Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dandelion Fluff

There is something about those white puffs that pull kids toward them. They have this need to pick that stalk and blow the fluff off, spreading the dandelion seeds across the yard even as their dad cringes in thought at having to spray for weeds yet again.

We were outside walking toward Tom’s raspberry patch (sure, the girls enjoy the fruits of his labor, but this patch if all Tom’s, he waters, he weeds, he ties the stems up when they get too heavy, he picks the berries and freezes/preserves them, it’s totally his patch.) and Olivia called to me to wait.

I turned and watched her bend down to pick a dandelion seed head. She held it up for me to see and then blew the seeds off, watching them in joy as they flew about in the mild breeze.



Something so normal, so perfectly summery and it made me so thankful for my girl and her life. She’s just a little kid, like so many other little kids. She enjoys all the same things as kids her age. She’s had to work a little harder to do some of those same things but she doesn’t really know that.

And I’m okay with her not knowing how far she’s come. I’m okay with her just being a little girl who plays with Barbies and makes her daddy roll his eyes when she blows the seeds off dandelions. I can stand back and marvel in her normalness even as she embraces it as just being a kid.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Stroller Crossing

I used to wonder at what age I’d stop worrying about Olivia’s endurance when it came to walking.

I wondered when I’d be able to not think about packing a stroller, or renting one if we were going somewhere that required a lot of walking throughout the day, like the zoo or an amusement park.

I wondered vaguely if we’d get to the point where we needed to request a wheelchair so that she could ride comfortably when she got tired after a day of walking.

I got my answer last week.

The answer is at seven and a half years old, I no longer worry about whether or not Olivia will have the strength and endurance to walk through an amusement park. She did. She does.

My mom and I took the girls to Cedar Point again this year. If you’ll recall, last year we forgot to pack a stroller and I ended up renting one for $28 because I couldn’t carry her another step.

This year, it didn’t even occur to me to pack the stroller (I did think about it last year but the car was so full that we didn’t have room and we were pulling out of the driveway when I considered that we might need it.) We might even have had room this year. But she’s stronger, bigger and healthier than she has been in well, ever.

At 53 pounds, Olivia doesn’t look skinny anymore. She looks healthy, sturdy even. She’s 50 inches tall and weighs 53 pounds, so she’s still on the slim side, but definitely not scrawny. She’s got strength in those muscles. She wrestles her sister, who is double her weight. She never wins, but she tries, which is awesome in my book.

While at the amusement park, Olivia only asked to be carried twice and I only said no to her request twice. She powered through when I told her she was tough, she could do it.

And she did. She walked without ever even suggesting we find a stroller for her. She rode rides, she swam, she walked and at times, she even ran. She’s so strong and I am so proud.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By a Foot

My mom almost missed out Cedar Point vacation. We’ve had it planned since last year but on the Friday before last, my last day of work before my week of vacation, I got to my mom’s house to drop the girls and she told me that she might have to take the girls home to Tom.

The night before my stepdad had fallen off a ladder and his foot was hurting him pretty badly. My mom was thinking she might need to take him to Urgent Care.

I called Tom on my way to work to warn him that the girls plus one (Jaxon was there too) might end up with him later that morning.

Before I left my mom’s house, she mentioned the possibility of Tom going to Cedar Point with me and the girls, as at that point she wasn’t sure if my stepdad would be able to be left alone. The mention of this to Tom on the phone made me realize that I’d rather take the girls myself than drag him along on a trip he didn’t want to take.

My mom called the VA hospital to ask their thoughts on my stepdad’s care. He’s a patient there for his diabetes and other health issues and they recommended she just take him to their hospital rather than waste time at Urgent Care.

X-rays confirmed that my stepdad had not just broken his foot, he’d managed to crush his heel. He’d fallen off the very top of a step ladder, about six feet and landed directly on his right foot. He was going to have to be seen by an orthopedic surgeon later the next week.

I resigned myself to the ‘vacation’ with the girls on my own. I actually even started getting excited about it. I figured we could do what we wanted, when we wanted and I didn’t have to worry about anyone but the three girls I’d have with me. See, I tend to feel judged a lot. I feel this way about everyone, my husband, my mom, even my friends. And I KNOW no one is judging me, I know this. But I feel it anyway.

So the idea of taking the three girls to Cedar Point by myself and not having the judged feeling was kind of awesome.

My mom and I talked several times over the weekend, discussing my stepdad and his foot and whether or not she was comfortable leaving him. I told her that it was absolutely fine if she didn’t go. I assured her that the girls and I would be fine. I told her that if it was causing her any guilt at all, to please not do that to herself.

In the end, my stepdad wanted her to go with us. There was nothing she could do for him at home other than wait on him and he discovered that knee pads work better than crutches or even a wheelchair for getting around.

Tom ended up going to see L several time while we were gone and everyone was glad for the time either alone or away.

But yeah, my mom almost missed our vacation by a foot.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Vacation

I took last week off. The whole week! I haven’t taken an entire week off work in the fourteen years I’ve worked at this job. It was lovely to have a week off.

My mom and I took the girls and a friend of Alyssa’s to Cedar Point (an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio) for two days and then the girls and I just spent the rest of the week at home. We tried the local community pool one afternoon but temps in the seventies just aren’t conducive to a relaxing swim. Instead we all shivered and shook and called it quits after forty-five minutes. We decided to warm up with ice cream.

One afternoon while the girls played together in their room, I painted a closet. The closet is still waiting for me to put the shelving back in but hey, the paint is dry now.

We also managed to visit some friends. Another family in this area has girls the same age as A and O, so we spent about five hours at their house last Friday. They have a pool and a pond. Alyssa friend N taught Alyssa how to fish and Alyssa actually caught two fish. N had to bait Alyssa’s hook and take the fish off the hook and throw them back in the pond but Alyssa was so, so proud of her catches.

Olivia managed to interact with the three other girls that were her own age. I was very proud of her. She didn’t actually talk TO any of them but she talked to me in a very audible voice while they were around so they knew she could talk. I’m hoping this helps at school, which starts in a month. Yikes!

I do realize how lucky we are to be able to go on even short little vacations like the one we took. I like that we’re creating memories with the girls, that we are making traditions and enjoying our time together. On the drive home from Cedar Point the girls were already discussing which rides they are going to ride when we go back next summer.

One of these years we’ll convince Tom to go along for the ride…

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Like Magic/Interactive Play

Alyssa sighed as Jaxon rolled around on the floor at 9:15 last night. She really wanted that boy to go to sleep because she wanted to do something on the computer and I told her she had to wait until the little kids (ha! Liv is 7 and Jax is 6, but in our house, they’re still the ‘little’ kids) were asleep.

Then, well, he just wouldn’t go to sleep. He kept mumbling, “I’m bored.”

Alyssa would reply, “If you’re bored, go to sleep, it will make the morning come faster.”

He’d just sigh and find something else to amuse him.

For the record, Olivia has been asleep for at least a half hour by that point.

When Alyssa rolled her eyes for the eleventy-hundredth time, I laughed and said, “Welcome to my world of waiting for one child or the other to go to sleep before I can do something I want.”

She scowled at me and threw herself against the couch, muttering to Jaxon, “Go to sleep.”

Finally, at 9:30, I realized that it wasn’t that the boy wasn’t tired. He’d yawned three times in the last two minutes. No, it was the television. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from it.

So, get this, I did something brilliant. I turned the television off. I know! Who’d have thought of something so creative?

And you know what? That boy was asleep not ten seconds later. It was as if the remote worked not only on the television but also on the child. Alyssa said happily, “It was like magic!”

She gleefully went to the computer, did her thing and ten minutes later, I was lugging the ‘little’ kids to bed.

Don’t ask why they weren’t already in bed if we were trying to get them to go to sleep. That would be too logical and I never, ever claimed to be logical. So yeah, just don’t.



I was making dinner for the three kids last night when I heard Olivia ask Jaxon, “Do you want to play husband and wife and baby?”

When he nodded that he did, indeed want to play her game, Olivia told him, “Okay, you get to be the husband, I’ll be the wife and we’ll go get a doll to be the baby. Maybe Lyssie will be the dog.”

After laughing over the fact that she wanted her big sister to be the family dog (Alyssa declined being the dog, instead, she declared she’d be the horse.) I sat back in the quiet realization that Olivia has achieved yet another amazing, wonderful social milestone.

For years she’s been stuck in parallel play. She loves to play beside kids but until very recently, she’s shown no interest in actually interacting with her peers.

I watched her play with Jaxon last night. They went from playing her game of “Husband, Wife and Baby” to his game of school, in which he was the teacher and got to tell the student, Olivia, what to do as Alyssa, the unruly horse ran around the room wreaking havoc on everyone and everything.

It was a beautiful thing to behold. My seven year old is finally more socially mature than most typical four year olds. It’s not as if I thought she’d never get to this point. The thing is, I wondered if she even wanted to get to this point. She’s always seemed so content to do her own thing, to watch others interact while she kept to herself, making up her own stories and playing her own games.

But now, these days, she’s seeking out the company of her peers. Well, she’s seeking the company of her cousin, a child she’s known her whole life. But this is a start, it’s a step in the right direction of her interacting with her classmates, her peers and yes, in my heart of hearts, I hope it’s a step toward her making friends. It will probably still be a while as she navigates this new world of interactive play but I’m so proud of her for getting to the start of it all.

I want so much for her. But above all, I want her to be happy, to feel content, to know she’s loved and for her to love others back. I want her to connect with people because even introverts (like me) need connections. It makes the world a much less lonely place.

Play on, sweet girl, play on.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Strangler

Alyssa is a hugger.

Wait, let me qualify that. She loves to hug her immediate family. Strangers are quite safe from her version of a hug. The problem with her hugs is that she just, well, tends to go overboard. Her hugs often feel like they’re about to cross the line between a hug and a strangle.

She will wrap her arms around her victim’s love’s neck and then dangle from there for at least three minutes.

This doesn’t not foster a desire to be rehugged anytime soon.

I’ve tried to explain proper hugging etiquette to the girl. I’ve even demonstrated it. I will pulled her into an embrace, careful not to grasp too tightly. I then tell her, “Squeeze and release. Squeeze and release. Do not hang from a person’s neck, do not hold so tightly that you can feel their bones digging into your spleen. Squeeze and release.”

The thing is, Alyssa loves to elicit squeals of despair from Olivia. She enjoys hugging Tom to the point that he’s tugging her arms away from him and pushing her away.

She doesn’t understand why we all cringe when she comes near us with her arms open. These near-strangles are a form of affection for her.

I keep reminding Tom that he has to endure these hugs from Alyssa because girls need appropriate male affection from their fathers. If they don’t get it when they’re young (and continue to get it even as they get older) they may very well go out and find inappropriate male affection later in life. We do not want that for our girls.

So for now, the ‘hugging lessons’ will continue. I’ll keep reminding her to ‘squeeze and release’ and that when her hugging partner starts to pull away, it’s time to let go, not hold tighter and lift her legs off the ground.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

That's Why She's Afraid of Dogs

It is a well-established fact that Olivia is not a fan of animals. Dogs, in particular, freak her right out. She hates them because they’re usually big, almost always loud, and often try to get right in her face with their stinky, furry self.

For some reason, though she loathes them, animals love Olivia. They want her to lavish affection on them even as she’s trying her best to crawl up my body and perch on my head to avoid them.

At the Fourth of July parade last week, we were all settled in among the crowd. My mom and I were in chairs behind the kids, who were perched on the curb patiently awaiting candy thrown from various parade vehicles.

I saw movement to my right and looked to see an older couple arrive and join another group. This couple had a dog on a leash. It was a big dog; a Doberman to be exact.

I could tell at first glance that the couple had this dog completely under control. It appeared to be a perfectly nice dog.

Still, I braced myself for when Olivia noticed this monstrous thing right over her shoulder.

A bit later, Alyssa noticed the dog and pointed out to Jaxon, who was on her lap. Jaxon loves all dogs and was thrilled by this majestic creature. I whispered to Alyssa not to bring Olivia’s attention to it.

Too late. She looked over to see what had Jaxon enthralled. And she immediately cowered against my leg, trying to make herself even smaller than her four feet and fifty pounds.

The lady with the dog assured Olivia, “Oh Sweet, she won’t hurt you. She loves kids.”

I smiled and replied, “She doesn’t like any animals. She’s even scared of our cat. She’s never been around mean dogs, she has just never, ever liked them. She doesn’t even like stuffed animals. They confuse her.”

The lady smiled at me in understanding and pulled her dog to the other side of her, putting more distance between the dog and Olivia.

We made it through most of the parade without incident.

Then…here it came. A man in a yellow teddy bear costume came along the parade route, prancing and dancing and the dog lost her ever-loving mind. She barked her huge Doberman bark, pulling at her leash and wanting at the giant, dancing teddy bear.

Olivia shrieked at the first bark and wrapped herself around my head. She buried her head in my neck and shivered with hear.

And my mom snapped, “And that’s why she’s afraid of dogs!”

The couple quickly got up and left the area, taking their still-growling dog with them. I saw that there was another weirdly dressed parade coming up and was glad they’d taken the dog away before it saw the second anomaly.

I pried Olivia off my body and assured her that the dog was gone.

I felt a moment of pity for the couple with the dog. They’d just wanted to enjoy the parade too. But my mom reminded me that people really should leave their dogs at home. The dogs don’t enjoy the heat, they don’t enjoy the sirens or the cannon blasts. They obviously don’t enjoy seeing grown men dressed up at giant teddy bears. It’s kinder to the dogs to leave them at home.

It’s also kinder to my child, who has been assured over and over again that there are some very nice dogs in this world. She doesn’t care about these reassurances. Her fear of dogs is like my fear of worms, no matter what anyone else says, that fear isn’t going away. She doesn’t feel like her life is missing anything by not loving dogs. I definitely don’t feel like my life is missing anything by not loving worms.

Even an acquaintance of mine, who loves his dog like a member of his family agree with my mom that dogs should be left at home when people choose to go to parades or other events where the general public is invited.

I will respect the home and rights of a dog in his/her own home but my child shouldn’t be subjected to the growling bark of a large dog while out on a public street. She just shouldn’t. And seriously, after that incident, she’s more afraid of dogs than ever.