Keeping Communication Lines Open With Tiffin Talk


photo courtesy of


When it comes to raising children, there is one thing that parents find themselves struggling with most throughout the years. In part because children are constantly developing and changing as they go through the different phases of growing up, but also because parents have a hard time understanding and relating to their children at each level along the way. I’m talking about communication, people.

Throughout the first year of life, parents dedicate a lot of time and energy to encouraging their babies to be vocal. We covet their first incoherent sounds as if the angelic sounding babbles and coos are the Holy Grail of speech- in all of its splendor and glory. Diligently, we strive to turn them into coherent speech, coaxing our little ones to repeat after us as we recite silly little nursery rhymes in a higher octave than usual. When they do, we rejoice and celebrate their accomplishments, in the same manner, we would if they had just won the Nobel Peace Prize or a Golden Globe award.

Then parents spend the next 17 years shushing them, ignoring them, or punishing them for speaking too loudly, out of turn, or with carelessness. We show irritation when their stories go on and on and on without a concrete point. We get annoyed by the endless questions to which we have no good answers. Life becomes chaotic and we no longer take the time to give their voices our full attention. It is a complete contradiction to that first year of life when we hung on every sound our child made with excitement and anticipation.

By the time they head off to school, parents have sent so many mixed signals regarding communication, despite the reassurances that they can tell us anything, at any time, children begin to censor themselves. The lines of communication between parent and child begin to breakdown. Besides… why would kids want to talk to their parents about stuff now that they have friends/classmates who genuinely want to listen to all they have to say?

We can ask them about their day, what they learned, who they played with, and what special activities they participated in until we’re blue in the face, but they have no desire to sit down and spill the beans like they did when they were 3 and never stopped talking. Instead, we get the “Fine.”, “Okay.”, “I don’t know.”, “Why do you want to know?”, and shoulder shrugging grunts in response before they saunter to their rooms to turn on their various techy devices and ask for a snack. It’s easier to pull their teeth out then it is to get them to open up and talk freely about anything that isn’t of special interest to them.


photo courtesy of


Enter Tiffin Talk.

This simple, easy to use, and age-appropriate program gets kids talking to us again. And not about this Youtube video or that new video game or whatever other technology-induced madness they’re wrapped up in these days- which we’re sick of hearing about and part of the reason they believe we lost interest in what they have to say. Tiffin Talk gets our kids to talk about THEM – their personal thoughts and beliefs about various topics which divulge who they are as an individual and their place in this world while they revel in some one on one time with their parents. From this program, both parent and child will be able to better understand one another and relate to each other’s experiences, bringing everyone closer together while re-opening the withering lines of communication.

Sounds impossible, I know. But it works. I tried it with my own brood of hoodlums and was greatly surprised when it was successful in doing just what it says it will do. (post to come soon highlighting our personal experience using Tiffin Talk.)

So what and how does this program work exactly, you ask? It is simply a boxed set of what looks like your average, everyday Thank You cards that are divided into themes and separated by the number of weeks you’ve used the program. For example, our first month of cards were all about “Memories” and they were split into week 1, week 2, week 3, etc, and each week had cards labeled for Monday-Friday, giving you the weekend off.


a sample of what the Tiffin Talk program boxes and question cards look like


There are specific sets for every school-age group from kindergarten-high school so the questions are well-suited for each developmental stage. The older the child, the deeper the topics delve and more thought-provoking the questions are, challenging your child to use their brain without them realizing it. Just one card a day with one big question or a few smaller ones to answer that engages kids in a way our typical parental-need-to-know based questions do not- easy peasy. The best part is, no one will balk over sacrificing the five minutes it takes up. In fact, it may lead y’all to continue talking for even longer because your child WANTS to… and it’s not about the mindless technology hoopla that is pointless to us all!

Either way, those 5 minutes will be more productive and valuably spent by ‘turning the tech off and turning the talk on,’ than any other 5-minute window in which you have your child’s full attention. Guaranteed.

So, as a parent, if you really want to preserve the lines of communication with your child before it’s too late, Tiffin Talk is the way to go. Or the way to begin. Whichever doesn’t matter. The fact is, this is the most ingenious program for parent-child relationships that I have ever stumbled upon. The only one to make me eat my skepticism and want to tell the world about how awesomely wonderful it truly is. What are you waiting for now? Go over to their site now and see it for yourself! Tiffin Talk really does gets kids to turn the tech off and the talk on- with purpose and meaning!


photo courtesy of


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Raising Kids Between The Margins

There is a wall between my children and I. A barrier built just to keep their father and I out. None of us intentionally created it- it just sorta happened slowly over time. Years worth of empty promises, broken hearts, and false hope have led the very children we gave life to to mistrust us in a great way. They detest our word being given on anything, knowing good and well that we rarely follow through.

It tears me up to see that this curse of failure I live with has affected the foundation of our familial relationships. If there was a way to take it all back and do differently by them, I would. They haven’t done anything to deserve the hand life has dealt them. Not at all. They are all great kids, but the fact of the matter is that they are suffering for their parents’ mistakes. They feel the trickle down for all of the consequences we have to face for what we have done over the course of our own lives. It is beyond the point of not fair for them.

Seeing the looks on their faces every time we have to break the bad news that this, that, or the other thing cannot go on as planned, is like being stabbed in the back with the sharpest knife known to man. It brings me to my knees.    

                                                    These kids are supposed to be able to count on, rely on, their parents. Not be disappointed by them, continuously.

It’s one of those cases where I wish I had known what my future would hold way back when my husband and I were young, stupid, and reckless. Now I’m helpless to change the direction my life took all those years ago; and my kids are helpless to change the state of misery living like this has caused for them just yet. Struggling on the fine line between low and middle classes, our family gets the short end of each stick. We get no assistance because we make just a few hundred too much, but we cannot afford anything outside the basic bills. All because we were too selfish and self-centered to plan for the rest of our lives before and after marriage; before and after making a family.

Not a day goes by that some need or necessity is asked for that we have to put off until it cannot be put off any longer. Shoes are worn until toes come through the tips, bikes are left to rot because they simply need a new inner tube. We use bath towels for everything because paper towel and sponges cost too much. We have piles of dirty laundry because we can only budget in 5 loads a week, which ain’t much considering we are a family of 6 who use towels for everything. There is no eating out, not even for fast food. No family vacations, no trips to bounce zones, Chuck E. Cheese, or movie theatres. There are no sports teams with weekly practices and saturday morning games. No dance lessons. Every answer is a “maybe later” or a flat out “no”.

The kids hold it against us. Coming from families way more well-to-do on both sides plus the influence of YouTube, our kids have inside looks into the lives of other families across the globe who live above our means. There is no hiding what they are missing out on in this family. These kids have to listened to the “never enough” talk so much that they hesitate to even tell us when they need things and rarely make mention of wants. Walking on eggshells so young, in order to keep the peace and stress in our family to a minimum; it shouldn’t be this way at all. They deserve a real childhood full of freedom and innocence from the struggles of the adult world.

My kids deserve to enjoy all the luxuries childhood brings.

We don’t even have a reliable vehicle if we actually found a little wiggle room in our budget every now and again. Right now, in fact, it’s sitting in our driveway waiting until we can save enough to pay for the new wire harness and ti-rod that it needs first and foremost. There’s another dozen or so issues, but those won’t affect the way the minivan runs just yet, so they have to wait. Wait until the day they do cause serious problems and leave us stranded once more, that is.

Living between the income margins is tough living. It isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Love overcomes all is such bullshit. If it were enough, my kids wouldn’t feel so ashamed to be part of this family. They certainly would find it in their hearts to be more comfortable being themselves around us. The kids wouldn’t feel the financial stress radiating from us. The love would be worth more to everyone than our outward appearances and material belongings. In this day and age of bigger is better and disposable materialism, it is impossible to convince my babies that less is more.

Disappointment will forever be all they know until the day they are old enough to take control of their own lives – responsibly. If there is one hope from this seemingly purgatory I  knowingly have to raise them in, it is that my children take the disdain they’re  harboring and rise above in ways their father and I never could. The future holds for them everything we, as parents, have failed miserably to overcome themselves. I cannot wait to see them make life everything they always wanted and own it proudly. Then I’ll be able to rest assuredly, that this agonizing struggle to live was not all for naught. Until then, between the margins we remain.


The Family He Never Wanted And The Man I Always Knew He Was


My husband never wanted the family he ended up with. He was in his mid-twenties, rebelling against The System, self-medicating, and a very experienced player when I first met him. He was trying to break away from that lifestyle, but he had no idea how or what to do even if he did manage to do so. He knew no other way in life. No other way to be.

It was the same kind of fast and furious- with a dash of faith for good measure- way of life he grew up around that kept him trapped.

Unfortunately for him, the kind of girls he preferred were not the loyal, take-home-to-mother type. When I met him, I was just the kind of girl he needed to support him through his most recent bad boy expenditures and provide the foundation necessary for a change in outward appearances – I was a young, naive, gullible, unwed, single mother of two toddler boys.

So he settled for settling down with me.

I was only supposed to be a pawn ticket he could cash in later on and retrieve the freedom he sold out for a stereotype when he found his way.

He knew he was way above my league and could charm me into anything he wanted. I would do anything to feel like one of the enviable girls that came before me – gorgeous, sexy, tiny with all the right curves. The bad boy in him could live on undetected under the guise of his instant ready-made family. I never saw it coming and was too desperate not to be the shamefully single, young mom I was to stand up for myself once I saw his true colors. While his party hard debauchery never led him unfaithfully astray, he valued his ability to live on the edge more than he valued life itself. In the back of my mind, I was waiting for the day he decided to redeem his pawn slip, shattering my dreams of happily ever after.

Ten years later, I am in complete awe of the man standing before me today.

He has come full circle and embraced the life he never wanted for anything more than appearances sake. This man went from drinking and popping pills until he figuratively was the walking dead to sober and clean for the past 7 years. He busts his ass and bloodies his knuckles, even suffers the occasional second degree burn, in a cold-drawn steel factory anywhere from 60 to 78 hours a week. A WEEK! Some humans barely stay awake that long in a week. The level of exhaustion this man has reached must be previously unheard of before – and this is coming from the mouth of a stay-at-home mom of 4 kids. Yup, we have even added to the family he never wanted. Two little girls to match the two boys of mine. His time at home is wrapped around all their fingers as they get attacked by Tickle Monsters and cuddled during campfire story nights in the living room. He plays endless games of catch and gets up to look at every, “Daddy watch me!”

My husband is now the kind of father I used to dream of having as a young girl watching her own father get lost in the bottom of a liquor bottle every night.

Even the dynamic of our marriage has turned around. No longer do I feel as if I will never measure up to all those damn notches in his old headboard; as if I am not the kind of woman he wanted to stand by his side without being embarrassed. We have a genuine friendship stronger than any I have ever had. More so than even my longest of childhood friends. My husband has learned to be selfless where he once was very selfish. He is incredibly humble and tender, with a fierce need to protect all five pieces of his heart. Somehow, the barrier around his soul has been shattered, allowing our love to penetrate his once icy, egotistical heart…and that cold heart has warmed over, radiating love back into our lives tenfold.

It is the most amazing thing.

A man who lived each day like it was his dying last, who was the only human left on this planet worthy of greed, has left behind the only life he ever knew. And for what? His wife and children.

There is no greater man… father… husband… than that.

I am the luckiest woman on this Earth. This man who never wanted the family which landed in his lap is now the family man I always knew he had it in him to be. By some unknown kismetted grace of fate, he chose me, and for that I am eternally grateful. I cannot think of anything better life could have ever had to offer me than my husband – the father of my four children.


Nothing Wrong With That. Nothing At All.


I am a married-single mother. Meaning – I am betrothed to my soul mate but he is unable to co-parent alongside me because his job keeps him away from home sixty to seventy-two hours a week. He is the family provider and the children’s extra special Sunday playmate. I am the stay-at-home mom-ship captain-prison warden-public relations director-service coordinator-keeper of allthethings.

This is by far the hardest job I have ever had. I have worked in an upscale, posh fruit market and deli with over two hundred register codes to memorize. I have worked in Bingo halls, ice rinks, and daycares.  I have been employed as a food counter cashier, a restaurant hostess, and a banquet hall dishwasher. For many years, in between, I held down a second job as a nighttime security guard. After college, I worked as a Health Unit Coordinator, managing patient care in some of the most fast-paced, unpredictable units of the hospital- Labor & Delivery, Pediatrics, Neurology, and the I.C.U.. None of those jobs even begin to compare to the stress, exhaustion, and physical drain of Mom Duty as a married-single mother. A married-single mother without her tribe, that is.

Everyone undoubtedly knows, it is the village which makes or breaks a good mother. This mother was breaking under the pressure.

Going into my first pregnancy, I was a bit on the younger side of the average age for first-time moms. In my naïve twenty-two year old mind, the picture of motherhood American Baby and Baby Talk magazines painted, would become my reality. What a slap in the face it was to realize those farcical illustrations were far from the truth. Having the best of everything baby and following the crowd of sheeple down the trail of baby care fads was not enough to join the exclusive motherhood village. I did not have the right socio-economic bank roll and suburban background to be noticed. No matter how many Mommy and Me classes we went to, how many playgroups we auditioned at, or how well I adhered to the advice in articles like “How To Find Your BMFF (best mommy friend forever) At Gymboree” and “Build Your Mommy Crew In Style,” I never felt welcomed, nor, did I ever make a single friend.

I did not give up my search for belonging and acceptance without a fight, though. I continued on relentlessly, trying to make myself a village to rely upon; to belong to. However, there is only so much fight in any one, and, by the time I was expecting my third baby, five years later, my fight was gone. Dried up. Vamoose. My tribe would never be, and, I was surprisingly okay with that. A natural introvert by nature, it was truly torturous bearing the barrage of mother-baby socialization necessary to find a gaggle of girl friends who weren’t single, childless, Molly-loving club goers. Those kind vanished, to never return again, the first time my newborn baby cried in their presence. So, when the third child was born, I finally began to let go of the fairytale depicting, magazine idealism entirely. All it had done was leave me friendless and on the brink of insanity – and, truthfully speaking, I was afraid of what would come beyond the point of insanity if I continued. By the time my fourth child came, I had fully adjusted to motherhood without the stress of social pressures, and, subsequently, without any outside support. Yet, I was still riding the crest of the wave, dangling precariously on the edge of sanity and did not understand why.

Four kids and one mother – twenty four hours a day, three hundred sixty five days a year – with only the varying levels of school during the school year to break up some time with a few of the kids. Coupled with the task of managing the entire household, and all the bullshit associated thereof, my hands got so full, I began losing my grip on it all. My sleep, random and sparse, is constantly interrupted by one little person’s needs or another. My body is perpetually ready for bed and continually fighting wakefulness, because it has no idea when sleep is supposed to happen anymore. The chores have gotten farther behind then I ever imagined possible; giving up on the idea of ever having a presentable looking home. Not even a flawlessly clean home, just presentable. Looking around, all I could see was failure in the overflowing piles of paperwork, stacks of laundry baskets that will never be folded before we’ve worn it all, dishes in the sink for days on end, and a smell emanating from our dingy carpets the kids are surprisingly not nose-blind to, but actually seem to prefer. Days turn into nights which turn right back into daytime again, sending shockwaves of confusion through my brain as it tries to decipher time and date. It is because of this, that I am perpetually late to everything, since I feel as though time ceases to exist within the walls of my fortress. I am one thread away from unraveling into a heap of tattered remains and no one will be there to help stitch me whole again.

I feel trapped in the twilight zone of stay-at-home parenthood, where every day seems just like the last and the memories of each blend together in jumbled chaos. This is the life of a married-single mother.

In all of my painstaking endeavors to become an attractive, friendable Mom, it has become apparent to me, motherhood is an isolating, punishable, and taboo feat in which society makes you feel as if you haven’t done enough. It is a lonely and daunting role which threatens to consume you, if you let it. For a long, long time, it seems, I have done just that. I have focused solely on the parts of motherhood which were unexpected and/or unattainable. I was blatantly ignorant to the value of what I had staring me right in the face. Becoming aware of the fact that I am miserable by my own fault, has been liberating. I have realized I was only mirroring the rejection I felt from my endless attempts at finding my best mommy friend. I was finding fault in my inability to be a real life Wonder Woman and keep up with life in its high-speed chase towards death, to prove there was value to the opinion of a bunch of mothers I only knew the back page summary of the story of their lives. By judging them, I was only personalizing these missed connections (which may very well have been not meant to be for good reason), therefore judging myself. I was holding myself to someone else’s standards. I was putting unreasonable and unrealistic expectations on myself, ones which I could never meet – even on my best of days. Their circumstances in life were different than mine. They were living the stereotype of suburban stay-at-home lives. I was a married-single mother. They had a village of family and friends waiting to step into their roles long before they ever conceived their first time and the crew only grew with each subsequent child. I did not. I was on my own. Both mom and dad, and everything in between.

And, you know what? My way of getting through is a-okay by me. I haven’t made the leap off the insanity cliff, yet. Actually, I am probably a lot further from the edge than I ever was before, without the added pressure of a motherhood fantasy dangling above my head. This is the most arduous, back-breaking, demanding, and wearisome role I have ever been graced with. The most rewarding and fulfilling, too. I have the opportunity to see my children every possible moment along their journeys. I can take the time to talk to them, play with them, learn with them and from them, sharing a bond we wouldn’t have had on the same level, otherwise.  So what if I’m not good at managing household repairs and spring cleaning regimes? My children’s laughter fills the air and their smiles brighten the rooms of our home, bringing joy to even the most mundane of household chores.

We are busy making memories and memories can be quite messy at times. So can dealing with temper tantrums, sicknesses, and injuries, too. Not to mention those natural kid disasters which No Body and Some Body-Else were fully responsible for causing.

My children are healthy, they are excelling in school, activities of interest, and athletics, they are kind and compassionate, they are immensely and uniquely humorous, and they are confident in their own skins being exactly themselves. Raising kids to be as such, in this day and age, is quite a tremendous feat – one which I have done with no helpful support, whatsoever. I have no more room for comparisons in my life. The opinions of others do not make me anything unless I allow them to. The pressure to conform to society’s misguided idealism of motherhood will no longer have the power to create a tunnel vision of failure in my mind. I am merely doing the best I can with the hand that I have been dealt in life. I am incredibly proud of myself for coming this far on my own, as I should have been all along.

Life as a married-single mom tests my limits and capabilities on a daily basis. It plays on my weaknesses and empowers my strengths. It brings me to my knees in despairing frustration and lifts my heart to the heavens, bursting with unconditional love and wonderment.

My physical and emotional well-being can falter at times, but at others, they are unstoppable forces to be reckoned with.

For whatever reason, I was meant to go this journey on my own, but, for the first time ever, I am so damn grateful that I have. I have proven to myself that I can. That I am. That I will. I am simply a married-single mother whose course is a little off the beaten path, but still in the race. I am the mother I was meant to be and there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.


The internet… It brought me my village. There is a place where moms can belong without judgement or social pressure to be anything but, well, Mom! Just as you are. No rules, limits, or boundaries. No unsolicited advice, shaming, or leveling up. Just pure kindness and loving support. Wanna join? Come on and make a #Mommitment today!


By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom

A Day Without Electricity in The Angrivated House – UYW January


Living in a first world country, even when you are closer to poverty level than middle class, we take our way of life for granted. We may struggle to pay our bills, struggle to keep appearances, and struggle for successful careers, but at the end of the day we have all we need to make it through the next. Roofs over our heads. Clothes on our backs. Clean water to guzzle from the faucet. Electricity and natural gas to light up, warm, cook, and power the hooplah and hubbub in our homes. People rarely stop to consider the magnificence of these daily necessities, we take for granted they will be there as faithfully as Ol’ Reliable blows.

Imagine me then, coming off a very long winter break with four children who have not only lost their minds, but taken up secret lessons on how to scream like a Banshee. Set scene.

I am doing my Monday Happy Dance in between yelling for the kids to brush their teeth and get some socks on, because they ARE going back to school come hell or high water. Regardless of any tricks they may try and pull. My sanity has officially left the building. All I can think of are those two and a half precious hours alone, while the preschooler is at school peeking around the bend. The hands on the clock couldn’t move any slower as the time draws nearer.

7:10 a.m.: Shoo the oldest out the door to meet his bus and head off for another rotten day of horrible sixth grade. 7:15 a.m.: Get the two youngest to go get dressed while I clean up the breakfast mess. 7:18 a.m.: tell the second oldest child to find his backpack and always lost shoes, so he’s ready to go when it’s time. 7:20 a.m.: start to brew a cup of coffee on the Keurig. Finally! 7:20 and .04 seconds a.m.: just as I press the brew button and the machine whirls to a start, the whole world seemingly stops.

Everything goes black. The sudden silence is scary and deafening, for a moment, as my senses heighten in panic. Swallowing my fears, I try to assess the situation at hand calmly. There is a contagious domino affect of anxiety rippling through the children, nonetheless, because dawn hasn’t yet broke and the house bathed in artificial fluorescence a minute ago, is now blanketed in darkness. This cannot be happening, I think, as I stumble to the front window and check the surrounding neighborhood. My eyes zoom in and focus on the one house I am sure of which never turns the porch light off. No light. Are you fucking shitting me? The power is out throughout the neighborhood. Meaning there’s no power at school now, because it’s only a block and a half over, on the same power grid. Holy mother of Geebus!

Your phone starts buzzing violently in protest, as text after text from the parents whose kids you shuttle to school come pouring in. “Do the kids still have school?” “Is your power out?” “What is going on with the lights?” Apparently, you are supposed to have all the answers for all the questions, just because you drive a gaggle of children to school with your own every day. If that really were the case, don’t they think you would’ve won Jeopardy for a month straight then moved to the Bahamas for the rest of your life. Alone. Without any kids. I digress. I don’t have all the answers so here I remain, standing in the dark with children screeching and squealing over this travesty of power loss.

After a half hour of wading through the online outage center hidden within the power company’s website, I am ready to rip my hair out and jump off the nearest bridge to my death. Little do I know, this is really only the beginning of a nightmare of a day. The power company’s joke of a website reports their internal system is down, as well. So, while it cannot provide me with a fraction of a tidbit’s worth of useful information – why the power’s out, when it will be restored, what the main cause of the outage was… Or anything else critical for me to figure out a game plan. The only thing I received was a lousy map showing the outage area; as if all the people blowing up my phone, coupled with the ones who did not, hadn’t given me an idea as to the perimeter of the outage area. Thankfully, the school board took to Facebook and notified us parents that the elementary school indeed would be closed for the day and they received a three hour estimate for power repairs from the utility company. They should have said, “guesstimate,” because I had a better shot at winning that Mega Millions Power Ball lottery than my electricity returning.

The sun came up quickly during this fiasco of panicked chaos. The youngest was picked up for preschool, which just happens to be located on the next power grid over… lucky them. The other two settled down with their half-charged tablets, silently criticizing me for reassuring them they didn’t need to search for chargers at bedtime when they can be charged while they were at school.

Besides the fact it was the beginning of January, here in Michigan, and temperatures in the low twenties were bringing a chill into the house as the warmth escaped, it was just like any regular old day now. We became immersed in the screens of our devices – I, trying to get some writing accomplished and, them, playing mindless games and watching nonsense videos. A few hours later and the youngest was being dropped off back home again, before we ever knew it. The power should have been back on a half hour ago, I realize. What in Hell is going on here!?!

The website at least works this time. 1 p.m. is the new estimated guesstimated time given, the cause still listed as unknown. Only, my husband is awake now and someone he works the afternoon shift with called to tell him what had happened. An abandoned factory had some sort of explosion occur, which blew out some major circuit stuff and even knocked down a pole somewhere. Doesn’t seem like too hard of a fix. So we wait some more. Devices start dying on the kids. Cereal and apples are no longer holding them over and being since it’s the day before our next grocery trip, we were down to the bare essentials. AKA, non-kid pleasing foods.

Kids start up a round of the whining game. They begin tormenting one another; the initial joy over a day off of school fizzling out abruptly like a firework dud. Time for me to intercept before they turn my living room into an Elementary Fight Club Scene and something, or someone, gets broken. Santa just happened to stop by Bramma’s house this year, leaving gifts of board games and books galore. Just what they need to do to keep the peace a little longer. The cold was beginning to settle where the heat once cloaked our bodies, providing reprieve from the bitter Winter weather outdoors. Our stove, thankfully, was gas fueled, so I began searching for things to bake with the ingredients quickly warming to room temperature in my refrigerator. I put cheesy drop biscuits and a French vanilla pudding cake in the oven set at a higher temp then called for so the oven door could stay cracked, warming the kitchen and dining area, at least. Then we all sat down around the table for a hand of Uno and a round of Scrabble Junior.

Halfway into our first game, the oldest had come home. The look on his face when he saw his siblings gave me all the forewarning necessary. The “not fair” meltdown was approaching faster than the Bullet Train coming into station in Japan. He drops his backpack and runs to his room, slamming the door for good measure. How dare his siblings get a free, non-sick day off of school without him. I’m the meanest mom, ever, in his book. The lure of laughter from our game of Uno must have been too irresistible. Or the chill in his room too cold to pout properly, because he came to join us minutes later. Still scowling, of course. Biscuits done, cake cooling, we begin to play Scrabble Jr., still hoping the power would return at some point. An hour later, our bellies were full, we were all gamed out, and still…No power.

My anxiety started to build as I got lost in spiraling thoughts of what-ifs, worst case scenarios, and whatever will we do’s. I am losing my mind over a first world problem! Why does this shit always happen to me?! I tell the kids I’m laying down on the couch before I give myself a migraine. The lack of caffeine is really taking its toll on me. As I lay there, wishing I was swallowed into a black hole and put out of my misery, something totally strange and magical happened. Something I never expected or could picture happening in my wildest of dreams….

All four of my children got along like FRIENDS!!!!

That’s right. They came together in this harrowing travesty of epic first world proportion. (I don’t even know if that made any sense, but it sure as hell sounded majestically awesome!) No one picked on one another. They were kind and thoughtful. They helped each other in their dramatic play, and everyone played equal parts, compromising to let everyone win. Their laughter reverberated throughout the quiet stillness. Dusk washed away the sunlight, bathing our house in darkness again. Flashlights were found and even though the boys, the two oldest, would have loved to have felt important being the light keepers, they willingly gave the duty to their little sisters, excited to play with these new toys. Checking the outage center website, I discover it is once again down, withholding any inkling of when normalcy would return.


With a lot of blind luck and a little prayer, I managed to cook dinner in the dim light of an early winter sunset. Well, if you consider frozen French Fries, buttered parmesan noodles, instant mashed potatoes, hot dogs, canned green beans, fish sticks, and more of those biscuits a dinner. The only real meat I had was something that needed to be cooked in the crock pot for insured consumption by the kiddos, and you can’t crock pot without electricity! After dinner I let the kids frost and decorate the cake, then go back to the Zombie Prison Escape game they had made up earlier just to keep warm with the running around. I tried to use the last juice in my phone to get some answers about the power situation so I could figure out what to do, because we couldn’t stay in this freezing house overnight. The thermostat was reading 56°F for Pete’s Sake! A two hour fix at 8 a.m. had come to the twelve hour mark. The insanity of all this was eating away at the last of my nerves.

Unable to get through on the website or by phone, I texted a friend I know who works at the local hospital. They should have an idea of what’s going on, because any home care patients in this outage area which require any type of life support machinery, would have had to be brought in until the electricity was resolved. Before I could even finish typing, my phone beeped its dreaded warning that I was at 4% battery life. Fuck me! Without my phone I’m totally lost, cutoff from all civilization like a prisoner in my own home. This can’t be happening! Then my screen changed, showing an incoming call from, loll and behold, none other than the lady I was trying to text! She was just checking in to let me know management spoke to the power company and they are saying anywhere between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. because crews were hard to find on midnights and we could go to her sister’s house if we needed to. Gawd damn mother of all Hell!

And, with that, my phone chimed it’s power down sound.

I look up to see my late grandmother’s candle flickering out as it reached the nub, in its hurricane lamp candle holder. The last candle of hers I had had for it. My heart flip-flopped into my knotted stomach as anger welled up within over the last straw to this horrible situation- losing the last of those candles I cherished because only together with the holder was it the physical connection to her I cling to desperately in my grief. Before that anger could bubble to the surface… before I could even begin processing all these events rapidly firing in succession to one another, draining hope from me faster than my kids siphon my energy… The electricity came back on.

The refrigerator buzzed to life. Lights blinded us in an exact opposite manner as the dark had blinded us. The furnace gave its familiar click preceding the roar we eagerly anticipated bringing warmth bank onto our house once more. The kids cheered and shrieked in excitement as they rushed off to plug in devices needing to be charged. And I sighed heavily, thanking my lucky stars for the return of this first world luxury we all, thoughtlessly, take for granted. Take a moment today and give thanks for what you have, because someone else, somewhere around the globe, is praying for it right now.

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now. Check out all the other participating bloggers and see what words they got and how they used them. 
My Words Were: eyes, reverberate, broken, ready, whatever.               

They were submitted by: Baking In A Tornado


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts: 
Baking In A Tornado

The Bergham Chronicles

Spatulas on Parade  

Rena’s World

Dinosaur Superhero Mommy

Not That Sarah Michelle

Confessions of a part time working mom

Southern Belle Charm

Someone Else’s Genius


My Brain on Kids

By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom

The Angrivated Night Before Christmas: Secret Subject Swap December


‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
The family was angrivated, especially I with my spouse.
The tree wasn’t up, Damn!, the presents were not even bought,
The chaos ensued, in a hurry to be done we fought.
Our children were so far from going to sleep in their beds,
Hyped up on stolen candy canes, a sugar rush straight to their heads.
Angrivated Mom was three days overdue for a shower,
Angrivated Dad, counting every penny, dime, and dollar.
When they finally got to the store, the place was left in tatters,
Their Christmas hope died, the broken pieces in tiny shatters.
Away to the toy aisle to salvage what’s left,
The price to pay when you’ve never lived without debt.
When what did our marveling eyes did set upon?
The perfect gift for each of our tween sons.
Over there, the one our older daughter wanted so bad,
Look! Even our youngest won’t have to be sad!
A Christmas miracle had come, to you albeit small, but, alas,
A Christmas miracle true, and it was huge for us income low-class.
Now, Razor! Now, Monster High! Now, Nerf and CODBO3!
On Little People! On, Lego! On Elsa and Anna Barbies!
To the shopping cart, to the mile-long checkout lines, and away,
I wish we didn’t have to pay for any of these over-priced presents today.
We waited our turn, then took off for home in a mad dash,
Hoping on our way we did didn’t spin out and crash.
Barely in the front door and we can already hear the cries,
Four Angrivated children now quickly spinning their lies.
This one threw the tinsel at him and that one threw the stockings at her,
The living room is lost in a green and red twinkling blur.
We corral them together, clean the mess, and place the top star,
Well past midnight now, jolly old St. Nick can’t be too far.
The cookies you say? Oh shit, we knew there was more,
Leave Santa a Twinkie, his reindeer shant mind a few apple cores.
Get to bed we say, it’s been a helluvah angrivated day to boot,
This mom has to stay up till ass crack dawn to wrap your damn loot.
I’ll look hung over tomorrow with cellulite as jiggly as Jello,
At least I have my stash to smoke myself mellow.
These Angrivated Parents have some elving to do,
Thankful that this nightmare is once again almost through.
Finally the children are fast asleep and the house is quietly still,
It’s so silent you can actually hear the snow falling on the sill.
The lopsided Charlie Brown tree aglow in the lonely night
Shimmers like the moon, dancing across the gifts soon to bring delight.
It isn’t much, not nearly enough, but more than we could spare,
We would give them our last breath so the tree is never bare.
When the sun does rise the squeals and laughter will abound,
Every struggle will be worth the happiness they’ve found.
Toys may not be a’plenty, but love will fill the empty space,
Grateful to have each other, share the value of a warm embrace.
Christmas is a time for giving and caring,
Breaking bread, making merry and good tidings sharing.
We may not have it all and can’t do the holiday for glory,
At least we stick to the original meaning of the real Christmas Story.
Just another night before Christmas with the Angrivated bunch,
And, as always, The Angrivated Family has their panties up in bunch.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Your “Secret Subject” is: was the night before Christmas……AND GO!
It was submitted by: Not That Sarah Michelle

*Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. Wonder who got my subject? Hope to see you there!*
Baking In A Tornado
Not That Sarah Michele
Spatulas on Parade
Sparkly Poetic Weirdo
Southern Belle Charm
Rena’s World
Dinosaur Superhero Mommy
The Bergham Chronicles
Never Ever Give Up Hope
Someone Else’s Genius
Confessions of a part time working mom
The Lieber Family Blog
Juicebox Confession

By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom

The Survivor Who Saved Me From Myself


The last time I saw you, you were so frail and pained. Heartbroken. Weak and weary from a lifetime of struggling, your body was too worn out, too tired, to keep fighting the good fight. I curled up beside you in your bed, cradling you just as you have always done for me since I was born. The two of us are lying there in almost silence as I gently stroke your withered and wrinkled cheek, still so smooth to the touch. The only sound breaking the blanket of stillness embracing us were the soft echoes of slightly buzzed laughter from your legacy, drifting down the hallway and through your open bedroom door….

Her bedroom door was always left open. Never would she shut it. Not to sleep, pray, or get dressed. If she didn’t want company to see her change, she would use the bathroom; it was the only room of her house where she ever shut the door. You see, my grandmother was a survivor of the Holocaust. As a young girl, she witnessed more trauma and atrocity than any human ever should in an entire lifetime. And she endured even more. Her right eye was permanently blind from the damage caused by “scientific experimentation” because her hazel eyes appeared to be, inexplicably, two different shades of color- one blue and one gray. Her growth was  stunted from malnutrition, her fingers and toes slightly gnarled from the resulting calcium-deficiency. She was in line for the gas chamber when a miracle took place and the gas lines burst, saving her from her turn at death. My grandmother’s innocence was stolen. I wouldn’t want to leave any doors shut if I was living with nightmares of the past in my head, either.

Growing up, my grandmother represented everything I thought a woman should be. Classy, intelligent, maternal, loyal, strong, sensitive, beautiful, loving- she encompassed them all. Every morning she would brew her coffee, pour herself a cup, and sit down at her kitchen table with her cigarettes, makeup, and curling iron. The next hour was spent sipping from her cup, setting her hair, and putting on her face. I’ll never forget the way her lipstick was always worn down by the shape of her lips, the sharp angles of its original shape flattened to a nub…somehow it even was when I knew the lipstick was still quite new. This fact was so fascinating to me, and still is, long after I have grown up. My grandmother belonged to the era of ladies who wore as lipstick religiously as they attended church, reapplying as often as necessary to maintain its flawless perfection.


Whenever I was in need of a safe harbor to escape to, my grandmother was the only person I would go to. Like so many others had done before me. She possessed such a calm, sheltering warmth, you wanted to share your darkest fears and deepest secrets with her without hesitation. Regardless of what you told her, you knew she would never judge or be superficial; she was the most genuine, kind-hearted, and gentle soul. Her door was open to anyone, anytime. Even if it was her last loaf of bread, quart of milk, or sleeve of crackers, she was going to feed you. Providing comfort to your belly, right along with your soul, was her main prerogative in life; one I hope I will master as well as her someday. Especially, because I know I will never master her cleanliness and organizing skills. She was an amazingly adept and hard-working woman. I still envy her motivational drive to this day and wonder where the fuel which kept her heart fire burning so strong came from, when so much in her life proved to be stifling, traumatic, and oppressive.

When I was in my teens- brimming with bitter angst, unfocused passion, and general repugnance for anyone taking an authoritative stance, I wound up moving in with my grandmother. She welcomed me with heart-warming hugs, a firm understanding of the situation, and the personal space I needed to test my wings on my own. Her only rules: be respectful of her and my grandfather’s routines and way of living and to always let her know if I was expected home before she locked up at 1 am. Any later, I would have to wait until my grandfather woke up at dawn to get in, because I was too never wake them for such nonsense. At the time, I thought she was too afraid I would run if she had tried to “mother” me while I was living with her by strictly enforcing more age-appropriate rules for a seventeen year old girl, but I know better now. My grandmother gave me exactly what I hadn’t had before, what every kid needs to have with their parents to feel connected: trust and respect. She knew me so well and used my own personality traits to keep me in line unknowingly, while giving me the room to grow wild and free. A chatterbox by nature, she knew I would tell her what was going on in my life on my own accord. Without pressure. Or expectation. A soft-hearted and sensitive soul like myself also would feel guilty displacing, disrespecting, or disappointing my grandparents in any way. So she tricked me into behaving like a respectful young lady by laying out a few simple rules which played on my natural characteristics. Smart, smart woman; I told you so.

My grandmother was such a powerful influence on my life. It took until I lived with her as a teenager and was studying the Holocaust again in my Western European History class to find out she was a survivor. Her nightmare had been tucked away somewhere deep inside herself away from sight all this time. She never even told the whole story to her own children; my mother and two aunts only heard enough to answer their inquiries as they learned about the events in History lessons. The lady I knew so well as a child, admired so deeply for her womanly perfection, never showed even three slightest glimmer of a glimpse of the evil she had once known. She had once lived in. Evil which had not only scarred her severely, but had robbed her of her innocence, as well. Her love was so great, so powerful and mighty it was able to bury the hate which should’ve filled her after witnessing such nefarious barbarities before her life even had much of a chance to begin.

If she could find happiness after spending her childhood in a real life Hell on Earth, than I have no excuses why I can’t find happiness in my own life. And I never have made any. Life has been tough for me, in non-quintessential terms, and I have never had a moment in time where I wasn’t struggling with something. The short end of the stick, deck stacked against me, losing end of the deal…whatever you wanna call it, there is a curse of bad luck with its dark cloud of depression which follows me everywhere in life. Yet, I never stop smiling. I never give up. I always look for the ray on sunshine and beam of light making the dark seem so bright again. But like her bedroom door, if you know where to look, you’ll see the signs that, maybe, underneath the endless amounts of giving and tireless acts of love, I’m just a little broken inside. But it’s what’s broken which feeds the fire and overpowers the bad with good.


I wish I had told my grandmother all of this when she was here. She made me the woman, the mother, and the survivor I am today. My children did not have enough time to know the magic of their grandmother’s tender touch,  delicious food, and grounding presence. They will never know how insightful and wise she was, how her presence could command respect without ever speaking in a voice above a loud whisper. How she made you want to do good and be a better you without scolding, nagging, or lecturing. How inviting her house was- the only one I’ve ever felt truly home in, in my entire lifetime. I wish I could have laid there with my grandmother for all of time, absorbing everything I still had yet to learn from her. I wanted to smell her in my soul, feel her in my heart, and see every moment we shared from the time she held me when I was born until this very moment now, thirty years later. I was her belated birthday gift, you know. I came just two weeks late, but as you know, I am still late for everything to this very day. (Late for preschool pickup right now!)

Since she’s been gone, I find it hard to shut doors around myself. I can only imagine the terror she must have felt alone in the dark, even with her husband beside her. I carry her nightmares with me now, because we should never forget such pain and suffering to humanity as those of the Holocaust endured. It seems as though, today, the people of the world have begun to forget. Genocide, racism, evil, and hate still very much present in our world, the most recent attacks on Kenya, Beirut, and Paris confirming as much. How can we forget so easily? I know I can’t, because what my grandmother did with the rest of her life after such tragedy is remarkably amazing. To live so selflessly and humbly while countlessly taking care of those who couldn’t take care of themselves and bringing smiles and laughter into the lives of everyone she happened upon is just the truest show of courage and strength I have ever seen.

This woman was my grandmother. My hero. My angel. My rock. My biggest fan. My everything. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Without her, I wouldn’t be strong. Without her, I wouldn’t be a survivor. I can feel myself lying with her in her bedroom every time I close my eyes and I can’t help but think, even for everything cursed in my life, I couldn’t have been anymore blessed…to be her granddaughter.


      In Loving Memory of Pauline Kustra.


By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom