had a very hard second pregnancy and post-partum.  When Brandy sent an email earlier this year, I welcomed the opportunity to try this again.  And to say the least, its working out it my favor.  I am getting to take many of my motherhood experiences and fears and put them out for this world to see and not feel judged.  Thank you for that.

So as I look at my calendar for June, I have scheduled one play-date, one birthday party and swimming lessons.  That is it.  I don’t want to do anything other than soak up these ages and years because in a blink I’ll be at their high school graduation.


Next Page »