Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thanks A Lot Brady Bunch

There is an episode in season 2 of The Brady Bunch where Carol and Cindy have to have their tonsils removed.

Olivia has watched the episode three times in the past two days. She has become obsessed with tonsils.

Remember when Alyssa had her tonsils out? Yeah, Olivia doesn’t either. She’s asked to see the pictures we have of Alyssa before and after the surgery. She’s asked to see these pictures at least twice a day all this week.

Some of the questions she’s asked since her first viewing of The Brady Bunch episode last Sunday afternoon:

“What do tonsils do?” I don’t know.
“Why do we even have tonsils?” I don’t know.
“Where are you tonsils?” At the back of your throat.
“What do tonsils look like?” I don’t know.
“Can I see my tonsils?” Not really.
“Do I still have tonsils?” Yes.
“Do you still have your tonsils?” Yes.
“Does Daddy still have his tonsils?” Yes.
“Why did Lyssie have to get her tonsils out?” Because she kept getting sick with strep throat.
“What did the doctor do with Lyssie’s tonsils after he took them out?” Um, he threw them away?
“Will I have to have my tonsils taken out?” I hope not, you’ve never had tonsillitis or strep throat, so maybe not.
“Do you need your tonsils?” I guess not, since lots of people have theirs taken out.
“Why does Lyssie look like that in the picture of her after she had her tonsils out?” Because she’d just had surgery and her throat hurt and the doctor had given her medicine.
“Where was I when Lyssie had her tonsils out?” At school.
“Why wasn’t Lyssie at school that day?” Because she had to have her tonsils taken out.

She’s driving me crazy with all this talk about tonsils. I am glad she’s curious but…well, Olivia can obsess and that’s what she’s doing right now with the tonsil talk.

Still, I try to find my inner Carol Brady and answer each question, even if it’s being asked for the seven gazillionth time.

Though I could do to emulate Carol’s patience and kindness with her kids, I draw the line at telling my girls not to use the word ‘stinker’. Greg called Bobby a stinker at one point and Carol said gently, “Greg, you know I don’t like that word.”

Are you kidding me? Stinker? I muttered, “It’s not like he called Bobby a little shit.”

Sadly for me (hilariously for her) Alyssa heard me. She laughed so hard she almost fell off her chair and then, when she could breathe again, she said, “I love you and your bad attitude.”

Yeah. I’ve got to work on that, I’m thinking.

Olivia piped up with, “Did you say shed?”

Alyssa laughed again as I answered, “Yeah, that’s what I said.”

Olivia gave it a little thought and then asked, “Why is that a bad word?”

I was ready for that one. “I don’t know,” I replied, “but if Carol thinks stinker is bad, she probably thinks calling your brother a shed is bad too.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dire Predictions

When I was pregnant with Olivia, after we’d found out she was a girl, a woman I worked with told me over and over again that my girls would hate each other.

This woman had raised one child, who was also raising one child. She had no personal experience with raising siblings and yet she told me with what seemed like glee that my daughters would grow up resenting the hell out of each other.

Her predictions have not come true at this point.

Sure, they have the usual sibling spats but I think that’s typical. My girls actually enjoy each other’s company (most of the time) and get along quite well.

Now that Alyssa is on the cusp of teenager-hood, I have a co-worker (what is it with co-workers?) who tells me quite often that I will have an angry teen on my hands in just a couple more years. She swears that I’m just around the corner from having yelling, screaming fights with my daughter.

Now, I’m not going to tempt fate and say that it absolutely will not happen but I will say that I never, not once, told my mom that I hated her. I never screamed at my mom, not even during the dreaded teenage years.

Sure, Alyssa is not me and I am not my mom but right now, this very second, Alyssa and I have an open, loving relationship. I plan to do everything I can to continue to nurture that relationship and I hope we can avoid the screaming fights that are brimming with hatred. I just don’t necessarily believe the dire predictions some people like to toss at me.

I know a twenty-eight year old woman who says she doesn’t want children.

More power to her, I say.

However, one of the other moms around here promised this young woman that she’ll change her mind. She predicts that the twenty-eight year old’s biological clock will start ticking anytime now and she’ll realize that she does, in fact, want children.

No. That is not necessarily true. Why do people feel the need to tell others what their future holds? Why?

I respect this young woman’s choices and applaud her for voicing them strongly. If she changes her mind? So be it. But if she doesn’t? That doesn’t make her less a woman for not wanting someone to occupy her uterus. There are lots of women out there who don’t want children.

Heck, I have an aunt who has more than one kid who confessed recently that she actually never wanted any kids. How about that? (She didn’t say this to her actual kids and I would never tell them that their mother said it either. Deny, deny, deny. I have lots of aunts who have more than one kid, so no one will ever know which aunt, maternal or paternal, said this. So there.)

So all these dire predictions to is make the listener (me, the twenty-eight year old) feel like we're being talked down to, like we don't have a clue. It's degrading, it's demeaning and it's irritating. Just saying.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Are You Mad at Me?

Each night during the week, I start trying to convince Olivia to go to sleep starting around 8:00. Some nights, she’ll be asleep by 8:03. Other nights, it takes a little (or a lot) longer.

Last night was one of those where it took longer than three minutes. Each time I gently reminded her that she should be trying to go to sleep, she’d smile sheepishly at me and asked, “Are you mad at me?”

I always smiled gently back and told her softly, “No, I’m not mad at you. No one is mad at you. I just know how tired you’ll be in the morning if you don’t get enough sleep tonight.”

This led to a conversation about how tired she’d been that very morning, when she’d moaned about how fast the weekends go and how sad she always is to greet Monday mornings. She then asked me to carry her from her bed to the bathroom where a space heater was running. She sat in front of it cooking her feet as I cajoled her into getting dressed. (For the record, she dressed herself. She does that all the time these days, thank goodness. It frees up a good seven minutes of my morning.)

I’m trying to be mindful of my mood and my actions each night at bedtime. I don’t want bedtime to be stressful and full of anger from me. I know how hard it can be to fall asleep even when you’re tired but having someone barking at you to GO TO SLEEP is less than restful and not very conducive to actually falling asleep. (Yes, I’ve been known to bark and I always feel awful about it once she’s actually fallen asleep.)

For the last month or so, Olivia has fallen asleep with gentle back scratches, neck nuzzles, kisses to the cheek and soft reminders that it’s sleepy time.

Yet she still asks me after each reminder if I’m mad at her. Have I scarred her from my past barking? Can I get to a point where I’ve been more gentle than I ever was grouchy? I certainly hope so. I’m definitely going to try.

If we ever get to a point where she no longer asks me if I’m mad at her, I’ll be sure and mark down that day as the day gentleness won and grouchiness was forgotten.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Outside Encouragement

I hate to admit it but my own inner self-esteem is sometimes not enough to get me through every single day.

I need outside encouragement. I need to hear voices other than my own inner voices telling me that I’m good enough, I’m strong enough, I’m smart enough and dog gone it, people like me.

I need to hear those around me (ahem, my husband) say that I’m doing a good job. Not a ‘good enough’ job, but an actual good job. I need to hear he thinks I’m doing my best and that it’s enough.

I need to know that those around me appreciate the effort I put in to caring for them, for our home, for myself. I need to know that it is appreciated that I go to work every day (m-f) and that I do as much as I am able on the weekends to maintain an orderly household.

I need someone (Tom) to acknowledge that I am a good mother, that I keep a nice home, that I make decent (not gourmet, my kids wouldn’t eat it anyway) food every. single. day.

This past weekend was a little tough on my feelings. But…go me…I actually voiced my issues, my feelings, my frustration with the lack of appreciation for what I do.

See, I try so hard to be positive and encouraging to my husband. I talk to him the way I wish he’d talk to me. When he has an idea, I listen, I tell him it sounds great or, if nothing else, I tell him to go for it, I’m sure it will be fine. I rarely give ‘advice’ for how his idea could be made better. I rarely give a critique of how whatever his idea is won’t work.

And yet…sometimes it feels like the advice and critiques are all I hear. It’s ever so frustrating.

I also thank Tom for all that he does. I don’t just thank him every so often, I try to thank him each and every time he does something because it’s what I’d like to hear. I know, I probably go overboard and so maybe the impact of my appreciation is lessened by saturation. But I wish so much that he’d give me even a little of the encouragement I give him.

By the end of the weekend everything was fine again. I was even able to tell him that my feelings were suddenly less sensitive than they’d been all weekend and the defcon level could be lowered substantially. I think I heard him heave a sigh of relief.

Friday, April 24, 2015


She falls down and still wants me to kiss her scraped knee to make it better.

She needs me to kiss her neck at night as she falls asleep, giggling as I breath her in, telling her that she smells delightful because she’s just had a bath.

She wakes in the night sometimes and still calls to me to come and fix her blankets and ‘retuck’ her in.

As far as she is concerned, I am magical. My kisses contain magical healing. My fingertips are magical back scratchers. My smile as she falls asleep spreads dream magic, sending only lovely, sweet dreams into her brain.

I really, truly believe there is something magical about love. Whether it’s mother love, father love, romantic love, the love a child feels for her mom and dad and Gram. Even the love shared by siblings is magical. I mean, when I was a kid, I could say anything I wanted about my brothers, but no one else better because my love for them was fierce. They were irritating creeps but they were my irritating creeps and everyone around better remember that.

Love is something that lives on after we die. We don’t stop loving people just because they’re gone. It transcends time and that is magic at its very best right there.

I’ve always wanted a magical power. Growing up, I wanted to be Samantha and Darrin’s other daughter, Tabitha and Adam’s younger sister, just so I could have magic.

Now? I have all the magic I ever dreamed of having. I see it reflected in the eyes of my children, I feel it in my husband’s embrace.

My magic is eternal and I wouldn’t trade it for any other magical powers. This magic is powerful, it’s beautiful. I’m so glad that I get to pass this magic on to the next generation.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ending the Year with the ABCs

There are 24 days left of school. How do I know this? Well, because today the first grade class at A’s and O’s school is on letter B. They get to play with bubbles at recess.

Olivia brought home a calendar page on Monday with the last 26 days noted, letting parents know how each letter of the alphabet was being celebrated as we count down the last 26 days of school.

They started yesterday with the letter A. They did Art projects during class.

Olivia loves this stuff so much. She asked every single evening what letter is the next day and how it is being observed.

Tomorrow is Career day for letter C. The students are encouraged to dress as they imagine they will when they’re all grown up and working at a career.

Olivia decided very quickly that she has to dress fancy tomorrow because, duh, she’s going to be a fashion designer. She’s already got a sketchbook with her name in stickers on the front and Barbie stickers with all kinds of awesome fashions on some of the pages.

I love her ambition, her drive, how much confidence she has in her own ideas of what is pretty and what is functional. For the record, pretty always comes before functional but if she can find a way to make them both work she considers it a bonus.

The rest of the letters aren’t quite as exciting as C though Olivia is definitely looking forward to next Monday when D arrives and they get to eat Donut holes. And I will be quite fun because they’re going to eat Ice cream treats.

Of course, the most exciting day of all is Z, when they Zip up their backpacks and Zoom out of school. O’s very ready for that day to arrive. First grade has been great for her but she’s as ready for summer as the next first grader.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

War of the Stars

I am neglecting my duties at a mother when it comes to Alyssa’s pop-culture education.

Confession: She’s never watched Star Wars.

Gasp!! I know! I’m so ashamed of myself. In my defense, I’m not that big a fan of Star Wars but honestly, I know that’s not a good reason for my TWELVE year old not to have seen any of the movies from the franchise. It’s a shame, actually.

So I’ll try to remedy it as soon as possible.

This came up recently when she informed me that there were only three people in her class who thought that Star Trek was better than Star Wars. She was included in the three because yes, she has seen plenty of Star Trek movies/television shows and even kind of, sort of appreciates their awesomeness.

See, I’m not so much neglectful as I am picky about what I show my children.

Oh, and Alyssa has also seen every X-Men movie ever made (because, duh, Hugh Jackman) but she’s not yet seen a Marvel movie. Again, I need to fix that gross oversight.

This past weekend I expanded Alyssa’s musical horizons by showing her Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Sure, we had great fun making fun of the sexist asses that were the male characters and the silly, shrill again, sexist portrayals of women but it was still so, so much fun to watch it with her. I love that movie so much and am so glad that she managed to get through the whole thing with minimal eye rolling.

I’m working on it all, is what I’m saying.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Parenting Advice from the Preteen

Yes, Alyssa, I know Olivia is perfectly capable of feeding herself. I appreciate the nudge you’ve been giving me and your dad as you help us urge Olivia into independency.

Alas, until Alyssa is the one who cleans up whatever mess Olivia’s made through her various OCD tics and her less than typical fine motor skills, there will be times when either I or her dad feed her as we try to get through the morning routine, the evening routine, the minutia of the day, etc. with as little mess/frustration/time as possible.


We were driving on afternoon when Alyssa broke an amiable silence with, “You guys should start letting Livie feed herself. She’s perfectly capable of doing it, you know.”

I replied, “Thank you for that sage parenting advice.”

She rolled her eyes and continued, “You didn’t feed me when I was eight.”

“You didn’t need us to feed you when you were eight, did you?” I asked.

“No! But she doesn’t need you to feed her either. She can hold a spoon you know!”

Olivia was sitting quietly taking in the conversation. At this point, she piped up, “I can hold a spoon but sometimes I don’t want to.”

This just made Alyssa huff and puff all the more.

I get it. I do. Some of my and Tom’s decisions probably hamper Olivia more than they help her.

The thing is, yes, Olivia can feed herself. And she does probably 70% of the time. But that other 30%? It’s just faster or neater or more convenient for us to help her.

I’m working hard on giving Olivia tasks that I know she can do rather than doing them for her. Most mornings these days I give her socks to her and tell her to put them on while I untie the knots in her shoes. She dressed herself each morning. She puts her dirty clothes into the hamper each evening.

There is so much Olivia can do and probably even more that we haven’t insisted that she do yet.

But honestly, I can do without parenting advice from my twelve year old. I try to remind her that I was a fabulous mother when I was younger too, but then I had kids.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Woman at the Park

My mom and I took the girls to the park this past Saturday. The weather was nice enough to warrant me dragging out the sun screen for O’s shoulders and nose. Of course she insisted on wearing shorts and a tank top, I mean, we were going to the part and it was warm, it MUST be summer, right?

There were only two other families there when we arrived. Both families left soon after we got there so the girls had the park to themselves for a bit before another family arrived.

This family had four kids with them. There was a girl of probably nine years old and several kids who were younger. They were accompanied by a woman I assumed was their mother.

The new family had been there for maybe fifteen minutes when the mom, who’d settled onto the built-in benches and told the nine year old to keep an eye on her siblings, realized that the youngest of her charges had actually managed to scale the fence of the park and was outside, near the road. (!)

Aside: This park is kind of awesome in that there is only one way to enter, a little ramp with fencing on either side. The entire play area is surrounded by a wooden fence that doesn’t have any gaps through which a wily toddler can escape. That kid would have had to either go OVER the fence or past his mom to get out.

The woman shouted at the nine year old girl to go get the boy who’d escaped.

The girl called back that the mom was closer to the entrance.

The mom retorted, “But you’re faster!”

The girl sprinted out of the playground after her brother and brought him back safely.

Now, we all know the kind of parent I am, right? I hover so closely that it’s amazing my kids can breathe on their own rather than me taking breaths for them, right?

In fact, that day, Alyssa was complaining about being tired of following Olivia up and down the climbing structures and wanted to sit with her Gram on the benches so I was climbing up with Olivia and going down the slide for her to show her that it wasn’t actually scary to go down the slides. After following me down one time, she was all about the ‘bumpy’ slide.

So yes, I was a little judgy over this mom’s apparent neglect. I mean, the oldest kid was NINE. Her mom should have at least been watching the smallest of the kids while the oldest daughter played with the two slightly younger kids. But instead, the nine year old was being expected to watch all three of her younger siblings while her mom lounged on the bench, smoking.

Yes, I know, just call me Judy. But come on!! Get off your butt, put out your cigarette and watch your own kids.

I don’t expect everyone to parent the way I do. Heck, I probably need a few classes in parenting (Alyssa thinks so, but that’s probably a good subject for another post) about letting go and stepping back. But there is a difference between letting your kids play while watching safely from a distance and sitting on your ass while expecting your nine year old to parent her younger siblings.

I can’t imagine that that park adventure was fun for the nine year old as she tried to keep up with three kids going in three different directions. Every so often, the mom would call out to her that one of the littler kids was running off.

Sigh. If only ever parent had my awesome ability to hover. Right?

Okay, just kidding, but still…choosing not to hover doesn’t mean you abdicate your parenting responsibilities altogether.

You know?

On a lighter note, I had a dream over the weekend that I had a surprise baby. It was another girl and for some reason Tom wasn't there and the nurse was pressuring me to give her a name so we could fill out the birth certificate. I named her Ivy Hyacinth. Ivy...Hyacinth. My dream brain is stupid.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Batteries

Olivia has this small keyboard type thing, all plastic and garish. She rediscovers it every few months and plays with it with dedication for about a week until it gets taken back to the toy room where she forgets about it for another couple of months.

She found it on Tuesday, dragged it downstairs and played with it for an hour before her bath.

When we returned to the scene of the keyboard after bath, she found that the batteries had died.

I told her I’d replace them in the morning.

Morning came and we discovered we had no extra AA batteries in the house. I told her I’d pick some up when I was next at Walmart.


When I got home on Wednesday afternoon, Olivia flew into the kitchen shrieking, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

It was lovely to know that my younger child adored me so much.

Except, no. She was expecting me to produce some batteries that I could then place in the keyboard so she could serenade us all. Nope. I hadn’t made it to Walmart that day and so no batteries were to be had. Sorry kid.

She took it well and I promised I’d find a reason to go to Walmart on Thursday, even if that reason was solely to pick up batteries. Instead of pounding the keys and singing into the microphone, we went outside and enjoyed a sunny, if very windy, afternoon in our backyard.

It occurred to me as she was running to me shouting her love for the world (or, you know, me, Tom and Alyssa) to hear that I so wish that some of her early therapists could see her now.

Sara, her speech therapist would be so impressed. She’d love to hear Olivia’s voice, her demands, her singing. She’d be thrilled that Olivia not only understands everything we say, she holds her own in long, drawn out conversations.

Trish, her physical therapist, would love seeing her climb up the slide and flipping with no hands on her mattress. She’d be so impressed with O’s core strength and her determination to master any skill her sister has mastered before her.

Cristin, her occupational therapist would be impressed to see Olivia feed herself Cheerios with a spoon, spilling nary an o falling to the floor.

Heck, even Linda, the developmental therapist we only had for about six months when O was a year to a year and a half would be impressed that Olivia no longer puts everything in her mouth. Ha! That woman, as nice as she was, was so weird about how Olivia wanted to taste everything. At a year old, that was actually very developmentally normal, just as now, at eight, not needing to taste everything is very normal.

Olivia started pulling her hair when she was about two years old. Cristin, Sara and Trish were still very much a part of our lives at that time. They each tried to give us advice on what to do to help Olivia break this habit. Nothing helped by the time she aged out of the program that provided these therapists. When they stopped seeing her, her hair was like this:

We’d had to cut it twice using Tom’s clippers, buzzing it to one quarter of an inch long.

This morning I braided O’s hair into two braids that ended in low ponytails. The ponytails hung almost to her waist. She loved the style, prancing around telling us how long her hair looked done like that. She loves having long hair. She feels pretty. I’m so, so grateful for whatever change took place in her brain that helped her kick the habit of sucking her thumb and pulling out her hair.

Oh, if they could see her now they’d be so happy for her. If I could see them now, I’d thank them from the bottom of my heart for all they did for her, for the strategies they gave her and us to help her build her language base, her core strength, her fine motor skills. She’s come so, so far and we’re so lucky to have had the team we’ve had from the start.

Good therapists are hard to find and we found some of the very best.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bus Etiquette

Living way out in the middle of cornfields means our kids are bussed to school. Sure, our house is only four miles from the school but the girls are the first ones on the bus in the morning so the bus arrives in front of our house around 6:48 every morning.

This means that by 6:43, we are donning jackets (shoes have been on and tied tight since 6:30, thank you very much) and pulling backpacks on. Lunches are grasped by 6:45 as Tom sets up his station to watch for the bus. He can see it turn onto our road a mile away and so the girls have time to waltz out the door, down the steps and to the near-end of the driveway.

Our girls are ALWAYS standing outside when the bus pulls up. They watch the driver and she makes sure all traffic is stopped before waving to the girls to cross the road and board the bus.

This is how it is done.

This morning was one of the few mornings when I left for work a little early so I could pick up a few things before work. I ended up behind a bus. The bus only had to stop twice while I was behind it but BOTH times the bus stopped and we all waited. And waited. And waited for the kids who lived in the houses where we were stopped meandered out of their homes and very slowly walked down their driveways to climb aboard their bus. One little guy was galloping down his driveway when a woman (his mom?) called to him from the house. He stopped in the middle of the driveway and even started to turn around and go back to the house. She waved him on and he finally made it to the bus, but come on!! It’s flipping APRIL, surely these people know what time to expect the bus, right?

So why? Why must they wait inside their homes on days when it is above 0? Why aren’t they already out there waiting? That bus probably arrives much like our bus, at pretty much the same damn time every single day.

Alyssa has shared her own frustration with some of the kids who ride her bus. There is one house where there are four kids who ride the bus. On kid is always outside waiting. The other’s come out, one at a damn time, taking up to three whole minutes before all four kids are on the bus. Some of those kids are probably inside still putting on their shoes or hell, peeing, as the bus is pulling up in front of their houses.

Bus etiquette isn’t hard. You know when the bus is coming. Be outside waiting for it. Either Tom or I always go out and wait with the girls. It’s just what we do. But we’re always ready, because it’s rude to make everyone wait every single day.

Now, I admit that there are mornings here and there where we’re rushing to get everything done, but the most important things, like shoes and socks are put on WAY before the bus is expected. If we have to throw hair into a ponytail (heaven forbid, Olivia might lose her mind if that happened) instead of an elaborate braid, we could but mostly, our days are structured well enough to be able to always (seriously, we’ve had to rush maybe twice this year and even on those days, we were outside waiting for the bus when it pulled to a stop in front of our house) be ready for the bus on time.

Okay, I think I’m done ranting and gloating. About this. For now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cheerios for Dinner and The Time I Pretended to Be an Excellent Mother

One evening last week after I’d fed everyone else, I realized that the dinner I’d made them didn’t appeal to me at all. So I sat down to a bowl of Cheerios.

Olivia was still sitting at the table and glanced over at me. Her eyes widened and she gasped, “You’re having Cheerios for DINNER?!?”

She couldn’t believe it. It was as if her world was suddenly inside out. The very idea that someone could have what was usually a breakfast food at dinner stunned and intrigued her.

I simply nodded and continued eating my Cheerios.

She asked if she could have some. She’d eaten all of fifteen minutes before but I figured what the heck. I got her a bowl of Cheerios and put it in front of her. She finished her Cheerios snack before I managed to finish my Cheerios dinner and asked for more.

She ended up eating two and a half bowls of Cheerios that night, gleeful the entire time that she was eating Cheerios when it was not morning. The fun and novelty of it amazed and delighted her.

Last night’s dinner, lasagna, garlic bread and green beans, was another, less delightful adventure.

Olivia decided about five bites in that her lasagna and garlic bread tasted yucky. She wanted to only finish her beans. Which, okay, whatever.

Except her dad (he will remain nameless in this post) is of the, “FINISH YOUR DINNER OR THE WORLD WILL END.” Variety. I tend to think he’s a bit melodramatic and stern in his adherence to this rule but I try not to contradict him in front of the girls. You know, united front and all that. If she’d waited ten minutes to declare her dinner ‘yucky’ I’d have tossed it with nary a comment.

Sadly, he was sitting across from her at the table when she made the yucky declaration and so I had to sit there and ‘argue’ with her about whether or not she was eating her dinner.

And there I was, all pretending to be so very patient and loving. Seriously, it was kind of awesome.

She’d say, “I’m not eating that.”

And I’d reply, “Okay, you don’t have to eat it right now but later, when you want strawberry shortcake, I’ll warm this up for you then.”

“But I don’t want you to warm it up then, I want you to throw it away and give me strawberry shortcake.”

“No, that’s not how this is going to work. If you want the dessert later, you have to eat more of your dinner. You can either eat it now or later, it doesn’t matter to me.”

She took a deep breath and asked in exasperation, “Why are we even arguing about this?”

I turned to Alyssa and grinned, “I’m doing such a good job of pretending to be patient, aren’t I?”

Alyssa stifled a laugh.

I replied to Olivia, “I don’t know why you’re arguing. I’m just telling you how it’s going to be.”

And in the end, she did eat a few more bites of her dinner before I let her have the strawberry shortcake.

This was just one more example of how I sometimes fake being an excellent mother. Someday, I’ll have faked it enough to make it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sweater Report

As of last week, Olivia was being forced to wear short-sleeved shirts to school with a sweater for warmth, which would be removed if she started to let the sleeves of the sweater distract her from her school work.

Yesterday when I got home she happily reported that she’d only had to take off her sweater once that day.

When I was relaying that information to my mom that evening, Olivia was quick to correct my assumption that her teacher had made her take off her sweater.

“No,” Olivia told me, “my teacher didn’t make me take off my sweater. I took off the sweater myself when I started to pull at my sleeves.”

How’s that for self-regulating behavior? I was so proud of her. It’s a lot like when she stopped sucking her thumb and pulling her hair out. It wasn’t something I or any other adult around her could control. Only Olivia could change that behavior and she did it. She amazes me.

For the past three years or so, we’ve read three books every single evening. Ever since she was sick about a month ago, Olivia only wants me to read one book, which is fine, no big deal. But when we sit down to read, she’ll inspect the book, asking, “Do this book have A LOT of words?”

If it does, she tries to talk me out of reading it. I don’t know if this is because she’s more tired these days or if she’s just bored with the books we’re reading. I may have to break out the Junie B. books and see if those (they have LOTS of words) are more to her liking. She especially likes it when I read books in a seriously dopey voice that I can’t begin to describe. It has to be heard to be believed. I started using this voice when I read a book about a bear looking for his hat. It was such a dopey book that it needed a dopey voice to go along with it. She liked the voice so much we read the book three times. Now she wants that voice for every book. So she gets the voice, even during books that have ‘a lot’ of words.

I’m guessing this ‘a lot of words’ thing is a phase and we’ll get through it. She still very much prefers to have me read to her than read the books herself, and honestly, for that, I’m grateful. I know these years of her wanting to listen to me read are winding down.

Can’t I just keep them eight and twelve for a few more years? Please?

Monday, April 13, 2015


My mom stopped by yesterday and so we took the girls for a walk. Alyssa was running ahead of us (she’s FAST!) and I paused for a minute to just watch her.

Then I said to my mom, “I really love twelve.”

My mom smiled and replied, “Twelve is great but you do realize that you’ve loved every stage so far, don’t you?”

Which, yes, true, I have loved every stage so far but twelve is the best stage yet.

Twelve is so much fun. A twelve year old can get her own breakfast, she can moderate her own homework. She manages her own shower schedule and I never have to worry about the last time she pooped.

And get this…that child who didn’t sleep through the night until she was two years old? The one I had to lay next to until she was, oh, nine? She falls asleep all by herself and never wakes me in the night. She’s awesome.

But seriously, twelve is so great because we TALK to each other. We have actual conversations about friends and life and movies and books and she gets sarcasm (though to be fair to Olivia, she gets it too and finds sarcasm hilarious.) She thinks I’m funny and the best mom ever, even when I’m feeling like the worse mom.

I want to freeze time right now and savor twelve. I want to keep her twelve for at least a couple of years because it’s just that awesome. Even with the little snippy comments we hear as she leaves a room, I adore twelve.

While I would never consider myself my daughter’s friend, I am glad that we’re able to be friendly. I’m glad she comes to me with issues, with concerns and even with her fears. I’m glad that she doesn’t see me as the enemy. I pray she never does.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Deal with the Sleeves

When I got home last night, Olivia met me at the door to let me know that her teacher had left a note in her folder about O and her sleeves.

Olivia has an issue with long sleeves. She messed with them constantly. She’ll pull her left hand into her shirt, tugging the sleeve over the hand and the neck down to her upper arm, making it difficult for her to use her left hand for anything. Sure, she’s right-handed but sometimes, she does need to use her left hand too.

This makes me crazy at home and I am constantly telling her, “Don’t mess with your sleeves at school.”

She stared at me solemnly and assured me, “I won’t.”

Right…except she did and does mess with her sleeves at school.

The note basically told me that she was pulling her sleeves over both hands and doing this specifically when it was time to write something. Yeah, basically, she was being a brat. The note concluded with asking me and Tom to talk to Olivia about this behavior.

Sigh. Yeah, so we talked about it. AGAIN. And she again said she’d stop. But we kind of know she won’t.

So I declared it to be short-sleeve season, with a sweater over the short sleeves when the weather dictates the need for a sweater.

I replied to her teacher that this is what we’d be doing and that if O messes with the sleeves of her sweater, her teacher should remove the sweater, even if Olivia claims to be cold, because, duh, messing with sleeves means perhaps she needs to be a little uncomfortable for a while before earning back the privilege of the sweater. It’s not like they keep the temperature in the school at sub-zero so while she might be chilly without the sweater, she won’t be at risk of frostbite.

I explained all this to Olivia last night and again this morning as she was getting dressed and wondering why she was wearing a short-sleeved shirt. As I put her sweater on her, I reminder her yet again that if she messed with the sleeves on it, it will be removed and put in her backpack.

She was so serious as she promised not to mess with her sleeves. I think she really means it when she says these things.

But then she gets to school (or is at home) and forgets that messing with the sleeves is forbidden, the sleeves are just there and they’re either bothering her as they hang at her wrists or she gets bored or heck, I don’t even know what’s going on in her head when she starts tugging at them and using them to erase the dry-erase board. She just does those things and it makes the adult in charge of her crazy as they try to get her to stop.

So yeah, short sleeves it is.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Watching Them Play

The weather has turned almost spring-like lately, going as high at the upper 50s, which after the winter we’ve just endured feels practically balmy.

With all this lovely, if rainy, weather in the area, the girls have been playing outside a lot. We have a nice backyard with a wooden swing/play set and the girls use it to swing, climb, run around.

I watched them play the other day, one child as tall as some adults and the other all arms and legs as she chased her sister.

Alyssa taught Olivia to climb on our gas tank. She (Alyssa) moved a bench from the deck so that climbing would be easier for Olivia.

I marveled as they laughed and climbed and chased. I felt such a sense of contentment watching them. Sisters. This was something I imagined when I was pregnant with Olivia. I pictured them confiding in each other, playing with each other, sharing secrets, marveling over how annoying their parents were.

When Olivia was born so sick and then diagnosed with 5p- syndrome, I worried so much that Alyssa was going to miss out on that kind of sibling relationship. Sure, I knew she wouldn’t know any different from what she had, she’d never know she was missing out on a friendship and comradery but I would have known. I would have been sad for her to miss out on that even if she didn’t even know she was missing it.

But there they were, actually enjoying each other’s company. Laughing as Orville pounced at them when they ran around the corner of the house.

There were moments in O’s infancy and toddlerhood that I truly worried about how Olivia’s entire life was affecting Alyssa. Was she being pushed aside as we dealt with all of Olivia’s needs? Was she getting the attention she deserved while we were seeing doctors and therapists and specialists? Did she know that she was still as important as ever even though her sister needed so much more attention from all of us? Was she getting anything at all out of being a big sister?

Watching them run, watching Alyssa help Olivia climb the slide and seeing her protect Olivia from a ‘vicious’ attach from Orville (please note that which much of Alyssa’s blood has been spilled by Orville over the years, he has never once drawn blood from Olivia, he never, ever pounces at her with his claws out.) I realized that yes, Alyssa is getting so, so much out of this big sister gig. She’s learning patience, sharing, and tolerance. But more importantly than all of that, she’s loved by her little sister and that adoration goes a long way toward healing any lasting wounds that Alyssa might have suffered when her sister was small and needy.

I am one lucky mom to get to watch these girls grow up and see their relationship bloom.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I Just Don't Even Know

I don’t know why she wouldn’t go to sleep. We’ve had a pretty good run lately when it comes to sleep. Olivia seems to have reached a point where she either sleeps through the night or she is able to put herself back to sleep if she does wake up, not needing me to soothe her.

But Monday night was different. She just wouldn’t go to sleep.

We’d done the entire evening just like we always do, dinner, play, books, ice cream, brush teeth, rub back, go to sleep. Everything was like always except that last step. She wouldn’t go to sleep.

I tried everything. I tried taking her to her bed, laying down in the room with her for ten minutes. I tried leaving her in the room by herself. When I went up to put something away after leaving her upstairs by herself for ten minutes, I caught her scampering back to her room, very much aware that she wasn’t supposed to be out of bed.

I tried letting her lay on the recliner downstairs while I rubbed/scratched her back.

What finally worked was all of us just going to bed at 9:30. With all the lights in the house off and everyone going to sleep, that seemed to reset O’s clock and she was asleep in about two minutes of everyone settling in.

Whenever Alyssa has trouble falling asleep, I know something is on her mind and we talk about it in the dark. She confides her worries and I soothe them and she falls asleep.

I asked O if something was bothering her but she just whispered, “I just love you so much.”

Okay then.

Last night she fell asleep by 8:30 with nary a moment of fussing from either of us.

I will probably never figure that girl out.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Innate Laziness

I have a list of things I’d like to do around the house. So many things populate that list.

• Hang shelves in the living room on which to place family photos.
• Clean, organize and paint the master closet
• Clean and organize the toy room
• Clean and organize the guest room
• Vacuum (I know…)
• Paint Alyssa’s dresser similar to Olivia’s, only blue instead of red.
• Figure out how to make the end of the counter stop being a catchall for every single piece of paper that comes in our door. Ugh!

So much to do and yet when the girls are settled at night, I just want to sit around and watch mindless tv like, oh, Dancing with the Stars or iZombie.

Even on the weekends, time is swallowed by things like grocery shopping and endless loads of laundry. Of course there is always dinner to fix and lunches to pack. (Well, only one for me to pack, Alyssa has the grueling chore of packing her own lunch. You’d think we were making her pack everyone’s lunch with all the groaning that goes on when we remind her NIGHTLY to pack her lunch.)

But yeah, my innate laziness, my desire to sit down and peruse Facebook (oh my goodness, the drama that unfolded last weekend on one of the groups to which I belong on Facebook provided many minutes of amusement and amazement.

Most of the time, I think about all that I would like to eventually get done and then Alyssa will ask, “Can you sit with me?”

She’s twelve, how much longer is she going to want to sit with me and watch tv? Or heck, even be in the same room, house, state with me? I tell myself I need to cherish these moments even though really, I was looking for a reason to put off the work anyway.

Sigh. That closet is never going to be clean and organized. I think I might be okay with that.

Monday, April 6, 2015

So Much Work

I told Olivia last night that baths shouldn’t be so much work.

“Well,” she told me, “you’re the one that decided to have kids.”

Touché, I thought as I sopped up water from around the toilet which had gathered there from being splashed out of the tub while Olivia was ‘diving’ for the plastic eggs she’d taken in to play with while bathing.

She’s right; I’m the one who decided to have kids. I went into it know it would be work, that it would change my life forever.

In fact, as my pregnancy with Alyssa wound down, I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. I was thirty-two years old, which is plenty old to understand the changes coming my way. I loved the pregnancy (except those twelve weeks of daily puking…) and I loved having her with me at all times. I loved that she was actually very little work for me while I was pregnant.

The work began immediately after birth, of course. And it hasn’t stopped in the past twelve plus years.

Most days, it’s all good. My girls are sweet, loving girls who are probably more than a little spoiled and that’s my fault, which means I must be pretty okay with it.

But damn is bath time a lot of work.

Each bath starts with me reminding Olivia not to splash water out of the tub. She will smile her angelic smile and say, “Okay, I won’t.”

Then I’ll check on her ten minutes later (Relax, I was in the very next room folding laundry, listening to each and every splash.) there will be a small pond of water outside the tub. I’ll ask her how it happened.

Her first response is always, “I didn’t mean to!”

My answer to that is, “Even if you don’t mean to, it still means work for me.”

Yeah, not my finest moments but we get through them and she usually falls asleep feeling loved. And hey, bonus, she’s clean. So is the floor in the bathroom because it tends to get mopped every other night.

Look at me, looking at the bright side.

She’s awfully cute when she sleeps, isn’t she?