O is for Original Girl

OI love that you say you don’t want to be me when you grow up.

You insist on a simple pony tail with no headband or bow adornment. In your opinion, painting fingernails is a waste of perfectly good video game time. You own just two dresses and one pair of “fancy” shoes, and those are worn under protest.

I love that you complained about dance class and gymnastics.

You prefer field hockey and football. You run like a girl…gloriously fast and strong. You are fearless on the field, and when you tackle a boy during a soccer game, his mom silently cheers and covertly offers me a high-five on the sideline.

I love that you cannot define “traditional”.

You wore a Wonder Woman costume to a princess dress-up party, and the rest of your cosplay wardrobe includes Spider-Man, Darth Vader and a Ninja Turtle. Your career aspirations are police officer, inventor and soldier.

I love that your Barbies are collecting dust.

Your Power Ranger action figures have seen plenty of battle, and your favorite make-believe scenario features a light saber and a conflict between good and evil. At Build-a-Bear, you stroll past the frilly princess bears and have so much trouble choosing between Chewbaka and the Stormtrooper that you convince me get them both. (There’s a BOGO, after all, you say.)

I love that you show no interest in reading Little House on the Prairie.

Your bookshelf holds the entire Captain Underpants series, and you are currently reading your way through Diary of Wimpy Kid.

I love that you turn down every invitation for Frozen sing-alongs.

Elle King’s America’s Sweetheart on the car radio is cause to crank the volume, so you can join me in loudly singing its rock-anthem chorus: “I’m not America’s Sweetheart, but you love me anyway!”

img_0232

I love that you are brave and strong and live by your own definition of beautiful.

I love that you know your opportunities are limitless and that stereotypes only get in the way.

I love that you are no one but yourself…my one and only original girl.

K is for Kid Conspiracy

KCrossing the Young One’s room lately has been like walking through a mine field of dirty socks, crumpled t-shirts and discarded yoga pants. Her soccer jersey is in a pile by the closet door, and a towel hangs from the edge of a mirror.

The socks freak me out. I find them everywhere…on a dresser, under blankets, on a lamp shade, in toy boxes, tumbling off bookshelves, hanging from a towel hook in the bathroom.

I need to understand why this is happening and how to make it stop.

“What is going on with your socks…with all your clothes for that matter?” I asked, scooping up a stray fuzzy slipper sock from the corner of her nightstand. “Why are you not putting your dirty clothes in your hamper?”

“Well,” she said with all innocence and big eyes. “That’s what he said to do. It’s fun. Watch.”

sock

Sorry, Fuzzy Face.

She bent down, pulled a sock to the tip of her toe and gave a kick. I watched it arch across the room and land with a soft plop on the head of an American Girl doll.

“Who…is…he,” I said calmly, even though I was furiously thinking, “Once I find this kid, I’m going to beat him with a dirty soccer sock.”

“My brother,” she smiled.

“Your…who?” I stammered in my shock at her revelation.

“Myyyy…brrrooootherrrr,” she enunciated slowly, clearly thinking my hearing was fading.

“He did what!”

“Momma! Pay attention!” she snapped and then flung another sock through the air. This one landed on her pillow.

At that moment, that oldest child of mine was pretty lucky to be safely residing in Germany.

However, now that I think about it, his part in the state of total disarray in his sister’s bedroom makes perfect sense. His was never a particularly tidy room when he was growing up. I remember laundry days where his contribution to the dirty clothes was conspicuously slim.

Add to that a recent trip home, the loud thumps and laughter echoing from the second floor and a serious case of hero worship, and I have a true kid conspiracy on my hands.

Now that she was busted, I was able to adequately carry out a threat punishment that fit her crime.  For every night, I find dirty clothes in random locations no where near her hamper, she will be fined one dollar.  She may not get an allowance, but she does get birthday/Christmas/Tooth Fairy money. She saves it like a miser, so the thought of losing it just to watch footwear fly is daunting.

Now, how to deal with the Older One? He’s thousands of miles away bravely serving his country, so the punishment for this betrayal of household cleanliness can’t be too harsh.

I could call his commanding officer and explain the situation. No, that’s probably crossing a line.

I could call his girlfriend! No, she was probably in on the conspiracy too.

Hmmm…

I know!  I have recently become aware of an opportunity to procure several boxes of Girl Scout cookies that went unsold during his sister’s Brownie troop cookie booth sale last month. I’m going to hold the Thin Mints and Samoas hostage!

I’ll have an apology in no time.

G is for Girl Drama

GI’m over the drama already, and my girl is only eight.  Actually, she’s almost nine, and really it’s other parents’ girls causing the drama. Still…I’m over it already.

I knew we would have drama as soon as the Hubs and I agreed to adopt a child of the female variety. Girls and drama go together like a sale at my favorite shoe store and the credit card bill that comes to the house a week later. Enjoying the first means you will inevitably have to deal with the second.

So, I expected drama to surround my girl at some point, but I didn’t expect it in the second grade or for it to be such a complicated and never-ending story.

When I sent the Young One to the her first day in her new school back in August, I sent her with a mission…make one friend…just one. We had moved to Ohio 10 days earlier, and she was still missing her friend posse, and I thought making at least one new friend would be a good first step in moving on.

She called me as soon as she got off the bus that first day, and I could hear the excitement bubbling through the telephone. “I did it!” she told me. “I made a new friend.”

“That’s great, Sweetheart! What’s her name?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” I guess I should have specified…make a new friend AND ask her name.

She came home the next day to tell me her new friend’s name was DramaGirl1 (Strange name, I know, but I like the keep it anonymous here.) and even bigger news…she had made a second new friend by the name of DramaGirl2. (I like to keep it original too.)

That scenario sets up the drama nicely because while DG1 and DG2 both want to be BFFs with my Young One, they have no desire to be BFFs or even just Fs with each other. Plus the monster that hides under both of their beds is green-eyed.

The after-school-call I received the week after winter break was tear-filled. “DG2 says she’s not my friend anymore,” she cried.

“Oh, no!” I replied, “What happened?”

“I told her DG1 was my friend too, and she said if I played with DG1 at recess then I couldn’t be her friend anymore!”

I empathized, and we spent the evening talking through different scenarios to let DG2 know she still wanted to be friends. The next day’s call went like this:

“DG2 and I are friends again, but now DG1 says I can’t be her friend anymore because I told her I was DG2’s friend too.”

*sigh*

BFF

You won’t have drama when your BFF is your momma!

That has been the after-school conversation most days for the last three months, just replacing DG1 with DG2. Fortunately, while she used to tell me the news with tears in her voice, now all I hear is resignation. She has come to the realization that these two girls’ moods change with the wind and that she is not responsible for their meanness or their jealousy. She is just caught in the middle.

I’ve contemplated calling their mothers and talking with them about the situation, but I realize this is too much of a helicopter mom maneuver for my liking. The girls need to work this out themselves or decide to go their separate ways. It’s life. We’ve all been there.

If I did make those calls, I could very likely find out that these girls have learned their jealous and possessive behavior from their mommas, just as my daughter is learning kindness and tolerance from me. I definitely don’t need my own grown-up girl drama at this stage in my life.

The end of the school year and hopefully the drama is only six weeks away. It can’t come soon enough for me. I’m hoping the summer will bring us a little bit of peace, and that the fall will bring us a new set of friends.

E is for Expectations Instead of Allowance

EThe Young One’s favorite hobby lately is staging mini-protests when an adult in the house reminds her to do her chores.

She rolls her eyes, slumps her shoulders and mumbles, “I have to do everything, and I don’t even get paid.” Sometimes this is accompanied by any combination of a scowl, a foot stomp and/or a long-suffering sigh.

I applaud her entrepreneurial spirit, her sense of what is fair and her core belief in capitalism. “If I work,” her slouch says, “I should get paid, and if I work more, I should get paid more.”

She would be 100% correct in that thinking if she was toiling in Corporate America, but she’s not.  She has the privilege of working at Chez Momma where we deal in expectations instead of allowance. The work schedule and task list is set by me, and I dole out the earnings for meeting those expectations in the form of rewards such as food, clothing and beds.

Everyone who works at Chez Momma has a skill set and appropriately assigned chores. The Hubs handles the taxes, the finances and the lawn. The MIL covers the laundry. I manage cooking, procurement, chauffeuring and general household administration. That leaves the Young One with a job-share for dish detail plus trash and dog-poop-pickup. (We outsource cleaning. No one has the available hours required for this task. We bring in extra manpower so the dust doesn’t get too thick.)

Chores

“I’m overworked and underpaid!”

Hers are not glamorous chores, I admit, but they need to be done (by someone other than me). I’ve tried to mentor her to look beyond these chores to something she really wants to do.

“Your goal,” I’ve counseled, “should be to excel at waste management, so one day you can be promoted to line cook.”

She just glares at me and grumbles about an empty piggy bank and a meager collection of Shopkins.

I’m standing strong, though. The expectations remain the same. Everybody works! Nobody gets an allowance! It’s a business model I believe in.

However, I won’t be surprised if I come home from my day job one night and find her standing in the front yard with a sign reading, “No pay. No poop pick-up.”

Sunshine for ’16

The sun broke through the clouds today.

Since Christmas Eve Eve (aka December 23, in case you’re wondering if that was a typo), my little spot on the weather map has been decorated with a constant theme of clouds, fog and rain drops. But today, the first day of a brand new year, I woke up to sun streaming through the slats of my bedroom window blinds.

Coincidence?

Probably…but still…that bright sunshine has me wondering what’s in the forecast for 2016, and of course that leads to thoughts of resolutions and how I might influence the number of sunny days ahead.

I have two resolutions swirling to the front of the list this year. The first is following through on a commitment I made to the Young One last year. Early in the year, we talked about working on a pretty big project together. It’s something we both want to do, and something I think we could both be very good at, but it’s not just any project. It’s a write-it-in-all-caps kinda project–as in a B-I-G project.

It is so BIG, that I never quite had enough courage time to get to it in 2015. Whenever the Young One would ask when we were going to start it, I was always ready with some other task that needed to be completed first.

“When are we gonna do that thing we talked about, Momma,” she started asking sometime around Ground Hog Day.

My response was always a variation of the same theme…

“After we get the house ready to sell.”

“After your birthday party.”

“After your brother’s graduation.”

“After we move.”

Around Labor Day, she stopped asking about it. I didn’t stop thinking about it, however, and I’m happy to say that today is officially after “after”. As of 10:17 a.m. on January 1, 2016, Project Mighty Mo is officially underway. Every BIG project deserves a code name, right?  I may be ready to do it, but I’m not ready to share details, so for the time-being, I’ll be talking in code.

With that resolution launched and sufficiently shrouded in secrecy, I’m prepping for the start of my second one. I’m putting it off until Monday, though, which while it may seem like procrastination, really isn’t. It’s just dependent on the start of the workweek.

While Project Mighty Mo will most likely bring about a good dose of happiness, I am realistic enough to know my shoe shopping habit needs more than what a code-named (aka unfunded) project can sustain.  So with the need to make some money firmly in place, Resolution #2 is the pursuit of professional happiness. That thing that gets me up in the morning and gives me a twinge of sorrow when I leave the office Friday afternoon has been in noticeably small supply lately.

I like where I work, just not necessarily what i do on a daily basis. It’s nothing illegal or immoral, but it’s not professionally fulfilling either. Nothing says, “I don’t wanna go to work,” like the prospect of another day spent wishing I had something exciting to do.

I’m hoping the two mentors I was paired with in December can help me add a little bit of clarity to my response to the ever-intriguing question, “What do you see yourself doing in five years?” Honestly, I’ll feel successful at project “Happy Momma” if I can figure out what I can see myself doing in five months.

If the streams of sunlight are any indication, 2016 is off to a nice start. Hopefully that and a few code-named resolutions are enough to make it the best year yet.

 

 

 

Football Momma

My daughter plays football with the boys at recess. 

She joins her father in front of the television for College Game Day on Saturday and cheers for her favorite NFL team on Sunday. (She prefers the Bengals to the Steelers, but he firmly believes that is a phase she will eventually grow out of when she has a better understanding of the game.)

At a post-Thanksgiving get-together with friends, she was one of the first to hit the backyard for a game of touch football. The Hubs sent up a rousing cheer when she ran the ball in for a touchdown. I grabbed my phone and snapped a few pictures while I contemplated if I had enough time to run back home for my “real” camera. 

  
My daughter’s wish list to Santa reads like this:

  • A football
  • A helmet
  • A jersey (preferably one baring A.J. Green’s number 18)
  • Football pants
  • Shoulder pads

I spent 15 years watching my son play football, and when I watched him play his last down (Army/Navy 2013), I thought my days of cheering a child on the gridiron were over. Apparently not. 

 Once a Football Momma, always a Football Momma!

Don’t Let Them Win

I’m sitting here this morning on a sunny Saturday, my coffee steaming beside me, cartoons on the TV in the next room, and I am scared.

prayforparis

#PrayForParis

I am scared for the people of Paris and for the family and friends of the victims of last night’s attacks.

I am scared for the people of France because this will surely get worse before it gets better.

I am scared for the soldiers who will head into battle and the repercussions that will be felt around the world.

I am scared for the mommas–those who lost children last night, those who will send their sons and daughters to defend their country, and those trying to explain it all to the little ones overwhelmed by the violence reported since they sat down to dinner last night.

I am scared this is just the beginning.

I am scared it will be closer to home next time.

I am scared it will be my son entering the fight.

I am scared my daughter will grow up in a world at war.

I am scared if we let them paralyze us with this fear, they will win.

I can’t let that happen. They are terrorists, and their ultimate goal is to spread fear, make us change our ways and hide lest they strike again.

So, I will say a prayer for Paris, then I will brew more coffee…I will sit in the sun…I will let the cartoons roll.

I will not let them win.

Germ Free-For-All

I love Timehop and its cute little mascot Abe–the dinosaur in the app who so kindly reminds me of all the things that were once important to me, but that I have somehow forgotten not long after posting them to my social media outlet of choice.

He also helps me participate in Throwback Thursday, and this morning, he very kindly reminded me of the Swine Flu panic of 2009. We were nearing epidemic status, and the media was feeding the frenzy with reports that absolutely no healthcare provider on the planet had a vaccine.

When news broke that by some miracle, my local health department had scored a limited supply of H1N1 vaccinations, I took my high-risk self (asthma, Crohn’s Disease and various immuno-suppressants give me that honor) to the parking lot of the university football stadium and sat in line for an hour to get shot up with the coveted serum.

timehop

Now, six years later, sitting in the back of the Young One’s Brownie scout meeting, I’m crossing my fingers that a few drops of that vaccine might still be swimming through my blood.

It’s a germ free-for-all over there.

*cough*

*sniff*

*aah-choo*

One little watery-eyed girl left 10 minutes into the meeting. I’m not sure why her mom brought her to start with. The mom walked in and announced, “She’s not feeling well. I don’t know how long she’ll stay.”

She stayed just long enough to cough on all the other Brownies, fill three tissues and wipe her germ-infested hands all over the table.

I needed some hand sanitizer, and I’m 20 feet away.
*cough*

That was the troop leader. When watery-eyed girl’s mom made her declaration about her sick kid, Typhoid Troop Leader shared that she was just getting over the sickness too. Fortunately, she covers her mouth when she coughs…with her hand…right before she passes out the snack.

*sniiiif*

Who was that? Oh…Typhoid Troop Leader’s kid. Figures.

*ahh-choo*

Dang! That was the red-nosed redhead sitting across the friendship circle from the Young One.

I’m probably over-reacting, but my throat is starting to hurt. I need to go home, chug some cough medicine and suck on a zinc lozenge.

*wheeze*
Who was that?

Great. Red-nosed redhead’s mom just walked in. Her eyes are as red as her daughter’s head and nose. “I don’t know what I got,” she said over a cough. “I feel awful. I think it’s the flu.”

Really, Patient Zero? Really? Did your doctor tell you the best way to treat the flu is to expose your highly contagious self to as many eight-year-olds as possible?

Hey! I have an idea for the next meeting. Let’s add an accessory to the uniform–a medical face mask! And as the community service project, let’s spray each other down with disinfectant.

*ahh-choo*

Oh, crap.

That was me.

Chaos Never Dies

Happy Chaos Never Dies Day!

Chaos

November 9 is “Chaos Never Dies Day!”

I learned about this little-known holiday from the corporate calendar that hangs in my cubicle. At first, I was a little panic-stricken to find out the powers that be at my company have chosen to tell all employees that the chaos in our lives will never go away.

However, since it’s Monday…and I’ve had to solve three crises before noon…and I don’t know what dinner is tonight…and my car hasn’t been washed in four months…and it might be Friday before any of us have clean clothes, I’ve decided to embrace the chaos! Today, I am raising my glass and celebrating all the crazy, completely-out-of-my-control things that happen each and every day.

Here’s to:

folder

The TAKE HOME folder.

The “TAKE HOME” Folder Black Hole. In an attempt to contain the miscellaneous papers/forms/bills/announcements I collect each day, I pile them into a folder that then I stuff into my computer bag at the end of the day. This is really just a clever disguise for all the things I intend to do when I go home from the office, but that I know will never get done.  In actuality, this innocuous blue folder is a black hole where things go in, but never come back out. In February, I’ll probably do my bi-annual cleansing of the black hole and find the order form for the perfect Christmas present for the Older One that I filled out, but never mailed. That perfect gift was also supposed to be a graduation present.

Oh, well…the fancy label on the folder says, “Take Home”, it does not say “Take Action”. I take it home every day. I’m good.

Renegade Mio. I have come to enjoy a little splash of Mio Liquid Water Enhancer with my daily hydration…except for today when the squirt of Orange Tangerine bounced off an ice cube, ricocheted off my keyboard and left a trail of destruction down the front of my pants.

Oh, well…I always have looked good in orange and in stripes. It’s a fashion statement!

Overbooked Wednesdays. I still don’t know why I thought scheduling the Young One’s vision therapy appointments on the same night as Brownie Scout meetings was a good idea.  I guess I figured since we were already in the car, we might as well go somewhere else. The fact that the two meeting times are 30 minutes apart, but the two destinations are 40 minutes apart apparently didn’t factor into the decision. I was never very good with numbers.

Oh, well…Frito-Lay made pre-packaged peanut butter crackers for those times when your mother overbooks your life and you have to eat dinner in-transit.

email

Please take note, that of the 784 items, only three are unread!

Email Hording. A few weeks ago, my cube-mate shared with me that her measure of success is how few email she has in her inbox. She starts to panic if she has to scroll down the screen to get to the end of her email list. I nodded my agreement and quickly angled my monitor away. What would she think if she saw I had 784 messages in my inbox? (And this was before last week’s Reply All fiasco.) I just have a little problem with getting rid of emails after I  respond to them.

Oh, well…what can I say. The Delete button scares me.

Momma’s Closet for Wayward Stuff. This is otherwise known as the foyer closet, and it is where I directed the moving team (aka the Hubs) to put all the things I didn’t want to deal with on moving day. Now, three months later, I can’t find the Young One’s winter coat or my tennis shoes, and I swear I used to have an ironing board.

Oh well…sounds like a perfect excuse to go shopping to me!

I’m sure I’m forgetting something…like that little light on my dashboard that says, “check engine,” and the funky smell coming out of the refrigerator.

Oh well!

Here’s to the chaos swirling around me every day and the fact that in spite of all the meetings and the to do lists and the things I forget in between, I somehow manage to survive…and get up the next morning to do it all again.

Wandering Out

The Older One was the first to notice it.

“Have you ever watched her eye?” he asked one evening when we were watching yet another viewing of the cinematic masterpiece, Bolt, with the Young One.

“What?” I sat up, intrigued by a good mystery. “You mean Penny?” I asked, referring to the movie’s animated heroine and thinking he was giving me some new detail in the movie I hadn’t seen in the first ten viewings.

“No, the Young One,” he pointed out. “Sometimes when we’re watching TV, her eye will kinda go out. Sorta like a lazy eye.”

I turned and looked at the Young One who was oblivious to our conversation. Nothing happened at first, but after periodically glancing her way, I saw it. One minute both eyes were trained on Bolt’s frantic race to find Penny, the next, the iris and pupil of her left eye started a slow drift out and up.

My mind quickly flashed to The Exorcist, and a chill went down my spine. It was three years later before we finally got a diagnosis that didn’t involve demon possession.

Strabismus, or wandering eye, is sometimes difficult to spot in young children. Kids are great at adapting, and often, as was the case for the Young One, the turn of the eye is so subtle, even doctors don’t see it.

So, for three years, both her pediatrician and optometrist told me, “Let’s just watch it for now, and see if it gets worse,” which, of course, it did. Shortly before she started first grade, we finally got a confirmation of an exotropic strabismus (an eye turn to the outside of the eye, as opposed to the more common esotropic strabismus or crossed eye).

The good news was we finally had a diagnosis and could seek treatment with a specialist. The bad news…many experts believe that by age seven, the only effective treatment is surgery. The Young One had turned seven just a few months earlier.

Fortunately, the specialist we were referred to is a proponent of vision therapy and believes that with repeated exercise, children can learn to control the eye turn and retrain the brain.

“About 5% of kids have some degree of strabismus, ” he told me. “The first thing they will experience is double vision. You have binocular vision,” he said, pointing at me. “Both of your eyes are aligned to the same position when you look at an object, so your brain processes one image. For her,” he turned to the Young One. “Both eyes don’t align to the same position. Each eye sees an object from a slightly different view, and the brain processes two separate images. This creates double vision. To counteract the double image, her left eye turns off, and that’s when you see it slide out.”

Technically, this double vision is called convergence insufficiency, and when she reads, the words look like this:

He went on to list the signs of this eye suppression: clumsiness, poor depth perception, tilting the head while looking at an object or while reading. As children enter school and begin reading, they will often skip words or entire lines of text. Their handwriting is often sloppier than their peers’. They also have a tendency to very quickly say, “I can’t” when faced with a new task because they have learned over time that new tasks are frustrating.

As he talked, I recognized every sign, but like many parents, I had attributed them to the fact that she’s a child. Kids spill things. They’re just learning to read and write, so you can’t expect them to be perfect. That head tilt? That’s just a quirk of hers, right?

A lot of things started to make sense–like how she stumbles over simple words, skips entire lines. If she’s tired, she gets frustrated and says what she’s reading makes no sense.  I’d be frustrated and confused too if this is what the words on the page looked like:


“How did this happen?” I asked, assuming I had done something wrong. I had been 14 years between children. Maybe I had forgotten a few things.

“Well…”the doctor paused and looked at the new patient questionnaire I had filled out in the waiting room. Then he flipped to the Family History section where I had left all the questions blank.

“How old was she when you adopted her?” He asked quietly.

“Not quite 13 months.”

“Did she ever crawl?”

I sighed and shrugged. Crawling was one of those milestones, I never got to see. When we met her in Russia, she was eight months old, and while she would rock back and forth when we put her on her hands and knees, she never went anywhere. I didn’t see her again for five months. By then, she was standing and cruising around the room using the furniture for support.

Crawling, the doctor explained, usually occurs at about the same time as binocular vision develops. A child who doesn’t get enough tummy time and isn’t encouraged to crawl is at a greater risk of developing strabismus because the eyes don’t have a chance to become a team. A crawling child is not just moving. She is usually moving toward an object she has spotted and focused on which helps binocular vision develop.

I never saw the Young One crawl. I have, however, seen plenty of pictures of her taken in the orphanage–pictures of her jumping in bouncy seats, nestled in strollers and sitting in high chairs. I can imagine that a baby’s life in a Russian orphanage doesn’t include free reign to roam wherever she chooses.

Vision Therapy

Pirate practice? No, just patching exercises for vision therapy.

So, as the pieces fell into place for me, the doctor walked me through what would happen for the next 12 months–weekly sessions with a vision therapist to learn exercises and strategies for controlling the wandering eye, supplemented by nightly exercises at home.

We’ve been at this now for eight months. I am more attuned to the signs that her eyes aren’t working together–the head tilt, the frustration when she loses her place while reading, the constant fidgeting while reading (a result of the brain being overstimulated by conflicting images). I pay attention to the eye turn more often too. When I look at pictures of her, I look at the eyes first.

She is learning to live with this too. At first she didn’t like having this thing that makes her different. “No one else at my school has to go to vision therapy,” she often complains. Finding time for weekly appointments and nightly vision exercises in addition to school homework and sports practices is challenging for a busy girl, and often the cause for pouting and whining.

But slowly, I can see things starting to change. She is proactively asking to do her nightly reading assignments for school, and she skips fewer words and lines than she used to. When we do the exercises at home, the left eye doesn’t turn out quite as often as it did when we started, and more and more I am finding pictures with both eyes focused on the camera.

It’s taken eight months, but I’m finally seeing some progress. I’m hoping she starts seeing the improvements too…in more ways than one.