Friday, August 30, 2013


Yesterday, I wrote about being frustrated with school and routines and expectations and we’re only two weeks in at school.

Rather than dwell on that (and because I got a wonderful email from O’s teacher yesterday that laid quite a few of my worries to rest) I decided to concentrate on the positives that are happening right now.

• Libarary books. Olivia brought home a library book from school the other day. She was so proud. She told us how she picked the book out all by herself, she went up to the counter all by herself and she handed the book to the librarian…ALL BY HERSELF. She felt so grown up and mature. When we sat down to read that library book the night she brought it home her smile was blinding, even with the missing tooth.

• Canning. Tom’s been a canning maniac lately. He’s canned about 70 quarts of green beans, over 50 quarts of salsa and about 20 pints of blackberry preserves. He makes me tired every time I look at him standing in the kitchen, watching a timer, or blanching tomatoes or chopping onions. And don’t even get me started on snapping green beans. I’m so lucky that he’s willing to do this stuff. I love eating things that have been lovingly preserved at home but I don’t want to do the work to preserve them. I’d rather buy them at Walmart than go through it all. Thank goodness Tom feels differently.

• Fifth grade. Alyssa loves fifth grade. She’s already had a quiz, for which I helped her study. She got ten out of ten correct on that quiz. She’s awesome. And she still thinks I’m awesome, so hey, win/win. She is having so much fun having a locker. She feels so grown up being on the other side of the school, away from the ‘little’ kids and near the junior high and high school. I look at her and sometimes she seems so grown up and other times I still see my little girl, the one who hid behind a rocking chair when she was two and a half and cut six inches off each side of her hair. Her laugh is so contagious, so beautiful. I hope we always get to be a part of what is making her happy.

• Weather. The weather here has been amazing. Well, amazing if you like temperatures in the 90s, which we do when we want to hit the lake just one more (or three) time before the end of summer. We were there last weekend, Tom wants go again today after school and work and we might even manage to make it again either Sunday or Monday. What a way to spend the long weekend, huh?

• Gymnastics. Both girls are loving their gymnastics classes. I know I said I was going to put Olivia in ballet but we live in a very small town and I couldn’t find a class at a convenient time for us. When I saw that the gym where Alyssa takes her class had added a class for O’s age group I was excited. When I saw that it was taking place on the same evening at Alyssa’s class, I was thrilled. When I saw that the time was right in the middle of A’s class, as in, A’s class is at 5:30 to 7:30 and O’s class is from 6:30 to 7:10, I might have down a back handspring. (I also might not have done that.) I was already going to be at the gym on that night at that time and more often than not (read, ALWAYS) Olivia was going to be with me. It was a no brainer to sign that girl up.

And she’s loving it. Her class only has five girls, including Olivia. Two of those girls are twins, which thrills Olivia to no end. She’s obsessed with those girls and it’s flipping adorable. I feel so lucky that they added this class so Olivia has something to do too.

Yeah, all in all, there is definitely way more good than not so good.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pure ST Geekiness

The girls are already discussing potential Halloween costumes. Yes, I know it’s August. They don’t care. They love Halloween and so, discuss costumes we will.

I suggested to Alyssa that she be a Borg.

She declared, “No way.”

I asked, “Why not, the Borg are very cool.”

She replied, “No they’re not, they’re creepy.”

“Well,” I retorted, “Seven of Nine was cool once she was deborged.”

“Yeah, but that’s because she grew hair and was no longer gray!”

Alas, there was no convincing Alyssa to be a Borg. Resistance, in this case, was not futile.

Later the three of us were driving to town and I asked Alyssa if she’d decided what she wanted to be since she wouldn’t be a Borg.

She shook her head.

I asked Olivia, “Hey, Livie, wanna be a Borg for Halloween?”

She responded, “What the heck? What’s a Borg?”

After the laughter stopped, Alyssa told Olivia all about the creepiness that is the Borg. So…neither of my daughters will fulfill my geeky heart’s dream of having one of her children dress up as a Borg for Halloween.

I did tell Alyssa, “Since you two are too cool for the Borg, maybe I’ll be a Borg for Halloween.”

She told me, “Don’t plan on walking around with me, then.”

Ha! Hahahaha. Whatever, kid. You’re only ten years old, you have to stick with your mom even if she is dressed up as a creepy Borg.

Resistance is futile.

She’s just lucky I gave up on the idea of assimilating her.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Real Kindergartener

Several weeks ago when I arrived at my mom’s to pick up the girls, Olivia ran to show me something. Her top right front tooth was loose. Very loose. I don’t know what she was eating but something had helped it along in its looseness.

But it was weirdly loose. It wouldn’t go backward, it only went forward. She was cute in a Nanny McPhee way. I could actually feel the start of her permanent tooth behind that loose baby tooth but it was still pretty tightly attached.

Her tooth stayed that way for over two weeks. She learned to eat by taking bites with the left side of her mouth. She wiggled it occasionally but resolutely refused to let anyone entertain the idea of helping that tooth come out.

The four of us went to the lake this past Sunday sort of as a final farewell to summer. The weather was beautiful, the lake was actually still warmish and Tom brought along a little floating thing that the girls could climb on and jump off of into the water (feet first, obviously.)

At one point, Olivia called to me. She smiled at me and showed me that her loose tooth was bleeding. She’d hit the raft with her mouth and further loosened the tooth. But she still wouldn’t let me reach in and just yank the thing out.

We decided it was time to leave the water and have a snack, hoping said snack would prompt Olivia’s tooth to give up that last thread and come out.

Nope, not happening. We hit up the park by the lake and swam again but still, that tooth held on for dear life.

After the lake, Tom needed to make a stop to pick up some light bulbs and canning lids. Yes, I’m very lucky to have him.

When we walked into Walmart, Tom got ahead of us and A and O and I made our way after him. I was a little ahead of the girls when Olivia gasped and then raced toward me. She showed me her mouth and…the tooth was gone.

I asked her when she lost it.

She replied, “When Lyssie hit me in the mouth.”

Alyssa shrugged. “I didn’t mean to.”

Olivia declared, “She didn’t hurt me but she did know my tooth out.”

And where was the culprit? Nowhere to be found, what’s where. We checked the floor along the path we’d walked but hey, baby teeth are tiny. We also considered the fact that she swallowed it.

Olivia rinsed her slightly bloody mouth out at the water fountain (gross, I know) and we found our way to Tom. He high-fived Olivia and Alyssa declared, “Now she looks like a real kindergartner.”

In the end, yes, my child lost a tooth at Walmart when her sister hit her in the mouth. I am so proud.

But look! My ‘real’ kindergartener.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Woman at Dairy Queen

I take the girls to either McD’s or DQ each Thursday after their gymnastics class. Alyssa’s class ends at 7:30, which means they’re both starving even though they eat before their class.

This week they chose DQ and because the line at the drive-thru was insanely long, we decided to go inside.

While placing my order a man and what I assumed was his adult daughter came in. They went directly to the freezer where the boxed frozen treats are stored.

The dad brought three boxes of Dilly Bars to the counter. His daughter took them from him, put them on the counter and recited which kinds he’d chosen.

She and I made eye contact and she said, “We’re having company tomorrow. We are serving Dilly Bars.”

At first glance, this was a typical young woman in her early twenties. When she spoke up, though, I could tell she was not typical. She gave serious thought before she spoke, she enunciated her words very precisely, like she’d practiced this through years of speech therapy.

I couldn’t tell if she had autism or something else caused her very deliberate speech pattern but it didn’t matter. She was working hard to make conversation and I was going to take part in that conversation.

I smiled and told her that her guests would love getting Dilly Bars. She smiled in response to my comment. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her dad step back, letting her do this on her own. I was glad he was able to do that. I imagined it had taken years for him to give her that space. I’m still not there with either of my shy girls. I haven’t learned to give them space and let them shine on their own. I continue to work on it.

She glanced around, obviously trying to think of something else to say. Her eyes landed on my purse. She declared, “I like your purse!”

I said, “Thank you so much.”

She said, “It’s so colorful and has great patterns. I see stripes and paisley and it’s just so…old fashioned. I like the yellows and blues and browns in it.”

I thanked her again and the DQ employee arrived with the green and blue Arctic Rushes I’d ordered for the girls to drink. A couple of seconds later, the chicken strip basket A and O would share showed up.

I smiled at the young woman waiting to pay for her Dilly Bars and told her I needed to get the food to my girls.

I wish I’d told her how great it was talking to her. I wish I’d stopped for just a second and said, “It was so nice talking to you.”

Next time, I will say that. Next time, I will acknowledge it when someone goes out of their way to be friendly. And I will learn from her dad. I will continue to work to give A and O their space, let them figure out how to be social without me butting in if the silence goes on too long. Who am I to say how long is too long when it comes to silence?

Friday, August 23, 2013


You know what? I don’t think about 5p- very often. It doesn’t really affect our world much unless I’m thinking about Olivia at school. Then…I get antsy and worry about how 5p- is affecting her, how it’s making her life harder than her peers.

But at home? When we’re out and about? Not so much. I see my girls together and I don’t think, “Oh, there are my girls, the typical ten year old and the six year old with 5p-.”

Nope, I just see Lyss and Liv and think about how lucky I am that they are mine. Then I get all sentimental and embarrass them by hugging them at the bus stop. Or I get silly and ask them if I can keep them forever.

They roll their eyes at me, sharing a look that says, “Oh yeah, our mom is so weird!”

I love that. I love their relationship and how it’s not defined by Olivia’s syndrome. They’re sisters. Alyssa gets very annoyed by her little sister, just like any other ten year old who has to put up with a six year old would.

Last night at gymnastics, I watched through the window as Olivia did most of what the other four girls in her class did. She needed a little more physical help than the others and she didn’t actually talk to her coach but she communicated in her own way. She nodded or shook her head in response to questions, she held out her hand when she wanted help. She did it.

I loved seeing all that. I hope she does the same thing at school. I hope her teachers at school can see her communication attempts as well as the gymnastics coach did.

I know I have to have faith in her school team. I have to trust them to have her best interests at heart, to know that they want her to succeed as much as I do.

Maybe I need to remember my own advice to Alyssa earlier this week. The teachers are on our side. They want what we want, for all the students to succeed, to help them do their best.

Trust is so necessary and sometimes, so hard to come by. I'm trying to let go of some of my worry and trust. Trust in these people who have my child with them seven hours a day, five days a week. Deep breath.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


This being back to school is tough. We’re trying to figure out bed and bath times and everyone is more tired than we will be in another couple of weeks when things have settled into a routine.

The other day a co-worker had a question about something I’d done. I’d written the number 1 where a 0 should have been. I apologized for the mistake and corrected it.

The co-worker laughed and said, “It’s kind of nice to know you’re not perfect.”

I blinked, smiled and said, “I’m so far from perfect.”

She replied, “I’m glad because I’d have to hate you if you were perfect at everything. You’ve already got the cute bubbly blonde thing down.”

Huh? Seriously? Bubbly?

Okay, blond I get. Yes, my stupid hair is blond. But bubbly?

My kids would completely disagree with that assessment. Especially Olivia, who cried last night because Mom was mean when she (Olivia) wouldn’t go to sleep at a decent time.

I know I put my best face forward while at work. I smile even when I want to scream.

Unfortunately, I don’t do that at home. I’m beginning to think maybe I should. The people at work aren’t nearly as important to me as Tom and the girls. Shouldn’t they, my family, get the best of me? Why is that side reserved for people I don’t love?

I don’t think I need to come to work and be a bitch but when I’m at home, I think I need to consider how I’d respond to a request or an action if a co-worker were the one asking/doing. It might make like at home a little more bubbly.

It certainly can’t hurt. I really don’t want to make Olivia cry again. Poor baby has such a mean mom who just wants her to get enough sleep so kindergarten is the best experience it can possibly by.

So far, two days down and…no words from Olivia to her teachers. Only 178 days left. Girl needs to get talking. She’s never going to be told she has that ‘bubbly blonde thing down’ if she doesn’t.

If this picture doesn’t define bubbly, I don’t know what does. I just wish she’d let her teachers see this side of herself. I know, I know. It’s only bee two days but…I worry so. I think that makes me not so bubbly after all.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

And So It Begins

Another school year. Fifth grade and kindergarten.

Morning showers and baths, drying hair on a chilly morning, packing lunches, hurrying through breakfasts, Thursday evening gymnastics classes.

We survived our first day yesterday and this morning the routine flowed just a little better. With our new bus stop being a mile and a half away instead of at the end of the driveway, we’ve had to factor in a few more intricate moves into this little dance we perform each morning. We all four have our part to dance and we’re getting it. We might trip here and there but practice will make perfect.

I pack the lunches. Tom sets out breakfast. The girls eat.

I brush Olivia’s hair and help her brush her teeth. Alyssa, thank the good Lord, is capable of doing these things for herself. Wheee.

Life is good.

We’re adjusting. Olivia fell asleep on the bus on the way home last night. She’ll adjust too. I tried to get her to go to sleep earlier last night but…we’ll get there.

This morning, Olivia asked me what we were doing today.

I told her she and Lyss were going to school and I was going to work. She smiled but then asked, “How many days do we have to go to school?”

I held up my fingers. I showed her three fingers and marked them off. I said, “You have school today, tomorrow and the next day. The day after that is Saturday. That’s our library day. You don’t have school that day.”

She smiled again, wider this time. “Yay,” she said as she stood up from the toilet and pulled up her pants.

It’s the little things that will get us through this transition. Little things like Saturday visits to the library.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Geez Mom, Finally!

If you ask Alyssa she will tell you that she’s wanted her hair cut for years. YEARS, she’ll tell you.

In reality, she started bugging asking me about getting her hair cut a few weeks ago. And by ‘hair cut’ she meant ‘haircut’. She didn’t want me to take her into the bathroom and use my dull scissors to cut a couple of inches off her hair in a blunt, straight-across style.

No, she wanted to go to a salon and have someone we don’t now put a cap around her neck and give her an actual haircut that I would pay for when finished.

I finally gave in and we hit up the salon at Walmart last weekend. What? Yes, Walmart has a hair salon. And the ladies there are very, very nice and quite good at their jobs.

And lest you think I got away with getting one girl’s hair cut without getting the others, let me state right here that Olivia was there too and she got a nice trim. I nixed her suggestion that we go ‘short, short, short’ with her hair. No. We’ve been there and yes, she has a great face for short hair, I don’t want to go that route again anytime soon. Someday…maybe. We’ll see.

We went in planning to get Alyssa’s hair cut into an angled bob but after talking to the stylist, we went with a shoulder-length, layered bob-ish style. Alyssa’s hair has a lot of wave/curl to it. Not quite the ringlets that Olivia’s hair seems to favor but definitely more body and bounce than an angled bob could handle. The layers were a good choice.

I had the other stylist cut about two inches off the ends of O’s hair, straightening out the back and wow, did this help. The thickness of her hair really shows now. So much cuteness.

Without further ado…Alyssa’s hair about four inches shorter, FINALLY having been cut by a professional:

And Olivia’s hair, professionally trimmed (and yes, Olivia had JUST eaten a red sucker, hence, what looks like clown lipstick. Yikes.):

They do so love to model.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Jeans, Smurfs, Buses

After weeks of bemoaning the fact that I only have one pair of jeans that currently fit, I decided to stop bitching and do something about it.

So I took the girls shopping with me and tried on jeans this past weekend. Alyssa was a great help. Well, when she wasn’t trying on things herself. She would tell me which jeans made my butt look flat or fat or even which ones pushed my stomach fat up into the dreaded muffin-top. Ick.

I ended up finding two pairs of Levi’s that I actually liked well enough to buy. So, yay, I now have three pairs of jeans that fit. Go me!! In even better news? One pair of jeans is a size twelve in the dreaded ‘skinny jean’ style. I know! Who would have thought I’d EVER purchase something with the word ‘skinny’ in the title? But whatever. They’re not bad.

The other pair is not of the skinny style but they are a size ten. Did you read that right? A size TEN. That is down from what I started in January at a size eighteen. Wow.
On Sunday, as a last hurrah to the fact that school starts tomorrow, I took the girls to see Smurfs 2. It was cute. Alyssa was glad that they showed more of the cat. She loves that darn cat.

I actually appreciated that the makers of this movie didn’t try to make it funny for the parents. They knew they were making a movie for kids and they hit their target audience really well. Olivia liked it well enough that she only had to get up to go to the bathroom four times instead of the usual seven. Progress!
Our bus driver called me this morning to let me know the pick up/drop off schedule for the coming year. Her route has changed and she informed me that she’d be by our house to pick up the girls each morning at 6:35.


In the morning.

That would mean that girls are on the bus for an hour from the time they are picked up until they get to school.

We live four miles from the school.

I replied, “That’s really early.”

She sighed. “I know. But they’re the second ones on the bus.”

“Yeah. But…that’s so early. I will have to get them up at 5:30 so they’re ready when you get there. What time would they get on the bus if you picked them up at their grandmother’s house?”

She consulted her map, did some backward counting and replied, “6:50.”

Oh. That would mean we’d still have to leave our house at 6:30 to get them to her house to catch the bus. Not an improvement.

After a bit more back and forth, the bus driver mentioned that she goes by a church about a mile and a half from our house at 7:20. Could I get the girls there each morning?

I could, actually. That church is right on my way to work. We wouldn’t have to leave home until 7:10 to get to the church by 7:20, so…that’s what we’re doing.

It’s a bit of a pain but I appreciate her working with me to find a workable solution. I do not feel like putting them on the bus at 6:35 is a workable solution.

So that’s what’s been happening around here for the last few days. Riveting, I know.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Getting to Know Them

I keep thinking back on Olivia’s year in preschool, which was two years ago. It was…okay. She was okay.

But she didn’t thrive in that classroom. I even got the impression that her teacher didn’t like her very much. That breaks my heart.

Olivia is…well, obviously, she’s special. She’s got the diagnosis to prove it. But she’s so much more than the little girl who won’t talk to her teacher or her peers.

My mom and I were talking last night about the coming year and how Jaxon and Olivia and even Alyssa will have some challenges to face as they start school.

Alyssa’s got the lockers on the mind. They are stressing a girl out, let me tell you.

Jaxon, he’s very social but he’s so much like my brother when it comes to learning. He refuses to let my mom or even his mom, teach him anything. Just like his dad, Jaxon insists, “My teacher will teach me that.” The social aspects of school will not challenge this boy even a little but the academic? He’s in for some tough love.

Olivia, on the other hand, is doing well academically. At least at home. But at school, the social parts get in the way of her shining academically. I mean, you have to talk in order for your teachers to know what you know. You have to talk to your peers for them to see how funny, how smart, how sweet you are.

The thing is, the thing that I think irritates her teachers the most, is that Olivia doesn’t care about the social aspects of school. She doesn’t feel a need to be a part of the group. She doesn’t care if her peers play with her. She’s perfectly happy to find a corner and a small trinket and lay there, centering in on herself, practically meditating as the room erupts into chaos around her.

But she can be so active too, running around, laughing, making up stories and acting them out. But she has to trust those around her before she’ll show them this side of herself.

I pray that as she gets older and bigger, that her trust comes a little more quickly for her teachers. They’re missing out so much when they don’t get to see the side of my girl that I see.

I do realize that these teachers, two of them in a classroom of 40 five and six year olds, do the best they can. They can’t spend quality time with each child every single day. I know this. Which is why I worry so about Olivia. She may need more than these teachers can give her.

We’re going to give this a try this year and see what happens. I just want what every parent out there wants. I want for my girls to know love, to love learning, to be respected for their individual strengths and yes, weaknesses. I want people, teachers included, to take the time to get to know these girls, to learn who they are before they decide what they’re capable of.

I know it’s up to both A and O to shine on their own so others see them. I know this and yet…I worry so about them getting lost in the crowd, the system. As their mother, it’s up to me to do whatever I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.

I’m trying, is what I’m saying.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


“How did you know what to take to class when you had lockers?” she asked for the third time.

“At first I just took a notebook of paper and a pencil. Later, I had a book I knew I was supposed to take to each class.” I answered, again.

A little while later, she asked, “When did they tell you what you should bring to class with you?”

I replied, “The first day, I always just took a notebook and something to write with. The teacher would tell us that day what was expected of us.”

“Oh, okay,” she sighed.

I let go. For a little while, I let it go. But Alyssa is a fretter. She can’t help it. Her mind picks up something and worries it to death.

She did this before kindergarten started all those years ago. She did it the night before starting first grade at a new school. She did it the night before riding the bus for the first time. She worries. She can’t help it.

It’s my job as her mom to try and reassure her when the worrying gets to be too much.

And I can tell when it gets to be too much when she starts asking the same question over and over, wording it slightly differently but basically asking the same question. She’s worried. Fifth grade is bringing with it some unknown issues and it scares her.

So I finally put my arm around her and told her, “You know, Sweetie, your teachers are on your side. They want you to succeed. They want all of you to succeed. They’re not the enemy, looking for some way to trip you up. I promise you that your teacher will tell you exactly what you should bring to class. She’ll also tell you if things change and you should bring something different to class. You are not being set up to fail. I promise.”

She laughed and said, “They’re on my side?”

“Yes,” I told her. “Just like I’m on your side. I totally want you to succeed and I will help you do so any way I can.”

She leaned in to me and sighed. She relaxed for a minute.

Will the worry come back? Of course it will. Will we have a tough time going to sleep on Monday night? Damn right we will. We’ll talk and talk and talk until she is so tired she can’t form sentences and I will reassure her until I’m out of breath and the only thing that is going to take away her worry is getting through the first day.

After that? Fifth grade is going to be a breeze. But nothing I say will convince her of that. That first day will do all the convincing. Until then, though, I’m here, on her side, helping her succeed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Holding On

Fifth grade looms. While we take comfort the fact that we’re facing the same school, the same classmates, we are fearing new teachers, lockers, changing clothes for gym class and many other things that can stress a kid right out.

While at the kindergarten meeting earlier this week, I stared down the sign-up sheets for the class parties scheduled for the kindergartners. I asked the principal if fifth grade has class parties. She said that fifth grade does not have parties in the same sense that preschool through fourth grades does. They may have popcorn and a movie on some days and call that a party but parents aren’t asked to plan and participate in these parties.

So that’s another change.

So far I feel like we’ve been really lucky. We’ve weathered changing schools, changing bodies, changing expectation and changing social lives fairly well.

I know things are going to get bumpier before they settle.

I’m holding on for the ride, trying to maintain our relationship so she always know I’m here, waiting to be supportive, waiting in case I’m needed.

I’m lucky, so lucky that she still talks to me and I pray she always will.

On my grouchiest days, I feel guiltiest over not being there as much for Alyssa as she deserves. I get tired and I need my space. In those moments I need to remember that she needs me so much more than I need space. I need to pull her close for as long as she’ll let me and hold on when she pushes me away, holding tight to the smallest scraps she throws my way until she finds her way back to me. And I will always pray that she finds her way back.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ready for Kindergarten?

I left the girls with Tom last night as he finished what felt like the endless job of canning salsa and preserving blackberries.

Why did I have to leave the girls on a Monday evening?

I had to go to the school for a kindergarten orientation meeting. See, I often forget what it was like for me when Alyssa started kindergarten. Kindergarten, for her, was her first real experience with school. Yes, she went to day care off and on over the years but never full-time and never for a few months at a time. I was a wreck when Alyssa was about to start kindergarten.

It was full day. She’d have to eat lunch there. Would she eat? Would she get enough to eat, to drink? Would she talk to her teacher? Would she make friends?

I needn’t have feared. Alyssa likes rules and once I explained to her that the rule was that when her teacher asked her a question, she HAD to respond, she was fine. She even made some pretty great friends.

Then, just before she started second grade, we moved. And I worried again. She’d be the new kid. She’d have to start all over. And after Christmas…she started riding the bus. The worry, the stress, the fears all came back.

But now Alyssa’s going into fifth grade. And she’s fine. She loves the bus. She has awesome friends and I love the school system, the teachers, the principal, even the bus drivers manage to at least seem to care about every single kid. I feel very lucky to have my girls at this school.

As I was walking into the school last night for the kindergarten meeting, one mom asked another if she was ready for kindergarten. The answer was, “No.”

I realized that this year doesn’t feel as huge to me as the year before last or even last year. Last year Olivia was in the kinderkid program, a half-day, five-day-a-week program for kids who aren’t quite ready for kindergarten but are a bit ahead of typical preschool.

She rode the bus and it scared me so, so much. I mean, she was so little. I worried about her so much. But she’s grown in the past year, not only physically but also emotionally and socially. Olivia has gained a confidence in her own physical abilities that I am in awe of. I trust her ability to get through the day at school.

Yes, I’ll be packing her lunches from now until probably sixth grade but I’ve done that for Alyssa too. No biggie.

It helps, too, that the girls will be on the bus together. Alyssa can help her sister on and off the bus both in the morning and in the afternoon.

Will the first few weeks be a bit of an adjustment for us all? Of course, but we can do this.

I mean, come on, it’s just kindergarten.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Shopping, Driving, and Salsa

My mom and I took the girls shopping on Saturday to get them a few new things for school, which starts a week from tomorrow. We drove to the ‘big’ city of Fort Wayne (because that’s where the closest mall is. Yes. We’re a forty-five minute drive from the nearest mall. Let that sink in.)

When we walked through the doors of Sears, Olivia gasped. “We’re at the mall?” She was so excited she couldn’t stand it. But she had to pee before she could really let herself take it all in.

Once she’d taken that restroom break, though, she was headed for the escalators. Because that’s what the mall is all about when you’re six. And to O’s delight, we rode the hell out of those escalators.

Between escalator rides, we also rode the double decker carousel. During one of these rides, I asked Olivia how great it was that she’s so big these days that she doesn’t need a stroller while at the mall. She grinned and said she loves being big. I love that she’s big too.

We also managed to buy clothes, shoes, socks and a gift for the ever lovely Julie.

Why did I buy a gift for Julie? Because the very next day (yesterday) A and O and I got in the car at 10:00am to drive down to Julie’s parent’s house where we surprised Julie with a party for celebrate a milestone birthday. The part started at 2:00pm. The girls and I arrived at 1:58pm. We did stop three times to use the restroom and buy some McD’s for the girls to have for lunch. But yes, in the end we were in the car for four hours each way to celebrate Julie’s birthday. And it was so worth it. The look on Julie’s face when she and her husband drove up the hill of her parents’ drive and saw so many of us there to celebrate with her was awesome.

Sometimes the laundry has to wait, the carpets have to go unvacuumed and Tom has to chop vegetables for salsa all by himself because birthdays are important and friends are even more important and when you’re invited to a surprise birthday party and you can make it happen, you should make it happen.

In all honesty, I think Tom was glad to get rid of us because he planned to can salsa, his second batch, yesterday and sometimes, the girls and I are more of hindrance than a help. When we rolled in at 9:00pm last night he was still blanching and peeling tomatoes. Poor fella was miserably elbows deep in tomato peels. Sadly, I still couldn’t help because there were girls to get into pajamas, books to be read and beds waiting for sleeping heads.

He looked pretty tired this morning when he announced that he finally finished the tomatoes at 2:15am. At the point, he’d decided that the actual canning of the salsa would take place today. Yes, today…while I’m at work. I’ll do almost anything to get out of canning green beans and/or salsa. I’m lucky to have that man. This I do know.

To give Tom a break, I offered to attend the kindergarten information meeting tonight at the school. I told Tom I’d fill in him on anything important. I think he’s glad to skip this one.

Hey, I guess that means we’re lucky to have each other, huh?

Friday, August 9, 2013

It's A Date

Once upon a time, Tom and I went out quite a bit. Of course, that was in the beginning, when it was just us, no little kids (his older kids were teenagers when we meet, so, like I said, no little kids.) We could come and go, sleep as long as we wanted, blah blah blah.

These days, we don’t get out much. It’s a big treat when I pick up subs from Subway for dinner and we eat them together on the couch watching Everybody Loves Raymond reruns.

But we’ve managed to get out of the house, just the two of us, twice in the past two weeks.

I know! I’m not sure what’s gotten into us.

The first date was to see the newest Wolverine movie. Let me confess right here that this was my idea. Tom was reluctant to go because, well, he thought the movie would be stupid.

But he was pleasantly surprised, as I knew he would be. I mean, come on! Wolverine is the coolest of the mutants in the whole mutant world. And hello, Hugh Jackman is just so pretty.

But I didn’t say that even once during the movie. Of course I didn’t. I was on a date with my husband, he didn’t want to sit there listening to me swoon over how pretty another man is, even if that man is Hugh Jackman. Did I mention how pretty he is? *Sigh*

The very next weekend we went out to Tom’s high school reunion. It was fun. It was nice to spend an evening with other adults (even if there were a few preschool jokes about the fact that I found my picture in their senior year book. I was a first grader that year. It’s true.)

The nice thing about these dates is that Tom and I have been reminded that we actually like each other. We enjoy spending time together that doesn’t revolve around making dinner and doing laundry and mowing the lawn and yelling at the kids.

This is a good thing since the kids probably aren’t going to be around to be yelled at forever. Though…in this day and age our chances might actually be pretty good for always having one or the other (or, yes, maybe even both) around for, well, ever.

But if they do both ever move away and Tom and I find ourselves with an empty house…I like the idea of us actually having something to say to each other. I like imaging us going out for breakfast every few weeks just to get out of the house. I like knowing we’re still friends who want to be together just for the sake of being together. It’s something to foster, to nurture, to continue to work on even as we work on being better parents.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hot Stuff

It’s canning season. Tom’s worn out.

When I called home yesterday to let him know I had to stop at Aldi to pick up a bag of sugar for my mom (who is in the middle of making blackberry, raspberry and cherry jams) and see if he needed anything.

Tom answered my call with, “Thank goodness, someone’s calling so I can whine. Imagine doing something you hate so much. Something you loathe and multiply that hate by about a thousand and that’s how I feel.”

I laughed and said, “You’re peeling tomatoes, aren’t you?”

He grumbled, “These romas are awful this year. They’re so tiny they’re not even worth the time it takes to blanch them and peel them.”

He went on for several minutes about the tomatoes. Poor guy. He started this process on Sunday with the peppers. He spent three hours with ice packs on his hands after chopping jalapenos that evening.

Monday had him chopping onions and Tuesday brought the aromatic crushing of garlic. That left the tomatoes for Wednesday. He started working on them at 7:10 that morning. I called him at 4:30. He was in his own little tomato hell.

By the time the girls and I got home at 5:30, Tom was peeling the last tomato. This meant that all that was left was the mixing of the ingredients and then the canning process.

He’s such a trooper. And I mean that totally unsarcastically. I’m just glad he’s willing to do this kind of thing because we do so enjoy the green beans and salsa all through the winter that he puts up in late July and early August.

I was greeted by many quarts (maybe 28?) of salsa this morning. He’d labeled some of them Mom and others Dad. The hotter salsa got the Dad label. He looks out for me. I do hope he knows how much I appreciate all the work he puts into our family. He’s pretty awesome.

The next batch? I might try and muster up the enthusiasm to crush some garlic for him. It’s the very least I can do.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I believe I mentioned that Olivia is reading these days. I love this so much. I love sitting down with her in the evenings, our three books on my lap and showing her the title of each book and having her read those titles to me.

She only occasionally needs me to help her sound the words out. Last night, she sounded out ‘never’ all by herself. I am one proud mama, let me tell you.

But…she’s unsure of herself in this newfound skill. She’s not confident that she’s actually cracked the code of reading and so, when she reads to me, she whispers.

Which means at school, she won’t read at all. Because hello, last year she was whispering to her teacher about everything and she tends to speak loudly to me about everything.

The logical conclusion is that if she’s whispering to me as she reads, she won’t speak at all when she’s in school and asked to read.

That makes me sad only because it will be one more instance where I’ll have to say something inane like, “She does it for me.”

And they’re write in each IEP report, “Mom reports Olivia reads at home.”

I hate those little inserts. It feels like they’re patting me on the head when they put sentences like that in the IEP. It feels like they’re saying, “Okay, sure, if you say so. We don’t believe you but we’ll put this in there anyway.”

I want the world to see Olivia the way I do. I want her teachers to see her sense of humor, her silliness, her sweetness and yes, I want them to hear her read. I want them to know how capable she is and when a child won’t talk, people can’t know how amazing they are.

I know this will work itself out. We continue to work on it ourselves in our own home. I know that with good teachers and therapist working on the same things at school that we work on at home, at some point, Olivia will gain the confidence she needs to shout those words out. Or, okay, maybe just say them loudly enough for someone across the table to hear.

Not only do I want her teachers to know how amazing she is, I want Olivia to know how amazing she is. I want her to have the confidence to speak out in class, to know she’s cracked that reading code and want to let the rest of the world to know it too.

I’ll keep reminding her of how amazing she is and I have to have faith that someday she’ll believe it too.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Last night Alyssa and I stayed up until the ungodly hour of 11pm watching Under the Dome. Yes, I am letting my ten year old watch this. There are scenes I tell her to not watch and I mute the tv while she looks away but come on, she’d ten. She’s a ten year old who asks questions about things she doesn’t understand.

I love that about her.

Okay, I admit it, there are a lot of things I love about this girl.

Anyway, a baby was born on the show and near the end of the episode the new mom was shown in bed, snuggling her newborn, gazing lovingly into the baby’s eyes.

I announced, “Babies are boring.”

Alyssa laughed at me, sounding a little insulted.

I said, “It’s true. Babies are really boring. But ten year olds? They’re awesome. You can have actual conversations with ten year olds. Ten year olds can get themselves something to eat if they’re hungry. They can share their opinions, thoughts and concerns with you in a comprehensive way.”

Alyssa shrugged at me and went to the fridge. I had, after all, mentioned that she was able to feed herself when she’s hungry.

I think back to those early days of motherhood, those days when the hours seemed to drag because babies are so, so boring. Sure, they’re cute but they lay there and they blink and they eat and they poop and then they need to sleep again.

Unless they’re Olivia, then we replace the blinking part with screaming and well, you’ve got boring and LOUD.

My girls are so much more interesting and fun now than they were during those early days of infancy.

Though I do admit that once upon a time I worried greatly about what I’d do with them when they gave up naps. But guess what? By the time that happened, they were already more interesting and fun than they’d been when they needed eleven (or three, who’s counting?) naps a day.

All this is not to say that there are not days when I’m counting down the hours and minutes to bedtime but those days are further and fewer between than they were ten and six years ago.

I know how lucky I am to get to enjoy the company of these smart, funny girls. I want to cherish these moments even as I anticipate it just continuing to get better and better.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Getting There

Tom and I attended his high school reunion this past weekend.

The day before the reunion, my mom asked me what I planned to wear. I told her I wasn’t sure yet.

She said that if I wanted to go sleeveless…

She stopped when she saw the look on my face.

I haven’t worn a sleeveless shirt since 1995. The dress I wore in my brother’s wedding a few weeks ago was sleeveless but that was a VERY special occasion and I was still hyper-aware of my stupid arms most of the day.

But, my logical mind whispered, you’ve lost 52.5 pounds. Don’t you think maybe your arms are smaller?

Sure, the mean girl in my head sneered. They’re smaller than ENORMOUS, which means they’re just huge now.

To stop the fighting going on between the voices in my head, I went home and measured. My arms are two and a half inches smaller now than they were back in December. I consider that to be a pretty good improvement.

Not a tank top or sleeveless blouse improvement but definitely a tangible improvement.

But then, just because I had the measuring tape out and knew the comparison number, I measured my waist. I’d last had it measured at work for a health program back in October, so yes, ten-ish months ago. And what do you know? My waist is now seven inches smaller than it was all those months ago.

That, my friends was an ego boost. The arms? Still need some serious work but that waist? It’s making me pretty darned happy.

Friday, August 2, 2013


I’ve got nothing today but I want to get that silly ‘sad’ bean story out of first place.

Things are good. Life is good. But good can be boring too. And that’s okay. I’m happy with boring.

Tom and I are going to his 35 year high school reunion tomorrow night. So there’s that. He laughed last night saying that we’d probably be the only people at the reunion who have to leave a decent time because we have little kids at home. And that’s true. I mean, do many people celebrating 35 years out of high school have a ten year old and a six year old? Probably not many women, I’m betting. I mean, Tom was 42 when Alyssa was born. He was 46 when Olivia was born. While yes, Halle Berry is currently pregnant by ‘surprise’ not many women have babies at 46.


My mom is watching the girls for us tomorrow evening. I have to confess that we’ve never left the girls with anyone but family. And by family, I mean my mom and/or step-dad. Is that weird? Probably.

I did jokingly suggest that if my mom wasn’t available to watch them, we could drop the girls off at my brother’s house. Tom didn’t get the joke. He replied, “I’d stay home first and let you go to the reunion alone.”

Which…uh, no. But seriously, it was a joke. My brother and his new wife have five dogs, two cats and a rabbit or three. All those creatures live INSIDE their house. That right there is a nightmare for Olivia. She hates visiting their house because of all the dogs. Four of the five dogs are small yappy, jumpy, obnoxious dogs who want to be petted and held. Olivia hates dogs. She hates dogs that jump on her and lick her. The few times we’ve visited my brother’s house, she insists on being held so she’s above the dogs’ reach at all times. I wouldn’t subject her to that.

I don’t have anything against people having animals in their home. That’s a choice we all have to make for ourselves. Tom and I made the decision that animals (other than Bomber the betta fish) aren’t welcome in our house. We came to the agreement that Orville the cat can live in the garage but even that is pushing it for Tom. He’s very anti-animal hair in the house and Orville does like to lay right next to the door and leave hairballs that sometimes get trailed in by unaware feet.

So yes, he didn’t appreciate my joke about leaving Olivia in a house filled with dogs and cats and even rabbits. Even though I’d never actually do that and I’m pretty sure he knows it.

For the record, my mom’s cat, Prissy, lives inside too but she and Olivia have a mutual respect for each other. They ignore each other completely and everyone is happy. Orville could learn a thing or two from Priss.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I was so sad. So, so sad.

The night had gone so well. I’d maintained an air of patience as I scratched Olivia to sleep. Alyssa was quietly working on a combination lock in preparation for fifth grade which will bring lockers with actual locks she’ll have to figure out. She’s been stressing over this for the past week or so as school looms in the fairly near future.

But when I extricated myself from beneath Olivia’s legs on the couch and made my way to the kitchen I saw that the living room light was on. That light is never on. I checked. And there he was. The sight brought just a little sadness but I pushed it back down and went back to watching Master Chef. Ahh yes, good guilty pleasure television will take away any sadness.

Except it didn’t because I glanced over and saw that he’d left something in front of the back door. He’d left it for me.

With resignation, I got to work but the work made me so sad.

Snapping green beans in preparation for canning is such a sad, sad job. It is so monotonous and even, sometimes, gross. There are often slimy bits on the beans. What are those slimy bits? I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.

So I snapped and snapped and snapped some more. Alyssa laughed at me each time I lamented just how sad I was. Then she’d toot and announce the toot, to which I’d reply, “You’re toots aren’t making me any less sad.”

Tom was no help either. Each time he ventured into the kitchen I’d tell him how sad this job was making me. He’d just say, “I know. I’m sad too.” Then he’d go back to his own sad job.

But hey, the bucket holding the beans didn’t turn out to be bottomless. I did reach the bottom and then, glory of glories, the last bean. And the sadness lifted. The beans were done. Until the next picking. Which can be almost as sad a job as snapping.