Friday, February 28, 2014

The Sister Mom

Alyssa has this habit of trying to mother her sister.

This wouldn’t be much of a problem if she peppered a little affection and nurturing into her parenting. Unfortunately, she tends to only want to mother Olivia when she feels Liv needs to be instructed on proper behavior or when she feels Olivia needs to be admonished for something Tom or I had just talked to her about.

At this point, it’s just annoying. I realize that this is probably just normal sibling interaction. I also notice that it doesn’t bother Olivia at all. She pretty much ignores any and all of Alyssa’s instruction. But it bothers me and it bothers Tom.

We can both often be heard saying to Alyssa, “She doesn’t need you to parent her. She already has two!”

Alyssa will then roll her eyes and say something like, “Well, she wasn’t listening to you!”

And we’ll respond, “So let us take care of it.”

And then she huffs and puffs and stomps off in indignation because we’re so unfair about not letting her tell her sister what to do.


I told my step son during our family Christmas that these days parenting the eleven year old is much more work than parenting the seven year old.

Boundaries! I’m working on helping Alyssa recognize them in other and build them for herself.

These preteen years are tough. I fear the teenage years will be tougher if we don’t get a grip now. And yet, I fear holding on too tight and having her pull so far away there’s no getting her back.

Are we alone in this struggle? Please, please let us not be alone.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Lesson in Independence

Last weekend was a tough poo weekend. Olivia tried to poop several times on both Saturday and Sunday. She’d sit for about ten minutes with her magazine and a heater and nothing would happen. She’d declared, “I’ll try again later.”

We’d sigh over the fact that sometimes this is so hard for her and go about our day.

Monday, I came home from work and Alyssa and I went to my mom’s for a little while. Olivia stayed home with Tom to watch Cops Reloaded because that’s just what she does.

When A and I got home, I asked O if she’d pooed that day. Tom answered that she didn’t. Olivia piped up, “I did too!”

He and I exchanged a look. “When?” he wanted to know.

“When you were outside,” she informed him haughtily. “I had to poo, you were outside so I went in and pooed. I didn’t even use the cushy tushy.”

“Who wiped you?” Tom asked, looking at Alyssa.

Alyssa’s eyes widened and she stepped back in horror. It had obviously never occurred to her that she might be asked to wipe her sister’s butt after a poo.

Olivia rolled her eyes at her dad. “I did. I used toilet paper and then flushed it with the poo.”

“You didn’t use a wet wipe?” he asked.

“No,” she told him. “I didn't need a wipey, I only needed toilet paper.”

And that, folks, is why I’m often found telling my husband that Olivia is capable of so much more than he often gives her credit for.

We might be well on our way to being a houseful of independent poopers. Hooray! I’m so ready to wipe that particular skill right off my resume.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Concert

After being postponed twice due to weather, we finally got to go see Alyssa and the rest of the fifth grade band in concert last night.

It was…as one would expect a fifth grade band concert to be, considering the fact that all of the kids in the band just started learning their instruments this past October.

Yes, it was that good. Or rather, it was the kind of good only parents and grandparents can appreciate. We have a new band director at the school. This is her first year out of college and she seems to be connecting well to the kids. She picked songs they wanted to learn and play, which is a big deal with beginner musicians.

We had to get Alyssa to the school a half hour before the concert began. My mom met us there and once we were seated, Olivia’s first question was, “Can we leave after Lyssie’s done?”

Ahh, the sweet innocence of youth. Ha. “No,” I told her, “we have to stay for the whole thing.”

She rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically. Then she decided she’d like go to the bathroom and try and pee.

The program handed out at the front of the auditoria (what a stupid word) told us that the fifth grade band would perform first, then the sixth grade band, followed by the junior high band and finally, the junior high choir.

We were lucky. The fifth grade selections were short and sweet. After they were finishing, it occurred to me that perhaps my mom would be so kind as to drop me and Alyssa off at home if Tom and Olivia were to escape during the changing of the bands.

I asked her if she was okay with that and once she agreed it was fine with her, I turned to Olivia and asked, “Do you want to go home with Daddy now and have Gram bring me and Lyssie home after the rest of the band?”

That child stood up so fast she almost knocked over her chair. She was not going to let anyone change their mind about her leaving. She took Tom’s hand and led him out of the auditoria without a backward glance. He looked back with an expression of gratitude and followed our seven year old out.

Alyssa found me and my mom in the audience and sat with us for the rest of the concert. She rolled her eyes at me during the choir performance, which…well, it left something to be desired if only because the choir director didn’t choose songs that were entertaining or fun to sing. She chose songs that were, evidently, a challenge to sing. I only assume this because each introduction mentioned it being in a minor key and having several different tempos.

I’ll give the band director credit for making the concert interesting. It’s best one can expect from a concert performed by people ages eleven to fourteen.

I will admit it was kind of neat to see how far each group had come from the group before them. I remember being that fifth grade band member and listening to the class ahead of mine, not able to imagine ever being as good as they were. I love that Alyssa is getting to experience the fun, the joy, the challenge of making music.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Raising Girls

I feel like I really screwed up this morning.

Wait. Let me start over.

I want my girls to grow up with a love for their bodies. I want them to see strong, beautiful bodies when they look at themselves. I don’t want them to do what I do and look upon their bodies with loathing, tearing apart every single feature and describing how ugly, fat, saggy, nasty it is.

And yet, just this morning, Olivia was ogling my boobs as I helped her get dressed. She told me, “You have swingy bosoms.”

I muttered, “Yes, I know, they’re gross. Thanks for noticing.”

Yikes. What a horrible thing for me to have said to my daughter, a daughter who will not doubt someday have swingy boobs and will, because her mother said something awful, hate those very swingy boobs.

For the record, I don’t get to do anything alone. I wasn’t even in the shower when both girls joined me in the bathroom. I stepped out of the shower to find Olivia planted in front of the space heater, cooking her feet. I told her to take of her jammies and I’d help her get dressed. Yes, she’s perfectly capable of dressing herself, but if we want her at school before lunch time, I help her.

And so, I had my towel wrapped around my swingy boobs and my saggy tummy and my droppy butt. But the towel came lose as I helped her put on her tights.

That’s when I said that awful thing. I tried to cover it up. I told her that I hoped she loved her body, even if she ended up with saggy boobs because hers would probably be beautiful.

But I fear the damage was done. At least a little bruising to her sweet, female psyche.

I’m going to try and go forward with a live and learn attitude. I’m going to try and hold in my own body-image issues and self-loathing in hopes to teaching my girls the true meaning of self-love and an appreciation for a body that has done some pretty amazing things, like, you know, grown two human beings, nourished those very human beings and continues to provide comfort and yes, the occasional laugh at the expense of that very body.

I’m going to try. It’s the best I can do.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Teachable Moment

I hate driving. I hate driving in parking lots even more. One of my biggest, non-grammatical pet peeves is when a person drives against the arrows in a parking lot. When a parking lot has slanted parking spaces, there is an obvious direction for the flow of traffic. When someone goes against that obvious direction and forces me, a person who is driving WITH the flow of traffic, to move over in the lane so they can pass me, it makes me a little crazy.

So crazy, in fact, that these days I tend to mouth mean words at the people who are driving like idiots in hopes that these people can read lips and see what fools I think they are. Because, you know, people call about what I think of them.

After a long day in town on Saturday, the girls and I were in the car, pulling out of our parking space, going in the proper direction as indicated by the slants of the parking spaces. And as I started to drive away, another vehicle came at us, going in the WRONG direction. I said, aloud, “What’s your problem, asshole, can’t see the arrows? Or how about the direction of all the other cars?”

Alyssa gasped at my crude language. Olivia giggled.

I apologized. “I’m sorry, girls, I shouldn’t have said that word.”

Alyssa was forgiving. “It’s okay, I hear that work and worse at school all day long.”

This opened the topic for us to discuss what she hears and from whom she hears it. She insists that neither she nor her friends say those kinds of things but some of the other, less civilized kids in her class say things like that.

I reiterated, “I shouldn’t say things like that. Even being angry or frustrated is no excuse. I really am sorry you guys had to hear that from me.”

I am usually pretty careful with my language when the girls are with me. So this slip, while unfortunate, was a rare occasion. I am consoling myself with the fact that Olivia hasn’t chosen to wander around the house calling everyone and everything in her path an asshole. The bright side, people, there’s always a bright side.

Friday, February 21, 2014


I stood with the other parents and grandparents watching the Kindergym class through the window as they warmed up and stretched before their class. Olivia was right there in the middle, moving along with the instructor, doing some pretty awesome star jumps.

Then the instructor told the kids to stand on their x for a few minutes while she and her assistant got the room ready for class.

And O’s concentration ran away. The next thing I knew, she was doing several yoga moves I certainly never taught her.

As she bent and stretched and moved in ways I certainly can’t, I marveled at the fact that this child didn’t walk until she was twenty-nine months old. She didn’t crawl until she was seventeen months old. She didn’t sit up until she was a year old.

I was one of the lucky parents who never had a doctor tell me that Olivia wouldn’t walk or talk or do most of the things that typical kids do. The doctor who finally diagnosed Olivia didn’t put any limits on our girl. She didn’t tell us what Olivia would or wouldn’t do. She told us to take her home and love her and let her show us what she can do.

She told us that Olivia’s big sister would be the best teacher and therapist that Olivia would ever have. She told us to treat Olivia the same way we treated her sister, to expect the same things from O that we expected from A.

And so we did. And look at her now.

Sure, she can’t quite do a cartwheel, but who cares? She can do a forward roll with no hands. She runs, she climbs, she goes up and down stairs just like any other seven year old.

And she does yoga during gymnastics class.

I couldn’t be more proud. Well, maybe I could have been a little more proud if perhaps Olivia had been paying attention to her gymnastics teacher and doing as instructed instead of having her own little yoga class of one.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Their Bond

My mom and my first born daughter have an amazing bond.

This is not to say that my mom and Olivia don’t adore each other, because they do. But there is something special between a Gram and her first born grandchild. That title goes to Alyssa and she holds it closely to her heart.

Because I was in my early thirties before Alyssa was even born, I think my mom started to worry about ever having grandchildren. So when Alyssa finally arrived, it was as if a whole new world opened for my mom. This granddaughter thing was awesome as far as she was concerned. I was lucky that my mom was able to watch Alyssa for me while I worked in those early years. Alyssa and I also stayed at my mom and step-dad’s house several nights a week for several years.

Alyssa has never known anything but unconditional love from several generations.

Last Sunday, the girls and I were going to go to my mom’s for a short visit. Alyssa had called earlier in the day to ask if this was okay. About an hour before we were going to leave, my mom called to let me know my youngest brother needed her to take him to town and she wanted to know if Alyssa wanted to go.

Of course she did. Olivia ran over to ask me what Lyssie was doing. I told her Alyssa was going with Gram but she, Olivia, was stuck with me. She grinned and ran off to do a no-handed flip on the mattress that currently sits on the living room floor.

Alyssa and my mom ended up spending several hours in town that day, just doing everyday things.

I love that Alyssa gets that individual time with her gram. I wish I had more time to give both my girls more one on one time. But I’m lucky that my mom is only a few miles away and that she seems to like us all enough to make even the occasional trip to town with Alyssa possible.

This mom thing is tough. I am so, so fortunate that I have my own mom still here to talk to, to ask for advice, to lean on when things feel heavy. We laugh, we cry, we love. We are so incredibly blessed to be surrounded by so much love.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just Because

We haven’t watched much of the Olympics this year. Instead, we’ve watched back to back to back episodes of The Brady Bunch. We got through season one last week and started on season two a couple of days ago. Alyssa grinned with me at the Brady kids starting singing the theme song at beginning of the first episode of season two.

It’s not that we don’t enjoy the Olympics but sometimes, it’s nice to just sit and marvel at the ordinariness of the Brady kids. Those kids were so obnoxious that my eleven year old gets it. They were all so self-centered and yes, often bratty, that it’s just fun to sit back and watch them wallow in the problems they usually create for themselves.

Yesterday afternoon Alyssa caught Olivia humming the opening theme to The Brady Bunch. Alyssa called out, “Mom, look what you’ve done!”

But she said it with a smile so I didn’t take offense. Neither did Olivia.

I’ll almost be sad when the Olympics are over and the other networks finally bring back new episodes of all our usual shows because that might push our watching of The Brady Bunch to the weekends. Though, to be honest, I’m counting down the days to when the new Hannibal season starts. Nine days, in case you’re wondering. I can hardly wait. Though admittedly The Brady Bunch has made the wait a little easier to take.

It’s been fun to watch Alyssa’s reaction to shows I’ve seen over and over again. It’s cute to watch her try to figure out the plot before the story plays out. She’s a smart one, that Alyssa. I’m trying so hard to remind her often of how young eleven really is. The Brady Bunch is helping.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Closed Again; Figuring It Out As We Go

I thought I was so smart this morning when I told Tom that they probably wouldn’t close school even though the roads were pretty crappy. I called him when I got to work to let him know that the state roads I drive to work were bad enough that I drove between 40 and 45 mph all the way to work. “But,” I said, all knowledgeable and crap, “they probably won’t close school. I think they’re standards have changed. If the roads were like this in December, they’d have closed.”

Shows what I know. When I got to my desk and fired up my email, there it was, a message from the school. Closed again. I called him and ate a little crow. Not much, mind you because, duh. But enough that he was satisfied that I now know I don’t know everything.

Last week, the mother of one of A’s friends mentioned to me concern about a third friend that her daughter and A have in common.

Apparently, this third friend was seen posting inappropriate things on her twitter account. For the record, this friend is eleven years old. The inappropriate thing she posted was an illustration of one of the One Direction boys performing oral sex on one of the other guys in the band.


I asked Alyssa if she’d seen this. She told me she hadn’t. I asked if any of her friends talked about things I could consider inappropriate. She said they didn’t.

I want to believe her. I really do. But each time I tell myself that she’s a great kid and she’d talk to me if something like this were brought to her attention, I hear my husband’s ex-wife saying, “I trust my daughter.”

That same daughter was pregnant less than a year after her mother told me that.

Alyssa is not J. I know this. I am not D, J’s mom. But I also know that sometimes, even as much as we might talk to our kids, we can’t always know everything. Our kids don’t always tell us everything, even when we ask point blank.

So I’m figuring this all out as I go along. I’m talking to her, asking questions, reminding her that she and her friends are still so young, they are still so innocent and have so many years ahead of them to figure out boys and all that boys entail.

I pray I’m doing right by her. I pray I’m keeping the lines of communication open and that she’ll keep talking to me, listening to me, letting me in so I can help her when things get tough.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mommy Fail

So, I feel awful about it but I have to confess that I threw away the Valentine’s Olivia got from her classmates. I just went through the bag, took out the pencils and other collectable items and tossed the rest into the garbage.

And…I didn’t bury them. I just left it all on top, so when she glanced into the trash, she got an eyeful of her Valentines. She just stood there and stared at her precious Valentines piled in the garbage.

Poor baby.

We dug them out and tonight I’ll apologize again for letting them ‘fall’ into the garbage.

But come on! In my defense, how long must we keep those things? They were cluttering up the kitchen counter. I honestly didn’t think she’d ever want to look at them again.

If I’d only thought to put them a few layers down under the cereal box and the package from the macaroni and cheese, she might not have ever thought about them again. Instead, I might have scarred her for life by tossing them and leaving the evidence.

So we’ll keep them a little longer. We might even sit down together tonight and I’ll let her read her friends’ names to me and we can oooh and ahhh over the pretty and silly Valentines she got from her kindergarten peers. And maybe, just maybe, I can soothe the burn of her seeing those sweet Valentines piled in the trash like so much clutter.

Friday, February 14, 2014

An Embarrassment

I got to spend most of my day yesterday at my girls’ school. I dropped them off at school at 7:45. Went back at 10:30 to have lunch with Livie and then was back by 1:00 for O’s party.

While there for lunch, I was walking back from the cafeteria (they call it the auditoria at the girls’ school. I think this is a really stupid word. Sorry. I’m sticking with cafeteria.) with O’s class and we came upon Alyssa’s class as they were making their way from recess (inside, because, yeah, it’s still sub-zero cold here) to the cafeteria for their own lunch.

As Alyssa passed me and her sister, she covered her face, as if too embarrassed by our mere presence to even acknowledge that she knew us.

I’ll admit, it stung. I wondered if she thought she was being cool by acting that way or if she was truly embarrassed by us.

I’d like to stop here and say that I was mature and just let it go, figuring that she’s eleven and in fifth grade and that’s what eleven year old fifth graders do.

Except that’s not how I handled it. Not even close.

On the way home from school, I asked Alyssa if her friend T is embarrassed by her mom. Alyssa was in good spirits and answered quickly and happily, “Yes!”

I then asked, “So, are you guys truly embarrassed by us or do you just say you are because it’s the cool thing to say?”

She replied, “Oh, we’re really embarrassed by you.”

And I still didn’t just let it go. I went on, “Well, the only reason I ask is so I can figure out a way to not embarrass you.”

She shrugged and asked for another Rice Krispy treat.

When we got home, I told Tom about the incident. He told me, “You can’t be bothered by something your obnoxious eleven year old said.”

I shrugged. Sure I can, I thought.

So off we went to gymnastics.

Alyssa’s two hour class gets one break during which the girls come out to the waiting area to get a drink of water. As she passed me and Olivia, I mentioned that we’d be stopping at KFC for chicken on the way home. She smiled and went back to class.

But wait, my obsession with being an embarrassment is not over. After we got the chicken and started home, I asked Alyssa, “Would you rather I not talk to you when you’re out of class for those few minutes?”

She sighed. “Mom, I was kidding about you really embarrassing me. I like feeling embarrassed by you, but I never really do. I just think it’s fun to act embarrassed.”

I let it go with that. Because I’m mature and all.

But seriously, one thing I really, really don’t want to be is an embarrassment to my kids. I can handle being the silly, fun mom or the mean mom who won’t let her fifth grader take her electronic device to school even though every single other kids takes theirs. But I don’t want to be an embarrassment. And if I turn into one, I’d like to figure out what I’m doing to cause it and fix it.

Like I said, I’m so mature and self-confident.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Party Prep

The school the girls attend has three parties are year for grades K through 4. Mothers are asked at the beginning of the year to volunteer to either plan the party or help the planner with the party.

I volunteered to plan the Halloween party and the Christmas party. I was lucky enough to have a co-planner for the Christmas party.

I volunteered to merely help at the Valentine’s day party, which is tomorrow.

Last night while O was in the bath, I used craft tape to adhere six rectangular pieces of felt together. I then used pipe cleaners and more felt and made some arrows. I used fabric paint and made an outline of a cupid on the big, taped-together pieces of felt.

I used more craft tape and attached some felt to the back of two masks, which will serve as blindfolds for my homemade Pin the Arrow on Cupid game. Their kindergartners, I’m lucky they don’t know to expect more from me.

Tonight, I’ll make two sheets of pink Rice Krispie treats which will be chilled and then cut into heart shapes. I’ll trace the outside of the hearts with red frosting and that will be that.

The party is tomorrow because the girls originally had Friday off school. But the school decided to turn that day into a makeup day for all the days missed due to bad weather. Better now than in July right?

I love that I get to do these kinds of things. I love that Olivia enjoys having me in her class, interacting with her classmates and seeing her in her ‘other’ world.

I also know that as the kids get older, the games/crafts/snacks will probably have to get more creative. Last year Alyssa’s class enjoyed a lot of BINGO and cake pops.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


On Sunday, the girls and I sat in our warm room (the room that gets the blast of heat from the electric heater Tom set up to try and keep from having to call to order propane while it’s hideously expensive) and wrote out Valentines for their classes.

Obviously, Alyssa did all of hers, from signing her own name to writing the names of her classmates on the cards. Typical fifth graders are awesome as writing their names and the names of others.

I had Olivia write her own name one thirty-two valentines and then I wrote the names of each of her classmates because, yeah, having her write her classmates’ names on the cards would have frustrated both of us to no end.

She wants to dot the lower case i with a circle. This drives me insane. Did you know there are two lower case i’s in the name Olivia. There are! This made her name look messy and well, illegible.

I suggested to her that she try just dotting those i’s with a dot. She shrugged at me. I pressed the point a little more firmly, saying that an i doesn’t have a circle at the top of it, it has a dot.

The rest of her Valentines were beautiful with little dots above those i’s. I made sure to praise her for the excellence of her dots. I mean, sure, those circles are way more fun to write than a single little dot but the dots are so nice and precise. And, I reminded her, she has that big, lovely O at the beginning of her name for all her circular needs.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Olivia’s class has a color system so the kids can be aware of their behavior and adjust it as necessary. They start out on green, move to yellow if their behavior becomes less than favorable and down to red if things get really bad. They have the option of changing their behavior throughout the day in an effort to get back to green.

I actually did not know about this system until last Friday. See, Olivia has never been on anything but green. That’s not a brag so much as just a statement of fact. Olivia’s social issues are more internal than external. She’s not one to act out so much as she’s one to pull into herself when she’s overwhelmed. Sort of the idea ‘special needs’ student, I’d think, if you’re a teacher with a lot of special needs kids in your classroom.


How did we find out about the color system on Friday? Because Olivia came home Friday afternoon with a bone to pick with her father. She was pissed at him, is what she was.

She came home and gave him hell. Why? Because he’d forgotten to put her backpack on her that morning. And showing up to school without a backpack and thus, without your folder, automatically puts a child on yellow for the day. There is no way to adjust your behavior to move off yellow when your backpack and folder are at home.

Tom said it was the funniest little rant he’s ever been subjected to. I wish I’d been there to see it. He also said he’ll never forget to put her backpack on her again. When he said that Olivia put her hands on her hips and declared, “You better not!”

I think perhaps the teacher’s point was made. Even if O’s dad forgets her backpack in the future, SHE won’t forget to remind him. And isn’t that part of growing up? She’s becoming more responsible for her own things. I’m beginning to think landing on yellow wasn’t the worst thing to happen to her, even if at the time, she felt like it was.

Friday, February 7, 2014


I feel like some may think I sugarcoat our life. I know I am more prone to talk about the great things Olivia is doing and how smart she is and how funny she is.

So, in the spirit of honesty and keeping things ‘real’, I’ll list a few things that others might think of as negative aspects of a child with 5p- syndrome. Forgive me, though, if you find me putting a positive spin even on the less spectacular aspects of our reality. It’s just what I do.

Eating. Tom and I still tend to feed Olivia. Sure, she’s perfectly capable of holding a spoon or fork and getting food from her plate to her mouth but it can take forever and it can be messy. She likes having us feed her, prefers it over feeding herself and so, it’s what we do. It means she tends to eat more at each meal, which is always a plus when you have a child on the smaller side of average. It also means that meals take half as long as they would if we made/let her feed herself. On the bright side, she doesn’t have a feeding tube. She’s never had one and we’re so incredibly lucky in that regard.

Potty training. Olivia still wears a Pull Up at night. She’s fine all day long, pees and poos in the toilet just fine. Sure, she needs one of us to turn on the water in the sink after she’s finished because the water is hard to turn on in our house. But she can turn it off by herself, which, yay.

I don’t know if the night-time thing is a 5p- thing or if it’s just how our family rolls with peeing at night when you’re seven. I was a bed-wetter until I was at least eight years old. My poor mother had to wash sheets a lot when I was a child. They didn’t have Pull Ups when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Alyssa was also older than seven when she finally was able to go Pull Up free. So we have a history of being late nighttime potty bloomers, if you will.

Attention span. Olivia has the attention span of a gnat. Seriously. It can be infuriating when sitting with her doing kindergarten homework. Homework that should take maybe five minutes can run as long as twenty because she’s distracted by everything from a button on her shirt to a dust mite floating past her. She eventually gets it done but only after I’d pulled her back on task over and over and over again.

Sleep. Yes, it’s gotten so much better in the past couple of months. But before that it was horrible. Again, I don’t know if this is a 5p- issue or my own personal brand of stupid parenting mistakes but until the past few weeks, Olivia never, ever consistently slept through the night. She woke up at least twice, often more than that, just to make sure I was nearby. She’s always been fairly easy to get to sleep, just about twenty minutes of back/arm/leg/finger scratching and she’s out. I often wonder if those movies and television shows where parents tuck their kids in, turn off the light and leave the room while their kids are still awake are based in reality and I’m just living a special kind of sleep hell or if maybe more parents/kids are like us, needing special rituals, etc. to get kids to sleep.

Friends. Olivia does not care if she has friends. She will not (cannot?) speak to hear peers at school. Just last week she took a giant step and shared some of her lunch with a classmate who spoke to her first, asking if she could have a mini blueberry muffin. Olivia nodded and handed the girl a muffin. But she still didn’t actually talk to her. I worry about this.

What happens when O wakes up (assuming she will) socially and realizes that she wants friends but all those peers have already made lasting friendships and she’s on the outside looking in? Will second grade be too late to make friends? What about fifth grade? At what age are friendships solidified? I realize that even if her classmates do pair up as ‘besties’ in a couple of years, that doesn’t necessarily mean O will be excluded should she decide to actually try and make friends. But will she still be behind socially? Even if she wants to make friends, will be she know how?

We’re working with her, we expose her to lots of different venues in which to make friends, school only being one. But she’s sweet and funny and I hate that her peers might never know that because she can’t help but close herself off from them.

I want so much for her. I want her to efficiently feed herself, to be able to sleep through the night without a Pull Up, to be able to sit and do her homework with little to no supervision. And I want more than anything for her to have friends, people she can trust with her deepest secrets, people she loves who love her back. I suppose I want for her what every parent wants for their child, special needs or not. I want her to be happy.

And I may have to reconcile that my version of happy isn't the same as hers. I'm working on that even as I plan what to feed to her for dinner tonight.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Losing Big

I have a confession to make. I watch The Biggest Loser. Worse yet, Alyssa watches with me.

We watch and I try to comment on how unhealthy morbid obesity is and how I hope the people on the show are learning to eat right and exercise more because it’s the healthy thing to do.

I was glad, though, on Tuesday night, that Alyssa fell asleep before the three finalists came on stage.

I’ve been watching this show for years and never have I had a moment of shock and worry when I saw the lone female contest, Rachel, walk on stage. This girl started the competition at 260 pounds. She ended it at 105. And she looked awful. Her arms were so, so thin and her legs were tiny.

It occurred to me that this is a risk when we glorify huge weight loss and pay people to leave their family for months in order to work out six hours a day and ‘learn’ how to eat like a thin person.

But I have to admit that while I worried about that girl on the screen, that tiny girl who lost 155 pounds in probably six or so months, I also secretly admired her. I know. I know! It’s sick and sad and I hope she doesn’t lose more weight and that she is healthy and happy.

The first step to getting better is admitting something might be wrong, right? Our society places so much emphasis on being thin. Which is why I talk about being healthy when Alyssa and I watch the show together. I never, ever want her self-worth to be wrapped up on how much she weighs or what size her jeans are. I want her to be strong and healthy and happy.

For me, though, I have confess that I’m still pretty wrapped up on thinness. I am probably the healthiest I’ve been in years. I lost 59 pounds last year and I’m thrilled by that. But in my secret, evil heart, I found myself admiring Rachel’s control (which she might not even have). I admire the fact that she’s thin to the point of skinny. I know how sick that is and I feel horrible for even writing that.

But there it is. Our world makes being thin so much more important than being healthy. This girl won a quarter of a million dollars by getting skinny.

I don’t even want the money, but I do still, sort of want the skinny. And I know that’s wrong. I know it’s sick and I wish I didn’t feel that way.

But I’m working on it even as I try to foster healthiness in my children. I don’t talk about being thin around them. I talk about eating healthy and going for walks. I offer them healthy snacks and the occasional sweet treat because, duh, life is too short to never eat cookies.

Like I said, the first step to getting past something is admitting, right? And don’t worry, I do not want to weigh 105 pounds. Really, I don’t.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Another Snow Day

Alas, we’ve been hit with another winter storm. This one dropped a couple of inches on us last night and then another seven inches in the span of about three hours this morning.

The girls’ school was closed by 9:30 last night, freeing Alyssa to fall asleep at her leisure as she attempted to watch the finale of The Biggest Loser (OMG! The person who won ended up losing 155 freaking pounds. Holy crap!)

I got up at 6 this morning to monitor the weather and, well, duh, to get ready for work because twenty years ago I was stupid and changed my major from secondary education with a concentration in English to a BA in English Literature, so, yes, I have to work because I don’t work at a school.

I left for work at 7:10, about twenty minutes before I’d normally leave. I figured I was giving myself plenty of time to get to work. Alas, I made it less than a mile before encountering two vehicles in the ditch. I decided to ditch my own effort to get to work on time and turned around and went home.

It seems I was attempting to travel during the heaviest and blowiest part of the storm.

I waited a couple of hours and headed back out into a much lighter and yet still drifty snowfall.

But the time I was home was well spent. I made blueberry pancakes for Olivia for breakfast; I ran a load of laundry through the washer and I sat with the girls as they played on their tablets. It was a nice way to start my day.

Once I was back on the road, I only drove about 35mph the entire way to work. This seemed to have enraged the driver of a semi who came up on me when I was about halfway to work. He ended up passing me after riding my tail for several miles. Sadly for me (lucky for him) I did not come upon him in a ditch at any point. Why, yes, I can be quite vindictive. Why do you ask?

I’d made it 98% of the way to work, was in fact on the verge of turning into the parking lot when I hit a very slick spot and took a leisurely ninety degree spin, coming to a stop going in the opposite direction of that which I needed to go. I was lucky that there was a parking lot into which I could turn in order to make a course correction.

I made the turn just fine on the second try and reflected on the fact that I was very lucky that there were no vehicles coming in either direction as my car spun on the snow-covered ice.

And how was your day?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Before Olivia was conceived, I worried about how a younger sibling would affect Alyssa. She was my baby, she was my world. She was so perfect and wonderful and I felt selfish for wanting just one more little bit of perfection.

I worried that even if I did get one more speck of perfection, I wouldn’t be able to love that child as much as I love Alyssa.

Of course I was wrong. I was so wrong. Of course, like every parent of more than one child, I learned upon O’s birth that love isn’t finite. That is grows and consumes you and there is always, always room for more people in our hearts.

And I found out that perfection comes about in so many different ways. A geneticist might tell you that Olivia’s chromosomes are not perfect, but I disagree. She’s so perfectly Olivia. Just like Alyssa is so perfectly Alyssa.

I know how lucky I am. I know that having two healthy children is a blessing I cannot take for granted.

I also know that getting to sit and listen to Olivia describe her future is a blessing. The very fact that she speaks to us, in full sentences and even paragraphs defies all that doctors told us years ago. She runs, she does no-handed front somersaults. Seriously, she not only defies research into 5p- syndrome, she also defies gravity.

She asked me last weekend if she’d have big boobs when she’s a mom.

Yes, yes, she’s still semi-obsessed with boobs. She loves them. She no longer wants to touch mine all the time but she thinks about her own and wonders when they’re going to grow enough to warrant a daily bra.

I didn’t let the fact that doctors say she probably won’t be a mother stop me from answering her. “Yes, you’re boobs will probably get bigger when you are a mom.”

She grinned her toothy little kindergartener grin and announced that she was going to have two sets of twins, first a set of girls and then a set of boys. After I made the appropriately positive sounds at that idea, she changed her mind. She’s going to have two boys and a girl instead, with the girl being the older sister and the boys being the younger twins.

One of the first questions I asked our developmental pediatrician when she gave us O’s diagnosis was if she’d pass 5p- on to her kids. The doctor gave me one the only looks of pity this particular doctor ever gave me and said, “If she has children, she’ll have a fifty fifty chance of passing the syndrome on.”

I knew what she meant by both the words and the look. She meant that if Olivia is mentally capable of having children.

Olivia has a lot of dreams. She dreams of getting married, of having babies, of working with me in the same town so we can go to lunch together every day. Right now, she plans for her husband and children to just go ahead and live in the house in which we currently reside, with me and Tom possibly moving to the basement to make room for her and her family.

She’s seven years old. Chances are her dreams are going to grow and change and evolve over the years. And I’m going to help her make them come true. I am never, ever going to tell my daughter what she can’t do. I’m going to let her reach for those dreams and we’ll figure it all out together.

Monday, February 3, 2014


I love sharing reruns (or DVDs) of television shows from my youth with my kids.

Alyssa, lucky girl that she is, has seen almost every episode of all seven seasons of Star Trek Voyager. She’s also seen every episode of every season of Bewitched as well as Wonder Woman.

I recently ordered the complete set of The Brady Bunch to watch with the girls.

Last weekend, I discovered a DVD of shows from The Carol Burnett Show. Alyssa and I sat down to watch them and we laughed until our stomachs hurt.

She asked later if I had any more to episodes so we could watch more together. I didn’t have any more episodes on DVD so instead we watched a bunch on Youtube. The elephant story as told by Tim Conway has us rolling in laughter.

I love that these things are surviving the test of time. If an eleven year old in 2014 can appreciate the humor of a Carol Burnett sketch, this world isn’t as far gone as one might think.