Monday, September 15, 2014

Can I Help?

Over the years, I’ve wallowed in guilt over not letting my kids help me cook or bake.

They always ask and I always just want to do it myself. It’s easier, cleaner, etc. if I do it myself.

But I knew, logically, that they weren’t learning anything at all by racing around me as I did the work in the kitchen. I wasn’t teaching them life skills by doing it all myself.

So yesterday when I announced I was going to make cookies, both A and O asked hopefully, “Can I help?”

And this time, I said yes.

Before we started I figured out which job each girl could do with minimal mess.

I had Alyssa measure out the flour, salt and baking soda into a small bowl and then mix it all up.

I let Olivia unwrap the butter, letting it drop into the bowl as she did so. She also dumped the sugars into the bowl after I measured them out for her.

I let Olivia start stirring the sugars and butter as Alyssa added the eggs and vanilla.

Then, once the mixture got stiff enough that the girls couldn’t muscle their way through stirring it, I took over.

We add three different types of chocolate chips to our cookies and so each girl got to dump in some chips. Olivia volunteered for the job of eating stray chips as they made their way on to the lip of the bowl. She was extra good at that one.

Once the cookies were baked, A and O took great pride and presenting a plate of them to Tom, letting him know that they had helped make them.

He declared the cookies the best ones ever baked. I’m inclined to agree. I think this might the beginning of some great things to come.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Making My Connections

I am an introvert. I get my energy, my peace, from being alone.

I lived in two different apartments in Chicago for four years. I lived in those apartments alone. I loved it. I loved that there were weekends when I didn’t speak to anyone at all, save the cashier at the grocery store on the corner.

I liked my solitude and enjoyed my aloneness. I don’t think I ever felt lonely.

But I did, after four years of being alone, move closer to home (Okay, I moved HOME) because I knew something was missing in my life.

It wasn’t people so much as a sense of belonging that I missed.

Yes, I had friends and I visited those friends fairly often.

But I was always sort of on the outside looking in on those friends. I know they loved me and they were always great about including me but I was always the extra in our groups.

Even at home with my family I was the extra one. And mostly, I was okay with that.

I knew I wanted more, though. I wanted to belong, I wanted to find something into which I fit. I wanted to connect. I wanted to find a way to not cringe when I saw people hugging, to not flinch when someone stepped too close to me. I wanted to connect with someone to the point that I wanted them to hug me, to stand close enough to touch me.

I went on a lot of first dates my first two years back in the area where I grew up. There were very few second dates. That connection, it was elusive.

But then I met Tom and on our first date, a connection was made. There was a third date, then a fourth and then we lost count of the dates and he and I became us. I met his older kids, I even met his ex-wife.

I met his siblings and he met my parents and my siblings.

Then we had Alyssa and got married. Yes, in that order.

A few years later, we have Olivia and here we are, all connected.

I am not longer the extra in a group. I’m the mom, the wife. I’m part of the glue that makes us a family. They’re all happy to see me when I get home and I’m so, so happy to see them.

I have children laying on me for hours at a time, every single day.

I have a husband who hugs me tight every morning before I leave for work and I never, ever cringe or flinch when one of them steps close.

There are moments when I wish for ten minutes in the bathroom alone but I know that 9:30 will roll around each night and they’ll all be asleep and I can do whatever I want to wallow in a bit of solitude. And it’s enough because for them, these three people to whom I’m connected? I’d even give that up if it made them happy. That’s how amazing our connection is.

That’s how lucky I am to have each of them.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

She Ate

Yesterday I called home as I walked to my car to see if we needed anything before I made the drive home. Before we hung up, I asked Tom how O’s lunch with her teacher went.

He declared, “She ate everything but two crackers.”

She ate. At school. Everything but two crackers.

My child ate her lunch at school and I wasn’t there urging her to take one more bite.

Last year she ate her lunch three times. I was able to go to her school three times to have lunch with her and those were the times she ate.

Yesterday, she ate her lunch.

Yes, she was in a quiet classroom with just her teacher but this is huge. This is awesome.

This is worthy of mommy tears.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When the Teacher Calls

Alyssa is in the sixth grade. I have never, EVER received a phone call from one of her teachers. Not while at work during school hours, not at home in the evening. Just…never.

Olivia’s teachers? I can’t actually count how many calls I’ve received from either a teacher or the school secretary over the past three years she’s been in school.

Just this year alone, I’ve received two calls, one at 2:50 on a Thursday, just ten minutes before she was due to get on the bus. The school secretary was calling to let me know that O fell at school and was in the nurse’s office with an ice pack on her head. Spoiler alert: She was fine.

The second call came last night at around 6:30. The girls were finishing up dinner, Tom was away visiting his brother.

I answered the phone and when O’s teacher, Mrs. A identified herself, my first thought was, “Uh oh, are we having a rough year already?”

I didn’t think this because of anything O’s done at home. At home she’s been happy, relaxed, sleeping well (for her, not for a typical seven year old) and just plain normal for us.

The first thing Mrs. A said was that she was calling for all good reasons.

Whew! That was a relief.

She wanted to let me know that Olivia will start bringing home ‘word lists’ each Wednesday, starting today. The following Wednesday, Olivia will be tested on the spelling of these words. Basically, it’s a weekly spelling test but we’re not calling it that for some reason. Whatever. Mrs. A suggested that I work with Olivia on spelling these words out verbally rather than having her write them because writing takes so much concentration on Olivia’s part that sometimes the writing is the exercise and not the spelling.

I suggested at that point that Olivia be allowed to take her ‘word tests’ using a keyboard because that girl is GOOD with a keyboard. I don’t want to negate the importance of her working on her handwriting but when the content is more important that the way that content is conveyed, perhaps a keyboard would work. Mrs. A liked my idea and will work on implementing it.

Would you look at that, it’s like we’re a team or something, working toward a common goal. I am so grateful for this.

Next Mrs. A told me that Olivia’s communication this year is going really well. O is talking to Mrs. A in a classroom even when others are present, something she wouldn’t do last year. She (Olivia) is even talking to the new aide in the class, someone she’s never met before this year. She will also nod at one of the other first grade teachers. She’s not talking to her peers yet but we all have faith she’ll get there.

This was so nice to hear.

I know that Olivia can be trying when she refuses to answer a question. To have her teacher call me four weeks into the school year to tell me that Olivia is initiating conversations with the school librarian is awesome.

Having her teacher tell me that my child, my willful, shy, sweet child is a joy to work with, to hear her say that Olivia is answering questions and surprising her teacher with all that she really does know warms my heart.

I’ve always wanted her teacher to see her the way I do. I know they can’t possibly see her exactly as I do. I’m her mom, I love her and I think she’s amazing. I realize that teachers aren’t going to see her in that light. So to listen to her teacher tell me how much fun she is to have in class, how smart she is and how great it is to actually hear her voice, cue mommy tears.

The only low point of the conversation was when her teacher mentioned the fact that Olivia still won’t eat her lunch at school. I told her we were aware of this and that we still sent lunch every day and the minute she gets home each day, she sits at the kitchen table with her dad and eats her lunch.

But Mrs. A, in true inspiring teacher fashion, turned the subject back to a positive. She told me that she and Olivia have their classroom to themselves each day right after lunch. She said they’re alone in there for about twenty minutes and she wanted my permission for her to sit with Olivia at a table in the classroom so that maybe Mrs. A could encourage Olivia to eat some of her lunch. She thought the pressure of the cafeteria might be too much for Olivia and being in the quiet setting of the classroom, without others around to watch, might get her to eat. I absolutely agreed with this plan. I want Olivia to eat at school if possible. I want her brain to have nutrition and calories to work through the afternoon.

I feel like we got so, so lucky this year to have Mrs. A working with Olivia. I know Olivia is happy and knowing that Mrs. A sees me and Tom as part of O’s educational team is just the icing on the cake.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wake Up Call

I realized this morning that I’ve taken something for granted for years.

My girls are very easy to wake up in the mornings. I walk into their room, touch Alyssa gently on the arm or the cheek (face, not butt) and tell her softly that it’s about time to get up.

By the time I’ve kissed Olivia and rubbed her hair back from her face, Alyssa has climbed out of bed and headed to the bathroom.

I know, right? Will it get harder as they get older?

I used to think so but now I wonder. I wonder if because they’ve always been crappy sleepers (to be fair, at eleven Alyssa no longer wakes me up in the night. Olivia, at seven, isn’t so kind) they just like to be awake and so when it’s time to get up, even if they have to be woken up, they don’t mind.

Alyssa does sometimes have grumpy mornings but she is my daughter, so this doesn’t surprise me.

But the jumping out of bed at 6am every morning, even on the weekends, does surprise me. I have never been a morning person and so raising children who embrace the morning, who love to get up and start their day before the sun even rises perplexes me.

But even perplexed I’m aware enough to be grateful that I’m not yelling at two kids each morning, screaming for them to get out of bed and get downstairs to eat breakfast.

I might whine at them a little at night to get them to go to sleep but I’ll take that over morning scream-sessions any day.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Just Peeing

I know all moms out there will get this but…it drives me insane that I cannot pee in peace.

The minute I get home from work, I hug and kiss Tom and the girls, I rinse out my lunch dishes and then I go upstairs to use the bathroom.

Every single time, Olivia follows me up the stairs.

This wouldn’t be that big a deal if she didn’t feel the need to stand RIGHT IN FRONT of me as I sit on the toilet, trying to pee.

She’s usually telling a Mush Mush story or something and yes, it’s awesome that she’s telling me stories that come from her very own imagination but my moment of urination won’t take more than a few seconds, can’t Mush Mush’s story wait? Just a few minutes?

Please?

Later in the evening, after dinner, when it’s time for jammies and books, I might again try to sneak upstairs for a potty break. Olivia seems to have some sort of ESP for when I’m peeing because the instant I sit down, she’s scampering up the stairs.

She’ll come into the bathroom, stand six inches from my knees and say, “Hi.”

Sometimes, I say hi back. Other times I mutter, “I’m just peeing. Can you go find Daddy for two minutes? I’ll be right down.”

More often than not, she grins at me, leans against the wall opposite the toilet and waits for me to be done so we can go down the stairs together.

Peeing in private is overrated, anyway. At least, that’s what I tell myself when O placed her soft, small hand in mine as we leave the bathroom after yet another group pee session. Someday…I’ll miss these moments.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Subjective

A few times already this year, Alyssa has asked for help with her homework. When it's math, I suppress a groan and try to help as much as I can.

But last night…oh, last night. I got to help her with language arts homework and it was so much fun!

I know, I’m having a nerdy moment but bear with me.

She was doing worksheets about pronouns. Pronouns!! Again, SO. MUCH. FUN.

After I beat my head against the table due to the grammatical structure of the instructional sentence (Ending with a preposition? Seriously?) we got to work. For the record, the instructions said, “Read the sentence. Write the pronoun and the antecedent it goes to.” Really. A language arts worksheet had that sentence. I just…I don’t even know what to say.

Alas, she wouldn’t let me get out my red pen and correct the instructions. Instead she laughed hysterically at my antics. I love a child with a sense of humor.

I think the most awesome part of the evening was the fact that Alyssa didn’t really need my help. I’d read the sentences to her and she figured it all out herself. She was obviously perfectly capable of reading the sentences herself but I think she liked me reading them out loud. I also think she just liked us being at the table together, spending some time one on one (or two on one, depending on where Olivia happened to be at that moment.)

I’m pretty sure Alyssa didn’t need my little tutorial about subjective versus objective pronouns but she was kind enough that she didn’t tell me to shut it as I nattered on and on. One of my biggest grammatical pet peeves is when people use the subjective pronoun when the objective is correct.

For example, “Just between you and I, this sentence is SO wrong.” The correct way to say that is, “Just between you and me, this sentence is now correct.” See? Me is the object of the preposition.

Anyway, it was a fun, fun ten minutes out of our night. Once again, I feel lucky to have a sixth grader who seeks my company, who listens to me chatter about grammatical rules, who laughs when I’m being silly instead of rolling her eyes and thinking about how embarrassing I am. I fear that stage is coming but I’m going to hug her tight and try to hold it off for a little while longer.