Monday, December 30, 2013

Ding Dong the Tree is Down

We hosted Tom’s older kids on Sunday. It was one last day of presents and food and family.

It was also the first time in years that all of Tom’s five kids were in the same house at the same time. It was lovely.



Tom’s oldest son, J and his wife K were the first to arrive with their three kids. Their middle child, G is the only granddaughter so she was thrilled to be in a house with GIRLS. We had four boxes of clothes for her to go through and take with her when she left. She was thrilled to her girlie little toes to get the clothes O has outgrown and I was thrilled to my practical little toes to get rid of all four boxes of items we’ll never need/use again. It was win/win.

Tom’s oldest daughter, J was the next to arrive with her fiancĂ© M. They were driving from the kids’ mom’s home in Huntington to Philadelphia, with a stop at our house for the gathering. We got to see J and M on Christmas Eve but it was still great to have them there again.

Finally, about a half hour later, D, Tom’s youngest son and his fiancĂ© arrived with their two sons.

It was a houseful and we all loved it.

A and O love having company and I could tell that Tom was just happy to have all his favorite people in the same place at the same time.

We opened the last of the Christmas 2013 presents, at a big ham, potato wedges, green bean casserole dinner and then all the kids (Alyssa, Olivia, D, G, B, I & N) put on a concert for us using all the musical instruments they found in the toy room. It was great fun.

Then it was time for everyone to go home. Tom’s sons and their families had an hour and a half drive to get home and J and M were facing an eight hour drive, minimum to get them back to Philadelphia. Yikes.

About ten minutes after the last car pulled out of the driveway, Tom and I had all the boxes for the Christmas decorations lined along the wall in the living room, ready for the decorations to be securely packed away for another year.

We were ready to have our front window back, the only south-facing window on the first level of our house.

As lovely as our Christmas was this year, we’re moving on, glancing back at the wonders of 2013 and gearing up for new adventures to come.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Not the Babysitter

Yesterday Tom decided to let the girls play with their new tablets pretty much all day, since, you know, it’s still the holidays and they are on break from school.

When I got home, they were curled up in a corner of the living room, their tablets plugged into the wall and playing away.

I decided they both needed to bathe before dinner. The tablets were left plugged in while we headed off to the bathroom where Olivia took a much needed bath and Alyssa took an even more needed shower.

After their cleansings, they both asked to get back on their tablets. I acquiesced, only because I knew dinner would only take about fifteen minutes to prepare and I planned to make them both turn the tablets off for the night after dinner.

There was just a little fussing when dinner was over and requests to play with the tablets were denied.

Alyssa insisted, “But they keep us out of your hair.”

I laughed, because, well, yes, the tablets do keep the girls out of our hair but then I replied, “But I’d rather just parent you.”

She rolled her eyes.

But it’s true.

I would rather have to parent my children than plug them into a tablet and go about my day.

So why did I get them the tablets? Duh, because they’re fun for them. And they can be educational with the right games. Minecraft is probably NOT that game but still, they’re interacting while playing Minecraft so I can’t complain too much.

I got them for them because I knew they’d enjoy them. I also went into that Walmart that night knowing I’d have to parent even harder once those tablets were in their grubby little hands because I’d hear a constant, “Can I play with my tablet?”

And that’s okay. I don’t mind saying no. I also don’t mind saying yet. I have several timers I can set and I am very capable and willing to take the tablets from their grasping fingers and putting them away myself.

But yes, once school is back in session, there will be limits to the tablet situation. And Tom and I are on the same page for this. We both know it will probably be a little annoying in the beginning but we’re okay with that too.

Parenting is never easy and yes, sometimes we make it even harder on ourselves when we give our kids things that are JUST. SO. MUCH. FUN.

But it will work out because we’re not willing to stop parenting just because it would be easier to do so. The easy way isn’t always the right way. And what is our right way isn’t always the right way for other families. We’re all just doing the best we can with the knowledge we have at the moment.

I really, truly don’t want something that will just keep my girls out of my hair, though. That’s not the right way for me to parent.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry and Bright

“This is the best Christmas ever!” Alyssa declared last night as she plugged in her new tablet for a good night’s charge and settled into her new sleeping bag next to me on the couch.

Olivia was already passed out next to me, overdosed on technology, her own new tablet plugged safely into the wall out of her reach. She’d asked earlier in the day if she was allowed to have her tablet in bed in the mornings when I wanted to sleep later than 5:30 and she was wide awake and ready to mud wrestle a pig. My first thought? Yes, please do bring your tablet to bed because that will mean I can probably sleep until noon before you remember that you need more than a tablet for sustenance.

My response, though, was more like, “We’ll see. I’m not sure your tablet will want to sleep with you. It might fall out of bed, onto the floor and break.”

The look of sheer terror on her face at the very idea of her tablet breaking took the idea of taking it to bed with her out of the realm of joy and into the world of NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

So yes, we got them tablets.

And they love them.

And they want to be on them all the time. We knew this would happen and we knew we’d have to be mean parents after being the extra nice parents who gave them the tablets.

After I unplugged both girls last night and plugged in both tablets, life went back to preChristmas normal for a couple of hours. I read to Olivia, Alyssa snuggled into my other side and read her own book.

We spent time with my mom and the rest of my side of the family yesterday. It was lovely. It was special. We’re blessed.

Tom’s older kids are coming on Sunday and bringing their own kids. Again, we’re incredibly blessed. I think we’re lucky to know this and appreciate it.

Even when we have to unplug to remember how lucky we are, that’s okay too, as long as we remember to actually unplug and come up for air once in a while.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Best Laid Plans

Last Friday was my last vacation day of the year. I’d saved it specifically for the day of Olivia’s class Christmas party.

I planned to get the girls off to school and come home and wrap, wrap, wrap presents until it was time to go have lunch with Olivia. After lunch, I’d go back home and wrap some more until it was time to go back to the school for the party.

Unfortunately, the morning of the party dawned gray and foggy. So foggy, in fact, that school was delayed two hours. Which meant no wrapping of presents for me. I can’t wrap when two curious girls are peeking around corners and into boxes.

So instead of my best laid plans, I took the girls to school at 9:35, got home at 9:50. Wrapped presents for twenty five minutes and then went back to school in time to have lunch with Liv at 10:30. I was home by 11:10, and wrapped my little fingers off until 12:40, which was when I needed to leave to go back to the party.

The girls and I were home by 3:15 and I generously let Alyssa be on the computer and put Olivia’s favorite My Little Pony movie on the television so I could, hopefully, wrap some more presents.

And…I’m almost done wrapping. Go me!

Yes, it’s great to make plans but sometimes, the fog rolls in, screws your plans up royally and you just have to go with plan B.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Professional Advice

So about that blower in my car…Tom fixed it. I knew he would.

I just didn’t know how long it would take or how grouchy he’d be when he came to pick me up yesterday.

The plan was for him to call his oldest son, a professional mechanic (nice to have one of those in the family) and see what he’d do first.

Tom originally planned to call J the night the blower went out but he was too stressed over the very idea of having to work on the car that he escaped into sleep. For the entire night. Yes. I know. I’m jealous too.

So the next morning, after the morning routine of getting the girls up and out the door to school, which, this time, included Tom driving us to the bus stop and me to work in his van, Tom went home and contemplated the car.

Then he called J.

And J’s first idea? Whack it with a hammer.

Seriously. Tom took the glove compartment out of my car, wrapped a mallet in duct tape and whacked the blower motor.

And…it worked.

A five minute phone call, thirty seconds to take the glove compartment out of the car, a minute or so to wrap the mallet and a fraction of a second to actually whack that motor and it was all fixed.

J says he often has long lasting luck with a good whack.

I do so love getting professional advice.

I also love when that advice tells Tom to take his frustration and aggression out on the device that is causing his frustration.

I think that whack did more than fix the motor, it relieved some of my husband’s tension and perhaps, in the long run, saved my marriage. I might be exaggerating just a little.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How I Know

My husband and I often have conversations that leave us both frustrated, feeling like things are being left unsaid, feelings are hurt because of those implied words. Silence often ensues as we both try to figure out what we said that set the other person off.

See, the blower in my car stopped working yesterday afternoon. No blower? No heat.

I called Tom right after work to let him know what happened. I was already on my way to buy some gifts for Tom’s older kids and the grandkids. Since I was already going shopping, Tom suggested I got to the automotive department and get a 12 volt heater for the drive home. I could at least point it at the windshield as a defroster.

He’s a clever fellow, that guy. But when I asked him where in the automotive department such a heater would be, he told me to ask an associate. Ugh! I hate asking associates. I really do.

And thus began the downward spiral of our conversation.

My last car, also a Grand Prix, had trouble with the heater. I took it to the dealer who sold it to me and they fixed it. Tom suggested I take my current car there. I reminded him that I didn’t buy the car from them.

He then suggested I not go shopping and instead head toward home and go to the auto garage on the way. I asked him if he thought I could make it there before they close. I told him they close at 5:00 and it was already 4:40 and I was at least fifteen miles away. The roads were sort of crappy.

He sighed and said, “No, you probably can’t make it.”

I asked him why he was annoyed with me.

He told me he wasn’t.

I told him I could tell he was and wanted to know why.

He replied, “You knock down every single suggestion I make.”

Huh. Yes, I guess I did to that this time. I apologized, “I’ll go to automotive and look for the 12 volt heater and if I can’t find it, I’ll ask an associate.”

He seemed relieved that I’d agreed to that option.

Several more calls back and forth during my shopping spree had Tom deciding that I couldn’t possibly drive the car, even with a 12 volt heater pointed at the windshield, until he had the blower fixed. He declared that he’d be driving me to work this morning.

I asked why that was necessary since I did, in fact, have the new heater in my cart with everything else.

He declared that driving with something like that was something he’d do but he wasn’t comfortable with me doing it. He asked, “What if it starts to rain? Would that thing take care of freezing rain on your windshield?”

I retorted, good naturedly, “Is there freezing rain in the forecast?”

“No,” he replied back, “but with the way the weather has been, it wouldn’t surprise me if a freezing rain storm popped up just to stress me out.”

So he drove me to work today. Seventeen miles one way. He’s coming to pick me up tonight and running me around town to get the last few things I need. And all day today, he’s going to be working to fix the blower in my car. He doesn’t know if it is the switch or the motor of the blower. But once he figures that out, he has every intention of fixing it.

He’s my hero, even when we get a little pissy with each other.

I know he loves me, even when I shoot down every idea he throws my way. And this is how I know, because he worries about me driving without heat. He is spending his day fixing my car. He does so much for me and our girls that I can’t even recount all of it.

I just know I’m lucky to have that guy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

This Close

I haven’t been sleeping well. All that crap about making sure she’s lying flat when I lay Olivia down each night so she actually stays asleep all night long and doesn’t join me in bed has flown out the window.

Last night I put her in bed, went back to check the locks, turn off the television and the Christmas tree lights. I went back up and found O at the top of the stair, her dainty foot poised to take the first step in her search for me.

I said sternly, “Back to bed! I’ll be there in a minute.”

She gave me a look that told me I wasn’t being very nice (spoiler: I didn’t care.) and practically skipped back to bed.

I took my time brushing my teeth and putting on my pajamas. When I went back into the bedroom, I found Olivia sitting up, patiently waiting my promised return.

Ugh! And damn it!

Let me remind everyone that this child is seven years old. SEVEN years old. SEVEN YEARS OLD!!! My inner voice was screaming that I should be tucking this girl into bed, kissing her good night, wishing her sweet dreams, heading for the door, turning off the light and not looking back.

Instead, I sat beside her bed and rubbed her back for a minute. Then I rubbed her hair for another minute. Then I just sat there with my hand on her back for a minute.

Then I went to bed. That sounds like just three minutes of contact but it felt like a damned hour. I was tired. I was cranky. I wanted to go to sleep too rather than soothe my seven year old child to sleep.

I know! I know that someday I will not look back and wish I hadn’t spent those minutes with her, holding her, comforting her. I might even miss these moments someday.

But you know what? I want her to give me a little space so I can miss those moments.

Alyssa? She goes right to sleep after I give her one last kiss and one last wish for a good night and sweet dreams.

Yes, yes, she’s almost eleven and that means there is hope for the younger one.

I read about moms who are planning to sleep train their babies. These babies are sometimes as young as four months old. And I think, “Why was I so reluctant to do that?” I’ve been tired for almost eleven years.

I should have worked harder to get them to sleep better when they were babies, before they could walk and talk.

Speaking of talking, Olivia asked me this morning, “Did you yell at me this morning?”

I replied, “Yes, I did. I was tired and you wouldn’t go to sleep. I wanted you to sleep so I could sleep too and I wanted you to stay in your own bed because it makes my back hurt when you come to bed with me.”

She just stared at me, unblinking, as if unable to believe that I’d put my own physical comfort before her desire to be close to me.

Well, you know what, kiddo? I’m almost over the whole self-sacrifice thing we moms are supposed to be all about. This close!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Weekened Happenings

We cooked, we cleaned, we braved the snowy, blowy roads for a trip to Grams (she’s only three miles away, remember.) Some of us even shovel the driveway and sidewalk. Take a guess which one of us did not…

I finally, FINALLY, finished cleaning the toy room. I think I started that room in July when I decided to paint the closets. That toy room has been cleaned many, many times in the three years we’ve lived in our current house.

But see, this time around was different. I didn’t just pack the toys in boxes and stack the boxes nicely in the corners. No, this time, I went through every single box/toy box/bin in the room, keeping only what the girls actually play with, tossing random toys that no longer go with anything else.

I also boxed up a lot of toys the girls have outgrown. These boxes will either be donated, passed on to others or sold at some later garage sale Tom insists we’re someday going to have.

What was left was organized into the bins and closets and now we have a room that allows the kids to actually see what toys they have, so they can actually play with those toys.

Olivia found an ancient LeapPad, we put in new batteries and she played with that thing for hours last night, pausing only long enough for me to read some books to her, one of which was called I Can Button. It is a tiny little cardboard book with a couple of straps of fabric that lace through holes in the pages and each page has a different character that needs something buttoned such as a belt, a coat, a seat strap.

O worked so hard buttoning that button on each page. I showed her a few tricks at first but she wanted to do it herself each time. I was so proud of her tenacity. She was determined to do it and she did.

Watching her work so hard, giving her small tips on how to make it easier reminded me of something a chiropractor told me during the months I was taking Olivia before she started walking. She’d just started crawling at that point and during one of the appointments, he was showing her how to crawl a little more easily. He put her on the floor, moved her hands and knees for her and then he stepped back and let her do it herself.

She did exactly what he’d shown her. He smiled and said, “She’s got great muscle memory, she just doesn’t have any instinct for doing these things on her own.”

She can learn. She wants to learn. And she remembers what she learns. But my girl’s muscles have no instincts of their own.

Knowing this makes it easier for us to teacher her things she needs to know. I knew she could master that button but I also knew she needed help right at the start.

She took that book to Gram’s this morning to keep practicing.

Alyssa did a lot of reading this weekend because we declared Saturday to be a No Computer Day. Which meant none of us logged on for the entire day. Alyssa balked at first but then picked up a book and quickly forgot that she was mad.

We baked some sugar cookies (store-bought dough, I know, I know) on Saturday and then made frosting for them on Sunday.

Laundry was finished by 6pm yesterday. All is well.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dear Santa

Neither of my girls has ever had her picture taken while sitting on Santa’s lap. They both have serious stranger anxiety and it never seemed like a good idea to put them or Santa through the trauma just to get a picture.

Anytime we see Santa, be it at the mall or even Walmart, I ask them if they want to sit on his lap.

They both look at me like I’m insane.

I love that other people make this a tradition. I love that other kids are either cool with Santa and his lap or throw major fits when a parent plants them on the poor man’s lap but my kids and I? We’ll pass.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How She's Doing

Yesterday morning as I was getting ready for the day, Olivia found a pen and some paper. Still just in her undies, she sat down to write. She loves writing these days. She’ll doodle on anything she can find.

We call it ‘embellishing’ when she’s attempting to doodle on her homework or other important paper. She laughs so hard when I remind her not to embellish her name with little circles for the dots above the i’s in her name.

That morning, she was writing on the back of a receipt from a doctor’s appointment. It was fine. No need to admonish her about embellishing.

She finished writing and showed it to me. I wish I’d taken a picture because was awesome. And typing out her words doesn’t do it justice. But before I could think to do that, she wadded the paper up and threw it away. Into the pail that holds the nightly pull-ups it went. I wasn’t going to brave the smell of that pail just to get that paper back.

She wrote: Well cum to my party

Do you love it? Can anyone appreciate this as much as her mother? This little seven year old, this kindergartener whom a few doctors predicted would never read, never write, never understand even basic math, wrote that sentence. And it was legible. I could read every single letter, ever word.

She sounded out words, just like your typical kindergartener. She wrote them out the way they sound.

She’s awesome.

And get this. She’s on the verge of mastering the headstand. Seriously. She works so hard at standing on her head that she’s starting to develop a dreadlock on the top of her head. And I love it. I love what that dreadlock symbolizes. It symbolizes my girl’s determination to never be held back, to never let anyone tell her what she can and cannot do. She won’t even let gravity get in her way.

We love a service at school in the past month or so because O’s abilities have increased to the point that she no longer qualifies for that service. It was a reading service and she doesn’t need it. I’m so proud, so amazed at her progress, her abilities.

We’re so lucky medically as well. Olivia is incredibly healthy. She has the occasional cold but that’s the worst of it. We see her developmental pediatrician every two years. We see our family doctor maybe every six months, if that. I know how lucky we are and I never, ever take it for granted.

We still read every night except Thursdays, which are gymnastics nights. Olivia does her homework each night with my supervision (got to keep an eye on the embellishments.) She flips and flips and flips all day long. She works hard on standing on her head, sometimes managed five or even six seconds before flopping over and doing it all again.

I am grateful every single night that this is my life, these are my girls. How did I get so very lucky?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Figuring it All Out

I think I’ve figured Olivia out. If I lay her on her bed, sound asleep, and make her stay on her back, forcing her legs straight and not letting her roll onto her side, she will stay asleep all night long, not joining me in my bed before 5:30 the next morning.

I’ve tried this out for the past week and only one night did she come find me before 5:30 and that was the night that Alyssa tugged on O’s blanket, causing Olivia to roll onto her stomach. Olivia was in my bed at 2:30. Ugh.

Did I handle this tugging of the blanket well?

No. No I did not. I had a mini tantrum. I’m not proud of myself. It wasn’t pretty. I stomped my feet and whined, “Now she’s going to wake up!”

I did all this as quietly as I could, while still managing a full-on tantrum.

Alyssa looked at me like I was insane.

I think I kind of was.

I apologized the next morning and she laughed at me. She’s a good one, that girl.

Last night as I lay Olivia down on the bed she shares with Alyssa, O, in her sleep, tried to roll onto her side.

I pushed her back onto her back, saying, “Oh no. No, no, no, no, no.”

Alyssa laughed at me again.

Sleeping O still tried to fight me so I finally picked her back up, all 48 pounds of her, and laid her down again, this time pushing her legs down to keep them straight and keep her from wanting to roll over.

It worked. She didn’t wake up until 5:40, when the alarm went off.

Now that I’ve figured her out, she’s going to change it all up. But for now? I’m enjoying this little reprieve of having my bed all to myself. And I do promise to try not to have a tantrum if Alyssa touches O’s blanket again.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Trees

We put up our Christmas tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I pulled the stand and the branches out of the box and Alyssa helped me put it together. Olivia watched, being too short to actually help.

Then I checked light strands and began the painstaking process of placing those strands on the tree.

We managed to get a few ornaments on the tree before it was time to take Alyssa to my mom’s for an over-nighter. Olivia and I put a few more on the tree when we got home but we wanted Alyssa to be part of the process so we stopped for the evening and watched her My Little Pony movie for the seven hundred and fifty-fourth time.

Olivia got up often to go gaze at the lit tree, coming back to tell me how pretty it was. She also told me several times that she couldn’t wait for Lyssie to come home the next day and see how pretty it was and that they were going to put more ornaments on the tree.

Alyssa was less excited than Olivia was the next day but she went about her duties as the big sister and bossed Olivia around as they put more ornaments on the tree.

In the process of this second round of decorating, Alyssa asked me about the year she put horses and puzzle pieces on the tree. She’s heard the story before but wanted more details this time around.

I explained that the year Olivia was born, Alyssa, who was no quite four, wanted desperately to put up the Christmas tree just days after Olivia was born. Being torn between the hospital where O was in the NICU and home where Alyssa was craving my attention, I managed, barely, to put up the tree and string a few lights on it. But then, my enthusiasm fizzled. Either that or it was time to pump or go see Olivia, or make dinner or, I don’t know, sleep for an hour.

This telling, though, she paid closer attention as I explained, “You didn’t want to wait for me to get the ornaments out of the garage, so while I was with Liv at the hospital on day, you just dug into your toy bin and found puzzle pieces, stuffed horses, tiny dolls and hair bows and set all those things on the branches of the tree.”

I hugged my girl and said, “You were so proud of yourself and I was proud of you.”

She hugged me back and then pulled away, asking, “Are you about to cry?”

I smiled around my nostalgic tears and nodded, “I felt awful that my little girl, my tiny little three year old had to decorate the Christmas tree that year all by herself. I was so torn between you and Livie and trying to get everything done and wanting Olivia to come home and wanting to take better care of you that I don’t think I did anything well during that time.”

She rolled her eyes. “I just remember thinking it was awesome that you let me leave my stuff on the tree.”

Wow. With a few little words, my girl managed to assuage years of guilt I’d been harboring. Three year old Alyssa didn’t think I was shirking my duties as her mother by not putting ornaments on the tree that year. She thought I was being a great mother for letting her do it her way. She didn’t feel neglected, she felt encouraged to be creative as she made the best of a sucky situation.

After that conversation, I went out and bought a box of Little Debbie Christmas Tree cakes. The very ones that have triggered my guilt every year for the past six years. This year? I just saw some snack cakes that I knew my girls would devour with pleasure.

We’ve come a long way, babies.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Are We Rich?

Last night during an episode of The Middle, the Heck family’s neighbor called them rich, what with their two kinds of chips and their one dad.

Alyssa asked me as I tucked her into bed if we were rich, because, hello, we have like five kinds of chips in our house and, like the Heck’s, only one dad.

I laughed and told her that we are very, very blessed. We have a nice home, plenty (more than plenty) of clothes to wear, shoes without holes and warm coats each and every winter. We have the money to buy fuel to heat our house and we can afford gymnastics classes for the girls.

But more than that, I explained, we are rich in love. We have so much love flowing into and out of our house. We love each other with abandon and we love others as much as we can.

She rolled her eyes but also smiled at my response.

She also quipped, “And we have a lot more than two kinds of chips.”

Speaking of all the clothes we have to wear, yesterday afternoon Alyssa informed me that on Friday (let’s remember that yesterday was Wednesday) she needed to wear black pants, black socks, black shoes and a white shirt to school because the fifth grade band is performing for Grandparent’s Day.

Yes. She told me this two days before the performance.

I shrugged. “Well, since I bought you some black pants to give you for Christmas, I guess you’ll wear those. I have black socks and you can borrow my black shoes too, while you still fit into my shoes. I’m sure we can find you a white shirt somewhere in your closet.”

And guess what? We did find that white shirt. Her outfit is hanging in her closet right now waiting for tomorrow morning, when she’ll don it, brush her hair and have me braid it into a Katniss braid, which is her current favorite hairdo.

Rich, indeed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mothering My Preteen

Life is hard when you’re not quite eleven and your little sister is babied all the time and your dad yells at you a lot and you are forced to eat food that is good for you even though you get plenty of snack-type foods after the good stuff has been consumed.

I say this with no sarcasm. It really is hard to be almost eleven and feel like everyone likes/loves your little sister more than they love you.

It’s also hard to remember that you’re bigger than your sister and can do more damage to her if you land on her after doing a cartwheel right next to her and she moves while you’re mid cartwheel.

Life in our home is loud these days.

The girls get rambunctious. Tom gets annoyed. I get frustrated and tears often fall.

Alyssa and I have been spending a little more time together, though, as she comes to me after Tom has scolded for her an infraction and she feels picked on.

I remember being the big sister, the one who is expected to be smarter, stronger, more responsible. I remember still feeling little even as I yearned to be all grown up.

I remember experimenting with makeup and wanting so badly to be glamorous. I also remember feeling like the whole world (or at least my mean parents) were against me all the time and it was just so unfair.

So yes, Alyssa and I are spending a little more time together. We’re cleaning her room together, I fold laundry while she tells me her latest stories. I listen as she talks about the kids at school and yes, I even hug her when she feels like her dad is being unbelievably mean.

I don’t think I’m undermining him when I do this. I hug her and tell her that I understand her feelings but then I go on to explain why he’s frustrated with her current behavior. I remind her that sometimes, she does get a little loud, or rough with Olivia, or yes, even sassy. I tell her that it is our job as her parents to guide her behavior and that even though she’s amazingly good at school, it really isn’t acceptable for her to come home and be all grouchy with us.

I gently suggest that when she’s feeling her most ouch she find her way to her room for a little alone time. I remind her that sometimes we all need a break from each other and that’s okay. I hug her tighter and don’t let go until she lets go.

She’s a great kid. She can just be a little rough around the edges sometimes. And there are times when I think that’s perfectly okay and don’t rush to smooth those edges. There are other times when I know she needs a little extra soothing and I step in, pull her close and remind her that I’m there, that she can lean on me when things are harder than she can handle.

It really is tough to be a preteen. I get that and so I’m trying to make it a little easier on mine. In so many ways she’s still just a little girl.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

D'Oh! (Or, I'm an Idiot)

Okay, so the first time could be written off as an honest mistake, caused innocently by a friend emailing another friend and me making an assumption and not questioning that assumption.

The second time…it happens. Maybe not often, at least not to people smart enough to check dates before hitting the confirm button.

But the third time...sort of makes it my problem, not something I can blame on other people.

Though in my defense, I swear my sister said, “Saturday, November 22.”

By the way…the 22nd of November was a Friday. But I assumed she misspoke and because I swear I heard, “Saturday.”

So even though I knew Saturday was the 23rd, because I’d scheduled O’s party on that day and when my sister invited us to her house for a Thanksgiving dinner and I heard, “Saturday, November 22nd.” I figured she meant Saturday, November 23rd and told her we’d try to be there after O’s party.

Except, it was actually scheduled for Friday, November 22nd.

And let me ask right here: Who has a Thanksgiving dinner on a Friday the week before Thanksgiving? That is a day most people have to work until at least 3:30 if not 4:30 or 5:00. Seriously?

But yes, I screwed up the date AGAIN. This time I didn’t drive all the way to her house to figure it out, though. I called her on our way back from O’s party to ask for directions to her house. Yes, yes, I don’t actually know where my sister lives, whatever.

And she had to break the news to me that the dinner had been the day before. Ahem.

*Stage whisper* I didn’t really want to go anyway, so this was a great excuse, you know, the excuse of being a day late.

At least this little date mishap didn’t cost me as much as the one in DC did.

Monday, December 2, 2013

One of Those People

I’ve always prided myself on being that one person who has never gone shopping on Thursday evening after Thanksgiving or even on Friday morning.

I’m not a morning person, so the thought of getting up before dawn to shop holds absolutely no interest for me. No, thank you very much.

But, alas, I ruined my own bragging rights on Thanksgiving evening when I drove to my mom’s at 7:20 in the evening so we could drive to Walmart together to try and get some tablets that were on sale for $49.

To be honest, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. There was quite the crowd and there were way to many children up past their bedtimes but everyone was friendly enough as we made our way to aisle 7.

That said, I don’t really want to do it again. This year was great and all but…I’m going to leave the crowds to the, um, crowds.

We did get the tablets, by the way. The girls will be so excited to open those on Christmas morning. Worth it, right? I suppose so even though while at Walmart that night I felt the need to apologize to every single person who was there working. It just seems unfair that they had to be there.

Alas, there I was too. Part of the problem. Huh.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

One Stop Shopping

I took the day off work yesterday (whoohoo, random vacation days!) so I could make treats for Olivia’s class and then deliver them to the school in time for snack time. Olivia’s birthday is today but they only have half day of school so we did the birthday treat thing yesterday.

I originally planned cupcakes but then it hit me…kindergarteners + cupcakes = big mess. Even with the napkins I planned to send, I decided cupcakes wouldn’t necessarily put me on the teachers’ favorite list. And I do so love the thought of being the teachers’ favorite.

So Rice Krispy treats it was. But…Olivia asked if they could please be pink. I mean, come on, you gotta have pink Rice Krispy treats, right? So I did what any doting mother would do. I put red food coloring in the melting marshmallows and made them pink. Olivia was ecstatic. That was good enough for me.

Because I had the day off, Tom had something that needed to be shipped UPS. Obviously.

So instead of a leisurely day at home melting marshmallows and then drowning Rice Krispies in the sweet goodness that is melted marshmallows, I hurried through the treat preparation while working around Tom who was packing the ax that needed to be shipped. Then while the treats chilled in the fridge, I stripped the beds, started laundry, vacuumed the living room and family room because neither room has been vacuumed in like three weeks (don’t judge, we’ve been away a lot this month. Okay, judge away, I feel no guilt.)

I showered then cut up the treats for O’s class, carefully placing waxed paper between the layers so they wouldn’t stick to each other. Then I put the napkins on the top layer under the lid of the disposable container and taping a note to the top letting the teachers know that there were enough treats for them to share among the class and themselves and that they could throw the container away rather than send it home with Olivia.

All was ready. I grabbed the treats, Tom had already put the packed ax in my car and off I went. My first stop was, duh, the school. Then I made the 20 mile drive to work, which is where I ship Tom’s UPS packages.

Then I headed to Walmart where I inquired about purchasing tires for the front of my car. I was told it would be forty-five minutes before they got the car in the garage, then about twenty minutes to actually put the tires on.

Okay!! Let’s do this.

From the tire and lube part of Walmart I made my way to the front of the store where the hair ‘salon’ is. I asked about a trim. I was informed that it would be about a half hour before that could happen.

I left my name and when to pick up a few things in the store.

Finally over an hour later and over $200 poorer, I drove away with newly trimmed hair and new tires on my car.

Yes, I just admitted that I get my hair trimmed at Walmart for under $20. What of it? We live in frugal times. I simply cannot justify paying more than that on my hair. I don’t get manicures…like ever. I don’t get massages; I cover my own gray roots with a $7 color system from a box, also purchased at Walmart. It’s just how we live.

From Walmart, my one-stop-shopping place, I headed to our local China Garden where I got to giant containers of hot & sour soup to go. The soup was Tom’s way of bribing me to go all the way to town to ship his stupid package even though it was my day off.

Obviously, it worked.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Party for a Seven Year Old

Olivia will be seven years old on Wednesday. But because of the mid-week birthday, we had her party this past Saturday.

During her days at home with Tom last summer, Olivia saw some commercials on our local PBS station for a place called Jungle George’s. The commercials tell kids to have their birthday parties there. Olivia decided she needed, desperately to have her birthday party at Jungle George’s. She told me this back in July.

I decided that since O has never had a destination party it was time. I mean, Ayssa’s had a roller skating party and a gymnastics party, it was sort of O’s turn, right?

So I started planning. I contacted Tom’s older kids, who have children just a little younger than Olivia and asked if the Saturday before Thanksgiving would work for them. Jungle George’s is actually closer to them than it is to us, so it made sense to invite them.

Everyone was available and a party was planned.

And it was awesome. This place was cleaner than I expected, the crowd that was there that day actually parented their children while they bounces in any one of the bazillion bounce houses around the place. The kids all seemed to have an awesome time and, best of all for me, Tom’s youngest grandson only wanted ME to hold him. Ha! Hahaha. He was so flipping cute and snuggly and he wanted me to hold him.

Ahem. Yes, this was Olivia’s birthday party.



A couple of months ago, she arrived at my mom’s house one afternoon clutching and American Doll catalog in her greedy little hands. She opened to a page where a model and a doll were wearing matching clothes. She declared to her Gram, “I need you to make me some clothes that match a doll’s clothes. And I need you to get me a doll that can wear the matching clothes.”

That was all it took. My mom sewed her little fingers to the bones over the last month or so, scoured the stores for the perfect doll and when Olivia opened the presents while at Jungle George’s the first thing she wanted to do was go to the bathroom and change clothes so she and her new doll, Meredith, were wearing matching outfits.



After two hours, we were all ready to be done and the party broke up.

Olivia clutched Meredith the entire way home and during one of the FIVE times she woke up between 8pm on Saturday night and 6am on Sunday morning, she cried out that she couldn’t find her doll. When I picked it up from RIGHT BESIDE her and handed it to her, she settled back to sleep.

It was worth the ensuing less than perfect night, though. It really is awesome to watch a bunch of kids enjoy themselves so much.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nudge

So I hit a deer last night. Wait, not really hit. I sort of nudged him. He ran out of some high grass about two feet from where my car was careening down the road, he bounded in front of me, I hit the brakes, he jumped toward the driver’s side of my front bumper and, kathunk, my driver’s side front end thudded against his left hind end. Sort of his left hip, if you will.

Then he bounded away.

I was taking Olivia to gymnastics but I stopped along the side of the road and checked for damage. It was already dark outside so I was looking at two brightly burning headlights with no other light to see. I could see the deer hair (fur? Ick!) around the driver’s side headlight but since the light was still on, I decided to just keep going.

I called Tom from the road and told him what happened. He agreed that since the lights were both still working it made sense to just get O to her class and check it out when we got home.

When we got to the gym, I was able to inspect the car a little more. The plastic cover that protects the headlight bulb was gone. Huh. I wondered how I’d missed that while on the road but then realized that the headlight burns against the silvery reflective material and all I really saw was the light rather than the missing cover.

I called Tom from the gym to report this new finding. He sighed and said it is good we still have my old silver Grand Prix from which to salvage parts.

Olivia attended her class in which she and every other child in the class was an obnoxious brat and then we went home. (Never fear, Miss K was kind enough to say that every class had been awful, it wasn’t just our kids. Yay?)

O and I got about three miles from the gym when the bulb in the headlight that had been nudged by the deer popped and, there it went. I was driving with only one headlight. Yikes!

I called Tom again. Yes, at this point, I do believe he was tired of hearing from me. Poor guy.

He told me we had no spare bulbs at home and suggested I go back into town (not that far) and go to Auto Zone to get a new bulb. He said that if I was pulled over for having a light out, I could explain that I was going home to replace it that night. I laughed and said I’d tell the officer I was going home so MY HUSBAND could replace it, thank you very much. As if I’d know how to replace a headlight bulb. Ha! I do hope my daughters learn this skill, though. It would be so nice to be that independent. Is it too late for me to learn? Probably not, but I sort of just don’t want to.

Olivia and I went back, got the bulb and then sort of crawled home. It was raining (which is why the stupid bulb popped) and a little foggy and it just sucks to only have one headlight on a night like that. I think I might have topped 40mph once during the drive. It felt traitorous.

When we got home, Tom came out and inspected the damage. Then he hurt my feelings by asking if I’d been watching out for deer, it is, after all that time of year.

Whatever! I told him there was no way I could have avoided that sucker and we were just lucky I hit it the way I did.

He agreed, apologized for doubting my deer-watching instincts, fixed my car and finally ate dinner.

It was nice to drive to work this morning with two headlights. This is just one more example of why my husband is my hero, even if he does sometimes hurt my feelings.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Big Ugly Mess Just Wishing for Silence

Me. I’m a mess. Or, I was last night. We had an extra kid in our house and it as chaotic and, well, I didn’t handle it nearly as gracefully as I wish I had.

Not only was there another child added to the mix of dinner and conversation, Alyssa had more homework than usual and Olivia had the usual homework. As I helped Olivia with her homework she lost her little mind and turned into the biggest brat around.

Seriously, what happened to my easy-going, delightful, docile little girl? Just under a week until she turns seven and suddenly, she’s insane. And she’s taking me down with her.

After we got done with homework, which took much gnashing of teeth and more threats than I’m proud of, Olivia decided to get naked. Big deal, right? She threw off her clothes but grabbed a blanket and snuggled beneath it. So yes, not a big deal. Except that she refused to put her clothes into the basket designated for dirty clothes. They were strewn across the living room and she laughed at me when I told her to put them in the basket.

At that point, I gave myself a timeout because, damn, that child was pushing every last button.

So you have bratty Olivia, Alyssa fighting with fractions and Jaxon following me from one room to the other, talking, talking, always and forever talking.

I realize that as the mother of a child who could very well have been non-verbal I should be thankful for every word my children and my nephew utter but…I’m not. I can’t be when the chatty child following me doesn’t just desire to talk, he wants to converse, which means he wants, needs, demands a response from me for every sentence he chirps. I know that when you’re talking it’s nice to know you’re words are being heard but if I heard, “Right, Tommie? Right?” one more time last night, I was going to stab myself in the ear.

Hence the timeout I gave myself. Though, sadly, it didn’t last the entire fifteen minutes to which I’d sentenced myself because Jaxon got bored and had to come find me.

Thankfully, the little kids were asleep by 8:15 and Alyssa was out by 9:00. I read in bed until 9:45 and felt ever so much better.

Ahhh, silence.

Prepared

My sister-in-law is twelve weeks pregnant. I’m thrilled for her and my brother. I pray each night that their baby makes it here safely after forty full weeks to cook.

Last night my brother and I were talking on the phone and he was excited because they’d heard the baby’s heartbeat that day. Much excitement ensued.

The doctor my sister-in-law is seeing told her that, due to her ‘advanced maternal age’ (ha! I was advanced maternal age when I had Olivia. Hahahaha.) she’ll need extra testing.

I told my brother that the tests don’t have to mean anything. That they can just help him and his wife be more prepared in case there is something for which they need to prepare. You know?

I’ve said before that I feel lucky that we didn’t know Olivia’s diagnosis before her birth but I can definitely see the benefits of getting a diagnosis prenatally. Being able to plan, to research, to grieve that ‘perfect’ baby before you are holding the one you can’t imagine your life without can be very good things.

Not that I expect anything to be wrong. I mean, odds are in their favor.

But then, we didn’t expect Olivia to have 5p- syndrome either and well, look how that turned out. While I admit that it turned out pretty amazing because she’s defied odds at every turn, I don’t wish that on my brother’s child. Life can be challenging enough without adding special needs on top of those challenges.

So yes, they’ll take the tests, they’ll wait for the results and they’ll try to be ready for whatever comes their way.

That’s pretty much a good recipe for life, don’t you think?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Good Kid

Alyssa came home frustrated yesterday. Her class has been told they are not allowed to use electronic devices at recess for the rest of the week. They’re also not allowed to play at recess. They have to sit and read or, well, just sit.

She loves to read, but as she said, sometimes, she just wants to run around and not being allowed to do so is frustrating to her.

What frustrates her the most, though, is that the reason her entire class is being punished is because a few of the boys in the class misbehaved last week while there was a substitute in their class. Because of these few boys, the entire class is being punished.

“The teachers love the other class because they’re the good class,” she said sarcastically. “But we’re the loud class, the unruly class.”

The problem she has is that not all of her class is loud and unruly. A few select kids are the problem but they cause trouble for the entire class and Alyssa feels this is monumentally unfair.

Truthfully, I agree with her that it’s unfair that the entire class is being punished for the bad behavior of an unruly few but objectively, I get it. I get that the teachers might be hoping for some positive peer pressure. If the entire class is punished for the behavior of a few, maybe the rest of the class will pressure the obnoxious kids to behave better. It could happen. It probably won’t but it could.

But instead of telling her I agree with her, I instead commiserated with her, telling her about a time when my entire class was punished because of two boys in the class. I told her that it’s hard to be the good kid in a class with some less-good kids (okay, I called the boys bad. Whatever.) I reminded her that her teacher gave me a glowing report so we know that even if it is true that the teachers like the other fifth grade class better it’s not because of her.

I am not that mom who calls the school or emails her teacher to demand that my precious snowflake not be punished with the rest of her class. I sort of wish I were but I also know Alyssa would be mortified if I were.

Instead, I listen to her. I let her rant about the unfairness of being a good kid in a class with some bad kids. I let her tell me how much she dislikes some of those boys and how much she wishes the teachers would just punish the boys. Then I kiss her goodnight and tell her how proud I am of her for continuing to be good even in the face of such unfairness.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Relaxed Travelers

We planned to arrive at the IU dance marathon at around 8:00pm on Friday evening. We were going to check in at our hotel, put our stuff in the room and head to the tennis center at IU.

What I didn’t factor in was the fact that we were going to be driving through Indianapolis at 6pm…on a Friday. Yikes. What usually takes about twenty minutes (a trip via 465 from I69 to US37) took, oh, maybe an hour and a half.

As we sat in stop and go traffic, the girls and I had a lot of laughs but we also decided then and there we were going to check in at the hotel and stay there. Olivia wanted to take a bath and Alyssa wanted to order a pizza and I just wanted to be out of the car and not have to get back in until the next day.

Luckily, the IU dance marathon is a 36 hour event. I say luckily only with a little bit of sarcasm that is left over from when I was a dancer at this very event. 36 hours is a damn long time to be awake and on your feet. But it also give families like us the opportunity to roll with the punches that traffic can throw.

We were up bright and early (Olivia woke me up at 5:35, she’s a peach, that one) and were at the dance marathon by 8:30. Yes, it took us three hours to get over that, what of it?

People who do dance marathons year after year are amazing. I was not one of those people. Dancing in a dance marathon, for me, was one of those things I was glad I did one time but I never, ever wanted to do it again. There are students there now that do it every single year of their college career. They amaze me. They’re either extremely selfless or gluttons for punishment. I’m can’t figure out which, actually.

Each dance marathon we attend finds us matched to a student who, it seems, has the job of playing with A and O all weekend long. This is amazing and I feel for these students who must be exhausted by the time we leave. Tori was our match this year and she was so kind, so sweet and made such a connection with Olivia. After only a couple of hours, Tori could read O’s mind, or at least O’s facial expressions, which is a good because Olivia wasn’t really interested in talking. Nothing new, there, right?

We were asked to tell O’s story this year. I always feel so honored to go on stage and talk about my girl. But this year, I wanted to do more than tell Olivia’s story. I wanted to let these students, these hundreds of college students who were giving up a weekend of their lives, how amazing I thought they were and what a great thing they were doing.

I hope I succeeded.

There are also some amazing Riley families at the dance marathons. I almost feel like a fraud each year because Olivia is so healthy and doing so well that she only had to see the developmental pediatrician at Riley every two years. But the girls have so much fun and everyone is so kind that I can’t bring myself to stop going.

Even when a four hour drive turns into a six hour drive, it’s worth it because we are making a difference. Every single person that attends these dance marathons, from the dancers, to the committee members to the executive committee to yes, even the Riley families makes a difference. That includes me and my sweet little girls, who bounced their little hearts out in the awesome bounce house.

The drive back didn’t take nearly as long as the drive down. It might have something to do with hitting Indianapolis at 10:30am on a Sunday morning instead of 6pm on a Friday night. Maybe.

I’m just glad my girls are such great travelers. It doesn’t even matter that we stopped to use the bathroom six times during a four hour trip.

Honestly, I'm just glad we made it to both the Purdue and the Indiana University dance marathons on time (as in, not a week early or a month late.) When I make it somewhere on the actual date of the event? I call it a good day.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

And Away We Go

This month has been a whirlwind and it isn't slowing down.

Last weekend we drove over three hours to attend Purdue University's dance marathon. It was awesome. They made history by being the youngest dance marathon to raise over one million dollars for Riley Hospital for Children.

This weekend, tomorrow in fact, we're driving to Indiana University to attend their dance marathon. Last year IU raised over two million dollars. Amazing, huh? All those kids and families being helped by the money that goes to Riley. Wow.

The following weekend we get to go to Fort Wayne for O's birthday party. The weekend after that is Thanksgiving. We're just busy. But isn't everyone?

And for today? We're off to gymnastics, so...away we go.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mourning the Morning

Olivia is very much a morning person. She can wake up at 5am and be chipper and happy that morning has come. She might go to sleep three hours past her usual bedtime and still wake up with the sun, happy and ready to annoy the crap out of her sister, who is decidedly NOT a morning person.

So imagine my surprise this past Monday morning when I went in to wake Olivia up at 6:20, a full half hour past when she usually wakes up on her own and she burst into tears before she was even fully awake.

Her face just crumpled as I pushed her hair back and told her it was time to get up. Tears streamed down her cheeks. I climbed into bed beside her and pulled her close.

“I know,” I soothed. “It’s so early and we had such a busy weekend. We’ll go to sleep earlier tonight,” I promised.

She sniffled and wiped her eyes and leaned into me. I kissed her head and rubbed her back.

A few seconds later, she was bounding over me and heading into the bathroom where I heard Alyssa tell her, “Don’t try to hog the heat this morning. I was here first!”

Yeah, Olivia got over her sadness that morning had come pretty quickly. But we did go to bed early that night, much to Alyssa’s disgust.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cries in the Night

On occasion, my girls will cry out in the night. A bad dream, a sister tossing an arm across another sister’s face, these little things make them cry out but usually, those cries settle quickly and all is well.

I learned a long time ago if they cry out and keep crying, it’s best to firmly say, “It’s okay. You’re okay. It’s just a dream.”

They settle and I can go back to sleep.

There were a few times in the beginning with both girls that I tried to soothe when the crying began. That always led to more tears, harder cries. I have no idea why but gentleness on my part just escalated their cries. No matter how much I tried to shush them or snuggle them or tell them I was there and it was okay, they didn’t seem to want that comfort while sleeping.

So last weekend while at the hotel at Purdue University when Olivia cried out in her sleep, I told her she was fine and to go back to sleep.

But she didn’t. She continued to cry.

I kept telling her everything was okay. Finally, I said, quite firmly, “Olivia, knock it off, you’re fine. Go to sleep.”

And she did. But I wonder…I think next time, if the first, “It’s okay, you’re fine” doesn’t work, I’m going to try a little gentleness and heck, even hold her for a bit to see if that’s what she needs.

I was tired that night and experience told me she just needed a firm assurance that I was there and she was fine.

But we were in a strange room and even though she was lying right next to me, my back was to her (why didn’t I roll over? I don’t know!) and maybe she just needed me to hold her for a few minutes. It wouldn’t have meant I had to drag my lazy butt out of bed so…live and learn, is what I’m saying, I guess.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Kids

The girls and I spent the past weekend in West Lafayette. We were there to attend the PUDM (that Purdue University Dance Marathon.) It wasn’t our first dance marathon and so we went in knowing a great time would be had.

We drove over three hours to get there and spent the night in a hotel on Saturday.

We were greeted at the door by the students who’d volunteered to spend the entire weekend entertaining the kids who were there to motivate the dancers. The PUDM raises money for Riley Hospital for Children. So there are a lot of ‘Riley Kids’ at these events, kids who have had to go to Riley Hospital for one reason or another.

After we met with Sara and got settled in, she tried to engage A and O in activities.

Both girls looked at me, silently telling me that just because a college student was there to keep them busy for the next few hours, I was not free to leave their sight.

Sigh. I didn’t plan to leave. I don't want to leave them any more than they want me to leave.

But I did look at the other parents sitting in the family area, chatting, relaxing, watching their kids run from one end of the room to another and then even out of that room to find someplace more interesting.

I watched the other college students carry kids around, play games, and converse with the other kids and I…I apologized to Sara for the shyness of my children. I told her it was tough to be paired with kids who don’t want to leave their mom’s side.

And you know what? I feel bad for apologizing. My kids can’t help how they are. And eventually, they warmed up. Sara was awesome, she didn’t give up on them and after a couple of hours, they were running around, playing, being silly along with the other kids.

I am making a promise to myself that I won’t ever do that again. I won’t apologize for shyness or whatever it is that makes my kids prefer my company to most anyone else’s. How lucky am I that Alyssa asked me last night, “Come sit next to me?” even though we’d just spend the entire weekend together, including over eight hours in the car.

They’re unique kids who take a little extra time to warm up to strangers and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Friday, November 8, 2013

That Other Girl

I didn’t mean to gloss over the conference I had with Alyssa’s teacher yesterday when I went on and on about Olivia but, well, I wasn’t surprised by what I heard in Alyssa’s class the way I was by what O’s teachers said.

Alyssa is a good, conscientious student. Her teacher wishes she had nineteen more just like her. I’ve heard that every year for the past six years that Alyssa has been in school.

She loves to read, she loves to write, she’s kind to her classmates, even the more annoying ones. She’s got nice friends who make good choices too.

What more could a parent or teacher ask?

Last year her teacher suggested that Alyssa work on her penmanship because it was a little messy. By the end of fourth grade, her writing had improved so much it didn’t even look like the same person’s writing.

Her teacher this year laughed about that saying that sometimes the teachers are encouraged to find at least one thing the student could improve.

This year, though, Miss F decided that Alyssa is doing so well that she just wants her to keep on keeping on. She appreciates all my girl brings to the classroom, both academically and socially. She doesn’t feel the need to give superfluous constructive criticism where there is none warranted.

I appreciated that. Sometimes a kid is just a good kid. I like that about Alyssa.

But I also appreciate that at home, she gets a little rough the edges. She’s safe there, she can branch out and feel her way in this world of emotions and hormones and angst. I am more than willing to deal with all that because it means my sweet Alyssa is comfortable in our home, safe enough to be herself.

Not that I don’t think she’s being herself at school but I remember my school days and there was definitely a school me and a home me.

Alyssa is so much like me that it makes me heart ache sometimes, not in sadness but in that sense that she’s got so much heart, so much depth, so much going for her as she navigates this big wide world.

So, no, there were no surprises at my conference with Alyssa’s teacher. But that definitely doesn’t make me appreciate the goodness of that conference any less than I appreciated what went on at Olivia’s conference.

I couldn’t be prouder of either of my sweet, smart girls.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Typical Olivia

I left work early yesterday so I could go conference with Olivia’s and Alyssa’s teachers.

I was scheduled to meet with Olivia’s teachers at 4:40 and Alyssa’s teacher at 5:00.

I got to O’s classroom at 4:35 and both her teachers were there, waiting for me. The kindergarten class has thirty-two students, two teachers and one aide. The students are in small groups called centers throughout the day.

Olivia is pulled out of the regular kindergarten class a couple of times a week for speech therapy, occupational therapy and for time with the special ed teacher.

The first thing her teachers told me that is she’s tested out of one of her IEP requirements. She’s no longer being pulled out for reading assistance because she’s tested at a point where she isn’t eligible for extra help. Which…yay! Right? I mean, this is the girl we worried would ever read and her teachers were telling me that she’s doing so well that she doesn’t qualify for extra help.

In fact, her teachers continued, Olivia is currently reading at a first grade level. She took one specific test that put her at the top of her class academically.

Holy cow! This is not how I expected this conference to go.

Yes, we are still working on social issues. We’re still working with her on decision making. She still isn’t really interacting with her peers but she’s connected with one of her teachers and the aide and she’s making huge strides in communicating with them.

There were a few tests on which she didn’t do well because of the way the tests were conducted and her expressive language at school is not where it is at home but damn, my girl is blowing kindergarten out of the water. She’s proving every single doctor who ever said a child with 5- syndrome will not speak, read, write, walk, run, jump so, so wrong. She’s doing this every single day.

I know that Olivia is not like most kids with 5p- syndrome. But then, most of these amazing kids are unique in their own way.

What it comes down to is that Olivia is not typical in any way. She’s definitely not typical like most of her classmates but she’s also not your typical child with 5p-. I can’t wait to see how many more ways she manages to be atypical.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Outgrown

My youngest brother is thirteen years younger than I am. I started taking care of him when he was five months old and I was about thirteen and a half.

I loved that boy so, so much. I still do, though I can’t exactly call him a boy anymore, since come January, he’ll be thirty years old.

He and I were together every summer from 1984 until 1989. I watched him while my mom worked and even once I graduated from high school and Mitch started kindergarten, I worked second shift jobs so I could take care of him during the day.

But then I went off to college and I think Mitch felt abandoned. It breaks my heart to think of that now, though I realize that I had to go away. I had to live my own life.

And you know what? He had our mom. She was amazing. She still is.

We continued to have fun during the summers. I’d come home from college, find a job that I could work 3:30pm to 11:00pm each day and Mitch and I would hang out while Mom worked. We went on some pretty great adventures, riding our bikes for miles, walking to crumbling houses and old abandoned lots. We picked raspberries and watched way too much daytime television.

One summer, though, I came home and things were different. I’d graduated from college and moved to Chicago. I was home for a few weeks to attend a family reunion of sorts. The entire extended family (my mom and her siblings and all of the assorted kids from those siblings) had rented a set of cabins and we were reuniting for a week of fun.

Mitch was probably about fourteen.

And I was devastated to learn that while I’d been gone, living my silly little life, he’d outgrown me. He didn’t need his big sister like he once did. In fact, I think I embarrassed him with my silliness, the fact that I called my Squish, my love of singing the song “Baby Face” to him. He just wanted me to leave him alone.

So of course I did. I told myself bravely that it was best that if he had to outgrow someone that it be me. That it was good that he was still close to our mom. It was good that he still needed her because she’d been the constant in his life while I’d flitted in and out over the last few years.

But it hurt. It hurt so, so much to watch him walk away with a barely concealed sneer. I tried not to notice when he rolled his eyes at something I said.

Mitch grew up and we got a little closer again. Never what we were before, when he was little and we spent weeks and months together but definitely closer than we were that summer I irritated him so much just by breathing.

What worries me these days is the fact that every child grows up and to some extent, outgrows their parents. Which means that at some point, if I’m lucky, my own children will outgrow me.

I can only hope I’ve fostered the kind of relationships with them that my mom fostered with me and my brothers. Relationships that will grow as they grow, evolve and change as needed.

I see Alyssa rolling her eyes at me these days. I hear her hissing at me not to speak when we’re at the bus stop. I don’t want to be an embarrassment to her. I want to be cool about it all while still being her mom, the one she can come to when things are tough. I want her to celebrate successes with me and cry on my shoulder when something doesn’t go her way.

I think being a successful parent means letting your kids go but I really hope I don’t face another summer like the one I had with Mitch, the one where he made it very, very clear he no longer needed me.

I am okay with the needs my children have for me changing. It will mean they’re growing up, learning independence but pulling away completely is heartbreaking. I’m trying to lay the groundwork now so that doesn’t have to be inevitable.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chock Full of Irritants

I had a headache last night so I took an Advil PM and went to bed at 8:30. I was sound asleep when the phone rang at 9:00 with a message from the school reminding us that there is early dismissal tomorrow and Thursday due to parent teacher conference.

Yeah, thanks. We’d just discussed that very thing earlier in the evening, when I was awake.

Three minutes later my phone rang again. I considered throwing it across the room. Instead I answered it and spoke with a lovely person from IU asking if we were going to the IU Dance Marathon next week. We are. I was tired, though and I worry that I might have been a little abrupt while on the phone.

Thankfully, the phone didn’t ring again during the night.

However, Olivia’s cough kicked in at about 10:30. She coughed and coughed and coughed and then she took a breath and coughed some more. My hazy, Advil PM’d brain finally forced my lazy body out from under my delightfully warm blankets and rubbed some Vicks vaborub on O’s back and chest. I’d given her cough medicine before bed but, alas, it didn’t work nearly as well as I’d hoped.

She settled down and I went back to bed.

She joined me under my delightfully warm blankets less than an hour later, at which point she asked me to help her take off her pajamas and pull up. You know, because it’s nice to sleep naked in November.

Once she was satisfactorily naked, she settled in to hog the bed for the rest of the night. I fought her jabby elbows, her pointy toes, her giant head and even her poky knees all night long. It was awful.

I dragged myself out of bed at 5:40 after a very unrestful night. But hey, check it out, the headache was gone.

The instant I stood up, Olivia sat up in the center of the twin bed she’d hogged and said, “Carry me to the bathroom?”

I muttered, “Of course, because heaven forbid you actually stay in bed once I’m not there to push out of it.”

Yes, it was a crowning moment of loving motherhood. I’m not proud of it but damn it, I was tired, I was groggy from the stupid Advil PM and sometimes, I’d just like ten minutes to go about my morning routine without company.

Instead, I carried her naked butt into the bathroom with me where I turned on the space heater so she could plop her still-naked butt in front of it and cook her feet while I gathered clothes and started the water in the shower.

Then, before I’d even had a chance to pee (tmi? Really? Is that even possible on a blog?) Tom joined us in the bathroom.

Tangent: We have a fairly large master bathroom but it gets downright crowded when you cram two adults and just one kid who won’t move from the center of the room where she’s cooking her feet. End tangent.

He wanted to let me know that he would be bringing a package to me to ship because he hadn’t been able to make himself get up at 3:15 to pack. He suggested he start packing right then and I just do all the morning prep so he could just send it with me instead, which would save him a trip to town. He laughed like it was a joke but I didn’t join him in the laughter because, well, it wasn’t funny and I knew he was only half joking.

In the end, Tom managed to pack the item he needed to ship and get the girls their breakfast so, hey, win/win, right? Except, and this is so indicative my irritable mood, he sang the entire time he was packing and pouring cereal and milk.

He sang a nonsensical song that drove me nuts. I’d describe the song but…no, I just can’t. It was that irritating and I’m still not over the irritation.

See, Tom sings when he’s happy and I’m glad for that. I love that about him. I really do. I also have told the girls that we know Dad’s happy when he’s singing. But they’ve also figured out that when Mom rolls her eyes, she’s not quite so happy and I was working hard not to roll my eyes this morning.

On top of the bed-hogging, the singing, the foot-cooking and ‘joking’ the girls’ bus was late this morning.

Late enough that I ended up taking them to school myself because if we waited any longer for the bus, they’d be late for school. Which, I know, if they’re on the bus, is not really a big deal but Alyssa was stressing and I get that. I always hate to be late too.

And because I drove them to school…I was fifteen minutes late for work. While I know things could get way worse, let’s take a moment now and hope it doesn’t. Thanks so much.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Third Child

No, I’m not pregnant. Holy cow, can you even imagine?

No. The third child was a friend of Alyssa’s we hosted on Friday evening. She’s a very nice girl. She’s the one who went with us to Cedar Point this past summer and we all had just a lovely time.

She went with me and A and O to run our usual Saturday morning/afternoon schedule. We hit the library, had lunch and then headed to Walmart for groceries.

Tangent: Can I ask why people have to take the whole family to Walmart? Yes, I’m a woman who took three kids with me on Saturday but we got behind a group of people who were irritating as hell. There were FIVE adults with two cards and in one of the carts was an infant in a car seat. I want to know why every single one of those adults had to go to Walmart and they had to cart that poor baby with them? One adult couldn’t have stayed home with the baby? One or even two people couldn’t have gone grocery shopping while the other three (or four) stayed home with the baby?

I mean, I get it. Sometimes a new mom needs to get out. So let the mom go with Grandma or even her husband while the others STAY HOME with the baby.

Okay, wait, the pot is calling me and telling me I’m the kettle… End Tangent

While at Walmart, I was hit by how much extra work that one extra kid is.

It reminded me of a coworker who told me during my entire pregnancy with Olivia that having a second baby was so easy, that she’s just roll into the routine and it wouldn’t be a big deal at all to add a second child to our current family of three.

Either that woman was a liar or my second child was WAY harder than her second child. Or, third possibility, I was just way worse at adjusting to the work a second child adds to the family. That third option is definitely a possibility, considering how I felt on Saturday.

It’s not even that the girls were in any way bothersome, it was just that they were there and there was so many of them. I felt like the four of us were taking up so much space in the aisles. I was constantly reminding them to stay behind me so we weren’t trying to go down the aisles four people wide.

That third child caused so much angst for me. I’m not even really sure why. Maybe it’s because she wasn’t my actual child and so I felt like I had to be more patient, kinder, cooler? I don’t know.

What I do know for sure, it that it’s a good thing we stopped at two because I was absolutely not cut out to be the mother of three.

My hat is off to all the moms out there with more than two children. You are absolutely heroes.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Moderator

These days I feel like a moderator in my own home.

My older daughter and my husband are butting heads in a way I never imagined before.

It’s tough for me because these are two of my favorite people in the world and they are often at each other’s throats.

Tom thinks Alyssa is disrespectful and demanding. He thinks she is full of entitlement and ungrateful.

Alyssa thinks Tom is being mean to her.

I try to explain to each of them that neither means to come across that way.

Alyssa isn’t disrespectful to me. I can see where Tom feels she is to him and I’ve tried to explain to her that sometimes her tone more so than her words irritate her dad. I try to get her to understand that it’s not what she’s asking, it’s how she’s asking.

I also try to get Tom to understand that she doesn’t mean to be disrespectful. I want him to understand that it is up to us to teach her respect and gratitude.

But we also have to respect her as we try to teach her. Getting angry with her isn’t teaching her anything but anger.

Sigh.

She’s only ten. How much worse is this going to get before we get through the teenage years?

She’s a good kid. She really is. She just has a few rough edges that I’m trying to help smooth out. Sadly, her dad seems to rub against those rough edges much more often than I do.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Selfish Tendencies

I have a tendency to be selfish. I wonder if this is the case with most people. We’re all a little sef-centered if not outright selfish, right? We can’t actually help it, after all, I am the center of my own universe just as you are the center of yours.

So, yes, I can be selfish. Or least, I can be in my own thoughts.

Lately, my brother has needed me to pick up my nephew from their house and transport him to my mother’s home.

Why me? Because I work about two blocks from where my brother lives and I live three miles from where my mother lives. So, yes, I’m going that way.

I have also been asked on numerous occasions to take my nephew to school, since as luck would have it, his school is down the street from the home he shares with my brother, which, obviously, means it’s practically next door to where I work. See, I’m already going that way so…

Why not?

I’ll tell you why my selfish self would rather not. Because my nephew is a talker. He talks and talks and talks the entire 17 miles either from home to Gram’s for from Gram’s to school. He does not stop talking.

And those 17 miles? They are the only time I am actually by myself, with the quiet of my own thoughts or yes, even the radio or a cd (what is this 2003?) that I have each day. When I’m not in the car, I’m either at work surrounded by people who need things from me or I’m at home, also surrounded by people who need things from me.

So yes, my selfish tendencies wish that my brother would figure something else out.

But I don’t ever say that. I just go pick the little talker up, take him where he needs to go and go about my day. Because like I said, I’m going that way.

While I admit to these selfish tendencies, I am happy to say that I don’t usually give in to them. I understand that I’m part of this village and I try to do my part.

Don’t we all?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Restyling My Mothering

I’ve been sitting around lately, contemplating my parenting skills or, perhaps more likely, my lack of parenting skills.

See, I have been known to yell. Or even hiss something mean to one of my kids if they’ve pushed my last button and I’ve pulled out every last drop of patience and the reservoir has run dry.

I don’t want to be the mom who is mean to her kids.

That’s not to say I want to give in to them on every little thing. No. I want to be the mom who disciplines with love and kindness. The mom who says no with a smile to the request for candy before dinner.

I know I’m only human and I get tired and frustrated and irritable but sometimes I feel like I’m more tired, frustrated and irritable than your average mom. And I hate that about myself.

While at a gathering for my grandmother’s birthday this weekend, a cousin and his wife were there with their two kids. My cousin’s wife is a strict mom but I think she’s a kind one too. Her kids know they’re loved even though they have many rules and she is firm with them.

I am not this woman, I don’t have her temperament or her wardrobe but I want to be more like her as a mother.

I want even the frustrated moments to be drenched in kindness. I never, ever want my kids to think I don’t want them near me or that they’re a nuisance (even when they ARE being a nuisance because let’s face it, kids can do that sometimes.)

It’s not too late for me as a mother. I refuse to believe that I can’t change. But I do know it’s going to take work and a lot of thought and lots and lots of patience on my part, for myself and for my kids.

They deserve for me to try, at the very least. They deserve better than what I’ve given them so far.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

For the Dogs

I have a confession to make. Ready? It’s a doozy…

I’m not a dog person.

I know. Go ahead and unfollow me.

I made several people gasp when I said this last weekend at a family gathering.

When I say I’m not a dog person, this doesn’t mean I don’t like dogs. It just means I don’t want a dog of my own. I never have. Dogs need a lot of attention.

After the gasps subsided, I explained, “Dogs are very needy creatures. I already have three creatures in my house that need everything I can give them. I don’t want or need one more thing that demands my attention.”

That seemed to soothe the feathers of the more strident dog lovers in my family.

I say, whatever!!

I also say, why does it matter to them if I’m a dog person or not? Shouldn’t they actually be applauding me and the fact that I know myself well enough to not have a dog since I know I wouldn’t give it the attention it would want and need? Isn’t it better to leave the dogs to people who can take care of them beyond feeding and watering them than to have one in my home for the sake of appearances (and because Alyssa would be so, so happy) but then leave the poor thing emotionally neglected?

I am glad there are people who love animals and who care about them and want them in their lives. I’m thrilled about that because it means there are good homes for these animals.

I’m just not one of those people and I’m not apologizing for that. I didn’t apologize at our family gathering either. Yes, I felt judged but I figured dog people simply cannot imagine not loving animals. I get that.

But I’m still not apologizing for not wanting one of my own. When Alyssa is all grown up and has her own house and her own vacuum cleaner, she can have all the dogs she wants. I’ll just ask her nicely not to bring them to our house.

See, we can all get along.

Monday, October 28, 2013

So Much Fun

It seems appropriate that my 1000th post be mostly pictures of my little vampiric cheerleaders. They were so cute (scary?) and had so much fun. Olivia loved the vampire make up and she carried her magnifying glass the entire evening as she followed her sister from house to house.

Life just keeps getting more and more fun with these two. I am so incredibly lucky.





Friday, October 25, 2013

Shades of Brad Pitt

I need a haircut.

I got about eight inches cut off my hair back in August. I haven't had a haircut since.

It's now long enough to brush the collars of my shirts and to separate. That means it's long enough to annoy me.

And, the worst part?

It fell into a center part a couple of days ago. I let it go and went about my day. At one point, I went to the restroom at work and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

Yikes! I looked vaguely like Brad Pitt circa World War Z.

Not a good look, at least for a 42 year old mom.

So, yes. I either need a haircut or I need to suck it up and grow it past this point and never, ever part it in the middle and put both sides behind my ears.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Day with Kindergarteners

So Olivia’s still not eating lunch at school.

Seriously. She doesn’t eat a single thing during her lunch. She sits there and watches the other kids eat. I don’t know if she takes her food out of her lunchbox or not but her teacher reports (and the evidence of all her food being in her lunchbox when she gets home supports this) that she doesn’t eat during lunch.

Sigh.

Tomorrow I’m going to the school during her lunch to see if she’ll eat while I’m there. Of course, this won’t mean anything because I can’t be there every single day but we’re going to give it a try.

Then, after lunch, I’ll go home, gather supplies and head back to the school for the kindergarten Halloween party.

Can you even stand it? It’s going to be death by overdose of cute. And, better still, kindergarteners don’t stink when they sweat so their classroom will still be pleasant even after they’d done the whole costume parade thing. Yay!!!

I was the mom in charge of the Halloween party this year. So…I hope it all goes well.

I’m excited for it.

I get to make a Jello brain tonight. That ought to be cool.

Olivia is so flipping excited to wear her cheerleading costume and her vampire makeup at school tomorrow. I’m excited for her.

I hope I remember to take the camera for photographic evidence that this all took place.

No promises, though.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Someetimes You Just Know

After watching an interview on Katie with Sam Berns and his parents, Dr. Scott Berns and Dr. Leslie Gordon, Katie asked Dr. Gordon, Sam’s mom, “When did you know something was wrong with Sam?” (Sam has Progeria but like Olivia is more than 5p- syndrome, Sam is so much more than Progeria.)

And the answer was something like, “Almost from the beginning.”

After Olivia’s rough start, I was so happy to get her home. Her eleven day NICU stay was tough but once it was over, I thought we were going to have only sunny skies ahead of us.

But then, just by mothering this amazing little girl day to day, I knew. I didn’t know what I knew, but I knew that there was something different about her.

Her doctor tried to tell me I was a nervous mother. He reminded me that I couldn’t compare her to her older sister, that every baby is different.

Duh.

I knew all that. Just like I knew that Olivia was different in a way that wasn’t necessarily typical. When she was about three months old I started googling things like “symptoms of autism in infants” and “symptoms of cerebral palsy”.

There was no one thing I could pinpoint that made me worry but the worry was there, a niggling at the back of my mind, something telling me to keep an eye on this baby and remember everything.

I started rereading my copy of What to Expect in the First Year. Sure, I had already parented a child through the first year, so I knew a lot of what should have been happening but Alyssa did a lot of the gross motor things really early so I didn’t want to skew my expectations.

But…Olivia wasn’t meeting any of the milestones. She wasn’t making eye contact, she wasn’t smiling. She wasn’t pushing up when doing tummy time. She just laid there, like a lump. She was an adorable lump but still a lump.

When she did finally start smiling and response to something we actually did, there was much celebration in our house. When she started actually interacting, making eye contact, reaching and yes, even controlling her own head, I was thrilled but still…I knew that she was more than ‘delayed’ as her doctor put it.

I chased answers. I pushed and asked for referrals, all the while trying to find ways to treat the symptoms before we even knew what was causing those symptoms.

Because I knew.

Sometimes, you just know. Even when you aren’t sure what it is you know. You know there is something to know.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Possibilities

Regardless of the number of chromosomes in our cells, I truly believe that we all have endless possibilities ahead of us.

Each time I tell Olivia’s story, which is less frequently these days, I am asked, “Will she be able to get married? Will she have kids?”

My answer? Who knows?

Who knows where she’ll be, emotionally, intellectually, cognitively when she’s an adult.

These days, she’s doing so well. She’s holding her own in her kindergarten class, a class that is full of typical kids, kids who have all their chromosomes, kids who spent no time in the NICU, who probably walked by the time they were a year old.

But again, who cares when they walked or started talking?

I’ve met so many people in the 5p- community, people who weren’t diagnosed until adulthood and then, only because they had a child who was diagnosed. These people have full, rich lives. They’ve gone to college, gotten married, had children.

I feel a little freer being able to say I don’t know if Olivia will be able to do those things. Freer because by saying I don’t know, I’m not saying she won’t do those things.

We all have the potential for amazing things in our life. And everyone defines amazing differently.

We also all have the potential for tragedy. Just because I have all of my chromosomes doesn’t mean I won’t be in a life-altering accident and suddenly be dependent on others to care for me for the rest of my life.

Even before we had a diagnosis for Olivia, I’ve said I don’t want to limit her. I don’t want to tell her what she can and can’t do.

So when she tells me that someday, she’s going to get married and wear a beautiful white dress at her wedding, I smile and nod and ask her to tell me more about her dress. When she pretends to be a mommy to her dolls, I tell her she’s a fabulous mommy and I can’t wait to hold her babies for her.

When she asks me what she’s going to be when she grows up, where she’s going to work and where she’s going to live, I tell her that all of that is up to her. She can be whatever she wants, work where she wants, live where she wants.

I’m lucky that right now, she still wants to live with me forever.

I tell Olivia the same things I tell Alyssa, that they have big, beautiful, unlimited futures. What else can I say? Why live life as if there are limits?

To quote Aquamarine, “Why go through life unnoticed?”

I want the world to notice my two beautiful, amazing, limitless girls. I want those two girls to live a life without fear, without limits, without someone standing to the side and saying, “Oh, she can’t do that. She’s a girl/has a syndrome/whatever limit society/someone might want to put on them.”

I want them to laugh at boundaries and then jump right over them. I want that for both of them and right this second? I can’t see any reason not to raise them both as if their future is not bright, brilliant, limitless.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dishing It Out

A few weeks ago I had dish soap on my list of things to by while at the grocery store. I usually buy Dawn dish soap. That day at the store, I saw some less expensive options and went with Great Value orange scented dish soap.

Big mistake. Huge!

It smelled awful. Every single time I put the soap in the dishwater the smell was overwhelming. It was not so much an orange smell as it was the smell of chemicals trying to smell like orange.

Seriously. It was horrible.

And every time I washed dishes, I complained.

In fact, last Friday, as I started washing the dishes, I once again, bitched about the smell of the dish soap. Tom was standing next to me and I said, “I am going to complain about this soap every time I do dishes until it’s gone.”

He replied, “I’m just glad you were the one who bought it instead of me. I’d never hear the end of it if I’d bought it.”

I laughed, “You’re still never going to hear the end of it even though I did buy it.”

The next morning as I was getting the girls ready to head out the door to go grocery shopping Tom grabbed my list and added something to it.

I took it from him and saw that he’d added dish soap to the bottom of my list. I told him, “But we still have over three quarters of a bottle of that disgusting orange soap.”

He said, “Yeah, but dish soap isn’t that expensive. I’ll use that stuff in the garage to wash my hands. Get some of the stuff you can stand to use.”

I bought some trust Dawn bleach alternative and doing dishes has been so much less disgusting.

He really is my hero.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chopped

On the way home from gymnastics, I stopped at our local KFC and got a bucket of original recipe chicken for the girls. They’re always starving after gymnastics and we don’t get home until 8:15 most Thursday nights and no one wants me to cook at 8:15. They were very grateful for the fast food stop.

Alyssa immediately dug into the chicken, pulling a drum stick out for herself.

Olivia waited a few seconds and demanded, “What about me?”

I told Alyssa to take a piece out for Olivia so it could cool a bit for her.

Alyssa said around a mouthful of chicken, “It’s not really that hot.”

I rolled my eyes in the dark car and said, “Then give your sister a piece!”

She did and much enthusiastic eating ensued.

As she worked her way through her second drumstick, Olivia asked, “How do they make the bones in chicken?”

I pondered this question. Do I answer honestly about how she’s actually eating the flesh of a once living animal or do I make something up, hedging the whole carnivore thing.

I went with the first option. I told her, “Well, the bones grow inside the chicken while it’s still alive.”

“But how does KFC get the chicken like this?” she wanted to know.

In for a dime, in for a dollar, right? I’d started down this path, why not make the whole journey?

I went on, “The chickens were once on a farm and when it was time for them to go to KFC, they first got their heads cut off, then the chickens were chopped up and their feathers were plucked off them. Then they were went to KFC where they were covered in flour and spices and fried to yummy goodness.”

She thought about this for a few seconds, licking her fingers thoughtfully.

Finally she replied, “Chickens are delicious when they’re chopped up.”

Yes. Yes they are.

Looking back, I probably didn’t have to be quite so graphic but hey, it was dark, we were driving home, the scent of fried chicken filled the car and I was tired. It was the best I could do.

And yes, I’m so glad that what she got from the gory details of my rendition of how chickens end up at KFC is that those chickens are delicious when they’re chopped up.