Wednesday, November 27, 2013

One Stop Shopping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay!! Let’s do this.

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously, it worked.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Party for a Seven Year Old

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

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

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

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

Everyone was available and a party was planned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 22, 2013


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

Then he bounded away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Big Ugly Mess Just Wishing for Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahhh, silence.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Good Kid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Relaxed Travelers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope I succeeded.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

And Away We Go

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mourning the Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cries in the Night

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

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

They settle and I can go back to sleep.

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

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

But she didn’t. She continued to cry.

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 8, 2013

That Other Girl

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

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

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

What more could a parent or teacher ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Typical Olivia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mitch was probably about fourteen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chock Full of Irritants

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

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

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

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

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

She settled down and I went back to bed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Third Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 1, 2013


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

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

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

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

Alyssa thinks Tom is being mean to her.

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

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

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

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


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

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