Thursday, May 31, 2012


Alyssa told me a story last night. It was a story that her friend told her at school that day.

The friend said there are a bunch of pictures in the basement of her house. One day, the friend, let’s call her B, said she was down in basement looking at the pictures. One of those pictures as labeled “Danielle.”

B said she asked out loud, even though she was alone, “Who the heck is Danielle?”

B reports that a voice behind her said, “I’m Danielle.”

She looked around. There was no one there.

After Alyssa told me this story, I laughed and said in a spooky voice, “I’m…Danielle.”

Alyssa turned to me with huge eyes and snapped, “Stop it!”

She’d already freaked herself right out just by telling the story and my joke didn’t help.

Alyssa can be a daring kid. But she’s also got a delicate psyche. And I’m a mean mom so you probably know how that goes.

Later that evening we were watching the season finale of America’s Next Top Model (spoiler: the Brit won.) and I asked Alyssa, “Are you tired, Danielle? Should we go ahead and go to bed?”

Alyssa ignored me.

A little later, I said, “I’m going to the bathroom, Danielle. I’ll be right back.”

Alyssa grabbed my arm and said, “Stop doing that!”

I laughed and asked her, “You know B’s story wasn’t real, don’t you?”

She insisted that she did know it wasn’t real but she couldn’t help but be freaked out.

Earlier in the day, Alyssa had declared she was going to sleep in her own bed that night. As in, in her own bed, in her own room.

After the “Danielle” incident, I asked her, “So are you thinking you’d rather stay in my room tonight?”

She gave me such a look of relief and hugged me, murmuring, “I think I need to be near you tonight.”

Poor kid. She’d probably have been sleeping in her own room years ago if she mother weren’t so cruel.

Don’t worry, though. I didn’t make any more Danielle references for the rest of the night or the next morning. My good versus evil is balancing out again.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Let Freedom Ring

As of 3pm this afternoon, Alyssa is officially a fourth grader. At 11am this morning, Olivia is officially a kinderkid.

Time flies, doesn’t it?

As I raced downstairs this morning before I’d even showered, Tom was in the kitchen washing dishes. I mumbled a good morning to him as I headed toward the basement stairs. He called out, “Good morning to you too. What are you doing?”

I stopped midway down the stairs and replied, “Olivia wants her bra.”

“Olivia?” he asked with a laugh.

“Yes, Olivia!” I grumbled, trotting the rest of the way down to the laundry room.

Olivia noticed that Alyssa has added a garment to her daily wardrobe and she’s (Olivia) decided that she doesn’t give a damn if she’s only five years old, she’s going to wear a bra too. And that’s that.

So yes, I let her wear her tiny little Barbie sports bra to school this morning under her t-shirt.

Let me state right there, even if it is embarrassing to future A and O…neither of them needs this new garment. Though I am glad this was A’s idea and I didn’t have to approach her in another year or two and bring up the delicate issue of her actually needing it and having her resist the idea.

This past school year has been good for both A and O. Alyssa started the year no longer the ‘new’ kid. She was an old pro at this school, having attended the year before. She was excited about the bus and while she was sad her best friend S didn’t have the same teacher, she was looking forward to lunches and recess with S.

I think not having S in the same class was a good thing for Alyssa. She made new best friends, now she has three. I think a girl can never have too many best friends. Seriously. She realized that while she still adores S, there are other girls she loves being around too. I am thrilled by this.

Olivia…well, she attended school most of the year, only having to stay home with fevers/sniffles/whatever a few times. She made ‘adequate progress’ on most of her IEP goals for the year.

Did she ever get comfortable enough to actually talk to her teachers? Well…no. But she will nod to them if they ask her a direct question. And she will point to pictures to communicate her needs. It’s a start, right? And if I’m in the classroom, she will speak to me, even if others can hear her. So there’s that.

Her speech therapist does report that Olivia got comfortable enough with her to actually talk to her, responding to questions and requests with a loud enough voice that she wasn’t asked to repeat herself.

I’m looking forward to a long, hot summer with lots of days spent at the pool or the lake. I know it’s going to fly, just like the school year did. But that’s life, isn’t it? It always seems like the minutes of each day crawl past while the years fly by.

The coming year will be challenging and fun and exciting, just like the last one was. We’ll face those challenges head on and embrace the excitement.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cries in the Night

Let me preface this by admitting that there are three beds in the master bedroom. There is a queen sized bed, a twin next to that and a queen mattress on the floor across the room. The master bedroom is huge, so it doesn’t even feel crowded with all those beds/mattresses in there.

But here’s the thing. Alyssa and Olivia go to sleep every night in the queen bed, the one that is actually set up, not the mattress that was tossed there a few months ago when I took it off the queen frame and put a new mattress on it. Sadly, I hate the new mattress so I’m glad I left the other one on the floor. I ended up putting a fitted sheet on it and covering it with a comforter because…I bed hop.

Since the girls are in the queen bed, I start out in the twin. The twin was originally put up in there for Alyssa because when we first moved into the house, it was just me and the girls. Tom was still trying to sell our old house and he was living there, with frequent visits with us in the new house.

With just the three of us, I hated the idea of Alyssa down the hall. So did she, so the twin bed made sense.

And you know what? I’m sort of tired of apologizing for this. I’m tired of making excuses for how and where the girls sleep. Let me just confess right here to being an attached parent. That makes me sound better, doesn’t it? It makes it seem like this was a parenting decision, not a random accident of circumstances. I like that. I guess I can say I’m mom enough. Except I didn’t breast feed a four year old. Heck, I didn’t even breast feel an infant, either of them. But I’m still attached in so many ways.

Anyway! Six paragraphs later, I’ll try to come to the point. The point is, in the middle of most nights, Olivia wakes up and joins me in the twin bed. And then takes it over. And I migrate to the queen mattress on the floor across the room. Where I can be comfortable and not constantly nudged in the back by a kicky five year old.

This all happened last night, one of the hottest nights yet this year. We were all uncomfortable. I had made my way to the mattress and I was very comfy, my back to the rest of the room, sleeping away. I vaguely heard Olivia get out of the twin bed. I heard her call out and I kept expecting to feel her climbing onto the mattress with me.

Instead, a few minutes later, I heard her let out a wail of distress. She was as the bottom of the stairs, distraught because she couldn’t find me. I went to the top of the stairs and called to her. She raced up those stairs and into my arms.

Tom called from the living room (he tends to fall asleep on the couch and I’m just too tired to make him come upstairs and besides…where would he go if he did come upstairs? Did I mention that though I’m mom enough, I might not be quite wife enough?)

He asked if we were okay.

I told him we were. And we settled in for a five minute snuggle before the alarm went off.

Tom mentioned later that morning that it had been years since he’d been woken up by a cry like that.

I considered suggesting he make a place for himself upstairs in what is supposed to be OUR room and he’d hear those cries much more often. But I didn’t. I think that might have been mean and I’m trying so hard these days not to be mean.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Everything Old...

Sometimes, you havew to lose something find it. And then some other times, you have to put something away, forget about it for awhile and then find it again to realize how much you liked it the first time around.

Yeah, okay, enough with the silly sayings.

This weekend, I moved all the chairs away from the kitchen table so I could sweep and mop. And let me say here, this sweeping and mopping thing? It doesn't happen nearly as often as it should and when it does? I'm crazy proud of myself. So there.

I moved the chairs into the family room and lined them two by two. It made me think of the days when I was a kid and my mom would do the same thing with our kitchen chairs so she could mop the kitchen. We loved it. We called it 'playing train.'

Alyssa spend the night with my mom on Saturday night so Olivia was the only one here to enjoy my moving of the chairs. She walked in to find them lined up and clapped in delight. She declared, "You made a train!"

Some games don't have to be taught, they're automatic. She gathered her fellow passengers (a stuffed cat, and her Rapunzel baby) and assigned the job of train engineer to a stuffed do and they were off on a train adventure. I love that my kids play the same games I once played. It gives a sense of continuity, a sentimentality to the whole 'the world just keeps spinning.'

Later that same morning, Olivia asked me to go with her to find a 'pretty dress.'

We found our way to the toy room (a room in my house that overwhelmed me the minute I walk into it. I think I need to empty the room completely and then put it back together, throwing away or donating every single thing that isn't put back in there. But damn, that's going to be a HUGE project...)

In the toy room, Olivia found a long sleeved princess dress that fell in a wave of pink to her ankles. She insisted on wearing it. I pointed out that it was going to be a hot for her outside in the 90 degree weather. She didn't care, she wanted to wear that dress. I put it on her and then packed a pair of shorts and a tank top as well as swim suit to take to my mom's to pick up Alyssa later that day. I knew the minute Olivia saw what Alyssa was wearing, she want to change. But she enjoyed the heck out of that princess dress while she wore it.

As I watched her prance around, spinning and dancing, I realized that the dress had been a Halloween costume for Alyssa. She'd worn it to her kindergarten Halloween party. My mom had made that dress.

And it fit Olivia perfectly. Which makes sense since Olivia is almost five and a half and Alyssa had been a little over five and a half when she wore it. Back when Alyssa started kindergarten, she seemed so small, so fragile, so delicate. And yet...I can't fathom my now four foot nine inch nine year old being that tiny, that needy. Sure, she's still needy but it's a different, more emotional neediness.

It was neat to watch Olivia wear that dress and remember Alyssa wearing it, being that little, believing in the magic of princesses and witches.

Everything old is made new again when you have kids. I am so, so lucky to see life through the eyes of the amazing little girls.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Someone told me recently that she didn't realize how much we'd struggled over the past few years. This person is lovely, beautiful, empathetic. She cares for so many people, both professionally and personally.

It made me I exaggerate our struggles? Do I emphasize them and downplay how lucky we are?

Because I don't think we struggle any more than your typical family.

I really don't. I mean, sure, I'm tired but isn't every mother who works outside the home and works to keep the house livable and feed her family tired?

I probably bitch about it a little more than your average mom, though. I am a self-confessed over-sharer. It's what I do.

But struggle? I don't think of our life as a struggle these days.

Ever since that Zantac took effect five years ago and soothed O's sad, sad tummy, life has been exponentially better. Those first six months of her life? They were a struggle. The crying, the pacing, the driving, the doctors appointment where we were told she was fine, we were over reacting to her constant crying.

Those things were a struggle.

But once we got that medicine and it helped with her reflux and her pain...things have been better.

Sure, we could all sleep more but that's my own personal problem. I'm not sure I'll ever feel like I get enough sleep. But I think every single mother out there feels that way.

Our struggles feel so minor compared to so many out there. We have our health. Olivia isn't affected by 5p-'s health concerns the way so many other kids are. She's got a healthy heart (we have the scan to prove it.) Her kidneys are perfect (we have the ultrasound to prove that.) Her brain is lovely, we have the MRI to prove that.

She's potty trained, which, if you know anything about 5p-, is nothing short of a miracle.

She talks all the time, which again, for a child with 5p-, is such an amazing accomplishment. She's worked so hard and we've always been so lucky to have amazing therapists who work with her.

Struggle? Not any more than any other family out there.

I feel like we're blessed to be able to embrace our struggles, to make them our own and to own them rather than let them own us.

Friday, May 25, 2012

End of Year Festivities

The girls have two more days of school left. Their school year was extended by one day due to fog days (I know!) so their last day is next Wednesday.

But the last week or so has been busy, busy, busy as they cram in as much fun as possible into these last few days.

Last Friday was Alyssa's school field trip. Monday was their pen pal party. Today was the kindergarten through fourth grade field day.

I try to go as many of these events as possible. I know the days that Alyssa is actually going to want me there are numbered and so I'm soaking it all in.

But I'm tired.

It's a good tired, though. The kind of tired that comes from too many hours in the sun, too much laughter, too much fresh air.

This morning I worked a half day at work because there was just enough stuff that needed to be done that I couldn't justify taking the entire day knowing A's field day didn't even start until 12:30.

So after four hours at work, I raced the 20 miles to Alyssa's school, arriving only ten minutes late.

I followed her group of 17 kids from activity to activity, doling out sunscreen, corralling unruly boys (can I say right here that it's a good thing I didn't pursue the teaching degree because I don't really enjoy being around a bunch of kids all day long. My own kids wear me out enough, thank you very much.)

Anyway, after field day was over, Alyssa and I drove home, she ate a pickle and we packed up snacks and drinks for a bike ride to my mom's to pick up Olivia.

Today was a HOT day. There was a nice wind, though, so the heat was bearable. But once we got to my mom's house, the effects of the day hit Alyssa like a ton of bricks. She was exhausted.

We called Tom and asked him to come get us.

Once he got there, I suggested he put A's bike in the trunk of the car, take the girls home and I'd follow on my bike. It didn't make sense to me to leave it at Mom's house.

When I finally got home, Tom had fed both girls and was heating up leftovers for us. Nice, huh?

After dinner, I went out with the girls again, this time, they raced around in the shaded front yard while I pulled the dead blossoms of the petunias in an effort to encourage new growth.

Then A and I played two games of croquet, my dad stopped for a visit, we all enjoyed the first watermelon of the season on the back deck and the girls played n the swings.

And now...I'm tired. Like I said, it's a good tired, an honest tired. The kind of tired I feel guilty complaining about because it just shows how spoiled we are by this amazing life.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Chap Stick Project

Two days in and I’m pretty sure Olivia is trying to out-smarting us. Thankfully, her teacher is pretty quick and caught on to O’s shenanigans fairly early on.

Once Olivia understood the rule that if she told her teacher she had to pee, went to the bathroom and came back to the classroom she’d get a swipe of chap stick, she ran with it. That girl does love her chap stick.

Mrs. R reported that one the first day of the project, Olivia told her teachers she had to use the potty three times in the first hour. That’s a record.

While thrilled with the progress, Mrs. F was suspicious and realized that O was using the bathroom trips to get the chap stick. She wasn’t actually going pee each time she went into the bathroom.

So Mrs. F amended the chap stick rule. She told Olivia that they were starting a sticker chart. Each time Olivia told her teachers she needed to potty and then actually WENT potty, she’d get a sticker. For every three stickers earn, O gets to use the chap stick.

So far, so good.

See, this is brilliant. And it’s why I am not a teacher. I have neither the patience nor the imagination to think this stuff up. Heck, I'm lucky to get both my kids fed and bathed most nights, let alone think up brilliant strategies for behavior modification.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012



The IEP meeting.

It’s never bad. Not really. I read about other mothers who have to prepare and do research and having print-outs of services and why they’re child needs them.

We’ve never had to do that and this is Olivia’s second school system.

I supposed we’ve been lucky that the IEP meetings have been so easy.

Because they are. There are never really any surprises. I know Olivia’s strengths and weaknesses. And even though her strengths totally outweigh her weaknesses both at home and at school, her weaknesses are definitely more visible at school.

That’s not a surprise either. I mean, every child is different at home from who they are at school. Alyssa recently became a member of the Bomber Courtesy Club at school because of her exemplary behavior and manners while at school. At home…well, let’s just say her manners need a little work. But that’s because she’s comfortable at home and is more than willing to push me and Tom to our very limit of patience.

Olivia is the same way. She’s more comfortable at home so she talks to us more and she exhibits more sociable behaviors.

At school, she tends to withdraw and just sit back and take it all in. She listens to everything, brings it home and processes it there, regaling me with stories and songs from her day.

I love this yet…I wish she’d show them all that she is in those three hours while she’s there.

The school psychologist needed to classify Olivia today in order to set her up for services. Obviously, with the 5p- diagnosis, we have a medical classification but Olivia’s not sick, not really. She doesn’t need special services due to her medical condition.

No, she needs special services that provide speech therapy (to continue to build upon the foundation of verbalizing her needs/wants and sharing in back and forth conversations with her peers and teachers the way she does at home.)

She also needs physical therapy to continue to build up her muscle tone and help her be more comfortable with her own abilities so she can participate in gym classes as well as play with her peers on the playground.

She needs occupational therapy because she’s a weak writer. She’s just beginning to use the tripod grasp with pencils and crayons. She won’t trace letters and can’t write her name. She also can’t draw a person with distinct body parts. Though she can write and A and put a face in it and declare that it’s Alyssa as an A. I know, cute, huh?

In order for Olivia to receive all of the above therapies, she needs to be classified. The psychologist gave us (me, the therapists, O’s preschool teacher and the school principal) two options. We can classify Olivia as on the autism spectrum or as learning disabled.

He (the psychologist) was leaning heavily toward the autism classification. He assured me that if he were to observe Olivia without knowing about her genetic diagnosis, he’d put her on the spectrum. He gave me his reasons for that: She tends to withdraw while in the classroom, preferring to do solitary activities rather than participate in group activities. She does not transition well from one activity to another. She needs almost constant adult supervision to ensure she’s following directions and continuing to participate in the classroom agenda. She’s easily distracted from tasks. Her social skills are the weakest part of her entire development. She no longer pulls her hair out but she does need space when processing the things going on around her.

In the end, after much discussion about inclusion and how her therapists would try and provide her services in the classroom with typical peers present as much as possible, we agreed to go with the classification of autism. I was assured over and over that this will be revisited at each meeting and this does not put Olivia into a box from which she can never emerge.

The autism classification will allow Olivia to receive more one on one help if it is deemed necessary down the road. Her ST was insistent that Olivia needs as much exposure to her typical peers as possible and that we need to try very hard not to put her in a classroom with atypical peers and just leave her there. I agree with that. I’m so grateful for insightful therapists who have taken the time to get to know my child.

Olivia’s teacher was quick to point out that Olivia is not a distraction to her peers. She doesn’t act out in a way that pulls their attention away from the teacher. Olivia’s social issues are more to her own detriment than those of her classmates. Which is why the speech therapist wants to continue to keep her in the classroom with typical kids as much as possible. She’s seen that Olivia learns from example and watching her peers interact is how she’s going to build her own social cues.

I feel like I should be bothered by the autism classification. Maybe I will be after I process everything that was discussed today. But for now, I’m just grateful that we have such a dedicated team working with us and Olivia. We all want her to succeed in school and eventually, in life. What more could a concerned momma want?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Unscheduled Meeting

I have a meeting scheduled with Olivia’s teacher and her therapy team tomorrow to discuss her IEP for next year and her transition from preschool to Kinderkids.

But yesterday I was at the school for Alyssa’s pen pal party and as I was leaving, I glanced into O’s classroom and saw her teacher in there all by herself. I stopped to ask her how O’s behavior has been over the last week since we’ve been sending wordy notes back and forth trying to figure out how to get Olivia to WANT to behave appropriately in the classroom setting.

We talked about motivation and how Olivia is a tough child to crack. Not that we want to break her. No, we all want to find what makes her want to learn and behave.

We want her to grow and progress with her peers. We want her to want this too.

One thing in her favor is that Olivia is not disruptive in the classroom. She doesn’t do things that take away from her peers’ opportunity for learning. She just, well…shuts down sometimes. She’ll just stop listening to her teacher and will go find a quiet corner in which to lay, often clutching a small toy.

So no, she doesn’t interrupt the flow of the classroom but she is disrupting her own chances of learning. And we don’t want that, obviously.

While Mrs. F and I were talking, I mentioned that my mom often used lipstick as a motivator to get Olivia to use the bathroom appropriately. When she used the toilet, my mom would let Olivia put on some lipstick.

Mrs. F and I stood for a few minutes, looking at each other. Obviously, lipstick isn’t appropriate for the classroom setting but…chap stick…could work.

I offered to purchase some new tubes of chap stick and put them in Olivia’s backpack the very next day. I suggested that Mrs. F take those tubes of chap stick and put them on her desk, reminding Olivia that if she told the teachers when she has to potty and when she listens to them and picks up after herself, she will get to use the chap stick.

Mrs. F was more than willing to give this a try.

With six days of school left…

I know. But hey, if it works, next fall I’ll let Olivia pick out her own favorite chap sticks, we’ll take them to school when we meet her new teacher and the whole process will begin again. And the thing is, some days the motivation of chap stick will work and others? Not so much. Just like some days, the promise of sugarless gum will help her do what is asked of her and other days, she’ll just shrug if you tell her that there will be no gum if she doesn’t comply. On those days, she just doesn’t care and nothing we do will make her care.

All any of us want is for her to succeed. But in the end, Olivia is the one who has to want it. She’s the one who has to do the work that will get her there. We can give her tools to reach goals but she has to work for them.

As I said, tomorrow I head back to the girls’ school to discuss Olivia’s IEP. While I don’t expect any surprises, it is often hard to hear the ‘professionals’ talk about O’s processing issues, her delays, her less than stellar performance in the classroom. But what can I do? They can’t grade her on what she does at home. They have to judge her on what they say, what she shows them.

But I will admit that I’m getting kind of tired of reading the words, “Mother reports…” in the progress reports. It almost feels like they’re saying, “Well, her mom says this is what she does at home but we see no signs of this at school.”

And honestly, that is what they’re saying. Because it’s true. Olivia won’t do for them what she does for us. And that is the issue. That is the real problem. That is what we need to work through.

I’ll let you know if the meeting tomorrow comes up with anything brilliant.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pen Pal Party

This is a shout out to all the teachers out there. You guys are awesome.

At least the teachers at my girls' school are. Their energy is boundless, they are creative and innovative. They constantly strive to keep the kids engaged and enthusiastic about learning.

I was lucky enough to volunteer in Alyssa's class today when they got to host a party where they met with the pen pals to whom they've been writing all year. This party was originally scheduled for early May but that was the day school was closed due to fog. I know. Fog.

They were able to reschedule and that day was today.

And it was so much fun. I wish I were able to go to my girls' classes more often. I feel like I get a glimpse into a part of their world that I don't really know much about. Alas, as a mother who works outside the home, these events don't happen nearly often enough.

The kids from both schools were amazingly well-behaved. There was no tattling, no fussing. They played well together and participated willingly in the games their teachers planned for them.

I was asked to bring drinks and when I came home over the weekend with four cases of water (12 bottles each) Tom sort of laughed at me, saying the kids were going to go for the Hawaiian Punch and walk right past the water.

I just smiled at him and took the water to the school today along with one gallon of Hawaiian Punch. I returned with one case of water and an entire gallon of Hawaiian Punch. I'm not one to say, "I told you so." Except...well, I sort of told him so. Ha!

But enough of the gloating. It was a great day and I am lucky to have been able to be there. I'm also lucky that Alyssa still wants me to go to things like this. It won't last, I know. So I'm going to soak it up for all it's worth while it lasts.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How Was Your Day?

I think I've mentioned before that Olivia's speech is really taking off.

It actually took off way back in October of 2009 when she started stringing sounds into workds and words into sentences. Her PT told us that when Olivia was strong enough to walk, she'd be strong enough to talk.

We got so lucky when we were assigned the therapist who have worked with Olivia through the years. Each one brought a different strength to the team, their personalities meshing with Olivia's to bring out her own strengths.

Recently, Olivia has been more apt to tell us about her day.

On Friday afternoon when I arrived at my mom's to take the girls home, Olivia greeted me with her hands on her hips and righteous indignation dripping from her words. "Did you know that we went outside today at school but they didin't let us play? They just took us to the bus and made us come home!"

She was disgusted by this lack of play time on the school's playground.

And her favorite playground (the school has three, but O's only been on two of them) is the smaller one, meant for the preschoolers and the kindergarteners.

She loves that one because the slides are a bit smaller, the steps fewer and the swings lower.

She loves that one she'd marry it if it had arms.

But since it doesn't have arms, she'll settle for playing on the playground as often as possible. And she'll let us know when she doesn't think it's often enough.

I am so blessed to be able to hear Olivia's complaints and opinions. Once upon a time, we weren't sure we'd ever know what's going on her pretty little head. How lucky we are that she can articulate it to us?

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Little Appreciation...

Goes a long way.

Tom helps a lot with the morning routine these days.

I try to thank him often for what he does because, well, I’d like to receive recognition for all that I do for our family and I figure the best way to perhaps get to that point is to model the behavior. You know, the whole do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

How’s that working for me? Ehh, whatever. He’s appreciative in his own way. Let’s leave it at that.

But he surprised me earlier this week.

After I thanked him for his contribution to getting the girls fed and brushed (teeth and hair) and shoed each morning, he replied with, “It’s the least I can do. I have to make up for all those years when you did it all while you were at your mom’s.”


I wasn’t sure he ever realized how hard those years of commuting were. I didn’t know it had ever occurred to him that while he was home alone for three, sometimes four nights/mornings each week, I was off with the girls, doing the parenting thing on my own.

Now, granted, my mom helped as much as she could. But there were years where we were staying with her and my step-dad not because my mom was babysitting but because it was simply a matter of distance. I couldn’t justify driving the girls 65 miles each way every single day. So during O’s first year, my mom worked outside the home and I took both girls to a daycare center that is a block from my work.

And I did it all myself. I got them both and myself ready each morning. I fed them, I dressed them, I packed our lunches, I made sure there were diapers in the bag and a change of clothes for both girls.

It was tough, but we made it through. And this week, I got to see that my husband saw that. He realized how much effort I put into our lives.

Somehow, just knowing that he’s aware makes me feel better. Sure, a thank you every so often wouldn’t go unappreciated but…I know how he thinks and I will take what I can get.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


It is still the first annual Cri du Chat Awareness week.

Which is appropriate because Olivia still has 5p- syndrome.

When I was fighting to figure out what was going on with Olivia and her lack of muscle tone, her near constant reflux, her obvious delays, I worried myself sick.

It didn’t matter that this was my second child and I knew how to take care of a baby. I was sure there was something I was doing wrong, that I’d gotten lucky while caring for Alyssa. I worried that there was something acutely wrong with Olivia and if I didn’t find answers, we might lose her.

That right there, that fear that she might have some sort of regressive disease, was what worried me the most.

So when we finally, finally got the 5p- diagnosis when she was two years old, I was relieved.

I hope that doesn’t sound like a slap in the face to other parents out there who were devastated by this diagnosis. I don’t mean it to be anything like that. Maybe if we’d received Olivia’s diagnosis in those early days, weeks, months of her life, I’d have felt that sick, lost sense.

Instead, we got it when she was older, after she’d wormed her way into our hearts. The 5p- didn’t matter so much as the relief that this syndrome is something she can live with.

I was relieved that she was a bad as she was going to get. This was what we got. I felt like at that point, there was nowhere to go but up.

It helped that we had an amazing doctor at our sides. She told me we were doing everything right. The therapies, the big sister, the involved parents and grandparents. Olivia was getting the best possible start.

There is no cure for 5p- syndrome. Doctors can’t go in and splice the missing chromosome back into her DNA.

But while there is no cure, there is life. There is love and there is growth. There is joy and laughter.

One of my first questions upon hearing the diagnosis was whether Olivia could pass the syndrome on to her own kids.

Her doctor looked a little startled by the question. I realize why now. But at that moment, it didn’t occur to me that Olivia might not be mentally capable of having children of her own.

The doctor gently informed me that Olivia has a 50% chance of passing the syndrome on to her children. She paused and continued with, “If she’s capable of caring for children of her own.”

Oh…that was when I realized that perhaps my dreams for my little girl might have to be adjusted just a little in light of this diagnosis.

And that’s okay. While I haven’t put those dreams to rest completely, I have let new dreams form, dreams of her growing up, graduating from high school, getting a job she enjoys, being happy.

That’s my greatest dream for both of my girls. I want them to be happy.

And when I watch Olivia swing on the swing set in our backyard each evening while Alyssa chases Orville across the grass, I know that happiness is absolutely in their reach, no matter what their chromosomes number. 5p- can’t take that away from us.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Diving into Nine

As we move deeper and deeper into nine, I’m seeing that it’s really, really hard to be nine.

First, when you’re nine and your sister is five, it’s tough to deal with a REALLY annoying little sister. A sister who sings and talks and demands attention from the mother you adore. The mother you had to yourself until you were almost four years old and then, wham! Suddenly, there was this screaming baby who took her away from you. And since it’s still going on, it’s hard to keep the frustration at bay.

Another thing about being nine is that you want what you want when you want it but you’re old enough that people expect you to be patient, to be understanding, to wait your turn even when you don’t want to wait your turn.

Last Sunday Jaxon called Olivia to see if we were going to go to Grammy’s while he was there. Olivia squealed into the phone. Jaxon took this as a yes and handed the phone back to his Gram. She told me the boys (Jaxon, his dad and Mitch, my other brother) were there and they’d be there for another half hour.

Alyssa wanted to ride our bikes over. I explained to her that it would take us a half hour to get there on our bikes. Because of this, we were going to drive over and then we’d bike over later in the day.

She lost her nine year old mind. But only for a few minutes. She pouted, a few tears might have spilled out of her big blue eyes. She fretted and finally, I gently took her by the shoulders, made her look at me, told her to take a deep breath and asked her what was really bothering her.

She couldn’t articulate it. She just wanted to ride the bikes to Gram’s house.

I asked her if she understood that we would ride the bikes over later but if we actually wanted to see Jaxon, Jason and Mitchell, we needed to drive.

She shook her head dejectedly and went to brush her hair.

The issue was laid to rest but she was still a little pouty.

Because nine can be pouty. Nine can’t help the poutiness. Nine is on the cusp of something big but doesn’t quite understand what that big thing is.

Nine is old enough to have to clean out the cat’s litter boxes but isn’t quite old enough to set her own bedtime. Nine has to rinse her own dishes but has to ask permission to use the computer.

Nine is so confused by life in general and that leads to poutiness and irritation.

But nine still thinks her mom is awesome and the best parts of the day are when that annoying little pest of a sister is asleep and Mom and Nine can sit and talk or laugh or just have happy feet together while they watch television.

Nine gets to watch shows like Once Upon a Time and even the occasional episode of Grimm but Mom still won’t let Nine watch certain scenes from the latest movie in the Twilight Saga (consummating the marriage, anyone?)

Nine is hard and wants you to know that that little sister? She’s not nearly as special as everyone thinks she is. But she’ll defend that little sister to the ends of the earth if anyone else were to say such a thing. That’s a sentiment that is reserved for Nine alone.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

International Cri du Chat Awareness Week

“Mom? Are we dirty little freaks?”

That’s the question Olivia asked me yesterday on the way home from the dentist last night.

It startled me at first, wondering where she’d picked up such a phrase. Then I realized it’s from a song by P!nk. We listen to a lot of music and, evidently, some of it is questionable for little ears.

And like most five year olds, Olivia takes everything in. Everything.

See, that’s the thing, she’s so much like most other five year olds that I sometimes forget that she’s supposed to be ‘special.’

This week is the first annual International Cri du Chat Awareness week. We’re hoping to educate people on this syndrome, also known at 5p-.

In fact, I usually refer to the syndrome as 5p- instead of Cri du Chat because I feel like the Cri du Chat name just indicates one symptom of the syndrome, the cat cry, that Olivia had as an infant. That symptom no longer exists in my girl.

She’s a thriving, growing, laughing, dancing, singing five year old who sounds no more like a cat than most other 5 year olds out there.

Yes, she’s missing part of her fifth chromosome. That deletion has caused her to have low muscle tone, which means she didn’t walk as young as typical kids. She also took a little longer to speak. But she does talk now. She talks and talks and talks and talks.

My daughter is a bright and funny and sweet as any other five year old out there. She can be just as stubborn and frustrating too.

She loves, she laughs, she lives.

She brings happiness to so many who have had the honor of knowing her. She’s special, because she’s unique, not because of her chromosomes. Her big sister, who has 42 intact chromosomes is just as unique and special.

We’re just your typical family, navigating school nights and dentist appointments (no cavities for either of them, whoohoo!!) and play dates and tantrums, just like most other families out there.

Please, before you judge, check out and learn more about this syndrome. It affects every individual differently, to varying degrees.

I know how lucky we are that Olivia is doing as well as she is. She doesn’t have any of the medical issues that sometimes affect people with 5p-. I started this blog almost two years ago after attending a dance marathon at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

After I’d told our story of Olivia’s birth and the issues we’d faced and how hard I had to fight to finally get her diagnosis when she was over two years old, a woman approached me. She gazed longingly at Olivia. She said that she had a friend who’d received the diagnosis of 5p- prenatally. She said doctors told her friend that her child would never walk, she’d never talk, she’d live in a vegetative state from birth on, that was if she survived birth at all. Her friend had been urged to terminate her pregnancy by every doctor she’d consulted.

This woman watched my daughter, who was three at the time, her hair cropped short because she’d been pulling the left side out for over a year, and she fought tears. Olivia was running around that dance marathon like she owned it. She was charming every person she met. She was laughing and dancing and living.

That’s the important thing. Olivia was living. She has such a huge life and there is no doubt about the quality of that life.

It breaks my heart that doctors are basing life and death decisions on old, outdated information. 5p- syndrome is not a death sentence, it is not a sentence to life in a vegetative state or even in a wheel chair, which, honestly, doesn’t have to be all bad either. With today’s therapies, our kids are stronger, healthier than ever.

Research it, find parents who are raising kids with the syndrome, see how much better it is than the doctors might tell you. Yes, there is stress, and pain sometimes but there is so much more joy than sorrow.

I promise.

Updated: The beautiful Tiffany created this amazing picture. It says it all.

Monday, May 14, 2012

So Big

Way back in September, I worked myself into tears while at work over the mere thought of Olivia climbing into a school bus and riding the whole four miles to school. This was even with her sister on the bus with her.

My how far we’ve come!

This morning I was getting ready and Olivia presented herself. “Look,” she demanded, pirouetting in front of me so I could get the full effect of her outfit.

Now, let me say right here that the clothes she was wearing were the ones I’d laid out for her but she’d found them herself (our routine is that I lay out the clothes for the week and bring each outfit into the bathroom where I’ll be showering. The girls find them on the counter each morning.) She’d taken off her jammies herself and then put on her clothes, from underwear to shorts, shirt and socks.

I’m so proud of how far Olivia has come.

I’m also proud of how far I’ve come from worrying about my little bitty girl to being able to see how grown up she is and wanting more for her. I love her newfound independence, her confidence in her own abilities.

These days I don’t worry nearly as much as she marches out the door to wait for the bus. I don’t worry about her having a potty accident at school (those are so few and far between that we often wonder if she’s not feeling well if they do occur.)

I can see her physical growth, the maturity in her face. She’s lost a lot of that baby look and looks more like a five year old, which makes sense, because, duh, she is five. But even last fall, she still looked so little.

Her confidence goes a long way toward making her look older. She’s more sure of herself, she knows she can do so much more than she knew last fall. She climbs stairs without help, alternating feet and keeping up with me as I carry laundry up and down the stairs.

She knows to put her milk back in the fridge after breakfast or dinner. She goes to the bathroom by herself to pee (yay!!!) and even poop sometimes.

My girl is growing up and I couldn’t be prouder. And sometimes, I think the only thing holding her back is me.

Yes, I do sometimes still baby her. But that’s because she lets me. Which still isn’t fair to her. But she’s so snuggly and rocking her to sleep gives us both a moment of comfort. So for all the maturing she’s doing, we’re both still holding onto some of our old, baby-like routines.

And that’s okay too. One milestone at a time.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hitting the Road

I got this for Mother's Day:

I will never be able to outdo Tom come June and Father's Day.

I've been looking at these bike trailers for months, thinking that the girls and I would greatly enjoy being able to go out for a bike ride whenever we want. But they're not cheap and I have a hard time spending money on something that feels indulgent.

But Tom didn't feel that way and on Friday afternoon, he couldn't stand the wait and surprised me with this. He'd had the bike for years but we rarely used it because Olivia hates bikes herself, she feels unsafe and exposed.

This? Is awesome! She loves being closer to the ground and that she can sit back there with a lunchbox of snacks, a book and a blanket, in the lap of luxury as Mom pedals her butt off (I hope that's the result.)

It was such a fantastic surprise!

Alyssa and I have strapped Olivia in and hit the road twice already and we've only had the bike-trailer combo for about 29 hours.

Seriously, this is the best Mother's Day gift EVER.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Safari Week

It’s been a fun week for the girls (O’s behavioral issues aside.) Their school has been celebrating Right to Read week and the theme has been Safari Week.

On Monday, Alyssa got to go to school with Crazy Hair. And because I’m THAT mom, we dyed the ends of her hair as well as her bangs red. Yes, it will be red through the end of the year. Big deal.

Tuesday was Wear Your Rain Gear (no umbrellas, please) day. They both wore rain boots and ponchos. Much fun was had boarding the bus that morning.

Wednesday the girls wore animal print clothes. Olivia had on a pair of zebra print pants and Alyssa’s shirt resembled the pelt of a leopard. Wild animals, indeed.

Yesterday they both wore khaki pants. Alyssa wore a shirt in camouflage print and O wore a light colored long-sleeved t-shirt beneath a vest we got from the zoo a couple of years ago. They were dressed as if they were going on a safari.

Today was class color day. Alyssa’s class color is red. She was decked out in red head (literally, considering her hair) to toe.

O’s class color is purple. She wore a bunch of purple.

I like these kinds of weeks. I like getting the girls excited about going to school, even if is about the fashion. It makes them want to get up in the morning and get ready.

We’ve had a few talks with O about her behavior and…we’re working on it. Her teacher and I have communicated and we’re trying to be consistent so O understands what is expected of her both at home and at school.

I want her to have fun but I also want her to understand that she has to work when she’s at school.

We attended a little program at the school last night that had a few wild birds, a monkey, some sort of wild cat and a couple of alligators. There was also a snake.

The kids could get their picture taken with the snake for $5. They could also pet the alligators for another $5. Since I’d already paid $5 for each of us to get into the program, we skipped the photos and the petting.

Alyssa was okay with that. She wants to be brave but she also knows her own limits and she had no desire whatsoever to stand near that boa constrictor and let it rest on her shoulders for even five seconds while a picture was snapped.

I think she is sort of in awe of the friends that do these things. The snake pictures were taken during intermission and A watched her friend S stand in line for a good ten minutes for her three seconds with the snake. A stood and watched the entire time, awed by the fact that S was going to touch a snake!

I try not to stress over my girls’ shyness. Yes, I worry if it seems to be disrupting their education (I’m not going to name names but this one’s name starts with an O and ends in livia.) but if it means they stand near my during a program instead of running around like a crazy person with their classmates?

I call that a win for me.

I know that Alyssa will outgrow her shyness. I did. By my senior year of high school, I was in two school plays, I’d been the drum major of the marching band for three years (this one time at band camp…) and I had a solid group of very good friends.

Alyssa will come into her own. No amount of pushing from me is going to make it happen faster or make the transition easier for her. I just listen and watch and sometimes, gently nudge if I think she’s on the edge of discovering some amazing interest or talent.

It’s what we do, we parents who adore our kids, quirks and all.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Notes from School


Let’s start with the good, shall we? Over the weekend, after a long day away from home, I was puttering around the kitchen, putting away the snacks we’d taken with us when Olivia called me to the bathroom.

I arrived to find her sitting on the toilet, her cushy tushy in place, her magazine opened on her lap, her step stool at her feet.

“I need you to clean me up,” she said, preparing to climb down from the toilet.

I glanced suspiciously at her underwear, suspecting nothing good would come of it. But they were clean.

She’d realized she needed to poop and went about the process in the appropriate manner. Go Olivia!!

My mom and I were lamenting just last week that we’re ready for the next stage in potty independence. Olivia has been pretty much accident-free at home for months and months now. But…she wants us to go into the bathroom with her even though she does it all herself. She just likes the company. And we’re sort of tired being her potty pal.

And we’re getting there. Slowly but surely. Baby steps and all that jazz.

Alas, all is not sunshine and roses in Olivia’s world.

This morning I was cleaning out Olivia’s backpack in preparation for school.

There was a note from her teacher.

To paraphrase, it said something like: Olivia is having trouble with behavior at school. She is refusing to perform requested tasks such as picking up after herself. She’s also taken to throwing papers on the floor and refuses to pick them up. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on how to motivate her.

Oh…do I wish I had some suggestions. I wish I knew what to say to her teacher.

I suggested that it’s the mood, the fact that there are only a couple more weeks of school left and she senses everyone’s underlying excitement over the coming summer break.

I wrote that Tom and I talked to Olivia about rules and respect and how she has to listen to her teacher when she tells her something.

It just occurred to me in the writing of this post that perhaps Olivia is FINALLY getting comfortable with her teachers. Maybe her behavior is a sign that she feels safe with them. Yes, that’s a good thing and yet…I’d rather she not be a brat just because she feels safe to do so.

I did state that O doesn’t behave that way at home. She’s pretty mild-mannered at home. She’s obsessive about keeping the trash can lid and the toilet lid down. Tom used that this morning to remind her that leaving paper on the floor is dirty and nasty just like she thinks leaving the toilet lid up is nasty.

We’ll see.

I have her IEP meeting in just under two weeks. I hope that O can hold out for the rest of the month. It’s almost over and she can have a summer to be wild and free.

Until next fall when we start the whole process over again.

Any advice from you veteran moms out there? How do you motivate your bigger kiddos to behave appropriately at school? I’m not sure O gets the idea of rules. Even if she gets it, I’m not sure she cares. This is the frustrating part.

What can I do to make her WANT to behave at school? How can I get her to want to do the work, put in the effort? Bribery? I’m all for it. I just have to find her thing, that one thing that she wants more than misbehaving…it’s probably going to be Barbie related and I’m okay with that as long as it works.

Punishment doesn’t really work for her. So…bribery it is, right? Unless anyone out there has any better ideas? I'm all ears (eyes?)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Good Cheer

Project Good Cheer is going well, thanks for asking.

Even the quasi-road trip we took on Sunday was fairly cheerful thanks to my conscious effort to be effervescent and witty and well, not-bitchy or whiny.

So yes, it’s going well.

And other than the middle of the night lapse in good cheer, everyone is benefitting from my efforts.

The girls both seem to be more relaxed in the evenings. Tom’s more pleasant was we go about our evening routines.

And I know that this pleasantness is partially how I perceive it. He probably hasn’t even changed his tones or words or even moods.

But I have and that’s all the difference.

One day last week, Tom moved some kiwi he’d bought earlier in the week. He put it on the counter more in the open. He said in passing, “Maybe this will remind me to cut one of those up for Olivia.”

And I nodded and continued what I was doing it. I never once thought, “He’s saying that because he thinks you’re a lazy cow and he knows you won’t get around to cutting those kiwi up for her.”

No, I didn’t let myself think that. That’s not what he’d said and I was going to take what he said at face value. I’m tired of getting myself all in a lather over imagining what he’s implying instead of hearing what he’s saying and accepting it as what he meant.

Even when he continued a few minutes later with, “Or, if you think of it, you could cut them up.” I didn’t let my thoughts go further than that. I didn’t read into it. I just nodded again and continued the evening with good cheer.

I realize that this is not something I can always do but while I can, I’m making the most of it.

I want to build memories of happy, relaxed evenings with my girls. I want them to look back at their childhood and feel good about it. I want them to remember their mother as someone who enjoyed their company, someone who loved them with abandon and who took joy in their stories.

I don’t want them to only remember my tiredness, my stress, my anger.

But that’s not to say I want to hide all that from them. I am okay with them knowing I’m human, flawed.

But let’s make the good parts outshine the bad, shall we?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Uh Huh

Olivia has taken to answer questions in the affirmative with an, “Uh huh.”

As in, “Olivia, do you want a waffle for breakfast?”

Olivia will utter, “Uh huh.” The nod that accompanies her little throat utterance confirms that she does, in fact, want a waffle for breakfast.

It’s cute. And yet…it’s also slightly annoying. I’d prefer she continue to use the “Yesh.” Of yesterday (okay, last week, whatever.)

So we’re in the ‘uh huh’ phase.

I have to admit that this is better than the infant stage, where we suffered the screaming phase for several months. Or Alyssa’s phase when she was four to eight weeks old. Every single evening she fussed from 4pm until 9pm. Nothing pleased her. And the thing was, she never really cried, she just made this horrible, fussy sound.

But one night when she was nine weeks old or so, I realized we’d made it through the fussing hours without the fussing. The phase was over.

The thing about phases is that they end and new ones begin and we, as parents, have no real control over these phases. We can try and change the behavior that is accompanying the phase but in the end, we have to weather the phase and come out the other side.

I’ve been in the bad sleep phase forever.

I know, I know, this is such a boring topic because I’ve bitched about it so many times I can’t even stand it myself.

And yet, I know this is a phase. Surely O won’t be waking me up four times a night when she’s nine or twelve or seventeen. Right? Oh dear heaven, please tell me I’m right.

This morning even the cuteness of an ‘uh huh’ couldn’t stop me from snapping at her when she woke me up for the fourth time at 4:30am. She woke up at 1am asking me to take off her nasty pull-up. She woke up at 2am wanting me to scratch her back. (For the record, no scratching occurred.) She woke me up at 3am asking me to let her lay with me. She asked for a tissue at 4am.

Finally, at 4:30 she rolled over and asked me when we were going to get up.

I’d had it. I told her we weren’t getting up because wasn’t MORNING yet and that she needed to not talk to me anymore while it was still dark.

Harsh? Maybe. But I’m not wallowing in mommy guilt over this one. Girlfriend is FIVE years old. 5p- or not, she knows that night time is for sleep.

So I rolled away from her and tried to sleep for the last hour before the alarm went off.

And guess who had to be woken up at 6:40 this morning?

Uh huh. It was Olivia.

When I asked her if she was tired, she replied, “Uh huh.”

I wonder why.

Monday, May 7, 2012

You Gotta See the Baby...

Yesterday we made a trip south to see Isaac, the new grandson. He’s seven weeks old now and while Tom made the trip soon after he was born, this was the first time the girls and I got down there to see him.

The girls and I hadn’t seen Tom’s older sons and their families since we moved into our new house back in fall of 2010. But to be fair, even when we lived just a few miles away, we didn’t see them all that often. Easter, Christmas, birthdays…that was pretty much it.

So I refuse to feel guilty about moving 75 miles away since Tom actually still sees the boys just about as often as he did before.


The baby is adorable. He looks just like his big brother and sister. And they look just like their mom, so yeah, cute kids.

But…wow was he fussy. Poor baby. Poor Momma too. She was tired from a rough night the night before and with the baby fussing and fussing and then fussing some more for the fun of it, I could tell she wasn’t really into having company.

I get that. I do. See, hearing that poor baby fuss took me back to O’s first few months and wow, can I say I’m so freaking glad we’ll never face another infant stage again? Does that make me a bad step-grandma?

So be it.

I felt for K, my step-son’s wife. She’s got three kids under five years old. Her first two kids were good sleepers from the beginning and it looks like the littlest doesn’t plan to follow in his big sibs’ foot steps.

And see, this young woman, bless her, wants to put on a brave face. She wants to show the world that they are the perfect family, that life is wonderful and grand and there are never any rough patches.

I get that need. I do. And yet…I often feel like we moms need to stick together and sometimes admit that it can suck. That doesn’t mean it always sucks but it can suck. Admitting that doesn’t mean we don’t adore our children but it does mean that sometimes, we’re at the end of our rope.

It was a nice day for a bit of a road trip. Tom was gracious enough to drive. Okay, fine, I plunked my butt down in the passenger seat and refused to move. Whatever, the end result was the same. He drove, I dealt with the girls, who are seasoned travelers, so all went well.

On the drive home, my mom called me and asked if seeing that baby gave me any ideas on the baby-front. Dear heaven no! It made me grateful that my ovaries are old and my IUD is new and that Tom is on the same page as far as us being done having babies. Whew!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Guilt-Free Epiphany

Last night the experiment began. The conscious decision to bask in my family’s love and adoration rather than run from it or endure with a sigh and gritted teeth.

Yes, I know how awful that sounds. Imagine how awful it was to feel that way? Or, even worse, how awful it must have been to be Tom or Alyssa or Olivia and deal with me feeling that way? My poor family.

But I’m not beating myself up over past behavior. I can’t do that or I will never get past any of this.

Instead, I’m moving forward. The experiment last night was awesome. It was wonderful.

We were all so relaxed and we smiled and laughed.

That old saying, “If mom’s not happy, no one’s happy.” It’s true. One person truly can set the tone of the entire household.

It’s an awesome responsibility to be that one person. But since I am, I have to consciously choose happiness. I have to be thankful for the love that my family lavishes on me. I have to embrace the fact that they want to be near me and I have to realize that I’m truly lucky in this.

But the most amazing thing about last night isn’t that I was able to pull off kindness for several hours in a row.

No. Though that was a pretty amazing endeavor, if I do say so myself.

No, the most amazing thing that happened was that I realized that I can say no to a request and not feel guilty about saying no.

How did I figure this out? I said no to something with kindness in my voice. I said no to a request from each member of my family with a smile on my face and an explanation that I was already doing something else and if I had time, I’d get to their request soon. But if not, perhaps they could figure something else out.

I also realized that an ounce of kindness can go for miles. And martyrdom is never, ever appreciated.

I know that my family would rather I just get over myself and go be alone for ten minutes than to do something I don’t want to do while sighing and huffing and puffing and rolling my stupid eyes the entire time. There’s no grace in that.

But there is grace in saying calmly and kindly, “Mommy is going to go upstairs and use the bathroom. I’ll be back in just a few minutes. You can stay here with Daddy while I’m gone and when I get back, I’ll do that thing you asked me to do ten minutes ago.”

Everyone is happy with that. Even me. Imagine that.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


This morning started too early. Every morning does, though, doesn’t it?

For the last few nights/mornings Olivia has slept really well, waking up only after I’ve gone into the bathroom and turned on the light to start the day.

This morning, however, she woke up about fifteen minutes before my alarm went off. She wanted to lay with me but she wanted her “nasty pull-up” off first. (Her words, not mine.)

So she snuggled in but she wasn’t interested in going back to sleep. She wanted to chat.

I listened as I dozed and finally, when the alarm did go off, O was up and running. She wanted to wear this dress and those socks and don’t forget her new ballet shoes that Gram picked up for her at a garage sale yesterday. And could she please go down and watch hew new ballet movie before breakfast.

Ugh, yes, go. Ask Daddy to put in the movie and start it.

Before O was out the door and down the stairs, Alyssa was up, glowering at us all. (Alas, poor dear is so very much like her mother.) She went about getting dressed on her own with little conversation. Did I mention she’s a lot like me?

The morning progressed and we were rounding up our routine, teeth were brushed, hair was dried, etc. And then I went up to comb my wet hair. Three seconds after I started, Alyssa joined me in the bathroom to brush her own hair. She’d had to bring the brush with her as it’s usually used in the bathroom downstairs.

And I was graceless and bitchy. I didn’t actually say anything. But I sighed and combed and thought mean thought about how I couldn’t even have five damned minutes alone to comb my stupid hair. Like I said, graceless and bitchy.

Five seconds after Alyssa left to go back downstairs, Olivia arrived to make sure I wasn’t lonely as I continued to stew and comb my hair.

Finally, we all emerged outside to wait the last five minutes before I had to leave. It was a lovely spring morning, a hint of the coming humidity in the air.

At one point, Tom, Alyssa and Olivia were talking to me, each trying to be heard over the other two.

I thought to myself that it’s hard to be everyone’s favorite.

And yet…that’s just it. I am. I’m the one they all want to be with. I’m the one they all wait for anxiously to get home and I’m the one they all want to respond to whatever they’re saying or doing with a kind smile or a nice comment.

There are moments when I do manage that but I’m ashamed to admit that there are more moments when I wish for five minutes of alone time, five minutes to go down to the basement and throw the wet clothes into the dryer.

But this morning as I was driving to work, I had an epiphany. It hit me hard that rather than lamenting my lack of time alone, I should be rejoicing in the fact that my three favorite people return my love. That they each want to be with me. That I bring them comfort, my mere presence gives them joy.

I need to stop saying I love them and start showing it. I need to stop being such a bitch and sighing when one of the girls arrives at the bathroom door and instead, I need to smile at them and show them how happy I am to see them, even if I just saw them ten seconds ago.

I know today is May 3rd but I’m making a resolution anyway. I resolve to be happy when any member of my family seeks me out. I resolve to listen more attentively to my husband when he’s talking to me and to be more present with my children when they’re telling me about their day or their dreams or their fears.

I resolve to stop selfishly hoarding my quiet time and start sharing it with the people I love most in the world. It’s the very least I can do for them.

Actions speak so much more loudly than words. And I resolve that my actions will be loving, my words will be softer and kinder.

I will stop being such a bitch and start being a better wife and mother.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Last Minute Mothering

Warning: Bad Mommy Moment coming up…

It’s been a tough week at work. Inventory on Monday wiped me right out. I was very physically tired and yet sort of wired. It was ugly.

Yesterday was a bunch of waiting, which is just as tiring as being busy. You just end up being a different kind of tired.

So when Alyssa announced last night that today was the day of their class pen pal party, I think I lost my mind for a little while.

I distinctly remembered her giving me the form asking parents to contribute food/drink to this party as well as asking if parents were willing to attend the party and help with activities.

This was at least a month ago. I remember signing the paper, saying we’d bring drinks and I’d love to attend the party. Off it went to Alyssa’s teacher.

The very next day, I came to work and filled out a vacation request for the day of the party.

And then I forgot about it all.

Except, I sort of, in the back of my mind, though about the fact that later this month, I have a vacation day coming up so I can attend a party in Alyssa’s class.

Then, last night, she was telling me it was today. And I was SURE it couldn’t possibly be today. I mean, I’d KNOW if it was today, wouldn’t I? I’d put in for a vacation day and everything and I was just positive that the teachers must have changed the date on us because, duh, I’d know if I had a vacation day the very next day.

I decided I’d run into the local grocery store (where everything is more expensive than the Walmart that is 18 miles away instead of three miles away) and bought two jugs of Hawaiian Punch and 100 paper cups. I’d wanted to get small bottles of water because I really do think it’s better than sugary beverages but…this grocery store didn’t have the smaller bottles at a decent price and I wasn’t going to spend almost $5 for 24 full-sized bottles of water when I knew the kids were more than likely going to waste it anyway.

I told Alyssa I’d take the drinks to the school this morning, talk to her teacher about the party and head to work to get a least a little work done before the party.

She seemed okay with that.

This morning, my phone rang at 6:05. Two-hour delay due to fog. Whoo-freaking-hooo!

I made a deal with Tom. I’d take Olivia to my mom’s if he’d take the punch to the school later today. I’d call the teacher for the details of the party, if it was even still happening and we’d all be happy.

I got to work and looked at the calendar…d’oh…I had today scheduled as a vacation day. I am such a jerk! Seriously.

But there was still so much work to do that I was vaguely relieved that I’d forgotten about the vacation day so I could get the work done and save the day for another, nicer day when I don’t have so much waiting for me on my desk when I get back.

I called the school, left a message with A’s teacher. At 8:40, my phone rang again. School was closed due to the weather. Wheeee! I called Tom, I called my mom, through me they arranged for my mom to drop O off at home at noonish.

We’re hoping the pen pal party is rescheduled and if it is, Alyssa and I are going to write the date on our calendar together, so I won’t be caught in another bad mommy moment like last night.

But hey, even though I feel like a big jerk, I do take consolation in the fact that while at the grocery store last night, we ran into three of Alyssa’s classmates and their haggard-looking mothers. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one who forgot to write the date of party on the calendar. Misery does love company after all.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Last night I was tired. So, so tired. Not so much sleepy as I was physically worn out. We had a tough, physical day at work yesterday and it took a lot of out of me.

Olivia and I were sitting in the rocking chair. She was draped across my lap as she often is in the evenings as I try to lull her to sleep.

There was no lulling this child. She was busy, she was thinking. She had questions and was demanding answers.

We have a hanging lamp in the corner behind the rocking recliner where O and I were sitting. It’s an amber glass globe with etched roses all over it. It’s prettier than I just described.

It casts interesting and pretty shadows along the wall and ceiling.

Olivia was enthralled. She asked, “What happens if we go into that light?”

I was half listening and responded, “What do you think happens?”

She said, “I think we’d die.”

That got my attention. I looked down at her and she was grinning at me.

She asked, “What happens when we die?”

I told her we go to heaven and live with God and Jesus and are surrounded by peace and love.

Oh, my did that get her going. She was fascinated by the idea of heaven and God and Jesus. She kept looking back up at the light and saying, “That light is heaven.”

It got to the point that it was almost eerie, as if she was talking about more than the lamp behind me, as if she could see into that light and was seeing The Light, if you know what I mean.

We continued to rock and I continued to field her questions about heaven and death and light and love.

Finally, out of the blue she suggested, “Maybe we’re in heaven now. We have lots of love and light.”

Wow…deep thoughts from a five year old, right?

But maybe she’s right. Maybe God is so good to us that He is giving us a glimpse of heaven right here on earth, that glimpse being the pure, true love of a trusting child.

I kissed her cheek and pushed myself to my feet. Olivia was still cradled in my arms. We trudged off to bed, my aching knees and hips protesting with every step up to the bedroom. But my heart was full, my head was swimming with thoughts of love, light, heaven and peace on earth as viewed by a five year old.