I love to read.  It relaxes me and calms me down, and just makes the world a better place.  I can’t remember not spending time buried in a book.  As a child I had two big bookcases in my room, both completely stuffed with books.  I like being transported into a different reality, and losing myself in a story.

Husband and I always read to the girls.  When I was pregnant with Oldest One we bought a big nursery rhymes book and would read that to my stomach, and I would sing the ones that had a tune I knew.  Little One adored nursery rhymes when she was little, and we own several books of them.  It was common for the girls to bring books to us and ask us to read to them.  As they got older I would tell them what books I used to read, and they enjoyed many of them.

So when I was talking to someone at my workplace that has a toddler and no books in the house it completely floored me.  How can there not be books in the house to read to a child?  No matter how young?  As the conversation continued it seemed like getting books and reading to her daughter just hadn’t occurred to her.  I suggested the library (my girls used to love going there) and it was an “oh yeah” moment for her, as she told me her family used to take her younger sister to the library, and that was always fun.

Oldest One isn’t much on reading outside of required class reading.  Not because she doesn’t like to, but because she is a slow reader; she may read slowly, but she remembers all of it.  Every summer she starts Little Women again because she wants to get through it.  I have faith that one summer she will have the time, and she will love the book as much as I do.

Little One is a huge reader.  She has a Kindle, she has a bookcase, and she loves having a book going on her Kindle and a regular book to read.  She is the person who reads more than one book at a time.  During the summer she goes to the library and brings home 12 or 15 books at a time.  Right now she is reading Little Women for school, and I just read it again in the last year or so, and it has been fun talking about it with her.

I think I might have to get a couple of Sandra Boynton books for this person at work so she can start a collection for her daughter.  I have a hard time if I finish one book and don’t have another one to read, and I just can’t imagine a house without books.  It sounds horrible.  And sad.  The world is a much better place because there are more books to read than there is time to get to them.

My Sister

Last night I spent an hour on the phone with my Sister.  It was great to talk to her, and we were both able to vent about stuff that is bothering us.  We both said we are going to do better and talk more, because we feel better getting it all out.

I didn’t grow up with my Sister.  In fact, I didn’t even know she existed until I was 26 and just married, and she was 17.  I didn’t know I had a younger brother (Brother #6 in the scheme of all this) until then either.  I knew I had an older Brother (#4) and a younger sister (#2) and younger brother (#5), none of whom I had met.

I was adopted by my family when I was an infant.  I always knew as my family was open about it, going so far as to create a book they used to read to me about my adoption.  The Brothers, as I called them as a child, were not adopted, but by the time my parents felt they needed one more child, a girl, they weren’t going to conceive one.  So they went to an agency and started the process to adopt a five or six year old girl.  They received a call around nine months later that an infant was available, were they interested?  They were, they drove to the agency where they were placed in a room where they could spend time to decide if they wanted to take me home.  When the caseworker came back I was dressed in the outfit my Mom had brought and they took me home that day.  A year later, and with no caseworker visits that I’ve heard about, my whole family went before a judge, said they wanted to keep me, and it was a done deal.  Some pet adoptions are more complicated today than my adoption was back then.

So I grew up knowing I was adopted, which really didn’t impact me.  It was something unique to share, there was a relative who refused to acknowledge me because of the adoption, the Middle Brother didn’t like to say I was because I was his sister and that was that, and I grew up, got married, had kids and got a mortgage.

Due to health issues in my early 20’s I contacted the adoption agency, paid them the fee, and learned who my birth mother was.  We even talked on the phone.  I learned she had a daughter two years younger than me, and a son four years younger than I am.  She seemed relieved to know I had grown up in a good home.  Today we are Face Book friends, and we ocassionaly send pictures to each other.  She did give me the name of my birth father, which I didn’t do anything with until right after I got married.  A co-worker had a one month access to an Internet database and could look people up, so I had her look the name up, and found him.

I didn’t get to meet my birth father before he passed away, but we did talk on the phone a couple of times.  I have however met my Sister and Brothers #4 and #6.  I even added Sister and Brother #6’s mom to my family.  It’s been nine years since my Sister and I officially met in person, when she came for Little One’s 5th birthday party.  And she has been part of our life and celebrations since.  Sister and I had always wanted a sister, and then we got one.  We went through growing pains even though we were adults as we got to know each other.  My girls love having a Crazy Aunt (even though she isn’t very crazy anymore) and she loves taking them on adventures when she visits.

So, it was great to talk to my Sister, catch up, and be there for each other.  My girls are close, and I hope they always are.  They are the first to defend the other, the first to make the other incredibly mad, and the first to be supportive and proud of the other.  Having and being a sister is special, and I’m so glad I get to experience it.

Teenagers. Sigh.

I Love my daughters.  So very, very much.  But sometimes navigating through the teenage minefield can be exhausting and it leaves me sad.

Oldest One is a good kid.  When she pushes it she does so with me and Husband, and I don’t get calls or emails from the school about her attitude.  Or from other parents.  Or from coaches.  So I figure we are doing something right.  But when it comes to us, she will all out go off the rails.

I know she is at the age where independence is calling.  I remember how exciting it was to know that “freedom” was right around the corner.  And I’m sure I was a huge pain to my parents.  But since teenagers get stuck into a world that revolves around them, they sometimes act and say things that, as a parent, come across as mean, rude, and with no gratitude.

I feel like the last several weeks have been a complete battle to try to talk to Oldest One about important things like schedules and college.  I love that she want to take care of everything, but realistically several items need parental approval or oversight.  If I want to talk about movies, music, or anything that doesn’t need decisions, it’s all good.  But there are a lot of things that need decisions.

Husband gets irritated when she tells us she is going to a movie with friends, including where and what movie.  He’d like her to ask if she can.  That doesn’t bother me.  She has a car, she is letting us know what she is doing with who, and she texts me updates.  I see where he is coming from, but as long as she lets us know where she is going (and it isn’t a sleepover at a lake – that was a NO) I’m good.

What I’m not good with is trying to discuss how we have 3 places to be in one day and the times overlap and what I get is her banging her head against the couch, covering her eyes, and telling me she’ll take care of it.  That sounds good, but Little One, Husband and I all need to be at these 3 places too, so we have to work it out together about how it is getting done.  This example can be used to cover a multitude of situations.  I should check to see how dented the couch is where she sits.

I also know if Oldest One starts a conversation with “Since I’m almost an adult” I am much better off running out of the room and hiding then actually trying to have the conversation.  Yes, 18 is the legal age that says a person is an adult, but it doesn’t mean you magically start to make good decisions, or have your own money to go to college and live.  I have yet to get through a conversation that starts with those words without her getting mad.

I am trying to have patience, and remember what I felt at that age.  I haven’t jumped up (yet) and started yelling, and if I know I am getting nowhere with a conversation I do get up and leave, but really, at some point I know we’ll have to finish it.  I know she doesn’t think I’m dumb, even though her body language strongly suggests it at times.  I know she loves me, and is usually glad I’m her Mom.  But not being able to discuss things with her is not just getting old, that is what is making me sad.  I spend a lot of time doing things to make my girls lives happy, as I’m sure most parents do, so it would be nice to have the consideration I want and the attitude adjustment so I don’t have to carefully walk around the potential explosions.

I know she doesn’t see herself doing this, and I know she isn’t out to deliberately make me feel bad.  In fact there are plenty of times she goes out of her way to be nice.  I’m sure growing up is hard on her, and her impatience may not be so much with me as with the odd state she is in, not really a child but not an adult.  So, I’ll keep trying to have patience, and I’ll keep trying to have (futile) conversations, and I’ll try to keep the frustrations and sadness to a minimum.  And I’ll keep running away and hiding from some of the talks a definite possibility.

Dancing and Cheering

Tonight is Little One’s dance program at school.  Tomorrow is the first cheer competition for our cheer gym.  I had to get Little One’s hair and make-up done this morning because they are performing for the school at an assembly, and then tonight for family and friends.  I still don’t have the lipstick I need for the girls for competition tomorrow.  I’ve been to Wal-Mart and Target and they carry the brand, but not the color.  I’m trying Walgreens, CVS and K-Mart tonight after the dance program.  Oh, and as soon as the competition ends we need to run to the basketball games so the girls can cheer for the school.

I remember how excited Husband and I were at Oldest One’s very first holiday performance in Kindergarten.  All the kids looked adorable, especially ours (with her Pebbles hair-do), and they were so cute as they sang.  Little one was in preschool when she had her first one, and her eyes were sparkling with excitement at being in front of all those people and getting to sing.

Oldest One started competitive cheer a year before Little One, and it took me an hour and a half to do her hair and make-up for the first competition.  We had to be there at 7a, so you can imagine how early we were up.  The next year when Little One started I was at about 45 minutes a girl…the pouf and fake pony tail were a challenge.  Now Oldest One does her own hair (well, I put the curlers in the night before, and no more fake pony tail) and make-up, and I do Little One, and we rarely have to be at the competition site before 11:30a since they compete at later times these days.

There is only this year and next, and then Little One is done with PE so won’t be taking dance at school, and won’t be in the dance program anymore.  This is Oldest One’s last year at our cheer gym – this is her seventh year with them.  Little One still has four years left with the cheer gym after this one, and she has already been there six years.

Husband claims he won’t miss any of this.  There are parts I won’t miss, like badly run competitions, last minute extra practices, and how cold it can be watching the dance program.  But I know I’ll miss cheering for my cheerleaders, and shaking and banging the purple and zebra tambourine the girls gave me one Christmas, which saves my arthritic hand from not moving after clapping too much.  They’ve told me they listen for that tambourine, so I make sure it is loud.  I’ll even miss the expensive out-of-town competitions, because we have some great memories from those trips.

Yes, again, this is a year of looking back as the girls are leaping forward.  I’ve just been having such a fun time with them growing up, and everything they do that I get to support and watch.  I know that won’t end, it will just be happening in a different way.  And, after going to the competition and then running to the basketball game I’m sure by the time I get home tomorrow the misty eyes will be gone, and I’ll be complaining about how awful sitting in bleachers all day has been.

My Little One

Little One often feels like she gets less attention and less stuff then Oldest One.  This year is a big one for her sister, so I understand why she feels that way.  I’m the youngest, and growing up it often felt like I never had any milestones because when I did my brothers always had bigger ones.  I did reassure her that next year, when she is the only child in the house, she will have All of my attention.  Strangely, that didn’t cheer her up.

This week Little One has done things that make me sad at how fast she is growing up.  Not that she won’t do these things again, but as she enters high school, and the world really does revolve around her and she develops tunnel vision, she might not do these things as often.

Over the weekend I had a sinus-type of migraine, and I was taking Benadryl and Sudafed to help.  Saturday afternoon I got very sleepy, and I couldn’t focus on what I was reading on my Kindle, so I decided to snooze off.  I woke up a bit when Little One gently removed my Kindle from my hands and put it on the side table, and then tucked the blanket in around me.  What a sweetie girl!

Tuesday the girls cheer gym was supposed to be evaluated and their routines given feedback.  This required the girls to have full cheer hair.  I really don’t like the way the hair is done this year, because it isn’t that easy to do, and a real nightmare to take out.  Big pouf in front, and the high ponytail in back is curled, teased out with a comb, then hair sprayed into a ball.  There is also the required huge bow in it.  I had curled Little One’s hair the night before, and taken out the curlers in the morning, but Oldest One had to do the pouf (I have no idea how she pulled the hair out of the ponytail) and teasing because I couldn’t get home from work in time to do it.  I warned Husband he might want to leave the house while that was going on, because it generally involves crying and screaming.  Well, the evaluators never showed up, so it was all for nothing.  When Little One got home after 9p that night the first thing she did after dropping all her stuff on the dining room table was to come over and full out lay on top of me (I was in the recliner) so I could hug her and stroke her head.  She had a hard day, and she wanted Mommy.

She called me during her lunch yesterday.  She does this several times a week, sometimes with a real question, sometimes with a made-up question.  I think she just likes that she can call me on her cell phone when she is at lunch.  There is a ton of background noise (a school cafeteria) and often her friends are in the background screaming “Hi”.  It’s actually nice that she is still at an age where she wants to call me just to hear my voice.  I’ll be lucky if that lasts through the end of this year.

So, I may not mention her as much right now as I do Oldest One, but it’s not because I’m ignoring her.  There is just so much going on with Oldest One that Little One kind of gets a bit lost in all of the activities.  But I’m lucky in that she still wants to watch TV with me, read books with me, play board games with me, and best of all, she still likes me to give her a hug and kiss goodnight.  My Little One is an amazing girl, and I am so lucky to be her Mom.

Teenagers & Tree Trimming

Teenagers.  They’re happy, they have sunny attitudes, the world is lovely, and you turn around for one second and all of a sudden they are moody, parents are pains, and the world is out to get them.  I’ve heard boys are easier than girls, but since I have two teenage girls, I have nothing to go by for that.

Thanksgiving was really nice – except for the clean-up, of course.  Oldest One brought four strays (as Husband called them) and my in-laws seemed to have a very good time.  Oldest One and friends went out shopping late Thursday night (and we even allowed an extended curfew) and again on Friday.  Husband and Little One spent a significant amount of time lighting the front of the house and the yard.  It looks so awesome.  So Friday we didn’t do the tree as planned, but that was okay.

Then we hit Saturday.  We planned to do the tree in the late afternoon. And I had expectations.  I didn’t want to, but as I found out later, they were there.  The tree has been a really fun family time.  When the girls were little we helped them put ornaments on, and as they got older my job became to unwrap the ornaments for the girls to put on the tree.  About four years ago Oldest One decided to take over decorating the house, and then Little One joined in, and we have had some inspired decorating going on.

I was doing bills with a migraine when Oldest One came up from her bedroom and said she was going to make Hanukkah cookies.  She started counting how many she needed, and I reminded her Little One needed to take about 60 or so to school.  We had discussed this before, but by her reaction I was totally out in left field.  Because I wasn’t up to a big discussion after about a minute I told her “Fine, just worry about yourself and I’ll do the cookies for your sister.”  Well, that really set her off, because apparently I made it seem like she was selfish.

And down the day went.  When it came to tree time Husband, who ended up spending the day helping friends till their backyard, was a bit sore.  Little One was super excited, and couldn’t wait to get to the tree.  Oldest One, well, she really put a damper on my fun.  She grudgingly came in the living room (took time out from cookies even) and sat in a chair with her phone.  She barely acknowledged the new ornaments.  Deep sighs accompanied my handing her the ornaments with her name to put on the tree.  She was a fun person to have around.  At least she let me take a picture of her and her sister in front of the tree once it was done.

But her attitude (and my migraine that lasted all day) really dimmed the whole experience for me this year.  Like it was so huge for her to be bothered with us doing the tree.  She didn’t have any other plans, so it wasn’t like I was asking her to not be with friends.  And I know this is common to teenagers.  But it doesn’t make it any easier to take.  Then, later on when we started watching Love Actually (a tradition after trimming the tree, along with When Harry Met Sally) all of a sudden she got excited, because she loves the movie, and plopped down to watch it with us.  Little One even sat next to her and they were very sisterly.

I have plenty of experience with the mood changes of the teenage girl, but it never makes it any easier when the mood is cranky, and I am the not-very-bright parent.  Strangely, I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything.  But, I really do like when the girls think everything is unicorns and rainbows, because I’m much less likely to be viewed as annoying.

Turkey Day & Dreidels Too

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  And Chanukkah starts.  I’m kind of ready for both, which is better than not being ready for either.  We have the menu done and the food bought, and part of it is already made.  The girls gave me their wish lists, and I’ve looked at them.  I’d love to buy them everything on the lists, and then some.  Unfortunately, between cheer, a senior trip, an eighth grade trip, two graduations and a kid starting college next year it will be a holiday season about being with family, and not about the few gifts there will be.  As it should be anyway.

I do have a gift for each of them for tomorrow night.  Oldest One is getting a sweatshirt for the college she will attend next year, and Little One is getting a cute top and tank to go under it.  Oldest One helped me buy the top for Little One (she is convinced she alone is keeping her little sister from being awkward) and in the process found an outfit for herself.  I’ll be wrapping it up as her 2nd Chanukkah gift.  I have no idea what I’m giving Little One for her second gift, but I really need to get on that.

Because we do both Chanukkah and Christmas we realized after one crazed holiday that we needed to manage the amount of gifts.  So the girls get 2 very nice gifts for Chanukkah, and then they get more gifts for Christmas, but those also include socks and sports bra type of items.  Not having grown up with Christmas, I early on decided stocking stuffers had to have chocolate, and then practical stuff like chapstick and hand lotion.  The girls include those little items on their wish lists.  I’m hoping to have a little money left over after putting on the feast tomorrow and paying the end of month bills to do some online shopping.  Husband will probably have to be content with new underwear this year…he did ask for that specifically.

I’d like to say I’m excited about tomorrow, but I’ve learned not to have expectations for big holidays.  Expectations lead to disappointment, and to crankiness.  So, I’m looking forward to not having to get up early, and to eating good food.  Beyond that everything else, such as family getting along, will be icing on the cupcake.  I’ve warned the girls that as soon as their Grandparents arrive (Husband’s Mom and Dad) we will be taking pictures.  Last year I didn’t get the pictures, and I know my in-laws really like them, so I’m going to push everyone into the backyard early, and get those taken.  After that, no schedule, no plans, we will take it as it comes.

No matter what tomorrow brings, or how many people show up (we could have 3, we could have 15, fun to plan the food!) I know that Friday morning I can sleep until Noon if I want.  Well, 11:30, I have something going on at Noon.  I get to watch two of my favorite movies this weekend, When Harry Met Sally and Love Actually – we watch them every Thanksgiving weekend.  We will put our tree up, and Husband will put up lights outside.  I think I am having expectations here, but that is okay, the expectations have nothing to do with Thanksgiving itself, just what happens afterwards.  And I have plenty of chocolate to get me through if these expectations don’t go as expected.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukkah!