Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

This morning the first thing Alyssa asked when she woke up was, “Today’s New Year’s Eve, isn’t it?”

When I answered in the affirmative, she let out a whoop and declared, “I’m going to eat all day long!”

Olivia joined in the celebration and said, “Me too! Let’s start with donuts!”

So they did.

See, Alyssa is an evening snacker. She would snack up until her eyes slammed shut if we let her.

But we don’t because, well, duh, it’s not good for a body or a body’s teeth, to eat all evening long.

So the kitchen closes around 8:30 each evening, much to Alyssa’s disgust and annoyance.

But Tom told her last week that on New Year’s Eve this year, she could eat all night if she wanted to. And she’s been counting down the days (much like Ryan Seacrest is going to count down the seconds in about fourteen hours) until today, the day when she can snack all night long if she chooses.

So that’s our plan for ringing in the new year. We’re doing to watch back to back to back episodes of Quantum Leap and eat and eat and eat until we pass out in a carb-induced coma. Is there anything better to do on a Wednesday night?

I think not.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Balancing the Workload

As mentioned yesterday, we’re doing a lot around the house to make it, umm, better, cleaner, more organized.

And by ‘we’ I mean Tom is doing a lot around the house to make all of the above happen.

And this bothers me. IT makes me feel like I’m not doing my part in taking care of our home.

I appreciate so much all that he’s doing and I don’t think he feels like he’s doing more than I do but I feel that way and it makes me cranky and resentful.

We’ve painted the ceilings in every room on the first floor. And this is not a case of the royal ‘We’. I mean, we both actually picked up a paint roller (not the same roller at the same time because, eww, that would be stupid and awkward and make the painting take forever) and rolled paint onto the ceiling. It was not fun but the ceilings look ever so much better. For reals.

The painting of the ceilings took place after Tom laid new flooring in the entry, hall, kitchen and dining area. The installation of the flooring necessitated the removal of all the trim in those rooms. So while the trim was off, he painted the walls.

I think I painted a tiny portion of the kitchen. Maybe a sixteenth of the room. I don’t know. It definitely doesn’t feel like I did much. Read, it doesn’t feel like I did enough.

I find myself trying to justify the fact that he painted almost everything by pointing out that I put up the Christmas tree all by myself and I bought all but two of the Christmas presents we gave away (he bought two mats from Menards for J and D, his sons) and I wrapped all those presents.

I also baked an insane amount of cookies, brownies, fudge (wait, you don’t bake fudge.) I also cooked all the meals while I was home for five-day weekend.

But that doesn’t actually make me feel any better. I also managed to watch the entire first season of Quantum Leap and have started the second season. So yeah, there is a lot more I could be doing except I don’t want to. I want to watch the dreamy Dr. Sam Beckett leap from life to life, putting right what once went wrong.

I know. I should probably grow up.

But painting is boring and besides, Tom’s basically got it all done, so there is that.

I want to find a way to feel balanced. I want to figure out how to contribute to the family as much as I think Tom contributes. But I also kind of want to figure out how to do it without having to expend much more energy than I already do.

Sigh. Maybe I need an attitude adjustment rather than an energy boost. Something to ponder as I fire up the next episode of Quantum Leap (first line of this episode: “Oh my God, I’m Popeye.”) Ha. Hahahahah.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Taking the Tree Down

So the Christmas tree came down yesterday. I felt almost bad about it. Partly because yesterday was only December 28. Another reason I felt a little bad about taking down the tree is that I had four boxes of Christmas decorations that sat waiting to be unpacked and placed about the house.

We didn’t get much out and up other than the tree.

Tom’s been doing some home improvement stuff for a couple of months and everything felt really hectic. The trim is off all the walls in the kitchen. The pantry door is currently leaning against a wall in the living room. The furniture in the family room is in the middle of the room as Tom paints the walls.

But the girls didn’t seem to mind. The tree is the main decoration and once the star was atop the tree, everyone (read: Olivia) was happy. See, the tree needs to be up so that the presents can go under it. Duh.

The rest is just extra and when you’re eight and twelve, the extras aren’t that big a deal. I feel like they cut me a break this year. I’m grateful for that.

Maybe next year the house will be in a better state and we’ll get everything out.

But for now, the tree is down for another year and everyone is glad to have the front window back. Olivia asked Tom this morning when he was going to move the rocking chair back to the window. She likes to lounge in that chair and let the sun warm her while she reads. She’s a girl after my own heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Team Work - The Episode with the Barf

I’d been asleep for about a half hour last night when I heard the dreaded sounds of gagging and puke hitting the sheet as Olivia struggled to sit up in her bed and spew copious amounts of vomit on every single blanket, sheet and pillow in her bed.


Ahem, I mean, poor baby. I got her out of bed and helped her to the bathroom, dropping chunks along the way.

I helped her rinse out her mouth and then started the bath. There was puke in her hair, all over her pajamas, everywhere. She couldn’t go back to bed like that. I put her in the warm bath and then stripped her bed, being careful not to dribble anymore of the nastiness around the room than we’d already spread.

I got Olivia some juice, asked her if her stomach still hurt, washed her hair, got clean pajamas for her and helped her dry off and put on those pajamas.

She was pale but not running a fever so I got a bucket and then put her in my bed. She fell back to sleep almost instantly. Puking and then middle of the night bathing is a lot of work for a frail eight year old.

She slept soundly all night with nary another tummy rumble.

This morning the first thing she said to me was, “Can I go tell Daddy that I barfed last night?”

Ha! It might have been the most exciting (and disgusting) thing to happen to her this month. Poor kid.

Tom took the news well, though he did tell her that she should settle in to rest on the older, crappy recliner rather than on the nicer, newish couch. She ignored him, getting all comfy on the very couch Tom tries to preserve, even three years into owning it.

I reminded him that she’s puked on that couch before and that he’s proven he’s a pro at getting red puke stains out of the upholstery. He reminded me that he’d been able to do that because I’d been there to tend to Liv while he took on cleaning duty.

He’s right. When the kids puke, my first inclination is to take care of them. His first instinct is to clean the furniture.

We agreed that we make a pretty good team.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Good Mother

About a month ago, Tom, the girls and I were at a birthday party for Tom’s grandson. It was a family/friend party and the kids were running around, flipping on mats, wrestling, etc. You know, all the usually things kids do when they get together.

I was sitting next to my step-daughter-in-law’s grandmother (that was kind of like saying I heard a story from the cousin of my best friend’s sister-in-law’s neighbor’s grandson, wasn’t it?)

Anyway, this woman and I were making small talk and she glanced over at her granddaughter, who happens to be my step-son’s wife. Let’s call the granddaughter/wife K. K was sitting with her oldest child, the birthday boy, as he opened the presents people had brought to the party. They were reading each card before he opened the present attached.

It was a sweet moment between a mother and her child.

K’s grandmother leaned over and said to me, “She’s such a wonderful mother. Her children know so much love and yet they also understand boundaries. She makes them mind while reminding them of her love every day.”

I hope with all my heart that K’s grandma tells her this. It’s great that she whispers it to distant relatives at parties but I hope she’s says those words to K.

Every mother deserves to hear that someone out there thinks she’s a wonderful mother.

Honestly…I’ve never actually heard those words from someone close to me.

I doubt myself as a mother every single day. I worry that I’m too lax, too strict, too lazy, too busy, too tired, too involved, not involved enough.

Sure, I’ve read the words here, from friends and strangers alike, who tell me they think I’m a good mother through reading the snippets of our life that I choose to share.

But those closest to me, my husband and my mother, for example, have never said those words to me. I think (I hope?) they assume I know they think I’m a good mother.

But I don’t know this. I suppose if they thought I was a terrible mother they’d intervene and keep my children safe from me. So I can assume that since no intervention has ever happened, they think I’m at least good enough to keep mothering?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that mothers need to hear these words. They need those closest to them to say the words, “I think you’re a wonderful mother.”

We moms are often so hard on ourselves. The voices in our heads are so shrill and uncompromising. It would be nice to mute them every once in a while by hearing from those we trust, those we respect that the voices are wrong, that we’re doing this important job well.

If you know a really great mom, please tell her. Tell her how great she is, tell her how much you admire and respect the job she’s doing raising her children. Let her know that you see how hard it is and that she’s amazing just because she keeps doing it day in and day out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Minecraft; Punniness; A "Funny" Dad

Alyssa and Olivia tried to explain to me what Minecraft is all about.

“Mom,” Olivia said, “it’s more than just breaking blocks. You build stuff out of blocks too. And you’re a block head!”

Alyssa laughed and agreed, “And the animals are blocks too. Weirdly, “ she continued, “the younger animals have bigger heads than the adult animals.”

“So their heads get smaller as they get older?” I asked, confused.

“Pretty much,” Alyssa shrugged.

“And the animals are block heads too,” Olivia laughed, loving her own joke so much she couldn’t stand it.

Yeah, I’m all clear on the lure of Minecraft now.
While we shopping last weekend, the girls and I were looking for my mom.

We passed a rack of Christmas-themed shirts. Olivia started giggling. “Did you see that shirt?” she asked through her laughter.

“I didn’t,” I said. “What was so funny about it?”

Still laughing, she said, “It had a dog on it and it said, ‘Bah hum pug.’” She laughed harder and asked, “Get it? Bah hum…PUG!”

She found that pun so hysterical she had to share it with my mom and even attempted to explain it to Alyssa, who wasn’t laughing and, as far as Olivia was concerned, must not get the joke.

Upon Olivia’s second attempt to explain how funny the shirt was, Alyssa snarked, “Yes, Livie, I get it.”

Olivia raised her eyebrows and inquired, “Then why aren’t you laughing?”

Alyssa just rolled her eyes.
We’ve received a few packages from Amazon in the past couple of weeks as online gift orders are filled.

Each time a new one comes in, Olivia will ask, “Who is that one for?”

And Tom will inevitably answer, “That’s top secret.”

Exasperated, Olivia will tell him, “Dad! I’m not asking what it is. I’m asking who it’s for!”

This exchange is often repeated several times before Olivia gives up and finds me to ask who the package is for. I’m not nearly as ‘funny’ at Tom is and usually just give her a straight answer the first time she asks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Alyssa made this picture the wallpaper on my phone a few days ago.

When I really looked at it, I was surprised to see how much she actually looked her age, instead of several years older, as she usually looks in pictures these days.

See? She doesn’t always look like a sullen teenager. Sometimes, she just looks like an eleven year old who is happy to have a unicorn that’s bigger than she is.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Not-So-Restful Weekend

Whew, I feel like I needed to go to work today just to get a break.

This weekend felt like it sped by, what with shopping with my mom and the girls on Saturday, a family gathering on Sunday and baking during the very few downtimes we managed to find.

When I finally sat down yesterday evening to watch Once Upon a Time with Alyssa, I felt like I’d been going all day long. Why does being in a car for over an hour each way tire a body out so much?

But cookies were baked (and eaten, which is the best part), fudge was stirred, gifts were exchanged and hugs were shared.

When we got home baths were taken, books were read, backs were scratched and little girls slept.

All in all, a pretty darned good way to spend a couple of days.

This morning when I woke her up, Olivia mumbled, “Is today Monday?”

When I told her it was, she groaned. Then I told her that she only had this week before she got two whole weeks off for Christmas break.

That woke her right up. She said up and gave a vigorous, “Yay!”

Do I know how to turn a frown upside down or what?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Least Blurry of All the Blurries

I took probably a bazillions pictures of Olivia on Monday evening before her program, hoping for just one decent picture.

That child...she loves to pose silly and go all Top Model on me.

But it wasn't her fault most of the pictures didn't turn out. It seems I'm a crappy photographer. Ah well.

Here's the least blurry of all the blurry pictures I took of her that night.

She's cute even when she's slightly blurry and being silly.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Finding Her Star

We put up the Christmas tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Olivia was beside herself with excitement over getting to put on the first ornament.

Alyssa was too busy playing a game on the computer to get too excited but once I pulled her away from electronic devices, she participated pretty well.

All was well as we strung lights, hung bulbs and snowflakes but toward the end of the evening, we still hadn’t found our star.

Olivia couldn’t stand it. Where was the star? What about the star? Why hadn’t we found the star yet and put it on the tree?

I have five boxes of Christmas decorations. FIVE. I know, it’s ridiculous. I was lucky that the first one I opened contained the ornaments for the tree.

But it took me several days (you know, what with having to leave the house for work and all) to go through the rest of the boxes.

And of course the star was in the fifth box. Of course it was.

But all is well in Miss Olivia’s world. The star has been placed on top of the tree and Christmas can commence.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Olivia had her Christmas program last night at school. Tom had to be away from home around the time the girls would have gotten off the bus, so they got off at my mom’s instead.

When I arrived to pick up the girls, my mom informed Olivia, “Livie, if I thought you’d actually sing at your program, I’d come and watch you.”

Olivia smiled at her and said, “I’m not going to sing, Gram.”

And she didn’t. She stood there on the risers, a fellow first-grader on her right and a second-grader on her left. She didn’t make a single movement to any of the songs, her lips didn’t even pretend to move along with the lyrics. She stood there and I think she might have even yawned once.

It was sort of hilarious.

But then it got kind of sad when we got home. See, several kids in each of the grades (grades one through four performed) were selected to come down from the risers to sing into the microphone.

When we got home, Olivia asked if we still had an old microphone Tom picked up at an auction (seriously, I think almost everything in our house is something Tom picked up at an auction…)

She wanted it brought up from the basement so she could sing into it.

My girl wants to be more outgoing. She wants to be the kid picked to do a solo but we all know that even if the music teacher had chosen her, she wouldn’t have been able to bring herself to actually sing in front of all those people.

I was that shy kid too. Granted, I didn’t also have 5p- syndrome hampering my goals to be a star but I wanted to be noticed without having to do the actual work it takes to get noticed.

She wants to stand out, she wants to sing into a microphone but only on her terms. And in the end, that’s okay. She’ll work it out, one way or another.

But hey, she rocked her blue dress as she stood on that riser and yawned while all the other kids sang and danced their hearts out.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Dress

Olivia has a program tonight. She asked me last weekend what she was going to wear to her program. I know. It appears this child is all about fashion. I honestly don’t know where she gets this.

Seriously. I’m not so much about fashion. I just want to wear clothes that don’t pinch or dig or look stupid. You know?

So we went to Kohl’s on Saturday to look at their dresses.

Olivia was trying to describe what she wanted in a dress.

She told me, “I want something with sparkle. What is that thing that hangs from the ceiling and spins and the lights shine on it?”

“A disco ball?” I suggested.

“Yes! I want to look like a disco ball,” she clapped her hands in glee at the idea of finding a dress that resembled a disco ball.

Huh. Okay, then. We looked.

She found a blue dress with a short-sleeved fur-type jacket that is worn over it.

Not quite sparkly like a disco ball, but beautiful enough for my girl.

She decided that the blue dress was IT.

Alyssa tried to talk O into a red dress, you know, since this is a Christmas program. Olivia would hear nothing of it. No. She wanted the blue dress. She also declared that she would wear it with white tights, thank you so much.

Alyssa rolled her eyes and Olivia clapped again when I agreed to buy her the blue dress.

I don’t think the fact that the color of the dress was sort of an “Elsa blue” had anything to do with her wanting that dress, do you?

Friday, December 5, 2014

When It's Not One Thing, It's the Other

Is there some law of nature that says when a child is doing one thing well, they have to do another thing badly?

Seriously, I want to know.

See, here’s the thing…I hesitate to even put this in writing because I know there is something out there just waiting for me to write this out so they can cackle with evil glee and flip a switch that will make things horrible again. But…here goes…Olivia has been sleeping well lately.

Yes, I said it. I wrote it. She has slept through the night, in her own bed, for the last three nights and it has been glorious. Then angels have been singing, the birds chirping and the sun shining brightly every single day that this has happened.

But, perhaps because of that wonderful sleep, her eating habits have gone to hell.

For reals. She’s horrible at breakfast, her lunch comes home half eaten and I have to tie her to her chair in the evenings and force-feed her the dinner I slave over.

Tom is at the end of his rope where breakfast is concerned. He’s just about had it with her. He keeps threatening to make me feed her breakfast, which, no. How is that punishment for her? It’s not, it’s punishment for me because it means I’d have to get up at least twenty minutes earlier so that I could fit everything in if I’m feeding her breakfast as well as showering, getting her dressed, doing her hair, packing her lunch, making sure her backpack is ready, blah blah blah.

No. I’m not doing that and he can’t make me. Even his taunting little comment about, “So you don’t want to feed your daughter?” isn’t going to work. I feed that child every single night. I pack her lunch every single day. I FEED my child. He can feed her too.

So yes, things are tough right now when it comes to Olivia and food.

Basically, she’s being a brat. As soon as we relent and let her be done with whatever meal she’s supposed to be eating, she’ll ask if she can have chocolate.

I know! Obnoxious much? Of course we don’t give her chocolate but that doesn’t motivate her to eat the toast we put in front of her at breakfast, or the grapes I packed for lunch or even the mashed potatoes swimming in butter and gravy for dinner.

I know this is partially due to her age. At eight, she wants more autonomy, she’s pushing the rules and trying to figure out what she can get away with. It’s driving us all crazy.

But hey, she’s sleeping great! If I’m being perfectly honest, I’ll admit that I’ll take the good sleep over the eating any day. Why? Because when she’s sleeping badly, it’s all on me. But the bad eating? That stress is spread out over both me and Tom. And I’m all about equality in a marriage.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Light and Fluffy

I’m not feeling all that light and fluffy today but I’m going to try and fake it until I make it (tm Lauren.)

On the note of light and fluffy, the girls’ school is hosting grandparents/friends days tomorrow and grandparents or friends are invited to the school in the morning to watch some programs, listen to the bands and eat lunch with their hosts.

Olivia can barely contain her excitement over this.

Each evening this week she’s asked if Grandparents Day is the day after the day after tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow or yes, even this morning, she woke up with the words, “Is Grandparents Day tomorrow?”

She’s reminded me at least three times this week to call Gram to remind her about Grandparents Day.

Last night just before she fell asleep, Olivia asked me if she was wearing a dress to school on Friday. “It’s Grandparents Day,” she reminded me.

I told her that I’d laid out an outfit she got from her Auntie Janet for her birthday, the one Olivia insisted on changing into during her birthday party because she loved it so much. She grinned and rolled over to go to sleep.

She so very much into clothes these days. I lay out clothes for the week on Sunday afternoon but at least twice a week, she’ll look at the clothes I’ve put out for her, grimace and ask why I picked such boring clothes. I was still laying out Alyssa’s clothes last year, I kind of thought I had a few more years before I was dealing with two picky fashionistas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Three Strikes

So this morning I was brushing Olivia’s hair, as I do every morning because and she was telling me that I was killing her, killing her DEAD with all the brushing.

Tom admonished her, “Stop whining!”

I told him, “She can’t. The poor child has three strikes against her. One, she’s a girl. Two, she’s eight years old and three, she’s my child. Whining is just part of her DNA.”

Then I gave him an apologetic smile and continued to kill my child dead with a hairbrush. Then, when her hair was as dead as I could make it, I braided it in the hopes of stalling future killer tangles. I braid it almost every day, though, and so far we haven’t really managed to figure out just the right braid to keep the tangles at bay. Poor kid.

I’ve offered to cut her hair off but she never takes me up on it. Honestly, if she did, I’d hesitate to do it anyway because, well, girls in our family have long hair until they’re old enough to actually take care of their hair themselves, at which point they get to decide what style they want. And that’s that.

So for now, we deal with whining and ‘killing’ each and every morning. You’d think Tom would be used it after all these years. Alas, he’s not and I’m beginning to think he’ll never build up a higher threshold for the whining. I think sometimes it must suck to be him.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Holding Her Back

I occurred to me today that we have not once attempted to teach Olivia to tie her shoes.

She’s eight years old.

Are we holding her back?

Do we, subconsciously, want to keep her helpless and dependent on us?

I want to scream, “No!” in answer to that question but I’m not so sure.

She’s our baby. She likes being the baby and we like having her as the baby.

But are we being fair to her? To us? Probably not.

That makes me sad. I want so much for Olivia. Most of all, I want her to be and do all that she’s capable of being and doing.

And I firmly believe she’s perfectly capable of tying her shoes. Which means we’re holding her back because we haven’t bothered to even try to teach her.

And let’s not even talk about her feeding herself. She’s able to do this. She even actually does it on occasion. But it can take forever for her to eat a meal when she feeds herself and so for the sake of time and less mess, Tom or I tend to feed her more often than not.

This is not helping Olivia develop life skills. It’s not leading to independence. She needs for us to let go, even just a little and let her be eight. Yes, I’m preaching to myself here.

I’m going to try. Tonight we’ll have our first lesson of shoe-tying. It ought to be great fun for all.

Monday, December 1, 2014

There Is No I in Team (But There is One in Whine)

I’ve said before that my husband and I will never go on the Amazing Race because, well, with our temperaments, we’d either end up divorced or one of us would end up dead and the other in jail. And, worst of all, America would hate us. Nobody wants that.

See, we’re pretty good as a team as long as we’re not actually working on anything together.

This past weekend we painted the ceilings in our house. Yeah. It went as well as one might think.

I started in the living room above where the tree would go because the girls really wanted us to get the tree up and decorated. Tom ‘supervised.’

He kept saying things about starting at a specific place and going in the same direction the entire time. I finally asked him if he wanted to demonstrate.

He didn’t.

I asked him what I was doing wrong. He got annoyed and said he just needed to leave.

I might have cried a little because I have sensitive feelings and they were a little hurt. Yeah, that’s just an awesome trait, isn’t it? I confess that I even annoy myself in moments like that, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be Tom.

Let me put it this way. I don’t take criticism well and Tom doesn’t tend to give constructive criticism, even though he thinks it’s constructive, it just sounds critical to me.

In the end, we got it all done and no one was killed or even injured. Feelings might have been bruised when I dared to paint where there was no tarp but even the carpet survived that near-catastrophe.

Note to self, wait until he’s gone to attempt any more home improvement projects.