Monday, November 30, 2015


It appears we have a new cat. His name is Harvey. He’s a stray that Tom sort of caught. Actually, this kitty has been hovering around our house/yard for months but during the summer, when Orville was still our one and only, Harvey would sneak into the garden and eat our scraps, then scamper away when Orville spotted him.

Last week, Tom didn’t tell us that he’d caught the cat in our detached garage. He kept him in there for over a day then went out with some food and coaxed the hungry kitty out for breakfast.

We’d bought a bag of cat food the weekend before Orville was hit. It hadn’t even been opened.

Last Tuesday, Tom casually mentioned that he’d been feeding the stray that we’d seen throughout the summer.

I got a little snippy and said something about that was fine, whatever, that stray would never be Orville. Alyssa and I might have both cried a little. The memories are blurry. Ahem.

Tom ignored my maudlin comment and said that he’d noticed that the bag of cat food we’d planned to give to either my mom or my brother but that had instead sat in the garage for a month, had been chewed open by the wily cat who was obviously hungry.

So he’d been feeding this kitty for a week or so before he told us about him. By that point, the cat was feeling a little more trusting of Tom and even let me pet him the next day. I reminded him that if he was feeding this cat, he was staking a claim on him.

He replied, “Not necessarily.”

I retorted, “Oh yes, necessarily. Once you feed a stray, you are telling that animal that he’s found his home.”

Tom shrugged but didn’t comment further.

Then Alyssa made his acquaintance. And a love match was made. That little stray cat, a cat who had no reason to trust that we wouldn’t hurt him, followed Tom and Alyssa around our yard after she’d finally gone out to meet him.

He is scared of the road traffic and much prefers to stay in the barn where Alyssa visits him every few hours, staying for quite a while because he tries to block her from leaving. He meows at her when she gets there, climbs into her lap to make sure she has easy access for petting.

We’re hoping to plump him up and keep him healthy. He has an appointment with our local vet soon. He’s already proving to be an excellent mouser and an even better pet.

As I posted on Thanksgiving on Facebook, I’m so thankful for healing hearts, both mine and Alyssa’s.

I think Harvey is glad he’s found us. I know we are.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Social Butterfly

Seventh grade has brought quite a bit of social fluttering to Alyssa’s schedule.

Not only is she busier with school (homework every night, weekends included, band and choir performances, art projects/shows) she’s also got a lot of social invitations going around.

In the past three weeks she’s either spent the night with a friend or had a friend over to our house for a night on each weekend.

Last night, a Tuesday! she was invited to go with a friend and the friend’s mom to a Bingo game.

Because she’s doing so well in school, always gets her homework done, practices her flute without cajoling from me and/or Tom, we tend to let her do these social things as they come up.

But…Alyssa is like her mom. She’s an introvert. She loves spending time with her friends but not getting enough down time, alone time, she wears out quickly and easily.

Last night after the Bingo game, which ended around 8:00 and she got home from at 8:30, she was worn out.

She said to me, “Please don’t let me go with any friends to anything for at least two weeks.”

I hugged her close and laughed, “Even if you swear that you want to go?”

She shrugged. “I love my friends but they make me tired.”

“How about if we have a couple of friend-free weekends in a row?” I suggested.

She nodded her agreement. We do love her friends but sometimes the best things in life are best enjoyed in small doses. We are having the Porch girls over on Friday, but only for a few hours. That’s just enough to get friend time in without wearing a girl out.

Overnight events are just sometimes too much. Alyssa is not a night owl. She needs to be asleep by 10:00 each night in order to be functional the next day. Most of her friends would rather be up until 3am and then sleep until noon.

That’s not our schedule. We go to sleep early(ish) and get up early(ish). We like it that way and so going friend-free for a couple of weeks seems like a good plan.

After that, we’ll try to space it all out for her.

She has told me she appreciates that I am willing to be the ‘bad guy’ when she doesn’t really want to go to a friend’s house but doesn’t want to tell them. I will say no and she can tell her friends that her mom is mean and won’t let her do something.

I’m okay with that. That’s just one more aspect of parenting that I’m getting pretty good at, even if I have to say so myself.

I am just glad she’ll tell me these things so I can help her get her alone-time needs met even as she and her friends meet each other’s social needs.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

So Thankful

I’d like to think that I’m thankful for all my blessing, luck, whatever you want to call it, all year long but today is the day to express my thanks and so here goes.

I’m thankful that we’re all healthy.

I’m thankful that we have a home, food in our fridge, clothes on our backs and shoes on our feet.

I have a job that provides much for our family, allows us to provide the necessities with a little left over to enjoy some frivolities every so often.

I’m thankful for extended family. There is something to be said for multi-generational families. My girls get so much from being in close contact with my mom. She’s an amazing source of information and support for me and the girls just adore her so, so much. I love the love the flows from the generation before me to the generation after me. I am so lucky to get to watch their relationships grow and prosper.

I’m thankful for a supportive husband. I mean, he’s pretty amazing. As much as I might grumble or roll my eyes when he gets ‘lectury’ with me, I’m lucky to have him in my corner, on my side, at my back. I really wouldn’t want to do this alone and I do know how lucky I am that I don’t have to.

On this day, and every day, I try to focus on the good, the wonderful, the blessing, the luck that I’ve encountered, that I received each day. There’s something to be said for greeting each day with a grateful heart.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

AM Chaos

Sometimes our mornings are nice and smooth, everyone getting up right on time (or *gasp* early), everyone (the girls) eats their breakfast in a timely matter and there’s even time at the end of breakfast, after shoes are donned and teeth are brushed, for everyone to do something fun before hopping into the car or onto the bus.

This morning was not one of those easy, smooth, carefree mornings.

This morning was full of frustration, dawdling, admonitions to EAT ALREADY, scowls and annoyances. It felt chaotic, hectic, unbearable.

When I finally made my way down a little after 7:00, Tom was just about ready to throw both girls out on the snowy deck. Alyssa wouldn’t look up from her tablet long enough to eat her breakfast and Olivia wanted to ‘write’ as she ate her cereal. It’s hard to hold a pencil and a spoon at the same time unless your ambidextrous and Olivia is not. She kept asking why she had to feed herself when Tom has two perfectly good hands and could feed her so she could write while he did.

He looked up at me in exasperation.

I told Alyssa to go put the tablet away and took O’s pencil and paper away.

All that did was create grumbling from the under 13 crowd but, alas, sometimes a grumble or two have to happen when parenting occurs.

We’re a team here but there are days when one or the other needs to step in and take up the slack. We’re human, we get tired, we get frustrated, we loathe repeating ourselves and parenting is one long track of repetition.

So we fight through the chaos with the hope that tomorrow will be smoother, easier, less grumbly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Yellow Note

I got an email from Olivia’s teacher last week. It was to tell me that Olivia was coming home with a yellow note. A yellow note is a note from your child letting you know what they did that was unacceptable at school that day.

The child writes out their infraction, they sign the note, they bring the note home so parents can sign it and then it goes back to school.

Olivia wasn’t following directions. While at the school computer with instructions to work on math facts, Olivia was instead, surfing the web, looking at dresses.

Yes. It’s true. She was looking at dresses instead of doing math.


Okay then.

How do we address this?

Obviously, we talked to her about not using school computers to look at dresses. School computers are for school work, dresses are not school work.

But damn, I had to fight the smile and the laughter over this one. I’m sorry. I really am but it was funny.

I mean, come on, who else out there would rather look at pretty dresses instead of doing math facts? Duh, all of us, right?

Of course I held it together until after Tom and I had a stern talk with Olivia, asking her if she understood what she’d done wrong, telling her that the school computers are for school work, blah blah blah.

Then, after she left the room he and I stifled laughter and had a moment of shared amused exasperation. Our youngest child is so awesome and yet so awesomely frustrating in all the best ways.

When she came to my bed at midnight on Sunday night, I groggily asked her what was wrong. She stood there for several seconds before coming up with, “I’m just so lonely in my own bed.”

I scooted over and let her climb in next to me but as I did I told her, “Okay, but tomorrow, you’re going to sleep all night in your own bed because we both sleep better when you do.”

She gave a contented sigh as she leaned into me and whispered, “Maybe you sleep better when I stay in my bed but I sleep better here.”

She’s got me there. Actually, it’s pretty obvious that this kid has me wrapped around her little, sleepy finger.

To end on a positive note, last night, she DID sleep in her bed all night long. Not a peep out of her, no cries of loneliness, no sighs of grief at not being in her bed, just deep, sweet sleep for all of us. Sometimes giving in doesn’t mean starting all over with attempting consistency.


Monday, November 23, 2015

She Shines

This girl melts my heart even as she exasperates me to the point of throwing grown up tantrums.

We had a group birthday party for Olivia, who will be nine this week, Jaxon who turned eight last week and for Sabella, who turned ten last week.

If O had been born on her due date, her birthday would have fallen right between Sabella’s and Jaxon’s. As it is, she gets to be eight a few days longer while Jaxon has already joined her in the world of eight year olds.

My mom was gracious enough to throw the birthday party at her house. It was wonderful.

We invited the Porch girls to join us along with all the family that was there. Olivia was in her element as one of the birthday girls. She got dolls and jewels and dress-up clothes. She got to play games and blow out a candle. She ate cake and laughed at jokes.

Eight has been awesome with this girl. I imagine that nine will be just as wonderful if not better. She’s growing and maturing and learning. She never stops asking questions and trying to figure out the world and her place in it.

When she’s not following me from room to room sharing her very vivid imagination, she’s wrestling with her dad, playing outside in the freshly fallen snow and bugging her sister.

Those things in the above paragraph? They’re what typical eight year old do. While we get that she’s not completely typical, we are so, so lucky that our Livie lives such a perfectly, wonderfully life just this side of ordinary.

She shines a bright light where ever she goes and I feel blessed to be able to bask in it and watch her as she changes the world to suit her.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Secret Doors

While at the mall last weekend, Alyssa’s friend purchased a book. On the way home, she was reading the book and found a quiz. Both A and S took the quiz and then they asked me the questions.

When we were done, I was declared to be a purple chair. Not sure what that means but S began reading the personality traits of a purple chair.

I didn’t actually pay that much attention to what she was saying until she mentioned my love of secret doors.

“I DO love secret doors,” I gasped. “I’ve always wanted to have secret doors and passageways all through my house.”

Everyone in the car laughed but I was actually serious.

I’ve had so many dreams involving secret doors and rooms and passageways.

I’ve imagined cutting a secret door between the closets in the girls’ room and the guest room in our house. There are other places I’ve considered putting secret doors or rooms.

It’s all just so fascinating.

I mean, imagine the zombie apocalypse. Now imagine roaming walkers and hungry people who are willing to do just about anything to take what is yours.

If we had a secret room in our house, we could hide in there, with all our supplies, until the zombies and humans finished ransacking the rest of house, finding nothing of use because, duh, it’s all in the secret room, that’s…yep, a secret!

I might have given this too much thought.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Just Sick Enough

Alyssa had a cold last week.

It was bad enough that she stayed home from school last Monday. She never stays home so this was a serious cold.

She did return to school on Tuesday but has been coughing and blowing through tissues by the box ever since. She requests cough medicine daily and needs a decongestant nightly.

Even with all this going on, Tom and I let her have a friend over on Friday night so that friend could go to the mall with us on Saturday. That was fine since I could control when they went to sleep. Okay, so I couldn’t actually make them SLEEP but I could make them turn off the light in A’s room and remind them, repeatedly that we were getting up early the next day and they needed to sleep.

Lyss’s friend mentioned the next morning that they went to sleep early the night before.

Lyss replied dryly, “For you.”

That day Alyssa seemed to feel pretty well, though she still sounded congested and coughed a few times.

Throughout the day, the girls received texts from a third friend. This friend wanted A and S to come to her house that evening. I told them that if S’s parents were okay with it, I’d drop them at T’s house and pick them up at 10 that evening. S declared that T wanted them to spend the night and her (S’s) mom was okay with that.

I told Lyssie that I didn’t want her to spend the night because, hello, still sort of sick. She told me she was cool with just going over for the evening.

All went as planned until 9:45, when Lyss texted me. “Hi, I haven’t coughed all evening. Can I stay later or spend the night?”

Ha. Nice try.

I replied, “I’m glad you’re feeling better. I’ll be there at 11.”

Again, she was pretty cool when I picked her up. I explained to her that I know what happens when she stays at either S’s or T’s house. They don’t go to sleep until at least 3am and even though she’s on the mend, she still needs more sleep than she’d get at her friend’s house.

She agreed with me that she would sleep more at home and twenty minutes after we got home, she proved me right about her needing more sleep because she was in bed and fast asleep.

I’m so lucky that she listens to me and doesn’t get mad when I put my parenting skills to work. But even if she did get mad at me, she still would have been home and maybe even in trouble. As it was, she had a little fun, got decent rest and finished a social studies project Sunday afternoon without needing a nap.

Yep, I’m putting this one down in the parenting ‘win’ category.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hissy Fit

On Saturday we went to the mall. By we, I mean my mom, the girls and I. And by the girls, I mean Alyssa, Olivia and Alyssa’s friend S.

We stopped at Toys R Us before we went to the mall and Olivia got a cheap pink crown that came with some clip on earrings.

She wore the crown and earrings through Barnes & Noble, through the mall to the food court and all during lunch but then decided that the carousel wasn’t necessarily earring-worthy, I guess.

So she handed them to me and…I put them somewhere. I guess.

I think she handed the earrings to me as we were spinning on the tea-cup-esque feature of the carousel. She much prefers that thing to the animals that go up and down. And she wants me to ride it with her.

(Aside: We rode the carousel once and had to sit on a bench because the kid who was first in line got the spinny thing first. No big deal, we’d already purchased a second set of tickets. We waited through a run of the carousel so we could be first in line and get the spinny thing on our second ride. A sneaky little kid tried to hi-jack our turn on the spinny thing but thankfully, I’m bigger and bossier and we got their first. He tried to sneak in around my butt as I unchained the ride but I blocked him and gave him the teacher/mom look that said to back off. He muttered, “Darn it!” I replied, “Sorry dude, we were first in line and we were here first.” He stomped off and Olivia and I quite enjoyed our ride. I felt no guilt whatsoever over blocking out that kid for that ride. End Aside.)

So on Sunday, she asked me for those earrings.

I looked at her blankly.

She reminded me of the sparkly earrings she’d handed to me and informed me that I put them in my purse.

I declared that I knew which earrings she meant but I didn’t think they were in my purse.

She insisted that I’d put them in my purse.

I told her I hadn’t.

She suggested I look.

So I looked. I looked through that entire freaking purse, getting angrier and angrier with each pocket I searched. I ended up taking every single thing out of my purse, fuming the entire time, getting louder in my fuming as I tossed a bottled of ibuprofen across the kitchen table in my ire.

Olivia sat next to me calmly the entire time, watching me throw my tantrum as I continued to insist that I didn’t have her damned earrings.

Once my purse was empty, I showed her triumphantly that there were no earrings in there. Yes, I’m so very mature, thank you so much for noticing.

Then…I thought back to when she handed me the earrings. What else was I holding at the time?

Oh yeah, the Barnes & Noble bag.

I left innards from my purse on the kitchen table, found the bag from the bookstore, looked through it, retrieved the earrings, both of them, and handed them to her with a muttered apology.

Then I cleaned up the table, put my purse back together and searched out my daughter.

I hugged her and apologized for the tantrum I’d thrown.

She asked, quite sincerely, how an adult could throw a tantrum. I told her I’d pretty much shown her how it worked just a few minutes ago, hadn’t I? Then I suggested that maybe it hadn’t been so much a tantrum so much as a hissy fit.

Olivia found the phrase ‘hissy fit’ to be so hilarious that she had to tell Tom all about it when he came in. He’d been lucky enough to miss my hissy fit but I wasn’t lucky enough for him to miss hearing about it.

But get this…I didn’t dwell on it the rest of the day. I let it go. I wasn’t at my best, sure, but I hope to learn from it and maybe keep my cool a little better next time. Because we all know there will be a next time, don’t we?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Conference and IEP Amendments

It’s that time of year again. Parent/Teacher conferences happened yesterday. Wheee!!!

So much fun to be had by all.

Honestly, it was a good meeting. I always go into these conferences with a little trepidation. I mean, we all know that Miss O can be a challenge. She’s sweet and stubborn and smart and frustrating and funny and sort of anti-social all rolled into an adorable, exasperating little package.

I met with both her regular ed class teacher and her special ed teacher. They’re both wonderful women who seem to genuinely care about Olivia. If they don’t, they’re both amazing actresses and deserve Oscars for their performances.

The good: Olivia is reading at a third grade level. She comprehends what she reads, she can explain the story after reading it, she puts inflection into the narrative even when not asked to do so. She enjoys books and telling stories. Her imagination is huge and her ability to talk about what she’s thinking has improved tremendously over the past couple of years.

Socially, she’s also coming along well. While she still doesn’t talk quite as much to her peers as we’d like, she is well-liked among her classmates. There is one girl specifically who seems to watch out for Olivia and wants to help her whenever possible. This girl is the classroom shoe-tyer. She just waits for an opportunity to help Olivia by tying her shoes. I think this is sweet.

There is a boy in the class who sits next to Olivia at lunch every single day. He keeps an eye on what she’s eaten and encourages her to eat more. I don’t even know which boy this is but I adore him from afar.

She’s started sitting with her class again in the cafeteria and she’s actually still eating. She doesn’t eat as much as she was when she was sitting either alone or with just a few classmates but she is eating and we consider this a win.

The Not-So-Good: She doesn’t test well when she’s left to her own devices when testing occurs. She tests very well when her special ed teacher sits near her and keeps her on task. Mrs. A never gives O the answers, she doesn’t read the questions or the test to her, she just reminds O to take her time and really read what she’s been presented. So we’re amending O’s IEP to reflect the need for a one-to-one aide during testing.

We’re also amending the IEP to state that Olivia doesn’t have to do quite as much classwork as the rest of her classmates. She needs more time to do the work and so she’ll be given as much time as the rest of the class and be graded on what she gets finished without being penalized for the parts not finished.

This does not mean that Liv is being allowed to not learn areas of the curriculum. She still has to master all the skill, but she doesn’t have to do homework for an hour a night just to get done what a typical kid would finish in twenty minutes. I love this amendment.

She still doesn’t actually play with her peers at recess but she definitely considers having recess taken away from her to be a punishment and she will do almost anything to avoid not going outside with her peers. I find this interesting. I love that she wants to be near her peers even if she isn’t actually interacting with them. I tell myself that she’s learning from them through observation and at some point will be ready and willing to actually play with these kids.

All in all, it was a good conference. Obviously, my conferences for Olivia are always going to be different from the ones I had when Alyssa was in elementary. The biggest complaint her fourth grade teacher could come up with was to suggest that Alyssa work on her handwriting. Ha! She even laughed when she said it, very much aware of the silliness of the constructive ‘criticism’ she was giving. She admitted that she was advised to give the parents something their kids could work on.

But Olivia is trying. She’s growing and learning and continuing to improve and that’s all we can ask of her. She works hard at school and at home. Sure, she has to be reminded to stay on task but even some typical second graders need that.

The important thing is that we’re not giving up on her and she’s not giving up on herself or school. I’m so proud of this girl and how far she’s come. She’s doing so much more than most people expected of her and I just glad to be able to watch her change her world, one sparkly dress at a time.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’m not really all that consistent.

I realize that is part of the reason my girls were such horrible sleepers as babies.

I’m trying hard to rectify this issue lately when it comes to Olivia sleeping in my bed.

Each night before we go to sleep I remind her that she’s going to stay in her bed that night.

She’ll nod, acting like she agrees with me and almost every night this week, she’s come to my bed around 2am, asking to climb in with me.

The lazy part of me wants to just scooch over and let her have her way.

The practical side makes me get up, walk her back to her bed, tuck her in and kiss her goodnight. When she inevitably asks why she can’t sleep with me, I gently remind her that it’s just not comfortable to sleep together in my bed. She’s poky and jabby and surprisingly good at hogging the bed. My back ends up hurting and I’m cranky the next morning because I got crap sleep the night before.

I’m learning that if I stay consistent with not letting her sleep with me, after a few nights she’ll not even bother getting out of her bed. But the first night I give in and let her snuggled up in my bed, I’m in for at least a week of walking her back to her bed and reminding her that we all sleep better when we’re in our own beds.

I’m a little slow at this mommy thing, obviously. But I think I might be getting the hang of it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Simplification: Step One

So yes, I want to simplify my life. I think I’m going to start with the mornings, since, you know, they’re the start of the day. Makes sense, right?


So mornings…are hectic. Why? First of all, because I’m not a morning person and so I roll out of bed like a turtle trying to get off its shell. Then I lumber down the hall to the bathroom where I wince as I turn on the light. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to brush my teeth and use the toilet before Olivia joins me in my bathroom where she’s plops herself down in front of the space heater and cooks her feet while I gather the things I’ll need after my shower.

But really, that’s not the most complicated part of the morning.

The most complicated part of the morning is getting Olivia to get dressed.

See, these days she’s got very strong opinions on what to wear each morning. Yesterday, for example, she changed shirts three times before she was satisfied with her ensemble.

This makes me crazy because our mornings are very scheduled because I snooze until the last minute. See the paragraph above about me not being a morning person. By the third change of clothes I’m usually hissing, “Come on Liv, it’s not like I have all flipping day.”

Yes, not my finest moments as a mother. I’m working on that one.

In an attempt to curtail all this changing of clothes, I am going to start having Olivia help me pick out her clothes for the week on Sunday afternoon. For the past five years, I’ve laid out clothes each Sunday. But I’ve never asked for her input and this year it appears she needs to have some input. I feel like getting her thoughts on the week’s clothes on Sunday. Sunday afternoons are much less stressful and scheduled than Monday mornings.

And best yet, if I have her help pick out the outfits she’ll wear each week, she’ll have only herself to blame if she hates that morning’s clothes. I know real mature, right? Who’s the parent here? I can just see myself snapping that at her some Thursday morning when she’s declaring the shirt not fancy enough and the pants annoying.

Sigh…this might not be the best plan and yet… it’s a start. We can tweak it as we go if necessary. And sure, I can maybe grow up just a little bit. Of course I can.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Happy Birthday!

So yes, Saturday was my birthday. I very much like having birthdays. I don’t even care about age. It’s just fun to celebrate and be reminded that there are people who are happy you’re in their world.

As I stared down the aging process and accepted that I’m officially in my mid-forties (44 is still early forties in my book) I realized that I want to use this year to make our lives better, simpler, less cluttered both literally and metaphorically.

I have a lot of clutter in my brain, a lot of noise that is not good noise. I need that to quiet down.

I also desperately declutter my house, my car, my desk at work. Heck, my whole life.

Case in point: I tried to make pie crust from scratch this weekend. It did not end well. Wait, okay, the pie crust that I tried to make did not end well. The pie itself ended just fine because I drove four miles to the grocery store and bought some Pillsbury ready-made pie crust and Tom, Olivia and my mom enjoyed some lovely raspberry pie that evening.

But the process of attempting to make that pie crust? It just wore me out. It was awful. And it deflated me so completely it was ridiculous. Tom couldn’t understand why the failure of the pie crust crushed me so thoroughly. He read the recipe and didn’t understand what was so hard about it. I agree with him. It reads as such a simple thing, what with the flour and the shortening and the salt. Alas, it was a huge disaster and I have vowed, much to Tom’s disgust, to never EVER try to make pie crust again.

So help me, if he buys me one of those damned pastry cutters shown in my cookbook, I will not be responsible for my actions. Seriously.

But other than the pie crust debacle, it was a lovely weekend. We had cake (well, the family had cake, I had tiny cupcakes because I hate the whipped cream frosting they prefer on cakes. Ugh!) and I had cashew chicken and hot and sour soup from our local Great Wall.

I got a book and a couple of movies. My mom covered my footstool in this lovely yellow and cream fabric that makes it look new. The girls were awesome because they just are.

My brothers both called/texted to wish me a happy day and Julie, because she’s awesome too, texted.

I have the greatest family and the best friends. I’m not sure I deserve them but I’ll hold them close anyway and continue to try and better myself in hopes of being truly worthy of them at some point.

So, word for the next year, the year of 45? Simplify. Do I want to do this? Will it make me happy? Will it enrich my life? Will it make me a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend? If yes, let’s go for it. If no? Walk away and look for the next simple thing.

Here’s to forty five years of me.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Tics and New Outlook

Our darling Olivia has had a few tics over the years. The biggest probably doesn’t even count as a tic since it can be classified as a whole issue all by itself. You know I’m talking about the hair pulling, right? Yeah, that was the biggest and she overcame that one all by herself.

This latest tic, though, is driving me crazy. She bounces and then makes this weird sound in the back of her throat. Sort of a hum crossed with a sound like she’s clearing her throat. As she makes that sound, she’ll jump maybe an inch off the ground, landing with a thump and then making the sound again.

It’s awful.

I know she can’t help it and yet I struggle to keep myself from telling her to knock it off. In fact, I sometimes lose the struggle and command, “Stop bouncing!”

Those are not my proudest moments. I’m lucky that she just ignores me, bounces one more time and then goes about her business.

I realize that she’s not bouncing AT me and yet it’s so irritating. I try so hard to remember that she’s probably not even aware that she’s doing it until I tell her to quit it.

I wish I were the type of loving, gentle mother who could just ignore the bouncing, secure in the knowledge that it, too, will stop when she’s ready to let it stop.

Instead, I can be heard from the shower telling her, “Stop bouncing. Stop it, stop it, stop it!”

And in the next breath, I’ll tell Alyssa to not yell at her sister for something she (the sister) can’t help.

Yeah, mother of the freaking year over here.

But you know what? Something Julie said recently on Facebook really resonated with me.

I shared a post about wishing my daughters could see themselves the way I see them.

Julie commented that the reverse is true, that we should try to see ourselves the way our daughters see us.

That right there…it was beautiful.

You see, I have so many faults, I get so cranky and tired and achy and irritable and my kids love me anyway. They seek me out, they want to be near me because, and I honestly believe this is true, my good moments far outweigh my bad ones. The irritation is erased by the hugs. The tiredness is blotted out by the kisses and back scratches.

The “Stop bouncing!” is eclipsed by the “I love you so much.”

They see so much good in me, so much potential to be the mom they need, the mom they deserve. I need to remember that. I need to seek out what they see and let it shine brighter than ever. I need to remember that to them, I’m the best mom in the world, because I’m theirs. I need to live up to what they see when they look at me.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

No Filter

An acquaintance of mine (shall we call her Danielle? Yes, let’s.) asked me yesterday how Alyssa is doing since Orville’s untimely death.

I replied that Alyssa is doing very well, thank you. She was very sad for about a week and then evened out. She seems to have found a place of peace about the whole thing.

I mentioned that the day after Orville died, Alyssa had two tests. She managed to get an A+ on one of the tests and only missed two for a solid A on the second one.

To my co-worker I said, “I feel like the fact that she could work around her grief to the point of getting those kinds of scores on her tests is a mark of emotional maturity.”

Danielle was nodding wisely when I added, “Either that or she’s a sociopath. You know, one or the other.”

Danielle let out a startled laugh and said, “I can’t believe you said that.”

I shrugged and she walked away. I’m aware that some might have found that comment offensive but it’s so glaringly obvious that Alyssa is not a sociopath that I thought it was funny. Perhaps I’m the one without emotional maturity. Or just no filter.

Lyssie is an awesome, smart, sweet person who works hard, has a great sense of humor and feels all the feelings deeply and truly. Hannibal Lector’s daughter, she isn’t.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Attention Seeking Little Sisters

“Why is she such a weirdo when my friends are around?” Alyssa wondered the other day as we drove to Gram’s house.

Olivia was in the backseat minding her own business, just being quiet and, dare I say, normal? Perhaps even ordinary.

“She wants your attention,” I replied. “When you’re with your friends, you’re giving them your attention and the best way Livie can think of to get your attention is to act crazy. So she does.”

“But it’s so annoying!”

“Of course it is, that’s what gets your attention.”

Olivia’s syndrome manifests itself mostly through social issues. She doesn’t really have friends at school because she won’t talk to her peers. But she does have a relationship with her sister. She interacts with Alyssa and so sees Alyssa as her friend. When Lyss’s friends are over or when we’re out and about and run into friends, Liv sees Lyssie with her friends and I think Liv is jealous that her sister is giving all that attention to someone who is not her.

I do my best to distract Olivia when Alyssa is with friends but it’s hard for all of us.

And when Olivia acts out, she really does go to extremes. She makes weird faces, she shrieks, she laughs hysterically. In the end, I can understand why Alyssa is embarrassed, even if just a little, by her sister.

I think, though, that a lot of sister relationships are like this, even sisters where there is no syndrome involved.

I finally told Alyssa, “Little sisters are annoying. They can be embarrassing but I’m sure your friends understand that her behavior is not something you can control. You’re friends are good people, they know that Livie is just silly sometimes and they think it’s funny, not something to judge you against.”

“I know,” she sulked a little. “I just wish she’d stop being weird.”

Oh Lyss, I think those words have been spoken countless times by big sisters everywhere for all time. It’s just the nature of being siblings. You deal, you get annoyed and at the end of the day, you’re grateful for your siblings. Really.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

So Normal

Last Friday Olivia’s class had a Halloween Party. It’s one of three times in the school year when parents are invited to the school to spend the afternoon with their kids.

I worked the snack table, handing out cookies for the kids to decorate and spooning frosting onto their plates.

Another mom (let’s call her Lara) joined me and helped hand out juice boxes and pretzel packs. The kids were divided into four groups of four, so we had nice small groups coming to our table every fifteen minutes or so.

Olivia’s group was the last one to make it to the snack table. While they were there, her teacher, Mrs. P came up and whispered something in O’s ear. Liv smiled and nodded. Mrs. P asked me if Olivia had thanked me. I smiled and said she had.

“That was our only goal for today,” Mrs. P said with a smile.

As Mrs. P walked away, the mom working next to me asked what that was all about.

I told her that we were working on getting O to talk while at school.

“She doesn’t talk?” Lara asked.

“Oh, she’s perfectly capable of talking,” I laughed. “She talks constantly at home but here at school, it’s more of a challenge.”

Lara replied, “I wish I’d thought of that when I was in school.”

“Well,” I said, attempting a quick education on the complexity that is Olivia. “Her not talking isn’t really a conscious choice on her part. We’re working hard to get her to talk here. She sees the speech therapist, and since she does have 5p- syndrome, a lot of her challenges are just part of her biology.”

Lara looked over at Olivia, who was happily smearing orange frosting on a sugar cookie. “She looks so normal. She’ll probably outgrow it, right?”

I wasn’t sure what she was suggesting Olivia would outgrow but replied, “We’re hoping she’ll out grow the not talking thing. That’s why we work so hard with her but since her syndrome is chromosomal, it’s kind of something she’ll have to deal with her entire life.”

Lara shook her head. “But she looks so normal. She’ll probably outgrow the syndrome thing.”

At that point, I gave up trying to educate Lara. She didn’t get it. And why should she? She’s probably never heard of Cri du Chat or 5p- Syndrome. She has no reason to understand it.

She looks at Olivia, she sees a cute little girl with a mischievous smile and pretty hair. She sees ‘normal.’

And sometimes, I’m okay with that. I don’t need to educate the whole world. I don’t even need to educate every single one of Olivia’s classmates’ moms. I decided in that moment to let that mom hold on to her ignorance, her belief that O would outgrow her chromosomal disorder. It wasn’t worth taking time from the awesome kids at the party to explain that a person’s chromosomes just don’t change as they grow. They are the same at 90 as they were at conception.

For that moment, I let Liv be a ‘normal’ kid who was a little quirky. And honestly? It felt good to just let it go at that moment. Just call me Elsa.

Monday, November 2, 2015


This year while at the conference I attend each year, I told our story quite a few times. And each time, I used the word only with air quotes.

How obnoxious are air quotes? I mean, seriously. I need to cut that crap out.

So yes, I used air quotes and talked about how Olivia spent ‘only’ eleven days in the NICU.

I used the air quotes to let people know that I knew that there is no such thing as only. Except, obviously, I still felt the need to throw that only out there anyway, thinking the air quotes negated it.

I think, no matter how much I tried to deny it, I used the word only to let everyone around me know that I didn’t think that Olivia’s eleven days in the NICU compared in any way to the days, weeks and yes, months other babies spent in the hospital.

I wanted everyone to know that I respected the fact that their children were sicker than mine. That they’re children spend more time in intensive care than mine and because of these things, obviously my pain from having O in the NICU didn’t compare to anyone else’s.

But you know what? There’s no comparison because pain is pain. There is no award given to the person who suffered the longest or the hardest. There’s just suffering.

And by acknowledging that, I’m giving up the ‘only’.

My story now reads: My daughter spend eleven days in the NICU immediately following her birth.

My full-term newborn spend eleven days in the NICU.

I went to the hospital to have a baby at 41 weeks and two days pregnant and when my baby was three hours old, she was taken from the hospital where she was born and transported via ambulance to a larger hospital with a NICU equipped to care for her. She spent the next eleven days in that NICU. I spent the first night of my daughter's life an hour's drive away from here. Beginning the very next day, I visited her every single day, dividing my time between the NICU and home, where my three year old waited, no understanding why her sister was not home with us.

No matter where I was during those eleven days, I felt like I should be somewhere else.

If I was with Olivia at the hospital, I felt like I was neglecting Alyssa at home. When I got home, within minutes, I felt like I was the worst mother ever because my baby was at the hospital, all alone.

There is no only in that story. There is pain. There is grief. There is suffering. Our entire family suffered during those eleven days we were separated from each other.

No one ever expects their newborn to spend time in the hospital. For me, having had a fairly uneventful pregnancy that ended with an induced delivery nine days after my due date, I absolutely didn’t expect my baby to end up in the NICU.

My daughter spent eleven days in the NICU immediately following her birth. It was hard. It was painful. It was unexpected and I wouldn’t wish those eleven days on anyone else.

Here we are, coming up on Olivia’s ninth birthday and I’m finally letting go of the only and embracing the trauma that we all suffered during her eleven days in the NICU. I believe that by embracing the pain, I’ll be able to let it go. By letting go of the ‘only’ I’ll be able to see that our experience was as valid, as painful, as hard as anyone else’s. It was our experience. We lived it. We were lucky to survive it. And we’re so, so lucky to be able to tell the story of it.