Thursday, December 29, 2016

So What Do You Do?

My husband is pretty awesome. He helps around the house…a lot.

For example, while the girls and I were at a movie on Monday, Tom took down all the Christmas decorations (including the tree), put them all away and then cleaned the family room, which is where the tree had been.

He also put up a light my mom gave us for the girls’ room. It’s lovely. Wanna see?

Yep, pretty, right?

He also makes dinner for the girls several times a week as well as packing Liv’s lunch each evening for the next day at school.

Since he works from home, he’s the on-call parent when there is a snow/fog day, a sick kid who has to stay home (though since having their tonsils ripped from their throats, both of my girls have been doing really well as far as colds/illnesses go (now I’ll go knock on wood because I can just hear the karma bus revving it’s engine.)) and during holidays like this past week.

So yeah, he does a lot for our family.

Yesterday while at my mom’s house talking about all that Tom does, one of my aunts asked me, “So what do you do beside lay around and look pretty?”

Which…okay. I know she was almost, sort of joking and if I’d called her on the question, she’d have told me to stop being so sensitive, it was a joke but really? REALLY?!? What do I do?

Well, first, I leave the house five days a week and go to work. I provide our family with the insurance that paid for both of our girls to have their tonsils removed so they could get through a month without a strep diagnosis. I earn a paycheck that pays for our groceries every single week and buys the little things like a trip to the movie theater every few months.

And when I get home each evening after work I am the mama. I parent all evening long. Sure, Tom might have made the dinner but I make sure they eat it. I call them to the table, I sit with them while they eat, I listen to Alyssa talk about Pentatonix and Olivia tell me the elaborate dreams she wishes she’d had. And though he packed Liv’s lunch, I sit with her each evening and make sure her homework is done. I help her study her spelling words. I sign her agenda, I meet with the principal and her teachers when it’s IEP time.

I change Liv’s sheets at least three times a week. I make beds and fold and put away the laundry.

I sit with a girl on each side of me for hours every single night, seven nights a week and rub Liv’s back while Alyssa shows me a YouTube video of Pentatonix that she’s showing me several times before.

But honestly, does it matter?

How we run our family seems to be working for us. We’re all in a really good place right now and it really shouldn’t matter if others can’t see that.

And for the record, the aunt who asked the question has a very helpful husband too. They’re both retired and while she shops and visits with her sisters, he steam cleans their kitchen floor. But I’m not judging that because it works for them.

I guess what it comes down to is the fact that I sometimes feel like I don’t do nearly enough to make an impact in our family. I feel like Tom does so much more and having someone from the outside looking in question my contribution to our family stung a little because it was like the voice in my head that is so freaking mean to me came to life in the form of an aunt. And to have to stand there and justify my very existence in my marriage, my family was hard. It hurt to hear the question voiced by someone else because even though Tom seems to think I do enough and he never, ever complains about how much he does, I still wonder if I’m ever going to be or do enough to deserve him.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Making and Breaking of Traditions

Years ago, when Tom’s older kids were still teenagers, we started the tradition of having pizza on Christmas Eve. Tom’s divorce agreement meant that his kids came over to our house on Christmas Eve, spent the night, had Christmas morning with us and then were back at their mom’s house by noon on Christmas day.

Well, since Tom’s oldest son was eighteen on our first Christmas together, that was the first and last Christmas Eve he spent the night but for the next few years, he did still come over and have pizza and open some presents.

The pizza thing, though, is one we’ve continued with the girls. Now that the older kids have families and lives of their own, we make plans to visit one or the other son’s house sometime around Christmas (this year, we’re heading down on New Year’s Eve.) or we invite them to drive up to see us. It’s only an hour and a half drive but it’s easier for us to make the trip since A and O are older than the grandkids and, well, there are only two of them and between them, J and D have six kids.

Another tradition is that I don’t want to go anywhere on Christmas Eve. Wait, let me clarify. What I mean is, I don’t want to have to go shopping on Christmas Eve if I can help it. I will travel to see family but shopping…please no.

This year, that tradition was derailed when the girls opened their Christmas Eve jammies and we realized that the Monster High onesie (a sleeper with feet?) that I’d gotten for Olivia JUST fit her. As in, if she grows another inch it will be too short and too tight. So I did go to Walmart on Christmas Eve to exchange the onesie for the next size up. Yep, my ten year old needs a size 14/16 onesie because girlfriend is just that tall.

But I was home by noon on Christmas Eve and we still had our pizza and hot & sour soup (a new tradition I started this year because…yum) and played our board games and I was done wrapping presents by 4:45 that afternoon, just in time to play The Game of Life with my girls.

Traditions, if they work and you enjoy them, keep up the fun. I’m learning, though, that if the traditions don’t work (you know, like the kids grow up and start to have lives of their own) you roll with it and let them go. You move on and find new traditions, new ways to make memories and have fun without the stress of upholding someone else’s idea of how the holidays are supposed to go.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Almost Too Much Fun

Is it possible to have too much fun? If so, I think the past four days (a FOUR day weekend for the win!) would rank right up there as too much fun.

There were games at the kitchen table, there was chocolate consumed like we might never see it again. We ate Chex mix until we thought we might burst, Olivia and I competing to see who could find the most Melba toast and eat it before the other could snatch it out of our hands. She won.

Best of all, though, was Christmas morning when we got to my mom’s house and the girls opened their gifts from Gram and Pawp. Alyssa stunned and thrilled by the laptop my mom got her. And Olivia…oh my goodness, who knew a Karaoke machine was the key to that girl’s heart?

Oh wait, my mom knew. I took several videos of her singing into that microphone with all her might.

The girls and I went to see the new animated movie Sing yesterday. I think, for A and O, the fun of seeing a movie in the theater is more about the snacks and being next to me than the actual movie.

When we got home, I sat down at the computer to check Facebook and within five minutes, I had a girl on either side of me. I laughed and said, “Wasn’t the last three hours of being next to me enough?”

Alyssa informed me quite seriously, “Mumsy, we can never get enough of you.”

Which…awwww and yet…dudes, a little space once in a while? I mean, just a couple of inches to either side would be appreciated.

Then, as she was reading memes to me last night, Alyssa stopped for a second, gave me a look of realization.

“What?” I asked, wondering what was going on in her head. Her brain never stops and she’s always got some fascinating nugget of information to share with me.

“It’s that moment when you realize that your celebrity crush is exactly like your mom.”

I admit it, I laughed at that one. Then I patted her on the shoulder and said, “Well, I supposed every kid’s first crush is probably their mom so…you’re just transferring your feelings of admiration and love for me to Avi.”

She blinked at me a few times and then declared, “I guess I still have a crush on you, but in the way that’s normal and not weird at all.”

Again, I laughed because…well, it was funny. “Nope, completely normal and not weird at all.”

I am so lucky to have another four-day weekend looming. I hope we managed as much fun as we did this past four-day weekend.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Programs and Concerts and Parties

This week has been jammed packed full of things to do and places to be.

Olivia’s school program (The Night the Toys Came to Life) was originally scheduled for Monday, December 12, at 7pm but since school was closed due to…was it fog this time or snow? I have no idea. Since school was closed, the program was postponed. Then it was rescheduled for Monday, December 19…at 1pm. Yep, smack dab in the middle of the freaking work day. Sigh.

I had scheduled Tuesday, December 20 as a vacation day months ago because that was the day that O’s class Christmas party was scheduled. It was to be my last vacation day of the year. Thankfully, we roll over on January 1st so I only have five working days until I can take a vacation day. How will I make my way through the next week knowing I’m out of vacation days?

Because of the change in day and time of O’s Christmas program, I switched my full-day vacation day from Tuesday to half day vacation days on both Monday and Tuesday. I could go to both the program and the party. Whoohoo! Of course, that meant for hectic mornings at work as I tried to get a day’s worth of work done in four hours but we do what we must (dramatic sigh…)

Throw in Alyssa’s Jr. High band and choir concert on Monday evening just for fun and we’ve had a busy few days this week.

Is it really only Wednesday?

On the bright side, this morning I only had to get myself up and dressed because as of yesterday at 3:02pm, the girls are on Christmas break. Thank you Lord!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Look How Far We've Come

This morning about a half hour before I usually leave for work Tom came upstairs to ask me if I could leave a little early and take Alyssa to school. She’d just told him that the junior high choir was supposed to sing Christmas carols at school starting at 7:40. The bus doesn’t get her to school until 7:45 at the earliest.

I told him I could make that work and we all went about our morning.

As I drove toward the school, Alyssa said forlornly, “I just don’t want to be the only one there.”

“Why would you be the only one there?” I asked her. I mean, weren’t all the other kids going to be there to carol too?

She said that her friend S said her mom would be dropping her off at 7:36. Which is…oddly specific. But whatever, I had to drop Lyss off at 7:30 because any later could very well lead me to being late for work.

I made soothing noises and assured her that even if she was the first one there, she wouldn’t be there alone for long.

As we pulled into the school parking lot, I pointed out the three cars parked in the front lot. Then I joyfully pointed to the other lot, which has LOTS of cars. Lyss rolled her eyes and reminded me that I was talking about the teachers’ lot and duh, of course they were there early. But what if none of the other choir students were there?

I refrained from rolling my eyes back at her (because I’m not a teenager and so I am supposed to be the mature one here) and told her to just put her backpack in her locker and then go to the choir room and everything would be fine.

Then I asked her if she wanted me to let her out by the sidewalk.

“No…” she said a bit sadly.

“Okay,” I said, still refusing to make any of this a big deal. Because it WASN’T a big deal. Then I pulled into the parent drop-off/pick-up parking lot, unlocked the car doors and said, “Kay, bye. I love you.”

She gathered up her backpack, gave me one last look and got out of the car.

As she started to close the door, I said with a smile, “Sing pretty!”

She grinned at me and as she walked away, I put the car in gear and headed for work.

I was probably a mile away when it hit me how far we’ve come.

When Alyssa started kindergarten, I walked her in to school every single day all year long. I walked her in, I waited with her in the lobby with all the other kids and when the bell rang, I watched her walk away so that if she turned around, she would see me still there.

I was gently urged by the office staff to just drop her off and go about my day. But this was my BAYYYYBEEEEE and she was scared and didn’t want me to leave her there all alone with all those other monsters children.

First grade was at the same school and it was more of the same, though I did managedto get her to agree to me walking her to the door and then I would just leave. It was a step in the right direction.

We moved right before she started second grade and so she switched to the school she currently goes to. This school is a twenty-five minute drive from where I work (as opposed to the five minute drive from her first school.) I simply couldn’t justify being almost a half hour late to work every day. So I drove her to school that first semester but she had to get out and walk in by herself. I still worried, incessantly, every single day. And I watched her from the moment she got out of the car until she was safely inside the school before I pulled away.

Her second semester of second grade brought a whole new step in this adventure…the bus. She worried herself sick about the bus but it was necessary. I just couldn’t do the drop off anymore and the bus went RIGHT by our house. I mean, duh, right? Of course it did. It’s the freaking school bus.

She couldn’t sleep the night before her first bus ride. I had to talk her down for hours, gently urging her to try to sleep even as she fought tears of nerves over this big new thing.

When I got home the day of her first bus ride to school her first words to me were, “I love the bus!”

And it’s been fine ever since.

But this morning’s drop off…it was something else. I knew she was nervous about the idea of being alone in the school but I also knew it was kind of silly. There was no way she’d be completely alone in that school. Even if none of her friends were there, there would be people and she’d be fine. I knew she’d be fine even if she was bored during her wait for her friends to show up.

This time, I didn’t indulge her nerves. I didn’t coddle her. She didn’t need me to either. She just voiced her fears, I assured her she’d be fine and when I get home, I’m betting she’ll tell me the caroling was great fun, having forgotten all about that bit of nerves over the possibility of being alone for all of six minutes this morning.

Not only have I come a long way in this parenting gig, but so has she. My girl is growing up and she’s doing so beautifully.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


I think that’s what Olivia was feeling this morning. Mornings can be rushed and when you need extra time to things, well, it can feel like everyone is rushing you and that makes it harder to do even the simplest things.

I feel like we (every person in our house other than Olivia) need to be reminded often that she’s not deliberately making our lives harder.

I truly believe she isn’t. She’s just quirky and different and has her own way of doing things. She’s got a method and if we give her enough time and patience, she’ll get things done.

She cried this morning. This was one of those times when I wasn’t the one who made her cry. I won’t name names but it was the other adult in our house who made her cry. He was frustrated that she was trying to put on her socks while holding a ring in her hand.

And yes, that’s pretty frustrating because, duh, it’s hard to put on socks if both your hands aren’t free. But he snatched her beloved ring out of her hand and ordered her to put on her socks. She did it but I could tell from across the room that she was fighting tears.

I took her to the bathroom to brush her teeth and while in there we had a good hug. I told her to take off her glasses and just be sad for a few minutes. Then I told her I was sorry that her family isn’t more patient with her. And THEN I told her how much I love her.

She dried her tears and we brushed her teeth and I think she was okay when she boarded the bus for school.

But things aren’t always perfectly rosy around here. They’re hard and Olivia and her stubbornness and her quirks can make even the mundane just a little harder.

We’re still working on getting her to feed herself. She’s capable but she…doesn’t wanna. She wants us to feed her. She wants to sit at the table and doodle or play with a doll or just listen to the conversation, often piping in with her own thoughts or stories and have someone (preferably me) sit next to her and shovel food into her mouth. But she’s ten. And she’s got to very capable hands and Tom and I both want her to feed herself. So we’re working on that. These days, meals don’t often lead to tears but they have in the past because when she’s forced to feed herself it takes forever. And she hates cold food which means she asks us to warm up her food, which means we’re frustrated because if she’d just eaten the damned food when it was placed in front of her, it wouldn’t have gotten cold and just give me a freaking spoon and I’ll feed her myself because this is a nightmare!

So yeah, that’s going on.

I honestly don’t think she does it all on purpose. I mean, sure, she’d much prefer to be fed than to feed herself but I don’t think she sits there thinking to herself, “Well, this is stupid and my parents are stupid and I hate having to feed myself so I’ll just let my food get cold and then ask them to warm it up and then, after they’ve yelled at me for letting it get cold, they’ll just feed me because that’s easier.”

No, I don’t think her laziness is that calculated. I think she wants what she wants but doesn’t manipulate us into getting what she wants. It’s hard to explain.

I just don’t think Olivia is that conniving. I think she’s stubborn. I think the things we often take for granted as being easy are harder for her than we realize. I think she’s still weaker than we probably realize and I know she’s sensitive.

I know we owe it to her to be patient and firm and loving as we continue to work with her to show her how much she really can do. We need to continue to expect her to do all things and yet be kind to her when those things are a little harder for her than we think they should be. We just don’t know how her brain works. We don’t know how tired her hands might get as she struggling to yank those darned socks over her toes. We don’t know how her skin feels when fabric is rough or itchy.

We don’t know and we have to trust her to tell us. We’re so lucky that she can but we have to listen to her. We have to give her a chance to explain to us when things are hard. We have to be loving and understanding that comfort items, like that ring this morning, are what help her get through the day and it doesn’t occur to her that it would be easier to put her socks on if she’d just put the ring down for a minute. So we need to explain that too her instead of yanking it out of her hand and making her cry.

We’re going to keep trying. We’re going to keep failing and then apologizing and hugging it out and drying tears (hers and ours) and trying again. We owe that to her. We owe it to ourselves so we can sleep at night knowing we’re doing our best. She (and her sister) deserves nothing less.

Monday, December 5, 2016

One More Birthday Party

We had Olivia’s ‘Friend’ party on Saturday. I mean, you only turn double digits once, right? So why not have three parties (if you count us taking treats to her class on Tuesday after Thanksgiving/her birthday as a celebration, which, yes, I do.)

We only invited a couple of friends because we knew that Olivia would be overwhelmed if more than two or three of her classmates were to show up. With just two (and the big sister of one, who is friends with Alyssa, win/win!) Olivia could be her weird little self for a bit, warm up to having her two worlds colliding and then settle down and actually have fun with her classmates.

And that’s just what happened.

Tom and I spent most of Friday evening and Saturday morning cleaning the house. We’re lucky not to live in filth, so the cleaning was mostly just picking up clutter and dusting (okay, so maybe the layers of dust do count as filth...) but once the carpets were vacuumed the kitchen swept we felt pretty good about having company.

Tom even said, “We’re having nine-year-olds over, how much cleanliness are they going to notice.”

Well…the first guest arrived, one of the said nine-year-olds and one of the first things she announced as she walked through our living room was, “Wow, your house is WAY cleaning than ours.”

Which…hahaha. That was funny. I won’t tell her mom she said that because that would just be mean. But it was still really funny.

I told her, “Well, you do have a little brother and little sister. They probably make pretty big messes, don’t they?”

She gave a melodramatic sigh and said, “Yes, they sure do!”

I’d bought flower pots and paint and let the girls paint. Then we potted spider plants in the pots and the girls got to take their painted pots home with a new plant.

There was a Barbie cake to be eaten and presents to opened.

It turned out that two hours was the perfect amount of time to have guests over for a birthday party. The girls were sad when their parents arrived but honestly, I was kind of ready for the party to be over.

And so ends the November birthday season. Let the Christmas celebrations begin!

Thursday, December 1, 2016


I know I already did a post on Olivia's tenth birthday...but this isn't so much about her actual day but about how far we've come since her day she was born.

As we celebrated Olivia’s tenth birthday last weekend, I watched in awe as this girl, this sweet, sassy child ran around like a loon, ate cupcakes, opened presents and danced like no one was watching.

I watched her do all these things while remembering her first few minutes of life, when she was so floppy and gray, when three nurses worked on her to get her to breathe. I remember those first few hours when she lay under a cylinder that pumped oxygen into the air around her head to keep her breathing.

I remembered going to sleep the night she was born knowing she was over sixty miles away in another hospital, her daddy with her (he drove to Fort Wayne after she was loaded into the ambulance that took her away from me and he actually beat the ambulance to the new hospital.)

I remembered waking up the next morning and calling Julie to tell her about Olivia’s trip to the NICU, not even thinking about the fact that my call was probably a major trigger for Julie.

I remembered waiting impatiently for my doctor to come and release me from the hospital where I’d delivered Olivia sixteen hours previously so I could go be with her.

I remembered Tom greeting me and my mom and Alyssa at the new hospital, showing us how to check in, wash our hands and then leading us to O’s isolette.

She’d already kicked out of the swaddle the nurses had attempted. Tom introduced me to Liv’s nurse and she was lovely. She told me kindly that my girl was spunky and would not stay in a swaddle for anything. “That’s a good thing,” she informed me. “It shows fight. We like that.”

Oh my goodness, yes did Olivia have fight. She still has it.

As the memories faded and I focused on my sweet girl celebrating her tenth birthday, I found myself overwhelmed by my love for her.
I love this girl so much that it hurts sometimes. But watching her, still awash with memories of her first hours and days, I realized that I don’t love her because of her rough start or in spite of it. I don’t love her because of her syndrome or in spite of it.

I love her because of who she is. Sure, her first hours and days of life helped shape the person she is. Sure, 5p- syndrome is a part of who she is but neither of those things define her any more than the fact that she has blue eyes defines her.

Olivia can be such a weirdo and yet…I love her both because of that and in spite of it.

As we venture further into this life and further away from Olivia’s first hours and days (and yes, even her first months because those were hard too) I see this girl for who she is, not how she started, not based on a chromosome count.

I see a girl with a startling sense of humor. Her laugh is contagious and she gets the subtleties of sarcasm that some people twice her age might miss. She can start to tell a funny story and start laughing so hard at her own rendition of the story that you find yourself laughing simply because she’s laughing too hard to even tell the story.

She tries so hard. She wants so badly to be ‘normal’ and to learn all the things that her peers are learning and yet…she sometimes gives me a look during homework that tells me she knows…she freaking KNOWS this stuff isn’t important and she is forcing herself to just muddle through it because it’s expected of her.

Her joy is infectious. She loves life. She loves to be pretty and fancy and will accessorize you to within an inch of your life if you let her. She has amazing hair (look how far we’ve come on that subject!) and yet loves to wear wigs because they’re different and she just feels like they’re one more accessory. Oh, and because it annoys the crap out of her sister when she wears them, which is always a plus when you’re ten and your sister is almost fourteen.

The first ten years of Olivia’s life were a rollercoaster but we had so many more ups than downs and I feel so incredibly lucky to be along for the ride with this girl. If the theory that some believe is true, if we choose our life before we’re even born, I am so, SO grateful that Olivia chose me to be a passenger in the car that she’s driving along the road of life.