Thursday, August 27, 2015

She Wants to Know

Everything. That’s what she wants to know. She, of course, being Olivia. She wants to know how everything is made and how it works and why it works and what it means.

I love this boundless need for knowledge but yes, sometimes it makes me very tired.

We’ll be sitting at the dinner table, eating peacefully (unless Alyssa’s reading aloud from one of her many, MANY ‘dinner’ books and then…um, it’s not so peaceful) and Olivia will want to know how I made whatever she’s eating.

When she’s old enough (mature enough?) to start cooking, this girl will have all kinds of recipes in her head, what with all the things I’ve told her how to cook.

She’ll be playing with a toy and ask how it was made. Tom often answer this with, “Well, you take a mold...”

And she always interrupted him with, “Dad! They’d don’t take a mold.”

Sometimes I have to be on Team Dad and gently say, “Actually, Liv, that toy really was made with a mold.”

Her incredulous look of wonder is always a delight in those moments.

Most recently she’s been wondering about gravity. How does it work? Why does it work? Is it always working? When she jumps is she defying gravity? When she holds her hand up above her head is gravity no longer working on her hand? Does gravity work when we’re swimming? How about when we’re sleeping? What makes gravity?

She wants to know everything there is to know about everything.

I love this but will admit that it gets tedious. I try so hard to listen to her stories and her questions and to answer her the best way I can in a way that she’ll understand. I haven’t yet said, “Gravity works because it works and that’s why it works.”

But I’m tempted. Sorely tempted.

Instead, I answer her questions. I listen to her stories. I pay as much attention as I can as I go back and forth between both girls as they talk and ask and tell and question and demand all evening long.

And Tom wonders why I often take solace in zombies.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bed Time

School started a week ago. In that time, we’ve been trying to figure out our new bed time and routine.

It’s a little hard when the kids are almost four years apart. Olivia obviously needs to go to bed earlier than Alyssa and yet when we all go to bed at 8:45 (which we did last night) Alyssa is sound asleep by 9 and she sleeps until I wake her up at 6:30, so I’m thinking she needs more sleep than she’d like to admit.

Liv, though, would actually go to sleep if I took her to bed at 8:00 each night. The problem is that she wants me to lay down in the same room with her. Well, she wants me to go to sleep at the same time and stay right there in the room with her all night but sometimes, I don’t stay there after she’s asleep. You know, because there is so much zombie TV to watch and so little time.

All kidding about zombies aside, the 8pm bedtime doesn’t happen because I don’t get home from work until 5:00, we have dinner at 6:00. Olivia is usually in the bath at 6:45, having her evening snack at 7:30 and we have to read and then brush teeth between 7:45 and 8:15. All that depends on a perfect night, a night where there are no unexpected visitors, or phone calls, or homework help needed. If we can just go and go and go from the minute I get home, we can get to bed at 8:30.

Alas, this causes a bit of whining from Lyss because when we got up to bed at 8:30, she doesn’t get her daily snuggle-with-mom time and that makes her cranky.

I know…I know. If, once upon a time, I’d taught these girlies how to go to sleep on their own…If I’d put them in their beds, tucked them in, kissed them good night and vacated the room, I could do that very thing with Olivia at 8:15 and then go down and spend the next forty-five minutes giving Alyssa her very much needed snuggle time. Then, I could send that child to bed at 9:00 and then, maybe, have an hour of zombie time all to myself.

In my dreams. For now, we’re making do with an 8:45 bedtime for all.

On the bright side, I’m getting way more sleep these days, what with going to bed at 9:00 each night…since, you know, even if I plan to get up after the girls go to sleep, I always fall asleep right along with them. Huh…guess that means I need more sleep too.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Using Her Words

During her evening serving of Jello (this week’s flavor: strawberry lemonade) Olivia informed me that the recess teacher had told the second graders that if they wanted, they could bring a toy to play with at recess.

Alyssa was quick to interject, “I don’t think you should take anything, Livie. Kids always seem to lose or break their toys during recess.”

Liv looked to me for confirmation of this new information.

I shrugged, “If you want to take something, you can. Just take something that isn’t all that important to you.”

She returned my shrug and took a bite of her Jello.

After she swallowed she told me, “The recess teacher told us to play in the mulch or on the cement. She doesn’t want us to play in the dirt.”

“Do you play in the dirt?” I asked her, motioning her to continue eating so we could get done with the snack and brush her teeth.

She obliged my urge to eat and then continued our conversation, “No, I never play in the dirt. Sometimes I swing but other times I just sit and wait for recess to be over.”

Sigh. My poor baby. I think she wants to play with the other kids but just doesn’t know how.

I distracted her by asking, “Why does the recess teacher want you guys to stay out of the dirt?”

Liv showed me her hands, pointing to her fingernails. “Because when we play in the dirt, we get the dirt under our fingernails and it takes forever in the restrooms after recess to get our hands clean.”

For some reason, that made her giggle like crazy.

I laughed along with her because, well, her giggle is contagious. “Well,” I said when I caught my breath, “I guess you should be using your time at school to be learning instead of having to wash dirt out from under your fingernails.”

She nodded wisely and ate the last of her Jello.

I asked her every day if she talked to her ‘friends’ that day. She usually either shrugs or says that she didn’t. I try to walk that fine line of giving her time to mature and encouraging her to keep trying.

I mean, look how far she’s come in four years. Her first year of school she didn’t even talk to her teacher, so the fact that she does talk to her teachers and aides, is a big step, but she’s in second grade. Friendships are forming, these kids are getting social. Some kids are even having sleepovers. Not that Olivia, even if she were invited, would want to go to a sleepover at this stage in her life but just talking to a classmate in the hall would be so awesome for her.

I am so lucky she uses her words with me. I am so incredibly blessed that she talks to me every single day, that she tells me stories, makes up dreams each morning to tell me. How do I know she makes them up? Because she waits until Alyssa has told us what she dreamed about the night before and then Liv will brighten up and declare that she ALSO dreamed that exact same thing. She always embellishes, which is awesome and I’m so glad her imagination allows her to make up dreams but yeah, they’re made up. I kind of love her that much more because of it.

I feel really lucky that she does actually speak to her teachers, that she’s comfortable enough with most of the adults at school that she’ll talk to them, interact with them, tell them about her home life almost as much as she tells me about her school life.

But I wat more for her; I want her to have what almost every other kids has. I want her to have friends. I want school to be about more than the academic work. I want it to be fun, I want her to be social and tell me about her friends.

I know I’m probably being selfish, I mean, this child TALKS and she WALKS and she’s RUNS and she READS and she converses with me. She can tell me where it hurts when she’s sick, she can tell me when she’s sad or when she’s mad. She can inform her dad in no uncertain terms when she’s done eating and let him know that nothing he says will change the fact that she is not going to another bite of what he’s offering.

But selfish or not, I want more. I want it not for me. I had my childhood and my friends and my social life. I want it for my daughter. I want her peers, her classmates, to get to know her, to see how funny, how sweet, how imaginative she is. I want her to have someone her own age to listen to her stories and share her dreams, made up or not.

Okay, I’m owning it. I want it all for Olivia. I want as much for her as I want for Alyssa. I’m their mother, it’s my job, my calling to want more for them and to help them find ways to get it.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Homeschool

Several of my awesome friends out there in the world homeschool their kids.

I think this is awesome. I think it’s a great choice and I’m so glad it’s an option for those who want to and choose to do it.

It is not really an option for us.

First of all, I work fulltime, so I wouldn’t be able to actually be AT HOME to school my children. I don’t think Tom wants to take on that kind of responsibility and I’m not sure either of my kids are self-motivated enough to do it online on their own. Okay, so maybe….a big maybe, Alyssa could do it, but Olivia? Yeah, not so much.

The real reason homeschooling is not an option for Alyssa is that she needs to social time she gets at school. She’s introverted by nature and if she hadn’t been plunged into a public school setting at the ripe old age of five years old I could see her becoming quite the hermit.

And she loves school these days for the very same reason…the social aspect. She gets to spend time with her friends and then come home and decompress with some time in her corner, away from everyone, including pesky little sisters.

The other day, my mom mentioned that another of our friends had decided to homeschool her kids. They were planning to use an on-line guide/site to do this. Mom went on to mention that at some point, we might have to consider homeschooling Olivia. I nodded but then said it would be hard, you know what with me working and all. My mom said she’d be willing to help if it came to that.

Olivia overheard this and later asked, “What is homeschool?”

I told her it was when kids stayed home with their mom or their dad and did school work at home.

Her eyes lit up. I believe she thought she hit the jackpot. Stay home! Work on school work at home?! Why had no one ever told her this was an option?

Well, right now, it’s not really an option, which is why she hadn’t been told it was an option. Poor kid’s face dropped when I told her she was going to second grade AT school.

And honestly, three days in, she’s fine. She’s actually eating her lunch at school. Sure, she’s sitting a good five tables away from her rambunctious classmates, but she’s in the cafeteria (okay, they call it the auditoria at their school but I’m sorry, that’s kind of a stupid word.)

One of Olivia’s biggest challenges at school is the social game. She can’t/won’t speak to her peers. One on one, she’s doing so, so much better but at school, she just gets overwhelmed. But see, my biggest fear is that if we pull her out of that environment, she’ll become that much more shy, she’ll be that much less likely to speak to her peers in any setting.

So we’re working on it and so is the school and right now, at this time, it’s the best place for her to be. We’ll keep an eye on it and re-evaluate as necessary but as long as she’s learning and growing and maturing in this setting, we’ll keep on keeping on. If things change, if she stops learning or things get overwhelming for her, we’ll figure something else out. We’ll look into every option, up to and including homeschooling to be sure we’re giving Miss Liv the best chance of succeeding at this thing called life.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nanny McFee 2

Last summer one of Olivia’s front teeth became loose to the point that it was sticking out almost horizontally from her gums. It was funny and awkward and we were all so relieved when that thing finally fell out that we didn’t even get mad that it was Alyssa’s hand that ended up knocking that tooth out.

Recently I noticed that another of Olivia’s teeth was loose. It was the one just to the right of her front teeth. When I looked closely, I could actually see the permanent tooth pushing its way in behind the baby tooth.

That permanent tooth was actually moving the baby tooth almost daily. It was being moved both forward and to the right. It was becoming unsightly, if you want the truth.

Finally, last Saturday, I’d had enough. She wouldn’t let me wiggle it, she refused to wiggle it herself and it needed to come out.

I offered, “Hey, Liv, if you get that tooth out today, I’ll let you pick out a toy at Walmart.”

Her face lit up. She knew JUST what she wanted.

Alyssa looked on with doubt. She was pretty sure even the lure of a new toy wasn’t going to be enough to get Olivia to yank that tooth out.

I was more confident in my youngest daughter’s fortitude. Girl likes her toys, is what I’m saying.

She started wiggling only to stop a few seconds in and grimace. She asked for an apple, hoping it would help get that darned tooth out.

It didn’t.

I offered to help. She hid her face.

She wiggled while I showered. I reminded her from behind the shower door that if that tooth didn’t come out before we left for town, there would be no new toy.

She muttered something I couldn’t quite hear over the sound of running water and went about her business of wiggling her tooth.

Once I was out of the shower, she asked me if her tooth was bleeding.

It wasn’t. But while I was inspecting it, I decided to do her a little favor and give it a little wiggle.

I wiggled it the way she’d been wiggling it and…nothing. I then grasped that damned Nanny McFee tooth and twisted it in the opposite direction and bam, it’s tenuous hold on her skin gave and it dropped onto her tongue.

She spat it out as fast as it fell from its former home.

I picked it up off the bathroom counter and showed it to her. She inspected the gross thing and then looked in the mirror.

“I’m bleeding,” she announced and promptly found a cup, filled it with water and rinsed her mouth.

“You’re not bleeding much,” I told her. “And better still, that tooth is out!! You get your toy!”

We high-fived and went to tell Alyssa the good news.

She was impressed that Olivia had ‘let’ me yank it out. When I confessed that I sort of tricked O into letting me ‘help’ Lyss laughed and admitted that Liv did, in fact, deserve a toy for that one.

When we got to Meijer that afternoon, Olivia decided to see if the toy she wanted was in stock. We headed to the doll section and she found it immediately. She picked up that Baby Elsa doll so fast I thought she might knock another tooth out with it.

Was it worth the $14.99 we paid for the doll to get that tooth out?

Yes. Yes it was.

The tooth fairy even left a token dollar for Olivia. And a note, telling her how brave she was for ‘letting’ her mom get that tooth out of her.

Now if only Alyssa would let me go to work on her remaining eight baby teeth. I’m telling you, I could save us hundreds of dollars if she’d just open wide.

Here's Olivia pointing to the new tooth that was already growing in before we even got the baby tooth out.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Gotta Go Back, Back, Back to School

It’s that time of year again. We attended the open house last night at the girls’ school. I love open house because it lets us take the $90 (EACH) worth of school supplies to each girl’s classroom so they don’t have to carry them on the bus on the first day of school. Back in my day (you know, a hundred years ago, before there was electricity and television and cars) we had to take all our school supplies on the first day and that was nightmare on the bus.



As she embarks on second grade, Olivia is a little iffy about whether or not she’s actually excited about school. Alyssa had the same teacher for second grade and she’s (the teach, that is) wonderful so I have high hopes for O’s continuing education. Olivia, on the other hand, asked the other day, “What is homeschool?”

Ha! That’s a post for another day, kiddo.

But Mrs. P was excited to see all the kids last night and was so enthusiastic and energetic that I can’t help but think this is going to be a great year for Olivia.



Alyssa is SO ready for school to be back in session. She’s had fun this summer but I know she’s missed her friends and she can’t wait to have a full eight hours away from me and Tom and Olivia. I know, that should probably make me sad but really it just makes me proud of her. She’s grown so much in the past few years in all ways. I mean, obviously, she’s grown physically but she’s also grown socially and emotionally. She’s going to have an awesome year just because she’s decided to make it so. She amazes me every single day just because she’s so awesome. I love how much she loves her family even as she’s branching out, making friends, feeling her way toward independence.



Sure, I’m not looking forward to packing lunches every single night for the next nine-ish months but…it’s a small price to pay to have my girls getting a quality education surrounded by people who genuinely like them.

And get this…the bus route changed this year. The girls’ pick up time, which was 6:50am last year, is now 7:29. Nice!!! So much better. We all get to sleep for an extra half hour. That makes everything better in my world.

Last night at 8:30 Olivia asked me if we could go to bed rather than sit on the couch together. I declared that to be an excellent idea and we all headed to bed. I don’t know about A and O but I was zonked out by 9:00. We all slept until 6 with nary a peep. Now that’s a good night’s sleep. I’m glad they got that kind of sleep before the first day even though on the first day, they don’t usually do much other than get settled.

I do hope Olivia decided that second grade will be THE year of eating her lunch with her peers but we’ll see. And if she doesn’t? There’s always third grade.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Normal?

Last Friday the girls were with my mom. She decided to bring them to town right before I got off work, so I met them all at Menards. My nephew was with them and so O and J were being little maniacs throughout the store. If you happened to be in the Angola, IN, Menards last Friday…I’m sorry for the crazy girl and boy who were running around.

Olivia was wearing a new shirt that Gram has given her. It had the minions on it and said something like, “Normal is boring.”

Later that evening, she sat beside me after we’d read our three books for the night and asked, “I’m not normal, am I?”

Oh.

Oh Livie.

Let me assure you that she didn’t say this with any sadness in her voice. It was more a tone of resignation, which was still so hard to hear.

I hugged her tightly and told her, “You are amazing. You are so smart and sweet and you are funny. So many people love you and are so happy to know you. No one is normal, you know. Everyone is a little weird or different and that’s what makes everyone special.”

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what to tell her to make her feel better, to make her see how wonderful I think she is. She sees the kids at school running around, playing with each other, talking to each other, being ‘normal’ and she knows that’s not how she is.

How do you explain it all to a child who is just special-needs enough to know she has special needs?

She knows she different and most of the time, she’s fine with that but she’s getting older and noticing more and taking more in and seeing the differences magnified by the microscope of the public school setting. She wants to fit in just because she knows she’s supposed to want to. But it’s hard. It’s so hard and I know this is not the last time she’ll ask a question like that.

What is normal?

Someday, when she’s all grown up and doing amazing things, she’ll realize that normal is overrated and be grateful for how special she is. I mean, look at Ellen. She’s not normal and she’s brilliant at what she does.

But when you’re eight years old and heading into second grade, normal would be awesome. Normal would let you fit right in with the masses, it lets you disappear a little and be part of the organism that is second graders at recess.

When you’re not normal, you play at recess by yourself. You stand and look at your peers when they speak to you, unable to reply back to them. It makes you stand out and at eight, most of us don’t want to stand out.

Someday, my sweet Livie, you’ll embrace your specialness. You’ll see how great you are, how much you’ve overcome and how strong you are because of it.

Until then, I’ll be here, trying to be a buffer between you and what can be a very cruel world. I’ll be here for you to land on when things get hard, when ‘normal’ feels eons away, when life gets lonely and you need to know you’re appreciated because of your specialness, not despite it. I’ll be here to celebrate your unique sense of humor, your beauty, your charm. I’ll be here to listen to your stories, marveling in your imagination, your sense of adventure.

I’ll be here to wipe your tears and remind you that normal is overrated even as you strive to achieve just that.

I will always be your biggest cheerleader, your loudest fan. I will always be a place where you can rest your head when you’re tired and where you know your accomplishments will be celebrated.

Because, like your shirt said, normal is boring and you, my sweet girl, have never, ever been boring.