Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - A Look Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know, great attitude, huh?

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

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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Postponed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, moving on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Down Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I’m so tired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yahtzee!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS Alyssa won the second round of Yahtzee.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A New Blankie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told her it was a present from Gram.

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

I told her I didn’t know.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Presents

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was hilarious and heart-warming.

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

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

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

Monday, December 24, 2012

Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahhh, family.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Last Minute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ryssie and Rivvie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Overdoing It

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

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

Then I go shopping.

And then I go again.

And again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could this be a resolution in the making? Perhaps.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or not.

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Illogic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 17, 2012

Curtains

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

But yes, that’s exactly what happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So see, I do so many things well.

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

We’ll see.

By the way, the curtains look amazing!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Clothing Olivia

Olivia needed new shoes and a new coat.

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

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

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

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

So I made her try on several pairs of shoes.

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

What she meant was that they lacked bling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Numbers

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

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

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

Ten – the number of shopping days before Christmas.

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Brutal Honesty

Most children don’t understand diplomacy or tact.

They call it like they see it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dues

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

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

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

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

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

She rolled her eyes.

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

That’s not how it works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Cards

Potential pictures for our Christmas cards:
This

and this

Or just this

Or this

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

The Recorder

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

Monday, December 10, 2012

Taking It Personally

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

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

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

No. She did not do that.

She mooned the girl.

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

I wanted to die.

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

She just laughed and said it was no big deal.

But it was a big deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 9, 2012

At Least They're Good Travelers

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

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

We both came back that it was fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I called Julie.

The party is next week.

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

I am such an idiot sometimes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, selfishly, it was a great visit.

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

Friday, December 7, 2012

All She Wants for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

My girl…she has her priorities.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

For a Song

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

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

Ugh.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Know I Can Because I Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Busy

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

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

That’s it for our weekly scheduled activities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fogged In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, the fog was that dense.

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

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Distracted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He's right.

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

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

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

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

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

It all evens out in the end. Pretty much.