The Bus

IMG_20140324_203252Some days, I love the bus.

On those days, I get back in time from dropping Phaedra off at school to help Bella get ready.  We put on her shoes, coat, and seat belt harness.  We sit on the couch, side by side, watching cartoons and chatting a little bit about what’s on her mind.  Never about school, because that might upset her, and upsetting her right before the bus arrives is not a good thing.  When the bus arrives in front of our house, she bounces off the couch and practically runs out the door towards it.  I grab her just in time to give her a hug and kiss before the bus attendant helps her walk to her seat and buckles her in.  I wave to her from the curb as she waves back through the window.  I give her a thumbs up, she gives me her thumbs up (an index finger proudly pointing up).  When the bus pulls away, she’s smiling.  I like those days.  I walk back to the house feeling relived that we successfully made it all the way through another morning’s routine.

Some days, I hate the bus.

IMG_20140311_005742Sometimes it’s because I’m running back in the door just as the bus arrives, and the rushing around makes Bella anxious.  Sometimes she didn’t get enough sleep the night before, and the morning routine is just too much for her.  Sometimes the world is just too much for her, and she can’t bear the thought of leaving her safe world at home for the more challenging world of school.  There are days where Bella just can’t get on the bus.  There are days when Bella just can’t get out the door.  On those days, getting to the bus involves fearful tears and hesitant steps and careful pleading and judging eyes and insensitive words. The worst days are when I see her looking at me through the bus window and she’s crying, her face confused and hurt because she can’t understand why I’m just standing there instead of rescuing her from the bus and taking her back to our house, back to the people that understand why these things are so hard for her.  I don’t get a thumbs up those mornings.  When the bus pulls away and I walk back to the house, she’s not the only one crying and wishing someone would rescue them from the bus.

*******

A year ago, when we met with the -ists at Bella’s school to complete her first IEP, they asked us if we would like Bella to ride the bus.  We were hesitant.  We weren’t sure she would go for it, and I liked the idea of driving her to school every day and keeping regular contact with her teachers and therapists.  But the class times would make it hard for me to make it to work, and having her dropped off every day would be more convenient for Rob instead of dragging Surrey across town every day.  The -ists felt that riding the bus would be great for Bella, given that she had a hard time with transitions.  Getting on the bus would help signal the switch between home and school.  We decided to give it a try.

About once a month, I adamantly want to quit the bus.  On the drive to work, I think about how I could coordinate my work schedule with Surrey and Bella’s preschool times so that I could drive them all to school next year and just be done with the bus.  I fantasize about quitting my job and taking a part-time job so I can drive Bella to school every day.  During those bad weeks, though, Rob reminds me that about 75-80% of the time, the bus works out just fine.  He points out that it’s her very first year riding the bus, and we didn’t even think she would be able to do it at all.  Her teachers tell me that most mornings, she’s absolutely happy and fine when she arrives at school, despite me watching her drive away in tears.

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With autism, you find yourself constantly walking a tightrope between protection and and exposure. You want so badly to shield your child from the things that upset them, the things they can’t understand or process.  On the other hand, you realize that if they are going to function independently in the real world someday, you have to expose them to the upsetting things so they can learn how to cope with them on their own.  It’s not easy to resist the urge to protect them from the anxiety.  It’s also not easy to know exactly how much you should nudge them before you’re expecting too much from them.

For now, Bella will keep riding the bus.  We’ll keep trying to help her cope with the days that it’s harder to get on the bus.  I’ll keep protecting her from the things she shouldn’t have to cope with, and Rob will keep pushing me to let her figure some things out for herself.

I’ll probably still keep plotting the demise of the bus in my head while I drive.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in the new book I Just Want to Be Alone, and also in You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

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Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

The Easter Bunny Photo: An Analysis

Oh look!  We went to see the Easter Bunny last weekend!  Here’s the picture!

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Guess who didn’t shower and got to make
an unexpected appearance in this year’s picture?

Oooooh boy.  Before we go any further with this post, can I just point out that I paid $22 dollars for this little masterpiece? The girl at the register was all, “Do you want a frame?” And I was like “HAHAHAHA” until I saw the cool LED light-up frame they had set up on the counter, and then I strongly considered it before saying no.

Anyways, let’s analyze this year’s picture, shall we?

Bella: Oh Jesus.  So from the start, I thought I would have any and all Bella-related problems covered.  That’s how delusional I was at the beginning of this day.  I found her favorite Yoshi toy to hold, since she gets easily overwhelmed by the mall.  But then there was a short line, which I thought was great because it was only three families long.  However, Bella thought this was horrible because OMG IT’S THREE WHOLE FAMILIES LONG.  She spent her time waiting in line seeing how far she could reach her leg through the wrought-iron fence surrounding the bunny area, pushing a kid out of the way so she could get a better look at an animatronic chick’s face, and laying on the floor of the JCPenny’s purse department spinning in circles.  When it was finally our turn, the kid who usually can’t wait to run up and hug the Easter Bunny got cold feet.  It took three whole minutes of cajoling and styrofoam Easter egg negotiations to convince Bella to sit on the bench with the Easter Bunny.  The tongue is her standard picture expression right now; the ominous finger-across-the-throat move is just a bonus.

Phaedra: Look at that poor kid, sitting and posing perfectly.  She’s constantly dealing with the traveling circus that is her sisters when we go out in public.  She sat for three whole minutes on that rabbit’s knee waiting for me to corral her sisters into the frame.  Girlfriend was just happy to be wearing a cute dress and matching shoes in public.  When your sister is also wearing a cute dress but trying to lick her own shoes in public, it’s the little things that matter.

Surrey: All morning, Surrey was pumped to see the Easter Bunny.  I feel like when we said “bunny” she was picturing something closer to an actual rabbit than the half-human, half macrocephalic monster that we took her to see.  She wouldn’t get near him.  Now, as wild as these outings have been over the years, I pride myself in the fact that I’ve never had a kid bail on a picture.  It may not be pretty, but they’ve all made it into the photo. Since this is His holiday and all, I asked myself, “What would Jesus do?  How would He get this red-headed heathen of a child to take this picture?”  I decided that our Savior would get down on one knee, sit that kid on His leg, and tell that teenager behind the camera to take the picture NOW! HURRY! SMILE GIRLS!

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I’m going to bring Tebow-ing back, but only in times of extreme need.  
Like when Taco Bell takes my favorite burrito off the menu.

Right before she took the picture, one of the bunny attendants said, “Don’t worry, we can crop you out if you want.” Dude, seriously?  The only thing weirder than a barely acceptably-dressed-for-the-public me kneeling with my kid on my knee would be a picture of my baby inexplicably floating in space with something that looks like a dismembered adult arm around her waist.  If you’re offering, though, maybe you could Photoshop that big-ass frown on her face into a smile?  Could you literally take that frown and turn it upside-down?  I mean, if we’re going for creepy, let’s go all the way.

Now, let me be clear: I have absolutely no standards at all for these kinds of pictures.  I’m not going for Norman Rockwell-level pictures.  I realize that I’m in a mall and my kids are being photographed by a young girl that is most likely making minimum wage to click a camera no more than twice per family.  It’s not about getting a good shot where everyone’s actually looking at the camera and smiling; it’s about capturing the moment.  So fucking what if Bella’s holding a Yoshi toy and I’m kneeling in the picture?  That was what our life looked like this year.  At this moment in our family’s life, Surrey is in the middle of her asshole phase, Bella is sticking her tongue out in every picture, and Phaedra is predictably well-behaved and utterly appalled by her sisters’ behavior.  I wanted a picture that showed all that, and that’s what I got.

 I didn’t necessarily want to pay $22 for it, though.  I don’t need to remember her asshole phase that clearly.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in the new book I Just Want to Be Alone, and also in You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Invented the Crane Game

Dear Sir or Madam (although my gut tells me you are a Sir),

I’m writing to you after yet another disappointing experience with your awful invention.  Recently I took my six-year-old daughter to the movies to see Muppets Most Wanted.  We both love the Muppets, and seeing the movies together in the theater is kind of our thing.  After the movie, we walked into the lobby feeling super happy because that’s what the Muppets do to us.  That was when my daughter asked if we could play one of the many stupid games in the theater lobby.

I shit you not, there were no less than FOUR crane games in the lobby of this theater.  Can I just pause here to say what the fuck happened to movie theater lobby video games?!  The only other choices were three other “put your money in and not win a prize” games, a Terminator-themed shooting game, a driving game, and a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! pinball machine.  This may come as a shock, but my daughter passed on these games in favor of the large glass case crammed full of stuffed animals.  I bet I’ll further blow your fucking mind when I tell you she tried twice to retrieve a blue Rio bird to no avail, and despite my warning to not be upset if she couldn’t get the bird, she left the theater crying.

Courtesy of Flickr user sharkhats

Pictured: soooo much bullshit.

Basically, this is how the transaction went between me and your fuck-faced contraption: I got to spend $2 for the privilege of making my daughter cry.  I mean, that’s the real point of this thing, right?  Make kids cry so that parents pump more and more money into it chasing that fucking Chewbacca Angry Bird?  I paid $2 and got to leave the building with a crying kid.  The worst part? I took her to Target and was forced to spend $12 on a goddamn Kidz Bop CD to make her feel better about the crane game fiasco.  Because of your piece of shit, dream-wrecking machine I had to break a solemn vow to myself that I would never expose my children to the vile filth that is Kidz Bop.  So actually your machine cost me $14 and a piece of my soul.

Good sir, you know your invention is complete and utter bullshit.  You know that you shove those stuffed animals down so that the flimsy pincers have absolutely no chance of extracting one from the pile.  I think we further know that you put the coolest items right up against the glass, or in similarly compromised positions in order to lure people into pumping even more money into your machine in a misguided effort to retrieve these items.

I hope you’re happy.

You also need to know that on top of the injury of losing $2 and gaining only the tears of my first-born, I was insulted as well.  My husband is the only person on the planet Earth (or at least in the state of Michigan) who never walks away from one of your machines without a prize.  He has some kind of Tommy-esque ability to figure out how to win something every single time.  I was not blessed with this evolutionary advantage.  As we walked out of the theater, I explained to my daughter that if I could win her a prize by putting more money into The Machine, I certainly would.  She told me she understood.  Then she went on to tell me that she wished Daddy were with her that day instead of me.  Me, her fellow Muppet fan.  She was willing to sell me out and sit through a movie with a guy who doesn’t even know all the words to the Muppet Show theme song.  So, just in case you were keeping track, your maching cost me $14, a piece of my soul, and the respect of my daughter.

In summary, sir: we are not cool on any level.  Congratulations on your douchey business model.  You should be super pleased with yourself.

I DON’T REALLY HOPE THAT. I ACTUALLY HOPE YOU CRAWL INSIDE ONE OF YOUR STUPID FUCKING MACHINES AND GET STUCK LIKE THOSE KIDS IN THE YOUTUBE VIDEOS.  I would argue that this phenomenon is the only redeeming thing about your machines.

 

Deuces,

Janel

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in the new book I Just Want to Be Alone, and also in You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

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Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

It’s a Man’s World — “I Just Want to Be Alone” Edition!

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Since my essay in the new book I Just Want to Be Alone is about Rob, why not celebrate the release with a brand new “It’s a Man’s World” post!

Late last night, I hopped on Facebook and asked everyone for their questions for Rob.  In true Rob fashion, he refused to answer any of them.  So, instead, I pulled this list of “New Parents’ 8 Most-Asked Questions” from Parenting magazine.  I started reading the questions to him out loud, and by the time I got to #3, he had declared the people asking these questions “fucking dumb”.  I knew I had him.

So, let’s get down to business, shall we?  Feel free to pass this along to any brand-new parents you might know.  Actually, please don’t do that.  If this goes how I think it’s going to go, that will only lead to tears and Xanax for them.  But, in all honesty, that’s probably where this whole parenting thing is headed anyways, so I don’t know.  Use your best judgement.  Be an adult.  I CAN’T HELP YOU THROUGH THIS DECISION.

1. How can I tell if my baby is getting enough breast milk, since I can’t count the number of ounces?

  • Stupid.  I mean, like, how big are your titties?  How many ounces is one of your tits? Get a measuring cup, shove your tit into the measuring cup, and then you’ll know how many ounces your tit can hold.  It’s science.  Or why don’t you just feed your fucking baby until it doesn’t eat anymore.  Still hungry?  Keep feeding your fucking baby.  Is that wrong?

2. I’m not sure that I’m bonding with my baby. Isn’t this something that’s supposed to happen automatically?

  • What does that even mean?  Like, your baby is ignoring you?  That’s kind of hard because it’s a baby.  What, it won’t fucking play cards with you?  You guys can’t sit down and hammer out what you thought about the latest episode of whatever show’s on TV?  Is it a male baby?  Take it paint-balling.  What kind of girl-bonding is there?  Girl bond?  Gold Bond!  Remember that story from college where that dude put Gold Bond on his nuts, and he gave himself a chemical burn, so they put out an APB warning the students not to “GB”?  Shit’s dangerous.

3. Our 5-month-old wakes up four to six times a night. Sometimes he’s not even hungry  – he just wants us to comfort him. How can we get him to sleep through the night?

  • You’re fucking selfish, bro!  How old’s this kid?  ONLY four or five times a night?! That’s IT?! Consider yourselves lucky.  Let’s see, what did we try?  Benadryl?  Didn’t work.  Spoiler alert: doesn’t work for everyone.  What else did we try?  We didn’t really try much.  I mean, he’s a fucking baby!  Here’s what you can do: sit him down in a chair, Intervention-style, with all your friends and family that care about him, and you say, “Listen, Junior, your sleep (or lack thereof) has negatively affected me in the following ways.”  Try to rationalize with the baby about how his sleeping is negatively affecting you, even though you got jizz shot up all inside you and now you’re fucking complaining.  Deal with it, bitch.  {Editor’s note: JESUS CHRIST.}

4. Our 3-month-old’s bowel movements vary from day to day. Sometimes she has several in one day and none the next. Should we be concerned?

  • Yes, you should be concerned that you’re a fecal freak.  Baby’s gonna shit, or not gonna shit.  I’m concerned for you that you care so much about doodoo.  Like, does you want more?  You should be concerned about how you don’t have to wash your hands because you don’t have a baby that shits up it’s back every day.  Wipe your own ass if you need to clean up more shit.

5. Is it true that I could spoil my baby by picking him up every time he cries?

  • Is this that “cry it out” bullshit?  Bro, your baby’s like, months old.  It’s not that smart or manipulative.  I feel like this is a little ridiculous.  I mean, what’s the alternative, you sit there and let it cry?  So, okay, choice A is you spoil your baby, and choice B is you neglect your baby?  So how about this: you pick it up every time it cries, and then you don’t buy it a cell phone when it’s eight years old.  Problem solved.

6. I’m going back to work in a couple of weeks and I’d like to continue breastfeeding. What’s the best way to do this?

  • Bring your baby to work with you?  Wormholes?  Yeah, just stick your tit in the wormhole, and have your baby’s head on the other side, and then you can breastfeed it from work.  Is that the question?  Just bottle that shit up, son.  Get one of those sweet suction machines.  {At this point, Rob actually demonstrated the sound a breast pump makes.}  Whoa whoa whoa.  How old’s your kid?  Are you going back to work because your kid’s in college?  Is that the case?  Because that’s fucking gross.

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7. I can’t get my husband more involved in caring for our 6-month-old son, and I want his help. What can we do? 

  • Who’s we? What’s this we mean?  You and the baby?  The editorial we?  Um, hmmm, I don’t know, talk to him?  Ask him?  Say, “Could you please take care of the kid?”  Or bribe him with sex I guess, you frigid bitch.  {At this point, Rob was strongly urged to clarify who the fuck was the frigid bitch in this situation.}  Or do one of those tough love situations and just leave him with the kid for a week.  Then they’ll learn to love each other.

 

8. How do I know when to start feeding my baby solids, and which foods should I start with?

  • What are these, like frequently asked questions?  Do these people read any books before they have kids?  These are the types of people who get pregnant, don’t go to any birthing classes, and then don’t know what the hell they’re doing.  Solid foods.  Fuck, I don’t know.  You give them solid foods when your wife tells you to give them solid foods.  That’s the way I did it.  Or shit, your sneaky-ass in-laws have already probably sneaked your baby some food, so don’t worry about it.  He’s already had Twinkies, and you’re over here worried about applesauce.  He needs some solid food to soak up all that Jack Daniels your grandma gave him so he’d sleep.

Oh look!  A bonus question:

9.  How does Rob feel about his new book, and where can I buy a copy of it?

  • I don’t fucking know.  The Internet?  Amazon?  I’m not seeing any fucking money from it, so what do I care.
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in the new book I Just Want to Be Alone, and also in You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

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Posted in babies, bad ideas, best husband ever, It's a Man's World | 6 Comments

…But Not This Year

“Mom! Ginger’s mom is teaching kindergarten!”

“Phaedra, what are you talking about?”

“The sign on Ginger’s front lawn! It says ‘kindergarten’ on it; doesn’t that mean she’s teaching it?”

“No, honey.  It’s just a sign telling everyone that Kindergarten Round-Up is happening soon.”

I fucking hate that sign in my neighbor’s front yard.  Every day, I pull in the driveway and there it is, reminding me of the latest spoonful of different I’ve had to swallow lately because of Bella’s diagnosis.

*****

Kindergarten Round-Up is the registration event hosted at the elementary schools in our district each spring.  Rob and I should be getting ready to bring Bella to her big sister’s school this year to make a paper bag puppet and bring home a ridiculously oversized t-shirt with her graduation year emblazoned on the front.  That’s what we should be doing.  But should is a word you quickly drop from your vocabulary when you live with autism, because you realize it’s a useless, meaningless word.  She should, but she’s not, so why are we still talking about this? Don’t focus on the should, because it gets you nowhere.  Focus on what’s actually happening, because that’s your reality.

Our reality is Bella won’t be starting kindergarten in the fall.  She’ll spend another year in her fabulous preschool program with her fabulous teachers that adore the shit out of her.  It’s the right choice, without a doubt.  She’s not ready for kindergarten at all.  She needs more time to build her confidence, gain independence, and improve her social skills.  Going to kindergarten in the fall would destroy any progress we’ve made this year.  So really, no, I don’t want to send her to kindergarten in September at all.

Except I do.

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This is what I want, Universe, you crappy bitch: I want Bella to be the beautiful person she is, minus all the baggage she has to drag around because of autism.  I want her to be excited about starting a new school in the fall.  I just want to take my charming-as-hell daughter to the stupid Kindergarten Round-Up so she can ride the school bus around the block like it’s a goddamn adventure, instead of something she does every single day when the school bus pulls up to our house and her anxiety sometimes go through the roof and I leave her crying hysterically because she just wants to stay home and zone out for hours on end watching videos on YouTube instead of going to school.

That’s what I want.  For once, I want Bella to have a single fucking milestone in her life be simple and normal.  I want it, not Bella.  Bella doesn’t give a single ounce of shit about the Kindergarten Round-Up.  I’m the one ignoring all the blue yard signs and restraining myself from karate-kicking my neighbor’s sign across her yard.  I just want to send my five-year-old to kindergarten like everyone else, but I can’t and I fucking hate that.

I know this isn’t a big deal.  I know Bella will flourish, and when it’s time for her to go, it will feel so good because she’ll be ready.  It’s just that this is the first in a long line of major milestones that looks different than it always did in my head.  And while I’ve learned to accept and even celebrate the fact that “normal” is another one of those meaningless words, some normals are harder to give up than others.

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Posted in ambivalence, autism, Bella, Debbie Downer, kindergarten, preschool, School | 6 Comments

Not a Kept Man…Yet

My husband has big plans for me.  Ever since I announced I was going to use my useless liberal arts degree to attend library school, he has had dreams of me getting a high-paying job that would allow him to quit his job and stay home.  When we started having children, each birth would renew his obsession with becoming a modern-day homemaker.  He imagines a lifestyle where he can stay home and take care of the kids.  He insists that he would make cooking and cleaning his job, but when he said that, I feel like he actually meant to say “Netflix and Skyrim”.  I’ve yet to find my million-dollar librarian job, though, so I guess we’ll never really know who’s right. (It’s me.)

Since I began writing, though, I’ve noticed his interest in this fantasy of his start to peak again.  I can see little dollar signs pop up in his eyes when he notices me writing on my laptop.  The other day, when I told him how difficult I thought it would be to write a book, I heard a faint “cha-ching!” sound from his end of the couch.  So imagine his delight when I told him that my essay was going to be published in I Just Want to Be Alone, the newest book in the I Just Want to Pee Alone anthology series.  But wait — imagine his further delight when I told him that the essay was about him!

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Then imagine his reaction when I told him that he still had to go to work the next day.

Courtesy of Reaction Gifs

Now, listen: don’t feel bad for him, because there’s something you can do to help him out.  I know for a fact that many of the fifteen people who read this blog are huge Rob fans.  I know this because at least once a week someone posts on the Facebook page about reviving It’s a Man’s World, where Rob answers your questions while playing video games next to me on the couch.  I’ve failed to see any posts asking me to write something else about my kids shitting all over the house, despite the fact that I’ve done it several times.  It’s fine.  I can take a hint.  

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So, if you want to read a hilarious story about what happens when you take Rob to Disney World and parade him around in the hot sun, I suggest you order this book.  It’s a win-win for you, really: you get a great Rob story, and you do your small part to helping him towards his career goal of being a kept man.  It drops on March 22, but you can pre-order your book now and have it show up ON YOUR DOORSTEP (or Kindle or whatever the hell you people use to avoid having to touch an actual paper-based book) the very day it’s released.

So order today.  Because really, how can you say “no” to this face?

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Posted in best husband ever, book reviews, I Just Want to Be Alone, internet famous, nerd alert, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Wait Wait

Miss Phaedra is growing up at an alarming rate.  Her birth certificate puts her at six years old, but anyone who’s ever met her agrees that she’s actually about thirty-six and perpetually annoyed with the two adults that the government insists she live with for the next twelve years.  Thank God she’s here, though, because otherwise how the hell would I know how to do really complex things like make ice cubes, or remember to pack her shoes in her backpack?

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She’s always been a grownup stuck in a kid’s body, but lately she just seems so much older all of a sudden.  Everyone told me that once she hit elementary school, time would hit fast-forward.  No one told me it was the three-click fast forward instead of the one- or two-click.

*****

Phaedra got her first pair of glasses today.  I finally made the appointment this week after she failed the vision test at school (probably the first and last test she’ll ever fail at school).  When I first told her a few months ago that I would have to take her to the eye doctor and she would probably need glasses, she was not excited at all.  But after awhile, when she realized that “Holy shit, I could have pink glasses!!!” she decided that she was fine with it.  She made it all the way through the appointment, which she took very seriously despite the ridiculous faces and goofy-ass thumb’s up I kept giving her behind the doctor’s back. She is generally not amused with my dumb antics, as she is beyond such immature behavior.

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Not impressed.

She was thrilled that her glasses were ready the same day.  So she put them on, and then she turned twelve years old.

I can’t stop staring at her.  Partly because I can’t get enough of how cute she looks in her little glasses, but also because in the ten minutes between sitting down at the counter where they adjust your glasses to the moment she put them on and said, “Wow, everything looks so different,” she aged about five years.  Not just in the way she looks, but in her demeanor as well.  She just carries herself differently.

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Sometimes I hold her in my lap like a baby. She loves it, even though she is Ms. Independence. I think it’s because her time to be the baby was cut off earlier than she would have liked when Bella came screeching up to our doorstep, tires smoking, right before Phaedra’s second birthday.  I ask her to slow down and stop growing up so fast.  She tells me, “Don’t worry, Mom.  I’ll always be your baby.”  I make her promise to remember what she said.  She does, but I know she’ll forget one day.

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But I won’t.

Posted in Phaedra, where did my baby go? | 12 Comments

Five

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Bella’s birthday is tomorrow.  Actually, Bella’s birthday was around 2am this morning, a fact that the person who shoved that enormous 9 lb human out of her body knows very well.  This year is an exciting year for all of us, as it is the first year that Bella actually grasps what her birthday means.  She’s been counting down since January.  When the calendar switched to February, the Birthday Alert Level was elevated to Extremely Impatient (orange).  She tried switching the birthday card we have inserted in our enormous, teacher-style reusable calendar.  ”Mom?  I’m going to switch my birthday from the 14th to the 13th, okay?”  Such is the power of the pocket calendar: to change the space-time continuum through the strength of nylon canvas and clear plastic pockets.

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No thanks, guys, we’ve got this.
Seriously, you two would just fuck it up somehow, anyways.

The irrational requests have dramatically increased during the last few weeks.  Here is Bella’s official list of demands for her birthday:

  • Presents: My kids are in the iron grip of this mutant stuffed animal craze.  Every time my kids see a commercial for a stuffed animal with a flashlight shoved up its ass, or a blanket with a puppet head sewed onto it, they lose their mind.  Bella has demanded the blanket puppet and two more of the stuffed animal with fifty-six places to hide your weed.  Since these abominations are always about $30 after shipping and handling, she will only be receiving the puppet thing from me.
  • Cake: Bella has asked for a “llama cake”.  The girls have been watching The Emperor’s New Groove obsessively lately.  I happen to approve of this latest movie selection, as its one of my favorite Disney movies.  It’s one that came out while I worked at Hollywood Video in college, and since we could only watch G-rated movies on the overhead TVs during our shift, we went with the obvious choice for children of the nineties and chose a David Spade movie.  Rob has suggested that I bake a cake, print out a silhouette of a llama, and then use it as a pattern to fucking carve a llama from cake.  I told my husband the Cake Boss that if he wants a llama-shaped cake, he can go ahead and handle that himself while I’m at the grocery store purchasing a $20 cake and covering it with llama pictures I printed on cardstock at work and taped to toothpicks.
  • Balloons: At her classmate’s birthday party a few weeks ago, she spotted a My Little Pony-shaped balloon.  Bella has always had a thing for balloons, and really loses her mind over novelty balloons.  Only after promising her own Rainbow Dash balloon at her birthday was I able to avoid attempting to bribe the girl’s mother to let us leave with that balloon.  And since Bella’s birthday is Valentine’s Day, I had to order the balloon a day in advance so that I wouldn’t have to fight my way through the throng of douchebags buying their girlfriends stupid balloons because the floral section at Walmart was too picked over by lunchtime.
  • “Birthday at my house!”: This one has me worried.  I’m not exactly sure if she means we all celebrate her birthday at our house, or if she’s expecting an actual birthday party with little friends.  When I list out the guests (i.e., our immediate family members), she always adds a few TV characters, but never a real person.  I’ll tell you straight: I cannot handle a house full of preschoolers.  You’re stuck with just us, kid.  Better luck next year.

Listen, it’s been a rough couple of months for Bella.  Christmas break can be tough on a girl who has come to depend on and thrive on the routine that school has brought her, and the constant snow days have been frustrating her (and us) to no end.  She lost a little bit of the progress that she had made before the break.  The meltdowns have increased, as has the obsession with all things electronic (and the accompanying difficulty in walking away from the iPad or computer games.)  But she’s come so far this year, farther than we could have ever hoped.  Five-year-old Bella is a much different person than four-year-old Bella.

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So in my opinion, listening to Bella talk about her birthday and catering to her whims instead of seeing her confused, slightly disinterested face when presented with candles and presents is completely worth the $5,649 worth of birthday bullshit I’m going to buy.  And frankly, I think all of us could really use some llama cake.

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How to Get Your Kid Dressed to Go Outside and Play in the Snow in 22 Easy Steps!

1.  Work up the ambition to begin getting your kid bundled up.

2.  Dig out a pair of boots from the mountain of shoes.

3.  Pour out the hard plastic toys shoved inside each boot by your jerkiest kid.

4.  Remove the last pair of socks from the toe of each boot.

5.  Force your kid’s foot halfway into each boot and hope their body weight will be enough to shove their foot in the rest of the way.

6.  Zip up the boots.

7.  Unzip the boots when the zipper gets stuck halfway and re-zip the boots.

8.  Hold out coat so child can slip their arms into the wrong sleeves.

9.  Remove coat and hold it so child can only put arms into correct sleeves.

10.  Remove coat again when child puts left arm in right sleeve AGAIN.

11.  Finally get coat on child.

12.  Zip up coat.

13.  Listen to child warn you not to catch their skin in the top of the zipper like you did three years ago.

14.  Dig through the hat and glove box to find two matching gloves.

15.  Dig through the hat and glove box again to find the rainbow gloves, which must be somehow warmer than the pink striped gloves you found first.

16.  Ask child if they want to wear a hat.

17.  Ask child if they are sure they don’t want a hat.

18.  Open door and let child out to frolic in the snow.

19.  Enjoy the sight of your child playing in the pristine snow, and the golden silence of the house.

20.  Open door again two minutes later to let child inside because “it’s cold outside!”

21.  Prepare hot chocolate as instructed by child.

22.  Wear cold, wet socks the rest of the day after stepping in melted snow tracked all over the house.

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I Guess Mine Aren’t Figurative Anymore

“Hey, Janel — who did you buy this for?”

“What — dude, I’m not giving those away!  Are you kidding me?!  I went through a lot to get those!”

“…”

“Remember?  I had to put my car in park and jump out and grab them from the driveway of the parking lot when I went shopping a few weeks ago?”

“So, you put yourself and your car in danger, in the middle of winter, for a pair of truck nutz?”

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“Listen.  When the universe leaves you a gift as glorious as this, you don’t just drive past it.”

“Dude.”

“I know.”

“Nope, I don’t think you do.”

“Probably not.”

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