Friday, January 30, 2015

Hearing VS Listening

At Alyssa’s slumber party a few weeks ago, I was in the kitchen making Rice Krispy treats when Alyssa and one of her guests, G came down the stairs.

I don’t remember now what they were saying as they were walking down the stairs but I commented on it at the time.

Alyssa scowled at me and said, “Were you listening to our conversation?”

“No,” I replied, raising an eyebrow at her tone. “I just happened to hear what you were saying as you were walking toward me.”

“What’s the difference?” she asked, still being just a little bit snippy.

I got a little snippy back at her as I explained. “The difference is that if one is listening to what others are saying, they have to be consciously paying attention, trying to discern what’s being said. I just happened to be within hearing distance as you were talking to each other.”

I continued, “If I were listening, I’d have been upstairs with my ear pressed to your bedroom door. Instead, I was standing here, minding my own business, making a snack for you and your friends and just happened to hear what you were saying.”

G listened carefully to my explanation and grinned in understanding.

Alyssa narrowed her eyes, obviously trying to find a hole in my logic. She finally gave up and admitted that my explanation made sense.

Once I had her acceptance, I told her, “You know how sometimes I have to have Olivia repeat something to me? It’s because I might have been hearing the sound of her voice but not listening to her words. Listening is something you have to actively do with your brain. Hearing is just something your ears do even if you’re not paying attention the sounds around you.”

“Huh,” Alyssa said, already bored with the conversation.

She’ll get it someday, even if I have to tie tell her over and over again so that she isn’t just hearing me but also LISTENING to me.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Peculiar Little Morning People

The school called at 5:50 this morning to let us know that there was a two-hour delay due to icy roads.

My girls have the ability to hear my phone ring from the farthest reaches of the house. They can’t hear the alarm clock that goes off next to their heads but if they’re upstairs in their room they could hear my phone ring even if I was in the laundry room in the basement. They’re peculiar.

The minute the phone rang, both girls sat up straight in bed and asked, “Is it closed?”

I told them that there was just a delay and to go back to sleep.

They did not. I snoozed for ten minutes while Olivia played with a bunny nightlight and Alyssa tossed and turned. One minute before the snooze alarm when off Alyssa stage-whispered, “Livie! Do you want to get up? Let’s go find Dad!”

I looked at the clock and informed the oddballs that the alarm was going off in one minute. Ten seconds later, it went off.

I sighed and Alyssa laughed. I told her, “You guys are peculiar.”

She retorted, “You’re peculiluar.”

I replied, “You can’t call me peculiar if you can’t even say the word. And by the way? You’re peculiar.”

She managed to say the word correctly and they both bounded out of bed and were down the stairs before I could even get the covers off my wake-resistant body.

How did these peculiar children come from my body? How did I manage to have the only two children in the world who are morning people? Tom is a morning person, I get that he gave hem half their DNA but it’s just so strange to me that they’d want to get up at 6am if they don’t HAVE to.

And, lucky them, school was closed about ten minutes after I arrived at work this morning.

I really should have been a teacher. Except for that whole not liking other people’s kids, I’d have been an excellent teacher, what with being able to go back to sleep when school is delayed/closed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Dentist Appointment

Olivia and I drove 45 minutes this morning to an appointment that lasted twenty-two minutes.

It was worth it.

She sees a pediatric dentist for any work she needs done on her teeth. I take her to my regular dentist for cleanings but whenever she needs a filling or anything beyond a cleaning, we trek down to Fort Wayne to see Dr. O.

He’s awesome, his staff is awesome. Olivia has never come out of an appointment in tears.

This time she only needed sealants on her back top teeth. They’re coming in with some grooves, things we can’t fix, things that could catch food particles and lead to cavities. Since we can’t fix the grooves themselves, the dentist seals them over so that cavities are prevented. So much easier than dealing with the cavities after they’ve already formed.

This is the dentist we first saw about three years ago, the one who took the time to research O’s syndrome BEFORE he met with us. He’s one of the first medical professionals to do this…like ever. So yes, I kind of love this guy (from afar, I’m not a stalker or anything.) I recommend him to everyone in the area. He and his entire staff is worth driving forty five minutes for a twenty minute appointment. For reals.

And the best part of the day? I managed to get Olivia to the office at the right time AND…the right day.

I know. Maybe I’m outgrowing some of my flakiness.

Alas, maybe not. While we were paying for O’s procedure today, I got a call from the school.

It was a recording that stated, “This is Your Child’s School. Your child is not in attendance today and no phone call or note was provided concerning this absence.”

In my defense, I emailed Olivia’s teacher yesterday to let her know O would be late to school and see where she should go when I dropped her off.

I mentioned this to the office this morning when I walked Olivia in and Ms. B said that sometimes teachers forget to mention such things to the office. I assured Ms. B that in the future, I’d call the office even if I tell the teacher.

See, it wasn’t all my fault this time. And I’ll find a way to make it not all my fault next time too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sixth Grade Band Concert

Alyssa had a concert last night. This is her second year playing the flute and she’s already better than I ever was. Seriously. Girlfriend has actual talent whereas I had nothing but the determination to practice in an effort not to embarrass myself in class or at concerts.

I will say, though, that going to a sixth grade band concert is pretty much something only parents enjoy and I use the word ‘enjoy’ in its broadest definition.

I will give the sixth grade band credit. They’re better this year than they were last year. Truly. But then, a year’s worth of maturity and practice would make them better right?

I love that Alyssa is embracing music. I loved band, all that non-talent didn’t stop me from enjoying being part of the group. I love that she’s following that path. There’s something about learning to read music, learning to make music, learning to work together with other people to create something that other people can enjoy.

Again, ‘enjoy’ might be a stretch, but you know what I mean.

She’s so grown up these days, at least physically. When we got home from the concert, she still wanted to sit with me, her head on my shoulder, her hand clasping mine.

How lucky am I?

Monday, January 26, 2015


In sixth grade, Alyssa has homework almost every night. This is to be expected. She’s good about doing it right when she gets home just so it’s done. Some evenings she’ll wait until I get home so I can walk her through any math problems she might have; which I find amusing because math is not my strong suit. But we persevere and it gets done.

Last year in kindergarten, Olivia had homework on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

This year…she has no homework…ever.

Weird, right?

Yes, we read each night and we try to remember to review math facts (“But math is so boooooring,” she whines.) but regular, sit down and do it homework? Not so much.

We got the girls’ grade cards last week. Alyssa is a smart cookie and got all 5s and 4s. Her school doesn’t do the letter grading system. Nope, they give 1 – 5 ratings, with 5 being performing way beyond grade level expectations. 4 is given when the student is above grade level expectations. 3 means they student is performing at grade level expectations and two is below. 1 is way below grade level expectations.

Along with her grade card, Olivia also brought home her IEP report. According to her grade card, Olivia is performing mostly at grade level, with a few above and a few below. We’re pretty happy with that.

Her IEP report was good too, for the most part. She’s doing well with cutting and in reading. We need to work in math (again with the boring, perhaps I need to get over that or hand it over to Tom for practice since I’m obviously not helping my child at all in this area.)

One area that needs work, though? Coloring.

Yes, it was suggested in O’s IEP report that we work on coloring at home. Now that’s my kind of homework.

Yesterday after lunch, I went up and found several coloring books, a tub of crayons and markers and put them on the kitchen table. While I made a raspberry pie, the girls wen to town on a Frozen coloring book.

At one point, Olivia declared, “I’m really bad at this.”

I went over to where she was working. I sat down next to her and look at her work.

Yes, there was a lot of coloring outside the lines, a lot of what seemed like random scribbles on the page.

But as she and I examined her coloring page, I pointed out how well she’d done on Elsa’s lips and Anna’s hair. I told her I really liked the awesome colors she’d chosen for the sisters’ shoes and that the lipstick she'd put on them was beautiful. She beamed. She may not have colored those shoes or those lips inside the lines but she'd tried and she was happy to see that I understood what mattered most to her.

See, Olivia has her priorities. Lips and shoes are kind of it. She doesn’t want to color a chicken or a dog. She doesn’t want to draw a cat or a stupid triangle. But she does want to color a pretty girl’s lips pink or red. She wants to make her shoes colorful and sparkly if possible.

We’re going to continue to work with that. I figure if I give her pages to color that she finds interesting, it will give her the practice she needs to color the ones at school that aren’t that interesting.

It’s all about motivation.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Communicating Differently

Can one over-communicate with one’s twelve year old daughter?

Tom and I each communicate with Alyssa differently. When I need her to do something, I explain what needs done, why it needs to be done and what will happen if it’s not done.

Tom issues orders.

Maybe that’s not fair. He tells her to do something and expects her to do it because he said so. There’s actually nothing really wrong with that in a parent/child interaction. I get that he expects her to do what he asks of her because he’s the parent, she’s the child and he’s made a request of her.

I, on the other hand, feel like explaining why I’m asking/telling her to do something makes her more likely to do it with minimal sighing and eye rolling. I want to respect that she’s a person too. Yes, a child-person who came out of me and so should respect my requests simply because I made them but I also feel like that’s not really fair. I don’t appreciate having orders barked at me with not reasoning behind it.

But when Tom does issue an order, I stand behind him (figuratively) and support his position. I might later talk to him about his technique but I try very hard not to undermine him with the girls.

I don’t think either way is right or wrong, they’re just different. But because they’re different, they get very different results.

Tom’s way gets snippy results from Alyssa.

Just last weekend, he asked her, “Do you snip at your mother the way you to at me?”

She looked from him to me and back again. She then replied, “No, but that’s because I like her more.”

Ouch. And…yikes.

To his credit, he actually didn’t take it personally or get mad at her. When she left the room, I took the opportunity to explain again my method of getting her to do what I want/need her to do with minimal resistance. He did mention that maybe I'm over-communicative with her. That because I explain everything, she thinks she can rationalize and even negotiate with him. I told him she doesn't usually try to negotiate with me, she listens to my reasons for asking her to do something then she does it.

We’ll see if it sinks in.

I also took the opportunity later that day to talk to Alyssa about her response and explain that while her dad didn’t take it personally, it was still a hurtful thin to say to him.

She asked, “But why? It’s the truth.”

Ahh, to see the world in black and white only the way kids do.

I told her that we know she loves me and her dad and that she could show her love for him by being more respectful of his requests (she stopped me there and said, “You mean orders?”)

I let that one go and explained that he and I just have different parenting techniques. Neither is right or wrong (she disagreed there too…sigh) but that she needs to understand that we’re both just trying to teach her, to guide her toward being a responsible adult.

We’ll see if it sinks in.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Five Day Headache

Yeah, as the title suggests, I’m on day five of a headache. It’s not a headache that has left me unable to do work, take care of my family, etc. But it is one that is affecting my sleep, making more than just my head ache (see: achy back, achy hips from lack of sleep, achy knees, stiff neck.)

It hurts to sneeze and cough, feeling as if my brain is slamming against my skull when those things happen.

It’s extremely unpleasant.

Yet, I’m hesitant to call the doctor because, well, it’s a headache. It’s not even really that bad, just really annoying because it’s been going on for so flipping long at this point. I feel sort of silly even considering a trip to the doctor for a headache.

Yet…it hurts. I’m tired and I’m cranky and I want it to stop.

I resorted to caffeine today, something I haven’t had in over two years in hopes of getting rid of the pain.

There’s really no point to this post other than my taking this opportunity to whine. It’s what I do. My poor family has had to hear for days and days and days, so here I am, taking it to the internet.

I’m actually getting kind of tired of hearing myself talk about it. Wah, wah, wah.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I think my definition of ‘everything’ and Alyssa’s definition are a little different.

See, yesterday afternoon on our way back from my mom’s Alyssa was complaining about the fact that Tom made her gather the upstairs garbage.

She muttered, “Why do I have to do everything?”

I blinked at her. “Everything? You really think you do everything?”

She started to roll her eyes and give me a snappy comeback but then stopped and really thought about what she’d just said. She finally said, “No, I know I don’t do everything.”

She has, in the last six months, folded three baskets full of towels. She feeds the fish every morning and she refills the napkin holder on the table each time it gets low. She is also asked to make sure the downstairs bathroom never runs out of toilet paper. We have a little narrow cabinet in there that holds five rolls. When it gets down to the last roll, she’s reminded to go get four more.

That’s it. That’s ‘everything’ according to my twelve year old.

I know. I was sort of disgusted too. This kid has it made. They both do. I gently explained to Alyssa, “It’s not unreasonable for your dad to ask you to gather the upstairs garbage. We don’t ask you to do that much around the house.”

She acknowledged sheepishly, “I know.”

I wondered, though, if she really did know. I don’t think either of my girls have any comprehension of what it takes to keep our household running.

So, in the hopes to gently reminding them both that they’re damned lucky to live in a house with me and Tom, I reminded them of EVERYTHING that we do on a daily basis.

I reminded Alyssa that Tom feeds her and Olivia breakfast every single morning. I told her about the endless loads of laundry I do every single weekend. I pointed out that I make them dinner every night of the week and then I wash the dishes every night after dinner.

I told her that someone vacuums the carpets several times a week and that someone is NEVER her or Olivia. I pointed out that someone also sweeps the kitchen floor a few times a week and again, that is either me or Tom because neither A nor O ever thinks to grab the broom and start a’sweeping.

I mentioned the grocery shopping I do every week. She interjected, “But we don’t have the money to buy groceries.”

I told her it wasn’t about the money, it’s about the time and effort we put into actually going out and doing it.

I reminded her that I am often the one who picks up the wet towels off her bathroom floor after her shower. I told her about changing the sheets on everyone’s bed. I went on and on and on. It was cathartic, actually.

I didn’t bother mentioning that I go to work five days a week. That seemed a little like overkill at that point.

I think she got it.

I don’t think Olivia did. But…she’s eight and still very much in her own world, a world in which underwear are miraculously cleaned and put away each week, a world where food just magically lands on the table at each mealtime and the dishes are licked clean by elves after everyone goes to sleep at night.

Her time of awakening will come too. I can only bring myself to dash the illusions of one kid at a time.

I ended the conversation with, “You know, it would just be nice if you could start picking up after yourself a little more. That’s all we’re asking right now. Later we might ask for more but for now, please just remember to put your clothes into the basket each evening instead of leaving them on the bathroom floor.”

Monday, January 19, 2015

Our Not-So-Restful Weekend

Alyssa had her second annual birthday slumber party this past weekend.

She invited the same five girls as last year. Four of them poured into the house at 3pm on Saturday afternoon.

We’re really lucky that Alyssa has made friends with really sweet girls but damn, those five twelve year olds (okay, wait, one is still only eleven and won’t be twelve until next September, she’s a smarty-pants who went to kindergarten at four years old and was doing long division in first grade, ahem) can be so, so loud!

And yet, Tom managed to fall asleep at 8:15 that night, not even waking up when the girls came downstairs three times between 8:30 and eleven for snacks.

When the girls first got there Alyssa herded them all outside, where they all got soaking wet. We’re having a bit of a thaw around here in the Arctic and since it was forty degrees, they needed to get some fresh air. Alas, forty degrees means the snow was melting and while one would think that twelve year olds (and one eleven year old) would have the sense to stay out of the water, one would be wrong.

They were in their pajamas by 4pm; and hungry at 4:15.

They ate candy at 4:15 (it was a gift from one of the guests, Alyssa was happy to share it with them.) They ate pizza at 6:00 and cake at 6:45.

They ate popcorn and Nerds at 7:30 and Rice Krispie treats at 8:15. Then they all had a pickle at 9:00.

I only had to go in and tell them to settle down three times between 11pm and 1:30am. The last time I told them to settle, I said to Alyssa, “Please just don’t wake up your dad.”

So yes, Saturday night was not all that restful even after the last ‘check in’ I did.

When the last girl was picked up at 10:15 Sunday morning, Alyssa and I headed to my mom’s to pick up Olivia, who’d had her very own slumber party with Jaxon the night before.

When we got home an hour later, Olivia collapsed on the couch and sighed, “It’s good to be home.”

Ha! Okay. It’s exhausting to be away from home for all of 21 hours and have your Gram take care of all your needs when you’re gone.

She beckoned me to the couch and requested some fruit chews, her water from the fridge and perhaps some apple slices if I were so inclined as to cut them.

After many, many hours of this, I lamented last night, “I’m kind of rethinking the whole kid thing.”

I was joking, of course and everyone laughed. I adore my children but, you know, they’re a lot of work and some Sunday evenings, when the weekend has been fully unrestful, I fondly remember my twenties, when I lived in a small apartment in Chicago, ALONE, going entire weekends not speaking to anyone other than the cashier at the corner grocery store.

But then one of my sweet girls will put her head in my shoulder, whisper that she loves me and those memories of those years in Chicago become clearer and…lonelier. I wouldn’t change this life I have now for anything; not even the slumber parties.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Putting the 'Slumber' Back in Slumber Party

We’re having a slumber part tomorrow night to celebrate Alyssa’s twelfth birthday. She invited five friends over. We’ve received word that four of them can come.

Tom’s trying to figure out where he can go for the majority of tomorrow evening just to escape the noise that five twelve year olds can create.

Olivia declared two weeks ago that she was escaping to her Gram’s for the night. No way was she sticking around for the chaos of a sixth grade slumber party.

I, on the other hand, get the joy, the pleasure, the enormous privilege of sticking around, of feeding and entertaining the hoard of girls that will descend upon my house at 3pm tomorrow afternoon.

Seriously, though, I know Alyssa is looking forward to having her friends over and I’m excited for her. Am I excited to have to go upstairs three or more times after midnight to remind them that a slumber party means that at some point they actually have to sleep? Not necessarily but I was twelve once, I get that this is an exciting time and it’s fun to be surrounded by your friends on what would normally just be a Saturday night at home with your parents and sister, watching season 4 of Quantum Leap with your mom.

So yeah, I’m all for making the most of the time she has with her friends.

In all honestly, twelve year olds are pretty self-sufficient. I don’t think I’ll have to do much as far as entertainment goes. Food? Sure, it’ll need to be in constant rotation but they’ll figure out what to do on their own. In fact, I’ve promised Alyssa to try and stay mostly out of the way.

I feel like we’re so lucky to live where we live and have access to the school our girls attend. Alyssa has made some pretty great friends there and their families are pretty great too.

I’m excited for the party but I think I’ll also be happy when 10am rolls around on Sunday morning and the parents start arriving for pick up.

It’s fun to throw a party but it’s also a relief when the party ends, especially when it’s a party that involved having your house taken over by twelve year olds.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Learning to Like Me

It occurs to me that being hard on myself is teaching my daughters to be hard on themselves.

Duh, right? I mean, come on. We all know that kids take in so much more than we want them to. They see everything, they hear everything.

And I’m twelve years into this mothering thing. You’d think I’d have made this connection a long time ago.

Maybe I did but last night, as we celebrated Lyss’s birthday with my mom and step-dad, it occurred to me that my self-deprecating comments aren’t helping anyone.

They annoy Tom, they just push my own mood further down into the hole of despair and they’re probably telling the girls that they’re supposed to think that way about themselves.

That is so sick. I hate that I do that and I never, ever want them to think they’re supposed to do it to themselves.

So it’s going to stop.

How? Well, obviously, it needs to start with my outward behavior. I can’t change my mindset overnight but I can slow down how fast things come out of my mouth. I don’t have to say the first thing that I think. I can give myself a few seconds to think about something, think about whether or not I’d want one of my daughters to think or say that very thing about herself and then I can stop the words from coming out of my mouth.

This won’t be easy but it is absolutely, positively necessary.

I need to show my girls that women are smart, we’re beautiful, we’re confident and I need to do it at home, being smart and beautiful and confident. I can’t show them those things by putting myself down. The problem with saying things like that is that after a while, even when things are ‘jokes’ we start to believe them. And I usually say crap like that in the hopes that someone will contradict me, tell me it’s not true. So what’s the point? If I’m looking for affirmation of my worth, it should start with me.

It starts today. I’m going to try very hard to stop the negative words from coming out of my mouth.

No more saying things to Tom like, “What’s it like to be the pretty one in this relationship?”

No more muttering, “I’m such an idiot.”

These things can be so insidious. They start small, silly, jokey evening. But they take root and start to scream in my head and I don’t want that for Alyssa and Olivia. I want them to both always feel smart and beautiful and worthy of all the good that comes to them.

It all starts with me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Twelve is one year from thirteen which means exactly one year from today my first born child will be a teenager.

But for now, she’s twelve. She’s almost as tall as I am, she’s funny and silly and smart and sometimes so, so serious.

She texts her friends and spends way too much time on the computer but still wants to play with her horses in her sister’s bathwater.

Twelve seems to be an exercise in extremes. She wants to snuggle with me each and every night and yet snaps at her dad for the slightest things. He’s the target for so much of her pre-teen angst. I feel sorry for him and yet I’m selfishly grateful that she still seeks out my company, wants to connect with me each and every day. I try so hard to be there with her in the moment because I know these moments won’t last forever. I want to bottle this sweet twelve year old soul and sprinkle it on the evil that could very well be what we face when she’s fifteen.

Then again, there might not be any evil to deal with when she’s fifteen because we’ve built trust and relationships and respect over the last twelve years and will try so very hard to do so over as many years as we’re blessed with this beautiful girl.

Alyssa is everything I ever imagined a daughter would be before I was a mom.

She’s challenging, she’s sensitive, she’s bossy and she’s gentle all at the same time. She needs so much reassurance even when she’s at her most independent. She’s feeling out her own weirdness these days and trying to figure out if it’s over-the-top weird or just awesome weird.

My vote is awesome weird. She’s my girl and I’m so, so proud of her.

I could not love her more. The person she was, the person she is, the person she’s becoming. She’s amazing and I’m so incredibly lucky to be along for the ride with her as she figures out this journey called life.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Maid

Yesterday was kind of crappy. I was in a grumpy mood most of the day and Olivia was especially bossy all day long.

At one point, I was vacuuming the living room carpet. Olivia asked for a grapefruit.

I told her when I was done with the vacuuming, I’d prepare one for her.

The vacuum was off for no more than two seconds when she said, “I thought you were going to get me a grapefruit.”

I was still wrapping the cord of the vacuum cleaner. I looked at her and said, “Am I done with this job?”

She shrugged at me.

I replied to her shrug with, “No, I’m not done. I’ll get you the grapefruit when I’m done. That means when this cord is wrapped and the vacuum cleaner is put away. Now, if, when that is done, I decide to sit down, put my feet up and twiddle my thumbs, then you can remind me that I was going to get you a grapefruit.”

She and her sister laughed because I’d said, “Twiddle.”

I know.

I let my children treat me like the maid. This is my fault and I need to work on that.

I clean up after them. I cook for them, I do their laundry and I even still wipe Olivia’s butt after her enormous poos.

But it makes me tired and cranky and when I’m in that place, I need to remember that it’s not their fault. I’ve se the president, so I’m the one who needs to reset it.

I’m working on that. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Instant Gratification

I like instant gratification. I don’t like to wait. When I decide something, I want it to happen right then.

For example, I’ve been known to decide to color my hair on a Tuesday morning and by Tuesday afternoon; it’s a different color than it was when I woke that morning.

There is no thinking about, considering the pros and cons. Nope, once the idea hits, I usually just want it done.

This isn’t necessarily a positive personality trait. I need to learn to slow down, give it some thought, take a little time before jumping in feet or, heaven forbid, head first.

My hair, as mentioned above, tends to suffer the most from this character flaw of mine.

I got my hair cut on the Monday before Christmas. I took a picture of a pretty girl with a shoulder-length layered bob to a salon, showed it to the stylist and asked if she could cut my hair like that.

This is the picture I took to the salon with me:

“Sure,” she said. “No problem.”

Except…there was a problem. I didn’t leave with hair like the girl in this picture, which is the picture I showed the stylist.

No. I left with hair like this:

I ask: In what world is the hair in the above picture a shoulder-length layered bob? Answer: In a world full of demented, cruel people that cut the hair of people with necks that resemble turtles, perhaps.

I have, quite honestly, a horrible haircut. It was probably the first time since I started paying for haircuts that I didn’t even try to fake loving my hair when she turned me to the mirror.

This time when she turned me I met my hideous reflection with barely concealed horror and finally forced myself to say, “Well, maybe it’ll look better when I have a chance to wash it.”

She offered to wash it for me.

I refused, paid her and fled.

I’m proud to say I haven’t cried over this haircut. I mean, it’s just hair, it will grow. Sure, I’ll have to deal with the ugly for several months probably, but it will grow.

My girls hate my hair. I hate my hair. My mom hates my hair.

My husband was kind (smart?) enough to say, “It’s really not that bad.”

He’s sweet. But he’s also a lying liar who lies.

It’s that bad. It’s really, really that bad.

The ladies with whom I work insisted it’s cute. Okay, one lady did suggest that I go have someone (NOT the original stylist) use razor scissors to blend the layers.

I told her no one was getting near my head with scissors, razor or no, for at least two months.

My dad, a retired barber, gave me a look of sympathy the first time he saw it and then offered to trim my bangs the second time he saw me post-haircut tragedy. To blend them with the rest of my layers, he said. I told him the same thing I told the coworker about no one touching my hair with any sort of cutting device any time soon.

See, it doesn’t need to be shorter! It needs to grow. “Blending” anything is just another word for cutting it. No. Thank you but not.


I did laugh the other day (a full two weeks after the disastrous haircut) when another coworker asked me what she’d need to ask for if she wanted a similar haircut.

I replied with a laugh, “I don’t know. I didn’t ask for this haircut.”

I showed her the above picture of Mena Suvari and said, “This is what I asked for.”

I then suggested that she go to the salon at Walmart, ask for Tina, show her the above picture and she’d walk out with my haircut.

See…that’s the problem. I decided on that Monday before Christmas to get my haircut. I found a picture of the hairstyle I thought I might like on my head and instead of calling around to actual salons that take appointments and employ competent, experienced stylists, my need for instant gratification kicked in and I went to FREAKING WALMART for a haircut.

And I walked out with a horrible haircut. I guess I sort of deserve this.

Maybe this will teach me a little patience, a little self-control.

If nothing else, the act of waiting for this haircut to grow out is an act of patience.

See, I’m learning already.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


“Is school boring?”

This is a question Olivia has asked me several times this week.

The first time, I just smiled and told her, “No! School is where you learn new things and get to see your friends. What could be boring about that?”

She just blinked at me a few times and went back to whatever she’d been doing before she asked the question.

The second time she asked I decided to turn it back to her and replied, “Do you think school is boring?”

She gave it some thought and decided, “It’s kind of boring but only because I can’t play when I want and I have to get up early to go to school.”

Such a typical response, don’t you think?

I know Olivia is not typical. But in so many ways, she’s just a regular first grader who doesn’t like being roused from a warm bed on a cold morning, made to eat breakfast before she’s hungry, bundled up and herded onto a cold bus where she’ll then be corralled into a classroom for seven or so hours.

Most of us have been there and understand her ‘boredom.’ Who wouldn’t rather stay home, snuggle in bed until 8am, get up, play for a bit, watch a little television, eat when we’re hungry and then rinse and repeat throughout the day?

I kind of love that she’s able to vocalize her sense of boredom and her desire for a different routine. Of course, she’s eight, she has to go to school (no one in our house is able/willing to homeschool, so traditional public schooling it is) and so she goes. But I understand and even commiserate with a little grumbling as she stares down yet another school day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Game Changer

Just one more post about sleep. I can’t help it. See…I haven’t mentioned in the past three or so weeks because I didn’t want to jinx is but…I think Olivia’s hit some major milestone where she sleeps through the night!

And get this, when she wakes up, she doesn’t get out of bed to come find me. Sure, she might call out to me and ask me to fix her blankets but even this is happening maybe once a week instead of every single flipping night.

She hasn’t joined me in my bed in almost three weeks. It’s been, well, almost luxurious. I don’t know how else to describe sleeping for six to eight hours without waking, without an elbow or some toes poking me.

We could very well have a relapse, I’m not counting that out, but at this point, it feels like I can say I have two excellent sleepers.

Yes, they’re eight and twelve. Yes, it took us this long to get to this point but we’re there and it’s a lovely, lovely thing. I can honestly say that going to sleep at 10:00 each night and knowing that there is a great possibility that I will not be woken up by anyone other than perhaps my own bladder is a game changer.

Let the good times roll!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Even an episode of Quantum Leap can open things up for a deep discussion between me and Alyssa.

The episode I’m talking about is call “Jimmy.” Sam leaps into the life a young man with Down syndrome. One of the first things Sam says as he looks at his reflection is, “I’m retarded.”

It broke my heart.

When he said it at the end of the previous episode just before we were thrown into the “Jimmy” episode, I said painfully, “Oh Sam, no. Please don’t use that word.”

Alyssa was sitting next to me watching the show. She looked at me because she could hear the tears in my voice.

Now, yes, this show was made in 1989-90, we weren’t making the world aware of how horrible that word is yet. I get that. And yet, I love this show and I love this character and so hearing him say that was horrible.

Alyssa let me hug her when the episode began because we knew the word was coming again.

When it did, I managed not to cry but I did take it upon myself to explain to Alyssa just why that word is so hurtful.

Olivia was sound asleep across the room. She is so beautiful…especially when she’s sleeping. I pointed her out to Alyssa and reminded her that Olivia has a syndrome where she’s missing part of a chromosome and that some things are harder for her than they are for the rest of us. But, I emphasized, that didn’t mean she was stupid or incapable of learning, we just had to make adjustments for her and be patient with her.

I explain that Jimmy had a syndrome where he has an extra chromosome but, like Olivia, that doesn’t make him stupid, he just needs patience and adjustments too.

Alyssa took it all in and watched the show with me.

Near the end, she told me, “Mom, I know it’s hard for you, but remember, it’s just a television show.”

I hugged her and agreed that what we were watching was just a show but that there are people who have to live their lives being told they’re stupid or retarded and it’s hurtful. That we need to make others aware of how much Olivia and kids like her, kids like Jimmy from the show, have to offer. Remind them that these people are human beings with so much love to give, so much to learn and so much to teach us about ourselves and themselves.

The moral of the show was that when people expect someone to screw up, they do so. That when we expect great things, great things happen more often than not. That we can’t judge a person by the number of their chromosomes.

I’m glad I wasn’t alone when that episode came on. I hope Alyssa’s glad too.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Birth Defect Awareness

When my younger daughter was born, we had no idea she has a birth defect. We wouldn’t find out until she was two years and three months old.

But from the start, I knew she was different from my older daughter. When she was three months old I was googling ‘early signs of autism’ while bouncing a screaming baby. At three months old, my older daughter was holding her head up, making eye contact, smiling.

Olivia wasn’t doing any of those things. She ate, she screamed, she slept a little while and then we repeated the cycle.

But even though I knew something was wrong, I didn’t stop to think about birth defects. I just wanted to help her, to make her stop screaming, to get her to sleep and maybe smile at us.

Her diagnosis of 5p- syndrome when she was two years and three months old gave us some answers. It confirmed that the therapies we’d started when she was a year old were a good move. We all know how that went. She crawled at 17 months, she walked at 29 months (two whole months after receiving her diagnosis), she talked at three years old, she was potty trained at five years old and so on.

This past weekend, we invited a couple of sisters, one of which is in Alyssa’s class and the other just happens to be in Olivia’s class, over to play.

Olivia was excited to have D, the younger sister over and was counting down the days.

The night before the play date was scheduled, I asked Olivia, “Are you going to talk to D tomorrow while she’s here?”

Olivia shrugged at me. She’s quite the shrugger. I told her, “It would be great if you did talk to her, since she’s here to play with you.”

And then I left it at that because one thing I know about Olivia is that if you push her to do one thing, she’ll do the other just out of spite.

D and her sister N arrived at our house on Friday morning at 11:00. Alyssa and N ran upstairs while D and Olivia kind of looked at me to tell them what to do.

I suggested that Olivia show D her room, or the toy room. And that was all it took. I went up to check on them about ten minutes later and stood outside the room, listening to their conversation.

Conversation! There was a give and take of words from one girl to the other and back again. Olivia was talking to her friend, her peer! She was sharing ideas, telling D about Mush Mush. They were playing Barbies and being little girls.

I might have teared up a little bit.

The girls played well for several hours and then asked if they could go outside.

It was actually a mild day here in the Arctic Tundra and so I agreed only after making them promise to leave their hats and mittens on while they were out there.

I checked on the girls a few times while they played outside. They were usually swinging or sliding on our playset. But one of the times I checked on them I saw D using some bricks we have bordering a flowerbed as a balance beam.

I watched Olivia try to figure out how to step onto the bricks herself so she could balance too. But she didn’t trust herself to just step up with one foot and bring the other foot up. She tried to use her hands to steady herself but that was just awkward.

And then, in a moment that broke my heart with all its sweetness, I watched D come back to the end of the bricks, offer Olivia a hand and help her onto the bricks.

It was beautiful.

D is actually ten months younger than Olivia but they’re in the same grade in school. They’re very close to the same size, with D actually outweighing and measuring about an inch taller than Olivia. So those ten months age difference aren’t really evident when watching them together.

But obviously D is socially more mature than Olivia. She’s got some physical abilities that Olivia is still working on and you know what? That’s all okay.

Because O IS working on those things. She never stops trying. She never even seems to realize that things aren’t as easy for her as they are for her peers. She never gets frustrated when she has to work a little harder to achieve something. She just keeps at it until she figures it out.

And awesomely, she usually does figure it out in her own time.

I’ve learned in my years at Olivia’s mom not to put limits on her. I never think that we’ve reached the end of her abilities. She’s proven time and again that there is no end. She will figure it out and she will prove everyone who thought she wouldn’t wrong.

Mothering a child with a birth defect has taught me to look beyond the norm, to see beyond the expectations. It’s taught me that we all have our obstacles to overcome and we are often our own worst enemies.

If we could all be like Olivia, willing to just keep trying, just keep pushing, never giving up and never letting our own attitudes defeat us, we’d all be much better at everything we try.

When I grow up, I wanna be like Olivia.