Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Babying Lyssie

Alyssa was home yesterday with an ear ache. I was able to get her an appointment with our doctor and Tom brought her to town where I met them at the office.

She and I waited to see the doctor and she lounged on me, all 90 pounds of her, feverish and in pain from the almost certain ear infection brewing.

The doctor barely had to glance in her ear before asking me which antibiotic I wanted her to be on.

Since I am not the one with the medical degree or the income a doctor brings in, I asked what he’d give her if she were his child.

He wrote the prescription, warned us about the side effects if she takes it on an empty stomach and off we went to Walmart to fill the prescription.

Once I dropped it off at the pharmacy, I asked her if she wanted something to drink. She leaned into me and nodded, clearly not feeling well but also enjoying the one on one attention she was getting.

Since it was going to take the pharmacy an hour to fill the prescription, we headed to the local Great Wall to buy my hot and sour soup to celebrate my reaching 40 pounds lost.

It the four blocks it took us to go from Walmart to the restaurant Alyssa finished the Gatorade I’d bought her.

When we got back to Walmart to wander and wait for the medicine, I asked her if she wanted another Gatorade or an Icee from Subway. Her eyes brightened for a minute and she said, “You’re nice when I’m sick.”

Ha! Poor kid. I hope I’m ‘nice’ more often than when she’s sick but I realize that moms have to say no more often than we like just because that’s life.

I am so glad she still wants me to baby her when she’s sick. I hate that she’s sick but grateful that she’s still my baby enough to want me to snuggle her when she doesn’t feel well. Whether she likes it or not, she’ll always be my baby. For now, she still likes it. I am one lucky mom.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Weight Update

Four months into this “I don’t want to be the fat picture at the wedding” weight-loss program, I’m doing well. I feel so much better than I did four months ago. I can say that without even grimacing.

I’m coming to a point where I realize that if I want to maintain my current (and hopefully continuing) loss I’m going to have to eat salads for pretty much the rest of my life.

See…I hate working out. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I detest every aspect of exercise. I don’t like the feeling of my muscles getting fatigued. I don’t like to sweat and I hate hearing myself breathe hard.

I would rather adjust my eating habits forever than have to take up jogging.

I have worked out twice in the past week to a ballet workout dvd and it was awful. But I also know it’s beneficial so…we’ll see.

So as the fourth month of this low carb/low calorie eating comes to a close I’ve finally broken the 40 pound barrier. I sat at 39.5 pounds lost for a week before that last half pound went away.

But I feel like it’s a huge accomplishment to be here, forty pounds lighter than I was four months ago. I can say now that I won’t be the groom’s fat sister at his wedding. If I’m honest, I will say that I still have at least twenty pounds to go before I’ll feel like I’ve really succeeded but I’m over halfway there and to me that’s an accomplishment.

And, get this…I wore jeans last weekend that are three whole sizes smaller than the ones I wore four months ago. Wheee!! I know, right?

I’m getting there. And the important thing is that I feel so much better. I don’t get winded when I carry laundry up to the bedrooms from the basement. I don’t feel gross each time I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

For me, losing weight has helped me lose a lot of my own negative feelings. I know that often the weight is just a symptom but for me, the weight was the problem and I’m still working toward solving it. But at least I’m on the journey. And right now it feels so good to be here, in this space, in this skin. That’s saying a whole hell of a lot.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Times are changing.

I realized yesterday that my days of spelling things to Tom in order to keep them from Olivia are on the verge of being over. Of course they've been over for us with Alyssa around for years but honestly, I thought I had a little more time where O was concerned. This is not because I don't expect her to be able to spell, but she's just to the point of pre-reading so...

Anyway!! We were outside yesterday enjoying a lovely spring day in Northwestern Ohio. It was as if winter had finally bid us a final farewell. (Alas, by Friday it's supposed to be back down to the 40s so, ugh!!)

While we were outside, I said to Tom, "If tomorrow is as nice as today has been I'll probably take the girls to the P.A.R.K."

Olivia stopped swinging, looked at me and said, "What did you say?"

I laughed and said, "Never mind!"

She said, "Did you mention the park?"

OMG!! This was a wonderful, lovely surprise from her to us. Tom and I laughed, we told her she was amazing, we celebrated her spelling coup. We also told her not to mention the P.A.R.K. to her sister because if it wasn't nice, we weren't going.

The little fink couldn't stop herself from telling her sister all about it when she got home from a recital with the grandparents.

Sadly (for the girls) it's rainy and chilly today. No park for us.

But when it is finally warm enough, you can be neither of those girls will forget my comment.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Call

In conclusion, I made the call. You know, the call about the party from the post titled An Invitation.

I called the mom of the birthday child, explained my concerns about leaving Olivia at the party and asked if she's be okay if I stay during the party.

And obviously, she said it was fine.

Which is very cool because in the packet we received from the school in preparation for the IEP meeting on Wednesday, it was written that Olivia needs to be exposed to as many situations that allow her to interact with her peers as possible.

Good thing I can take her to a birthday party for one of her classmates, huh? And quite honestly, if the other mom had told me she'd rather parents drop and leave, Olivia wouldn't have been going.

Can you even imagine that conversation? I mean, maybe I put her in an awkward situation by asking if I could stay but I can't even imagine being told that parents are not invited to stay.

Alas, no fears there, she was very kind about my need to hover over my child. It's nice that my neuroses are so well supported even by perfect strangers.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Worn Out

By the end of most days, I’m done. I’m tired, I’m cranky, I’m ready for the day to be over and the sleepy time to begin.

Thursdays can be the roughest because A and O and I don’t even walk in the door until 8pm. I leave each morning at 7:26am and so that makes for one long damned day.

Last night after both girls were asleep, I wandered into the living room and Tom said offhandedly, “Olivia wears you out, doesn’t she?”

And that comment right there? It made me feel like shit. For a minute.

Then I got over it because yes, by the end of the night, when I’ve scratched every single part of her except her butt, which I refuse to scratch no matter how many times she offers me the opportunity, I’m worn out.

Do you know how annoying it can be to be sitting there, scratching a back that’s been scratched for twenty minutes and then have the owner of that back look at you with a raised eyebrow and say, “What about legs?”

Then she yanks up the legs of her pajamas to offer her legs for a twenty minute scratching. After that’s done, and you’re about to fall over from sheer exhaustion she offered her arm and her hand, the fingers splayed, so you can scratch each and every digit. Her eyes are getting heavy, though, so you scratch, thinking it can’t be much longer.

Except it is. It is much longer. She rolls over and offers you the other hand. Then she wiggles into a new position so you can scratch her shoulder.

At this point, you’ve been scratching for almost an hour. It’s time for her to be asleep.

And when you tell her so, in a slightly less than gentle tone, that is the moment your husband happened to enter the room.

So yeah, she wears me out. Of course, to be fair to the girl, it’s not just her. I was worn out before I sat down to scratch but the scratching is the icing on the worn out cake.

Her Story

As Olivia gets older I realize that I’m not sharing nearly as much of her story with people the way I did when she was younger.

For example, when someone comments on her hair and how pretty it is, I encourage her to say thank you and we go about our day.

A year ago (or maybe less) I’d gush over how amazing it is that she stopped pulling it out and tell them all about the horror I felt when she was doing it for over two years.

These days, she’s very much cognizant of what I’m saying and I don’t want to embarrass her. I feel like she’s at a point where this is HER story. It’s always been her story but she has a voice now, a voice she chooses to use when she feels like it and it’s no longer up to me to share her story nearly as loudly as I once did.

I will still obviously advocate for her at school, be her voice to get her the therapies, the tools she needs to succeed but the other moms at gymnastics don’t necessarily need to hear about how far she’s come. Some of them know, they’ve known her for years, they’ve watched her hair grow out and witnessed her gait become smooth and unaffected. They’ve listened to her whisper to me and know that the fact that she’ll speak, out loud, in front of others is a big accomplishment for her.

But the others? They don’t know and that’s okay.

Of course I want everyone to be proud of her, to know how amazing she is, how much she’s overcome in these six short years but why? So I can blow my own horn? Not really. I want them to see HER, to know how strong, how smart she is.

And yet…it doesn’t matter if others don’t see this. I see it. I know it. And getting to see her continue to do amazing things is definitely enough. I no longer need to shout it from the rooftops. I can sit quietly and cheer her on, letting her tell her own story as she goes, letting her build her own fan base, letting her shine for anyone who cares to look long enough and deep enough see.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pretty Eyes

I am a pretty snarky person by nature. I’m not proud of this, it’s just a fact.

As my girls get older and listen to every single word I say, often regurgitating it at the most inopportune moments, I realize that my snark needs to be curbed.

Alyssa and I watched the last season of The Biggest Loser together and we had fun. But I also found that I had to stop myself from saying snarky things about the contestants. I’m not talking about their weight, I mean, come on, they obviously want to change that or they wouldn’t be on this show, but sometimes, they were whiny or bossy or just plain obnoxious and I’d start to say something obnoxious about them right there in front of Alyssa.

But I’d stop and think about what I was doing. What was I teaching my ten year old daughter? Nothing good, that’s for sure. And see, I heard her say some of the snark before I even had the chance to do so and where do we think she learned that way of thinking? We don’t have to think, we KNOW she learned it from her lovely, charming, delightful mother.

So I started finding positive things to say about the contestants that annoyed me the most. I’d mention that one guy had really pretty eyes, or a couple of the girls had great hair. Or, I’d get really deep and go beyond the physical and mention how supportive one person was to a teammate. That was a good one if I do say so myself.

I’m trying here, is what I’m saying.

I can’t always help the snark but I’m trying so hard to mix in some positivity too, teach my girls that even when you’re feeling snarky, you can find something positive to say. I want them to figure out how to stop the snark once in a while and see (and say) something nice.

When Alyssa complains about the annoying boys in her class and on her bus I always ask her to name one thing about these people that is nice, that is complimentary. Sometimes she scowls at me, very much just wanting to vent. But most of the time, she grins and finds something kind to say.

If we fake it until we make it, at some point we’ll be a family of kind, positive people instead of a bunch of snarky asses. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Invitation

As we pulled into the driveway last night, Olivia was digging into her backpack, looking for something specific. When she found it, she tried to hand it to me but I was still in the process of parking the car and asked her to wait just a little longer and I’d take it when I was unhooking her car seat straps.

She was fairly bouncing in her seat by the time I got her door open and released her from the car seat.

I took the envelope she was holding out to me. It had her name written on it. I opened it and pulled out an invitation to a party for one of her classmates.

This is the first invitation O’s received from a classmate. She wants to go so badly.

Obviously, I’ll let her. But Tom asked me this morning with concern in his voice, “You’re not going to just drop her off and leave her, are you?”

Ha! Hahahaha. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I wouldn’t do that with my six year old. Parents who do, more power to you. No judgment from me at all. But I’ve never met the parents who are hosting this child’s party and I’m definitely not comfortable dropping O at a stranger’s house for two hours.

And I know Olivia, she wouldn’t want that. She’ll want me to stay. So I’ll be calling the parents tonight to see if parents are open to me (and other parents?) staying during the party. I know if I were the host, I’d hope for as many parents to stay as possible.

I want Olivia to makes friends with her classmates. I want her to be included and have fun. But I also want her to be safe.

I didn’t leave Alyssa at friends’ houses when she was six. She didn’t start sleeping over at friends’ houses until about three months ago, so…yeah, I’m probably overprotective. But at least it’s a consistent trait of mine.

I can’t help it…they’re my baaaybeeees.

Would you leave your typical or special needs child at the home of a parent you’ve never met for a couple of hours during a birthday party? Seriously, inquiring minds want to know.


I’ve given the sadness I felt in my dream from a few nights ago some thought.

The obvious meaning is that I’ve never really acknowledged my sadness over O’s diagnosis. Except, during the waking hours, I’m not sad. Not really. I don’t have time to be sad, nor do I have the inclination.

Olivia is awesome. She’s funny, she’s healthy. She’s got this amazingly strong sense of self. She can be so stubborn and yet incredibly sweet all at the same time.

And yet…when we got her diagnosis, I mourned for her. I felt like some of my dreams for her, my sweet daughter, were being taken away at the mention of 5p- syndrome.

I can go on and on about not ever wanting limit Olivia but obviously there are some things that 5p- has taken away from her. She may never have children, not only because she might not be able to care for them but also because of the fear of passing on the syndrome. There is a fifty percent chance her child would have 5p- too. Of course, who knows where reproductive technology will be in twenty years? She might be able to have this sort of thing screened before conception. And yet…even that feels like a dream has been taken from her. If she wants to and is able to raise children, she’ll have to decide how far she wants to interfere with her future children before they’re even conceived.

This makes me sad. For her, though. Not for me. I have no reason to be sad for myself.

To be honest, the thought of Olivia living with me forever doesn’t make me sad, not for me. For her and her possible loss of independence? Yes, but not for me. I love this girl so much and I would hold her tight to me forever if I could.

But I want so much more than that for her. I want her to be independent for her, I want her to chase her dreams, to dream big and know that nothing is impossible. The fact that there might in fact be things that are impossible is what makes me sad.

We’ve been taking about school next year. What will be Olivia’s next step? Kindergarten? A repeat of Kinderkids? She’s got her letters down. She’s great at writing her name and her numbers. She can count to 59 before she gets bored and doesn’t want to tell you that 60 comes next even though she knows it does.

Maybe the looming IEP is bringing this all to a head. I tell myself I’m not worried about it but…I am. I worry about her even as I glory in who she is, how wonderful she is, how lucky I am to be her favorite person in the whole world. I have to live up to her expectations, I have to push hard to get her the opportunities she deserves, the chances she needs to prove to everyone else how amazing I already know she is.

This special needs parenting gig? It’s not for the weak of heart.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I had weird dreams last night. I was sad in most of them. I don’t remember much of the details but the emotion was so strong, the sadness, the grief.

One thing I do remember is that my mom told me her baby (her baby was Olivia) was sick and she was going to have problems her entire life. I told my mom that this baby, if she needed to, could live with me when she grew up. She could live with me forever.

I looked at that Olivia in my dreams and my heart ached for her. She was so beautiful and yet doctors were telling us that she was a mistake, she was going to be a burden, she was always going to be dependent on others.

No doctor has ever told us that in real life. We have a wonderful developmental pediatrician who has always told us to let Olivia show us what she can do. She’s reminded us often not to limit Olivia, that she’s going to surprise everyone.

I believe her.

And yet…I worry.

Just this weekend my mom and I talked briefly about the coming year and whether we think O is ready for kindergarten. There are so many factors. Is she ready for the academic aspects of kindergarten? If not, do we hold her back another year and do kinderkids again, letting her get bigger and that much older than her classmates?

Which is more detrimental/beneficial to her? Do we worry about her social growth or her academic growth? We don’t want to set her up for failure by pushing her into kindergarten before she’s ready but we also don’t want to tell her (even without words) that she can’t handle it.

The IEP meeting looms. It’s next Wednesday. I’ll meet with her team of therapists, teachers and the school psychologist to discuss what is best for Olivia.

I know she can do whatever she decides she wants to do but I also know that she can be stubborn. School work isn’t always interesting or fun for her and sometimes, she just shrugs and doesn’t care enough to even try.

That makes me sad and obviously, that sadness is manifesting itself in my dreams.

The future is uncertain for all of us. I know this. Nothing is guaranteed. Not our continued good health, not either girls’ academic future, not even the weather.

I want to do whatever is best for Olivia and I have to trust her team to help me make that decision. But I worry that we’re going to fail her. That feels like an unacceptable risk. She deserves what all kids deserve, the very best chance at being the best she can possibly be.

I’ve said it so many times but I’ll say it again. I just want her to reach her fullest potential, whatever that might be. I want her to show us what she can do. I don’t want to be the one who puts limits on her abilities. Her abilities are so much greater than most people realize, perhaps even Olivia herself.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Out for Breakfast

Most Saturdays the girls and I head to town by late morning, hitting the library to return books and check out more. We go from there to lunch and from lunch to the grocery store. We then head home.

The past two Saturdays have brought a slight change to our routines.

Two weeks ago, Alyssa spent the night with a friend. She was due home by 2 or 3 in the afternoon so Olivia and I needed to get our library visit and grocery shopping out of the way by noon so we could be home with Alyssa was dropped off.

When I suggested we get breakfast out that morning, O’s eyes lit up. She’s use to eating lunch out every Saturday but breakfast? We could eat breakfast OUT? The very idea intrigued her. Where would we go? What would she have? Would get go in our pajamas or get dressed and then go?

It was fun to take her out, relax over a breakfast not made by me and then get the rest of our running around done before noon. The whole day loomed ahead of us.

This past Saturday, we had afternoon plans with my mom but we still needed groceries and new library books. Once again, when I asked Olivia if she wanted to go out for breakfast, she glowed with anticipation. She wanted to know if she could get apple juice AND water again to go with her French toast.

Alyssa was less enthusiastic but only because it meant she had to get off the computer and get dressed and, horror of horrors, brush her hair. Ha! Poor kid. It sucks to be ten.

But, on the bright side, when you’re ten and your mom makes you go out for breakfast, you might just get to eat six slices of bacon and two pieces of toast with extra butter and no crust. Yeah, ten’s not looking so bad, is it?

After our breakfast it was business as usual.

Then, once our groceries were purchased and books checked out, we went home to do a little laundry and vacuuming before my mom arrived to pick us up.

See, that’s the reason we needed to get everything done in the morning. We were going north to my aunt Lorry’s house for a gathering. She lives about an hour and a half away from us and so it was a bit of a drive. We picked up my brother’s fiance and had a nice afternoon/evening with my aunties and cousins.

That’s always fun, even when you’re six and ten.

I might have to continue to switch things up every so often. That look on O’s face when she’s asked if she wants to go out for breakfast is one I want to see as often as possible.

Friday, April 19, 2013


During O’s early years of therapy, one of the things her awesome OT Cristin tried to get her to do was to thread a shoestring through beads. These beads were big, easy enough to hold (even for small hands with low muscle tone.)

Olivia hated beading. She hated with a passion and every time Cristin would bring out the beads, Olivia would sigh at her and roll her eyes.

Cristin loved O’s attitude. She loved that Olivia wasn’t afraid to show her displeasure. She swore that this was going to take O far in life.

A couple of weeks ago we were at the library where I was gathering our weekly stack of books and Olivia was at the puzzle table. She loves the puzzles.

As I walked between the shelves, I glanced over at her and found her beading. She was slowly, meticulously threading a red shoestring through round, oblong and square beads.

I went to her table and said, “Livie, I love what you’re doing.”

She grinned up at me and said, “I’m making a necklace.”

I told her, “Cristin would be so proud of you.”

She rolled her eyes at me and went back to her task.

And Cristin would be proud. And she’d explain that it’s easier for six-year-old hands to thread the beads than it was for two-year-old hands.

Obviously O’s hands are much stronger now than they were when she was younger. She’s got better dexterity and more patience. Her hand-eye coordination has improved.

But you know what? If she’d never been put through the rigors of therapy all those years prior, I’m not sure she’d be able to bead today.

Those early years are so, so important to build the basic skills needed to do so much. It gives our kids the skills, the strength and the patience to get things done.

I wish I’d taken a picture with my phone of O beading that day. I could have posted it on Facebook and mentioned her therapist in the post. Cristin really would be so proud.

Deprived (Or Not)

This morning during breakfast Alyssa announced that at least half the kids on her bus have I-pods/I-pads. She said disgustedly, “There’s one first grader who has an I-pad!”

Tom and I shared a smile.

Alyssa does not have a cell phone, she doesn’t have an I-pod nor does she have an I-pad. She doesn’t need these things.

We have two computers in our house, one for Tom’s work and the other for the rest of us to play Candy Crush (okay, only I play that…)

We don’t have cable or satellite television. We have two televisions that get whatever channels are broadcast and received via antennas. These televisions are in the family room and the living room, not in the bedrooms.

We also have dvd players hooked up to each television and we have a boatload of dvds, so even though Alyssa obviously feels deprived, she isn’t.

We remind her quite often that at ten years old, she doesn’t need all those electronic devices out there. She doesn’t need a cell phone, she doesn’t need an I-pod, she doesn’t need a television in her room or a laptop to take everywhere.

But wow, does she want these things.

I am in no way saying that parents who choose to provide their children with the above mentioned (and/or those that I forgot to mention) are doing anything wrong. Not at all. It’s just not a choice our family has made. We watch plenty of television through ABC, NBC and CBS, we don’t need more choices. The fact that my phone doesn’t have any fun games works for me. It means my battery isn’t sucked dry during a twenty minute drive to town with Alyssa.
Being a little electronically deprived is good for us as a family. Though…I’d be pretty sad if anyone took away my Candy Crush.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fourth Grade

We still have a month and a half left of this school year but even with that time remaining, I can look back and see what a big year fourth grade has been for Alyssa.

Back in October she got her tonsils and adenoids removed. She was so scared before the surgery and in so much pain after but even with all my mommy-guilt, it was absolutely the best choice for her. Now, six months later, she hasn’t missed a day of school since she returned post-surgery. She hasn’t had a single sore throat. She’s had one case of the sniffles that lasted all of three days and that’s it. Fourth grade was definitely the year of “Getting Alyssa healthy.”

It’s also been a year of friendship for her. She spend the night with a friend for the first time this year. And the second time and the third time. She’s had friends over several times and they are so great at this age. Her friendships have deepened, become more meaningful this year. I love this for her.

Academically, it’s been a little tougher this year than the previous few. But she’s overcome. I got my first ever email from school that was slightly negative. Her teacher was concerned because Alyssa was rushing through her work, missing answers the teacher knew Alyssa should be getting correct and basically just not taking her time.

This could partly be due to the those above mentioned friendships but I think it’s also due to hormones and growth spurts and just figuring out her place in her world. After she and I talked, she buckled down and got back to work and I haven’t heard from the teacher in months. Her maturity shows in her ability to change negative behavior and make those changes stick.

She’s stayed after school every Monday and Wednesday for a month to prepare for the Ohio standardized tests that are happening next week. She might have complained once about having to stay but she’s been a trooper and understood we (Tom and I and her teachers) were doing this for her and her classmates’ benefit, not to be mean.

Gymnastics has been a fun side thing for Alyssa this year. She’s enjoyed her class and her teammate and her coaches. She hasn’t really learned much that she hadn’t already taught herself (though she reminded me that she did learn the front handspring recently) but I like that it keeps her active, gives her an outlet for her enormous energy and gets us out each week. She has been asked to try out for teams next week. I’ve agreed to the tryout but honestly, I don’t see us signing her up for a team next year. Recreational gymnastics is one thing but joining a team and all the time and expense that goes along with it might just be beyond what I’m willing to take on. We’ll see.

Home life…ahh, Alyssa does love to argue with her dad. I don’t know what it is about those two but they can really rub each other the wrong way. He insists she eat well (I do too but I tend to be a little gentler as I guide her toward healthy choices rather than just announcing when she’s rummaging through that pantry that she has to eat a banana before she can have anything else.)

Last night on the way home, I tried to explain to her that her dad doesn’t do those things to be mean, he cares about her health and that’s why he pushed the fruits and vegetables and milk. He wants her to be strong and he worries about her. She listened but she replied with, “Okay, so maybe he doesn’t mean to be mean but I still think he is mean.”

Okay, well then. I’m hoping the years bring more maturity than strife but I know we’ll muddle through somehow. She’s a pretty great girl and I’m so lucky to be on the adventure with her.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Preface: Olivia is a really good eater. The older she gets, the more willing she is to eat a variety of good foods and she can eat a lot. Like, a really lot. As in, almost as much as her 165lb dad. So yes, she’s a great eater.

But today I was talking with a co-worker about O’s early days and some of her eating quirks came to mind.

When Olivia’s received her 5p- diagnosis at two years and three months old, her doctor told us to put her back on whole milk to help her gain weight. She only weighed 23 pounds at that point and we wanted her to weigh more because more weight would mean a stronger constitution.

My concern about the whole milk, though, was the ever-present threat of constipation. We’d dealt with that off and on with Olivia most of her life. Poor kid. If it wasn’t reflux, it was constipation. Ugh.

The doctor told us that Miralax is a good medicine to use, that it wasn’t habit forming and we could use it as needed.

I didn’t like the idea of any medicine if we could help it, though.

So instead of buying Miralax, I talked to O’s therapists, her other doctors, my mom, everyone I could think of. One of her therapists suggested sugarless gum. She said that she’d read somewhere that sugarless gum makes your mouth produce saliva that, when swallowed, helps aid in digestion. We decided it couldn’t hurt.

Olivia loved gum. She still loves gum. She’s constantly asking for gum.

My step-son, who has a son who a year younger than Olivia, wanted to know how we’d taught Olivia not to swallow the gum.

I told him we didn’t have to teach her, it was as if she had an instinct about it. She just never swallowed gum. She also never threw it on the floor when she was done. We were pretty lucky there.

But as I thought about this I remembered that when Olivia first started eating solids, she was a pocketer. What is that? It means that she held the last bite of food in her mouth, between her cheek and her teeth. She was simply done eating and instead of swallowing that last bite, she pocketed it and refused any more bites. It took her until she was over four years old to figure out how to use her tongue to spit food out.

So after every meal, we had to do a sweep of O’s mouth to get that last bite out of the pocket between her cheek and teeth. Ick.

But it worked and whatever, right?

Another non-verbal cue Olivia developed between two and four was the ‘done burp.’ When she’d had enough to eat, she gave off this belch that seriously put most grown men to shame. It let us know she was full, she was done. Do not give her another bite.

These days, at six years old, O’s lost her done burp and she no longer pockets her last bite of food. When she’s done, she simply says, “I’m full.”

Look how very far we’ve come.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

1000 Words

Alyssa has been assigned a timeline project for school. She has to create a timeline of her life, highlighting the major things that have happened to her.

Obviously, we started with her birth. She found a non-embarrassing picture of her from when she was an infant. We moved on to when she was nine months old and we moved to a new house. She cut out a picture of that house with her and me in front of it (for the record, those pronouns are grammatically correct…just saying.)

By the time we got to the major event of her becoming a big sister, I was in the garage looking for baby pictures of Olivia. Yes, yes, we’ve been in our current house for over two years and there are STILL boxes in the garage that need to be unpacked and sorted. Sue me.

Alyssa wanted a picture of Olivia as a newborn to attach to her timeline. I found one immediately and offered to her. Alyssa took one look at it and declared it too creepy to take to school.

Olivia, on the other hand, was fascinated by this picture. The picture was taken when she was maybe six hours old. She was already at the larger hospital where she’d spend eleven days in their NICU. She was attached to monitors, had tubes in her mouth, an oxygen canula in her nose, tape on her face and hands and belly to hold the tubes and wires and an IV in her arm.

She stared at this picture for the rest of the evening, carrying it with her from the kitchen table to the couch. Even as we started reading the three books I read each evening, Olivia would stop me every so often to ask questions about that baby, her, in the picture.

I’ve been telling her the story of her birth and how sick she was for years. I’ve always kept it simple, explaining that she had to be in the hospital for a few days to get well when she was a tiny baby.

But this picture seemed to really bring it home to her.

She wanted to know why there was tape on her face. Why was she wearing a hat? Was she naked? Did she not have eyes when she was born? She wanted to know if I was there with her. Where was her daddy?

I answered all her questions. I explained that the tape was on her face to keep the tubes in place and keep her from putting at them. She was wearing the had because we wanted to keep her head warm. I pointed out the diaper she was wearing. I told her that of course she had eyes, they were just closed because she was very tired, that being born was a lot of work for little babies. I told her that as soon as I was able, I was right there with her at the hospital and her daddy was there as often as he could be too.

She only put the picture down when it was time for me to rub her back right before bed. But the instant she woke up this morning, her first question was, “Where is the picture of me when I was a sick baby?”

Once she had it back in her grasp, the questions began again. She wanted to know if she had baths while she was in the hospital.

I replied that of course she did. The nurses brought me a tiny little tub and I bathed her every chance I got. I told her she loved her baths even then. She grinned at this response.

This picture made Olivia’s birth story that much more real for her. Yes, I can tell the story over and over and over again but seeing for herself how little, how sick she was gives her a visual that my words can’t. It makes it clearer to her how far she’s come, how amazing she really is.

This picture is definitely worth more than a thousand words.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Moving Pictures

My mom and I took Alyssa and Olivia to see Oz: The Great and Powerful this weekend.

I liked it…what I saw of it. Olivia had to ‘pee’ at least six times during the movie. In all honesty, it was probably too intense for Olivia. There were a few points where she had to bury her face in my shoulder.

The first time I took Alyssa to a movie, she was four years old. Before that point, I just wasn’t sure she could sit still or even stand the volume at which movies are shown these days. Alyssa was that kid who couldn’t stand the sound of automatic toilets flushing or motorcycles going by.

She was fine at the movie though.

This time? She managed to sit through two and a half hours of Oz without having to go to the bathroom. She rolled her eyes at me and Olivia when we got up every fifteen to twenty minutes.

I wonder if I sometimes overestimate Olivia’s maturity. I know that right now, at six, she isn’t where Alyssa was at four. But I don’t want to limit O’s experiences just because she’s on the immature side.

Obviously, I don’t want to bother other people by giving my immature child experiences she might not be ready for either.

So much to think about.

Next time, I think we’ll find a more child-friendly movie. Or, as we’ve done in the past, leave her at home with Tom.

In the end, it wasn’t that big a deal to take her to the bathroom seventy billion times but I did pay to see that movie and neither of us really saw much of it.

In my defense, I didn’t let her climb the stairs along the side of the theater like she wanted. She told me, “I’m just going to go to the top and come right back.”

I told her she wasn’t going to do that, not even once. She sighed heavily and declared she had to pee. Hmmm…

Friday, April 12, 2013


There was a time in my life when my mouth had no filter. If I thought something, it more often than not (like, say 99% of the time) came out of my mouth.

I’ve learned at the ripe old age of 42 that there are some things I should leave unsaid.

That said…I still sometimes say things that, while not wildly inappropriate, are still somewhat of a surprise to those to whom I’m speaking.

I used to take a bit of pride in my non-filtered mouth. I figured what the hell, I was just saying what everyone around me was thinking.

But as I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve learned that perhaps no everyone around me is quite as obnoxious in their thinking as I am.

In fact, just this morning, I said something that made a co-worker snort with surprise and humor.

We’re having a first aid class later this month. If we can get 75% of our workforce to sign up and attend this class, we will have a company sponsored Hotdog Day. Whee, hotdogs, chili and onions. Visitors have been warned.

This co-worker mentioned that there was one specific man who’d gotten a bit defensive when asked if he was taking the first aid class.

I suggested that perhaps this man felt like he’d never actually have to administer first aid so much as at some point, he’ll need it administered to him. This caused my co-worker to snort/laugh. He walked away said he’d thought the same thing but didn’t want to say it.

See, the person we were discussing (gossiping?) is a portly fellow. And…well, that’s enough. See? Filters. They’re a good thing.

I still sometimes say things at home that I realize after they’ve popped out of my mouth maybe shouldn’t have been said, at least around the girls. They know I can be sarcastic and snarky. They think it’s funny.

But I think my filter still needs work in a few areas.

Yep, I’m a work in progress.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Oldest

Alyssa and I were talking this morning about her older sister and brothers.

Olivia pointed out that the pants I’d laid out for her to wear this morning before changing into her school clothes after lunch had a whole in them. (What? Yes, she wears two different outfits every single day. Tom can’t stand for her to wear her school clothes during breakfast, snack and lunch and Olivia can’t stand to be wearing pajamas while the rest of us are dressed by 7am, so yes, that makes for extra laundry but also less whining on the O’s and T’s part and I’ll take the laundry over the whining any day. So…yes.)

I told her to tell her daddy to throw them away when she changed into her school clothes. I said we can’t very well send holey clothes to G, who is A’s and O’s niece, the daughter of their oldest brother, J.

Alyssa thought about the fact that she has a niece and several nephews. After a few moments, she asked me, “Am I still kind of the oldest here?”

I told her that yes, she’s definitely growing up as the oldest, firstborn child. How can she not? It’s just her and Olivia in our home.

I told her that even if either of her brothers or sister had lived with us when she was younger, it wouldn’t have seemed like they were siblings so much as maybe more like uncles and an aunt.

It’s one of the things about having widely spaced kids.

I am four years older than my brother J and thirteen years older than my brother M. M is actually only two months older than my oldest step-son. Put another way, Alyssa’s oldest brother is only two months younger than her youngest uncle.

So yes, she’s definitely growing up at the oldest, firstborn child. And wow does she have the traits of a firstborn.

Bossy…yep, that’s my firstborn. It doesn’t matter one tiny bit that she’s Tom’s fourth born.

Structured…oh yes, this girl loves rules. She loves schedules, always has.

Conscientious…she’s very aware of the feelings of others. I’ve often noticed that her moods are very much determined by my own. Sigh. This is something I really need to work on. I know that the happier, more cheerful I am, the happier, more cheerful my girl will be.

Achiever…she loves being good at things. She loves accomplishing goals and then setting even bigger ones.

A pleaser…this is one of my biggest concerns as a firstborn myself. I always wanted everyone to be happy. Alyssa is so much like me and I hate that she’s taking on this responsibility. I don’t want the weight of the world’s happiness to rest on her shoulders.

A funny thing about my oldest child is that most of her friends are the babies of their family. I wonder if she’s drawn to these people because she can lead them, nurture them, teach them and yes, even baby them.

The joy on her face this morning when I told her she’d definitely growing up as the oldest child made me laugh inside. Leave it to us firstborns to take pride in our birth order. Like we had any say in it at all.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

All By Herself

Olivia has an independent streak that has served her well over the years. She’s needed this little bit of backbone that makes her want to do things herself. Things more often than not don’t come easily to her (unless they have something to do with fashion or makeup, then it’s a snap for her) and so she’s needed nerves of steel and an iron will to make things happen for herself.

This morning Tom got O her raisin bran and sat down with her as she started eating it. She looked at him through narrowed eyes and informed him, “I can feed myself.”

He nodded and remained seated, as if to make her prove her statement.

When she was finished eating (and yes, she fed herself the entire bowl of cereal, including drinking the milk) he took her bowl and started to pull her chair back for her. She put up her hand and declared, “I know how to get down!”

My girl is tired of being babied and I couldn’t be happier.

As she bathed this morning, she told me she was getting her hair wet so I could wash it. She poured water over her own head several times, sputtering and laughing at her own antics.

One of the potty training tricks her developmental pediatrician gave us when we saw her back in 2011 was to watch O for cues and when we thought she had to pee, to tell her to tighten her muscles and tell her, “Don’t come out, Livie’s peepee.”

Then, once we got her on the toilet, we’d say, “Okay, come on out Livie’s peepee.”

This has worked wonders for her. Low muscle tone often means not being able to actually hold urine in the bladder or even not being able to feel the urge to go. This tactic helped Olivia learn what it felt like to have to pee and how to stop the pee from coming out before she was on the toilet.

Because it’s kind of fun I still sometimes say, “Come on out, Livie’s peepee.” She almost always rolls her eyes at me.

Last weekend we were at the library and she had to pee. I took her into the restroom, she did the work of getting her pants down, sitting on the toilet, etc. and then she looked up at me and said, “Come on out, Livie’s peepee.”

I laughed along with her as she made fun of me. I love that she’s so funny, that she has such a great sense of humor, that she gets jokes and can make them herself.

She’s constantly reminding me that she’s not a baby and she doesn’t need us to do nearly as much for her as we might if she’d let us.

She can climb up and down stairs without help, she can wash her own hands in the bathroom, she can pick a movie, put it in the dvd player and push play on the remote control. She can turn the volume up and down using the remote.

Last night I was reading to her and I sounded out the first word in the title of one of our books. I showed her the second word and she started to sound it out herself. I waited to see if she’d need help. She didn’t. She read ‘moon’ all by herself.

She’s showing interest in learning to ride a bike. She wants my mom to put training wheels on a bike that Alyssa had when she was smaller. I’m not going to be the one to tell her she can’t ride that bike. Nope, I’ll be the one standing right next to her, pushing her along until she figures it out and tells me she can do it all by herself. And you know what? If she wants to ride that bike? She will. Of that, I have no doubt at all.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Good

You know, I’m really good at talking about everything that I’m doing wrong. I’m good at tearing myself down and not giving myself credit for just about anything.

But I’m kind of tired of that. I’m tired of always looking at my weaknesses and ignoring my strengths.

Last night after dinner, I stood at the sink and started filling it with water. I grinned at Tom and said, “The little woman needs to get these dishes washed.”

He laughed with me and then…I kind of ruined the moment by saying, “I’ve never really been all that good at being ‘the little woman’, have I?”

He didn’t know how to respond.

I need to learn to stop myself before those negatives come out. I need to learn to accept compliments and yes, even compliment myself sometimes.

So…here goes. I’m going to try and come up with a few things I’m doing well these days.

I manage to wash the dishes after every meal. Where did this come from? We haven’t used our dishwasher in months, which…the hell?

I manage to stay on top of the laundry pretty well. I don’t do it during the week because, well, work and feeding/bathing children gets in the way but the weekends don’t feel overwhelmed by laundry so that’s a plus.

I’m good at rubbing Olivia’s back even to the point of my arm aching and my will to live waning. She is very sensory and having her back rubbed and/or scratched relaxes her and helps her fall asleep. Knowing this helps me keep up the monotony of the task just because I know she’ll sleep better.

I’m good at encouraging Alyssa. I know she needs to hear that I think she’s awesome and that I know she’s trying her best. Sitting with her and reading or even watching stupid television and cracking jokes means the world to her and because of that, it means the world to me. I can make her laugh harder than anyone else. I’m really proud of myself for that.

I’m learning that life is hard enough without making it harder on myself. A little kindness goes a long way and the best place to start being kind is at home, with ourselves and those we love the most in the world.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Look Back

I went through some of the boxes that have been in our garage that have been there since we moved in over two and a half years ago.

Two of the boxes were papers that went directly into the trash.

One was a box of size six clothes that Olivia fits right now. They went directly to the laundry.

Another box was full of pictures I told Tom I had no intention of putting on our walls. Those went into a garage sale pile. Ha.

I also found a book Alyssa had written in kindergarten. Her teacher had bound it with a hard cover and presented it Alyssa before the end of the school year.

It was the story of caterpillars.

Alyssa and I sat down to read what she’d written.

She laughed at how she’d spelled some of the words. Really was ‘rilly’, didn’t was ‘didt.’

The book wasn’t just written by Alyssa it was also illustrated by her. She found great amusement in her kindergarten artistry.

I thought it was wonderful. Obviously, I saved it. I plan to display it at her graduation party along with other pieces of work she’s done over the years.

I love that her kindergarten teacher took the time to make those books for the kids. That she made learning fun for them and taught them to take pride in their work.

I love that Alyssa was able, just four years later, to look at her work and laugh, to find joy in it and in how far she’s come since then.

I have so many more boxes to go through in that garage. I hope I find some more fun, nostalgic things we can all enjoy.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lessons in Perspective

As we drove past a park last night on the way to gymnastics, Alyssa announced, “Softball is stupid.”

Olivia laughed because she thinks the word ‘stupid’ is funny. And she thinks Alyssa is funny so when Alyssa says something is stupid, it’s hilarious.

I thought about it for a minute. I am not a fan of softball myself, granted, but I thought this was sort of a teachable moment.

I asked her if she’d ever played softball.

Alyssa admitted that she hadn’t. I suggested that if she were to play the game, she might actually like it. I also pointed out that softball players might think gymnastics is stupid.

All this was said very conversationally, no lectures necessary.

Alyssa gave it a little thought and recanted her story about softball being stupid. She admitted that just getting outside and playing anything was better than sitting around inside all day.

That’s my girl.

She told me later that evening that her best friend had gone home early from school that day. She (the best friend, T) had been crying.

I asked Alyssa why T was crying. She shrugged and said, “I think she missed her dad.”

T’s dad was killed a few years ago. She was barely seven years old. I don’t know the details and to be honest, they don’t really matter. This little girl’s dad is dead and that is heartbreaking. She’s got her mom and her big sister but there is a place in her heart that will never be filled.

It gave Alyssa another moment to stop and think. It reminded her that as much as her dad annoys her with his desire that she eat well and that she be active and that she do her best in school, at least he’s there to hug her every day, to worry about her eating and her activity and her school.

Sometimes we get slapped in the face by perspective. We’re reminded that our opinions aren’t right for everyone and that our lives are actually pretty darned good.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Look Forward?

While at my brother’s house the other day, not only was I edgy (and yes, judgy) about the four yappy dogs, I was also (unreasonably, I admit) annoyed by the fact that there were two teenagers sitting around amidst the clutter and chaos that is a household that is trying to settle in.

These two were friends of my brother’s step-daughter. She’s a lovely girl, a typical teenager who likes to have her friends around even if it is most inconvenient for them to take up space as people are trying to move things in, unpack and organize an entire household.

I get it. I do. Teenager likes to congregate and when they’re together, they sit around like lumps and stare at their phones.

But I wondered if this is a look into my future. Let’s remember that I have two daughters who, by God’s grace, will both someday be teenagers, with teenage friends who will want to come over and be lumps on our couch.

These days, Alyssa loves to have friends over. But when that happens, she and her friend(s) can usually be found playing in her room, making a mess which can be out of sight (and thus, out of mind until I have to put laundry away.) And honestly, even when A and her friends are in the living room or family room, it’s not really that big a deal.

But I have to confess that I’m always kind of glad when the friend leaves and we have the house to ourselves again.

I don’t want my own introverted nature to put a damper on the girls’ social lives. I know I’ll have to get over my social inadequacies and awkwardness so they can have friends and hang out and just be kids. I want our house to be a place where teenage Alyssa and her friends hang out. I want to be that place where kids can go and be safe and have fun and not have to escape.

I just have to get over myself to make that happen.

But hear this…if we ever move again and either A or O are teenagers at the time? They’re not having friends over until the chaos is soothed, the dishes put away and the pictures hung. I don’t know how my brother and his fiance could stand having to work around kids who aren’t even their own.

Then again, my brother is way more social than I am so…there you have it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


That old adage about how life just gets busier the older kids get is true.

At least, it’s true for me. I remember hearing it when Alyssa was an infant and I was in the throes of sleep-deprivation, desperate for a shower and wondering if I’d ever change out of my stained, stinky pajamas and I couldn’t imagine such a thing.

But it’s true. For me. I’ve learned, though, that it’s a different kind of busy.

These days I have to leave work right at 4:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays so I can be at the school at 5:00 to pick Alyssa up from a study session her teacher is hosting to prepare the class for the standardized testing they’ll be doing in a few weeks.

Thursdays are still gymnastic days. Saturdays are the day we go to the library for our weekly stash of books.

Showers and baths have to be fit in too and as one of the girls gets older and verges on being very much a preteen, she needs to shower a bit more often than she did even six months ago. Please note I’m not naming names here.

More often than not, I feel a bit like a chauffeur, which, eh, I can take. I don’t get much in the way of wages but the fringe benefits are pretty awesome.

I’ve read a few times that because of this busyness in the life of older children, it’s actually more important to have a parent at home during the preteen and teen years than during the infant and preschool years. I can understand that logic a little better these days too.

Having Tom working from home gives us freedom that I know my friends who have both parents working outside the home don’t have. He’s there for delays and school closings. He’s only four miles from the school should either of the girls need something or need to come home. He’s there when we get home from all the running we are doing these days, with the heat turned up, the dinner (sometimes) ready and a sympathetic ear when I need to complain about something.

Yes, the busyness is different, the sleep is a little better and the girls just keep getting bigger. I’m ever so grateful for that last one.

Putting on My Judgy Pants

Pardon me while I work through a moment of judginess. I realize that’s probably not a word but it’s what I feel is going on and so I’m going with it.

So yes, judging. It’s an ugly thing. I hate it when I feel like I’m judging someone else, their lifestyle, their choices. Just because they make choices different from the choices I’d make, it doesn’t mean their choices are wrong and my own are the only right way to live.

Vague enough? Okay, so specifics:

I’ve mentioned that my brother, whom I love very, very much, and his family are moving into a new home. They’ve worked hard to get to this point and I’m thrilled for them.

This new home is all of two blocks from where I work so it was quite convenient for my mom to call me yesterday and ask me to meet her there so I could pick up the girls. She had my nephew with her and was taking him home at the same time.

I got there first and was invited inside. Which, yay, right? Except…dogs. Oh my goodness, holy dogs! There are four of them. All little yippy things with clicky-clacky nails and doggy breath and wagging tails.

The largest of the four is a Jack Russell terrier, so that sort of gives an idea of the size of the other three. The JRT is a jumper. Which…ugh! I can’t stand jumpy, yappy dogs.

But wait. Let’s be honest here. I’m not a dog fan period. There it is. I’ve said it and probably alienated half of my readers (all two of them).

When my mom arrived with the girls, Olivia immediately wanted to be held/carried because of the dogs. She’s a lot like me in her serious loathing of all things animals. I’m okay with cats, expecially Orville and my mom’s cat Prissy because they sort of hate everyone too and just leave us alone. But the dogs, they wanted to greet everyone and be petted and swarm around the entry, and trip an unsuspecting visitor.

I’m not a fan of animals in the house. I admit that. And I know that my own preferences does not make it wrong that other people like to have dogs in their home. Hey, and let me say right here, we do have a fish that lives INSIDE our home, so…ahem.

But…four? In the house? All the time? Why? I just don’t get it.

And yes, I’m being judgy about it. I’m sorry for that. I’m working on getting over it. I know that everyone has their own preferences and I’m just grateful that my brother and his fiance don’t bring their dogs to visit each time they come to my house. That would be just shudder-worthy. But they don’t do that. Because they’re considerate and they know that we don’t have dogs.

I appreciate that and I can work toward being more accepting and understanding of their choices. Their choices are not wrong even if they are completely opposite of the choices Tom and I have made for our home.

I think I feel better now.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Interrupting Cheese

I have a very bad habit. I interrupt people. During conversations I tend to jump right in rather than wait for the other person to actually finish their thoughts.

It’s very rude and I hate it about myself. But sometimes I just can’t help it. I am working on it, though. Really.

There are times when I don’t interrupt so much to add my own two cents so much as to try and anticipate the other person’s thoughts.

Which, yes, still very irritating and rude.

Olivia, though, has helped me with this quite a bit lately.

See, she needs time to process her thoughts. When she’s talking to you, she needs to take her time to get it all out into words. And as I converse with her, I stop and listen, taking it in, letting her finishing, letting her figure it out.

I almost feel like I was given the gift of Olivia to help me learn a little patience, a little humility. I can’t read other people’s minds. I can’t always anticipate what they’re going to say and it’s rude to even try.

And I need to wait my turn during conversations. I need to let the topic progress naturally rather than try and force it with my interruptions and finishing of other’s sentences.

Olivia needs to practice her give and take conversational skills and I need to do the same. She needs me to give her time and I need to learn to give everyone, not just Olivia, time to finish their thoughts.

This girl has taught me so much over the year. I have a feeling the lessons are far from over.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Olivia has taken to calling me ‘mother’. As in, “Mother, will you please carry my coat while I hop along beside you in this mall?”

Or, “Mother, I am very thirsty.”

Seriously. She says this stuff.

I have no idea where she picked it up. I usually answer her with, “Daughter, I’d be delighted to carry your coat.”

She laughs as if we’ve shared a hysterical joke.

She’s funny, that one.

Her sister still calls me ‘mom’. I like that too.

My friend Julie and I were talking one day about when we finally felt like a mom. I think it takes most of us time to really feel like mothers. Sure, those endless night wakings went a long way toward making me feel insane but like a mother? Maybe not.

There were so many times when I wondered when Alyssa’s ‘real’ mother would show up and take her away from me.

But the moment I was driving and reached back to take some garbage from Alyssa made me feel like a real mom. I was the mom, I was the one who was gathering the trash.

Julie told me that for her it was when she caught puke in her hands that was erupting from her daughter’s mouth so it wouldn’t land on her aunt’s carpet. Ewww and yet…yes, I get it.

Maybe this whole ‘mother’ thing is Olivia’s way of reminding me that I am, indeed, the mother.

How very lucky I am that that is the case.