Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Breaking Bad Habits

This sleep thing is driving me nuts. (Did I just hear a chorus people say/think, "Oh dear Lord, not another post about sleep or the lack of sleep."?)

Let me say right here that I know this whole thing is my fault. I know. I do.

But something has to give. I’m so tired of waking up three, four, eleven times a night because I’m across the room instead of RIGHT BESIDE Olivia.

I mean, come on! Most parents aren’t even in the same room as their kids and those kids sleep fine, all night long (so I’m told.)

I know I respond too quickly. I always have. I make waking up and then waking ME up too pleasant and they like my presence. I know that.

But I’m tired. I’m so, so tired. I’ve been tired for going on nine years.

So last night I tried. I tried not to respond. When Olivia woke up for the first time at 9:45, I told her gently from the twin bed I was in, “I’m right here. Lay back down and go back to sleep.”

She looked at me with sleepy confusion. Usually, when she sits up, I go to her and lay down beside her and we snuggle up and she goes right back to sleep. But I don’t want to do that anymore. If she wakes up, I want her to roll over and go back to sleep without any help from me.

Consistency is the answer. I know that too.

See, I’m a good parent in my head. I know the right things to do. But then I get tired and I get annoyed and I just want them to go to sleep and leave me alone for seven hours. Just seven. At this point I’m not even trying to get the girls into their own room so much as I just want them both to sleep all night without needing comfort, scratching, snuggling from me.

They’re five and almost nine, for Pete Sakes! I really don’t think it’s asking a lot for them to go to sleep and STAY asleep, or at the very least, just go the heck back to sleep without calling out to me.

So last night, I told her to lay down and go back to sleep. She did so, but I could tell she wasn’t happy about this. And who can blame her? All these years, this soft, gentle mama was there at her beck and call and suddenly, mama doesn’t want to be there. I really don’t blame her for protesting.

However, I also just want to sleep. So she laid back down and closed her eyes, but she was restless.

She woke up again a half hour later. And again, I told her I was right there in the room and she needed to go back to sleep.

An hour after that, she woke up and didn’t just look around, she sat up and cried. I told her firmly, “Go back to sleep, Olivia.”

She cried harder.

I stood (laid?) firm, telling her, “Just lay down. I’m right here. You’re fine.”

Then? Well, she continued to cry and I got petulant. At my five year old. I’m not proud. I told her, “Livie, I don’t want to come over there. I want to stay here and sleep. Please go back to sleep.”

And she continued to cry. So I got up and I stomped around the foot of the bed and I laid down next other and rolled over and pretended she wasn’t sniffling next to me. I was a brat.

But I also didn’t want to make my presence too pleasant for her. See, I want her to not need me next to her for her to go back to sleep. And I reasoned, in my bratty, sleepy state of mind, that if I just laid there but didn’t rub her back or hold her, then sure, I was THERE but I wasn’t so much present.
Make sense?


Not to me either. I was just tired and if feels like I’m always tired and so I did what I thought I had to do so we could all get some sleep.

I’ll try again tonight. I hope to be more patient and less petulant. I hope the be the firm mom instead of the bratty mom. I hope we can all just sleep, comfortably, soundly, uninterrupted.

I tell myself it will take consistency. I have to keep working at it. They won’t need me in the same room/bed when they’re 18 and 22, right? Please tell me I’m right about this. Please.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I love going to the school and seeing how my girls spend their days in a place where I am rarely there.

I took cupcakes to O’s class today to celebrate her birthday. They were mini cupcakes because the kids in her class are on the mini side. I had enough for each kid to have two, though, just in case. There were cupcakes with pink frosting and some with yellow frosting.

I was surprised when every single kid in the class requested a pink cupcake. Why was I surprised that the boys also preferred pink to yellow? I don’t know. Perhaps my own gender issues are so deeply ingrained that I expected four and five year old boys to scoff at being offered a cupcake with pink frosting.

The surprise was pleasant though. I love it when kids surprise me.

I’d told O I was coming to her class but you know how five year old memories are. Well, O’s memory, anyway, can be iffy. So she was pleasantly surprised when I showed up with a container full of cupcakes. And then, to her further delight, I STAYED with her in her class until it was time to go home. Wheee!! Mom’s here! She let me take her potty, her let me help her put her boots and coat on and she even offered to let me carry her to the car. That one didn’t happen. But she tried, I’ll give her points for that.

I know we’re lucky to still live in an area where homemade foods are allowed to be taken to school. We’re also lucky to have teachers who are willing to let a parent sit in on the class for 45 minutes. While there, I found out when the Christmas party is and was given the task of bringing cookies for the kids to decorate. Fine motor skills activity! Yay.

As O and I were leaving we saw A in the hall. She grinned and waved, another bonus to being in a small school. Third graders and preschoolers have classrooms next door to each other. I love that.

I wish I were able to be the mom who volunteers for classroom activities on a weekly basis but we’ll take what we can get. I always save a vacation day for the end of the year when the school parties are coming up. I’m lucky I can do that too.

I do realize how very lucky, over all, that I am. Even for all my bitching, I know I have it pretty darned good.

Monday, November 28, 2011

He Can't Say I Didn't Warn Him

I can’t explain just how excited I was when I saw that Fear Factor is coming back to television. The fact that Joe Rogan is still hosting the show is just the icing on the cake.

When he first saw the preview, Tom’s response wasn’t quite as positive at my own. I believe his words were, “I never did like that show.”

I grinned at him and replied, “I did. I loved that stupid show! And I can’t wait to watch it again.”

He left the room not so much in disgust as in resignation.

But! To that I say, I warned him. See, once upon a time I joined a dating website and Tom did the same and he found my profile, emailed me and we started communicating. (I have mentioned before that Tom and I met online, right? No? I don’t remember and am lazy, so, yeah, we met online.)

And right from the start, I told him I love to watch television. I told him I also love movies and reading and long walks on the beach (okay, maybe not that last one.)

Of course, I also warned him from the beginning that, upon reading his own profile, I saw that he was divorced with three teenage kids and if he wasn’t willing/able to have more kids, he shouldn’t waste my time.

Obviously, he was willing and able to have more children and here we are today. And yet, somehow, he seems to think that being married with children might have changed my television viewing habits.

Poor dear, so delusional, so disappointed. Though I say he should count himself lucky that I’ve never watched The Bachelor/ette series. Not because I don’t think it would be entertaining but it’s never really caught my attention like other fluff shows like America’s Next Top Model, Fear Factor (yay!), The Amazing Race, etc. So many shows, so few hours of awake time…

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Counting Our Blessings

Olivia has been enchanted by all the Christmas decorations we've placed around the house. She gazes in awe at the Christmas tree and asks constantly if she can blow out the candles I've lit throughout the house.

We have this snowman shaped jar in which we've put some tiny red and gold bulbs. She loves to carry this thing around, taking the 'hat' off the snowman every so often and pouring out the bulbs only to put them back in again.

A month ago, I asked Olivia to count something for me. There were six of whatever she was counting. She counted them to six and then went back to to start of the items and continued with seven, eight and nine.

Last night she was playing with the bulbs again and I asked her to hand me five of them.

And she did. She counted out exactly five and then handed them to me. I told her to take three back. She did. I then asked her how many I had left and she looked at the ones in my hand and said, "Two." She did this several times with several different amounts of bulbs.

It amazes me what a month can do for a kid Olivia's age. Five is huge.

Speaking of FIVE! Olivia is officially five today. This is the last year she will be able to count her age on one hand. She's counting, she's on the verge of reading (she can site read more words than I can count) and she's working on the projection of her voice.

Of course, when you're the youngest child in your family, you'll always be the baby and O is very easy to baby. But now she's five. She might decide this year that she's tired of being the baby. Then again, now that she can count with deliberation, she may decide to milk this last year of being one hand worth of fingers old for all it's worth.

I can't say I'd blame her at all.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Yeah, okay, not so much with the shopping. I'm not a Black Friday shopper. I never feel like I get enough sleep, as is evidenced by probably one too many posts here. I am absolulely not willing to lose sleep in order to get up early and go to stores to fight groups of mostly insane people to get things I probably don't even need.

But my husband? He's almost always up at 4am anyway, so off he went on Friday. Luckily, he didn't have to fight a major crowd. He hit our local Pamida and got a new television for our family room. And what do you know? We actually needed it.

Today Olivia and I had to go to Walmart to buy some groceries. While in town, we went ot Menards too. My mom had mentioned that Menards had lava lamps on sale for $4.99. I got two of them, one with red wax and clear oil and the other with white wax and blue oil.

At this point, I have purchased three whole Christmas presents.

And I'm okay with that. There are still 29 days left until Chrismas. Plenty of time to get everything on my list.

How about you? Do you enjoy the competition of Black Friday shopping or are you more like me, willing to give up the 'deals' in exchange for one more day to sleep in. Ahh, yes. Sleep is absolutely my precious.

Friday, November 25, 2011

More Than We Ever Dreamed

We put up the Christmas tree today. The girls went from the tree to the end tables to the counter tops, decorating every flat surface in the house.

As I was draping lights on the tree, Olivia exclaimed over and over, "It's going to be so gorgeous."

And in the end, it is.

This was the first year she was truly able to help hang ornaments from the tree branches. She loved it. She oohed and ahhhed over every single bulb that went on that tree.

Both girls stood anxiously at the door to the garage, waiting for me to bring in each new box filled with Christmas goodness.

And even though we were faced with not one but two dead mice at the bottoms of a couple of boxes of decorations, we plowed through. I lit candles to help cover the smell of death and instead, we inhaled artificial pine and pepperment scents as we continued to turn our home into a Christmas wonderland.

In the end, Olivia gasped, "It's better than we even dreamed."

Alyssa, on the other hand, declared, "We have the smallest Christmas tree in the whole world." This came after visiting Gram's house, where a very large, very bright Christmas tree greeted us from her front window.

Ahhh, Lyssie...someday, you too, can have a huge Christmas tree. Until then? Our small little dream will have to do.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today is the day that we Americans give thanks for our blessings. I have so many blessings that I can't possibly list them all.

I am thankful for little girls who announce, "I'm a pretty as a princess." And then, five minutes later are outside playing in the mud.

I am thankful for a husband who toasts me an English muffin each morning just before I walk out the door and then, on one of my few days off, takes care of the above little girls while I sleep for an extra hour.

I am thankful for my mother, who is the best grammy and mother anyone could ask for. She retired when O was a year old so that the therapists didn't have to go to a daycare to work with O.

I am thankful for friends I've known forever who still manage to love me anyway and for new friends who have found their way into our lives.

I am thankful for our home, the one I worked so hard to buy last year. We are so incredibly lucky to be here, in this place at this time.

I am thankful for teachers who are understanding and who have my girls' best interests at heart.

Our lives are so full, so blessed. On this day I want to stop for a minute and think about everything I've been given, everything I've achieved, everything I'm not even sure I deserve. I am just so thankful for this life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Inner Meanie

I could learn a thing or two from those very kind young women I talked about in the last post. I am not nearly as kind, as nice, as generous as they are.

In fact, I often have very mean thoughts.

For example, I recently read a post on Facebook that was basically a list of things this person had to do before hosting a group of people for Thanksgiving. After mentioning she needed to clean her house, this person went on to say, “But since I just cleaned top to bottom, there’s not much left to do.”

And I instantly thought, “Yeah, you don’t work outside the home, of course you just cleaned top to bottom.”

See, that’s not very nice. I do know that mothers who are home with their children are often very, very busy and that they do, indeed, work, even if they’re not paid for their work.

But the post came across (to my mean brain) as so self-congratulatory that I couldn’t help but sneer a little.

What makes me so mean? Is it envy? Probably a little. But I think that even if I were a stay-at-home mom too, I’d still be a little snarky about a post like that. I’m all for using Facebook as a means to keep people updated on happenings in our lives. That’s what it’s for, right? Heck, I’ve been known to be all braggy about something the girls might have done. But…see, the meanness is coming out again. I have a hard time with the whole, “I’m so good at this and my life is so wonderful and blah blah blah.”

But just because I don’t use social media for that (my blog is obviously proof that I’m not all sunshine and roses even though there are plenty of wonderful things about which I post) it doesn’t mean others shouldn’t. It’s their space.

And yet I’m so mean about it in my own head. Now, I’ll give myself a little credit. I don’t comment on posts like that telling the poster what a jerk I think they are. That would be more than mean, it would be rude. But I also don’t bother ‘liking’ those kinds of posts. I wouldn’t want to encourage the very things that make me the meanest.

Tomorrow I promise to be grateful, to ruminate on all for which I’m thankful. I just needed to get the mean out of my system.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Nicest People

While it’s evident from my last post that I’d give up dance marathons if it would give O back the missing part of her chromosome, since that’s not going to happen, I’m going to gush about some of the most amazing college students I’ve ever met.

And see, I WENT to college, so I’ve met quite a few college students in my day. Heck, some of the college students I met back when I was a college student are still my very best friends.

But these students? The ones who put their hearts and souls into raising money for Riley Hospital for Children and putting on the best party a five year old and an eight year old have ever been invited to, those college students are amazing.

Two in particular have made a lasting impression on A and O. Ally at Indiana University and Hayli at Purdue University.

These two young women made it their goal during the weekends we were on their campuses to ensure that Alyssa and Olivia had fun. They were amazing. They put aside their very busy schedules and spend every minute we were at their respective dance marathons with us, making sure we were fed, were entertained, were first in line at the bathroom.

Seriously, it is amazing to me that they are so selfless.

Now, I know that there are a lot of amazing 18 -22 year olds out there but there are also a lot of selfish ones. We just got really, really lucky to meet both Ally and Hayli.

Not only did they get Olivia gift bags, they made sure Alyssa was included. That warms my heart more than you can know. To make sure the sibling of the Riley kid feels special too goes above and beyond. They didn’t have to be told that sometimes it’s hard to be the ‘typical’ sibling of a ‘special’ child. That sometimes, the typical kids feel left out when everyone is gushing over the special one. They seemed to know instinctively that all eight year olds want to be noticed too and they did that. They did more than notice Alyssa, they pulled her in and made her special too.

I will be forever grateful to these two young women who danced with Olivia, found other students to do cartwheels with Alyssa, who brought us water and found us pancakes when O was so hungry she was reverting to sucking her thumb.

All of the students who do the dance marathons are wonderful. I watch the others play with the other Riley kids and I’m warmed by the generosity of the human heart.

The ever lovely Julie likes to say that you can always tell the families who are new to dance marathons because they’re the ones who still watch their own kids. The families who have been there a few times know that the college students are there to entertain the kids.

And it’s true. Well, unless you’ve got kids like mine, who want to be able to see Mom at all times. But most kids are happy to let their parents go off somewhere because these other, younger people are there to take care of them.

Ally and Hayli do for us what Riley hospital itself does. They care for the entire family, not just the patient.

Alyssa asked me last night if Ally was going to be ‘our girl’ again next year when we go back to Bloomington. I told her that Ally is graduating this year and heading off to New York.

Alyssa was a little sad but perked up when I reminded her that with Ally starting her new job and new life, it opened the door for someone new to get to know her (Alyssa) and Olivia and how great is it that we get to make another new friend?

She did ask if Hayli would be ‘our girl’ at Purdue and I said maybe so. Hayli is a freshman this year, which gives us a chance to see her for another three years. If she wants.

I’m hoping all this exposure to the love, the generosity of others inspires my girls to give back as much as they’ve been given. Of course, like Julie, I also want them to actually attend class when they’re in college. Dance marathons take a lot out of the students. I just hope they give back to them too.

(Yes, look at me, assuming O will someday be in college. It is not outside the realm of possible. I’m just saying.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Lied

After I shared Olivia’s story of becoming a Riley kid at the dance marathon this weekend, one of the college students who puts their heart and soul into planning and executing the amazing events that are the dance marathons came up to me and thanked me for sharing our story.

I told him I loved doing it. I nodded at Olivia, who was spinning and dancing around the room in her Barbie Princess Charm School dress and thanked him for all that he does and how he and his fellow planners manage to make the weekend about kids like Olivia.

He told me that it was Olivia and all the other Riley kids who inspire him and the work he does.

I asked him what his major is and it is pre-med. I told him I wasn’t surprised.

He went on to say that he wants to go into research so he can continue to help people.

I pointed out that when your child is diagnosed with a genetic disorder as Olivia was, there’s no cure but that having an answer is sometimes all you need.

Then I lied to him. I said, “I wouldn’t change her anyway.”

That’s a lie. I’ve written before that if I could give O the part of her chromosome that is missing I would. In a heartbeat, I’d give it back to her.

See, we were all caught up in the love that dance marathons inspire. We were being all philosophical and dreamy and isn’t life grand and how lucky are we to have this opportunity to change lives?

But…in the everyday scheme of things? I’d give it back to her. I’d take away the challenges she faces. I’d take away the low muscle tone and her soft voice. I’d give her a strong, loud voice and muscles that do what she wants them to do without so much effort.
I do not think that the missing part of O’s fifth chromosome makes her who she is. I don’t think it would change the essence of who she is if she had all of her chromosomes intact.

Olivia is the girliest girly girl who ever twirled. And she’d be that same twirly girly girl even if she had all of that fifth chromosome. She’d probably just be more twirly, more steady on her feet, louder when she sings Taylor Swift songs.

She might not be a Riley kid and we might not get to go to all these amazing events where she and her sister are treated like celebrities but you know what? I’d trade those things in an instant if I could give O back her complete independence, her fullest potential.

I know that her potential is already pretty good but she has already faced a few challenges and will face more in her life. I’d take those away. I’d ‘fix’ her, if I could. I just would.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

And Away We Go

A birthday party, lots of gifts, family and friends combined with a 163 mile round trip to Purdue University for another dance marathon made in a twenty-four hour period all work toward making for a very busy, very fun, very tiring weekend.

We had the annual cousins' birthday party this weekend. Even though Olivia won't be officially five until next Sunday, we celebrated her birth along with Jaxon's and Sabella's. This was their 4, 5, 6 year. They had great fun.

My mom made a Tow Mater cake for Jaxon. He was entralled by her culinary genius.

Olivia chose a rainbow theme for her birthday, so mini cupcakes arranged in the shape of a rainbow and cloud served her well.

The party started 3:00 on Saturday and by 5:15, the girls and I were packed in the car, heading south and west to attend Purdue University's dance marathon. We were about three hours late but it was worth drive.

We didn't have to tell O's Riley story until this morning, so we spend an hour at the dance and then headed to the hotel for about six hours of sleep.

As we were packing up to leave the party yesterday, Alyssa asked why we had to go. She bemoaned the fact that we'd been at IU's dance marathon just two weeks ago and she was tired of driving all over the state.

I told her we'd made the commitment and that I knew once we got there, she'd have as much fun as she always does. She tried to convince Tom to let her stay home with him but he told her he knew if she stayed with him, ten minutes after I left, she'd be declaring she wanted to be with me.

So off she went, not completely against her will but a bit petulantly.

I assured her we don't have another dance marathon until January, enough time for her to miss the adventure, the attention, the noise and the fun of it all.

Until then, though, we're ready for a few weekends of not being on the road.

Friday, November 18, 2011


On Wednesday morning Olivia requested Waffles for breakfast. We didn’t have any frozen waffles and I didn’t have time to drag out the waffle iron, mix the ingredients and cook up a waffle for her so Rice Krispies it was.

But I made sure I went to the store that day and bought two different kinds of Eggo waffles, buttermilk and blueberry. If my girl wants waffles for breakfast I want to provide them for her. (Without all the work involved in using an actual waffle iron, thank you very much.)

She’s had blueberry waffles for breakfast before school the last two mornings. I blame my mother for O’s penchant for asking for such things.

My mom loves that Olivia eats a wide variety of foods. Okay, I do too, but not at 7:05 in the morning when she’s asking for something that not only takes a lot of preparation but is also messy in the eating.

Olivia will often request oatmeal for breakfast or lunch while at my mom’s house. She has never asked for oatmeal at our house. She knows I have no idea how to make oatmeal. She’s not even five yet and she’s figured us all out. But in my defense, I know how to make her favorite noodles and my mom has no clue they even exist. But hey, it’s not a contest, right?

Alyssa, on the other hand, will cheerfully eat Pop Tarts, Rice Krispies or Cheerios every day for months on end. Scramble her an egg and she thinks the world is ending because you might actually expect her to eat it. Give her toast with the crust still on it and you’re the meanest person who ever lived. And waffles are just a mystery to her. She can’t imagine why anyone would want to eat one.

My girls are so different that sometimes it surprises me they share DNA. But differences and similarities aside, they're awesome, each in her own way.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Show and Tell

Olivia’s class has started doing Show and Tell. Obviously, at this point, Olivia isn’t actually taking anything to class to show her classmates. She refuses to even consider just taking something and not talking about it. She’ll just sit back and enjoy the others as they show and tell, thank you very much.

During my conference with O’s teacher, I mentioned that I wish I could take a video of Olivia at home, one she wasn’t aware of so she doesn’t get distracted by the camera itself, so that I could send it to her teacher. I want the teachers and therapists to see and get to know the wild, talkative, active girl we live with, not the shy little flower that sits quietly in their classroom.

Mrs. F thought that was a great idea. In fact, she suggested that if I emailed her some sort of video, she could show the class during Show and Tell.

Huh. Well. I’m think it would be fun for everyone to see who Olivia really is but I wondered how Olivia herself would feel about sitting in class one day and suddenly there’s this video of her being played.

Obviously, I would try and explain to her what I was doing. I’d show her whatever video I took of her first and ask if she wanted her class to see it.

But I wonder about retention? Would she remember me talking about the video before it was actually shown in class?

This is something I need to give some thought to before I decide what to do. But for now I need to get around to actually taking video of my super special snowflakes. Can’t send what we haven’t recorded, now can I?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Left Behind

When we realized that Olivia was delayed, before we had her diagnosis, I worried about how we’d all deal with her being left behind by her peers.

Of course, when she was a baby, it didn’t matter. There weren’t all that many kids around that were exactly her age.

But then my nephew was born just before O turned a year old and those old fears came back. See, when Jaxon was born, Olivia, at a year old, still wasn’t crawling. She’d JUST started showing signs of being able to sit up on her own. I had no idea when she’d crawl or walk. And at that point, I knew that the newborn we were welcoming into the world would walk before Olivia did.

And…it didn’t matter. I realized that no matter when Jaxon met his milestones (and that kid was right on target for everything, heck, he was born on his flipping due date for Pete Sakes!) Olivia wasn’t in any diminished by his accomplishments.

He did walk before Olivia did. He was about 13 months old when he started walking. Which means he walked about four months sooner than O. And again, it didn’t matter. She was crawling by then, which of course made a big difference in my own outlook. She was showing us all that she was doing things at her own pace. By that point, I knew she’d get there. With the therapies we had her doing and all the work we were putting into that kid, we knew those goals would be met.

But as O gets older, as we face down the decision to keep her in preschool another year and postpone the academic challenge of kindergarten, I feel that vague sense of being left behind. I feel like O’s challenges are becoming more obvious.

And that saddens me. Not for me, for her. I hope she doesn’t feel like she’s being left behind. I hope she doesn’t watch her peers head off for bigger, better things and feel like she’s being held back by us, by society, by genetics.

I watch her play with Jaxon, this boy she’s known her whole life, and I love it. I love how she interacts with him. I love how she rough houses with him, that sense of confidence she has as they wrestle on the floor. I tease my brother that the nicest thing he ever did for me was having his son. Jaxon has challenged Olivia from the time he was one year old and she was two. He walked first and she watched, learned and basically decided, “Hell, if he can do it, I probably can to.” And she did.

He’s been playing pretend for a couple of years and she’s watched, learned and now, she pretends too. She tells the elaborate stories of a princess who is locked away but is having a party anyway and needs presents and cupcakes and tea.

She pushes Jaxon around (he’s a short little fellow) and she feels confident running from him or after him.

I want her to have that confidence at school, which is one of the reasons we’re doing another year of preschool. Most of the kids in her class this year are younger than she is. Most of them will be in the same preschool class again next year. I feel like that gives her a boost, a shot of confidence as she faces another year in the same class with the same teachers and the same kids. And maybe by the time the 2012/2013 school year starts and all those little preschoolers become kindergarteners, she’ll be that much more ready, that much more confident, that much less likely to be left behind.

Maybe. This is a mother’s hope and prayer and dream.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I have issues. I’ve never denied that. In fact, I’m probably more likely to go on and on about them than to deny that they exist.

I have body-image issues. I have an issue with apologizing too much. I’m on the passive-aggressive side of life.

And much to my husband’s disgust, I tend to make HIS issues all about me.

See, he has issues too. He is currently at what we both consider his idea weight. And yet…he can pinch some skin on his stomach and he feels this is ‘fatty’ skin rather than just skin.

But trust me, it’s just skin. He is not fat in any way.

So when he starts going on and on about that little bit of ‘fat’ I can’t help but make it about me. I can’t help but think, “Damn, if he thinks he’s fat, what must he think of me?”

See, even with 34 pounds lost, I’m still tens of pounds away from any sort of goal weight, let alone what is considered a medically ideal weight for a woman my age and height.

So I get frustrated and I get discouraged and I feel awful about myself because he has issues with himself.

But I’m vowing here and now to try and stop that. I’m going to try and stop making his issues about me. Because I know, intellectually, that they’re not about me. It’s about his own need for perfection in himself. And yet, knowing that, my heart breaks every time he mentions how far from perfect he is because it makes me feel like by extension, he’s saying that I’m even farther from perfection and I’ll never, reach it.

I don’t actually want perfection. I want happiness. And I know that perfection is out of reach and so to strive for it, is to give up being happy. And that’s why I can’t let his issues become my own. I don’t want to give up the possibility of happiness in an attempt to attain something that isn’t possible.

So I’ll let him go on and on about that little roll of fat that doesn’t even exist and I won’t listen to the bitch in my head who asks what he must think of me if he thinks he’s fat. It doesn’t matter. None of us expect nearly as much from those around us as we expect from ourselves.

He can get up at 4am every morning and exercise if he wants. That’s his thing. Sleep is my thing and haven’t gotten nearly enough in, oh about nine years so I’ll pass on the 4am workout sessions, thank you very much. I’ll also pass on the peppermint patties, for now. It’s a compromise.

Isn’t everything?

Monday, November 14, 2011

On the Mend

Alyssa finished her round of antibiotics on Saturday.

Olivia and I started our very own rounds of antibiotics today.

See, Olivia didn't seem sick. Not during the day anyway. But at night, she coughed and coughed and each morning for the past few mornings she's had to clear her through repeatedly. And, worst of all, her appetite was dimished greatly. Olivia is our good eater. She eats a large variety of good foods and she eats a lot of it. Except, in the last week or so, she hasn't.

So off to the doctor we went.

And she's got some sort of bronchial infection. And so she's on medication. Whee!

I just hope it kicks in soon so we can all sleep better. When Olivia doesn't sleep, gues who else doesn't sleep. That's right, the mama. And I'm so, so tired.

So that's where we are. She only has to take the medicine for five days. It really helped Alyssa bounce right back so I have high hopes for little Miss O.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

And then came Bomber

We had another fish die earlier this week. She was a sweet little black and white fish we'd had for over a month.

Because we're not big on furry animals in the house, fish are the only pet Alyssa's ever known. She wasn't nearly as upset over the demise of the latest fish as she was over the first. We'd had that first fish for almost a year.

Anyway, today, we headed back to Meijer and looked at the fish. And this time...we actually got a helpful accociate working with us. She explained which fish work in the bowl we have and which ones need a bubbling tank.

Sadly, the fish we had last time...needed a bubbling tank. We have a fish bowl. I feel awful that we sentences that poor fish to die a slow death of asphyxiation. This time, we came home wtih a blue and red betta. He's been deemed "Bomber" by Alyssa. Her school mascot is the Bomber, so that's cute and neat and I'm proud of her for not naming him Bluey.

We're hoping Bomber fares better than Lily, Lillian, Lillianna and Molly. I know, but Alyssa's only eight, remember?

Bomber is feisty so far. He likes to hide behind Gary the snail that sits that the bottom of his bowl.

Alyssa has already reminded us all not to put a mirror in front of Bomber for fear he'll smash himself to death trying to get at his reflection.

Speaking of furry pets, though...I'm still working on Tom and that kitten for Alyssa's 9th birthday. I hope the kitten that Alyssa picks out likes to watch fish but not eat them. That would be...unpleasant.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I am socially awkward. Sometimes I laugh too loud or too late at jokes told in a group. Sometimes I laugh even if I don’t get the joke, just to feel included. I’ve been known to say something I think is funny only to be met with silence because, yeah, it wasn’t funny at all. If I don’t get to sit next to someone I know on a plane, I’ve had more than one flight where I don’t talk at all, unless it’s to the flight attendant who asked me a direct question.

Which is why it’s not surprise that my girls are on the shy side. They come by it naturally. And even as I try to help ease Alyssa out of her tendency not to speak to people when spoken to, I understand what she’s going through. I know that she WANTS to be one of those outgoing, fun girls, but she just isn’t and it’s not something you can force.

On top of the social awkwardness, I’m also fashion-challenged. I can often be found with a pant leg stuck in a sock. Or I’ll go to the bathroom at work after being there for two hours and find that the stupid collar of my shirt has been folded weird all morning long.

I have no instincts when it comes to fashion. I’m just lucky that jeans are considered pretty acceptable anywhere I go. I’m a jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt kind of girl. Anything more than that feels experimental and it never, ever goes over well.

Further evidence of the challenge fashion gives me is that once, I left the bathroom with my skirt tucked into my underwear. Thankfully, I was with kind friends who promptly pulled my skirt out of my underwear before we left the bathroom. But really? Come on!! It isn’t like I was five when that happened. I was actually 25, if you must know.

I’ve always hoped that maturity and age would give me a semblance of fashion sense and the ability to fit into a crowd. Alas, that isn’t to be. Just this morning, one of my co-workers had to fix the hood on my sweater. Apparently, I’d been walking around work all morning long with it inside out, the hood, not the sweater. But yeah, I had no idea that anything was wrong. I was just going about my business, thinking I was fine but no, I was having a fashion ‘moment.’

I can only hope that since my shyness and social awkwardness didn’t skip the next generation, that perhaps we’ll get lucky and my inability to grasp even the simplest facets of fashion will have skipped over Alyssa and Olivia and they’ll be able to go through life without having to check their collars, their pant legs, their skirts and their underwear for any fashion faux pas.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Conference - part 2

Somehow, when the scheduling of conferences happened, I managed to be scheduled for a conference with O's teacher last Thursday and a conference with A's teacher today. So I had the privledge of driving from work to the school (about twenty miles away) twice. Perhaps in the coming years, the scheduling will be kinder to my gas budget.

But today's conference was all that I'd expected. Alyssa's a joy, she's a delight, if we could clone her about twenty times we'd have a perfect classroom.

Of course, this meeting was followed by me getting to my mom's an hour early to be greeted by a sullen Alyssa who didn't want to come home early, thank you very much.

But again, that's perfectly normal. She's the picture of perfection at school because she's still learning her place among the teachers and her peers. But here at home? She's comfortable in the place that she believes she holds, that of the leader, the boss, the ruler of the house.

Ohh, that silly, silly girl.

But seriously, it was a good conference. Alyssa is at the top of her class in reading, in math, in social studies, in science. She's kind of her classmates and obeys the rules of the classroom and the school.

The only thing her teacher wants her to work on is her handwriting. This doesn't surprise me. When I check her homework, I often suggest to her that she might wand to slow down when she's writing because her handwriting is less than pretty. It's actually sort of messy. Her teacher said that she tries to remind the class that their handwriting is a form of communication and that they need to remember that people reading their work aren't just reading what they wrote, they're also reading how they wrote it.

Such good advice! I'm definitely going to use that as we work on Alyssa's handwriting.

But honestly, if handwriting is the only thing she has to work on? That's pretty darned good.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Writing is Way Cooler than Tracing

One thing I learned during my conference with Olivia’s teacher is that Olivia loathes tracing. She hates it with the passion of a four year old who hates something really unpleasant. She hates it that much.

Her teacher said that when it’s time to trace, Olivia will get up from her chair, head to the wall, lay down on the floor facing the wall and just relax there, prone, to avoid tracing.

This typically doesn’t work these days, though in the beginning days of preschool the teachers were more likely to give her the alone time. Now? They’re on to her antics and so they retrieve her from the floor, sit her in her chair, put her pencil in her hand and make her trace.

And she’s not amused.

She refuses to do it at home at all. She’s been known to throw pencils across the room to avoid tracing at home.

But as much as she hates tracing, she loves free writing. Give her a pad of paper and a pen, and she’s a happy camper, ‘writing’ to her heart’s content. Mostly, it’s just scribbles. Sometime she manages a legible O or a T.

Last night, though, she surprised me. I asked her to write her name, expecting an O an then a few scribbles.

Instead I got this:

It's OLI and then some scribbles. I know!! Isn’t that seriously awesome? I was so excited I had to show Tom and Alyssa how well Livie had written her name. Alyssa was less than impressed but I pointed out that it’s a START and that’s all we can ask. You have to start somewhere and I’m so glad we’re getting there. No matter how slowly, any improvement is worth applauding.

Then, after writing the OLI, Olivia went on to make several perfect tic tac toe grids. Her ability to write straight lines is getting better and better. And that’s where we have to start. Of course, next stop is to get her to at least attempt to draw people, with appropriate heads, bodies and limbs. But like I said, we’re taking this one step at a time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Here's the Thing

Okay, see, my husband is definitely more likely to race off to the doctor when one of the girls develops a cough or has a fever over 98.9 for more than an hour. He’s also more likely to be clutching his pearls and his smelling salts, should the trauma of a child with a cold get to be too much for him.

Me? I’m all, enhh, she’ll get over it.

And then? A week later, I give in, call the doctor, make an appointment, he takes her, pearl-clutching the whole way and off they go with a prescription in hand for an antibiotic to beat that nasty ear infection I said would go away on its own.

Don’t I feel bad? Yes, yes I do. I knew Alyssa wasn’t feeling well but I honestly thought it was a cold. Heck, I have the same cough, congestion and irritability but I’m not trucking myself off to the doctor at this point.

But I have to admit, Tom was right. She needed the doctor and the medicine and she’ll feel better in no time.

And for that, I’m glad.

It’s just that I’m so bad at figuring out when a doctor’s opinion is needed. Heck, when I broke my arm way back in 1993, I wasn’t sure I needed to see a doctor. Okay, so given I couldn’t actually see the swan-neck break that my arm was doing because I was wearing a coat that camouflaged my arm. And yes, dear sweet heaven it hurt so much I thought I was going to throw up, but I kind of thought that might pass.

Of course it didn’t and yes, I did have to see an orthopedic surgeon to set that break. But that’s just an example of how unsure I am of when I need to see a doctor.

One would think I’d choose to err on the side of wasting my and the doctor’s time but alas, I can’t bring myself to do that. So instead, my children suffer for a few extra days because I put it off, thinking they’ll surely beat this bug this time.

Yet I’m not actually beating myself up right now over this. We could have taken her to the doctor yesterday, sure we could have. But we didn’t and now, she’s at home with antibiotics coursing through her system, fighting off that nasty infection for her and she’ll get better. And maybe, just maybe, next time, I’ll heed Tom’s obviously superior instincts and head off to the doctor as soon as he says it’s necessary. I’m not one who can’t learn from her mistakes.

That’s not to say I don’t have to make them more than once to actually learn the lesson though. Just saying.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Birthday Week

I love birthdays. My own especially. I know, that shows how very self centered I am, doesn’t it?


Anyway, since Tom and I have been together, I’ve extended my birthday to a week. He good-naturedly hassles me about it, but he always just shrugs when I declare that it’s my birthday week.

This morning, he and the girls greeted me with presents. Yay!! The girls were as excited as I was to see what was in those pretty gift bags.

And what do you know? It was blue carnival glass. A butter dish, salt and pepper shakers and candle holders. Did I say, “Yay!” yet?

Even though I was resolved to go back on my strict healthy eating plan as of today, my salad was delicious for lunch, by the way, Tom suggested via email this afternoon that I pick up a pizza for dinner.

I do so adore that man.

I told my mom this weekend that 40 doesn’t feel old to me. Well, 41 doesn’t feel old either.

I think 41 is going to be a pretty good year.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I don't know how Julie and her family do this weekend after weekend. That family is perhaps the busiest group of people I know.

The girls and I got home at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon. We left home at 2:30 on Friday aftenoon, heading for Bloomington, Indiana. We'd been invited to the IU Dance Marathon (IUDM.)

This was our second dance marathon at IU. We've been to two at Purdue too. We're heading to West Lafayette in two weeks for our third Purdue Dance Marathon (PUDM.)

See, we're a Riley family. It took the doctor at Riley Hospital for Children listening to me, really looking at Olivia and running a test that she honestly thought was pointless for us to get O's dianosis.

The cool thing is that once upon a time, I was a dancer at the IUDM. I was awake and on my feet for 36 hours. Way back in 1993, as I faced exhaustion and muscle aches that lasted for days, I never imagined that I'd be back to another IUDM at a Riley mom. I never imagined that college students would surround my children with love, wanting to give them an amazing weekend of fun, of near constant attention, of knowing just how amazing they are.

I never, ever imagined that I'd stand on a stage, holding a microphone telling our story, which, really, when compared to the stories of others on that stage, isn't all that miraculous. I often say that while Riley didn't save Olivia's life, they did save my sanity.

But wow, the physical and emotional toll weekends like this take is pretty big. We're home and tired and Alyssa managed to catch a cold. I don't have as much laundry as I could have had, but there's enough down in the basement waiting to be done.

None of uf ate well this weekend. I don't think a single vegetable was consumed all weekend long.

But it was so good. So fun.

My mom went with us this weekend. This was her first IUDM. She was amazed by the students, by the families (she wiped more than one tear away as she listened to these amazing stories) by the atmosphere that makes the kids know how special, how incredible they are.

As good as it was, we're glad to be home. At least until it's time to head to PUDM for another fun-filled, kid-centric weekend where we'll once again tell Livie's story, ending with Alyssa's sentiment that while O might have a little less genetic material than the rest of us, she's still able to do almost everything we all do, up to and including being a very annoying little sister.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Conference - Part 1

A few weeks ago at my mom’s house, the kids were being silly, as they are every afternoon after a day of school.

Olivia did something (I don’t remember what) and I said something about kindergarten and my mom said gently, “If she’s ready next year.”

And it hit me. She might not be ready for kindergarten next year.

I’m glad my mom said that to me when she did.

At O’s parent/teacher conference today, her preschool teacher said pretty much the same thing. She didn’t say O won’t be ready for kindergarten next year but she did allude that another year of preschool wouldn’t hurt Olivia at all.

She (Mrs. F) fears that kindergarten is very, very academic and that Olivia is still working on the social aspects of school.

She’s right, of course.

Olivia still has trouble tracing. She hates it and doesn’t even want to try. She is willing to cut paper into confetti these days, which is a big step in the right direction but tracing letters and shapes? No thank you, says Olivia.

She’s also still more into observing the class rather than taking part in it. Mrs. F said that during circle time, O will sit back and watch the kids, sometimes mouthing the words to the songs but never doing the motions. We think this is a processing issue. O needs a little more time to get into sinc with everyone else and I know she’s one of those kids who doesn’t even want to try something if she isn’t going to do it perfectly the first time.

We’re working on that, obviously.

Potty training is also still an issue. A child who won’t tell the adults in charge of her that she has to use the bathroom is going to have trouble during those hours she’s with those adults.

At the Halloween party last week O told me she had to pee. Her teacher was amazed by this. Olivia has never, not in the three months she’s been in school, told either of the teachers when she has to go to the bathroom.

I know this is more about her comfort with the adults than it is with her ability to speak or be able to know when she has to go but it’s an issue.

I suggested today that started next week the teachers take O to the bathroom every 45 minutes or so, just to have her try to potty. This might clue Olivia in on the fact that it’s okay to tell the teachers when she has to go.

We have another meeting in January to discuss her IEP and at that point we’ll decide if she’s going to do preschool for another year. Mrs. F warned me that the principal will talk about high school sports and will warn me that if we wait another year before sending Olivia to kindergarten, she won’t be eligible to play sports in eighth grade once she turns 15. Obviously eighth grade sports are at the bottom of our concerns right now.

Obviously there are some things we can work on. But there are also some great things happening for Olivia these days.

She’s talking like crazy at home, telling stories about princesses in castles and planning imaginary parties. She’s constantly giving me invisible gifts that I have to open and she ‘swims’ through the room, sometimes forward, sometimes backward. She ‘flies’ too.

I think preschool has been good for her this year. It’s pushed her out of her comfort zone and made her try new things. It’s given her peers and let her see that there’s more to the world than home and Gram’s house.

We’re going to work on tracing and cutting at home as well as talking up the fact that she can tell her teachers when she has to potty.

And honestly? If she attends another year of preschool instead of heading off to kindergarten next year, what’s the big deal? What we want more than anything for Olivia is for her to be happy and reach her fullest potential, whatever that might be.

Her teacher was kind enough to point out that as O is on the small side, no one will even know that she’s a year older than her kindergarten peers if she waits another year to attend. Not that that would be the deciding point for us. But it’s nice to have that in our pockets we worried about it. There are benefits to being tiny.

You know, as I read back on this and think about how it took my mom’s comment and then Olivia’s teacher’s confirmation of the validity of my mom’s comment to really get it to sink in…maybe I am in more denial than I realize. Of course, isn’t that the way denial works? We never really realize we’re in denial until we look back at our past behavior?

But see, I think Olivia is just amazing. I think she’s the bees’ knees, if you will. I think that about both my girls. And I think that whatever they’re doing, they’re awesome at it.

What I see at home is so different from what those girls show people at school or even in public. And so it’s easy for me to be in denial of Olivia’s limitations. At home, she appears to have none.

But when confronted with those denials, I don’t get defensive or irritated. I try to listen because I realize that others see things I don’t see. Or, rather, they don’t see the things I do see. And I want to help Olivia show the world the side of her that, at this time, she reserves for home viewing only. I want her to be the best she can possibly be. If that’s denial, I’m not sure I want to wake up from it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I sit here and look at the new pictures my girls brought home from school. Alyssa’s in blue and Olivia’s in red. I can’t help but think of those as their colors these days.

I look at those pictures and I imagine the mother those sweet, loving girls deserve. And I always fall short of that ideal.

I know we’ll never be quite ideal but I want to try harder to get there.

I want to be more patient. More loving even when I have to discipline.

Take meals for an example. It drives me nuts that Alyssa takes forever to eat dinner each night. How hard is it to eat four green beans? It doesn’t even matter that they’re drowning in ranch dressing, she can take fifteen minutes to eat those stupid beans. And I get irritable and grouchy with her.

She’s just a kid. She doesn’t like green beans and so she puts them off to the end of the meal. And then she draws it out even further, trying to avoid eating them at all.

In the end, she eats them and we can all leave the table. But while we’re waiting and she’s telling stories and being silly, I get more and more frustrated by the fact that I have a lot to do and instead of getting all that stuff done, I’m sitting there waiting for her to eat those damned beans.

But…reframe: I get to sit there with my daughter and listen to her imagination as it spills out of her mouth. Yes, the beans are still uneaten but I should be treasuring this time that she wants me nearby. This is a precious moment in her life when she wants to talk to me. And I need to step back and take it all in rather than thinking of all those other things that need to be done. She’s only going to be eight for ten more weeks. She’s still so little in so many ways.

Instead of nagging her to eat her beans, I need to listen to her, bask in her beauty and her intelligence. Those beans almost always get eaten anyway. I think a little nudging instead of nagging will get the job done. And that will allow the mood to stay jovial instead of it deteriorating into frustration all around.

Both girls deserve a little more patience from their tired old mother. I’m trying. I hope, someday, when they look back, they’ll know how much I love them and how much better I wanted to do. I hope they know that they were the most important things in my entire life. I hope I manage to show them how special, how amazing they both are between my snapping at them to eat their beans and to just go to sleep already.

There’s a lot of hope flying around my life these days.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fighting Genetics

As a child, I had horrible teeth. My baby teeth were discolored and just nasty. I think genetics and taking getting Pepsi in my bottle were the cause.

I had horrific experiences with the dentist in my youth. I hated the dentist. I hated the hygenist. I hated the office and the way it smelled. I hated the nitrous oxide they used to put me out while they worked on my teeth. I hated it all.

I got lucky, though. My adult teeth are stronger than my baby teeth were. Of course, by the time my permanent teeth came in, I no longer used a baby bottle and I rarely drank (drink?) Pepsi.

My girls have had their problems with dentistry. Both managed to injure a top front tooth when they were three. They've each had to have fillings.

They don't have a good opinion of dentists in general either.

But we're working to change that.

Our visit yesterday was the girls' first meeting with a new dentist. They'd gone to a pediatric dentist in the past.

The old dentist had a strict rule about parents in the room when cleanings/procedures took place.

I took them to my dentist yesterday. I was welcomed back where the cleanings were taking place.

Both of my girls were superheroes. They were awesome as they cooperated with both the hygenist and the dentist.

And...they both joined the "No Cavity Club." We're attempting to fight genetics with regular visits to the dentist and strict tooth brushing habits.

It can be an uphill battle, but we're trying.

And finding a dentist who is kind and patient to his patients is a definite step in the right direction as we head up that hill.