Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween-ween-one-ween

Because they're too cute to wait to post:

Merida and Katniss, reporting for butt-kicking duty.

We decided that the weather was not conducive to traditional trick or treating. Instead, my mom invited us, my brother and nephew and my cousin Holly and her daughter to come to her house. The kids wore their costumes and the adults went into the bedrooms with candy. The kids knocked on the doors and got candy. We all stayed warm and candy was had by all. Win/win.

Jason and Jaxon decided Luigi and Mario were the way to go.

Not to be left out, my mom did a little Clowning around and my step dad channeled Elvis. I have a seriously awesome family.

And Tom is equally awesome by being a good sport and getting into the act too.

Can you even stand it?


It’s been almost two weeks since the conference I attended in Orlando. Eleven days to be exact from that moment in the conference room when what may have been an innocent question sent me over the edge.

The question was, “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being perfect and 10 being broken, how would you describe your relationship with yourself?”

My immediate response was 10. My relationship with myself is broken. I am my own worst critic and I take everything to heart. Every single fault, every inadequacy, every raised voice is a failure.

Acknowledging that broke a dam inside me and the tears flowed, the sobs wracked my body. I am broken.

I don’t know when I broke. I was a very confident teenager. I was firm in my belief system and very willing to share those beliefs with anyone who asked. Yes, I told people I thought I was fat but I did that only because I kind of that that’s what teenage girls were supposed to do. I never actually thought I was fat back then. I mean, come on, I was 5’6” and weight between 115 and 120. I most assuredly was not fat.

But by the time I’d hit my mid to late twenties, I began to doubt myself. I thought maybe I was pretty good person but sometimes I wondered.

And now, in my early forties, a time when I’m supposed to finally becoming comfortable in my own skin, I often find myself wallowing in self-loathing.

That’s not good. Not at all.

So…I need to fix me.

I need to learn to like myself and celebrate those things I know I do well. If only I could think of something to celebrate…

Obviously, this will be an ongoing process.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hamming It Up

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I think Alyssa’s shyness is something she was born with. She can’t help it even though she wants to.

Olivia’s? I think she learned her shyness. She learned it from her sister.

Olivia wasn’t a shy infant (after she stopped crying at around six months old, she loved people) nor was she all that shy between the ages of a year to almost three years.

No, it was when she became aware of Alyssa and started imitating A’s behaviors (all of them, egads!) that she learned to be shy.

But already, at not quite six, she’s coming out of it.

Evidence? This picture:

This picture was NOT taken by me. It was taken by Julie, who just called Olivia over to her so she could get a picture of O’s tiger face paint, a design requested by her (Olivia) but done by me.

Julie did not ask Olivia to pose. When Olivia saw the camera, she came up with the tiger pose all by herself. Shy? I’m thinking not so much.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Growing up, I was miserably shy. I hated it but I couldn’t figure out how to overcome it. I desperately wanted to be like my best friend Roxann or good friend Cheryl. From elementary school all the way through high school, both of these girls were always surrounded by people, always talking, always making others feel comfortable.

I was always on the periphery, watching, soaking it all in. I was always included in their fun but I was never the instigator, never the center of attention.

Alyssa is so much like me in this way that it breaks my heart.

Logically, I know that she’ll overcome this shyness in her own time, in her own way. I know she’s happy most of the time. She has some great friends at school, she’s part of her group and she enjoys so many things.

But this weekend at the IUDM, I saw myself in my sweet little nine year old. I saw a girl who desperately wanted to be outgoing but didn’t know how.

I saw a girl who felt invisible in a crowd, a girl who wanted to stand out but also wanted to go unnoticed. I’ve been that girl and it can be so hard.

So when she got testy with me, irritable and tired, we took a little walk, my girls and I. We went out to the car on the pretense of getting Olivia some gum. We did actually get the gum but that was just my excuse to get Alyssa out of the crowd and out of her own head for even five minutes.

As we walked to the car, I asked A if she was feeling okay. She’d fallen off the bounce house earlier in the day and hit her head pretty hard. She said she was fine. I hugged her and told her that I understood that sometimes it’s hard to be the big sister to a kid with special needs. I told her I know that it can be hard to be in a crowded room and feel like no one sees you.

She smiled and me and said simply, “I love you Mom.”

And that was that. She was fine for the rest of the day. She was engaged and had fun and flipped and did more walk-overs than I could count.

It can be hard to compete with all the Riley kids when at a dance marathon that is being put on specifically for those very kids. But once you remember that you don’t have to compete, it’s possible to have fun again.

I want Alyssa to know that who she is perfect to me. She’s a smart, kind, loving child who will always be amazing my eyes. And sure, she’ll need to put herself out there more as she gets older but she will. In her time, in her way.

I did. And I’m glad for it, just as she will be someday.

And on a positive note, she did enjoy being the center of attention at a family gathering yesterday. She showed off her amazing level 2 gymnastics skills. Uncles, aunts and cousins were appropriately impressed. It made my shy girl's day.

(And because it cannot go unmentioned, the cute blond girl behind Alyssa to her left is none other than Riley herself, the girl who has attended 100 dance marathons. She's ten, guys!)

(Also, photo credit goes to R's mom, Julie. Thanks Julie, for taking some amazing pictures of my girls!)

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I’ve been really cranky this week. I can attribute part of the crankiness to tiredness. I feel like I’m still recovering from last weekend’s travel.

I’m also feeling overwhelmed by the coming weekend’s events. The girls and I are heading to Bloomington, Indiana for a dance marathon hosted by Indiana University. While I love Bloomington, getting there involves over four hours of driving, three days away from home which means I need to pack clothes, food and entertainment for two little girls.

We also have to be back at a specific time on Sunday because there’s some kind of party going on that day and my mom has informed me that I’m one of the honorees. Oh, joy.

So yes, cranky.

I don’t know how others handle this sort of schedule on an almost constant basis (Julie, I’m looking at you and your astonishingly busy family.)

The girls have their class Halloween party tomorrow on top of everything else. When we get home from gymnastics tonight at just before 8:00 I need to make mini cupcakes for Olivia’s class, make sure everything is packed for both girls’ costumes and still come to work tomorrow for half a day.

Wah, wah, wah, right?

It’s just that I’m not used to being this busy. I’m not accustomed to going and going and going and then going some more. I’m more of a let’s all the laundry on the weekends because we’re not doing anything else kind of gal. This whole busyness thing has me doing laundry all week and it’s crushing my soul.

Okay, that’s probably a bit melodramatic. But just a bit. Last night while the girls were in the tub, I folded a basket full of laundry. The basket held what had probably been two dryer loads. It was a lot of laundry. And as I folded it and put it away, all I could think was that there were two similar baskets in the other room awaiting the same treatment. It was very soul-crushing.

I also packed our clothes and started a list of snacks we’ll take with us.

One thing at a time. I know that’s how it works. And when this weekend is over and we’re home, the steps won’t seem to have been so big.

For now, I’ll just have a little (lot) more chocolate.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Beer Goggles

While in Orlando, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of evenings with some pleasantly intoxicated people. I was never intoxicated. Let me state that clearly right here and now.

Not that I’m against the occasional sip of an adult beverage, but I didn’t partake of one this year.

Yes, so…

On Saturday evening, after watching several friends rock out to a New Kids on the Block song in a karaoke bar, Julie and I decided it was time to go back to our hotel room. We’re old, remember? And yes, I can say that because I am older than she is, making me ancient.

Away we went, leaving our lovely friends to sing their drunken little hearts out.

We had to go up an escalator to reach the main lobby of our hotel. As we stepped onto the escalator heading up, there was a man on the escalator across the way, heading down to the level we were leaving.

He called out to us, “Sweet dreams, ladies.”

We sort of smiled/smirked and thanked him. Then, glancing back, we realized he’d turned around completely to watch us going up our escalator.

You guys? That dude had to be drunk. I am not that cute.

On the other hand, Julie is very cute. Perhaps he wasn’t drunk at all. Maybe he was making googly eyes at her and I just happened to be in her general vicinity.

Yes, that’s got to be it.

But honestly, his words were a bit slurred. And you know how conferences can go. For other people.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Traveling Kindness

So yes, everyone knows I traveled last weekend. From Thursday to Sunday, I was in three different airports, on four different planes and sat next to five different people on those planes.

I also met several people at each of the airports I passed through.

And…get this, security in both the Toledo airport and the Orlando airport was easy. The workers were kind, patient people. To me, at least.

When I arrived at the Toledo airport at about 5:45am on Thursday morning, security wasn’t open yet. Heck, even the American Airlines counter wasn’t open. So I settled in to wait. The woman sitting next to where I waited said something about us passengers getting there before security.

I laughed and there we went. She was going to Chicago for just the day. She was attending a conference. She was also a breast cancer survivor with a 14 year old daughter named Samantha.

Yes, we chatted. It was a lovely way to pass the minutes before we could check in and go to through security and on to our gate.

On the way through security, I pulled my baggy of travel-sized shampoos from a side pocket of my bag and the security officer complimented my amazing travel savvy. I thanked him and reported that I travel a whole of once a year. He suggested I give travel tips to more frequent fliers. I was appropriately flattered.

On the flight from Toledo to Chicago I sat next to a woman who has three daughters. They are 10 years old, 8 years old and ten and a half months old. She was also only going to Chicago for the day for a work event. She hates flying too.

During my two hours layover in Chicago, I sat near a woman who was traveling with her daughter and two grandchildren. They were going to Orlando for the weekend too. It would be the children’s first visit to Disney World. The trip had been planned by the daughter (mom of the kids) and the woman’s late husband. They were excited and yet sad at the same time. He’d died just a couple of months after planning the trip with his daughter.

The plane boarded and I found myself seated in a window seat with a young couple in the other two seats in the row. They were preparing to watch Contagion on a laptop. I promised them I’d only have to get up once to use the restroom.

They laughed good-naturedly and told me it wasn’t a big deal.

Then I fell asleep and slept through the drink service and both parties of the couple getting up (separately.) I did end up having to make the move just before we started the descent into Orlando airspace.

The weekend flew by and before I knew it, I was on a shuttle heading back to the airport in Orlando. I sat next to two ladies who’d been in town to attend a wedding.

At the airport, I was delighted to find that the flight I thought left at 1:30 actually left at 2:45. Yes, yes, that meant I could have spent another hour with the friends I’d just spent the weekend with but…I hate to be late so to find out I was extra early just made my flipping day.

Onward through security. The line I chose moved quickly. Once I placed all my things on the conveyor belt, the security officer in charge of my line saw my confusion on where to go next and said quite pleasantly, “Just follow your shoes, Love.” How very kind was that? I mean, seriously?

The wait, while longer than I’d expected, was pleasant enough. I ate a wrap, drank a Dr. Pepper, read a book, watched people coming and going. I used the bathroom a couple of times and finally, we boarded.

I sat in the center seat this time. I could tell the women I sat between weren’t really going to be talkers, so I settled in, read my book and dozed a few times during the two and a half hour flight.

As we waited on the runway to move to our gate, the girl in the aisle seat and I talked a little about our final destinations.

Then we were done and I headed to my final gate to wait the FOUR HOURS until my next (last, wheeee!) flight left.

I got something to eat from McD’s, I bought something else to read and I found a seat in a corner at the gate where we’d eventually leave.

The lady in the seat a few down from my own wore a hard brace type thing on her ankle. After about an hour of sitting, she asked me if she could leave her larger bag on the seat that separated us. She said she couldn’t carry it all and would be back soon.

And that started a bit of a co-op between us. She’d watch my big, heavy bag while I went to the restroom (right around the corner, bonus!) and I’d watch her bag while she want to get a bagel, hoping to settle her stomach. She was coming home from a trip to China with her Chamber of Commerce and something about the trip had given her an upset stomach. She talked on her phone quite a bit but between calls, we discussed my conference, her trip and both of our desires to be home and done with travel.

Finally! We were called to board.

And as I made my way down the aisle toward seat 8C, I was stunned to see that seat 8B was occupied by Spock’s sister.

Let me state right here that I totally mean that as a compliment. She was a lovely woman. She was kind, she was talkative, she was stylish and she could totally have played Leonard Nemoy’s version of Spock’s sister. Perhaps not so much Zac Q’s version of Spock, though.

In short, she was AWESOME and I kind of wish that I could be her friend forever, even though she was about twelve years older than I am and way, way cooler.

I arrived home at 12:15. The girls were asleep on a mat on the living room floor. Tom was waiting up for me. We were glad to see each other. We were tired and I needed to brush my teeth.

Olivia cried just a little when she saw me the next morning and that broke my heart even as I laughed just a little, hugging her a bit tighter. Alyssa woke up to my alarm and broke into a giant grin just before we hugged tight.

Travel was nice. The experience of traveling reaffirmed my belief that most people are good. It also reminded me that sometimes, if you speak first, you’ll find that others are just waiting for an opening. This, coming from a self-admitted introvert, it a big deal. It’s taken me almost 42 years to be comfortable enough in my own voice, my own skin, my own intuition to be willing to ask that first question, smile that first smile and be the one to break the silence. And when it’s not well received? I just stop talking, no hard feelings. Sometimes, we just want to be left alone. But more often? We’re just waiting for a friendly face, an opening question, a chance to make a new friend.

But in the end it really, truly is so good to be home.

Monday, October 22, 2012

While I was Away

While I was away, Tom and the girls camped out on the living room floor all weekend long.

While I was away, my mom picked up my girls and took them with her for a seven hour excursion, hitting all the hotspots: Dairy Queen (because O told her, “I eat really well at Dairy Queen. (Alyssa reported that Olivia did not, in fact, eat well while at Dairy Queen with Gram)), Jo-Ann Fabrics, Walmart (because, duh!)

While I was away Tom cooked a pizza in the oven all by himself. I know! Okay, so what if I was the one who purchased said pizza? He opened the cans of sliced black olives (again, purchased by me for this very occasion), put the olives on the pizza, preheated the oven, put the pizza in the oven, set the time and took the pizza out when it was done. And then he fed it to the girls who proclaimed it the very best pizza ever. Score 1 for Daddy! I declare him the official pizza baker from this point forward.

While I was away my mom finished Olivia’s Halloween costume. Olivia is so excited she can’t stand it.

While I was away, Olivia asked Tom if I was going to be gone forever. My heart broke just a little bit. She asked the question when I’d been gone one night. I was gone two more, or three if you count Sunday night since I didn’t get home until after midnight and they were both asleep when I finally hauled my tired butt in.

While I was away, Alyssa reported that her throat stopped hurting. As in, there is no pain left at all. This eased whatever lingering guilt I might have had over the surgery. Guilt? Gone. Healing? Done. Cue happy, happy momma.

While I was away I saw some of my very favorite people and had some amazing moments that were incredibly beautiful even as they were excruciatingly painful. Strides were made. Many more are coming.

While I was away I missed my family terribly and am so, so glad to be home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trip Prep

I started packing last weekend. I try to be a light packer, planning to wear the clothes I travel in on Thursday to travel back on Sunday. It saves spaces and will hopefully let me avoid checking any bags.

I also made sure I got plenty of staples while at the grocery store last weekend. One such trip several years ago left Tom in a tizzy because they ran out of soup. Yes, I was quick to remind him that the store, which at the time was six miles away, did let fathers and daughters who were without the wife/mother figure for a few days to enter and actually purchase such things a Campbell’s Chicken and Stars soup.

He wasn’t amused. He felt I’d let him and the girls down by not stocking up before I left on my three days trip.

Today? There are five cans of Campbell’s Chicken and Stars soup in the pantry. So yes, prepared.

I also got ramen noodles for Alyssa and made a gigantic batch of goulash for Tom and Olivia to eat all weekend long. This afternoon before heading home, I’ll go get a gallon of whole milk, a gallon of skim milk and a cake for the three of them to devour while I’m away.

I’m also going to pack two lunches for Alyssa tomorrow morning before I leave for the airport at 4:45. This means Tom won’t be stressed to try and pack on for her on Friday morning. The Friday lunch will just sit in the fridge overnight and be ready for her Friday morning.

And tonight, I’ll be breaking the news to the girls that I’m leaving tomorrow morning for the weekend, to return last Sunday night. There might be tears. They might be mine. Okay, they won’t come from me. But I know Alyssa will be stressed tonight just trying to sleep. Poor kid. I should probably leave home for the night more often so this wouldn’t be such an event.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


In an effort to not receive any more notes or emails from Olivia’s teacher regarding negative behavior in the classroom, we’re working on cleaning up our vocabulary at home.

The other night as I was getting Olivia out of the tub, she announced, “I passed gas in the bathtub.”

Alyssa, ever the honest one, told me, “She said the word F-A-R-T when she did it.”

Olivia, not to be outdone, replied, “F-A-R-T, that spells train track!”

And okay, I laughed. Because it was funny. And now, when anyone passes gas at our house (we’re a gassy bunch) we will ask, “Who train tracked?”

Which, Tom has declared, probably isn’t much better than asking who farted.

So we’re trying to get back to the nice, polite habit of ignoring passed gas, because really, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do at school? Or heck, anywhere in public?

I’m happy to report that Olivia has replaced the word butt with bottom and she’s rarely heard announcing that anyone in the house (or classroom) has poopy pants. So that’s progress. I’m still not sure she understands why she shouldn’t say certain words at school but after much discussion, she seems to understand that if she does say them, she will lose fingernail polish privileges and that isn’t something she wants to risk. Bare nails might just be the fashion faux pas she can’t bring herself commit.

I know all kids experiment to some degree with misbehavior. Maybe they are trying to figure out where they fit in the classroom hierarchy. Maybe they’re just trying to fit in or are doing what they see their peers do in an effort to make friends.

I want Olivia to be social. I want her to have friends. Don’t we all want that for our kids? I want her to enjoy school but I also want her to get something out of it, something academic and something social. And negative behavior takes away from that. It distracts her and it distracts her peers. We can’t have that.

So for now, we pass gas from our bottoms and we use the potty, we don’t fart from our butts and we don’t walk around with poopy pants.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Back to School

Alyssa’s recovery seems complete. Well, as long as we can keep her from flipping herself into a relapse. She feels so much better than she did say, last Thursday, that she thinks she’s all better. Except, she’s not really.

But hey, her homework was complete as of last night at 7:45. She was just in time to join me to watch Once Upon a Time. Yay for frivolous television viewing.

As she finished each worksheet, Alyssa would bring it to me to check her work. I love that the respects me enough to want me to check it and that she’s studious enough to want to be sure it’s correct. I did have to have her look at a few questions, reminding her to read carefully and think about what’s being asked.

She’s such a lovely girl. I know I’ve said that before but the older she gets, the more I realize how lucky I am to have this girl in my life. At nine and three quarters, she’s cuddly, funny, prone to silliness and very irritable when it comes to her little sister.

She was ready to go back to school. Eight days out (that’s just including actual school days) was more than enough for her. She announced this morning that her backpack weighed a ton. It was pretty darned heavy, that’s for sure. Tom carried it out to wait with her for the bus so she wouldn’t have to carry it any longer than necessary.

She’s on the mend, is what I’m saying. Our girl is back. Her breath is no longer rancid, her voice is coming back to normal. When she sleeps these past few nights, her breathing is no longer labored or anything close to snoring.

I think my guilt over choosing to have the surgery is abating now that she’s coming back to us, better than ever.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Perks

The floors are mopped, the carpets vacuumed. The beds have clean sheets on them and the girls have just finished their lunch.

Tom left to visit a friend and I just lit some candles.

The weather is actually very mild, if you can overlook the gusting winds and hovering, threatening clouds.

It's just another lazy Sunday.

And I'm attempting to fold laundry while reminding Alyssa to do her homework and to stop doing handstands.

Yes, she's back. She feels so much better that she doesn't even realize that she's not 100% yet.

Olivia has a cough that's stuck around for about two weeks. Tom keeps hinting about taking her to the doctor for it. I keep asking him directly if he wants me to take her. He won't commit and I honestly don't think she needs to go.

It's a cold. Yes, it's been about two weeks but it's a cough and a mildly runny nose. What can they do? Nothing, that's what.

But I've told him if he wants me to take her, I will. I'll do it for his peace of mind.

But he doesn't want to be the one to actually TELL me to take her.

So...since it's up to me, we'll wait. She hasn't had a fever, the runny nose is annoying and sort of gross but isn't really bothering her. It hasn't moved into congestion. The cough is worse at night but that's because of post-nasal drip. Heck, it's 2pm and the child has just had her third wardrobe change, not due to messy clothes, but because she needed something a little fancier or with a little more sparkle. Her energy level has no been depleted even a little.

One thing about becoming a mother? I think I'm about five classes away from being an M.D. Ha, okay, so maybe not that close. But close enough that if I have to take her to Urgent Care I want to be able to tell the doctor who sees her and who wants to roll his/her eyes at me for bringing my child to see him/her because that child has a cold that the child's father is the one who felt the doctor visit was necessary. That way we can both roll our eyes together.

In another week, I'll probably be writing a post about how Olivia has bronchitis or something like that and that I should have taken her to the doctor today. Just because that's how things work.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I am assuming that no news is good news. As in, I haven’t heard back from Olivia’s teacher since that first, sort of sad, sort of celebratory email. And I’m thinking that no more messages mean she’s turned herself around and stopped doing the damned hokey pokey while everyone else is tracing their A and a over and over again.

And Alyssa…she’s slowly, so very, very slowly coming around. Her breathing last night as she slept was so much better than it has been in the past week. So there’s that. She’s eating a little more each day, which is good too since she looks like she’s lost about 10 pounds, which, when you’re 4’11” and only 80 pounds is a lot of freaking weight to lose in a week and a half.

But she is going to school on Monday, so girlfriend has three days (really only two now) to get her verve back.

I’m heading down to Orlando next week for a conference with some amazing mothers I’ve met over the years through the March of Dimes. This will be the fourth time I’ve attended this conference. I leave on Thursday morning and get home very, very late on Sunday night. Tom’s planning to have the girls ‘camp out’ downstairs all weekend. I know they’ll have fun but in an effort to avoid the stress that comes with them knowing I’m leaving…they don’t yet know that I’m leaving.

I might leave them a note on Thursday morning when I leave at 5am to catch a 7:30 flight out of Toledo. I’m kidding. Sort of. See, they get anxious over the idea of me being gone for even a few hours, let alone for several nights. They’re always fine and they always have fun but they’re also always very happy when I get home.

So I’ll continue to wait to spring the news on them. I’ll probably tell them on Wednesday evening, even though it will lead to an inability to sleep for Alyssa as she worries about me being gone. I’ll just keep reminding her that she’ll be fine. She’ll have her dad and her gram and all will be well. And I’ll be home before she knows it.


Thursday, October 11, 2012


Olivia and I had a talk last night.

I started and ended the conversation on positive notes but there in the middle, we talked about ugly words and how they’re not supposed to be used at school. Olivia knows which words we consider ugly. She knows that poopy pants and butt cheeks and booby crack are not words/phrases she should use at school.

I also told her the consequences for using words like that at school. She was watching my mom’s digital picture frame and sort of listening to me. I made her look at me so I knew she was listening. I know I often tell the girls that I don’t have to look at them to be able to hear them but she’s five and three quarters. I needed her to look at me.

She looked at me, her big eyes gleaming with humor.

I told her that if her teacher told me she’d used any ugly words at school again, when I got home from work that day, I’d take the finger nail polish off her nails and she wouldn’t be allowed to pick a new color for a few days, until she could prove that she wouldn’t say ugly words anymore.

The humor left her eyes. She grew serious, her eyes got huge and incredulous. I asked her if she understood what I was saying.

She nodded wisely.

I asked her to repeat what I’d said.

She did, her lip trembling just a bit at the very idea of losing her nail polish privileges.

I hugged her and told her again how happy I was that she was talking to her teachers and her classmates and that I wanted her to continue to do so, but she needs to use nice words when she does talk to them.

When we got home, Tom asked me if she understood.

What he was really asking was whether Olivia knew why the words were inappropriate.

Honestly, I don’t think she does understand why she can’t say them. But she does know that there are consequences if she uses the words. And she knows she doesn’t like the consequences.

We’ll continue to work on right and wrong and getting her to understand the difference but for now, I want to change her behavior. I don’t need her get WHY she has to change her behavior, that will come with love and guidance and consistency. For now, we just have to do what works to reinforce positive behavior and discourage the negative behavior.

I reminded her this morning of the consequences of using ugly words at school. I also told her how happy I was that she liked school and wanted to talk and participate in class. I reminded her that sometimes, her teachers need her to sit still and work on school projects. I want her to enjoy school, I want her to get as much out of it as she can, academically, emotionally and socially. But I don’t want her to be a distraction to her peers. That’s not fair to the other students in the class.

She loves school and I don’t want to take that away from her. She’s getting to the point where she wants to be a part of the action. She wants to interact with her peers, she wants to have friends. I want that for her so, so much. That and so much more.

And so the work begins. Or continues, however you look at it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Well here we go...

Here is a message I received from Olivia's teacher today:

"Hi Tommie,
I was just curious if anything had changed at home for Olivia? She has been crazy in class this week! We have been loving hearing her talk and share with us, but I have had to get on her quite a few time for saying inappropriate things . Today’s was saying “poopie pants” during instruction. On the positive side, during snack, she said loud enough for everyone to hear, “Hey guys these were in my book bag!” I have also really had to keep on her about running in the classroom. I’m just kind of at a loss because I do not want to discourage her from talking, but can’t have her saying inappropriate things either…….any suggestions? "

Sigh...I was hoping we had a few years before behavior issues became the norm for her. Here's my reply:

"Thank you so much for the message. Wow. She loves to say things like that at home in hopes of getting a reaction. We try to redirect her attention when she starts doing that.

The only think I can think of is that her older sister, Alyssa, had surgery last week and has been laid up for a full week now. Alyssa hasn’t been in school since last Tuesday and she’s been on the couch pretty much constantly since the surgery.

My husband and I will talk to her tonight about the ‘naughty’ words she’s saying and remind her that she can’t say them at school any more than she can say them at home. She and her cousin Jaxon (he’s a year younger than she is) love to egg each other on and try to get the other in trouble by suggesting they say words they know aren’t appropriate (like poop, butt, ect.)

This is such a change from her behavior last year, when she was much more withdrawn rather than acting out in a way that draws attention to herself and distracts others.

Like you, I’m thrilled that she’s actually talking but definitely don’t want her to say things that are inappropriate.

Like I said, we’ll talk to her tonight and try to figure out what is triggering this. I’ll send you a message tomorrow morning on how the talks go tonight. I’ll also work with my husband and my mom (who is also on of Olivia’s caregivers) and see if we can come up with ways to redirect her energy into positive activities while continue to encourage her to participate in the class.

Thanks again for letting me know what is happening in the classroom."

I hope this comes was the response of a mother who wants to cooperate with the teacher, who wants the same thing as the teacher, for the child to behave, participate, engage in the classroom activities without being a distraction.

It occurred to me after sending the message that Olivia has had a cough for the past week or so and that just today, Tom gave her some cough medicine at about 10:30. I usually give it to her at about 6:30, which is might give it time to sort of wear off before school. So tomorrow, we'll go back to the early dosage time...

We'll see. I don't want her to be a distraction to her classmates. I want her to get as much as possible out of school and learn to interact with her peers in a positive manner.

This parenting thing just keeps getting harder and harder, doesn't it?

Make Her

Alyssa’s recovery has slowed. She was released to go back to school today. She’s not there. She’s still in a lot of pain and very lethargic.

I’ve called the phone nurse at the surgery center where A’s surgery took place. The nurse said it sounds very normal. She said that Alyssa’s recent increase in pain could be due to the scabs coming off, leaving her throat raw all over again. She told me to be sure Alyssa was drinking a lot and eating as much as she can.

But there are those I come into contact with who seem to think we’re not making Alyssa get well fast enough. It has been suggested that we’re ‘letting’ her lounge around and milk this thing.

Apparently, we’re supposed to be force-feeding her and dragging her off the couch and making her be energetic.

Okay. Sure. And you know what? I was a GREAT mother before I had kids too.

Every person deals with trauma differently. This is true for this type of surgery. Even if your kid got up on day four and asked for a Big Mac doesn’t mean that because my kid didn’t that I’m ‘letting’ her be lazy.

She hurts. Trust me, I know this. When I’m holding my sobbing nine –year-old in the middle of the night because her throat hurts so bad she can’t hold back the tears any longer, I don’t doubt that she hurts.

And you know what? Alyssa’s not a lazy child. She’s not one to lie around for the sake of laying around. If she felt even a bit of energy, she’d be up, looking for things to do, playing, sitting. But that’s not what’s happening. She’s lying down, sleeping, resting, hurting.

So honestly, I’m not sure what people mean when they tell me to make her get up. Are they suggesting I MAKE Alyssa get well? Believe me, if I had that power, I’d absolutely wield it. If I had the power to make her better, she’d be at school today, her throat all better, no longer raw and sore. I’d take away the cough that causes her pain and I’d get rid of the congestion that’s probably leading to post-nasal drip that isn’t helping the sore throat even a little.

I am so glad I had a dentist appointment this morning. My hygienist was so lovely. She told me her son had the very same surgery a couple of years ago and he didn’t eat for a week. The boy went an entire seven days without food. He’d sip fluids but refused food completely. On the seventh day, he asked for some meatloaf. And today, he’s healthy, happy, recovered.

She told me that some kids just take a little longer and not to be so hard on myself about this.

She’s awesome.

It’s nice to know that there are some helpful, non-judgey people out there.

As you can see, we’re still waiting for that corner.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

And Now for Something Frivolous

I’m a channel hopper. I know, it’s very irritating to be watching something on television and have the person across the room (or next to you on the couch if you’re one of THOSE couples) change the channel back and forth throughout the show.

So I don’t do that if I’m watching something and someone else is in the room watching too.

But if I’m alone? Ohh, a channel-hopping I will go.

Last night I was torn between The Voice and Dancing with the Stars. What? Shut up.

I did what any loving wife would do if she had the opportunity. I left Tom in the living room with The Voice and I went to the family room where I had a television to myself, the remote firmly gripped in my indecisive little hand and a sleeping Olivia next to me on the couch.

And then I spent the next two hours flipping back and forth between the shows. I was able to see most of the singing on the The Voice and most of the dancing on DwtS. And yes, I even voted for my favorite stars.

When I finally carried Olivia to bed, I told Tom, “You’re welcome.”

He smiled and nodded. He was grateful that I’d spared him the unfun that is sitting next to someone who insists on flipping from channel to channel.

It was definitely a win-win sort of night.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ready for the Corner

For the first time since the surgery, Alyssa woke up last night crying from the pain. Today is day five, if you don’t count the day of the surgery as day one.

She’s hurting and that makes me a little crazy. I know she’ll get better but I want it to be now, not next week, that she feels better.

She’s still on a pain medication schedule of every three hours and she’s sleeping pretty well but I keep thinking each morning, “Today. Today will be the day that we turn the corner and she starts feeling significantly better.”

And we haven’t reached that point yet. She still lays around, not doing much of anything. She hurts and she’s irritable and I understand that. I just want her to feel better.

But at this point, there isn’t much we can do except continue to push fluids on her, offer her food and let her rest.

I know she’s tired of hurting. She’s tired of laying around. She’s an active kid. She’s usually running, dancing, spinning, flipping and cartwheeling her way through the house. I want that kid back.

I know how lucky we are that she’s usually so active, so healthy. I know that. But I want that back for her. I want her well.

And yes, this lengthy (for us) recovery isn’t doing much to alleviate my sense of guilt over doing this to her.

Maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow she’ll turn the corner.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Smell of Healing

Olivia got tubes put in her ears when she was eight months old. She'd had pretty much chronic ear infections to that point.

About a month after the tubes were placed, she got another ear infection.

This time, though, was a bit different. The difference was the smell. The tubes were allowing the infection to drain and so each time I put my baby on my shoulder I could smell the infection in her ears.

It was awful. It was also proof that the tubes were a good thing. The infection wasn't pooling in her ears and festering.

But it was still gross.

A return to the ENT brought us the wonder that is antibiotic eardrops and ear infections pretty much disappeared for the next couple of years.

After Alyssa's surgery on Wednesday, the nurse warned us that her breath might be pretty bad over the next few days. She explained that this bad breath is just proof that the wounds are scabbing over and healing.

So yes, again, the bad smell is a good thing.

But it's still gross.

Even after brushing her teach, the poor child has horrible, horrible breath. We still hug her and she stll lays on me pretty much all evening but I admit that I try to avert my face from the direction of her breathing in an effort to avoid the smell.

The smell of healing is a nasty, icky smell. I do so hope the healing happens fast so the smell can go away.

Friday, October 5, 2012


So here’s the thing about elective surgery. Sometimes, even though it’s elective, it is actually sort of necessary in an effort to ward off future illness.

Which is the case with Alyssa’s surgery on Wednesday.

And she’s still doing well, by the way, thanks for asking.

But the thing about this surgery is that it wasn’t something that HAD to be done to save her life. It will improve the quality of her life and for that reason, I chose to have it done.

But…I feel awful for making that choice. Intellectually, I know it was the best choice. I have several adult friends/acquaintances who have actually thanked me for having her tonsils removed because they had to do so as adults and the results were horrendous.

Honestly, though, my child is suffering now because of something I elected to have done.

I took a fairly healthy child to the hospital and had them remove parts of her body, which caused her to suffer pretty severe pain for several days. The amount of guilt I feel for doing this is pretty high right now.

Yes, yes, this was something that will make her feel better in the long run but in the short run I chose something for her that hurt her. That caused her pain and stress and this choice, in the end, was mine.

Tom was willing to go along with whatever the doctor decided. But he wasn’t there for the final decision. He brought Alyssa to me and I went consultation with her. I heard what the doctor said and I made the choice.

I chose to let a doctor cut into my child.

She’s on the mend. She’s eating and drinking and sleeping well. She’s starting to speak above a whisper and she’s enjoying being babied.

But she hurts and I made that happen.

This is a rambling confession of maternal guilt. I know that. I also know that in a few weeks, when she’s fully healed and back at school and gymnastics and yelling at her sister and not looking down at an impending case of strep, I’ll be glad for this decision.

But right this second, I feel terrible for having made this choice, for choosing immediate, short-term pain in an effort to avoid long-term infection. Even though I know, I KNOW , it was the right choice, I feel awful for it.

This is the heart of a mother.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Nine Years

Today, October 4th 2012 is my and Tom’s anniversary. Go us, huh?

We have our ups and downs. We, like I’m sure most people living under the same roof, have our moments when the other’s quirks get a bit annoying for frustrating.

But it’s good. We’re good. And for that I’m so very, very thankful.

We spent most of the first eight years of our marriage as a commuting family. I worked at a place that was 65 miles away from where we lived. In the beginning, I drove every day. Then Alyssa was born and by eight months old, she was actively resisting her car seat. She knew what kind of drive she was in for and she hated it.

I hated it.

I started campaigning to move. But it took eight years for that to happen so Alyssa and I and eventually Olivia, commuted, we stayed with my mom during the week because her house was closer to my work. And we went home on the weekends.

Over the years there was anger over the situation. I admit to that. But we survived them. We moved past them and here we are, in a house that’s only 18 miles from where I live.

Tom works from home and takes care of Olivia in the mornings. He’s there to take care of Alyssa on school holidays, weather days, sick days.

We all pull our weight and we’re all the better for it.

Here’s to the next nine. May they be as adventurous as the first nine as we continue to grow together, learn together, love together.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On the Mend



Not to be outdone, Olivia this morning before Alyssa's surgery:


The surgery went really well. The doctor was out about fifteen minutes after they started, saying she was done and in recovery. He said it went as well as it can and she woke up really easily from the anesthesia. She looked a little annoyed at me when my mom and I first saw her lying on the gurney in recovery but she was still groggy and starting to feel the pain.

Now we're just pushing the fluids and letting her sleep as much as she can/will.

Thanks for all the good thoughts.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I got the call today. Tomorrow morning at 9:45 Alyssa will go into surgery to have her tonsils and adenoids removed.

A simple procedure, the surgeon said. It should take ten minutes. She’ll be home and ready for juice and popsicles before we know it.

Except…this is my baby. My child who will be under general anesthesia, who will have someone taking part of her body out of her.

Simple. For the surgeon, maybe.

For me? Not so simple.

I keep telling myself that it’s no big deal, she’ll be fine. Of course she will. But then my mind goes dark and scary, thinking of everything that can go wrong. She could have a bad reaction to the anesthesia. She could bleed more than they expect. She could not wake up…

It’s scary to hand your child over to a doctor, knowing they’re going to bring you back a hurt, scared little girl who sort of understands why we’re doing this but not really.

Nine is a tough age. She can seem so worldly, so sure of herself. But she’s still so little, so fragile, so needy.

She’s had trouble sleeping the last couple of nights, ever since she heard we’re doing the surgery, actually. She blames the daytime naps. I let her. I know she needs to save face, to not admit how very nervous she really is about this.

So I keep telling her how simple it’s going to be. How easily she’s going to heal. How much better she’s going to feel when it’s all over and she’s past the healing, the getting better.

But here, in this space, I’m scared too. That’s my little girl they’re going to take away. Even for a simple procedure, it’s scary to let her go, to trust.

I tell myself the same thing I tell her. She’ll feel so much better when it’s all over. The strep will stop haunting her. She won’t miss as much school and she’ll sleep better, deeper.

She’ll be just fine.

Monday, October 1, 2012

On the Freaking Ball

Sometimes, I am so good at this mom thing. Sometimes.

Okay, most of the time, I’m just winging it. I fully admit that.

But sometimes the stars align and I manage to juggle the very few balls I toss in the air and it feels good to think maybe I can do this.

Two weeks ago, I purchased a pattern and some fabric for my mom to make Olivia’s a Halloween costume. She’s going to be Merida from Brave. Olivia, that is, not my mom.

Alyssa said for months she wanted to be Adele. Then…she watched The Hunger Games and started reading the book and poor Adele has been replaced by Katniss. Honestly, I’m relieved because I had no idea how I was going to make Alyssa an Adele costume and NOT have her have to explain who she was to every single person she encountered.

So she’s got a bow and arrows. She’s got black pants, shirt and jacket. I’ve mastered the side braid that Katniss rocks in the movie.

The only thing missing is the mockingjay pin. We saw them about a month ago at Walmart but that was before Alyssa decided she wanted to be Katniss for Halloween.

Now that she’s decided that? They’re gone.

So what does a resourceful mom do?

She goes to Amazon. I know, right? The best place EVER.

The pin has been ordered.

So has Olivia’s Brave bow and arrows. They are all scheduled for delivery no later than October 11th. That’s like 20 days before Halloween. I’ve never been so ahead of the game in my life.

And get this….I’ve even already emailed the school to make sure it’s okay for the girls to take their bows to school for their Halloween parties. I’ve assured both teachers that neither girl will have arrows anywhere near their bows.

So yeah, it’s October 1st. Do you have your Halloween on?