Wednesday, November 30, 2016

So Much Crap

We’re having two of Olivia’s classmates over on Saturday to celebrate her birthday. Obviously, it’s a very small party but Tom and I talked about it and decided that Olivia would have more fun and might actually talk to her guests if there were just two of them.

In preparation for this ‘party’ I have been attempting to clean/organize the toyroom. It’s a disaster and just stepping inside the door of the room last week was depressing.

But I’ve made strides in cleaning it up. One can now walk into the room without stepping on anything. But there is still so much stuff in there. SO…MUCH…CRAP.

And yet here I am, making lists of more crap to buy my girls for Christmas. It’s kind of a sick, relentless cycle.

I looked around the room, which needed vacuumed once I managed to get all the crap off the floor and saw all the things that need to be purged.

We have toys that neither of the girls has played with in years. YEARS I tell you.

We have blocks that need to be passed on to some awesome kid who likes to build things with blocks. Olivia has always hated blocks. I think it stems from her first year of therapy (yes, she was only a year old but some things can take hold even that young and manifest years later…) when she was forced asked to use the blocks to make ‘trains’ and towers and other stuff she had no interest in doing.

Alyssa played with those blocks back when she was as much into horses as she is now into music. She used those blocks to make corrals and training circles. She made very elaborate arenas in which her horses performed. These days? Those blocks are taking up space and need to go.

The amount of tiny crap that has accumulated in our house is insane. We have left over Squinkies all over the place, we have tiny Barbie Leggos, I filled a bag with used (but not completely!) lip balm and Olivia was ecstatic to carry that bag around all day last Saturday, layering her flavors of lip balm.
Now that we have to children whose ages are in the double digits, it’s time to get rid of so much of the clutter. It needs to go not only because the entire house would be easier to keep clean but also because I have to wonder why we’re keeping that crap. For whom are we keeping it? Not the girls…so am I keeping it for me? For the sentimental value of simply having it in the house?

I don’t get nearly enough emotional benefits from that stuff to justify keeping useless crap that no one wants or needs or really even cares about. It’s time to send that stuff away and hope it finds a good home where other kids will love it and treasure it.

Let the purge begin.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Double Freaking Digits

So yes, Olivia turned ten yesterday. She was so excited about her birthday in the days leading up to it, she almost couldn’t stand it. It was adorable and exhausting all at the same time.

She’s loved her birthday for years but this was the first one to which she really looked forward. She told Alyssa at one point over the weekend, “On my birthday, I’ll practically be a teenager.”

Ha! Hahaha… except, no. Not yet, my babiest girl.

She asked me several times if I thought she’d wake up on her birthday and be taller than Alyssa. I indulged her a couple of times but then gently reminded her that growth doesn’t actually work like that.

She listened to my explanation of how kids actually grow every single day, not just on the night before their birthday and then, when I was finished, she narrowed her eyes at me, shook her head once to let me know that she thought I was a bit of an idiot and then the bounded away, announcing to Lyss in the next room that she was, in fact, probably going to be taller on her birthday.

At ten, Olivia is still very much into Monster High. Her birthday presents were a Monster High sheet set, a Monster High book and a Monster High movie. She also got a new necklace and earring set, because, yes, that girl is WAY into jewelry. She currently wears three (or is it four?) bracelets daily.

She’s very into accessorizing. I kind of love it because I’m so NOT into accessorizing. I’m very bad at it and I love that she’s so good at it. I could totally see her becoming a stylist someday because it’s what she loves.

Olivia has attained a level of maturity that I’m so proud of. I often wondered how far she’d come when it came to emotional maturity but she’s getting there. She still doesn’t talk much at school but at my mom’s for Thanksgiving, she spoke in a normal tone of voice no matter who was in the room. She used her inside voice and asked clear questions even though my step-sister and her family, people we only see twice a year, were there. She talked while my brothers were next to her. And yes, she tried to climb on my head when my youngest brother gigantic dog attempted to lick her toes (that creature was put outside at that point.) but she talked. That’s the point. She talked.

She’s ten. She’s double digits. According to my babiest girl she’s practically a teenager!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Short Week

Because this is a short work week yesterday and today feel like they’ve been run at break-neck speed.

That opening sentence should probably just read: I’m tired.

I think at this point, I can safely say that Olivia is sleeping through the night. Though to be completely honest, she did wake me up twice on Saturday night to fix her blankets. So…hit or miss, I guess.

Except that her sleep is so much better these days as she edges in on ten (she’ll be ten in five days, so she’s more teetering on the precipice of ten more so than edging on it) than it was as she was turning eight. I remember those first eight years of her life. They were hard when it came to sleep. But then she turned eight and a month later started sleeping through the night five out of seven nights a week.

I call that victory. And sweet, sweet bliss.

When I got up this morning, Tom had turned on the space heater in my bathroom. That man is so kind to me in so many small ways. I will never be able to be nearly as kind to him in all these little ways and I am working hard at getting over my own sense of being unworthy of these kindnesses. He obviously WANTS to do them and I benefit from them. So…I need to get over myself.

My mom and stepdad got home from their vacation last night; which means I didn’t have to stop by their house this morning to feed their cat. It was a luxurious morning, having those extra fifteen minutes. I was able to spend them arguing with Olivia about which shoes she was going to wear to school (it is no longer sandal weather, sorry, kid!) and then brushing her teeth after ordering her to pee for over five minutes while she gazed lovingly at her reflection and fixed her earrings about three hundred times.

Have I mentioned how lovely it is to have a thirteen year old who is completely self-sufficient in all areas of personal hygiene? It’s delightful. I don’t even have to ask when that other girl (Not naming names but it’s not Olivia) last pooped. It’s so freeing, is what I’m saying.

So yes, this is a short week with holidays and large meals and perhaps a bit of shopping here and there.

I hope everyone out there (all four of you?) has a lovely Thanksgiving if you happen to celebrate it and a wonderful Thursday if you don’t.

Friday, November 18, 2016


So I started my Christmas shopping earlier this week. I mean, as much as you can call one item for each daughter starting shopping. Nothing is wrapped yet, so I’m way behind Julie in the area of holiday prep.

It is the season of the bun for Olivia and her hair. Last year, it was the year of the braid. We did all the braids one can possibly imagine but this year, she’s way into having her hair in a bun. She prefers a high centered bun but we’ve done middle buns, low buns, side buns, two buns ala Princess Leia. We use one of those donut things that you put over a ponytail. Then, when her hair is over the donut, we flip it over and then either twist the remaining hair or put it in colorful ponytail holders and wrap it around the base of the bun. She loves that her hair is up and out of her way and I love how neat and done she looks.

Alyssa’s obsession with Pentatonix is rivaled only by her newest love of Markipier. She’s adorable and yet…OMG, if I have to watch any of his videos one more time, I might just lose my mind. I think she’s watched everything he’s ever done seven hundred times and made me watch them six hundred and ninety nine times. I do wonder where this odd fixation with twenty-seven year old guys comes from…hmmm. Luckily, she’s a homebody and isn’t planning and road trips to go stalk these people anytime soon.

Finally, it’s Friday and I’m glad for it. I’ve had several early days at work and I’m ready to be done.

I’m also ready for my mom and step dad to be home from vacation because while it’s been great getting to watch their television (Hello, Holiday Baking Challenge) and eat their food, I’m kind of ready to spend an entire evening at home without having to go feed their cat, mouthy beast that she is.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

About that Conference

So yes, I met with Olivia’s teachers last Thursday. It was a nice enough meeting that lasted, oh, maybe fifteen minutes.

Her regular classroom teacher was there was well as the special ed. teacher. This is the first year Olivia has worked with Mrs. B, the new(?) special ed. teacher. Mrs. A moved up to the fourth through eighth grades, which means Olivia will get to work with her again next year. Olivia’s worked with Mrs. A since kindergarten, so next year ought to be nice for Liv.

But we have to get through this year first.

Since Mrs. B is new to Olivia, it’s…going. She’s trying to bond with Olivia and get her to connect even a little. Olivia is slow to warm to new people but I do think she’s trying this year. The older she gets, the more she understands the rules and the more she tries to obey them. But sometimes she thinks the rules are stupid and so, well, she doesn’t want to follow them. I get it.

Mrs. H, O’s regular classroom teacher started the conference by saying, “What can we say about Olivia? She’s a mystery.”

Yes. Yes she is a mystery. We all agree with that. Everyone who has ever met and tried to talk to Olivia can see that this girl is a mystery.

We all agreed that there is so much going on in Olivia’s head, that she really is so smart and the real mystery is trying to help her figure out how to get all the information, all those ideas, all those thoughts out of her head and into the conversation or onto the paper.

Olivia does not test well. She overthinks tests and often doesn’t know what’s really being asked of her. Mrs. H showed me a test Olivia had taken the day before the conference. There were multiple choice questions as well as a couple of ‘essay’ questions, which are basically asking for a sentence or two.

Olivia had the right answer on most of the multiple choice questions but then tried to erase them and put new answers.

Mrs. H said that she often sits next to O during these kinds of tests and will put her hand over an answered question, telling Liv to move on to the next question.

Smart teacher.

I like Mrs. H better this year than I did when she was O’s KinderKids teacher. I think the fact that Olivia is more mature and heck, let’s be honest, Mrs. H is also four years older, helps. I think Mrs. H is a bit aloof, like Olivia, which means they both tend to wait for the other to make the first move in this teacher/student relationship.

And yes, we all know that Olivia can outwait a sloth. She is perhaps the most stubborn person I’ve ever known, so there’s that.

But really, at the end of the conference, we were all agreeing that we’ll keep pushing Olivia, keep helping her where she needs it and keep expecting her to perform at her best.

Really, that’s all I can ask of her teachers, to care enough to push her, to understand enough to accept her, mystery and all and to be mature enough not to take her idiosyncrasies personally. I mean, she is the kid in this scenario so…we’re going to go ahead and let her keep on being a kid as much as possible.

Monday, November 14, 2016


Alyssa follows (subscribes to?) quite a few people on YouTube. She enjoys silly videos and watches a lot of insanity. It amuses her and it amuses me when she shares it.

She found a young woman named Amanda and started following her. She enjoys this woman’s sense of humor.

Apparently, this young woman is a lesbian. One of Alyssa’s favorite videos from Amanda is where Amanda stands on the streets of New York and comes out to strangers. Alyssa thinks it’s hysterical that Amanda tells strangers she’s gay and then asks them if they love her as much as they did before they knew she was gay.

Over the weekend, Alyssa dropped the news that when Amanda came out as gay to her parents, they kicked her out their house.

They kicked their daughter out of their house. For being gay.

I just…I can’t even begin to fathom that line of thinking. I can’t imagine anything either of my daughters could do that would make me kick them out of our house.

I mean, I tried to think of something when Alyssa and I were talking and all I could come up with was, “Well, I supposed if you killed someone and ate their face, I might be worried for your soul.”

Alyssa asked, “Why on earth would I eat their face?”

“Well,” I said, “because you were crazy, I guess. I mean, why else would you kill someone to begin with? Maybe the voices told you to do it. But even then, I’m pretty sure I’d still love you. I’d just be scared you were going to eat my face while I slept.”

I know I’m making light of a serious subject (murder is pretty awful, even without the face eating) but I can’t fathom a parent disowning their child based on who that child loves.

When Alyssa first told me about Amanda’s parents I was speechless for a few seconds. I just gaped at her.

Then I said, “But love is love…is love.”

She looked at me with wise eyes and nodded.

Several of Alyssa’s friends have come out to each other. Alyssa and her friend Tessa joke that they’re the weird straight girls.

Honestly…I do not care if my girls are straight, gay, bi or even asexual. I don’t care if they eventually decide that they don’t identify as female. I want them to be happy and to find love. I want them to be kind and to surround themselves with kind people, with people who make them happy no matter how they define their relationships with those people.

As their mother, I just can’t imagine deciding that I don’t love my children based on the gender of the people they find romantically attractive. I mean…really? How freaking sad for everyone involved.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Good Music

In the midst of all the chaos and anger in the world right now, my mom and I were able to sit back and listen to over one hundred seventh and eighth graders learn from an amazing conductor.

I dropped Alyssa and her friend Tessa off at the school at 6:15 yesterday morning where they boarded a school bus (a small one because there were only seven kids and a teacher) that took them to Bowling Green, Ohio where they participated in a middle school honor band.

Later in the day, (after a conference with Olivia’s teacher, which deserves a post all its own) my mom and I drove to Bowling Green State University to join Alyssa and her friends.

We were lucky enough to get to sit in on some of the rehearsal so we got to see the conductor who was working with Alyssa’s group of kids. He was so great about engaging these kids. He listened to them, he made sure they were listening to him and he told relevant stories that made them realize how lucky they truly are to be doing what they were doing where they were doing it.

It was a very long day for all the kids. They got to BGSU at 8am, got their band assignments (there were three bands with about 100 kids in each, all seventh and eighth graders) and their music. Then they started practicing and with just a couple of breaks for lunch and dinner, they practiced their hearts out until the 7pm concert.

And that concert was amazing. Alyssa’s group learned four pieces of music and they sounded awesome.

I think the fact that we got to hear some of the rehearsal made the concert that much better for me and my mom. We knew how far they’d come and we knew how much the conductor pulled out of them.

I am so grateful to Alyssa’s school for giving her this opportunity. I’m so grateful to Bowling Green State University for hosting this event and I’m so, so proud of my girl who worked so hard, who made new friends and pushed herself harder than she thought she could.

She was very tired when it was all over but I could tell she’d had a blast. She loves music and she loves the fact that she can make music. Her conductor told the group, “Don’t just go out and make music. Make good music.”

I think that’s pretty awesome advice. If you can make music, make good music.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Two Buddies!

Of all the dance marathons we’ve attended over the years, I think IUDM 2016 might go down in history as the best one yet.

We arrived on Friday evening and after a decent four and a half hour drive (other than a few harrowing miles where the setting sun was blinding all the drivers and made for a bit of stressful driving) we decided to just hang out in our hotel room for the rest of the night.

Alyssa and I were even able to watch Z Nation as it aired rather than on Monday afternoon on DVR. That was sort of awesome and in the previews…there was Vasquez…yay!!

Anyway! Yes, we got up fairly early and headed to the dance marathon on Saturday morning. When we got there we expected to meet with our family ‘Buddy.’ This is a student who has been assigned to us, the person who will hang out with the girls the entire time we’re there, accompany us to the stage when it’s time to tell our story and just basically be the liaison for us for whatever we might need.

Every person we’ve ever worked with as a Buddy at both IU and Purdue has been amazing.

But this year…this year was the best one yet because both Olivia AND Alyssa got a buddy. There were two young women waiting for us to arrive on Saturday morning. Becca and Kylie were there to greet us, they had gifts for Alyssa and Olivia and they were so kind and thoughtful and good at being buddies. They made my girls feel like they were the most important people in that entire tennis center.

I think having a buddy specifically for her meant the world to Alyssa. In years’ past, Alyssa has always been treated well by the buddies but this year, she had Kylie all to herself. And having someone who was dedicated to making sure she had a good time was awesome for her.

I’m not sure everyone realizes how hard it can be to be the ‘typical’ sibling of a special needs kid. But Kylie wasn’t there for Olivia. She was there for Alyssa and it was so great to see Alyssa blossom under that attention.

Of course Becca was great with Olivia. She went in that bounce house more often than I can count and she was right by O’s side the entire time we were at the dance marathon. They were both always nearby, ready to do whatever the girls wanted or needed.

My mom asked at one point how people were chosen to be Riley Buddies. We were told that there is a long list of people who apply for the committee on which the Buddies serve. Not everyone who applies to be a buddy gets to be one.

We have always been so lucky with the young women who get assigned to our family but this year, having Alyssa get her very own buddy was the best thing of all.

It amazes me that these events manage to improve year after year. You’d think that at some point they’d hit the pinnacle of perfection, right? I mean, at some point there will be no way to improve, right? Maybe this year was that point. It certainly felt like it for us.

I am sending out huge thanks to both Becca and Kylie into the universe. May amazing things come to these beautiful, amazing young women who gave so selflessly last weekend to make my girls’ time so special.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Sharing Her Story

My mom joined me and my girls this past weekend in Bloomington, Indiana for the Indiana University Dance Marathon.

IUDM is an annual event that is put on to raise money for Riley Hospital for Children. We’re invited to attend this event as a “Riley Family”. Olivia was finally diagnosed with 5p- syndrome when she was two years and three months old by a developmental pediatrician at Riley. She had her heart scan, her kidney ultrasound and an initial x-ray of her spine at Riley.

We found a doctor who looked beyond Olivia’s beautiful face and saw a sick child and a mother who was doing everything she could to find answers.

We’ve been attending dance marathons since Olivia was four years old. We’ve climbed on stage and I’ve held a microphone while Olivia stood either beside me or in front of me as I tell the tale of her birth, the first few months when she cried pretty much all the time, the doctors who told me she was too pretty to have Cri du Chat.

I talk about how when she was two and still not walking, I asked her regular pediatrician for a referral to Riley because while he’s great at diagnosing ear infections and strep throat, he wasn’t all that proactive when it came to Olivia and her lack of meeting any milestones at all.

This year, though, I mentioned something I’d never said before. I told the audience, “This might be the last year I tell her story. I think she’s getting to a point where it embarrasses her and since it’s her story, well, it’s her choice if it gets shared.”

And they cheered. They cheered because this amazing girl who will be ten in twenty days is mature enough to make these kind of decisions. She’s smart enough to know her own mind and can tell me if something makes her uncomfortable. And I’m empathetic enough to listen to her, to understand that maybe it’s her time to make the call.

There is so much more to talk about from this weekend but for now…we might have just shared O’s story on stage for the last time but this doesn’t mean I’m done talking about her in smaller groups or here. I mean, she IS one of my favorite subjects and it’s still important to get it out there that a 5p- diagnosis isn’t the end of the world. It can break your heart for a minute but then you realize that your baby/child is still who they were in the moments before you heard the words Cri du Chat/5p- syndrome and you take them home and you love them and you expect amazing things out of them and they surprise everyone every single day with their strength, their joy, their stubbornness, their tenacity. And you surprise yourself with your ability to love someone so much, so completely and so unconditionally.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


There are moments when I sit back and wonder how I got so lucky. My girls are so sweet, loving, amazing. They’re kind and smart and funny.

And they love me so much. I sometimes wonder at the amazingness of that. I mean, what did I do to deserve them?

There are times when I am so far from perfect and yet these beautiful beings forgive me for my imperfections and love me anyway.

Last night I had a horrible headache. There was rain coming and the headache set in at about 1:30 in the afternoon and really took hold around 5:00pm. The rain started at 9:00, which is also when the handfuls of pain killers (ibuprofen and yes, ‘handfuls’ is hyperbole) kicked in. I finally started feeling better.

But before that point, Tom cooked the girls’ dinner. I helped Olivia with hers but Tom also washed the dishes because he could tell I was in pain.

Again…why am I so lucky? With all my faults, I get these girls, this husband; people who are so generous and kind and loving. They take such good care of me and at moments like last night, when I was feeling pretty worthless, it was humbling to know that they all love me so much…so much more than I feel I deserve.

I look into these eyes…

And I’m breathless.

I look at this face…

And I’m grateful.

Breathless and grateful that they’re mine. That they want to be near me, that they let me soak them in, that they share their perfect imperfections with me. That they forgive me for my own imperfections and love me both because of those imperfections and in spite of them.

If there is such a thing as past lives, I can’t help but wonder who I was and what I did to get so lucky in this incarnation.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

An Orthodontic Consult

At her last cleaning, Olivia’s dentist recommended that Olivia see our orthodontist for her initial consult. She still has a lot of baby teeth (yeah, you’re welcome girls, for my dental genetics that means you lose your baby teeth WAY the hell after everyone else your age, sorry.)

Tom was kind enough to drive the girls into town to meet me at the orthodontist’s office. I’d already filled out forms and provided insurance information the day I scheduled the appointment.

This appointment was about pictures and x-rays and talking about what we were seeing in the pictures and x-rays.

At the beginning of the appointment, I told the consultant that we really didn’t want to start any kind of procedures on Olivia for at least a year. First of all, like I said, she has a lot of baby teeth that have yet to fall out. We also want to pay for it all up front and so, well, yeah, we need to save up for that price tag.

So there we were, looking at pictures of Olivia’s mouth.

The orthodontist came in and sat down with us. He showed me how Olivia’s teeth meet in the back and how her front teeth do not meet. Let’s remember that this child sucked her thumb until she was almost five, so yeah, there’s a bit of an overbite. What are you going to do? Oh, that’s right, put braces on those things in a year or so.

He said he’s not so much worried about the bite, we can correct that in time. But he is a bit worried about soft-tissue damaged when her bottom teeth come up against the gums at the back of her top teeth.

He also recommended a mouth guard for whenever Olivia will be participating in any sort of athletic events. I managed not to laugh at that one. He explained that with her two front teeth being a bit farther out than her other teeth, she could damage them pretty easily with a fall or being bumped by someone.

We took the mouth guard he offered but I did assure him that she’s not at all interested in any sort of sport that would put her in contact with other people.

The doctor did agree that we should wait at least six months before doing anything at all as far as orthodontics go. He wants to see how many of those baby teeth she can lose on her own before we have to do what we did to Alyssa and go in take some of those suckers out ourselves (or, you know, have a licensed dentist do it…)

So here we are; the same place we were yesterday before the appointment. Except, yay, Olivia got some free chap stick out of the deal. That’s always a bonus for her.