Thursday, March 31, 2011

And Then It Gets Better

This week of spring break has actually been the best one yet. Sure, there was that little hiccup on Tuesday night when Alyssa was so excited about having a friend over on Wednesday morning that she couldn't sleep.

But Wednesday morning dawned and Olivia woke up in time to sit in front of the space heater in the bathroom while Tom showered (she loves that space heater, she'd cook her darned feet if we'd let her) and I stayed in bed with Alyssa. The best part of my day was waking up next to my big girl, knowing she was going to be SO excited when she remembered that today was THE DAY that her friend was coming over.

And she was.

I have to confess that I was a little worried about how the day would go.

Would they be mean to Olivia? Would Olivia be a pest and not leave them alone? Would the big girls fight and end up with the friend wanting to go home before the scheduled time?

What would I feed them?

But you know what? It was fine.

The big girls were so kind to Olivia and she was so excited to be included in their play that she did whatever they told her to do.

They entertained themselves from 10:30 until 5:00, which is when I took the friend home and the girls to Burger King because they were hungry and I'd painted all day so cooking was not my friend.

Bedtime? Was uneventful. Olivia fell asleep beside me on the couch while I watched America's Next Top Model. What? Okay, so I have several 'guilty pleasure' television shows. What of it?

Alyssa followed me upstairs at 9:00 when I carried Olivia up. I told her I was going to take a bath and that she, Alyssa, could lay with Olivia if she wanted or she could stay downstairs with her dad.

She took option one and was asleep next to her sister before I'd even started the bath water.

So for every bad day, I'm going to say we have at least three good ones.

And I need to remember that. When the day is grim, when the night is long, I need to remind myself that it always gets better. Because it does. It always gets better and usually sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Women are often expected to give up everything once they become mothers. Maybe other people don't expect this, but often the woman herself expects it.

I love giving to my family. I do. I love taking care of them.

But when 9pm rolls around, I'm ready for an hour or so of quiet time, me time, if you will.

And last night...was rough.

We started yesterday at about 7am. We got up and got ready to go to the dentist. The dentist didn't have good news for either Alyssa or Olivia, so my feelings of failure started at around 11am. Both girls have to go back to the dentist in about four weeks for fillings/caps/sealants. I know, it's their baby teeth but knowing that doesn't alleviate the guilt of knowing I haven't been nearly diligent enough with teeth brushing. I feel like their cavities are totally my fault.

We went to lunch to celebrate both girls being so good at the dentist.

From lunch, we headed to my mom's where the girls played with Jaxon for a couple of hours. They got some outside time and some inside crazy time.

My mom left me with the three kids for about an hour. When she got back, the girls and I left so we could drop Olivia off at home with Tom while Alyssa and I headed to soccer practice.

There, I waited in the cold for an hour while Alyssa chased a soccer ball. She also got to play at the park next to the field.

We got home to find Olivia asleep at 6:45.

I made something for me, Tom and Alyssa to eat for dinner and we settled in for the night.

I tried to watch Dancing with the Stars (shut up! It's a guilty pleasure and we all have them so...) and the first hour was just recapping. BORING! I may as well not watch the actual dancing on Mondays if they're going to do that.

At 9:00, when they started to announce the results and who was safe versus who was going home, Alyssa decided she was tired. I tried to get her to just sit next to me and go to sleep on the couch. I promised I'd take her to bed soon.

But she twisted and turned and moved and flipped and basically drove me nuts. I finally decided I'd take her to bed and then come back down to watch the last fifteen minutes of DwtS, that's when they get to the good stuff anyway.

Upstairs she asked me to lay with her. I did for a few minutes. But I was restless. Most of the time, I cherish the time laying with her. I know that I don't have long for hear wanting me to do this.

But last night, I was agitated. I felt like, "Damn it, she's eight years old. I should be able to tuck her in, kiss her good night and leave the room, solid in the knowledge that she would just go. to. sleep."

But she didn't. She remembered that she hadn't brushed her teeth.

We got up and she brushed her teeth and went to the bathroom.

I laid with her again. By now, it was 9:30 and I was getting more and more annoyed.

And of course, she could sense my agitation, which kept her from falling asleep.

Finally at 9:40, I thought she was asleep. I really did. So I got up and headed downstairs.

Not thirty seconds later, I heard her on the stairs.

She said with a whimper, "I think I just need you to sing to me."

I have never felt less like singing in my life.

I just wanted that hour of time by myself. I realize how selfish that sounds. I do. But I was so tired of doing for everyone else. I just wanted everyone to leave me alone, to stop, for this one night, making demands upon me.

I went back upstairs with her but didn't sing. I just couldn't get a song to come out.

We lay there for another five minutes, with her sniffling and tossing and turning. Finally, I asked her why she wouldn't just go to sleep.

She shrugged and said, "I think I'm just too hungry."

OMG!!! I was at my wit's end. I felt like my temper was holding by a thread. I marched her back downstairs and told her to get something to eat. I sat in the living room and seethed.

I know. It was all so counter productive. I wasn't getting my alone time and she wasn't going to sleep. No one was happy.

And yet I knew, by this point, that three minutes after Alyssa fell asleep, Olivia was going to wake up just enough to need to cuddele, or paw at me and that was going to be it for me.

See, sleeping with Olivia can be so lovely. But it also means that I'm 'on' all night long. She wakes up several times in the night, just to confirm that I'm still there. To snuggled closer against me, to make sure my arm is just right beneath her head. So by that time of night, when Alyssa STILL wasn't asleep, I knew that my time was so limited it was basically over.

She ended up falling asleep in my bed, on the other side of Olivia. Olivia did indeed wake up a few minutes after Alyssa fell asleep, needing comfort, needing me to assure her I was right there.

It was a rough night and I really hope that tonight is easier. Not necessarily for me. For both girls. I know that Alyssa felt bad that she couldn't sleep. I know that she sensed my frustration. I hope tonight, I don't feel that. I can go back to my usual giving, loving self. I hope.

But I also selfishly hope that both girls go to sleep easily tonight so I can have just one hour, one hour when I'm not mom, I'm not wife, I'm just me. Just Tommie, doing something that makes ME happy for just one hour. Then I can give and give and give the other twenty-three hours. Promise.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Speaking of family...

We got a wedding invitation a few weeks ago. Tom looked over my shoulder as I opened the envelope and, not recognizing the name of either the bride or the groom, asked me who these people were.

I attempted to explain that the bride is the sister of one of my cousins.

"So she's your cousin," Tom guessed.

"Well, no," I explained. "Her older brother is my cousin. His dad is my dad's nephew. The bride is actually my cousin Holly's cousin."

Tom shook his head to show that he really didn't want me to explain further and walked away.

See, like I said, we're from a small town, and there are lots of big families around here.

Heck, Tom himself is the eleventh of thirteen children. So his confusion, while understandable, shouldn't have gotten the best of him.

My mom is the fifth of twelve children. She and her siblings tended to have kids pretty young. My mom was only nineteen when I was born. (This WAS back in the seventies, not that that means anything, actually.)

Anyway, a friend of hers, let's call her Cherry, had a son who is about six months younger than I am. She didn't marry her son's father. In fact, this man, my first cousin once removed, was sort of an ass and never acknowledged his son. Yeah, nice family I come from.

A few years later, Cherry met and married a man who is cousin to one of my mom's sister's husbands. They had a daughter who is close in age to my brother Jason.

This is the woman who is getting married in a few months.

So...she's sort of family. In a round about way.

I laughed when Tom again shook his head. Yes, I went on to explain it all to him even though he didn't want to know. What can I say? I'm an oversharer in all areas of my life, whether people want to know what I'm sharing or not.

I did tell him he doesn't have to go to the wedding. Weird family ties or not, I'm a cool wife like that.

Monday, March 28, 2011


This morning Alyssa woke up with a headache, which was worrisome because she's never really complained of headaches before. But some children's Tylenol and a visit from her dear cousin, Jaxon, seemed to fix her right up. She was up and around about twenty minutes after taking the medicine.

We're home for spring break this week and since my mom had a few things to do today, I volunteered to watch my nephew so she could do her errands kid-free.

I know. I can't even imagine. Except, later in the day, she returned the favor and I was able to run to the bank and in to work for about a half hour KID-FREE too. It was an interesting experience.

I love standing back and watching my girls interact with their cousin. Jaxon is an only child. He also has only boy cousin's on his mother's side. But he's been around my girls a lot in his three years.

As he's gotten bigger and more vocal, he seems to have decided that he's Olivia's boss.

And she disagrees quite loudly with that assumption.

He's very good for her.

He's also good for Alyssa. She loves having someone around who is sturdy, who can climb onto the top bunk of the bunkbeds without help, who can jump from three steps up and land on his feet.

Olivia's trying, but she can't quite do those things. And I think watching Jaxon do these things, she's that much more determined to do them.

The arguing is vastly amusing. These three remind me so much of my younger days with my brother Jason (Jaxon's dad) and my cousin Aaron, who is actually my first cousin through our mothers (they're sisters) and my first cousin once removed through our fathers (my dad is Aaron's dad's uncle.) Confusing? Yes...but it's a small town, what can I say?

Jason, Aaron and I were together a lot as kids. Aaron's parents divorced just about a year after my parents did. Aaron and his mom moved in with my mom, me and my brother. It was fun and hectic and sometimes insane.

And I see so much of me, Jason and Aaron when my girls and Jaxon get together. None of them wants to be the one who gives in. They all want their way and they want it now.

I try to stay back and let them work it out. Cousins are a good way to learn to live in the world. Aaron was the one who taught me to tune anything and everything out.

I think that learning to stand up for themselves, learning to compromise and even learning to give in once in awhile are very important lessons.

And I can't teach all thsoe lessons myself. Sometimes, my girls have to learn them from others and even from their three year old cousin. Along the way, I'm pretty sure they're teaching him a few things too.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gender Specific

Okay, so Olivia has reached that age where she's very much aware that she's a girl. She's also very much aware that Jaxon is a boy.

And she's all about being as girly as possible.

Alyssa was very much like this at four.

Like Alyssa before her, Olivia is all about princesses and pink and castles and frills.

Where Alyssa has outgrown her fondness of pink (her current favorite color is robin's egg blue) Olivia is still right in the middle of her girliness.

When she's at my mom's and runs out of her pink princess Pull Ups (which might be on their way out, but I didn't actually say that, so shhhhhhh...) and my mom tries to put one of Jaxon's blue Toy Story Pulls Ups on her she loses her little mind.

She feels like she's being punished by being made to wear boy underwear. It's a genious way to get her to use the potty. All credit goes to Gram.

If Olivia thinks that anything at all has a boy tilt to it, she doesn't want anything to do with it. If she knew the phrase, she'd declare that boys have cooties.

While I love that she's at this developmental stage and that she's got such a clear sense of herself, it can be very, very frustrating.

Just this afternoon I took her a cup of water. We still used sippy cups around here because, as mature as O is about understanding her gender and giving inanimate objects gender specificity, she will also stand three feet from me and dump an open cup of water onto the floor just because she can.

So sippy cups it is. And when I tried to give her a cup with Prince Edward (from which cartoon? Unsure but his princess counterpart is Giselle.) on the cap she refused to even touch the cup. She decided she wasn't thirsty.

I asked if that was because of the lid and she nodded. I changed the lid to Cinderella and she drained the water.

So...annoyingly specific about what she'll play with, use as eating/drinking utensils but age appropriate? Yes to all and for that, I'm thankful, even for the annoying parts because hey, part of being four years old is being annoying for the sake of being annoying.

And part of parenting a four year old is taking the annoying with the rest. I'm okay with that.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


What is it about potty humor that just tickles the preschool set so much?

These days, Olivia is all about poop. She's constantly asking if she can poop on something. It's her way of deflecting any question or situation she doesn't want to get into.

I'll ask her what vegetable she'd like for dinner and she'll reply, "Can I poop on it?"

And then she'll giggle like that was the funniest thing ever spoken.

Even the mere mention of the toilet and the several mispronunciations that take place in our house, ie Tom's "toidy" and my "terlet" which I got from a woman I worked with about fifteen years ago who announced one day that she didn't like to microwave her hotdogs, she preferred them berled. Not in earl, though. We never did find out if she wrapped the leftover berled hotdgogs in aluminum ferl.

Anyway, tangent out of the way, Olivia will fall to the floor in laughter at the mention of the toilet.

Is it the age?

Alyssa does find the occasional fart joke to be mildly amusing but she tends to prefer violence humor over potty humor. She will laugh so hard she'll drool over Sam's antics on iCarly.

Olivia thinks that the human body is fascinatingly funny. She thinks farts are proof that God has a sense of humor.

She loves to burp like a frat boy after a six pack.

Yes, there is constant hilarity coursing through our home. Hilarity if you find poop, farts and burps hysterical.

Which, when a four year old is giggling uncontrollably, it's hard not to join her, even when she's giggling because she farted.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Let me just say that I love my husband's oldest daughter. Very much. I do.

I want the best for her. I want her to have a good life, to live in a happy world where things go her way and she gets to do the things she wants.

But...she makes really bad decisions.

Yes, she's had some tough situations thrust upon her. When she got pregnant at seventeen and was sent away (by her mother) to a maternity home (yes, those places still exist) where she was pushed and prodded and urged and perhaps even coerced into giving her child up for adoption, I felt for her. I wished for a different path for her. I prayed for her to work through the pain, to work toward a good life, one she could be proud of, one she could tell her son about someday should he ever ask her why she gave him up.

But that hasn't happened.

In fact, I fear she's proving her mother's dire predictions correct. Her mother insisted that if she'd kept her child, they'd both be living in a homeless shelter somewhere.

Not that that's happened to my husband's oldest daughter. No, she bounces from fried's house to friend's house. She's done a few stints in jail, she's had a few bad boyfriends and made consistently bad choices.

I feel like I should be talking about a six year old rather than a twenty-four year old.

But sadly, she still makes the same decisions she'd have made when she was six. It's all about instant gratification. She wants what she wants when she wants it.

And it seems she wants things are are bad for her.

I feel so bad for Tom and even for his ex-wife. They don't want this life for their daughter. They want her to be happy, to be a contributing member of society.

She got out of jail last Monday, five days ago.

Last night, Tom got a call from a friend of hers. This friend had loaned her car to my stepdaughter and her 'boyfriend'. They'd said they'd be back in twenty minutes. When the friend called Tom it had been four hours.

My stepdaughter doesn't think about how her actions are going to affect other people. This is why she doesn't have real friends. She makes very, very bad decision.

So I pray. I pray that she'll grow up and realize what she's doing to those who love her. I pray that she'll wake up tomorrow and realize that she wants more out of life than what she's currently got.

But I don't hold my breath.

I hold my husband's hand instead as he worries about his daughter, as he wonders if she's okay and whether the next phone call is going to be the one that says she's back in jail or worse.

Ohh, how I dread the call that says it's worse. We pray that one never comes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Milking It

Tom is the nutrition nazi in our family.

Okay, that's probably not fair. I do try and fix the girls meals that are good for their little bodies and I do make Alyssa eat at least four green beans whenever we have green beans and two bites of peas at the meals we're having peas as our vegetable.

But when it comes to protein, Tom is the expert. At least when compared to me.

And honestly, compare his physique to mine and who's advice would you ask for when it comes to eating habits.

However...he's a big believer in milk.

He thinks milk is a miracle liquid.

And I hate milk.

I truly, really, honestly hate the stuff. I haven't willingly drunk milk since my mom weaned me from the 2% I got in a bottle at two years old.

It's just nasty. It's too thick, too filmy, too white and just too gross.

Thankfully, Olivia enjoys a glass or two of milk a day.

Alyssa, though? Sadly, I believe she may have heard me say a time or seven that I hate milk. Because she, too, doesn't like the stuff.

Of course, she could honestly not like it.

But Tom insists she drink some every other day or so. He insists that she needs it for her bones and muscles.

And...maybe she does.

See, she doesn't really make that big a deal out of it. She might moan and groan about her tiny (probably four ounces) glass of milk when it's placed in front of her but she usually just drinks it down (with a sip of water as a chaser after every sip of milk) and goes about her day.

Which is why I don't step in and make him stop making her drink it.

Because if someone were trying to make me drink milk even every other day? I'd be pissed. I'd be throwing a fit, telling them how much I hate it and probably just plain refusing to drink it.

See, when I was pregnant with Alyssa, Tom again touted the glories of milk and how it does a body good.

So like a good prenatal mama, I choked down a glass a day during my entire first trimester. But by about week fifteen of the pregnancy, after throwing up every single day for almost eight weeks, I informed him that when I stopped throwing up, I'd start drinking milk again. I went so far as to say that the moment I went an entire week without puking, I'd pour myself the milk. Ahh, well, I never managed to go seven entire days without throwing up during my entire pregnancy with Alyssa. So that was that for the milk.

And with Olivia? I never touched the stuff. Do you think that's what caused her chormosomal deletion? I'm kidding!!! Of course it's not, it was probably the occasional can of Coke I drank.

But you see, Alyssa's not me. And to her, a few ounces of milk every few days is worth it to play on the computer. Tom made the brilliant discovery that computer time is precious to her. So he made the milk a prerequisite.

Me? I'd give up the computer for life before drinking milk. But Alyssa? Doesn't complain much.

And so I watch in silence, no longer saying a word about my own feelings on milk.

And Tom gets to be the milk nazi to his heart's content. Yes, he's given up on getting me to like it or even tolerate it.

He still firmly believes she'll actually come to like it someday.

I don't even comment on that because hey, it could happen. It really could.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

People Person

Alyssa likes stuff, things, toys, stuffed animals, computers, tv. She can entertain herself for hours. When she was much smaller, I had bouts of guilt for letting her watch an hour of television while I made dinner or folded some laundry.

Olivia? Is not so much into things. She'd much prefer to either be sitting on me or dangling from my hands, or jumping using my hands for support and letting me pull her up as she jumps.

She's exhausting.

I know...I am grateful that she's doing all that she's doing. Truly I am.

But there are moments when I say to her, "Can't you go play with that doll or those horses for just fifteen minutes while I make dinner?"

Or when I suggest we find something for her to watch on television while I unload the dishwasher.

She just likes people.

The only way I've managed to get even three quarters of the master bathroom primed (and eventually painted, right?) is to put her in the tub. That is the one place where she will entertain herself for more than ten minutes without finding an adult to dangle from.

My mom reports that having my nephew at her house while babysitting for Olivia is actually less work than having just him or just Olivia because they play together and let her get things done around the house. Though...the whining that accompanies Jaxon...

I think my girls are whiny until I spend time with this boy. Ohhh, wow. He's lovely, delightful even, but dear heaven the whining!!


She likes people.

We were at Alyssa's gymnastics class this past Monday evening and Olivia was, as is usual, sitting on my lap. I glanced over at one of the other moms and was relieved (in that 'misery loves company' sort of way) to see that her four year old was mauling her too.

I finally told Olivia, "Please sit up and support yourself."

The mom next to me sighed and said, "My daughter does the same thing!"

See, since Olivia literally couldn't support herself during her first year, she got used to letting those around her support her.

When she was two years old, we'd be sitting on the couch and I'd suddenly realize how tired I was and figure out it was because I was supporting O's entire weight. She was just laying there, against my arm, leaning her entire weight upon me, trusting me to hold her up.

And yeah, yeah, I'm glad she trusts me but for goodness sake, kid! Sit up and support yourself!

These two little girls on Monday, both of them FOUR years old, were still expecting their mothers to hold them up.

I finally put O on a chair of her own. She'd jumped and bounced and leaned enough for one night.

I love that she loves people. I think that will take her far in life, but...a little toy love wouldn't go unappreciated. Especially if she'll sit by herself, supporting her own weight while she plays with the toys.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I think one of the things every parent can agree on is that they want their child to be accepted. This is true of parents of typical kids and special-needs kids alike.

When I was pregnant with Alyssa one of the things I always said was that I wanted to raise a child people liked to be around.

Alyssa is shy to the point of being stand-offish. She can come across as offensive in her shyness sometimes. We're working on that.

But kids seem to like her. She has lots of friends at school, she makes friends easily at the park and in the classes we've put her in.

Olivia is not nearly as shy as Alyssa, but she's still...aloof. When she's around other kids she tends to stand back and watch the action, taking part only on the sidelines. She'd prefer to be with her adult caregiver (me, Tom, my mom.)

At gymnastics last week Miss Maggie was trying to corrale the girls into a group so they could practice their recital routine. Oh, the chaos. There are about ten little girls in this class ranging in age from a very young three to about six.

Miss Maggie told the girls to choose a partner so they could practice the new routine she was trying to figure out.

I watched from my corner of the gym and three little girls made straight for Olivia. The one who got to her first grabbed her hand hand held it gently. The other two girls glowered a bit and chose to be partners with each other.

Miss Maggie and I looked at each other and she made and "Awww...." face. We were both so sappily happy that those girls were 'fighting' over Olivia.

I want her to have friends, to be accepted for all that she has to offer the world. I've never really worried that she wouldn't be accepted but having this blatant proof that my girl is one of the crowd, one of the kids that other kids want to be near, it was heartmelting.

It does a hovering mama's heart a lot of good to see her child embraced by others, to know that one of the people she thinks is the most amazing in the world is just one of the kids in a group of other kids.

Alyssa's proven that she can fit right in and Olivia's doing the same thing right before my eyes. I am one lucky, blessed mommy.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Tom's a pretty laid back sort of guy.

So when Olivia was about four months old and even he said things like, "We should be able to put her down for fifteen minutes without her screaming." I knew that my instincts about something being wrong weren't askew.

Though he knew something wasn't quite right, Tom was willing to let me lead the search for answers. He never stood in the way as I took Olivia to doctor after doctor and even when I asked for the referral for therapies, he was open to the option.

He didn't want to ask for the referrals himself, but he supported my need to get her into early intervention.

I think one of the best things that happened early on in O's therapies is that we couldn't find a suitable physical therapist up around the area where I work. Olivia was, at that time, in daycare four days a week. She spent one day a week at home with Tom.

When we couldn't find a PT up here (65 miles from home) our caseworker suggested we try to find one in our home county. This would mean that Tom was in charge of being there for that therapy.

And that's what happened. He ended up having two therapists at the house every Monday for Olivia.

And honestly, it was great. He needed to be there to see what they were doing, to interact with them and hear their thoughts on O's progress. I think if he hadn't been there for them, he might never have really, truly embraced that Olivia was delayed. He knew she wasn't doing all that she should have been doing but he was sort of like those early doctors, thought she'd catch up in time.

But the therapists were quick to talk him right out of that. They gave him hand outs, they made him work with her too, they showed him what she should be doing and how to help her get to that point.

When I finally asked for the referral to the developmental pediatrician down in Indianapolis, he was all for it. He didn't fee the need to attend that appointment though. I don't think a diagnosis mattered to him.

We got the call from the pediatrician two weeks later, asking us to drive down to Indy to meet with her.

I was a wreck. I asked Tom to go with me and Olivia.

He heaved a big, put-upon sigh and agreed.

But on the drive down he said, "If they just tell us that she's delayed and she'll catch up this is going to be a heck of a wasted day."

Well, as everyone knows, the doctor told us a bit more than that. Except...she kind of didn't.

She gave us a name, 5p- or Cri du Chat, whichever your prefer.

She gave us some brochures, and recommended that we not do a lot of research.

She even got Olivia in to see a neonatal cardiologist who was doing heart scans of fetus' that day. He happened to have one cancellation and was willing to check out Olivia's heart even though she was no longer a fetus. He spent twenty minutes looking at her heart. It is perfect.

Then our doctor sort of patted us on the heads and told us to keep up the good work with Olivia and sent us on our way.

Once we were on the road heading the two hours back home, Tom said, "Yeah, like I said."

See, knowing she has 5p- didn't change a thing for him. She is our little girl. Our baby. She's perfect as far as we're concerned. And having the doctor give us a name for what was keeping her from meeting her milestones at the time her peers were meeting them didn't mean anything to him.

And I'm so glad for that. I need him to be the pillar of strength when I was at my weakest. I didn't fear the diagnosis so much as I feared the guilt I might feel at hearing the diagnosis.

I irrationally feared that when we got to that appointment, the doctor was going to tell us that she had to keep Olivia, that we weren't taking good enough care of her. I know that was ridiculous. I knew it then, but I feared it. And Tom was there, supporting me at my most irrational, telling me how great we were at taking care of our littlest girl.

And he's kept on loving us all, through the tantrums, the therapist, the diagnosis, the whining (oh dear God, the whining.) He's kept it casual, light, and yet his rock solid faith that we're all going to be okay is what I lean on more often than not.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Green, Parks, Cleats

We saw several firsts this weekend.

I found the first shoots of green in my flower beds. Our tulips and hyacinths are coming up. Yay!! The first sign of spring. I planted the bulbs last fall, soon after we moved into this house. Some of the tulip bulbs came from a give away my best friend Julie and I did at a conference for the March of Dimes back in October. We gave away tulip bulbs and the poem about Holland. Most parents of special needs kids know that poem.

One of the other moms who attended the conference posted her bloomed tulips on Facebook last week. I love that these flowers are reminding these amazing mothers of their blessing and/or angels.

The girls and I also took our first trip to the park for the season. We love the park. Each year since Olivia's first spring, our park visits have marked how much she's grown and changed.

Our first spring, obviously, O was still in the stroller and she and I just followed a four year old Alyssa around the park, where she ran and jumped and climbed and slid and swung.

I was sure that first spring that the next spring would be so very different. I wondered how I'd managed to very mobile children.

I didn't have to worry about that. The next spring, Olivia was still strapped in the stroller. She wasn't even quite crawling yet.

But the spring after that? Well, we still took the stoller because though Olivia was just starting to toddle, she tired quickly and easily.

Last spring? She was on her feet with a mind of her own. But...she still got tired and she was still very off-balance. She walked around after Alyssa but needed help climbing and refused to even try the slide.

By the fall? Our park trips were very different. She ran, she slid, she swung. And I was trying to keep track of two very mobile children. Just as I'd imagined years before.

Yesterday was much of the same. They both wanted to go in differend driection. They had their own ideas of the best area of the park, and of course, they were on different ends.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Finally, we bought Alyssa her first pair of soccer cleats yesterday. She was so excited she didn't even care that we had to get them from the boys' section of the shoe store. She'd worn them almost constantly since yesterday afternoon.

She and I even went outside this morning, in the 40 degree weather, to run around after the soccer ball. I know, that is total proof of my amazing mothering. Not only do I dislike running, I really hate running in the cold. And as far as I'm concerned, anything below 50 degrees is cold.

But the joy on her face as she attempted to keep the ball from me? Worth the running and the cold.

This weekend goes into the archives as one for the good guys.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Alyssa starts soccer practice next week.

We signed her up for outdoor soccer because she really enjoyed the indoor soccer league we had her in about a year ago. She likes to run and be with other kids it is.

But we still have a couple of months of gymnastics left.

I got the call from her coach earlier this week that she'll have practice on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 6:30. When I signed A up for this league, I wrote that Mondays and Thursdays are bad for us because of gynmastics.

The coach said she understood that we can't be there on Thursdays and just practicing on Tuesday is fine.

Except...wait a minute. Two kids plus two parents equals one parent to each kid. And hey, a look in the garage reminds me that we have two vehicles too.

So guess what? Tom gets to take Alyssa to soccer practice on Thursdays while I take Olivia to gymnastics.

When I first pointed out the scheduling conflict to Tom he didn't jump in and volunteer to take A to her soccer practice.

Instead, he suggested, "Maybe it's time to give up gymnastics."

The look I gave him at that silenced him pretty quickly. First, gymnastics for O is THERAPY as far as I'm concerned, so no, we're not giving it up right now. Second? How could either of us justify making O give up gymnastics, a thing she loves doing, so that I can take her sister to soccer practice? Especially when that soccer practice is the SECOND one of the week?

We can't.

And so we won't.

When I suggested the above scenario to Tom (the one where he takes A on Thursdays while I take O) he kind of hemmed and hawed until I asked, "Why do I feel like I'm inconveniencing you?"

He shook his head, "I don't know. Why are you even asking me to take her? Why don't you just tell me to do it and we'd all be happy."

Yeah...why don't I just tell him how it will be?

It's taken me over eight years of marriage to realize that I've been doing it wrong all this time. I should have been telling him what to do all along and we'd all be happy.

Huh...who'd have thunk it?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Lamb

I know it's Thursday but last weekend was good enough that I feel the need to document it even four days later.

First of all, I did not nap. Which...poor me. But!! I did start priming the bathroom and again, poor me.

But as much as I feel sorry for myself for having to prime and paint BEHIND the toilet, I feel good for having started the job. Starting is often the biggest hurdle for me. Once I've started a project, I usually just want to get it done.

Mixed in there with all that feeling sorry for myself were moments of hilarity and sheer joy.

After the first of her three baths on Saturday, Olivia and I headed down the hall to her room to pick out something for her wear.

There at the back of her closet, she spied something different, something she'd never tried on before.

I pulled it out and asked her, "Do you want to try on the bunny suit?"

She smiled and said yes.

So I put it on her. And it wasn't a bunny after all. It was a lamb.

And she HATED it. It was a woolen one-piece suit with a hood that had ears. There were attached mittens to cover her hands but it was footless.

The instant I had it zipped, she began telling me she wanted it off.

But the cuteness was such that cannot be ignored.

Ralphie has nothing on this four year old girl.

Olivia said, "Mommy..."

And I giggled.

She said, "Mommy..."

And I laughed harder.

She said, "Mommy..."

I fell to the floor, holding my sides and laughing until I cried.

Alyssa joined us in the room to find out what all the ruckus was. Olivia gave her an imploring look and said, "Mommy..."

I caught my breath long enough to ask, "Do you want it off."

She nodded solemnly, as Ralphie did in A Chrismas Story.

So off it came, but the very memory of it brings laughter bubbling forth.

Sadly, I do not have photographic evidence of the cuteness of the spring lamb because, for one, I was laughing to hard to get the camera and two, she wouldn't have left the thing on long enough for me to go all the way to the basement, which is where Tom keeps the camera.

Honestly, though, I think she might have been willing to wear it had it not been so itchy. Poor kid.

After the fun of the lamb costume, the girls and I headed off to Alyssa's school for Family Fun Night.

This was our first venture into after-school activities AT THE SCHOOL.

She was beside herself with excitement because were going to her best friend's house to see if she could go with us.

See, the night before, Alyssa informed me that she and Samantha had decided that Samantha would just ride with us to the event. Of course, neither thought to discuss it with their parents nor did they share parental phone numbers so that the parents themselves could discuss it.

But Alyssa was so thrilled to be doing something with her friend outside of school hours that I didn't want to disappoint her. So I agreed to just drive to her friend's house and ask if we could take her with us for a few hours.

And her mom said YES!!

Ooo, the girls were ecstatic. They couldn't stand the fact that they were together on a Saturday, at the school, hanging out.

And you know what? I thought it was pretty great too. It was really fun to be there, hanging with my girls and Alyssa's best friend, just being the mom. It was fun to be out in the community, the place where we belong, the place we're a part of. We played silly games ('fishing' over a wall, a sucker pull, bowling) we each spent a dollar at the bake sell that was benefitting the junior prom. Hey, my junior prom may have been over twenty years ago, but I remember the excitement of dress shopping, of decorating, of going to eat at a 'fancy' restaurant.

Olivia did not wear the lamb suit to Family Fun Night. She wore a sparkly red dress with turquoise and red tights and her sparkly red shoes. She got lots and lots of compliments.

She walked the entire time, playing every game her sister and sister's friend played. She walked up and down the bleachers twice. She was big.

Then it was time to go home. We dropped Samantha off at home and drove to our own home, which Olivia was so tired she couldn't bring herself to walk those last six steps from the car to the stairs that lead from the garage to the kitchen.

So I carried her and she fell asleep in my arms. My tired little lamb.

Alyssa? Was much too pumped to sleep. She played with the dinky little toys she'd won in all the games, she talked for an hour about how great Family Fun Night was and how I was the BEST MOM EVER for going and asking Samantha's mom if Samantha could go with us.

So even with the bouts of feeling sorry for myself, I'm calling last weekend a success.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


This is for Brittany, mother of the beautiful Lily, whose pictures remind me so very much of Olivia during her first year. Brittany asked in the comments a few posts back about O's therapies in the beginning.

In the beginning, we didn't have a diagnosis. In the beginning, O's doctors insisted that we just wait and let her 'catch up.' They, we saw several doctors in a single practice and each one of them,didn't believe anything was wrong with Olivia.

Finally, when Olivia was nine months old, I asked for an MRI because, hello, she wasn't even hold her head steady, let alone sitting up or even trying to crawl.

At this point, we weren't doing any organized therapies.

The MRI came back normal. Her brain was 'perfect', declared the doctor and neurologist. If nothing else, this ruled out CP.

When she was eleven months old, I requested an evaluation by First Steps. At this point, O still wasn't sitting up but she was gaining control of her head.

The doctor shrugged and wrote the referral.

Olivia was evaluated by a team of therapists, one was a physical therapist and the other was a developmental therapist.

I was told right there at the evaluation that though they weren't supposed to say so, Olivia absolutely qualified for services. She rolled but didn't sit up, didn't crawl, was nowhere near standing.

She showed a definite preference for her left hand, with significant weakness on her right side. She has since proven to be right handed, with no weakness in that side at all. I firmly believe the PT and OT worked that out.

We still didn't have a diagnosis so the therapists wrote down that she was physically delayed.

Just before Olivia's first birthday, she began receiving physical therapy for her gross motor skills, to get her sitting, crawling and eventually walking. She received occupational therapy for her fine motor skills so she could play, feed herself, eventually color/write.

She also received speech therapy and developmental therapy. The developmental therapy was mostly playing.

She actually sat up on her own at her very first occupational therapy session. It was my birthday. The best present EVER.

Her speech therapy was a lot like her developmental therapy. The therapist worked to get Olivia to communicate with her by giving her a choice of toys and urging her to indicate which one she wanted to play with. The indication could be anything, a point, a look and grunt, reaching. She just wanted Olivia to 'get' that she could interact with those around her.

But every one of these therapists told us the same thing upon meeting our family.

They each said that the very best therapist Olivia is ever going to have is her big sister. They insisted that siblings are huge in helping special needs kids come that much further in their development.

Olivia has a cousin who is a year younger. He's played a big part in her therapies too. Watching him learn to walk pushed Olivia to try. Listening to him talk and make mistakes gives her the confidence to try too.

Olivia dropped developmental therapy after only a year because we all decided that she wasn't getting much out of it. Even the DT agreed that we were doing as much for her at home as she, the therapist was doing once a week.

She continued ST, PT and OT until she was three years old and aged out of the First Steps program.

Last year, she attended a special ed preschool and received PT there. Honestly, we didn't feel like it helped at all. she liked being around the kids but the PT just wasn't what we wanted for her.

So she started gymnastics classes last summer and the improvement in her strength and coordination in just under a year is astounding. I highly recommend a class like this to anyone with a kid with low muscle tone.

Olivia crawled at 17 months. She walked at 29 months. She started talking in full sentences when she was about 35 months. She's amazed every single therapist and doctor she's met since getting her diagnosis.

Of course, we think she's pretty awesome too. But we might be a little biased.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


On the days that Tom picks up the girls (most of them) I call my mom on my way home to see how her day with Olivia went.

Tom, great dad that he is, is still a guy, and so isn’t as likely to have asked if Olivia had a good potty day, or if she ate well, etc. So I call to see how it all went.

Alyssa gets off the bus at my mom’s and spends at least an hour there before Tom comes to get her and Olivia. She always does her homework the minute she gets home and then, if the weather is above 20 degrees, she’s begging to go outside.
With the temperature hovering just above freezing these days, there is a lot of water and mud outside. And Alyssa is in heaven.

One day last week during one of my calls, my mom mentioned that while outside, Alyssa got her pants wet.

I didn’t think anything of it. It’s almost spring, it’s muddy and there’s been a lot of rain.

And…she’s eight.

Then my mom said, “I think she did it on purpose.”

Which, again, she’s eight, she probably did.

Except, my mom continued with, “I think she sat in the puddle.”

At which point, I laughed. Because of course she sat in the puddle. That’s my girl. I love that she sat in the mud. I know that it means more laundry, but hey, part of being a kid is getting to sit in the mud and not get in too much trouble.
I love that this girl is all about horses and dogs and mud and being outside and swinging from a rope. I love that she would be outside in the mud and the cold and the rain and sun all the time if she didn’t have to do things like eat and go to school and do homework and sleep.

When I asked Alyssa later that day if she had sat in the mud on purpose, she said without a trace of apology, “Yep.”

I want this young stage, this pressure-free stage to last as long as possible. I want her to be unselfconscious and unpretentious for as long as she can. I want her continue to enjoy the simple things like mud and playing in the rain. Adulthood seems to come faster and faster these days.

She’s amazing, my girl. Muddy pants and all.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Perfect One Zero

My mom is amazing with my girls.

Alyssa is her first-born grandchild and my mother has doted on her since before she was born. I've barely had to buy clothes for either of my girls because of my mother's tendancy to anticipate their wardrobe needs before I can even think about going shopping.

She's amazing.

When we realized that Olivia was going to need four therapies a week, my mom retired from her job so she could stay home and watch Olivia four days a week.

Olivia spent every Monday at home with Tom where she had speech and physical therapies.

The other two therapies, occupational and developmental, were spread out at my mom's. We were so lucky to be able to pull from the pools of therapists in several different counties. Olivia got the best ones, the ones that worked best with her pesonality.

Since Olivia aged out of First Steps, Indiana's early intervention program, my mom has kind of taken over her occupational, speech and developmental therapies.

We've been using gymnastics for her physical therapy for almost a year now.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom was working with Olivia on her numbers. O's pretty good. She recognizes most numbers and counts past twenty these days.

My mom was attempting to combine occupational therapy (for fine motor skills) with the number play by having Olivia put puzzles together. My mom had written numbers on the puzzle pieces and then put the same number on the board where the piece was supposed to go.

Olivia was doing well.

My mom showed O a specific puzzle piece and said, "See Livie, this one has a one and a zero."

Olivia looked at the puzzle piece, the board and then back at my mom. She took the puzzle piece out of my mom's hand and rolled her eyes. She then declared, "Gram, that's not a one and a zero. That's a ten."

Yes, I think my mom might just be the best therapist EVER. OR least, the best one for Olivia.

How lucky am I that my girls get to have this woman in their lives? So very, very lucky indeed.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


It's been noted that I dislike painting. Painting as in the walls. I'm not a fan. Not only do I not enjoy it, I'm not particularly good at it either.

But...those God-awful sponge-painted walls aren't going to paint themselves, more's the pity.

So today, I primed. See, the sponge paint is just dark enough (someone loveingly picked out a deep mauve, a smoky gray and a stormy blue for the bathrooms and a NAVY blue for the hall, egads@) that I would have to paint something lkie twenty-nine coats of the 'soap-bubble white' paint I want on the walls of the master bath, guest bath and upstairs hall.

I know, white. But it's not sponge paint and really, isn't that all that counts?

But the problem with priming? Is that I know that tomorrow (or next week or perhaps even next month) I'm going to be back up there painting the very same walls with the actual paint. And if that's not the definition of boring I don't know what is.

It has to be done, though. So I do it.

And what do you know? That person who painstakingly chose those sponge-paint colors? That very same person was SO committed sponge-painting that they painted behind the mother-loving toilets. BEHIND THE TOILETS. Oh for heaven's sake.

And you know that this means, don't you? It means I had to prime BEHIND the toilets.

Hell, I barely clean back there, why would I want to prime/paint back there?

Yet, I shouldn't complain, should I? At least I have bathrooms and a hall to prime and paint, right?

And so my complaints are frivolous. But they're my frivolous complaints and so I record them here.

Friday, March 11, 2011


One thing I can't unhear is the story a woman told me at the first ever dance marathon the girls and I attended.

As a patient at Riley Hospital for Children, Olivia is often invited to fund raisers, usually dance marathons, which raises money for Riley. And since Olivia is invited, I sort of get to tag along.

My kids are treated like royalty at these things. They love them. Especially the bounce houses. There are ALWAYS boune houses.

I am invited to tell Olivia's story. I go up on stage with both girls and I talk.

And at the first dance marathon, after I told O's story, a woman sought me out.

She wanted to tell me about a friend of a friend. A young woman she knew who'd received a 5p- diagnosis prenatally.

This woman was given such a dire prognosis that she ended her pregnancy. The woman who told me this said she wasn't sure she wanted to tell her friend about me and my child. She was sure knowing about Olivia and how amazing she is might devestate her friend even more.

See, the doctors told this woman her child would be blind and deaf. They said her child would never walk, never eat normally, never talk.

And who knows what they saw on the ultrasound and in the genetic testing they did. Maybe they were right.

Then again...maybe they were wrong.

And this is what I can't forget. I can't forget that a single fetus was terminated just because he/she had what my daughter has. That because the doctors saw 5p- on the results of one test, they advise their patient to terminate her pregnancy.

I do not find fault in the woman who terminated. I can't judge her. That's not my place.

But I can tell Olivia's story. I can show people who amazing she is. I can show that her existence isn't a burden, not to me, not to my husband, not to our older daughter, not to society. Not to anyone. She's a treasure, she's a gift.

I realize that not everyone is cut out to raise a special needs child. I get that and people have to make the choices that work for them and their families.

But damn it, there are people who WOULD make awesome parents of special needs children (Lauren!!!!) who aren't able to parent their children. And this is a tragedy.

And perhaps if this young woman had heard of a family like us, a family with a child with 5p- who is thriving, who is walking, talking, eating (like a freaking horse!) and who laughs and dances and runs after her sister, maybe this woman's decision would have been even more informed.

Perhaps she'd have made the same choice. But then again, maybe not. Maybe if doctors educated themselves instead of relying on data that is over thirty years old, more children would amaze and delight their parents every single day.

And now I'll step off my soap box.

Tomorrow, we will return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On Being a Dad

Tom's a good dad. Actually, I think he's pretty great. When he's there, in the house with us, he's very present. He's involved, he takes time to interact, to play, to teach.

His older kids (I don't say my step-kids because they were all teenagers when we got married. I was never a mother to these kids, I've always been more just their dad's wife and their little sisters' mother.) are 27, 24 and 22.

The oldest and youngest are sons.

Both of these young men are great dads too. Jeremy, the older son, has two children and he's amazing.

Dustin, the younger son, had a girlfriend for the past three years who had a child. Her son was just four months old when she and Dustin started seeing each other. Dustin was amazing with this boy.

I believe they learned this from Tom. They learned how to father their children. They leanred how to listen, how to talk, how to discipline with love. They learned how to be there for their children from their father.

While their mother might like to rewrite history and say that her children's step-father was the more present father figure in their lives, I see things differently.

Tom and his children's mother divorced when the kids were 9, 10 and 13.

She remarried very quickly after the divorce.

She retained full physical custody.

But in the beginning, when these kids were young, when they were learning what it meant to be a parent, Tom was there. He was the one teaching those young minds and building deep, lasting memories.

And he's doing that with our girls.

Admittedly, the girls are very mommy-centric, that's to be expected after our years of commuting. But he's making up for lost time, that's for sure.

He picks them up from my mom's most days and they're all happily, cozily shut up at home each evening when I get there.

I think it's hard for all of us sometimes because for so long I've made most of the decisions, I've decided on what's for dinner, what time we go to bed, how long to let someone (Alyssa) play on the computer.

But we're getting it together. We're all figuring it out.

And we're loving it. We're loving having Daddy/Husband at home with us, full time. I'm loving seeing my girls blossom from the love their dad bestows upon them. I love seeing Tom glow with pride when one of his girls does something amazing. I love how we're learning together how to make this living together full-time-thing work.

I know, I know. People do it all the time, right from the beginning. But we didn't and so we're figuring it out. And I think we're doing a pretty darned good job of it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


A few weeks ago, the last time Olivia was sick and needed to see the doctor, I vowed that the next time she showed even the slightest signs of illness, I'd take her to the doctor right away rather than wait and see if she could kick it on her own.

Except...Monday morning when I dropped her off at my mom's Olivia seemed 'off.' Not sure what that means, exactly, except she wasn't her usual, bouncy self. My mom said that throughout the day, Olivia often came up to her and asked to be held for a few minutes, just to soak up some body heat.

At Alyssa's gymnastics class, Olivia fell asleep on me. She slept through me putting her coat on and carrying her to the car. She woke up enough to get strapped into her car seat and snuggle under a blanket. She said she wanted ice cream from Dairy Queen but fell asleep during the three-block drive from the gym to the DQ.

She slept the entire way home and through me carrying her into the house. I held her for a bit and then took her to bed. When I went up an hour later, I found her curled into a ball. I pulled her close to me to share body heat.

I woke up at 11:00 to find Olivia hot with a fever. I got her some children's Advil and a drink of water and she fell into a restless sleep. I rubbed her back, scratched her arm and let her lay half on me until she finally found a comfortable position.

The next morning, she woke with color in her cheeks and a bounce in her step.

My mom reported that she was fine all day. She was bouncy and chirpy and chased after her cousin all day long.

When I got home last night, she looked tired and didn't eat much for dinner. She fell asleep at around 7:30 but this, in and of itself, isn't unusual.

She slept soundly all night without a sign of a fever.

This morning, she again woke looking great.

So...I'm putting off taking her to the doctor. Because she seems fine.

But I fear I'll be posting her on Friday that we're off to the doctor with Olivia because she didn't kick this, whatever it is.

See, Olivia tends to get sicker than her typical peers. Her illnesses last longer, her fevers rage higher, her coughs go deeper and her snot, while perhaps not grosser, is maybe thicker. Ewww.

So I worry. Should I take her to the doctor and be THAT MOM, who rushes to the doctor for every sniffle?

Or do I wait and let her suffer needlessly? For now, we wait. She doesn't seem to be suffering, so there is that.

For the record, I made an appointment for her with her developmental pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children in May. I'm going to ask her doctor about this very thing. How soon should I take O into the regular doctor? What is more worrysome, a fever or a cough or what?

I also want to know if there are any serious illnesses that seem to affect 5p- kids more often then their typical peers. Not that I think I can stop something like that from happening if we're fated for it to happen but knowledge is power and knowing what to look for will give us the chance to catch something, anything early.

So there we go. Again, we wait and see. We hope that she's kicked it all by herself this time. And maybe in a few days, I'll be wallowing in mommy guilt for not calling and getting her in to see the doctor today., she's fine.

We wait and see. And hope. And try to learn each time. Though it seems I might be a bit slow at this mothering thing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I took another nap this past Sunday afternoon. When four o'clock rolled around and Tom changed the tv channel to college basketball, I flopped into the recliner, pulled up a blanket and announced it was naptime.

And I felt no guilt. See...I'd been running around all day, putting dirty laundry in the washer, making breakfast, putting clean yet wet laundry into the dryer, baking a pie (and wow, that sucker turned out GREAT), hang clean, dry laundry and putting it away, all the while putting still more dirty laundry in the washer and repating the cycle ad nauseum.

Along will all that I gave Olivia a bath, made lunch for both girls, picked up toys, got yelled at by Alyssa, who insisted she was still playing with those toys, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

So, no. No guilt over the nap.

Except...when 9:00pm rolled around and it was time to go to bed because it was a work/school night, I couldn't sleep. Because of the nap.

The next morning, I sent Tom an email. Part of the content was:

"It’s Monday and I’m sort of tired. As much as I LOVE that afternoon nap on Sundays (the last TWO Sundays, anyway) it sort of messes up my sleep for Sunday night, which leaves me sleepy and a bit cranky on Monday mornings. As if I need more reason to be cranky in the mornings, right? RIGHT!! Ahhhhhh."

And he mentioned that he knew of a way to take away my sleep issues on Sunday night. Which, of course, he was hinting that I could give up my nap.

Except I don't wanna!

And I told him so. See, he and I have had a nice routine going since Alyssa was about two years old. He gets up with the child(ren) on Sunday mornings and I get to sleep until 8:30 or so. Which, when you get up at 5:30 the rest of the week, is heaven.

The problem is that Olivia resists going downstairs with her dad and sister. See, for some reason, she finds it so very, very entertaining to sit on the bed next to her snoozing mother and LOUDLY suck her thumb and quietly pull her hair out. She will do this for up to an hour and a half, or until I hear her poor stomach growl and drag my lazy carcass out of bed and take her downstairs where I fix breakfast.

Poor kid.

What is it about a mother who is trying to sleep that is so entertaining that she'd prefer it over an AWAKE father and sister? I don't get it.

And I'm not even that pleasant to be around when my one morning of the week sleep-in time is being interrupted. I'm growly and ouchie and just want an hour with the bed to myself.

I explained some of this to Tom in subsequent emails yesterday. He said he'll make a point to come and get Olivia next Sunday.

I think he's hoping that if I get my sleep-in time, I'll not collapse on the recliner during basketball, instead, I might have the energy to go upstairs and prime and paint the nasty sponge painting that the previous owner did on the hall and bathroom walls. It's gross and I want it gone. But some days, I really want a nap more.

We'll see what next Sunday brings...

Monday, March 7, 2011


When Olivia was about a year and a half, she'd been sitting independently for about six months. I put the girls in the bath one afternoon and turned away for maybe five seconds. When I turned back, Olivia was laying down, submerged in the water.

I snatched her out of the tub and hugged her close as she sputtered and coughed.

I asked Alyssa sharply, "How long was she like that?"

Alyssa was, at most, five and a half years old.

I realized the moment after I asked her that it was unfair for me to even ask, let alone ask in the tone I'd used.

I also realized that if I'd been even a few seconds longer, something terrible might have happened and the tone I'd used with Alyssa could have turned into a life-time of guilt for her.

And it wasn't her fault. She was a little bitty girl. I shouldn't have turned away and while I absolutely didn't blame her, I shouldn't have spoken as if I could have blamed her.

See...words can hurt, even when we don't mean for them to.

I'm a few days late to this but last week there was a movement to end the use of the "R" word. The word retard and all variations.

That word stings. It hurts. A lot.

When we first saw a geneticist, Olivia was already over two years old and totally showing her intelligence and her independence. Yet the geneticist said words like "mental retardation" and "mental delays".

I fully admit that Olivia has physical delays. I embrace them because we can do something about them. We can build her strength and her endurance. We can work on her balance and her confidence.

But mental retardation? The one report that the geneticist sent home that mentioned that we could expect "mild to moderate mental retardation" was tossed in the trash in a fit of denial.

I realize that we still face challenges with Olivia but I will fight tooth and nail to never have her hear that word as a description of herself. I will attempt to arm her with knowledge and come-backs should she ever be confronted with that word.

Perhaps I'm still in denial about my sweet, funny girl. But I really, truly don't want anyone to ever call her a retard. Does any parent ever want to hear that word in conjunction with their child? No. Which is why the ease with which people throw that word around in casual conversation amazes me.

So I vow that from this day forward, I will educate people on how hurtful that word is. I will stop anyone I hear saying that word, no matter the context and explain why it hurts so much. I will remind them that while they may think that it's just a word that words can do so much damage, they can cause so much pain.

This is my vow. For Olivia, for all the other kids out there who might not be able to speak for themselves. Because that's what we do. We stand up for our kids, and our friends' kids. We stop people from hurting them.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Girl

A few weeks ago, Tom was doing something with Olivia and I was making dinner and Alyssa wandered through the kitchen, looking forlorn. I asked if everything was okay and she just shrugged and said, "Everyone likes the little one better."

I pulled her into a hug and asked her if she knew how amazing she is.

I told her that she is so special because SHE was the one who made me a mom. Before her, I was just, well, not a mom. And once she was here, voila, a mom was made.

She grinned and looked proud.

Later that night, as I tucked her in, I reminded her that she'll always be my baby. Even when she's a big lady with a baby of her own.

She smiled and said, "Awww."

She's cute.

She also still likes to be tucked in each night and to have me lay with her until she's asleep. Some nights, I want to just get on with getting ready for bed, but even on those nights, I snuggle in close and we whisper back and forth for a few minutes until she rolls over and falls asleep.

I know that my girl isn't going to want to snuggle with me much longer. I hope to get another four years or so out of her. If I get more, I'll consider myself lucky. But I know that kids these days grow up so fast and that at some point, her mom, the mom SHE made, isn't going to be all that great as far as she's concerned.

I know that snuggles will become fewer and farther between. She'll start to pull away, establish her independence and I'll have to trust her and trust that I've done my job as her mother well, taught her to fight peer pressure (except when it comes to eating lunch at school) and to stand up for herself and those she feels aren't strong enough to do so.

But for now? She's my girl, my first born, the eight year old who still giggles when I hold her close and try to rock with her in the recliner. The girls who still needs me to reassure her that this or that change isn't that big a deal and to remind her that she actually enjoyed the last big change we made. She's the girl who has watched any and every movie with a horse more times than we can count.

For now, I'll lay with her at night, whispering and building confidence and memories with this beautiful, amazing girl who made me a mom.

Friday, March 4, 2011


I don't talk about Olivia's hair when she's within earshot.

I think she was about two years old when she started pulling her hair. She sucks her right thumb and pulled the hair out of the left side of her head.

Whenever anyone mentions the pulling, I try to give a non-verbal clue that we aren't talking about it.

Olivia wants to grow her hair out. She wants her hair to be long like Alyssa's.

I've told her a few times that the only way for it to be long like her sister's is if she stops pulling it out.

She nods seriously and runs off to play. A few hours later, I'll often find her on the couch, her right thumb in her mouth and her left hand pulling strand after strand of hair out of her head.

Last June, we gave her her first buzz cut. Tom cut her hair to 1/4 in long all over. We made a big deal out of it, telling her how cute she was with her short hair. And she was. She can totally pull of super short hair.

I mean, she's pretty frickin' cute, right?

By fall, her hair had grown back to the point that I was calling it her "Mia Farrow" look. Oh, my goodness, the shit I got for comparing my preschooler's hair to that of an actress in a horror movie. Whatever. Rosemary's Baby wasn't even that scary.

Her hair had also gotten long enough that she was able to grasp it to pull again. By the time we cut it again, she'd pulled to the point that one spot was still evident even after the rest of her hair was 1/4 of an inch long.

When she first started pulling, I fought it. I could often be heard telling her to stop pulling. I often took her hand away from her hair myself.

But lately? I've made peace with it. I've realized how much stress I was causing her by even mentioning it. And honestly, a four year old shouldn't have stress in her life. A four year old should also not be self-conscious, which is another reason I avoid talking about her hair pulling with people when she's around.

We've also decided not to cut it all off again. I hesitate to say that she seems to not be pulling so much these days but...the difference between the right side and the left isn't nearly as noticable as one might think. The left is thinner and yes, shorter, but not by much. And if I comb it just right (goodness, this is where I confess that I've given my four year old a comb over, isn't it?), it's pretty cute.

It had been a few weeks since we saw some of the mom's at gymnastics and two of them made a big deal over how cute and long O's hair is getting. She beamed.

So let me amend that first sentence. I don't talk about her hair PULLING around her. But to say that her hair is extra cute? Oh yes, I say that so she can hear it all the time.

Because the things a four year old shouldn't have to deal with include self-consciousness and stress.

Her days should be full of new, super cute outfits, not quite too tight shoes, fairy wings, nail polish, red lipstick, dolls and waiting for her sister to get off the bus. There's plenty of time for stress in this life of ours.

Hair is not something I want to stress about anymore. Pull it? Okay. Let it grow? That works too.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Burned Out

When Alyssa was sick a few weeks ago I was ashamed of how relieved I was to not have to pack her lunch for the four days she was out of school.

My child was too ill to go to school and I was thinking about the fact that I got to sleep in for fifteen minutes because I didn't have to pack her lunch.

But there it is. I did feel that relief. I just did.

And then, the very next week, once she was healthy enough to go back to school, she only went on Wednesday. We had snow/ice days the other four days. Ahhh, no lunches needed to be packed on those days either.

I am here to tell you that eight days of not packing lunches is just the right amount of time to rejuvenate this mama.

I've been packing lunches for Alyssa since the beginning of time, oh wait, just since she started kindergarten three years ago. She takes her lunch every. single. day. She has never once eaten a lunch prepared in the school cafeteria. I hope you can read the drudgery in those words.

And it's a boring lunch that I pack her. She eats two slices of turkey breast, three Mickey Mouse-shaped cheese bites, whatever berries we have on hand, baby carrots and ranch dressing, either a half an apple or grapes, about eight cheese-flavored Pringles and whatever sweet I throw in there that day. Oh, and a small bottle of water.

It's so monotonous to pack that lunch every day.

Just last week, as we were all getting ready for the drive to my mom's I was doing a quick happy dance at not having to pack a lunch (yay for snow!!) and Alyssa attempted to look offended. I laughed at her and said, "I'm giving you fair warning. You are only getting five more years of lunches out of me. Once you're in the seventh grade, you're on your own."

She laughed until I amended, "But I get veto power of the lunches you pack even then."

But seriously, I hope that by seventh grade a bit of peer pressure will have made her at least TRY the lunches provided by the school. I know, I'm a mother hoping for peer pressure. You pack the same lunch for almost three years and see what you're wishing for.

I'm not the only one suffering from a bit of burn-out these days. This morning during drop off, I mentioned to my mom that Tom might not be around this afternoon when I take Olivia to gymnastics. I casually asked whether, if that was the case, if Alyssa could stay there, at my mom's, until either Olivia's gymnastics class was over or Tom got back.

Oooh, my mother is so tired. She's so very burned out. She didn't say no. She didn't actually have to say anything. She just gave me such a look of exhaustion. I said, "Ohh, you know what? She can wait in the waiting room for me and Olivia to get done."

My mom quickly said it wouldn't be a big deal for Alyssa to stay, it was just that she's tired, she needs a break and when 5pm rolls around, she just ready to have her house to herself.

I get that.

And Alyssa will be coming to gymnastics with me and Olivia tonight.

Thankfully, spring break is only three weeks away. If nothing else, it will give my mom a break from babysitting and it will give me a break from packing lunches.

We aren't actually going anywhere, unless you count the dentist. I made the appointment a week or so ago, once I'd confirmed when A's spring break was. The dentist the girls see is an hour away and if I were to take her during a school day, she'd have to miss a half a day of school. This way, she's not missing school.

So yeah, some people go on cruises or to Florida for spring break. We go to the dentist. We're wild like that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Suffering for Fashion

Olivia and I were inthe waiting room at the gym where the girls take gymnastics classes on Monday evening, just sitting, chatting with the other moms, listening to Olivia sing at the top of her lungs (she likes the newest Pink song, the edited version of Perfect) and one of the moms asked me what size clothes Olivia wears.

I told her and she said, "I hope you're not offended by this offer, but I have several outfits in my car that my youngest has outgrown and I'd love to give them to you."

Free clothes? Definitely not offended.

When we got home from gymnastics that night, Olivia was wiped out. She'd fallen asleep on the drive home and slept through me taking her out of her carseat, carrying her into the house, taking her coat and boots off. I put her to bed without even bothering to take the bag of clothes out of my car.

The next morning as I was getting Olivia out of the car at my mom's I saw the clothes and decided to take them in with us.

Olivia fell in love with the following outfit.

She immediately changed out of her red shirt, black and red plaid vest and black pants and put this outfit on. The shoes were part of the stash we'd been given.

After wearing the shoes for a few minutes, she declared, "These shoes are so, so tight."

And she took them off.

I don't think they were actually all that tight. But after a winter of wearing snow boots and moccasin-style boots, the shoes were definitely tighter than she was used to.

But after another few mintues, she decided to try the shoes on again. And decided, "They're not so tight."

I'm not sure if she decided that fashion and beauty are more important than comfort or if they really aren't so tight. But she wore that outfit all day long, including the shoes.

This child is all about coordinating her clothes and accessorizing. She's in constant dismay that I don't wear jewelry or fancy shoes, or dresses. Ooh, she so wants me to wear dresses.

And while I know she didn't get her impeccable fashion sense from me, I'm glad she's got it because it makes her happy to coordinate and accessorize and be beautiful. It makes her Olivia and that's pretty darned special. And hey, trying on clothes all day long is excellent occupational therapy, right?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I'm often amazed at how trusting children are. The way both of my girls, when they were much smaller, would just lean back in my arms, trusting me to hold on to them.

They trust us to feed them, clothe them, seek out the best schools, find the right doctors, the best care-givers.

We know they trust us to do these things but it's not often that this trust is truly conveyed to us.

Last week, my mom and Olivia were looking through a magazine together.

They came across a little girl, probably about five years old, who had her hair standing on end, as if she'd just removed her hat and had major static hair.

The little girl's face was one of annoyance and disgust.

Olivia asked my mom, "What's wrong with that little girl?"

My mom decided to make something up. She said, "I think she's mad at her mommy for doing to that to her hair."

Olivia looked back at the picture and stared solemnly at it for a few seconds and then said very seriously, "My mom would never do that to me."

When my mom told me this story, it took my breath away.

Olivia's conviction, her unbending belief that I have, and will always have her best interest at heart is heartening as well as, well, sort of intimidating. Talk about responsibility.

But she's right. I wouldn't do that to her. I wouldn't do something to her that I know would embarrass her, not deliberately. Almost everything I do, I do because I hope it will make my girls' lives better. I work because I want to take care of them, I buy groceries I hope will help them maintain good health. They deserve this and I want to do all this for them. It's what being a mom is about for me.

This weekend, I gave her hair a trim. Just a little off the right side to even it up with the left side, which is pretty short these days from the pulling. The right had gotten so long that there was one curl that was sticking straight out about two inches right above her ear. So trim it we did.

As I was getting ready snip that curl, she asked, concerned, "Are you cutting my hair?"

I explained that I was just trimming a little. I told her she wouldn't even be able to tell and that it was going to look beautiful when I was done.

She trusted me.

Of course, she also checked herself out in the mirror afterward, making sure I'd done a good job. She nodded her approval when it was all over and ran off to find her sister.

The trust of a child is limitless and priceless.