In single parenting, organization is key

I have taken a hiatus from this and my other blog because, quite simply, there wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. I used to be highly organized, and in some parts of our lives, I still am; but that organization fell apart a bit last March and I’ve only just recovered.

In the last month, I renegotiated our tenancy, worked on a few translations and one narration, helped out a friend in her business (although that was unremunerated, for love of friendship), tried to give Darling Daughter a last hurrah for summer vacation (which she has patiently spent tagging along with me as I ran around, looking for support to help us pay some bills, rent, etc. – this has been one heck of a difficult year!), and planned lessons for the two community college courses I was going to be teaching (and which were to be our salvation, at least for the Fall semester) which I only days ago found out were cancelled because of low enrollment. I had been feeling completely unproductive, as though I’d been running around without truly accomplishing anything or even living, but writing down this list of recent accomplishments has helped me to see that I’ve been truly busy…no wonder I feel so tired!

It’s the single parent’s lot, to feel like we are constantly running out of gas, out of energy. However, it wasn’t always like this for me. With a bit of creative organization – and very few deviations from The Master Plan – all of us Maddies can not only feel that we accomplish what we need to do, but also have a little bit of free time, to blog, or take a nice, long bath!

Two parent families do not have it easy nowadays, but, with two adults there is a division of labor that is simply not available to single parent households. Where two parent families can schedule and do things in parallel, a single parent is almost always forced to do the same things sequentially. This implies more time spent driving to and from appointments, more time spent at appointments (even if you have the luxury of scheduling appointments for ALL of your kids on the same day, at the same place), more time spent documenting, planning and scheduling…well, if you’re a Maddie (a Mommy and Daddy in one), you know what I’m talking about; if you’re not a Maddie, well, you get the picture. Essentially, being a single parent means most things take longer than for most two parent families. This is why success in single parenting boils down to one key element: organization.

The next few posts in this blog will be about organizing your life and planning in advance for unpredictable, improbable – but not impossible – situations.


Baby Steps Into the World of Business with FABULOUS Flip Flops!

It’s time to dispel the doom and gloom of the last couple of posts (and the last – and probably next – month of our lives) and think and act pro-actively! Here’s our offering for taking positive next steps, thanks to DD (Darling Daughter)! (What would I ever have done without her in my life, my gift from God?!)

DD’s first business: selling custom-designed flip flops. INTRODUCTORY PRICE: USD $3.00 plus shipping and handling, payable via PayPal. Send e-mail with specifications to! Support a young entrepreneur and her community!

DD (Darling Daughter) has a dramatic flair and, now that she’s 10 and we’re having some financial difficulties, she has decided that it’s time for her to engage in commerce. Of course, she wanted to do the traditional lemonade stand. Unfortunately, as a Maddie fighting to grow my start up in a tough economy and an industry that keeps undercutting prices (translation and interpreting/language services) while still preserving some quality of life (read as “carving out time to chauffer DD to playdates, the library, etc. and actually have a conversation with her from time to time”), a lemonade stand is too labor and time-intensive for me!

So, thanks to the many compliments we have gotten on the flip flops she made for herself and for me, together, we have come up with a different plan: designing and making pretty flip flops!

So, having identified that there is a potential market, the first step in teaching my daughter about the nuts-and-bolts of business then was this question: “How much do we need to pay for the materials?”

We immediately got to work sourcing the flip flops to use as a base for her designs and found fantastic wholesalers with a high-quality product. We did the same for the water balloons she uses to make the flops pretty.

She added the cost of the two together and then I asked her the next logical question: “Is it enough to charge customers just for the cost of materials?” Her answer was initially yes, but, after some reflection, she realized that the time it took her to make them was not being compensated. So, we came to a very simple formula: materials cost + time = retail price.

Then, of course, the next big question: “How much money will you be able to keep after you pay your Maddie back for the materials?” A discussion on profit, and, more importantly, what to do with the profit, ensued. She decided she would save the money she got to keep in order to pay for dance classes (she is really talented and loves dance and her school is both good and not super-expensive, but dance is currently high on our budget chopping block) and for next year’s school E-Camp.

But, the old hippie-born-out-of-her-time in me couldn’t help but add, “And how about giving back to your community?” She decided (with my prodding) that she would keep half of her profits and donate the other half  to a local charity, Pantry of  Hope, a local food bank in our community. (Yes, I do firmly believe in a “market globally, act locally” type of ethical business…and I’m pretty sure – though my own business hasn’t proven it yet – that that’s the way to grow a solid business. And, yes, I’m pretty sure my activist days are over but I believe in handing the torch to the next generation.)

We’ve worked things a bit backwards, however: we have a product (the pretty flip flops) that she can make independently of me, sources for materials, a designer/assembler (DD herself). What we do NOT have is a name! Can any of you help us out? We have had to rule out FunFlopz/FunFlops, Neosquash (an expression she and her friend from school made up at school), and a few others because a quick Google search determined we would be infringing at the very least on first use and, at worst, trademarks, etc.

Please comment with your ideas for a business/website/product name; rate this post; and, of course, follow The Maddie Files! (Even better, please be our first guest blogger!)

What should DD name her flip flop design business/website? Please help!

Wishing all of you Peaceful Parenting!

The Original Maddie 🙂

PS DD is selling these FABULOUS, CUSTOM-DESIGNED flip flops for the low INTRODUCTORY price of USD $3.00 per pair (plus shipping/handling via US Mail), for our WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter friends!

If you’d like to order a pair of the FABULOUS flip-flops, and support a young entrepreneur and her community, please send an e-mail to or to Please write “Flip flop order” in the Subject line. Also include: your flip flop size, color preference, and any preference in balloon color(s)!

Payment accepted via PayPal.

Caring For A Chronically Ill Parent At Home

Mamma became seriously ill, seemingly overnight, one September Saturday, 2009. She seemed lethargic for a full day. Then again, she had been on some serious pain medication for many years, for the chronic pain of severe osteoporosis, with its debilitating bone deformations (she had severe kyphosis of the back). And she only weighed about 90 lbs., on a good day. I kept checking on her, feeling something was terribly amiss. She finally roused at about 10 p.m., got up, and agreed to go to the hospital. By 3 a.m., in the ER, she was back to her normal self, laughing and joking with my then-7 year old daughter. Indeed, she felt so good that she and my daughter were gently teasing me about my propensity to worry about them, to over-protect. My DD (Darling Daughter) and I left then, after the doctor on duty said that she seemed all right but that the hospital would keep her overnight for observation. At 6 a.m. the picture changed drastically: my mom was in multi-systems failure, on a ventilator, in intensive care. The doctors did not hold out much hope.

But, miraculously, she recovered after a tracheostomy and three weeks in ICU; she was sent to a local rehab hospital (Youville Hospital, Cambridge, MA, now Spaulding Rehab: where she recuperated in record time: in less than a month she had been de-cannulated and sent back home. We had a glorious Thanksgiving with my brothers, their wives, children, my cousin and her family, and good family friends; we were all truly grateful that the worst seemed to have passed. We had a normal Christmas, with Mamma coming to our house to sleep over on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We played DD’s “Game of Life,” a Santa gift, until 10 o’clock that night (DD won, in spite of not having gone to college, Mamma came in second place, and I lost…what else was new?!). Everything changed again, never to be the same, by mid-January 2010. She was not only cannulated again, she would never be able to live without a trach. She required the help of a ventilator by night and constant oxygen by day, just to be able to get up, wash up, have breakfast and perhaps a chat or two with family. In the hospital, she had also acquired a severe colonization of MRSA – a resistant staph infection – where? Where else but in her lungs, her weakest point. But both she and I felt she had some more time left on Earth, on this plane. So, we set about returning her to her own apartment; she had lost so much physically, ceded so much control of her life to her disease that she really needed to be in the environment she had created and controlled for so long. 

Bringing her home was not easy. We had chosen the specific rehab hospital – Spaulding in Cambridge (formerly Youville) – precisely because they were the only ones who didn’t think we were crazy to want to bring her home, with vent and other respiratory equipment. In fact, they set everything up through a home respiratory company (New England Home Therapies, which I highly recommend! and Mamma’s insurance. My brothers and I became amateur respiratory therapists, checking the vent equipment nightly, “plugging” Mamma in every night, suctioning her regularly, and amateur RNs, performing wound care, trach care, checking Mamma’s vitals, counting and giving her meds. We received valuable help and training from her doctors, the vent company, the nursing agency that gave me (and my daughter) respite during the week by sending vent-certified overnight nurses who grew to love Mamma as much as we did, who became family, the visiting nurses who supplied physical and occupational therapy, the senior care agency who found us a transport chair and even a pulse oxymeter for home use, from friends and family.

There were times when I felt like pressed monkey meat in the middle of a sandwich, bouncing between Mamma’s needs and DD’s needs, with no real time for my own. But it was worth it.

Mamma lived at home for another nine months, infection free. It was a reduced life, and her illness took center stage, but she was mentally fully present. Those “extra” nine months were a gift.

This post is to give all those other Maddies (or not Maddies) out there heart and courage: if your ageing parent becomes ill and wants to stay home, fight for that right. Make all the phone calls you need, tell your sob story in intricate detail to absolutely anyone and everyone who will listen, and you will find the resources you need…they are out there.

That is what I did…and it did take a month of phone calls (almost eight hours a day of calling one agency, then another, being placed on hold, telling the entire story, over and over again). It also took looking at some negative case managers straight in the eye and telling them my “pie-in-the-sky” wish list for the services Mamma needed, and enduring their incredulous stares and comments of “You’ll never get any of that.” I did receive most of my “pie-in-the-sky” requests.

Persistence and faith pays! And, remember, if you don’t ask for it, you really will never get it! If you do ask, well, the worst anyone can say is, “We can’t do that.”

Peaceful parenting!

The Original Maddie!

Parenting and the Maddie

What Kind of Parent Are You?!

Compared to some parents, I am ultra-strict, ultra-conservative; a friend and colleague even called me a “Nap Nazi” when my DD (Darling Daughter) was a toddler. Compared to other parents, I am an ultra-permissive parent, allowing my DD to rule our roost. I don’t really see myself at either of these extremes, though I am the first to point out that we all parent our children along a fluctuating continuum of (parental) behaviours…I’ve even horrified myself when I heard words I had detested hearing in my childhood coming stridently – and perhaps not a little hysterically – out of my very own mouth: “Because I said so!”

But the parenting style issue is more complex for single parents, especially for those of us whose children do not know or visit their other parent. When do you discipline your child? For which behaviours? As Maddies, we have to be both the disciplinarian and the more lenient parent, the tough cop and the good cop in one; it’s a tough line to straddle but trying to fill two roles means we must.

Just for fun, here is a poll. Please vote for an answer and share, share, share! Results will be posted on July 2, along with an exploration of the three main styles of parenting: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative.

Wishing you all Peaceful Parenting,

The Original Maddie 🙂


How to Answer Difficult Questions

“Where’s My Daddy?” (or, if you’re a single Dad, “Where’s My Mommy?”)

The Answer
My DD (Darling Daughter) was 2 and a ½ when I first got this question, which I thought was precocious. DD always asks these deeper, difficult questions at the end of the day, once we’ve relaxed thanks to the bedtime routine, so I have no “background noise” (like stress from the office or stress about getting dinner on the table sometime before 10 p.m.) and can actually think. But, I happen to be an advance planning type-A personality, so I was ready for it, with the naked truth:  “I don’t know.”

The Rationale
I had decided a long time ago that I would never, ever lie to my child, especially about the things that really mattered. Her identity, her sense of self, was what has always mattered the most. In toddlerhood, children are at a concrete stage. How could I explain my not-really-a-marriage-even-though-I-thought-it-was, when it was hard for me to understand it as a 38-year-old adult? So, I knew that the answer had to be simple and concrete. “Where’s my daddy?” I honestly don’t know. Of course, my daughter had follow up questions: “Is he living somewhere else? Does he have another family? Is he dead?” I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. The answer had to remain simple, concrete…and consistent. Children are concrete, they have no life experience, they are naturally trusting, but they are not stupid. Had I once answered, “Of course not” (such as to the “Is he dead” question), she would have pounced on that as a “Mommy must know something” type of answer, and her trust in me would have begun to erode.

My Advice to Fellow Maddies
So, for what it’s worth, my advice to all my fellow Maddies: try to anticipate the potentially difficult questions that your children may ask and think through your answers carefully, thinking like a child but maintaining your adult’s perspective, so that you preserve your children’s trust.

Background to My “Maddie-hood”
My elevator speech about my marriage is: “Short marriage, long story.” I was married about 5 minutes when I became pregnant. I didn’t actually know, or believe, I was pregnant until about the second month; according to my gynecologists from the time I was about 22 years old, I was unable to get pregnant, sterile (thanks to my first long-term boyfriend who, unbeknownst to 19 year old me, was stepping out with other women; I was with him for four years and two Pelvic Inflammatory Disease episodes that I only discovered once they were so raging that I couldn’t walk…but no medical person told me the reason  I had contracted either one. Obviously, though, doctors can’t predict everything, since I got my surprise bundle 13 years later, at age 35.)

My “husband” came to the first obstetrician’s visit, listened without once looking at me, and, as she asked for blood samples, spoke up, saying, “I don’t have to give blood. I just gave blood at another clinic, for another woman, six months ago, and they said everything was fine.” I just stared at him, as did the obstetrician. I was dumbfounded, speechless. My mind raced with questions, “Six months ago? When did he have time to sleep with another woman, when he was dating me?” After all, until we actually had the piece of paper saying we were married, I saw him so often that it felt as though we were living together.

Needless to say, I read him the riot act in the car, as he was driving me home (because, no, we never actually lived together; in fact, after we were married, it was hard to see him at all…so how I got pregnant is still a mystery to me – though I know it couldn’t have been an immaculate conception as I’ve never been particularly saintly…more of a naive Magdalene, really – which means I was a wild child by Catholic school girl standards but really, really tame by real world standards). He told me that after all I was merely the “factory” for his son (he never, ever entertained the thought our baby might be a girl…Spanish-speaking-male machismo personified), that all any woman really wanted was to have a baby and be a mother (he was helping me – and every other woman who would sleep with him – “fulfil my female destiny”), that he had decided to become a Mormon (obviously completely misunderstanding the entire Mormon religion and picking out the only part that he liked about it – the multiple wives part – without realizing that even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints hasn’t endorsed polygamy in a very long time).

After that ride home, I didn’t see him again (though I most certainly felt his presence, through intimidating e-mails, sitting in his car right in front of my house all night long, following me, breaking or pulling out one – and only one – headlight overnight, every four nights (but a random four), for a year, just to let me know he was around and could harm me if he chose to) until a year later, when he actually appeared at the court hearing for annulment of my civil marriage (which, by the way, I won). He moved without telling me, changed his phone number, and didn’t call. We were both 35, so I was done; I knew then that he would never be part of our lives if I could help it – I refused to make my child endure the “revolving door” phenomenon, or to try to find him every time I wanted to travel, move, etc. with my kid. At best, my “husband” was a philandering narcissist; at worst, he was a psychopath…I didn’t (and still don’t) care to find out which one.

Question of the Day: Does anyone have any other advice, suggestions, recommendations, or stories to share about how to answer children’s difficult questions? Please share here!

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