Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Big Sister

Olivia was born when Alyssa was three years and ten months old.

Before O was born, Alyssa was so excited about having a little sister. Like many children, I think she believed this baby sister was going be born two years old, already walking and talking and ready to play.

Not only did that obviously not happen with Olivia, she was a very cranky, very demanding baby.

Alyssa no doubt felt very much slighted when that baby sister came home from the hospital.

Heck, to be honest, I felt slighted when we brought this angry, screamy baby home from the hospital.

I'd imagined cuddling my two daughters, one asleep in the crook of my arm and the other snuggled against my side as I read to her in whispered giggles.

Of course, life rarely takes the exact path we expect and plan for and imagine.

And as Olivia got older but still didn't crawl or walk, I think Alyssa got complacent. She didn't have to worry about her 'stuff' being messed with by that baby sister who just laid like a slug where ever we put her. (She did stop crying when she was about six months old, once the doctors finally agreed with me that she needed medication for the reflux they didn't believe she had.)

When Olivia started crawling at seventeen months old, Alyssa was still pretty confident that her stuff was safe. See, even as she learned to crawl, O wasn't all that inclined to pull herself to a stand. She just crawled from place to place and found things to play with at that level. She didn't feel the need to explore beyond what she could see at that point.

But oooh, the rude awakening Alyssa suffered when Olivia started walking. O was 29 months old, which means that Alyssa had turned six a few months prior.

Alyssa realized that with a walking little sister came a meddler, an explorer, a THIEF! Someone who would see HER stuff and want it.

Ohh, the drama that has ensued ever since.

When I got home from work a couple of years ago, I saw that Alyssa had decorated HER desk with pictures of a little girl in a circle with a line through it.

She'd declared her desk a "No Olivia" zone.

She was marking her territory in a much less smelly, messy way than a dog might, but it was marked just the same.

Of course, Olivia had no idea what those signs meant so she continued to explore and meddle and annoy her sister to no end.

But Alyssa tried and for that I have to give her credit.

And to her even greater credit, she's come a long way in the world of sharing her 'stuff' with her sister. Of course, Bubby is still off limits but hey, a girl's got to have a few things to call her very own.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Her People

On Christmas Eve, Tom, the girls and I went to my mom and step dad's house so the girls could open the presents my parents had bought them.

As my mom placed package after package in front of each girl, she paused a moment to whisper to me, "Olivia is SO hard to buy for."

At first I thought, "She's four, how can she be hard to buy for?"

But then I thought back to that Saturday a few weeks ago when Tom came so I could go shopping. I remember finding item after item that Alyssa would love. But near the end of my shopping trip, I found myself standing in the middle of an aisle, trying to figure out what I could get Olivia.

What would make her quiver with delight on Christmas morning?

Lip gloss? Check.

Chapstick? Got it.


What else was there?

Honestly? Not much.

I got her several pairs of tights, because she loves tights but she's FOUR, what four year old just wants a few pairs of tights for Christmas?

I ended up getting her a Rapunzel baby doll from the movie Tangled, and she likes it. She plays with it a bit here and there's definitely not her Bubby.

See, while Alyssa adores things and stuff, Olivia prefers people.

She MUCH prefers her people. She considers the following HER people (in order of preference if they're all available at the same time):

Jaxon (cousin, aka Buddy)
Papa (step dad)

And those are the 'things' she'd rather entertain herself with rather than toys or games or tv. She wants to be around her people. She wants to run around one of them, or climb onto someone and let them help her jump off. She wants to sit on or against her people and let them keep her warm.

She'll play with a toy much longer if she's sitting on the couch, leaning against me than if she's on the couch by herself. Just touching one of her people is often enough.

She's a very social girl and having her people near is important to her.

Hmmm...I think I've got an idea for future gifts. The dreaded homemade 'coupon' book chock full of "Free: One hour of alone time with Mom."

Honestly, in a few years, I think that would be the perfect gift for this little sweetheart.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I've often described myself as an outgoing introvert.

It fits.

I can be social and outgoing and personable when the occasion warrants such things.

But to recharge, I need alone time. Truly alone time. Not alone with my family, but all by myself alone time.

That time after Tom and the girls are all asleep and I'm in the bath, with the door closed and the heater running and it's just me and the bubbles and my smutty romance novel, those are the times that I recharge, that I find balance and a sense of self that allows me to greed the next day much too early and cheerfully share a bowl of corn flakes with Olivia and play a game of Battleship with Alyssa and joke and tease Tom in the kitchen as I wash the dishes and he changes the batteries in Alyssa's Zhu Zhu pets for the third time in the same amount of days.

I've been lonely in my life but never when I'm alone.

My loneliest times have come when I'm in a crowded room or when I was with one other person but we weren't on the same page in life. Those were lonely times.

But the four years I lived in Chicago and spent weekends upon weekends speaking to no one but the cashier who traded me groceries for my money, those times weren't lonely. I look fondly upon those times of aloneness.

Yesterday, Olivia was playing with her two new little dolls. She was marching them up and down the stairs of her doll house.

She'd announced earlier in the day that the bigger doll was Lyssie (she has longer hair than the littler doll) and the smaller doll with the shorter hair was Livie.

At one point, I heard Olivia speaking for the big doll. She was ordering the little doll to "come down here RIGHT NOW." And I smiled to myself, thinking that Alyssa often tries to boss her little sister around.

I asked Olivia if the little sister was going to do what the big sister told her to do, and Olivia said with a resigned sigh, "Yes."

And the little sister marched her little self down those stairs.

At the same time that Olivia was occupied with her dolls and their house, Alyssa was outside in the backyard, throwing herself down snow drifts and climbing into and jumping out of her fort (which, this spring, will have the slide and swings reattached.)

I wondered if they were lonely in their individual, solidary play. And I worried.

Then I remembered the many years of imaginary play I'd had. The hours and hours and hours I spend outside, by myself, playing on the tireswing, weaving tales and creating imaginary friends and living a life right there inside my head that had nothing to do with my real life.

Those were not lonely times for me and I have to believe that solitary play isn't lonely for my girls. Their imaginations will take them far and keep them company even in a crowded room where the loneliness threatens to overtake them.

They're resilient. They're creative.

And when they're bored or lonely, they seek out company, just like I do.

They'll be okay.

Just like I am.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Easy Bake

I look back on my childhood and I think I had it made. I may not have had all the toys and name brand clothes, but I had it really, really good.

Anything that was truly important to me, I got. I had Barbies (John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino, anyone?) and Air Supply records (remember those?) I had a single pair of Levis that I wore to death.

I had it good.

The things I didn't have, like Gloria Vanderbilt or Jordache jeans, or perfectly permed hair in fifth grade, I didn't really even want. Those things weren't that important to me.

Alyssa, though. Ah, she loves 'stuff.' She loves having the latest toy and watching the newest movies.

For Christmas she got three Zhu Zhu pets. None of those were from me. I didn't even know what those things are.

Thankfully, my mom is all up on the hottest toys and had Alyssa covered.

Alyssa also got an Easy Bake Oven from my mom. She loves that thing.

And the best thing is that she loves it not because everyone else has it, but because she can use it ot make things like cakes and cookies for the people she loves.

This gift is showing her the joy of giving. And that's just so cool! I want her to remember that it's fun to give. It's awesome to watch someone enjoy something you made with your own hands. She's made two cakes already, and those two cakes went to Alyssa's daddy and her Gram. That makes me very happy.

I'm okay with her liking 'stuff' as long as she remembers that the important thing is what she does with that stuff. That she remembers that the people in her life are way more important than the stuff and that in the end, stuff can be replaced, but the people in her world, and their feelings, can't.

I'm trying to impress that upon her every day in the little ways. I hope and pray it's working. She's a pretty cool kid, even though she does have a lot of stuff.

But gosh, that Easy Bake Oven is fun. I kind of wish I'd wanted one as a kid.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thank you, Santa

The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in northwestern Ohio.

With only three weeks left to be seven years old, Alyssa's belief in Santa stands firm.

And I love it. I want to retain the magic of Christmas and Santa for her for as long as possible.

See...when I talk about Santa to her, I talk about giving and loving and remembering that Christmas gifts are giving to loved ones because we can't give gifts to Jesus.

My brother recently said that he's not going to let some fat guy take the credit for the gifts he gives to his son. He works hard for the money he spends on his child and he wants the credit.

And that's okay. That's how he wants it to be and I'm not going to tell him his way is wrong because it's not wrong. It's just now how I want to do things.

I want my girls to believe that there are people in this world who give just because. Just because you're kind to that weird kid in school. Just because you hugged your sister yesterday. Just because you smiled at a stranger.

Just because.

So I'm saying thank you to Santa today. Thank you for giving my girls a wonderful, beautiful Christmas, full of joy and magic.

Thank you for giving us time with family. TIme together to love and laugh and make memories and build traditions.

Thank you Santa, for giving. For teaching us to give and to love.

Just because.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Just this morning, Olivia announced to me yet again, "I love this whole house."

Both of my girls are so relieved that we've moved. They both love the new house and they both love the area.

Sure, it's only three miles from Gram's house but it's more than that.

Alyssa's new school is amazing. She's been accepted, she's thriving, she's made great friends. Her teacher is devoted amazingly well-aware of the needs of her students. We couldn't ask for better.

This morning, we were on the road heading toward WalMart before 10:00 in order to do the very last of our shopping. No really, we're done now. Of course, we did go to more than just WalMart (Rural King and Meijer) to actually finish that shopping but we did it. Tomorrow, we don't have to go anywhere except Gram's house.

While out and about, we ran in to a few people we knew.

I love this. I've missed this.

When we lived an hour and a half away, we never saw people we knew. I worked up here and lived down there and I wasn't actually a part of either community.

I've come home and it's wonderful.

We ran into a mom from the girls' gymnastics class. She stopped me the third time we passed each other in an aisle and said, "I feel like I should know you."

I smiled and said, "Gymnastics."

She breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Yes! Thank you."

We talked for a few minutes, wished each other a Merry Christmas and headed on our way.

A few minutes later, I came across someone I'd graduated from high school with. Again, we stopped, made a bit of small talk and went on our way.

But...belonging is something I've missed for years. I've missed this sense of being out and about and knowing the people around me. I've missed knowing that around the next corner is someone I might know.

And we have that again. We're making connections, reaquainting ourselves with old friends and surrounding ourselves with family.

The blessings abound.

New Glasses

A few weeks ago, I told Tom that we had almost $900 to spend in our flexible spending account. I'd already spend almost two hundred dollars buying bandaids and otc medicines to last us well into 2012. I wasn't sure where we were going to spend the rest of the money.

Tom's been wearing glasses from Walmart and drug stores for the past few years as his eyes have become more and more...well, old. He's never needed glasses before that typical far-sightedness that tends to come with reaching one's mid to late forties.

In the time I've known him, he hasn't ever seen an eye doctor.

This was remedied in the past few weeks.

I made the appointment, but he actually kept it.

And yesterday, he picked up his new glasses.

When I was eleven years old, I got my first pair of glasses for myopia. I was amazed that the leaves were actually separate on the tree.

Tom felt the same way yesterday. He couldn't get over how clear everything was. Of course, he now has to get used to the bi-focals but just being able to see so well is an adventure.

My husband is still fairly anti-doctor but I think this experience has been positive enough that I may be able to convince him to get an actual physical in the next year or so.

It's probably only been twenty years or so since the last.

Men...sometimes, they're worse patients than their children.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Party Time

I'm one of those lucky work-outside-the-home moms who is able to adjust my schedule (aka take a vacation day) and be at all of Alyssa's school parties.

Her Christmas party was yesterday, the last day of school before at twelve day break.

Over the weekend, she asked me if I was going to be there.

I replied, "Of course. I'm always there, aren't I?"

And she grinned and nodded, content in the fact that I would indeed be at that party.

I then asked her if she wanted me to take Olivia to my mom's while I was at the party or if she wanted her little sister there.

She actually thought it over for a few minutes before deciding she'd rather have me all to herself for a couple of hours.

And so it was.

The night before the last, we all went to bed at 8:30. I was so ready and neither girl was settling as I'd have liked and I knew that being in the dark bedroom would help.

So we snuggled in.

I tucked Alyssa into her bed, kissed her, counted the blankets as I settled them on top of her (four, if you count the sheet) and she giggled over the ritual.

Then I took the two steps away from Alyssa's bed and settled into the bed Olivia was already sitting on, waiting for me and my boobs to lay next to her, so she could lay on me and tell me how much she loves my boobs.

Anyway...Olivia rolled around and chatted about everything and nothing and I shushed her and rubbed her back and started to wonder how lonely Alyssa might be over in her own bed.

So after about ten minutes of Olivia 'nesting' I rolled away from her and asked Alyssa, "Have you ever heard the story of how Bubby came to be with you?"

I could hear the grin in her voice when she whispered back, "No."

So I told her about her beloved stuffed dog and how her Gram found him on the way back of a bottom shelf in a store.

I told her about the first time she saw that dog, way down in the bottom of a gift bag, and how her eyes got wide, how she pulled him out of the bag and rubbed noses with him and then hugged him tight.

She was two years old when she got Bubby and that dog has been loved almost to death. He's definitely over halfway to being a real dog ala the velveteen rabbit.

She laughed a places in the story and sighed with love in other places, all the time hugging Bubby close as I told the story.

It's moments like that, when I take an extra moment to remind my first born how very important she is to me, that I realize how hard it probably is to have a little sister who is as demanding as Olivia is.

But we're good, the three of us. We all know that the others love us and that we're a team. Yeah, I have my screechy moments of which I'm not so proud but those quiet times in the dark, as I'm telling a story and reminding my sweet girl how special she is to me, those moments make this life amazing, beautiful, worth every other tough moment we go through. Those moments are the ones memories are made of.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Like most four year olds, Olivia has her idea of how things should be done. Each morning, she starts the day with a warm bath. Once the bath is done, she sits in front of the space heater to dry. She hates being cold.

Her day continues with a three-mile drive to Gram's house and she probably spends the day jumping and spinning and prancing in front of the mirror. Since I'm not there, I can only go by my mom's reports of how the day went.

Our evenings are on the quiet side, a little tv, some dinner, a back rub as she settles in.

But...the ritual of scratching is making me nuts.

The past few nights, she's woken up between two and three am and demanded that I scratch her.

First she mumbles, "Scrath my back."

I usually mumble back, "You scratch my back, I'm sleeping."

She then sits up, which is probably what really wakes her up and says, quite loudly, "Scratch my back!"

I roll over and pull her back down and scratch her back for about ten seconds then tell her, "I'm done, go to sleep."

She rolls over and pulls her sleeve up and offers me her arm.

"My arm is itchy," she says.

I tell her to sctratch it herself.

She scratches it for a bit then offers me her thumb.

When I don't respond she actually takes me hand and puts it on her thumb to be scratched.

My mom suggested that perhaps we need to start brushing O again.

And this is a possibility. Maybe she really is itchy and brushing would help her to settle earlier in the night.

But honestly? I think she's waking up and is bored. She doesn't want to go back to sleep and is using the excuse of being itchy to wake me up to keep her company.

And so...I try to ignore her. Because what else does a bored person do at three in the morning but go back to sleep?

I remember four being tough for Alyssa. Four was when she started to realize she's a separate person from me. She realized she didn't actually have to do everything I told her to do. I think O is realizing that herself.

Aren't I in for a fun ride?

Monday, December 20, 2010


Can one be said to be in the honeymoon stage four years into something?

I ask because I wonder sometimes if maybe we're still in that phase. Is the other shoe waiting to drop? Is there something around the corner waiting to slap me in my grinning, rainbow-spouting face? as Olivia's mother, as a 'special needs' mom, hasn't been that tough for me.

In fact, I feel darned lucky to be her mom (and Alyssa's but...duh.)

Yet I know that I'm probably though to be in denial or people might believe I'm glossing over the frustrations and challenges of raising a child with any sort of chromosomal disorder.

There's another blogger out there who has a small daughter with Down Syndrome. Her child isn't quite a year old and the mom is full of love and light. She's all about drinking it all in and taking each moment for the blessing that it is.

And her child is young. And she's healthy and...maybe she has significant challenges ahead of her.

But I wonder...are we still in our honeymoon stage?

I haven't had to deal with anyone looking at Olivia like she's different (except for her hair,'s just hair, like I've said.) I haven't had to dry her tears because she's been excluded from something because she's different.

Alyssa hasn't had to deal with a friend asking what's wrong with her sister.

But is this stuff coming?

I honestly don't know.

I'm not trying to borrow trouble. But I do want people to know that I don't always think in rainbow colors. I do wonder why we were the lucky ones. I do watch for that other shoe and try to prepare for it as best I can.

But until (if it's even going to fall) it falls? Bring on the rainbows and the joy and cold December days when we sit and watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory five times in a row with a bowl of extra-buttered popcorn between us as Olivia attempts to comb my hair and Alyssa laughs until she snorts over a line in the movie.

For now...we're living a good, blessed life and sure, the little things get overwhelming at times, we're still pretty happy with things. And I hope this honeymoon lasts another fifty years or so. Don't we all?

Friday, December 17, 2010


As I ate frosting out of a can by the spoonful yesterday afternoon to be eaten, I knew it was wrong. I knew I'd regret it. And not only because my pants would be that much tighter after the fifth spoonful.

Yet...I kept scooping and eating.

Just the day before I'd told Olivia that she was not allowed to have anymore candy until after dinner because she was going to ruin her dinner.

For lunch yesterday, I had a bowl of bbq potato chips and a coke. Later, I started in on the frosting.

I know.

I'm trying to teach my children self-control and I'm like a nine-year old set free in the grocery store with a blank check. It's sick.

The cherry on top of the vanilla frosting was the crazy sugar headache I developed yesterday evening.

It made me crabby and impatient and it was my own damned fault.

I need to grow up and learn the same lessons I'm trying to teach my girls.

The new year is coming.

Time for resolutions? Perhaps, but more importantly, it's a time for reflection and the chance to make changes that are necessary for healthy and happiness.

I'm going to try and keep that in mind.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just One More?

Last night, Alyssa declared that she wishes she had two little sisters. Or perhaps a little sister and a little brother. Or maybe two little brothers.

At that point, I reminded her that two little brothers aren't going to happen since, well, see the already existing little sister.

She laughed and said, "Okay, a little sister and either another little sister or a little brother."

Yeah, kid, it's that easy.

And honestly? If I'd started having kids a little younger or if I were a stay at home mom with unlimited funds? Sure...I'd totally be all up for a third child.

Except there's that pesky fact that I turned 40 last month.

And Tom turned 50 back in July.

And we already have a child with a chromosomal disorder. Yes, I wouldn't wish her out of existence for anything in the world but we got so lucky with Livie. She's incredible and one of a kind.

I reminded Alyssa of O's first few months, during which Olivia cried and cried and took a breath and cried some more.

Do we really want to risk going through that again?

But it's so hard to close that door. Even at 40 years old, I wish. I wish so much that circumstances were different and we could go for it. I wish we could fill our house with fat, happy, healthy children who laugh and play and make me crazy with their needs and wants and silliness.

I wish so much that I could give Alyssa that extra little sister (she's probably be Camilla) or that little brother (Sebastian?) that she longs for.

Except...I think she'd probably be just as happy with a puppy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Missing Size

Today is pajama day at Alyssa's school. She's always up for such events and so last night she pulled every single pair of pajamas out of her dresser in search for school-worthy jammies.

She did not want to wear a sleeper (her preferred sleepwear) because today is also gym day and she knew a sleeper would be too hot.

After an exhaustive search, we found nothing she deemed appropriate, so I suggested we go downstairs where we found a package wrapped and placed lovingly beneath the Christmas tree that said, "Alyssa, open Christmas Eve."

She opened said package last night, 10 days early, and found some adorably, extremely soft green pajamas with frolicking monkeys. (Fret not, Olivia also found a package under the tree that told her to open it on Christmas Eve and she, too, opened it early and found the exact same pajamas, but a few sizes smaller.)

Speaking of sizes, the pajamas in Alyssa's package were sized 10/12.

She'll be eight in about four weeks. Her size 7/8 clothes are getting short. Not so much tight, but short.

When I went shopping for clothes for Alyssa this past week, I was frustrated to find that sizing goes form 7/8 to 10/12. What are nine year olds supposed to wear?

Or how about tall, thin eight year olds?

It's insane and frustrating that we had to pin her pajama pants this morning to keep them up but if I'd gone with the 7/8, they'd have been too short.

Manufacturers of kids clothes? Where are the size 9 clothes? Do you think that nine year olds don't need clothes?

Seriously, this is insanity.

Or, wait, kids don't grow between the years of seven and ten and at ten, they have a sudden huge growth spurt. Right?

Except not right. Because Alyssa's grown at least two inches since the start of school.

So we buy big and pin the heck out of the waistbands. She hates the adjustabel waistbands they have out there. Which is not surprising. She hates anything that binds or scrapes or pinches or rubs in any way.

Maybe her next growth spurt will just put her into the 10/12 size range rather than catapult her right over it.

A mom on a budget can hope, right?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I really can't stay...

But baby, it's cold outside.

About a week ago, I woke up to find that the house was unusually cold. I typically have the thermostat set at a not-quite-balmy 71 and when I checked, the actual temperature was 65.


I called Tom and he sent me to the basement where I found a switch that I flipped and then flipped back and the furnace clicked on and all was forgotten.

Sort of...

Tom and his brother showed up yesterday afternoon to change the switch because they believed it was faulty. They thought that by changing the switch, they'd be fixing whatever had caused the furnace to go off.

They left last night at 6:30 and the temperature in the house was 66.7. But the furnace was running and the temperature was slowly rising.

It got up to 68.3 before it stopped and sank back down to 67.9.

I went down and flipped the switch again. It came back on.

I called Tom and we talked for twenty minutes, during which time, the furnace turned off again. I flipped the switch yet again and it came back on.

By this point, it was 9pm. And I knew I didn't want to have to flip that switch every twenty minutes all night long.

So I packed Alyssa's lunch, gathered our clothes for the next morning. Put a coat on a sleeping Olivia and bundled Alyssa into her warmest pajamas, her boots and coat and we drove the three miles to my mom's where it was a roasty, toasty 80 degrees in her house thanks to the woodburner they have in their living room.

It was like old times. Both girls slept very soundly and I was only a bit restless, thinking of Tom driving back from the old house to our new house with a heavy-duty space heater in an effort to make sure our pipes didn't freeze in the night.

He said this morning that the thermostat red 64.5. Not warm but not freezing either.

So he's there today, waiting for a furnace repair man to see what the damage is.

For all the bitching I do, I will say that he always comes though in times like this. He's good to us, in his way and I need to remember that the next time I'm angry about something he doesn't even know made me angry.

He's a good man. He loves us and takes as good care of us as he knows how. Sure, he's a guy and he tends to horde his time selfishly but when we really, truly need him, he's there, making sure that even if it's cold outside? It's not so cold inside.

And for that and so many other things, I'll keep him. He's ours, mine and the girls'. And honestly, we're lucky to have him.

Monday, December 13, 2010


As the snow and ice and freezing rain and blowing, gusting winds barreled down on us this weekend, the girls and I settled in and started preparing for Christmas.

Yes, our Christmas tree's been up since the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but the skirt beneath it was dreadfully bare, so I summoned up some patience and started wrapping presents even while both girls were running around. Which, honestly, is not a fun thing to undertake when they both want to 'help.'

Finally, Olivia realized how boring the task truly was and so she went and found a nice corner to poop.

I gave Alyssa the job of taking the wrapped presents to the tree. She decided my gift-wrapping skills were woefully uninspired and volunteered to attach bows to each present she transported to beneath the tree.

Later that day, we made sugar cookies and chocolate-covered cherry fudge.

Christmas cookies are one of those traditions I've brought with me from my own childhood even though I hate sugar cookies. The girls love them and even thought it's a horrendous mess to let them decorate the cookies themselves, I love watching them make that mess, so even as I'm scrubbing dried butter cream frosting off the table two days later, I call it a win because they had fun, they love eating the cookies (Tom does too, thank goodness) and we're all making memories, which is the best part of all.

Tom drove up fairly early on Saturday to stay with the girls (I hesitate to say he babysat, see two or three posts back) but honestly? That's what it was.

I was gone all ove four hours and he called me three times to see when I was coming home. He said that he was only calling because Alyssa wanted to know when Mommy was coming home.

And I believe him.

When I got home, Olivia snuggled up to me and told me at least four times that she'd missed me.

She spends nine hours a day at my mom's and never once tells me that she misses me when I'm not at Gram's house with her.

But...they're not used to being at home and me not being there.

This isn't even a vent session. Just an observation.

So my 23 year old step-daughter might be moving in with us in a few months.

Won't that be an adventure?

She lived with us for a few months when she was sixteen. That was...well, I was commuting, so I didn't have to deal with the situation much.

I will say that the stains I found on the carpet in room that had been hers during those months were disgusting.

She wasn't supposed to drink or smoke in the house. She didn't do that great a job of obeying that rule.

Tom swears things will be different this time. He says that she'll be told that her room is subject to inspection at anytime he or I feel it is necessary.

She needs a change. She needs to get away from where she is. We're away.

My fear is that she's a negative influence magnet. Or, she could be the negative influence. At least I know that there will be very few moments when my young daughters are in the house while she's there and I'm not.

My step-daugther isn't a bad person. She's just...adrift. She lacks focus and purpose. And I want her to have the change needs. I want her to have more out of life than she's had so far.

So yeah, we're prepping for Christmas with presents and cookies and fudge.

And I'm prepping for the potential extra family member in the house by writing lists of rules, lists of requirements and responsibilities and fortifying myself with the mantra: "It won't be doesn't have to be forever."

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The night we brought Alyssa home from the hospital, I couldn't put her in her crib to sleep. I just couldn't. She was so tiny, so fragile. I couldn't leave her alone in there.

So I snuggled her up against me, in the crook of my arm, where I could reach out and make sure she was breathing all night long.

That night, Tom warned me that if I let her sleep with us even that one night, she'd bee in our bed until she was four years old.

She was in our bed until she was six.

Olivia's first few months home were spent in a bassinet. She came home on a monitor to ensure her heart rate/breathing didn't go below a set rate and so it wasn't safe for her to be in bed with me.

She came off that monitor at four months and stayed in the bassinet for a few more months and then moved to the crib.

Alyssa was still in my bed at this time.

When Olivia was about a year old, she went through a horrible sleep stage and at that point, in an effort to get at much sleep as possible, I brought her to bed with me.

And...she's still there.

Over the years I've bitched and moaned about having to share a bed with my kids. And yes, there are parts of sleeping with them that aren't ideal.

But part of the reason I focus so much on the negatives is because I think I'm supposed to do that. I feel like I'm expected to hate having either of them in my bed. So I talk about those things.

I don't talk so much about how lovely it is to snuggled up to a soft, warm four year old every single night, to have her roll into my and sigh as she feels my hand on her hair.

The benefit of not actually having to get out of bed to soothe her if she happens to wake up is priceless. She doesn't wake up often anymore, but when it does happen, I love being able to just roll over, wrap my arm around her and know she'll go right back to sleep.

I work with several people who are very judgmental about sleep issues. I smile at that because of one of the most judgmental doesn't even have kids of her own but she's very quick to offer advice on any parenting issue anyone might have.

And so I skim over the reasons I'm not in that big a hurry to rush Olivia into her own bed and just say, "Yeah, she's a kicker."

Neither of my kids are going to go off to college and need me to go with them so they can sleep through the night.

Alyssa is consistently in her own bed these days. Sure, sure, her bed is about two feet from my bed, but...we're alone in our house a lot right now, and I'm not comfortable enough with the new house, new neighborhood to have them separated from me when Tom's not there. So I keep them close.

And I do not believe that I'm stunting their social/mental/emotional growth even a little. I think they know I'm here for them, day and night, always and forever. And I think, for my kids, that's important.

So we are unapologetic co-sleepers. Yes...I've said it. Finally.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's Just Hair

That's what I've been telling myself lately about Olivia's hair-pulling habit.

It's just hair. It will grow back.

See, her hair has gotten long enough that she's taken to pulling it out on the left side again.

My dad asked me just a couple of days ago if we were going to cut her hair again.

No...we're not. Not yet anyway.

We're letting it go.

I've let it go.

I don't stress over the pulling these days. I've reached a place of peace.

I don't harp at her to not pull on it. I think that telling her not to pull causes her more stress so I'm trying to live a less stressful life by not worrying about the state of O's hair.

Right now, the right side is showing signs of regaining the curl we buzzed out of it. The left side? Is very, very short since that's the side she can't leave alone.

But honestly? If this is her greatest challenge, I think we should consider ourselves lucky. I know that physical appearance can lead to teasing but I also hope that we can instill a confidence in her that will help her deal with any teasing that might come up.

Yesterday, my mom took O to Alyssa's school for "Grand-Friends Day." While sitting in the bleachers waiting for the students to arrive for the program, Olivia started sucking her thumb.

The lady sitting next to O and my mom asked with a smile, "What is that in your mouth?"

Olivia yanked her thumb out of her mouth and turned her face into my mom's shoulder. My mom reports that Olivia didn't suck her thumb once during the rest of the program.

Hey, if that's what it takes...I really believe the hair pulling is related to the thumb sucking.

Of course, I could very well be prove wrong once the thumb sucking stops. And truly? I'm not sure that will be gone permanently for awhile now. We'll see.

But I'm glad for this moment of peace about the hair. I'm glad that I don't stress over it and I'm glad I'm not stressing her over it. I want her to be a happy child, not one riddled with anxiety. If this one thing can be taken off her plate, I'm happy to help anyway I can. I am her mom, after all.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I had a long diatribe written about my husband and my marriage and realized...until I can say these things to him, I need to keep them to myself.

Until I give him the chance to defend himself, I need to stop airing all my grievances for the world to see, especially when I know he won't see them.

So I'm actually going to keep some things to myself today.

I know...what a novel idea.

For something better than I could ever write and yet hits such a chord with me, go to

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Getting a Kick out of Life

Olivia has entered that stage of social development where she's discovered the fun of being naughty just for the thrill of seeing/hearing other people's reactions to her behavior.

Actual conversation this morning during the three mile drive from our house to my mom's:

Alyssa, whining, "Livie, don't kick my backpack."

Me, thinking, OMG, give me a flipping break, "It doesn't really matter...oh, Livie, don't kick your sister's backpack."

Olivia, softly, with just a small grin in her voice, "Can I kick her butt?"

Me, stifling laughter, "No, you cannot kick your sister's butt."

Olivia, the grin in her voice bigger now, "Can I kick her leg?"

Me, not bothering to hide my own smile, "Of course not, it would hurt her."

Olivia, having decided that this game is great fun, "Can I kick her lips?"

Alyssa decided to join the fun at this point, pretending to be agast at the idea of her lips being kicked, "She wants to kick me in the lips!?"

I laughed outright at this point, "Livie, you can't kick your sister in the lips. It would hurt her and she might cry."

Olivia and Alyssa joined me in laughter and we pulled into my mom's driveway.

That? Is my idea of the perfect way to start the day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Like my girls, my second experience with PUDM was even better than my first.

I like to think my speech this time around was better (Julie?) and just having been to two others as a Riley parent made a difference.

I was even approached by several of the other parents of Riley kids.

Our first time there? One mom (not counting Julie, who...duh) approached me after my speech to tell me that a friend of hers had received a 5p- diagnosis prenatally. She said that her friend's doctors told her that her child would be blind, would never walk, never talk, would be unable to eat independently. She chose to terminate.

This is not a bash on that woman. Who knows what her doctors saw on the ultrasound? Who knows what was going on? But also...who knows what that baby might have been capable of?

It was one more time when I was grateful that we didn't receive Olivia's diagnosis until she was two years old.

Anyway, this past weekend, I had actual conversations with no fewer than four parents of sick/special needs kids.

What a great opportunity to feel connected.

One mom, whose daughter has Down Syndrome, talked about how lucky she felt to have had her special needs child first. She went into parenting with no preconceived ideas of what was going to happen.

She was also grateful that her child had such an obvious diagnosis. (She joked that her daughter would share some of her extra chromosome with Olivia since O is missing part of a chromosome.)

I thought it was wonderful that she and I connected even though our perspectivesare so different.

I am grateful that I didn't know Olivia's diagnosis right away. I am grateful that Olivia was my second child.

Alyssa was a text-book child. She had her fussy moments around 4pm - 9pm every night for about a month when she was about four weeks old, just like the books suggested she might.

She wasn't the best sleeper, but then, text book babies usually aren't. She crawled early (before she even sat up one her own,) she walked early, she was speaking in full sentences when she was 15 months old.

While I knew that you shouldn't compare one baby to the next, I knew that Olivia not holding her head up at nine months old wasn't normal, or even on the slow side of normal.

Because I had Alyssa as a model, I was able to get Olivia the early intervention she needed even without a diagnosis (also thanks to the gentle prodding of most excellent friends.)

I knew that even late walkers were walking by two years old. Olivia wasn't, at which point, I started pushing for a diagnosis.

One of the greatest things our developmental pediatrician told me was not to research 5p-. She said that the data is old. It's based on children who'd been institutionalized. She told me to take Olivia home and let her show us what she could do.

Five weeks after we received her diagnosis, she was taking her first independent steps.

She's been showing us ever since that we can't stick her into a mold that says "5p-" and expect her to stay there, doing (or not doing) all the things others before her had done or not done.

She's very much an individual and I'm grateful that I was able to get to know our Olivia before knowing anything at all about 5p-.

Yet, I can respect the perspective of that other mom, the one who took her sweet, sick baby home from the hospital armed with a diagnosis and a plan of attack. She knew what she was facing but still knew that her daughter was an individual who would also carve her own path.

I feel so lucky to be able to watch this little girl and my own show us the paths they want to take, to be able to follow as they mow down the stereotypes and show the world that they are more than their chromosomes.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dance, Dance, Dance

Ten months doesn't seem like much. It's just about 40 weeks. Hmm, the length of a full-term pregnancy. Almost as long as Olivia gestated (she lasted 41 weeks and two weeks.)

This past weekend A and O and I attended the Purdue University Dance Marathon. We were last in West Lafayette about ten months ago, also attendeding a dance marathon.

At the last one, Olivia was just a few months into being three. She'd been walking for, oh...a year and a half.

She hated the bounce house. HATED it.

Alyssa loved it so much she bounced for six hours straight.

This time? Ten months later? Six'ish months of gymnastics classes under her belt? Olivia LOVED the bounce house. I almost couldn't drag her out of it. She bounces and jumped and fell with a purpose. She loved having other kids in there, even college 'kids.'

The only kid she avoided was Mickey, who tends to hug a little too tightly and tickle without letting up. Mickey is also about 13 years old and outweights Olivia by 75+ pounds. So when Mickey was in there alone, Olivia stayed out. But if there was even one other person in the bounce house with Mickey, Olivia was in there too.

She's small but she's quick and if she saw a hug coming her way, she could scramble either behind the other kid or out of the bounce house.

Also in milestone news, Alyssa said an entire sentence to my lovely friend Julie, whom Alyssa has known her entire life. She said (probably snippily, I wasn't there to hear the tone,) "My mom said I have to get an orange."

So...a full sentence. She's working on that shyness thing. We're working together. Baby steps, like the ones Olivia took to brave the bounce house.

Our whole house is about baby steps. I'm going to try and take baby steps toward self-acceptance while I continue to encourage Alyssa to take baby steps to overcome her shyness. And we'll all cheer Olivia on as she takes more and more baby steps toward full independence.

Bounce...bounce...bounce...goes the orange her mom told her to get.

Friday, December 3, 2010

She's Shy

I was a shy kid.

I hated talking to adults. I always felt so small and stupid and childish.

My mom was a shy child and so she was very patient with my shyness.

I think I'm patient with Alyssa's shyness. These days our only rule is that if someone speaks directly to her, she needs to at least answer with one word (such as "Thanks" or "Yes", "No", etc.) She sometimes just nods, though, which, while exactly adhering to the rule, it's at least acknowledging that someone has spoken to her.

Hey, big news, she now waves goodbye to my dad when he leaves after a visit. I know! And she's not even eight yet.

Anyway, lately, Alyssa's said wistfully, "It's boring being shy."

Ohhh kid, I so get you.

It is boring being shy.

I didn't really come out of my shell until my senior year of high school.

I started breaking out around my sophomore year, but that last year was AWESOME because of the sudden letting up of my almost crippling shyness.

I will forever be grateful to Mr. Don Riley, the greatest teacher to ever teach. He was the band director at my high school. My sophomore year he promoted me to the drum major of our school's marching band. That put me up front, in the limelight, in charge of the entire band and while it terrified me to contemplate it, I trusted his judgment and went with it. And it was so much fun. I loved being the leader, being up there where everyone was watching me.

That single decision on his part prompted me to go out for the fall drama and the spring musical during my senior year even without the support of my best friend, Roxann, upon whom I'd always relied to take away the spotlight, to create a shadow into which I could slouch and hide.

She didn't want to act in the plays, so I did it myself and to this day I'm proud of the gumption that took.

So...this leads me to Alyssa.

What can I do to help her with her shyness? She obviously wants to overcome it. But I don't want to push too hard too fast. I want to follow her lead, encourage her to make decisions that will put her out there, help her overcome the shyness, help her find out who she is when the shyness isn't there to discourage her.

Gymnastics has helped a lot. She's out there, enjoying the class, talking to the other kids and the coach.

She's excited about the recital that's still four months away.

School has been wonderful too. I always knew I couldn't homeschool Alyssa. Not only am I totally not organized enough to benefit her, I knew she needed to be out there, with other kids, strange kids who aren't cousins or close friends. These days, she's just another kid in the class full of second graders, goofing around, playing games at recess, answering questions when called on in class. For this, I am eternally grateful to the public school system.

I'm glad she's started to acknowledge that her shyness is getting in her way. I know from experience that only she can do the work necessary to overcome it. But I'm here for her, applauding every step she takes to break out of the shell, that harness that holds her back and keeps her from having fun, taking part, being one of the gang.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


What is it about weight and physical appearance that makes us (women) so hard on ourselves? Why does the number on my scale determine whether or not I think I am worthy of being respected by my husband, my co-workers, myself?

It's so stupid to feel this way.

Yet...I know that if I were thinner, in better shape, I'd be way more likely to stand up to my husband more often on issues that I tend to just let go these days because...I'm fat. And because I'm fat, I feel gross.

When I'm thin, I feel like my quirks are cute, or just, silly, or whatever. But those same quirks, when I'm fat? They're just creepy and gross.

It's not just my confidence in my abilities as a wife that suffer when I'm overweight. My confidence at work plummets. I feel slow and stupid and I hate that.

This is all so ridiculous.

If one of my friends were to say these things to me, I'd tell them how wrong it all is. It's so wrong to think that because I'm fat I don't deserve a good, healthy relationship in which both partners give and take equally.

I'd remind my friend that no matter what she weighs, she's still the same person, the same giving, loving person who deserves the same in return.

Why can't I be that kind of friend to myself?

Why does my self-esteem have to be tied into the number on the scale? Or the size of my pants? Why? Where did this come from? How can I stop it?

I don't know. But I'm going to try and figure it out. If nothing else, I need to do so for my daughters, so they can see that they deserve a good partner, a good life, no matter what size they are.

I have to get a grip for myself, for them, heck, even for my husband, who has no idea that I'm even feeling this way. Because I don't talk to him about it, because I'm fat and I fear hearing from him the same thoughts and feelings that flow through my own brain.

So stupid. So wrong.

So true.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Scream

Last night, at 8:50, Alyssa asked me to get her some ice cream.

Never mind that it was ten minutes until 9 and she should have been asleep 50 minutes ago. I'd told her she could stay up and watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which, why is this show on so late on a SCHOOL NIGHT? Why? Why can't they show it when the kids are actually on break the week before Christmas? Seriously?

But she asked for ice cream.

And...I hate getting ice cream for the kids. I hate getting it for anyone. I hate getting it so much that I don't eat it at home because the chore of scooping it out of the tub, and then STIRRING it, because, duh, my kids don't like it to be hard when they eat it. They want it like soft-serve.

I hate every single part of that. And quite honestly? The pleasure they get from eating the ice cream doesn't take away a single moment of the frustration I feel when I have to get it for them.

I know. I'm on a roll here for parenting failure moments.


It gets worse.

See, because when she asked for it, I didn't just say no and leave it at that. Oh heavens no, that would have been the mature, maternal thing to do. Just say, "Sweetie, it's kind of late for ice cream. Maybe tomrrow after dinner."

And leave it at that.

I'm a terrific mother in hind-sight.

In reality, though? I'm not so good at this parenting thing.

She asked, "Can I have some ice cream?"

And I looked pointedly at the clock and said, with a decisive snip in my voice, "Really? It's almost nine o'clock."

She shrugged, as if to say, "Big freaking deal, slave woman, get me some ice cream!"

Which, obviously, is my perception at the time and not what she was actually thinking. She's seven and not particularly evil.

So, being mature and all, I suggested, "How about a Reeces cup instead."

Because a Reeces would mean way less work for me and duh, Reeces have peanut butter, which is so much better for you and ice cream. Right? Right.

But she didn't want a Reeces cup, she wanted ice cream.

So I bitched and I moaned and I slammed the freezer door open and I bitched some more about how much I HATE getting ice cream and I slammed the bowl on the counter at least two times and I stirred and stirred and stirred that hard-ass ice cream into soft-serve and I handed the bowl with a scowl and thought, "And you better freaking eat it!"

And...about half way through the ice cream I'd given her, she declared she didn't want anymore.

And I was so frustrated. With her and myself. I was over reacting and I knew it. I wasn't mad at Alyssa.

I was mad at Tom over an issue we'd discussed earlier in the evening and poor Lyssie was the one who was there to deal with my tantrum.

And I apologized and I hugged and kissed her goodnight and promised her that today would be better.

And it has far. If she asks for ice cream tonight, I'll get it without complaint. I'll be the grown up, the mother.

And yes...marriage takes a lot of work but when one partner feels as if they are doing 90% of the work and the other partner is, sometimes, putting in his/her 10%, it even tougher than those marriages where it's a little more equal.

But perhaps that's a topic for another day.

Today I'm just a mom who didn't make the best choices last night. I'm hoping to consciously make better choices in the hours, days, weeks, months, years to come.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Check It

I took Olivia to the doctor last Tuesday for her four year check up. Sure, sure, we were four days early if you want to be technical, but I figured she probably wasn't going to have a sudden growth spurt in those last few days of being officially three.

She is always so good at the doctor's office.

I'm not sure what past-life trauma Alyssa suffered but she's always hated the doctor's office. It never mattered which doctor she was seeing or why, she screamed, fought and made a menace of herself.

Olivia, on the other hand, has always been quite charming during visits with doctors. Which is fortunate, because she's seen so many more doctors than Alyssa's ever had to see.

We entered the doctor's office armed with the fact that while she'd had the sniffles for the past week, Olivia was in general, doing well.

She weighs 33 pounds (I'm calling this a win) and is 40 inches tall. Which puts her (according to my less than professional ability to read growth charts) at the 75th percentile for height and around the 50th for weight. And that's not adusting for any syndrome or genetic anomoly. It's just putting her up there with every other four year old.

So yay.

On the less than celebratory side, we left with a prescription for an antibiotic. Remember those sniffles? Apparently, they're something a little more. She had swollen glands and a red throat. No official diagnosis, just medicine to make her feel better.

Parenting fail.

Ahhh well. As there was never any fever or more than just a post-nasal drip kind of cough, I just didn't catch that she was sicker than just the sniffles. win some and all that jazz, right?


After a full week of antibiotics, she's feeling pretty good these days. Which is always a bonus because when you're four, there is always much to do.

There are cousins to annoy, sisters to poke, cats to chase and grandmothers to use as trampolines. Not to mention the mothers you can use as space heaters.

Yes, all in all, it was a good check up. Great even, since it saved us a trip to the doctor this week to take care of those sniffles that probably would have escalated into something much worse had they not been caught early.

Oh yes, I've managed to turn my parenting fail into a win. Go me!

Monday, November 29, 2010


One of the greatest things about celebrating the holidays with the four and under set is that every year, it's brand new again.

We put up the Christmas tree on Saturday.

Alyssa couldn't stand the wait and was so excited.

Olivia was excited because...if her sister is excited, well, damn, it must be something AWESOME that's about to happen.

Anyway, as I put the tree together and then strung the lights, Olivia stared in wonder, awed by the beauty of the lights once they were turned on.

She 'helped' put ornaments on the tree (I moved a few after finding that there were several branches with five and six ornaments hanging from them.)

She sang along with the Christmas songs we had playing on the cd player.

Alyssa was so kind to her sister. She made sure Olivia had an ornament to hang every few minutes and she was quick to explain to Olivia what each one was or what it meant.

O was only three weeks old at her first Christmas. Our Christmas tree had been thrown up haphazardly during one of my moments home between visiting Olivia in the hopsital.

Alyssa decorated that tree all by her three year and ten month old self. There were puzzle pieces and stuffed horses serving as ornaments that year.

Honestly, I'm glad that kids four and under tend to have vague memories. I'd hate to think what A's memories are of that Christmas.

But it got better. Olivia's second Christmas was a nice, quiet, safe one. She wasn't walking or even crawling that year, so we were able to decorate the tree without worrying about a toddler tugging on it.

And each year has been better still.

This is our first Christmas in our new house. We have the same tree, the same ornaments, new places to put these things and new memories to build.

I'm so excited.

Almost as excited as a four year old who is in awe of the blue and orange and PINK lights staring out at her from a plastic Christmas tree.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

She's Four

When Alyssa turned four, it seemed like such a big deal. She was so big! So grown up.

Olivia was six weeks old when Alyssa turned four.

Today, Olivia turns four years old. And she seems to little still. Perhaps if she were a big sister, she'd seem big and grown up.

Maybe not, though.

She's come so far. She's amazing.

She's got such a sense of style. She knows what looks good and she wants to wear it. She notices everything. My mom might change earrings before we arrive and Olivia will see it.

If I wear new shoes, Olivia notices. I love it.

I love her.

Her new independent streak, her constant jumping and climbing. Her desire for all things frilly and girlie.

Four is pretty amazing, even the second time around.

Four still wakes up way too early even on the weekends. Four still needs to be reminded to pee in the potty.

But four also laughs into her hand at her cousin getting sprayed in the face by the drinking fountain. Four knows that she could hurt his feelings if she laughs outright.

Olivia amazes us all every single day. She poses for pictures, she prances around in all her different patterned tights, she knows her name on sight and she sings every song she hears.

I'm so excited to see what more amazing things she'll discover during this year, this year of being four.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


My girls are pretty good about sharing.

They seem to understand that they have to share the things in the house, they have to share my time and my attention.

But they're both really good at finding ways to ensure that they get as much attention as possible.

This morning, Alyssa was complaining that the waistband of her pants was just a little too big.

I asked her if the pants felt as if they were falling off and she said no. I told her to put on her shirt and see how it felt.

Feeling left out, Olivia, who'd been dressed for fifteen minutes without a complaint, said, quite loudly, "My tights are...they're...too stripey!"

Because, well, if her sister was going to get attention by comlaining then, by God, Olivia was going to get attention that way too. Even if 'too stripey' was the only complaint she could come up with.

And, for the record, Alyssa wore the pants with the slightly big waistband and Olivia wore the tights that were too stripey.

I get this. I do.

I understand that we all want to be the center of attention, even if only the center of our mother's attention.

I also love the both girls understand that her sister is there, always and forever, and that each must share her time with me.

They're good together.

Alyssa's very protective of her little sister who is just a little weaker than other kids her age.

Olivia is very proud of her big sister, who is so pretty and kind smart.

I love that they love each other.

And I know how lucky they are to have ach other. I hope they both know that too.

Yes, yes, the teenage years are going to be tough, with slamming doors and yelling and probably a lot of, "Moooom, make her get out of my room!" And, "She wore my sweater without asking."

But bring it on. I'm not quite ready, but perhaps in the years it will take us to get to those teenage years, I'll get ready and be able to navigate the mood swings, the hurt feelings and the drama queens.

And I pray we'll all survive with our love for each other and our senses of humor intact.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Good

This weekend...what can I say?

It was one of those weekends where I can believe that I do more good for and with my children than bad.

It was one of those weekends where I was frantic for about four hours and the rest of the weekend was fabulous.

Yes, I snapped a few times, as I picked up ONE MORE empty go-gurt tube and said to Alyssa, "Why is this one the floor? You KNOW where it goes."

And she puts her head down and says, "I forgot."

And I don't buy the bowed head thing. She didn't forget, she was just busy and didn't want to take the ten steps from in front of the tv to the garbage.

But those moments were fleeting.

There were moments that were so much better. I hope they were also so much more memorable.

Sure, there was laundry and sweeping, and trash emptying and dishwashing.

But between those chores?

There was dancing around the kitchen as we anticipated a week with just two days of work/school and FIVE days off, five days of us together.

There were games of Go Fish and Barbies.

There was hair. Oh, wow...the hair.

There were baths and toys and Moon Sand and Aqua Sand. Holy cow, the sand!

There was Play Doh and a Little People house with stairs. There were dress up clothes with gloves and slippers and nighties with fur trim on the hem.

And there was singing even as I folded the towels.

There was much laughter as Alyssa declared once again, "Mommy? You're a dork."

I like being a dork.

I like making my girls laugh and letting them know that I can be sillly even as I'm emptying the dishwasher.

And I hope and pray that these memories, the good ones, are the ones that stand out in their heads over the ones where I scold and snap about empty go-gurt tubes.

I hope there is more good than bad. Weekends like this one let me believe that's true. I'll take more please. More and more and more good.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


We have a big family. A really big family.

My mom was born the fifth of twelve children. Of those twelve, nine are still living.

I have lots and lots of cousins.

And those cousins have lots and lots of kids.

We had a party at my house this weekend for Olivia's birthday, which is actually not until next Saturday. But because her cousin Jaxon's birthday was Friday and my cousin's daughter, Sabella's birthday was Wednesday, we decided to have the party this past Saturday and celebrate all three birthdays.

The kidlets turned three, four and five. It was a madhouse.

It was awesome.

It was the first we've had a real party since we moved into our new house. There were so many people.

Everyone was loud and friendly and there were presents everywhere!

But of all the presents, one was the very best. At least as far as Olivia is concerned.

It wasn't the first present she opened, but it was the last (there were still more to be opened but she couldn't possibly have cared less.)

It was a Rapunzel wig from the new, upcoming Disney movie.

And the minute Olivia opened it, she was in love. She immediately need to wear that wig. The hair hangs to her knees and she adores it.

My mom also got her the dress, gloves, shoes and Barbie that go along with the wig.

Olivia was in little girl Princess heaven. She wore that dress and wig all evening long, strutting around, her hands on her hips or in the air like a prissy little princess. It was adorable. And a little disconcerting. Where did she pick up mannerisms like that?

I'm not sure but I think they might just be part her genetic make up.

Who knows?

I figure she'll wear that wig until it's a disgusting tangled mess and then...we'll throw it away and get her a new one.

Hey, plus side? When she's wearing the wig? She isn't pulling her own hair out. Anything that does that? Is awesome in my book.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Sleep has long been an issue for me and my kids.

Alyssa slept through the night exactly one time before she turned two years old.

Olivia was a pretty good sleep as an infant, but grew out of that around a year old and became, well, like her sister, less and perfect at sleeping through the night.

I'd heard of those kids who slept through the night at three months old and kind of just figured the parents were liars. I know, not a fair assumption kept me sane during my sleep-deprived years.

Every time I saw a movie or television show where an adult would tuck an awake child into bed, tell them goodnight, leave the room and the child would GO TO SLEEP, I'd roll my eyes and think, "That doesn't really happen."'s happening in my house these days.

Alyssa, two months shy of her eighth birthday, can be tucked into bed, kisssed goodnight, wished sweet dreams and I can leave the room while she's still awake and ten minutes later, I can check on her and she'll be asleep.

I know!! Miracles do happen.

We fell into co-sleeping because I was so flipping tired that I was willing to do whatever it took to get Alyssa (and later Olivia) to sleep longer stretches.

These days, Alyssa is in her own bed.

Granted, her bed is still in my room, but again, we're in a new house, and Tom's not here all the time and so, for my own sense of safety and comfort, I like having her in the same room.

I know that by the time she's twelvish she'll be demanding her privacy and moving to her own room.

I'm okay with that too.

But the best thing ever? Being able to put her to bed witout having to lay with her until she sleep, and avoiding falling asleep myself.


The things I can get done in the hours between 8pm and 10pm without tripping over kids who should be in bed. It's amazing.

I know...they should have been doing this years ago.

But they weren't and so...whatever.

I take what I can get and celebrate these milestones, however late they arrive at our home.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nothin' But Net

Alyssa loves bounce houses. Our first dance marathon had one set up and I think Alyssa jumped for six hours straight. She jumped so long that her feet and legs hurt for days after.

This past weekend was no exception on the bounce house. She jumped and jumped and jumped. And when she wasn't inside jumping, she was sitting on the ledge on the outside, letting the kids inside bounce her around.

At one point during the dance marathon, I left the girls in the bounce house with Ally and snuck off to the bathroom. Ahh, the joys of peeing alone (even if in public, at least I didn't have to attempt to work around two little girls standing in the stall with me.)

When I ventured back to the bounce house, I found Alyssa looking, hmm, pensive? Alarmed?

I approached her and asked if she was okay.

She said softly, "I think I lost one of my teeth..."

"One of your teeth?" I repeated. "Where? Which one?" None of her teeth were loose enough to have fallen out on their own, at least I thought that was the case.

She opened her mouth and showed me that she was now missing both of her top front teeth.

I asked her where the tooth was.

She shrugged.

I asked where she'd lost it.

She pointed to the bounce house.

I asked, "Were you bouncing when it came out?"

She nodded. She was still a little shocked. The space where the tooth had been was slighly bloody, as is typical when a baby tooth comes out.

We headed back to the bounce house and started looking for a bit of white.

I gave Alyssa a drink of water and asked her if her mouth hurt.

She said it felt weird but didn't hurt.

I told her she'd get used to the missing tooth.

From inside the bounce house Ally asked us if everything was okay. I explained what had happened and that we were looking for the tooth.

She found it and handed it to Alyssa through the netting.

Eventually, Alyssa confessed that she'd been bouncing against the netting, back and forth and ended up in the net face-first. Her tooth had been snagged by the net and yanked out.

Her biggest concern? Her Gram is going to make her sing "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth."

Yes, I had much fun the rest of the weekend singing that song to Alyssa's disgust. Olivia enjoyed my serenade even if Alyssa didn't appreciate my warbling.

And the Tooth Fairie did find her way to our hotel room the night A lost her tooth. That's one resilient Tooth Fairie. Just saying.

Looking at Alyssa these days, with those two teeth missing, I can't help but think of something a good friend from my college days said once, in disgust at another friend who couldn't shut up about corn on the cob (I think that was the reason for his comment. Julie can correct me if I'm wrong.)

"It's hard to eat corn on the cob with no fucking teeth." was funny when I was twenty-three.

And we're hoping that by the time corn on the cob season rolls around again, Alyssa's permanent teeth will have filled that adorable space.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Between the Lines

I'm guilty of reading between the lines. Or of interpreting someone's tone incorrectly.

This is probably one of the biggest issues that Tom and I tackle.

I read things in his words that often just aren't there.

I put my own spin, attitude into his off-hand comments.

And that's unfair.

I've admitted to having a lot of self-loathing coursing through my veins these days.

And I project that onto my husband, imagining that he finds me disgusting, everything about me, from my physical appreance, to my inability to keep up with the vacuuming and the laundry.

Yet...I don't think he really feels that way.

I do. I hate myself for being overweight. I hate that I can't keep the house cleaner. I hate that I can't be a better mother than I am.

I hate that I can't do it all.

And because I feel this way about myself, I feel like Tom must feel this way too.

He's never, not once, told me that he thinks this way.

He's never called me lazy or implied that he thinks I'm a subpar mother or homemaker.

But...I feel like his expectations of me are beyond my capabilities as a working mother.

I feel like he doesn't view most of what I do as contributing to the household. I don't think he believes that taking the girls to gymnastics or helping Alyssa with her homework is something that counts as things that have to be done to keep our household running.

Of course, I'm speculating. I don't know that he feels this way at all. Because I'm scared to ask.

I'm afraid that I'll hear him confirm my own feelings and that might break me.

So here I go, imagining the worst, hoping it's all in my head.

That's just stupid, huh?

Monday, November 15, 2010


It was good.

The Dance Marathon. It was good.

Ally, our...greeter? No, she was more than that. She was the one who took care of Alyssa and Olivia, taking them to the bounce house, to the craft table, just being there to make sure they were having fun. Yes, Ally, she was awesome. Beautiful, sweet, obviously very smart (business major and all that.) She was so kind, making sure that Alyssa felt as welcome and special as Olivia.

Being back in Bloomington after 15 I loved that place so much all those years ago. I loved being in school. I loved being AWAY at school. I loved being a college student.

It's still as beautiful, majestic as ever.

Dance marathons are loud. They're insane.

They raise over a million and a half dollars for Riley Hospital for Children.

Amazing! Inspiring. Heartbreaking to hear all the stories of all the kids helped by that hospital. So many tears, mostly of joy but some of sorrow, sadness, loss.

Our hotel was deemed 'uncreepy' by both A and O this weekend.

I was able to keep them both from looking into the windows that overlooked the indoor pool that was RIGHT across from the elevators we used several times.

Next year, if we're invited back, we'll go for both nights so we can make us of that pool.

Exhausting. Olivia fell asleep in my arms fifteen minutes before we went on stage to tell our story of how Riley hospital saved my sanity. I held my Riley kid in one arm, propped against my chest and held the microphone with the other hand. Kind of neat, in its own way.

I was taken back seventeen years to when I was one of those who stood on her feet for thirty-six hours. I remember it being 3am with five hours to go. I looked around at 7am, when these amazing people only had one hour to go and watched some fighting to stay awake, still on their feet.

Then I joined in the cheering and bouncing as the total was announced.

Exhilirating. So much pride in themselves and each other for what they were doing, what they'd done. What we've all done to get to that point.

Relief when it was all over. When we pulled into our garage and unpacked the car, the mundane task of doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher, feeding my children. Glad to be back to the 'real' world. Excited to do it all again in three weeks when we head to West Lafayette to attend Purdue University's dance marathon and share our story again and watch the exhaustion, the exhiliration, the joy, the tears.

What an amazing life, all the way around.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Other Side of the Microphone

The girls and I are heading south and slightly west this weekend to Bloomington, Indiana to attend the IU Dance Marathon.

This will be my second dance marathon as a Riley mom.

The first was Purdue University's dance marathon last year. I actually managed to speak to the crowd without sounding like an auctioneer.

Though this will be my second dance marathon as the parent of a child who has been helped by Riley Hospital for Children, it will be my third dance marathon to have attended.

Back in 1993, I was a participant in the Indiana University Dance Marathon.

What an experience.

It was one of those things you're glad you did but that you swear that you will never, ever do again. It was exhilirating, exhausting, thrilling, terrifying.

I remember one of my very best friends, Elizabeth, asking me early that academic year if I'd do the dance marathon with her. I'd never heard of it and had no clue what it was all about, but I'm always willing to go on adventures with good friends. I've been blessed to have friends who feel the same. (St. Louis, right Julie?)

So when I agreed to E's request, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I attended the meetings, the gatherings, the training sessions where we were given tips on fund raising. But I didn't really get why we were raising funds. Sure, sure we were benefitting Riley but, at 22 years old, that didn't mean so much to me.

What I remember about those 36 hours on my feet is the noise. I remember the crowds, the chaos, the orange plastic fencing they put up to keep the spectators on one side and the 'dancers' on the other. I remember being allowed to sit for five minutes at a time while we ate and for another few minutes every few hours while volunteers rubbed our backs and feet. But it was never enough.

The exhaustion set in about 24 hours in and we still had twelve hours to go.

I remember people getting on stage and talking but I don't remember what they said. And quite honestly, I don't remember seeing a single child there.

The dance marathon I attended last year was so much different. For me, at least. I was a Riley mom. I was on the other side of the microphone. I was the one talking about my Riley kid. I was the one telling how much Riley Hospital for Children helped our family.

I was the one watching these amazing college students make both of my kids feel special. I watched them dance with Olivia and color with Alyssa. I watched them hold Olivia on their shoulders so she could watch another child dance on stage.

I stood back and took it all in, this time, the exhaustion wasn't there because, as a mom, I got to go sleep in a comfy hotel room (about which Olivia declared, "I don't like this creepy house.") and go back, refreshed to watch these tired, amazing people celebrate as the total donation was announced.

It's an amazing experience, one I'm going to do again this weekend and again in about three weeks at Purdue again.

How lucky am I that I have been on both sides of the microphone? Why was I so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people who care so deeply about my kid and all sick kids who need a hospital like Riley?

This will be my first time back in Bloomington in about 15 years. I spent five years of my life there and then didn't look back. I've missed that place and feel so very lucky to be going back for this very reason. I can't wait to show my girls a place that made such a big impact on my life.

And quite honestly, I have to say that I prefer this side of the microphone. I might miss the body I had in my early twenties (one I didn't appreciate AT ALL, I totally thought I was fat, so stupid!) but I don't miss that life. I've lived that life and I'm so very blessed to get to live this one now. This life that has put me on this side of the microphone.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I've been accused of being a fast talker on more than one occasion.

Okay, I've lost count of the number of times people have told me that I talk really, really fast.

The most recent was during a visit to the bank.

It was a Saturday morning. The girls and I were on our way to buy groceries and I needed to cash a check and make a payment to my student loan. (I know, forty years old and STILL paying off my college loans, so very, very sad.)

Anyway, while there, the girls were being good, as they are while in public. Seriouly, they're actually pretty well behaved whenever we're out and about.

I was telling the teller that I'd had some trouble with the online services of our bank.

I explained that I'd like to make my payment online but I can't actually access my checking and saving accounts that way. I can get to my dad's accounts and the savings accounts I set up for the girls but not my own accounts.

She suggested I meet with one of their 'banking assistants.'

She said, "With the way you're talking and those sweet girls behind you, I can see that you're a busy woman, maybe a bit overwhelmed."

Whoa!! Overwhelmed?

Not so much because of banking issues, but whatever. I smiled, gathered my circling children and left the building with my cash and my receipt for having made my payment.

My great grandmother visited from Mississippi way back in the late 80s/early 90s. She and I were having a lovely conversation when she put her soft, wrinkled hand on mine and said, "Lawdy, honey, but you talke so fast I can't understand you."

I attempted to slow down.

When my current boss first started with this company about three years ago, he suggested that I SLOW DOWN when making an announcement over the paging system.

This summer I needed to tell one of our temps, the teenage son of a full-time employee, that he needed to go to to the temp agency and fill out some papers.

I was mid sentence when he looked at me in awe and said, "Wow, you talk really fast."

I don't know what the point of all this is.

Maybe just to say that it's not a sense of being overwhelmed that makes me talk so fast so much as I often feel like I have so much to say and so little time to get it all out.

Who knows? Alas, at least I can come here and spew all those random, pointless thoughts and not actually bother anyone. Right?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Very, Very Bossy

Olivia seems to have decided to get a headstart on the bossiness that seems to come with being four years old.

Last weekend during breakfast, she announced, "When I am doing eating, I am taking a bath."

Tom and I shared a look and I replied, "You are?"

She nodded wisely and said, "I need to wash my butt."

Well, okay then. I mean, honestly, you can't argue with that kind of logic, right?

She got that bath.

Along with this bossiness she's developed this sense of urgency. Everything is very extreme.

Last night on the three-mile drive from my mom's to our house, O announced, "I'm very, very hungry."

This morning, in the dark hour between 5 and 6, she told me, "My butt is very, very itchy."

Hmmm, not only is she on the extreme side of bossy, she seems to be preoccupied with her butt...which...well, she's four.

Admittedly, I find it all very amusing. My husband? Not so much. Remember, he tends to be the prudish adult in the family when it comes to words like butt and fart.

But the bossiness? While sort of endearing right this minute, could get old very fast as she attempts to tell me what to wear, how to do brush her sister's hair, what she's going to eat (ice cream and pie to not constitute dinner, no matter how much I might wish it did.)

But for now I'm enjoying this independent streak and taking it all in from this girl some doctors said might never talk.

Keep on with your bossy self, Baby O.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


So this is 40.


Doesn't feel much different from 39.

To be honest, as I approached my fortieth birthday, I didn't feel the angst or sense of mortality that sometimes comes with these 'pivotal' birthdays.

It was just a day.

A nice day at that.

To be honest, I'm kind of excited to see what my forties bring.

I'm not sure this decade can outdo the last one, though.

I had a pretty good run in my thirties. I bought my first car (the previously mentioned Grand Prix that now has over three hundred thousand miles) I met Tom, gave birth to Alyssa, married Tom, gave birth to Olivia, bought a house.

All in all, pretty good for ten years of life.

So what's going to happen in my forties?

Will I change jobs?

Will I get healthy and be the best I've been in twenty years?

Will I continue to bitch and moan about my husband and quietly fear that my daughters deserve so much more than I'm giving them as a parent?

Or will I grow a pair, tell my husband what I actually need instead of expecting him to read my mind. Will I decide that perhaps being all mommy all the time isn't quite enough and take some time to rediscover Tommie?

Perhaps. Perhaps a bit of everything.

We'll see.

It may just be a sign of some newfound maturity that I spent most of my actual birthday painting our living room. It had this horrible stenciled border around the top of the walls and I couldn't stand it another day.

Of course, we're also having a party for a bazillion family members in just under two weeks and I needed to make the room presentable. But yeah, I painted. Rememberh how much I hate painting? Yes, I still hate it and yet I did it...on my birthday.

So go me, being all mature and all.

Monday, November 8, 2010


The long awaited obligatory Halloween post. Yeah.

So my stupid camera is REALLY cheap. I got it from work as a service award and if I take out the batteries? It deletes the pictures.

So I'm stealing pictures from my mom's Facebook album.

My mom is awesome.

She is an awesome mom and an even more amazing Grammy. She adores my girls and my nephew. And they adore her. They know how lucky they are.

Growing up, my mom always made my Halloween costumes and they were always amazing.

I was Bat Girl one year.

I was a Jeannie another year (though she made me wear a pink thermal shirt under my tube top that year and I was pissed! You can see the tear streaks in the pictures from that year. I didn't give a crap that it was 40 degrees outside, I didn't want to wear a freaking shirt.)


This year my mom outdid herself with the costumes.

Alyssa was Wonder Woman.

Jaxon was Buzz Lightyear.

And Olivia was a lightening bug.

And they were all cuter than you can imagine.

And since pictures are worth a thousand words I'll stop with the words and attach the pictures.

Friday, November 5, 2010


We have a spray bottle beneath our sink. The bottle contains a water/amonia mixture and has "PP Cleaner" written on it with a black Sharpie.

Tom made the mixture and labeled the bottle.

Obviously, we use this for cleaning up the spots Olivia leaves several times a day when she's too busy, lazy, bored, to come tell us she needs to pee.

I say that O is potty trained. But I wonder if I can say that will honesty when we typically have at least two accidents a day.

Except when we're out in public.

Then, she tells us every single time when she has to pee.

Well, she did have an accident at gymnastics three weeks ago, but that was an odd occurance.

So we know she can both hold it AND tell us when she has to go.

Which makes the accidents that happen at home that much more frustrating.

Last weekend, she peed on the new-to-us couch twice in the span of ten minutes.

She ended up in time-out.

After four minutes in a chair, not caring a bit that she was in that chair, I asked Olivia why she was in timeout.

She gave a pttthhhhht.

I gave her two more minutes of timeout and asked her again why she was there.

She said she was sorry.

I asked her why she was sorry. She repeated the raspberry.

I ignored her for another two minutes as she continued to sit in the chair.

Again, I asked her why she was in timeout and why she was sorry.

She mumbled, "Because I peed."

I asked her where she'd peed.

"On the couch."

I asked, "And where are you supposed to pee?"

"In the potty."

She was released from timeout.

And for the rest of the day, she told me when she had to pee. Success!!!

I think this was the first time she connected her actions (the peeing) to my frustration and her having to go to timeout.

My mom reports this week has been much better, pee-wise.

So...conclusion? Timeout works for my kid as long as I make sure she gets why she's even in timeout.

Yeah, even I can learn something every day.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

2nd Grade Angst

Way back when I was in second grade, we didn't go down to the cafeteria for lunch. The lunch lady brought our trays/drinks to us. I know, it was A LONG TIME AGO.

The school I attended housed kindergarten through 12th grade. The elementary was in a separate wing from the jr./sr. high but we shared a cafeteria.

I am not a milk drinker. Never was. Can't stand the stuff. Ugh!

So I got to drink Jungle Juice when I happened to eat the lunch provided by the school. It was an orange kool-aid type drink. Not good but not nearly as bad as milk, as far as my seven year old self was concerned.

One day the lunch lady, Mrs. Fee, forgot my Jungle Juice. I'd always felt this woman thought I was a spoiled brat for not liking milk and for getting my mom to write me a note saying I didn't have to drink it. That day, I was sure she'd forgotten on purpose.

She told me if I wanted the juice, I'd have to go down to the high school cafeteria and get it myself. She didn't have time to go back down there herself. She had other lunches to deliver, she snotted at my second-grade self.

So off I went.

But I was sort of scared because I'd never been to the high school part of the school before and I wasn't sure where I was going or what I'd find. I did find the cafeteria and the Jungle Juice and headed back to my classroom.

As I walked quickly (but didn't run! I loved rules at that age and running in the halls was against the rules.) back toward the safety of the elementary wing, a wing with which I was very familiar, having spend the better part of almost three years of my life, I was accosted by three high schoolers.

Now, looking back, I realize they never touched me, they weren't in any way threatening. But the scared the shit out of little seven-year-old me.

They stood in front of me, blocking my way. They made a semi-circle and stood there, saying things like, "Ohh, she's so cute." "Look how little she is!" "I just want to take her home with me."

I was terrified. I couldn't get past them and I was sure they were going to keep me there in that hallway forever.

I don't even remember them finally letting me go but I do remember crying in bed that night, begging my mom not to make me go to school.

She kept asking me what was wrong.

I wouldn't tell her at first. I told her she'd laugh.

She persisted and so I spilled the entire story.

And...she laughed. I was horrified. She laughed at the most terrifying experience of my life.

I begged her to promise me I'd never have to go to high school.

She reassured me that by the time I was ready for the high school part of that school, I'd be five years older and much bigger than I was now.

I ended up doing just fine in that very high school.

Now, I've told this story because, well, for one thing, I'm an over-sharer and so I share, but also because last night was a parenting win for me and Alyssa.

When we got home, she announced that she was hungry.

I started to prepare food when she suddenly announced she wasn't hungry after all.

Then she told me her tummy hurt.

I asked her if she had to go to the bathroom. What? It's what we moms ask.

She said no. She said it just felt funny.

I asked if her tummy felt like she was nervous about something.

She shook her head but said, "Maybe."

Uh oh, I knew something was up.

I knelt down before her and asked her what was wrong. What had happened at school that day to make her feel bad.

She explained that during recess, she'd stayed in to finish her journal but couldn't find her journal in the pile of unfinished journals.

Through tears, she explained that first thing in the morning, the students write in their journals and she couldn't find hers and she was sure she was going to get into trouble.

I offered to write her teacher a note explaining the missing journal but she cried that sometimes a student takes all the notes to the office before the teacher reads them.

In the end, I called my boss, left a voice mail explaining that I'd be about a half hour late and when I dropped Alyssa off at school today, I went in with her and talked to her teacher.

And what do you know, the teacher had the journal because she wanted to share it with me during our conference this very evening. She was very apologetic to Alyssa for not telling her that she'd taken her journal. Alyssa cried with relief that she wasn't in trouble for having 'lost' her journal.

And...they weren't even going to be writing in their journals today.

Yet I came through for my girl. She got that I was there for her, no matter how trivial I might have thought the journal issue was, I took her seriously and helped her through her angst.

It's tough to be seven, even when you have an awesome mom.