Monday, July 28, 2014

Building Character

Alyssa had the fun of spending some time with friends this weekend. She was invited to spend Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning with one of the sweetest girls I’ve ever met. I was thrilled when N called us to ask if A could come over to her house.

My mom dropped her off Saturday afternoon because Tom and I had to attend a funeral. Bummer, that.

O and I went to pick Alyssa up at 10:30 on Sunday morning.

When we got home, Alyssa asked Tom if she could be on the computer. I was not in the room when she asked this and so didn’t know she’d asked and received an answer in the negative.

So when she asked me the same question not two minutes later, I told her she could since she’d actually been away from any sort of screen for almost twenty four whole hours.

Tom laughed and said, “She just asked me that and I told her no.”

I looked at Alyssa, who was sheepish. I told her how wrong it was for her to do something like that. If her dad told her one thing, it wasn’t right for her to try to get the answer she wanted by asking me instead. She hung her head and decided to go spend time with Orville instead of time in front of the computer.

After lunch the same day, Alyssa again asked if she could be on the computer. I told her to go outside first and see if there was anything he needed her to do before we went to my mom’s to do a project for her.

Alyssa glared at me and headed outside.

I was amazed by the total lack of guilt in not giving in to her. I usually feel at least a twinge of something resembling guilt when I make my children do something they would rather not do.

But this time? Not so much. In fact, I felt good about the fact that I was helping her build character.

I told her that someday, she’ll have a job that she won’t necessarily like but she’ll have to go to work and do that job anyway. She might as well get used to delayed gratification because that’s life.

She huffed and sighed and went out to do some chores with her dad.

She didn’t end up getting computer time until just before dinner, which ended up being about twenty minutes for the day. Which, honestly, is more than enough if you ask me. And since I’m the mom, she does have to ask me and sometimes I’m a guilt-free mean mom. We’re building boatloads of character around here these days.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Barking Light

My mom and stepdad recently enclosed their deck, creating a three-season room. It's a beautiful room and Olivia loves it. There's a ramp that she can somersault down and the rooms on two sides of the room make it bright and fun.

Once the room was finished, my mom asked if Tom could go to her house and help install a new security light by the back door of the sun room. He was happy to do this and the girls and I accompanied him to her house one day last week for him to do this.

It took a little longer than anticipated but once it was finally up, my mom had to fiddle with it to get it to do what they wanted. See, this light has a sensor that makes the light come on when motion is detected. Along with the light, a sound is activated. At first, the sound the light made was that of a man's voice saying, "You are trespassing."

This was fine. Except my mom didn't really want it to say that. Instead, she changed it to the sound of a barking dog.

While inside the room, the sound of the barking dog wasn't that big a deal to Olivia.

The next morning, though, as I dropped the girls off at my mom's for the day, Olivia heard that light barking and it freaked her right out.

I'm sure everyone remembers that O isn't a big fan of dogs. She hates them, to be perfectly blunt. They are horrible, loud, slobbery creatures as far as she is concerned.

When that light started barking the second I opened the car door, Olivia clapped her hands over her ears and cried, "Can you carry me into Grammy's house?"

I tried not to laugh as I reminded her that the barking wasn't an actual dog, that it was just the light. She didn't care. She hated the barking light as much as she'd hate a real dog barking.

I carried her in.

This morning we dropped Alyssa off so my mom could take her to a friend's for the day. The minute we pulled into the driveway, O covered her ears.

When I opened the car door, I noted that the light was not barking. I told Olivia this. It didn't matter. As far as she was concerned, that light might start barking at any moment and she wanted to be sure her feet were not touching the ground if/when that happened.

I carried her again.

Once inside my mom assured Olivia that the sound effects of the light has been turned off. It would never bark or talk again. Olivia didn't believe this, she wanted me to carry her to the car when we left.

We had to go to my mom's again this afternoon and once again, she wanted to be carried. I insisted that there would be no barking and then told her that I couldn't carry her because I had to carry a heavy box into the house. You'd think I'd told the child she had to walk barefoot along a path covered with worms. Her anxiety was at red alert.

She ran into the house and clung to my stepdad as I got the box out of the car and followed her inside.

Yes, I ended up carrying her back out to the car.

When we got home, I told Tom about her stress over the barking light and even just hearing us talk, O needed to cover her ears. When Tom barked at her, she demanded that he stop it. I'm proud of that demand. I almost expected her to quiver with fear.

We'll get past this, I hope. I think the more often she goes to Gram's house and doesn't hear that barking light, the less she'll want to be carried to and from the car. Again, I hope this is the case. Girlfriend is no longer a lightweight.

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


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.