Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - A Look Back

Ahh, 2012. It was a good year. Back in January Alyssa turned nine and what a great year nine has been. She's grown so tall and mastered so many amazing gymnastics feats. I won't try and say what they are because I know I'd get the names wrong and that would annoy Alyssa.

She's doing great in fourth grade and has some great friends. She bounced back from her tonsilectomy like a champ. She worried me there for a few days but finally turned that corner. 2012 brought, we hope, an end to sore throats for Alyssa.

Olivia has learned the art of asking leading questions and getting the answers she wants, attempting to manipulate me and Tom. It's fun when it's not exasperating.

I resolved to read more to Olivia at this time last year.

I did it. I think we might have missed about ten days in the past year. Every other day ended with me and Olivia (and more often than not, Alyssa) snuggled under a blanket, reading three books. It's been great for all of us. And we're currently regulars at our local library. We take out so many books each week that at one point one of the librarians asked me if I homeschooled.

I also kept my resolution to give more to Reece's Rainbow, an amazing organization that helps match families to orphans in Eastern Europe. I've said it before that I don't have the emotional reserves to adopt a child myself but giving even a few dollars each month might help bring one of those precious children home.

I didn't make any weight loss resolutions because, well, they don't work for me. I have to be in the right frame of mind for that and it didn't happen in 2012. There are days when I hate myself because of it and other days where I think, "Ehhh, it'll happen or it won't, whatever."

I know, great attitude, huh?

It was mostly a great year. I feel like we were happy as a family as a whole and in the end, that's what makes a good year.

Tomorrow? A look forward to the coming year. I'm looking forward to year 13.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Postponed

This weekend was originally so tightly schedule, I was beginning to think I'd need to pencil in time to pee.

Last night Tom took care of the girls while I went to the movie with my mom and her sisters. We saw Les Miserables and wow...it was just so amazing.

I've seen the musical on stage twice, once in New York and the second time in Chicago and both times I was thrilled and amazed.

On the screen, though, it was that much more impressive. The fact that we could get close ups of the actors' faces, see their emotions, hear their pain. Hugh Jackman is stunning. I mean, we all knew that from his portrayal of Wolverine, right? But his take on Jean Valjean was so much better. He made you want him to win, to get away, to start over. He made the audience believe that a man has the ability to change his life entirely and then to go on to have the biggest, most loving heart.

And Anne Hathaway? What can I say? I cried so hard every single time she was on screen.

Russel Crowe was wonderful as Javert. So he's not the greatest singer but he still managed to put so much feeling into the character, he made it believable even with okay singing. It was just so thrilling and I can't say enough about it.

But I will stop there. Except to say that when the dvd is released? I will absolutely pay full price on the first day of release.

Okay, moving on.

We were supposed to go to my mom's today to make gingerbread houses. But she called this morning to ask if we could postpont until next week. She's not feeling well.

And in the end, it was for the best because Alyssa came down with a fever that lasted all afternoon. She finally fell asleep on the couch after a dose of Tylenol followed by ibuprophen, which managed to bring the fever down to a more reasonable temp of 99.3.

If Alyssa's feeling better tomorrow, Tom and I are going to take the girls bowling. We'd originally planned to leave the girls with my mom and go alone (date!) but with my mom not feeling well along with her plan to help her siblings pack up my grandma's apartment, we decided the girls would have fun with us.

Bonus, neither of them has ever been bowling and Alyssa's so excited she's willing hre fever down just at the suggestion that she might not get to go if she isn't feeling better.

So, we're still planning great fun just planning to be flexible as we make it happen.

Oh, and I took down all the Christmas decs today. It was just time.

If you get the chance, you really, truly should go see Les Miserables. It's that good.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Down Time

Before I became a mother, I knew that when I did become a mother, my time would no longer be my own.

Even when I was pregnant with Alyssa, as that last month wound down and the end of the pregnancy loomed, I knew what I was in for. I knew that the moment she was born, my life as I knew it would change. I knew it and I dreaded it even as I yearned to hold her and see her and learn her.

I still worried a bit over the loss of time and self and independence. I wanted that baby. She was planned and yearned for and still I fretted over the changes I knew were coming.

I loved having her inside me, knowing where she was at all times, knowing she was being nurtured and loved right there with me.

And when she was born that sense of responsibility started immediately. I knew she needed me and I wanted to be there for her. Even in the hospital, with the nurses urging me to sleep and let them care for her I wanted her with me, to be the one who took care of her from the beginning even though I knew we were in this for the long haul.

Almost ten years later, I find myself yearning for a little down time, some moments where I can just be me, Tommie, instead of the constant on-call Mom.

Obviously, I wouldn’t trade my girls for anything but…a few hours at night to sleep uninterrupted would be very, very nice.

Olivia woke up about three times last night. She is not a child who wakes up, rolls over and goes back to sleep. She wants company in the darkness, she wants reassurance that I’m there, that my hand will rub her back, that my lips will kiss her face and I will smooth her hair out of her eyes. She wants to be able to put my fingers right on the spot that itches on her arm and know I’ll sooth the itch, that my arm will pillow her head as she drifts back to sleep.

But I’m so tired.

I’ve mentioned that Alyssa was a terrible sleeper as an infant. She woke many times in the night until she was two years old. And even after that, she tended to wake at least ones a night for a few more years.

As she looks toward her tenth birthday, she’s an awesome sleeper. She still tends to wake up earlier than I’d prefer, she does manage not to wake me in the night. This, I appreciate.

I know that O’s sleeping habits will mature and she’ll stop needing me quite so much. I try to enjoy this needy stage if only because I know it won’t last but I do so wish her neediness didn’t have to come at 2am each and every night.

A couple of nights a week? Okay, fine, we can handle that. But every single night? I’m so tired. I feel like I’ve been tired for almost ten years.

We’ve got a busy weekend planned. I probably have more plans for this weekend than I have any other weekend of 2012. As I sit here and complain about having no down time, I remember that I’m seeing a movie with my mom this evening, going to her house with the girls tomorrow to make gingerbread houses and then on Sunday, Tom and I are going bowling while my mom babysits.

We have lots of down time planned and I’m grateful.

I still cry out for a little more down time at night. And I won’t apologize for that. Not today.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yahtzee!

Even though the new year hasn’t started, Alyssa and I have already gotten a head start on my new years resolution to have a game night once a week.

I got her Yahtzee for Christmas and last night we played a round after Olivia was asleep. I love that A has to do math during this game and she loves making noise with the five dice.

Once I’d won the first round, we started a movie and just sat together, enjoying a moment of just us. She spent the night with my mom the night before and so I kept telling her how glad I was that she was there, at home, with us. I miss her when she’s gone, even if it’s just for a night.

I can tell she loves hearing those things and because it’s true, it’s easy to say to her.

Part way through the movie we were watching, Alyssa asked to play another round of Yahtzee. I agreed and we got our cards and dice out.

We were maybe three turns in when Olivia woke up and came to find us. Her eyes were red from having woken up to find me not next to her.

I pulled her close to me and told Alyssa we could finish our game tomorrow.

The look of disappointment on her face broke my heart. She sighed with resignation and leaned away from me, against the arm of the couch.

I felt her resentment toward Olivia, her sense that O’s needs always trump her own. And yes, needing comfort in the night might be more important that a game of Yachtzee, when you’re not quite ten years old, it just plain sucks when your time with your mom, time that is precious and rare, is cut short by your annoying little sister.

So I settled Olivia next to me on the couch, she was already back to sleep anyway, and told Alyssa it was her turn.

The bright look she gave me, the wonder that I wasn’t going to push her aside to take care of her sister, the joy in her smile…it made me so glad I didn’t postpone that game a moment longer.

I know that sometimes, we need to know that the world doesn’t revolve around us. I know that this is a lesson my girls need to learn. But sometimes, some nights, it’s nice to know that your mom’s world does revolve around you. I was glad to let Alyssa be my gravitational pull last night, the one around whom I revolved, even if just for a few moments. She needed that and so did I.

PS Alyssa won the second round of Yahtzee.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A New Blankie

When Alyssa was little (littler?) she had a favorite blanket. She called it ‘white blankie with pink.’ She called it that because, well, it was a white blanket with pink satin binding. It was soft and lovely and she took it everywhere with her. We still have white blankie with pink but it’s no longer a necessity for Alyssa to fall asleep.

Olivia has purple blankie. Can you guess why she calls it that? Yeah, we’re all about originality around here.

She’s needed purple blankie to fall asleep for well over a year. She rubs the purple binding against her face just before she falls asleep most nights.

Last night, purple blankie was found in a puddle of neglect at her feet as I picked her up to carry her upstairs to bed.

Instead of purple blankie, she was wrapped in a white blanket with gray design, a blanket that goes beautifully with our new couch. A blanket that was a gift from my mom to me to complement our living room furniture.

When we sat down to read, I had the white and gray blanket on my lap and O was happily wrapped in purple blankie. She snuggled up against me and touched the blanket covering me.

She sighed, “This blanket is so soft. Where did you get it?”

I told her it was a present from Gram.

She rubbed it a little more and said, “Where did Gram buy it?”

I told her I didn’t know.

We read her three books and she settled down to let me rub her back and scratch her arms. She pulled a corner of my blanket up to her face and whispered again how soft it was. She wrapped that corner around her arm, taking in the lovely sensory input that gave her.

About fifteen minutes later, she was starting to doze and I realized she’d managed to pull the blanket almost completely off my lap and around her little body.

When I carried her to bed, I took the gray and white blanket with us. She slept most of the night not having to touch me because she had that nice, soft, warm blanket to warm her.

I’m going to have to find out where my mom got that blanket if I want one for myself.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Presents

Santa came last night and the girls were delighted this morning to wake and find many gifts beneath the tree.

Alyssa was thrilled with her Katniss doll, her socks and even her new underwear.

Olivia couldn't get over her fairy princess dolls and her fingernail polish.

We spent a lovely morning at home and then made our way to my mom's where my brother and his family were already making messes with piles of torn wrapping paper.

Olivia opened every package carefully, ooohing and ahhhhing over every new item uncovered.

It was almost comical. In fact, I kind of started to wonder if she was putting us on. I mean, she spend time over every single present, taking moments to go find the person who gave her the gift and thanking them specifically for that gift.

It was hilarious and heart-warming.

The child who wasn't supposed to be aware enough of her own surroundings was able to appreciate every moment of the magic of Christmas.

And you know what? Even if she was just acting, that shows even more awareness. It shows that she knows how she's supposed to react when someone gives her a present.

My girls are pretty amazing and spending the day with them was the greatest gift of all.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Family

There's something about having a houseful of people, all who are related one way or another.

Tom's sons made their way to our house today and they brought with them two wives and five kids. The capacity of our home increased by nine. It was awesome.

The kids, who are all five and under, had so much fun with Alyssa and Olivia. They ran from one end of the house to the other.

We kept up our tradition of having pizza on Christmas Eve, a tradition begun ten years ago when Tom and I first celebrated Christmas together, back when Jeremy was 18, Jessica was 15 and Dustin was 14. It's amazing how they've all grown and matured and built families of their own.

It was great to watch J and D with their kids as well as each other's kids. They were also great with A and O.

Olivia, especially, was excited about the visit. She woke up this morning and declared, "I'm going to show my brothers the tap shoes my gram gave me."

It warmed my heart to hear her call J and D her brothers. Obviously, the girls aren't growing up with their brothers, but family is family and I want them all to understand how important it is to remember that.

We're all connected and it's an amazing thing.

And even more amazing? Olivia didn't show much jealousy at all when I held four month old Noah or nine month old Isaac. She's growing up and maturing and I know how lucky I am to say that.

I think this trip was the greatest gift the boys (I know, men) could have given their dad. He was in heaven as he took in a houseful of his kids and grandkids.

The only one missing was Jessica, who is recovering and getting better every single day. We missed her even as we celebrated those who could be here.

Ahhh, family.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Last Minute

Yesterday while at Walmart, I swore that the girls and I weren't going anywhere until Christmas day, which is when we'd make the three mile trek to my mom's house. To Grandma's house we go and all that...

Alas, this morning, Tom asked me what else I wanted for Christmas. I blinked at him.

I went out and looked under the tree, where there lies several presents for him and me alike.

I muttered, "I thought you were done shopping."

He muttered back. "I don't think I am."

I growled, "Then I'm not done either."

We're so full of the spirit of Christmas around here.

I hate waiting until the last minute. I really do. I was so excited on Friday night when I wrapped the last present.

I wasn't going to be up until 3am on Christmas morning wrapping this year. No me, no way.

Alas, I shopped some more today and have more to wrap tonight.

But, on the other hand, today is not Christmas Eve and I plan to wrap tonight so I don't have to wrap tomorrow night.

Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ryssie and Rivvie

I love the way my nephew speaks. He’s a very typical five year old. He has been the measuring stick by which Olivia has often been compared. Except, we don’t really. She’s watched him do things, figured out how to do them too and life goes on.

Jaxon has always been so perfectly typical that he was actually born on his due date. ON. HIS. DUE. DATE. How does that happen?

But the best thing about this boy is his speech. I hope no one ever corrects his pronunciation of sandwich, which sounds very much like sramrich.

He’s full of energy, like most five year olds. He runs, full speed ahead, from one end of the house to the other.

The minute I walk in the door to my mom’s house he beseeches me, “Please, Tommie, don’t take the girls home. Can they please stay here at Dram’s with me.”

I always reassure him that I’m not going to take the girls right that second but he latches on to the fact that I am, in fact, going to take the girls at some point and then he’ll be stuck with Dram and Pawp all by himself and then he’ll be bored and then he cries.

Poor kid, it’s so hard being five. Really, I’m not even be sarcastic, it can be really hard to be five years old and have all these giant people making all the decisions and the decisions they make are usually wrong, wrong, wrong.

I think I get a kick out of Jaxon’s speech because he is so typical, he’s so unselfconscious about the things he says. He’s so much like Alyssa was at that age. Or maybe she was younger. She was the kid who was speaking in full paragraphs at 15 months. But she also called macaroni ‘macamoni’ for several months. She also said, “Aww, bap.” Which was awesome because she meant “Aww, crap.”

Olivia, on the other hand, seems to be aware of her own difficulties with speech and so she’s very careful to enunciate her words, to speak clearly and not mangle her any of her sounds.

Jaxon, on the other hand, doesn’t care that he calls Alyssa “Ryssie” and Olivia “Rivie.” In his mind, we know who he’s talking about and to and so we should just get over it.

I love this kid so much because of his ‘typicalness’ his sense of self and his unselfconscious love of life. He’s been such an amazing addition to our family and I feel very lucky that my girls have such a great cousin to embrace, learn from and yes, perhaps even teach over the year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Overdoing It

It happens every year. I make a list of gifts I want to get for the girls for Christmas. I make a list for Tom, my mom, my brothers, my step-dad and my dad.

I don’t have to make a list for Tom’s older kids because we always know what we’re getting them and I do that shopping separate from everyone else.

Then I go shopping.

And then I go again.

And again.

And by this point, five days before Christmas, I feel like I’m done, I’m ready. Except, I’m not. I haven’t wrapped a single gift for the girls. I have wrapped every gift for the older kids and their kids. I’ve also wrapped the teachers’ gifts and the gifts for the bus drivers as well as one for my mom. But everything else is waiting in the trunk of my car to be wrapped.

Yet I still wonder if there are one or two other things I should have gotten.

The plan is to take everything into the house tomorrow evening after the girls are asleep and put into appropriate piles, making sure there’s equality. That will give me Saturday and even Sunday if I need to get just one more thing.

I feel like we overdo Christmas every year. We make it more about presents than about Christ and family and love and togetherness.

Yet I don’t know how to stop doing it this way.

We’re very lucky that we can give what we do, that we have a home and healthy children. We’re lucky in so many ways and I want to remind my girls of that in ways that don’t involve sparkly paper covering Barbie movies and princess dolls.

Could this be a resolution in the making? Perhaps.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snark

I’m getting snarkier in my old age. Well, at least more vocal with my snark. I’ve always been a bit (okay, a lot) snarky in my head but until these last few years, I’ve typically managed to keep it in my head, off my face and most importantly out of my mouth.

At home, my husband and daughters are used to my snark. They typically find it more amusing than insulting.

At work…they’re not so used to it. They’re used to me being the female version of Clark Kent*, all mild-mannered, calm, unflappable, always willing to help and have a smile on my face as I do it.

Yet today, when one of my co-workers waved at me as I did my job, I said to him, “It’s not like I’m not doing something right now.”

This is usually a phrase reserved for my family, God love them, when they ask me to do stupid shit when I’m already in the middle of doing something, whether it’s mundane like folding laundry or important (ha) like making dinner.

I’m lucky, this particular gentleman took my remark as light-hearted bantering and laughed along with me. But ugh, people are making me mean these days.

Yes, I’m blaming others for my snark and my inability to reign it in.

Let's take for example an email I sent to Julie today. The subject line was, "I can't help it."

Edited because I realized that the original paragraph I had here crossed the line that divides snark and mean-spirited. I'm okay with snark but I don't want to be mean. And honestly, the person who used the things I was being mean about more than likely doesn't even know that I or my silly little blog exist. But I do and I'd just rather not be a mean girl. At least not if I can help it. And in this instance, I can and so I will.

Here’s to 2013 being a the year of Snark-Lite.

Or not.

*Sadly, I do not have a Super Woman alter ego.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Illogic

Over the years I’ve done a lot of seething behind the scenes.

I’ve never been fond of confrontation and sometimes, for me, it’s easier to just let something go rather than stand up for myself and maybe end up in a fight.

But I’m getting over that. I’m getting to the point where I’m willing to question someone else’s ‘logic’ when it comes across to me as clearly illogical.

Take for instance, a conversation I had with my husband last night.

I started it by asking him if he wants me to make Olivia’s dentist appointment for next week or the first week of the New Year.

His first answer was a bit snarky, “Aren’t we supposed to get this done as soon as possible?”

I replied calmly, “If I make the appointment for next week, you’ll have to take her. I only have Monday and Tuesday off.”

He looked a bit surprised. “I thought you had all week off too.”

“Nope,” I confessed. “So, you want to take her or should I make the appointment for the first week, when I can take some time off?”

See, she needs fillings. And she doesn’t enjoy getting fillings. Does anyone? I don’t, that’s for sure. And I’m not six years old and already a bit of a mama’s girl.

Tom admitted that he thinks Olivia will need me on the day of the fillings. So the first week of January it is.

I told him I was probably going to make it for the earliest appointment of the day to get it over with an perhaps O can still go to school. Hey, it could happen.

He then suggested I make it for the last appointment of the day and she might actually get most of her school day in before I have to pick her up.

At this point, I said, “That’s a great idea. I could work most of the day and you could bring her to me to take to Fort Wayne for the appointment.”

The pediatric dentist is in Fort Wayne. I work in Angola. That’s at least a 45 minute drive, depending on if you’re going to the dentist on the north side of town or the one on the south side.

Tom thought about it for a minute and declared, “I think I’ll just let you swing around and get her. I’d be driving 40 miles round trip while it would really only be about 20 miles out of your way.”

I gave this a few minutes of thought and realized his logic was faulty.

I asked, still very calm, smiling even, “How is it 40 miles for you but only 20 for me?”

He turned back to me and smiled, “Figured that one out, huh?”

Busted! He just didn’t want to be bothered with driving her to me that day.

I laughed at him and told him he was doing it.

Later he said, “A couple of years ago, you wouldn’t have even questioned me on something like this.”

I retorted, “A couple of years ago, I’d have just been seething behind the scenes.”

He seemed a bit surprised by that but didn’t ask for elaboration. Smart man.

This new me? I think we’re all happier with her. Even Tom, who has to bring Olivia to me the day of her dentist appointment.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Curtains

You wouldn’t think that hanging curtains that would lead, hours later, to my husband closing cupboards very loudly and me closing my own cupboards with deliberate softness.

But yes, that’s exactly what happened.

Only minutes before the cupboard incident, I’d commented to Tom that our next anniversary will have us celebrating ten years. Double freaking digits.

We smiled over the amazement of time flying and yet feeling like we’ve known each other and been together forever.

Then, he said something he probably thought was innocent and it irritated the hell out of me and so I asked if there was anything at all he thought I did well.

He responded with, “I am not having this conversation.”

Except we did. I pushed and he got annoyed and the cupboards were abused.

Later, we passed in the kitchen and exchanged a smile and all was forgiven on both sides.

And later still, he mentioned something he feels I do well. And then he explained that when he feels put on the spot, he can’t just stand there and come up with a list of things I do well.

I accepted this vague apology and went about our evening, with him pointing out how well I did things as I did them.

I sure to bathe the girls well. And I make great cookies. And I’m really good at laying out clothes for the girls each Sunday for the rest of the week.

I am the master of laundry and potato soup. I also pack Alyssa’s lunch really, really well. I should, I’ve been packing those lunches for four and a half years. I’ve mentioned that she’s never once purchased the school lunch, right? It’s true.

So see, I do so many things well.

I did take a moment to point out to him that I try and tell him on a regular basis how much appreciate all that he does. I try and let him know how amazing I think he is and how hard I know he works. I gently mentioned that it might be nice if he tried that with me. It might amaze him how much that changes so much about my attitude and general responses to him and perhaps life in general.

We’ll see.

By the way, the curtains look amazing!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Clothing Olivia

Olivia needed new shoes and a new coat.

But this girl...she won't take just any old pair of shoes off the shelf.

Her current school shoes have a strip that velcros across the top where laces would tie if they had laces.

That velcro is shot. Apparently, Tom and Olivia discussed this flap and he'd told her he'd cut the flap off, which would take away the annoyance of the unsticky velcro.

However, he didn't bother to tell me this and she's continued to complain about her shoes for days and I couldn't take it.

So I made her try on several pairs of shoes.

But each pair, she'd declare, "They just don't have...a good design."

What she meant was that they lacked bling.

We ended up with a pair that are sparkly and with pink and purple bling. They also have velcro, which annoyed Tom but that just means we're even because who discusses shoe 'repair' with a six year old but not with the woman with the checkbook (or debit car, whatever.)

The coat was another point of frusration. Again, Olivia didn't want her coat to be ordinary.

Her current coat, which is a size 5 and the sleeves just keep seem to be shrinking, is purple, with sparkly fur lining the inside. And best of all? It is reversible, so when her dad's not at home, she pulls the sleeves through and wears it like the pelt of a sparkly purple mink.

She's styling, is what I'm saying. At least she thinks she is and that's really all that matters to her.

So I made her try on several coats (remember the shoes? Repeat ad nauseum.)

The first few coats were just too...plain. Or she'd find another fault. The sleeves were too long, the hood was too low, the zipper was too rough.

I finally found a pink coat with a soft, light pink lining. I told her we were getting it. She sighed and said, "If that's the best we can do."

By that point, we'd been in town for four hours. It was absolutely the best we can do since if we're very lucky, she'll wear that damned coat all of two winters before outgrowing it too.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Numbers

Four – how many days it takes a marble to pass through the digestive system of a six year old.

Three – the number of months we managed to go before someone spilled something on the new couch. In her defense, Olivia didn’t actually spill anything, it was more of a spew when she projectile vomited all over it last night. Ick.

Eight – the number of hours I left the hair color in Alyssa hair to achieve the red at the ends. She slept with her hair in a ponytail and the ends of that ponytail in a baggy. No linens were stained in the process. Go me.

Ten – the number of shopping days before Christmas.

Five – the number of those ten days that I have to work. Bummer.

Two – the number of payments I have left before I pay off my student loans. Whoo freaking hoo.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Brutal Honesty

Most children don’t understand diplomacy or tact.

They call it like they see it.

My brother is getting married in July. He’s very excited about this as would be expected. His fiancĂ© is a lovely woman who has asked me to be one of her bride’s maids (matron?)

I’m thrilled for my brother and his Angel (her name is Angel and I love that both Jason and Jaxon call her their Angel) and so of course I agreed to be a part of their wedding.

But…that gives me about six months to lose, oh, maybe 60 pounds?

I was telling my mom last night that in preparation for January 2nd, I was rereading my South Beach diet book.

Olivia, aka Big Ears, asked if I was going to lose weight because of my, and she pointed for emphasis, big belly.

I gave her a tight smile and said, “Yes, that’s why, thank you for noticing.”

She’s informed me on several occasions that I have a giant belly. She’s not one to mince words, that girl.

So…come January 2, I will be starting phase 1 of South Beach. And dare I say it? I’m actually getting excited to do so. Last time I did South Beach I stayed on phase 1 for six months. Yes, yes the book says to only do it for two weeks but it worked so well (for the time I did it. The minute I started eating my normal I started gaining.) I lost 60 pounds in those six months, which made phase 1 easy for me.

I don’t even have a goal weight in mind for the July wedding. I just want to lose and I’ll be happy with whatever I manage to do.

And if this, in Olivia’s words, “giant belly” disappears too? That’s just a bonus. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel so good this time around that I won’t want to go back to eating the shit I’ve been eating for the past year that has brought me to this low place on which the number on the scale is so very, very high.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dues

I work with a guy who has a couple of kids. One is almost twenty and the other is fifteen.

His twenty year old went to a semester of college right out of high school but then decided it wasn’t for her. Since, she’s sort of floated.

Recently, I was at a fast food joint and ran in to this coworker, his wife and their twenty year old. The ‘child’ was grumpy because the parents were making her wait for the food and carry it back to the table to them.

I gently asked if they’d paid for her lunch. She was gracious enough to acknowledge that they did.

She then asked me if I knew of any place that was hiring. I turned to the sign on the wall beside us and said, “They are here.”

She rolled her eyes.

I wonder…where does this sense of entitlement come from? This young woman doesn’t seem to want to pay her dues. She wants to go directly from a mediocre high school career into a cushy, high paying, low stress job.

That’s not how it works.

Yet, my step daughter, now 25 years old, always seemed to think it worked that way too. She didn’t want to work fast food or in production at a factory.

She wanted to go directly from high school to being a judge. Or at one point, she wanted to be a probation officer.

These kids don’t seem to understand that you have to put in years of education, working less desirable jobs to pay for that education to get to a place where you get to have a job you might actually enjoy.

I want my girls to understand this. I want them to respect the hard working people of this world and be willing to be one of them.

I paid my dues. I waitressed through high school. I was a cashier at a grocery store. I’ve worked production at more factories than I can count. While in college, I worked in the cafeteria, often in the dish room, washing the nasty dishes that my peers, disgusting college students, sent back, perhaps thinking a robot was back there to clean the peanut butter out of the bottom of a glass or the melted marshmallow out of a microwaved dish.

I fully expect 16 year old Alyssa to get a job at the local dairy treat or the Burger King down the road. I expect her to pay for her own gas if she ends up with a car. I expect her to go to college and help pay the tuition by working while in college.

I want her to understand the value of doing good work at a job she might not actually enjoy. I want her to understand that sometimes we do things we don’t necessarily want to do so we can get to a point where we’re doing what we want.

I really think that she’ll appreciate the nicer things in life if she has to earn them. I think she’ll be a kinder and yet stronger person if she has to pay her dues as well.

I want all these things for Olivia too but I also know that some lessons are harder for her to process and so we’ll take each lesson as it comes with that one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Cards

Potential pictures for our Christmas cards:
This

and this

Or just this

Or this

So many mediocre pictures...so little time to get those Christmas cards addressed and mailed.

The Recorder

Okay, I kind of want to know who invented the musical instrument known as the recorder?

That person needs to be locked in a room and forced to listen to about 50 fourth graders playing Hot Cross Buns and Jingles Bells on the recorder. That music should be on a loop and the room in which he/she is locked should be heated to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit with the humidity somewhere around 85%.



That might give the inventor some sense of what it is like to sit in the bleachers in a gymnasium to ‘enjoy’ a Winter Concert performed by the lovely children in the first, second, third and fourth grades at my daughters’ elementary school.

The kids were adorable, don’t get me wrong. They were enthusiastic and very proud of their musical accomplishment.

My mom even commented that they had greatly improved from when they performed for Grandparents’ day just six weeks before. I’m almost sad I missed that.

Alyssa has been practicing the recorder for months. She loves that thing. And honestly, listening to just one recorder being practiced isn’t such a bad thing. We do have to put a time limit on it because I think she’d ‘practice’ all day long if we let her. And that? It just can’t happen, not if we all want to remain reasonably sane.

She was so happy last night. Dressed in her new Christmas dress, her red tights, her shoes with HEELS and her hair with the red ends braided to show off the red at its shiniest best, she was in nine year old heaven.



For all the torture that is a group of nine and ten year olds playing recorders, I will say I was pleasantly surprised to find that when I was surrounded by those very same students at the end of the concert, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the stench of puberty. Good call, moms and dads of boys and girls alike, on the generous use of deodorant before heading to the school last night.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Taking It Personally

At parents, we take the things our children say and do very personally. We take their accomplishments personally as well as their negative behavior. We can’t help it. Our kids reflect back on us, on our parenting skills or lack of.

Last week while waiting for Alyssa at gymnastics class, a teenage girl was trying to engage Olivia in conversation. She (the teenager) told Olivia that she liked O’s shirt.

What did Olivia do? Did she just turn and put her head against my stomach shyly, trying to avoid the conversation?

No. She did not do that.

She mooned the girl.

Okay, so she didn’t actually bend over and show teen her full moon but she did pull her pants down far enough that butt crack showed. Her back was mostly to me so no one else saw this but I did and so did the teenager.

I wanted to die.

I yanked O’s pants up and scolded her. I apologized profusely to the nice teenage girl who was just trying to be kind to the obnoxious six year old.

She just laughed and said it was no big deal.

But it was a big deal.

I took that action so personally. I felt like it was a moment where Olivia was screaming to the world that I was horrible mother.

I know it wasn’t quite that dramatic but I also know that if I want to take credit for Alyssa being in the local newspaper for outstanding work in school, I need to take responsibility for Olivia mooning a girl at gymnastics class.

If I want credit for the fact that Olivia no longer pulls her hair I have to take responsibility for the fact that Alyssa can’t remember to put her clothes in the laundry basket each day even though I remind her every single day.

We parents tend to be quick to take credit but often a little less enthusiastic about taking responsibility.

But then I remind myself that responsibility is one thing but guilt is another. I may be responsible for my kids’ actions to a certain extent, I can’t wallow in guilt over these actions. That gets us nowhere.

So while I stewed about the incident for a few days, I’m over it now.

Olivia and I had a long, stern talk about why that was so inappropriate. We discuss better reactions to someone having the gall to actually talk to her.

And in the end, I did what I could at the moment it happened. I apologized to the moonee, I admonished the mooner and I can only hope and pray (and remind her that it is so very wrong to do something like that) that it won’t happen again.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

At Least They're Good Travelers

The lovely Julie hosts a wonderful Tea Party each December. She invites female friends and family members and we gather to share cookies, eat chicken soup, trade ornaments and just get into the Christmas spirit.

Julie sent an email about a month ago asking me and our friend Mandy if a specific date was good for us.

We both came back that it was fine.

And...I didn't write that date down. I did keep the email and figured I could check it as the date neared.

Mandy sent an email earlier this week mentioning the Tea Party. This email made me mae think that the party was yesterday. I confirmed the time with Julie but didn't mention the date.

So Friday I made three batches of cookies, did two loads of laundry and wrapped three Christmas tree ornaments.

The girls and I hit the road at 10am for the three plus hour drive to Indy.

We got there about 2:10 and...there were no cars in the driveway.

That feeling I'd had all morning, that worry that I had the day wrong hit hard.

I called Julie.

The party is next week.

As in...we were a WEEK early. The family that lives the farthest away had the wrong week.

I am such an idiot sometimes.

We asked if we could use her bathroom because, yeah, we'd driven pretty far and really had to pee.

Julie and Riley were about fifteen minutes from home. She asked us to wait for them. We did.

She felt awful for the mixup. I felt even worse.

The girls and I ended up spending about an hour and a half with Julie and her family. They were gracious about our impropmtu visit.

On the bright side, Alyssa and Olivia actually had more fun with Julie's daugther Riley than they would have had there been a bunch of other kids there. They did gymnastics, ran races, played upstairs and were just all good kids.

Julie and I had a better visit than we usually do because she wasn't busy making sure all her other guests are having fun.

So, selfishly, it was a great visit.

But yes, I've decided I need an assistant. Someone better than I am at writing things on a calendar and then actually checking the damned thing.

Friday, December 7, 2012

All She Wants for Christmas

My kids have been thinking about Christmas since before the turkey of Thanksgiving was digested. It didn’t matter that Olivia’s birthday was the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, we’d had her party the weekend before Thanksgiving so as far as she was concerned, the birthday was old news.

But Christmas, ah the beauty and lights and magic of Christmas, that’s right here and now.

As Alyssa adds to and amends her wish list, Olivia is taking it all in.

Last night in the car on the way to gymnastics, Olivia announced, “I’ve been thinking about my Christmas list. I want a princess and some new nail polish.”

I asked her if the princess she wanted should be a princess baby or a princess Barbie. She gave it a few minutes of thought, really considering the benefits of both and decided, “I want it to be a princess Barbie because I really do like Barbies a lot. But don’t forget the nail polish too. I really need some new colors.”

My girl…she has her priorities.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

For a Song

I’ve often lamented the fact that Tom is a morning person. Not only is he a morning person, but he also passed on that revolting trait to our children.

Exhibit A: Alyssa had a two hour delay this morning due to ‘professional development’. Do you think that child used those two hours to catch up on her sleep? Oh no, not on your life! She was up at the usual time of ten minutes after dawn or, as some call it, 6:10. Not one to waste a minute of possible flipping time, she was cartwheeling around the house by 6:30.

Ugh.

And also ugh? Tom usually wakes up happy and when he’s happy, he sings. This used to irritate the shit out of me. Mostly because I’m a horrible person who begrudges other people any sort of happiness if it has to happen before 8am.

But this morning as I headed down the stairs to pack Alyssa’s lunch, I heard Tom in the kitchen, singing. He doesn’t tend to sing songs you’d actually hear on the radio or even songs that have actually been composed by anyone with any sort of musical training. He’s been known to sings numbers or letters, just belting out words to no real tune.

Instead of being irritated by this serenade I stopped and smiled. It hit me that he hasn’t been singing much lately. So it was nice to hear him singing because it meant he was happy.

Yes, my inner bitch kept her mean mouth shut, even in my head. I stood for a minute on the stairs and took it all in. The sounds of Alyssa flipping hands over feet from the living room to the family room, Olivia chirping to Tom about the braid I’d just put in her hair and Tom singing in the background.

We’re happy and sometimes I have to just stand back and bask in it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Know I Can Because I Do

One of the benefits of not getting Olivia’s diagnosis until she was two years old is that I never wondered if I could parent a child with special needs. I never worried that I couldn’t handle it because I was handling it. I had been handling it for over two years before we got the official diagnosis.

By the time we got the 5p- diagnosis, we were actually in a much better place than we’d been during O’s infancy, when we were being told by doctor after doctor that she was fine, she was going to catch up, she was just loud but not sick. No, not sick at all.

I read about parents who worry about being able to care for a sick or special needs child and I want to hug them. I want to tell them that it’ll be okay, even if it isn’t okay.

We do what we have to do. We care for our children as needed.

My cousin, Holly, knew at 18 weeks pregnant that she was going to have a child with medical issues. She found out in her 32nd week of pregnancy that her daughter was going to have even more problems than they’d found at 18 weeks. She went into parenting knowing it was going to be tough, but she also knew she loved her daughter before she was born. She was willing to do whatever it took to give her daughter the best life she could have.

Those of us who don’t find out during pregnancy, aren’t quite as prepared but we manage.

Even though Olivia spent eleven days in the NICU, when she came home, I thought we were good to go. I thought we’d settle into being a family of four. I thought O would be much the same as A had been as a baby. I knew to expect fussiness and sleeplessness. I knew nursing wouldn’t be easy (can we say non-existent for both girls?) and I knew I’d hate pumping with a fiery passion.

But I didn’t know she’d cry pretty much non-stop for the first six months of her life. I didn’t know she’d fail to reach milestone after milestone. I didn’t expect t start therapies when she was a year old. I had no clue that we’d end up with a genetic anomaly as a diagnosis.

But by the time we got that diagnosis, I’d already proven to myself and everyone else that I could do this. I could be Olivia’s mom.

I’d also proven that I could parent a child with delays while still being a pretty damned good mom to my firstborn. I’ll admit, that was a fear of mine when we decided to have a second child. I worried that Alyssa would suffer and that fear came without knowing about the special needs our second child would bring with her.

The thing is, we all do what we have to do. We do it and we usually do it well because it has to be done so we step up. We take a deep breath and we get on with life.

And that’s what I’d tell any parent who has gotten any diagnosis that brings special needs with it. You can do this. You can keep getting up every single day and making it through meals and homework and therapies and doctors’ appointments. You will do it because the other option…well, most of us don’t feel like there is any other option. We do it because we love our children more than we ever imagined possible and we want more for them than doctors predict is possible and we know, WE KNOW, that our children are more than their diagnosis. We know that our children are individuals with personalities that are unique and their abilities are just as unique and they will surprise people every single day of their lives.

We know this because they have surprised us from the start. The capacity to love is a surprise, the fierce need to protect is a surprise. The joy a smile can bring is a surprise. So yes, sometimes, that surprise diagnosis can be devastating but there is so much good waiting around the corner. So keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get to turn that corner.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Busy

We’re not. Busy, that is. At least, not compared to others out there who have almost constant activities, places to be, things to do.

Alyssa has gymnastics on Thursdays. It runs from 6:15 to 7:15.

That’s it for our weekly scheduled activities.

But each evening, when we walk in the door at about 5:45, I feel like we’re sprinting toward bedtime. It feels like there is just enough time to make dinner, eat dinner, clean up after dinner, maybe bathe a child or two and suddenly, it’s 7:30 and time to be reading to Olivia and then scratching her into slumber.

Once O’s asleep, Alyssa attaches herself to my side for at least a half hour, soaking me in. And I soak her in too. I know these moments are numbered, these times when she wants to be next to me, touching me, laughing with me, watching inane television with me.

When Alyssa finally drops off, I have about ten minutes until it’s time for me to go to sleep too. Though I usually turn those ten minutes into an hour because, hello, alone, I’m ALL ALONE. Have I mentioned that I need alone time to recharge so that I can give my all to those around me who want all of me? Yes? It cannot be repeated often enough.

Our one truly busy day, Thursday is just hectic enough that I don’t relish the idea of adding more days like that to the week. I get of work at 4:30, I drive directly to my mom’s, 18 miles away, where the girls are hanging out after school. When I arrive, Alyssa takes that as her cue to change into her gymnastics clothes. I find a ponytail holder because I know she’ll forget. I find Olivia’s shoes and socks (she takes them off the instant she walks in the door at my mom’s. She says her feet are sweaty and she hates sweaty feet.) and make her let me put them on her. I gather coats and backpacks.

We are usually pulling out of the driveway 20 minutes after I get there and head back to town.

Olivia and I wait in uncomfortable chairs for an hour while Alyssa flips and bends and swings and balances. She loves the class. And I love that she loves it. But the waiting? Boring. I’ve already let her know that Olivia and I might have to start making mini trips…somewhere during that hour. Just because I get tired of trying to entertain O. I know, I could leave her home with Tom but she doesn’t’ want to stay home with him and any working mom will understand that I’m already away from my girls 40+ hours a week, even one more hour (two if you count travel time) feels like too much.

So, we’re not busy even though it often feels like we are. Or perhaps busyness is in the eye of the beholder. What seems like busy to some feels relaxed and easy to others and what seems frantic and insane to one person will just feel like everyday busyness to another.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fogged In

I had to leave home early this morning to get to work early because of inventory. Ahh, counting isn’t something this former English major enjoys. Alas, we do what the boss tells us, right?

When I woke up at 2am because of Olivia’s hard noggin digging into my spine, I glanced out the bathroom window and noted that a bit of fog had rolled in.

I went back to bed (one that didn’t already hold Olivia and her bulbous head) and lay there, wide awake. I was worried I wouldn’t hear my alarm. Duh, I always hear the stupid alarm. Except when I don’t, right?

I finally fell back to sleep only to be woken up by Olivia, who’d left the bed I’d abandoned her in and traveled across the room to find me. She was itchy, she said. It was 4am.

I muttered that I’d scratch her for a minute but then we were going back to sleep.

The alarm went off at 5. I kissed her and told her I was going to go use the bathroom, that she should try to go back to sleep because I’d be right back.

I wasn’t right back. But she did go back to sleep. Woo hoo!

I looked out the bathroom window again and saw that the fog had thickened.

I was ready to walk out the door at 6am. Tom reminded me to use the fog lights on my car.

I’d gone half a mile when the school’s automated messaging system called to let us know that school was delayed two hours due to the weather.

Two hours later, the school called again. This time to let us know that school was being cancelled due to the fog.

Yes, the fog was that dense.

I was reminded once again how lucky we are that Tom works from home. I didn’t have to worry about childcare or how to get the girls to that childcare. I know they’re home, safe and sound, probably wearing gymnastics suits and watching season seven of Bewitched.

These are the moments when I’m reminded of how fortunate we really are.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Distracted

This morning, as with every Saturday morning, Tom came to wake me up before 7:00 to let me know he was leaving to go auctioning or whatever you call it when someone goes to an auction to look for things to buy so he can turn around and sell them.

Ahem. Yes, he came to tell me he was leaving. Thought honestly, I can say that I'd be pretty aware of his absence if I came downstairs at 8:00 with the girls trailing behind me like a couple of ducklings even without his announcing it to me in my slumbering state.

Though he does this every Saturday, this morning he had another reason to wake me to tell me he was leaving.

He let me know there was a package on the kitchen table that I might need to take to the post office for him if he didn't get back from his auction in time to do it himself.

This reminded me of eight days ago when I called him as he was driving to town to pick up some parts for the van. I wanted to know if he could go to another store about three blocks away from where he was going to be and get some lights for the Christmas tree.

Alas, I asked too much. He really, truly couldn't spare the time to do that. He needed to get to Auto Zone and back out and back home in record time to work on that van.

But today, since I was probably going to town anyway, driving four miles one way out of the way wouldn't be too much of an imposition, would it?

Oh. I think I might be a little annoyed by the entire situation. Huh.

As the girls and I drove to the post office, my phone rang. It was the sender of the package. He said he was leaving the auction area and would be home, probably, with just enough time to get the package to the post office. Where was I?

I informed him that the package was already en route, so don't rush and do watch for deer.

I started to park right outside the post office but noticed a sign that said that spot was reserved for postal workers.

So I pulled away, telling Tom that I needed to drive around the block and find another parking spot. He informed me that those spots are actually only reserved at 7am, for loading.

He's right.

I then said, "Oh, I could have parked in the slanted spots in front of the post office instead of going around the block to park in the parallel spots."

He laughed and said, "Yes, you could have."

I muttered, "Well, I must be a little distracted, since I'm driving while ON THE PHONE."

He got the hint. I love yous were exchanged and we hung up.

And he made up for much of the irritation this afternoon by putting up the outside Christmas lights while I vacuumed my disgusting car.

It all evens out in the end. Pretty much.

Friday, November 30, 2012

So Much Better

Somehow in the past month or so, I’ve come to a place of acceptance. I’ve grown more comfortable in my own skin.

Just this morning, Olivia announced to everyone in the bathroom, “Mom, you have big bosoms.”

Why yes, I do have to shower and dress with an audience. Doesn’t every mother?

I just smiled and thanked her for noticing.

She wasn’t done, though. She also noted, “You have a big belly too.”

Again, thank you for noticing and letting me know, just in case I wasn’t aware.

Which I am, by the way. I know how big my bosom and belly are. But you know what? I’m not all that worried about it these days. Yes, I hate being heavy but I also know what needs to be done to fix it and if I’m not at a point where I can do the things that need to be done, well, so be it.

And let me tell you…this acceptance, this self-forgiveness? It’s gone a long way toward making me a better mother and wife. I don’t take every single thing Tom says and analyze the shit out of it. I don’t wonder why he said something with just the exact words he did. I don’t wonder about any hidden meanings. I figure if he has something to say, he’ll say it. He’s a guy. They usually don’t hint around.

My mothering has come so far in such a short time. Yes, I still get irritable. I still get grouchy. But when it happens, I apologize, I hug the girls and I let it go. I’m grateful that they do too.

My patience seems to be stronger and lasts longer.

You know the old saying, “If mama isn’t happy, no one is happy.” I think it’s very, very true. I’m grateful that these days I’m pretty happy which makes my entire family happy. I’m still learning that my own happiness starts with me but I’m getting there and that’s all I can ask of myself.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Basking in Her Affection

I’m part of a couple of groups on Facebook that were created by and for parents/family members of children with 5p- syndrome.

I love the perspective these groups give me. I love that parents and caregivers can share celebrations and concerns about our kids, get advice or just virtual hugs (though, honestly? Someone typing ‘hugs’ is just short of irritating, just saying) when things are tough.

One parent recently asked about affection. This parent’s child refuses hugs and kisses. The parent wanted to know if any other parents dealt with this.

We definitely do not have this problem with Olivia. She’s one of the most affectionate kids I’ve ever met. In fact, there are times when I have heard myself yell, “Stop kissing your sister!”

I know. Such a stupid thing to have to yell but there you have it. However, I don’t think Olivia is kissing her sister to be affectionate so much as she’s doing it to annoy her sister.

But aside from that, Olivia loves snuggles, hugs, kisses, back rubs, arm scratches. Touch is definitely one of her languages of love.

Another thing I’ve learned by being a part of these groups is that autism is often an added ‘bonus’ to kids with 5p-. Bummer, huh? I mean, talk about adding up the challenges. 5p- already challenges an individual’s ability to communicate. Add in a touch of autism and damn.

So far, Olivia doesn’t show any signs of autism. We do have it on her IEP because it gets her better services. Being aware of the possibility is part of the battle, though.

We shower Olivia with affection and she gives it back just as much. Sometimes, if you ask Alyssa, Olivia is too affectionate. I realize, though, how lucky we are that she is able to show us how much she loves us in so many ways. Not everyone is that lucky and that makes me very sad.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What Age Am I Going To Be Tomorrow?

That was Olivia’s question last night after dinner, after she’d blown out yet another candle on a cupcake.

We’ve made a pretty big deal about six this past week or so. Her actual party was over a week ago and so this birthday thing has been a long, drawn out event for her. So it makes sense that she’d wonder about something like that.

We explained that she’ll be six for quite some time now and told her to enjoy having to use two hands to show her age now.

I was lucky enough to be able to take a half day off work yesterday and take cupcakes to Olivia’s class to help celebrate her birthday.

I can tell whenever I walk into her classroom that her little mind is blown by the fact that her two worlds are colliding and she isn’t sure how to react to such an event. She goes a little crazy for a few minutes with the glee of having MOM right there in the same space at her school friends, her teachers, her routine.

After snack, I was able to sit with Olivia at one of the classroom computers and watch her play one of the games on pbskids.org. She did so well. She knows every letter of the alphabet, upper and lower cases.

Over the weekend, Olivia was counting. She got to 49. When she stopped at 49, I looked at her and asked what came next. She gave me a mischievous grin and said, “Fifty ten!”

Six just might be the year of mischief. And you know? That would be great. Olivia has an amazing sense of humor and she has so much energy.

The problem with all that energy? If it isn’t channeled well, it can turn fairly quickly into naughtiness. She’s maturing, growing, proving doctors wrong every single day as far as what can be expected from a child with 5p- syndrome.

Olivia seems to think that turning six means it time to wear mascara and lipstick to school. I disagree and thankfully, I’m taller than she is and can put the makeup away high enough that she can’t get to it.

It’s tough to be six but I have a feeling there are more fun times than tough times. I hope so, anyway.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Six Years Ago: A Birth Story

On this day six years ago, I was 41 weeks, 2 days pregnant. Even though the doctor who’d performed the level II ultrasound all those weeks early when I was 22 weeks pregnant had moved the due date to November 29th due to the small size of the baby, I knew my dates. I knew the due date was November 18th.

But my ob/gyn wasn’t so sure and so he ordered a stress test. It was scheduled for the Monday after Thanksgiving, November 27th.

Tom, Alyssa and I all made the drive from our home to the town where I worked. It had been decided that it was easier for me to go to doctor appointments near work rather than near home.

I had the first appointment of the day and so didn’t have to wait when we got to the doctor’s office. I was seated in a comfy recliner, given a device with a button and told to press the button each time the baby moved. I also had a monitor strapped to my stomach, which was keeping track of the baby’s heart rate.

Tom and Alyssa sat in a less comfy chair across from me. The room was darkened and we all relaxed and waited for the baby to move, for time to pass.

When our half hour was up, we were taken to another room and told to wait for the doctor. He didn’t make us wait long. He came into the room and asked, “How would you like to have a baby today?”

The results of the stress test weren’t what he’d like to have seen. The baby was moving just fine. Her heart was beating just fine. But when she moved, they wanted to see her heart rate increase as a result of the movement. Our girl’s heart was just beating away at a steady pace, not increasing when she moved, not decreasing when she didn’t move.

We were sent to the hospital, told not to pass go, not to stop for food (I was starving!). We were allowed to stop by and let my boss know what was going one and give him the paperwork that would start my maternity leave but only because it was right on the way.

The maternity ward at the hospital was expecting us.

I was gowned and monitored. I let the nurse know that when I’d had Alyssa I’d had to pee. Like, a lot. She assured me this was fine, it was normal, she’d seen it all. Ha!

The inserted the Cervidil at 11:00, hoping to soften my cervix, which was currently very much closed and not interested in doing much else. After a few hours, they said, they’d see how the Cervidil was doing and then start the Pitocin. I assured them that my previous delivery had worked just fine with just Pitocin.

I asked for food.

Around noon, they brought me lunch. I’d taken three bites of broccoli when the nurse came in and took the food away, saying that the doctor didn’t like the way the baby was reacting to the Cervidil. Her heart rate was decreasing at regular intervals. The doctor was sure that Pitocin alone wasn’t going to do the job and so didn’t want me to eat in case a c-section was in my near future.

This doctor was not the one who’d delivered Alyssa, he didn’t know my history with Pitocin. I again assured that nurse that the Pitocin would do the job and we’d have this baby vaginally. She nodded as if she believed me but told me she had to follow the doctor’s orders. So…no food for me.

They started the Pitocin at 1:00.

At 1:30, I threw up the little bit of broccoli I’d eaten. Ick! As the nurse held the bowl for me, I whispered an apology. I told her I’d peed as I’d puked. Gross.

She told me it was no big deal and helped clean up the bed for me. There was blood along with the pee, she said. That was a good sign.

By 2:00, the contractions were very regular. Olivia didn’t like the contractions at all. Each one caused her heart rate to decrease so the nurse asked me to lay on my left side.

Tom took Alyssa for a walk. I was managing the pain pretty well, not wanting to scare her.

My mom and step dad arrived at the hospital around 3:00 and took Alyssa with them. They took her to eat and then to Walmart, giving Tom some time to just stand beside me and hold my hand. My left hip was starting to ache from laying on it. Though it did get a little respite every fifteen minutes when I had to get up to pee. The nurse finally admitted that I really did have to pee more often than any other laboring mother she’d ever had. Huh, something to be proud of, I guess.

I did try to move to my right side every so often but the baby’s heart rate would dip each time so back to my left we went.

My doctor came to check on me at about 5:45, after his office had closed for the day.

He was surprised to find me already dilated to 6.

I wanted to say I told you so but, well, the contractions were pretty much right on top of each other at that point and talking wasn’t all that high on my list of priorities.

At 6:00, the doctor decided to break the water to see if we could move this along. I think he was ready to go home and have dinner.

After what felt like extended probing, the nurse mentioned that when I’d thrown up earlier in the day, my water had probably broken then, when I’d thought I’d peed. Interesting, I thought vaguely, sort of relieved to know that I hadn’t peed myself.

When the doctor finally stopped trying to break a water that had already broken, he checked my progress again. Still a six. I had a major contraction at that point and the doctor decided to check me one more time before he went to have dinner. That one contraction had taken me from 6 to 9.

My mom and Lyle got back with Alyssa. Tom met them at the door, letting them know that we were on the verge of pushing. My mom said she had food for Tom when it was all over and took Alyssa to wait.

As with Alyssa’s birth, I felt pressure and told the nurse that I was trying not to push but I couldn’t help it. She called for the doctor and he arrived just in time to tell me we were ready and to go ahead and push. Yeah, I though, I could tell.

Three pushes later and our girl was out at 6:27pm.

They took Olivia immediately to a warming table and three nurses surrounded her. I couldn’t get much of a glimpse as they worked on her but I could see her struggling to breathe. Her ribs were visible with each breath she tried to take. Tom stood by my side, also blocking my view of Olivia.

After the doctor was finished cleaning me up and the nurses had Olivia stable enough to take her to the nursery where they put her under a cylinder that misted oxygen over her, I threw up one more time, because apparently that’s what I do when I’ve just given birth.

Except, unlike when I had Alyssa, I didn’t stop throwing up. The nurse finally gave me something to stop the nausea, which also made me quite high.

Once the puking stopped, I was able to get up and go see Olivia, who was still being bathed in oxygen.



I finally realized how drugged I really was when the father of another baby born at the exact same time Olivia was born asked me who our doctor was. I told him Dr. Miller. That is not the name of the doctor who delivered Olivia. It is, though, the name of the doctor who’d delivered this guy’s baby. Weird.

I realized I should probably sit down. My mom sat with me when our family doctor came in to talk about Olivia. He’d examined her and had determined that she needed to be in a bigger hospital. He wanted to know which one they should call for transfer.

I blinked at him and mumbled something like, “Oh, it doesn’t matter, wherever you think is best.”

My mom stepped in and told him to send her to the hospital that was twenty minutes from our home. She’s the best, my mom. Especially when I’m high and she isn’t.

She's also really good at taking care of Alyssa when I couldn't.




The pediatrician arrived from Bigger Hospital. They bundled three-hour old Olivia into a travel incubator, put that incubator into an ambulance and off they went with Tom in hot pursuit.

My mom and Lyle took Alyssa home with them and I realized I was so tired I couldn’t see straight.

But after about five hours of sleep, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I managed to stay in bed until just after 6 the next morning. After I showered, I made myself wait until 7am to call Julie and let her know that Olivia was here but that she had been admitted to the NICU at a larger hospital. I realize now, six years later, how hard that phone call must have been for Julie given her own history with an infant and an extended NICU stay.

By 10 I was losing my mind. I needed to get out of there. The doctor finally showed up a little after 10 and told me Olivia had very low APGAR scores. I didn’t care. He also told me it appeared she’d stopped growing around 35 weeks gestation. We know now that her low birth weight of 5lbs 2oz wasn’t due to intrauterine growth retardation but rather a symptom of 5p- syndrome.

He also told me if we hadn’t induced and delivered the day before, Olivia might not have made it another couple of days.

Again, with time we’ve come to realize we’re actually lucky she was nine days overdue. She needed those extra nine days to cook.

By 10:30, I was released. My mom came to get me and take me to my baby. She also brought my bigger baby to me and the relief at seeing Alyssa, hugging her, holding her made everything so much better.

As I left, the nurse commented that I’d had a drive-thru delivery. I was leaving the hospital 24 hours after being admitted, 16 hours after giving birth.

It didn’t matter. It was no longer about me. I had a baby I needed to see. And six years later, I often find myself leaving work with just two things one my mind. Alyssa and Olivia, the two brightest points of light in my life.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mother Knows Best

Those dresses we bought yesterday? They are very pretty. I plan to make the girls put them on and take a picture (or ten) of them in front of the Christmas tree. If we find one we like well enough, I’ll include them in Christmas cards to family this year. I’m so on top of things, wouldn’t you say?

While at Kohl’s I came across the rack of dresses and found one I presented to Alyssa. She glanced at it, made a bit of a face and turned away to browse another rack of dresses.

In the end, we took three dresses into the dressing room for her to try. One was the first one I picked up and the other two were in styles she thought were more fitting to her status as a preteenager.

She tried her two picks first. They were fine. They were short sleeved, hit her just above the knee and hung straight from her shoulders down with a bit of gathering her and there.

When she tried on the one I’d picked, she looked in the mirror and smiled at me. “I like this one,” she mused, spinning a couple of times so the flared skirt would flip up.

This dress was long sleeved, with a bodice made of a velvety material that hit just below her natural waist. The white skirt flared out and, like the other two, hit just above her knees. It was just girlier than the other two.

I kind of love that in the end, after trying them all on, she chose the one I liked to begin with. I tried not to rub it in. But…I’m human and it’s lovely to prove every once in a while that mother really does sometimes know best.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blueberry Pancakes

Last Tuesday, Olivia saw blueberry pancakes on either a commercial or a show she was watching and she declared that she needed blueberry pancakes right that second.

Well, that didn't happen. But I did promise to make her blueberr pancakes on Thursday since we weren't having our Thanksgiving dinner until Saturday.

Except too bad for her, I forgot to make them. It doesn't help that I forgot to buy blueberries too.

So when we went to the store to get more lights for the tree on Friday, I bought blueberries, planning to make pancakes for Olivia on Saturday.

I found Alyssa devouring the blueberries just about an hour after we got home that afternoon.

We were lucky, I was able to save just enough blueberries to make those pancakes the next morning.

Olivia loved them. She was fascinated by them. She ate four.

This morning when I got up, I heard Olivia yelling at Tom, telling him he couldn't eat her blueberry pancakes. He does that a lot, says things to her to make her argue with him. He claims it's his way of helping her vocalize. I think it's his way of making her argumentative. Tomato, tomahto.

But then he admitted that he'd been telling her all morning I would make her some blueberry pancakes when I got up. He didn't realize I'd made them yesterday and we didn't have any more blueberries.

Mama to the rescue! I happened to have some frozen blueberries.

Olivia got her blueberry pancakes two days in a row.

This is probably the reason she seems quite used to getting her way.

She likes to ask me each evening what we're going to do the next day. When I told her we were going to the grocery store she asked me which grocery store we were going to. I told her we'd probably end up at Walmart.

She gave it a little thought and then reminded me that the 'real' grocery store (our local, family owned store) has gumballs.

I smiled and agreed that the store in Edon has gumballs.

She gave it just a little more thought and declared, "Yes. We're probably going to go to Edon tomorrow."

Ha. We didn't.

But she did suggest we go to Kohl's today. When I asked her why we should go there, she told me because the store is pretty.

She's right. It is pretty. And we did go. The girls both got new Christmas dresses.

For now, she's at 50/50. Not bad odds considering she's six.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dinner

Due to scheduling conflicts, my mom hosted our family Thanksgiving dinner today instead of Thursday.

It was a fairly small gathering of nine adults and five kids.

As we adults were sitting around thinking about loosening our belts (I kid, I wasn't even wearing a belt) I marveled at the fact that none of the kids were in the kitchen, pestering their parents for attention, needing to potty, wanting something to drink.

Instead, Alyssa and Julie were in my mom's back bedroom, exercising. My mom has a treadmill and an eliptical and the girls were taking turns using each machine. They're so cute when they're nine.

The little kids were going back and forth from the middle bedroom to the living room. They were playing pirate and princesses. Jaxon declared that there was no way he was going to be a princess, hence the pirate part of the game.

It's taken almost six whole years for us to get to the point where the kids will run off and entertain themselves but it's so lovely.

Yes, we still get requests for help with something but none of us is at that stage of parenthood where the kids need constant supervision and attention.

Those moments when I sort of mourne the fact that my childbearing days are over? They're fading quickly and are helped along by days like this, when the kids are kids, running around, laughing, playing, not needing us quite so much.

Though I do confess that it was lovely to be needed as Olivia fell asleep with her head in my lap, her hand clasping mine. I do still enjoy taking care of my kidlets. I'm just glad the diaper days are in the past.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sentimentality

Ahh, the holidays. The glow of the lights on the tree, the movies, the music. The wonder on the children's faces as the tree goes up and the lights go on. The giggles as they find the perfect spot for each ornament.




Ha. Ahhahahaha.

And then there is reality. The irritation of plugging in a strand of lights that worked just fine last year but only light up half way this year.

There's the frustration when your child is rummaging through the boxes of ornmanents as you fight with the lights. She takes one out, oooohs and ahhhs over it and then, rather than putting it down, she hands it to you so she can take another one out.

I asked Olivia nicely to stop handing me things when she was perfectly capable of putting them down. She didn't listen. The third time she handed me an ornament after looking at it for a half a second, I snapped.

Then I felt awful because this is supposed to be fun, it's supposed to be joyous. It's supposed to be when we make memories and create traditions.

Instead, my shoulders hurt from stringing lights and hanging ornments on the top half of the tree. My ankles hurt from climbing up and down on a chair to reach the top of the tree.

I'm tired and I am so ready for my darling children to go to sleep. Instead, I just spent twenty minutes scratching various parts of Olivia's body while Alyssa held my other hand, constantly pressing in on the veins that are fairly prominent. She loves to do that. It drives me insane. But I try not to say anything because...she loves to do it.

But for now, the tree is up. And it's pretty and the girls always seem to forget that putting up the Christmas tree turns mommy into a raging lunatic.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tradition?

Does something that has happened twice count as traditional?

Who cares, right?

We're having Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday at my mom's so today was just Thursday.

Except we didn't have work or school so the house is cleaner this evening than it is most Thursdays.

A couple of years ago, my mom, the girls and I went to a movie on Thanksgiving day. It was fun.

I decided this year, Alyssa and I would do the same. We went and saw Breaking Dawn part 2.

Yes, I took my nine year old to see this movie. And really? It was okay. There was a bit more smooching than necessary and Alyssa dealt with it just fine.

We saw a preview for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, to be released on November 22, 2013. We're probably going to see that one on Thanksgiving next year.

So...a tradition is born.

Fun stuff, that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The No Cavity Club

The girls had their teeth cleaned today. Alyssa complained, asking why I always schedule the cleanings around holidays.

I reminded her that the last one was in April and nowhere near a holiday. She reminded me that the one before that was on Halloween. Whatever, kid.

I made the appointment for today because it meant that the girls wouldn’t have to miss any school.

So when did schools start being closed on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving? I know it’s been for as long as Alyssa’s been in school but back in my day (for the record, I know how old I sound when I write/say that) we went to school Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during the week of Thanksgiving and had Thursday and Friday off along with the rest of the country.

Anyway!!! Alyssa is once again a member of the No Cavity Club. Go her.

Olivia…is not. Poor kid needs two fillings. One is actually not because of a cavity but rather because of a deformity in one of her newest molars, a crevice that will allow food (or debris, as the dentist said, which…makes it sounds like she stands outside during a tornado with her mouth open) to get trapped in there and cause decay. So they want to put some filling material in the crevice to protect the tooth.

The problem? Olivia is great during cleanings but actual fillings or other procedures don’t go so well. Her last encounter with the pediatric dentist who crowned one tooth and fixed another damaged tooth was horrible. She was a mess for hours after.

And this is the dentist our current dentist wants me to take her to for the procedure. Our current dentist is just a regular old dentist. He isn’t classified as a pediatric dentist. But his office is perfect for cleanings and check ups. But he doesn’t feel comfortable trying to fill O’s teeth given her history. He thinks she needs to be gently sedated.

I think she needs to be knocked out. But I’m sure the pediatric dentist won’t agree.

And so…I hesitate. I know she needs the fillings. I know this. But I also don’t want to put her through another experience like the one she had two years ago. Then again, I remind myself that she’s older, more mature and then I laugh at myself because, duh, she’s still only six (or will be when we do actually make it to the pediatric dentist.)

I know, I know. Suck it up, Mom. Deal. And Olivia will deal too. But neither of us is going to like it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Up All Night

Olivia woke up with the sniffles yesterday morning.

Nothing major, no fever, but a little sinus congestion and some annoying snottiness.

I gave her a dose of medicine before taking her to my mom’s yesterday morning and she got another dose from my mom when she got off the bus. I gave her one more dose right before bed last night.

She woke up at 3 this morning, ready to rock. She was still sniffly but she was also wide awake.

I was not so much wide awake. But I did get up and take her to the bathroom, I too her wet pull up off of her and tucked her into my bed. I laid next to her, my back to her and tried to go back to sleep.

She tossed and turned and sniffed and rubbed at her nose. She asked for a tissue, repeatedly, insisting on handing me the used tissue every single time.

She asked me to hold her, which I did. She asked me to rub her back. Again, I did as she requested. Then, I told her I was tired and was done scratching.

I rolled away from her again.

She twisted back and forth. I told her if she didn’t stop moving around and go to sleep I was going to leave her in that bed and go to another.

She laid there for a few seconds before asking, “Mommy? Are you sorry for being so grouchy with me?”

Huh. Yeah, but no, not really. By this time it was 5am. My stupid alarm was going to go off in a half hour. I was so flipping tired. I just muttered, “You need to go to sleep.” (I usually apologize for any grouchiness in the middle of the night. I might get a little snippy but then I’ll tell her I’m sorry but I’m just really, really tired.)

She asked, “Can I snuggle with you?”

I rolled back toward her, put my arm under her shoulders, pulled her close and kissed her head. She asked me to rub her hair. I did.

She fell asleep ten minutes before the alarm went off.

Guess who was still sleeping when I left for work at 7:30 this morning?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Maturity

This morning Olivia woke at her usual 5:30 and requested that I go downstairs and get her Dream Lite for her. I told her it was at the end of her bed and rolled over. She found the light and proceeded to ooh and ahh over it for the next half hour.

At one point, she declared, “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It’s just so beautiful.”

Okay. Cool. Now, shhhh, momma’s sleeping.

As I stepped out of the shower, I saw Olivia pick the pinkest of nail polish out of the drawer and put it on the counter. She saw my look and said, “Maybe we’ll just do this color on both hands.”

I glanced at the clock and told her I wasn’t sure we’d have time this morning because I had to take her to Grams. Tom has jury duty and so my mom is stepping in to do morning Olivia care.

O raised her eyebrows at me and declared, “It will only take a minute.”

She was right.

During the birthday party celebrating Olivia, Sabella and Jaxon, Alyssa watched in wonder and joy as the littler kids opened their presents. She loved helping Jaxon and Olivia figure out their Dream Lites (that spelling still bothers me) and their Stompees (ugh, another stupid spelling.)

Jason, my brother, mentioned later that he was really impressed with Alyssa’s lack of jealousy at not having any gifts herself.

I reminded him that it was actually NOT her birthday so she knew she wouldn’t be getting anything. Sort of like, duh.

Except…over the years my aunts, lovely women all, have gotten into the habit of getting small things for every child who will be at a party, whether they’re the birthday girl/boy or not.

And I find this irritating. Why do all the kids need presents just because the birthday child is getting one? Where did this come from? I feel like it just feeds into that sense of entitlement. I’ve worked hard over the years to remind my girls that some days are for others. That sometimes, we’re celebrating them and other times, we’re celebrating other people. And just because one person gets a gift doesn’t mean everyone gets one.

What do you know? It’s worked. Alyssa loved watching the other open their presents. She loved seeing the joy on their faces as they got the very things they wanted.

I think a lot of nine year olds can have this sort of generosity, if we teach it to them. But then again, maybe she’s just a really good kid with an amazing mom. Yeah, that’s got to be it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Party

For the last five years, we've had Olivia's birthday party over a week before her actual party.

This is because my cousin's daughter, Sabella's birthday is November 17 and my nephew Jaxon's birthday is November 19. The three kids were born almost exactly one year after the other times three.

Sabella turned seven yesterday. Jaxon will be five tomorrow and if Olivia had been born on her due date, she'd have turned six today.

But instead, her actual birthday is still nine days away.

We celebrate the three birthdays together because...it's fun and easy. It's cheaper too to rent a room when there are three familes sharing the bill.

My mom offered to have the party at her house today, so the only cost was food and, of course, presents.

The best present of the day?


Dream Lites, courtesy of Gram. Olivia got the purple butterfly, Sabella got the rainbow unicorn and Jaxon got the brown dog. They love them so, so much.


At one point in the party, all four kids (Alyssa was there, of course) disappeared. Jason came to report that he'd found them and was yelled at by Jaxon. He was told to close the door, the kids were trying to sleep with their Dream Lites (can I tell you how much it annoys me to have to type lights that way?)

It was a fun afternoon. I know that at some point these kids are going to want to have parties of their own but for now, they love being together, celebrating their days in one big ol' party.

Olivia's theme? Pink. Of course.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Winterized

Yesterday I sent Tom an email to let him know that I needed to got buy some unmentionables (bras, how's that for mentioning it?) and it would be lovely if I could do this task without the company of children.

He was cool with that.

However, this morning while doing our usual Saturday morning laundry and breakfasting, Alyssa asked when we were going to leave for Walmart and the library.

Now, I've admitted to being the meanest of moms but even I can't deny a child's request to visit hte library. Reading takes priority in this house.

So off we went.

Let me state that the library and Walmart are an 18 miles drive from home. Which meant that if I wanted to shop for bras alone I'd have to bring the girls home from town and then go back.

So...we went to the library. I fed them a nutrionally empty meal at McD's and we went to Meijer to pick up things for the S/O/J birthday party tomorrow. Guess what the O stands for?

We also bought a new coat for Alyssa and new boots for both girls. They're so happy with their winter outerwear.

Since they were so good at Meijer, I decided to tempt fate and took them to Kohl's with me to buy some new bras. I was down to my very last decent bra since the second to the last one blew a wire a few days ago while I was at work. You know how much that sucks? I spent several hours attempting to subtly adjust the two ends of the wire that were jabbing me in the left breast.

Yes, yes, blogging is absolutely the epitomy of too much information. Whatever.

But you know what else? They were pretty good at Kohl's and I got three new bras. Yay for me.

After that, we still had to go to Walmart and buy groceries. Ugh.

But now we're home and they're burning off energy in their usual ways. All's well that ends well and when I end up with three new bras with as little aggravation as possible, I'm calling it ending well.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Reading

As mentioned several times before, I try to read to Olivia every night. It was one of my resolutions last January and it’s one of the few (the only?) I’ve ever managed to keep.

The reason I made this resolution was because Olivia, at just over five years old was finally, finally willing and able to sit still and listen to an entire book in one sitting. We currently read three books each night and if I pause after the second book, she’ll ask when I’m going to start the third. I love that she’s aware of how many stories we’re reading and that she reminds me if we haven’t read the required amount.

We got to the library every single week and check out twenty-one books each week.

Last weekend the librarian who checked us out looked at our check-out history and asked if I was a homeschooler because of the enormous amount of books we check out each week.

I explained our routine and then mentioned that Olivia is one of the very few kids in this world who doesn’t like to hear the same stories over and over. She likes new adventures.

This morning, though, as I was gathering my things to leave for work, Olivia brought Tom a book we’d read the night before. She wanted to hear it again. I love that. I love that she’s getting to a stage where she wants to hear the same stories over and over. I know this is a phase that most kids hit around two or three years old but as always, Olivia is on her own schedule. And that’s okay. Today, that’s okay.

She has heard the book Pinkalicious a few times and it has yet to get old for her. In fact, when I read it to her this past Thursday, she giggled and then asked if we had any green olives. We didn’t, but we do not and she’s already eaten almost half the jar. Ahem, yeah, that’s a lot of salt for a 44 pounder.

Oh, did I mention that our visit to the doctor on Wednesday let me know that Olivia now weighs 44 pounds? That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? I mean, that’s right there with typical six year olds. Wheee!

And this is starting to veer off on a few too many tangents…

Where was I?

Oh yes, reading and repetition. She loves hearing stories. She loves to look at the books after I’ve read them and trace the letters with her finger. She likes to tell me all the letters in the words. We’re pre-reading, is what I’m saying. And I couldn’t be prouder of my sweet, super-special snowflake.