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.