Monday, December 30, 2013

The Right Time

With her first real school year looming in the not-so-distant future, I've been thinking more and more about Amelia and her size. Specifically, the differences in physical ability between her and other typical-size kids.  When she starts school, there are going to be things that have to be addressed. She will need something under her feet at her desk--maybe even something to sit on.  Going through the lunch line is going to be hard, if not impossible, for her to do independently. Going up and down stairs while keeping up with a line of students is going to be tough. Every time I try to talk to anyone about my concerns, they're quick to shush me, to say that it'll be fine. I get it; I know people want me to think that Amelia is just another kid and that it'll all work out. And it will. But that's not what I'm asking for when I bring these thoughts up in conversation. I'm really just wanting someone to listen, to problem-solve with me.

It was with these things on my mind that a little incident occurred over winter break. I hesitate to call it an incident even, because it was not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Just another thing for me to think about, as we edge closer to going to school. However, it did happen, and it did add to all kinds of thoughts that have just been jumbled up in my head over the last few weeks.

It was Christmas Day night (haha...I like saying that).  I had an errand to run, and I took Amelia with me. Marty simultaneously took Anderson for his third trip to see the fire station Christmas lights--the boy can't get enough. After we had completed our task, I was feeling all Christmas sentimental, so I asked Amelia if she'd like to go see a big house with lots and lots of Christmas lights. My girl prefers her lights on actual houses, so she was game. I drove her by this house, which is locally notorious for going above and beyond when it comes to holiday decorating. I haven't seen the house myself in several years, and I thought she would love it. We headed to that side of town. When we got there, lots of people were parking and getting out to look, and so of course Amelia immediately asked if she could get out, too. So, we parked and walked up the drive.

At the top of the driveway, there was a family looking at the lights, taking pictures of themselves with the decorations. We were walking up the drive past them, and the mother turned, saw Amelia and I walking, and squealed, "Oh my GOSSSSSHHHH! Look at HERRRR!"  I totally cringed; I knew exactly what she would say next. And I was right. " She is so TINY!!!!! How old is she?" When Amelia was younger, I could avoid answering the question. However, now that she hears and internalizes these comments, I can't avoid them or even (gasp) lie. So, I drew a deep breath (because again, I knew what would come when I answered--and again, I was right) and said, "Actually, she's almost five years old." Pause. And happened.

I'm not proud of this. In fact, I'm downright embarrassed that I was so unprepared and reacted so...stupidly.  The woman said, and I remember the exact moment just like it was yesterday, "Oh, does she have..." And before she could finish that sentence, I started shaking my head. Vehemently. Then she finished, "Does she have dwarfism?"  I responded with my standard "Yes, she has an unidentified form of dwarfism..."  Then the lady, a bit befuddled because of the head-shaking and my clearly agitated expression, went on to say, "Well I think that's so cool!"  Fortunately, her teenage daughters were fawning over Amelia, and Amelia loves attention from older girls, so she kind of missed the whole exchange.

I was so ashamed of shaking my head. Like I was trying to DENY that she was different or embarrassed to admit it. But that's not it at all. You all know from reading my blog that I'm more than outspoken about both of my kids and their issues--nothing about my darlings is embarrassing. I just hate that it LOOKED like I was embarrassed. But the reason behind the head-shaking is more complicated.  I didn't want this woman to ask, because Amelia doesn't know. Amelia doesn't know the word "dwarfism" yet, and she hasn't comprehended that she's significantly smaller than her peers.  See, she's gone to the same daycare/preschool since she was two.  She's grown up with the same group of kids, who are totally used to her. I think they KNOW that she's smaller but they don't question it, because she's always been there and been small. It's just never naturally come up.

Thus...the dilemma. Do I wait until someone asks her why she's so small, and then she in turn asks me? Or do I head it off at the pass, talk to her about it ahead of time so that she is prepared with the best answers?  It's hard, because I know what I would want, but she is not me. She's definitely her own independent person, and I'm not sure which is best for HER. The biggest part of me wants to sit her down and talk to her soon, answer her questions and give her words to say to those who ask, words that she is comfortable with, that make her feel good about her answer.  I think this comes from the same part of me that cringes when I see her on a playground, trying to play with kids who are most definitely her age, but who immediately disregard her because they think she's a baby. It's the same part that aches inwardly when she continuously talks about "getting big" someday.  And it's from the part of me who literally wants to cry at the thought of someone asking her why she's so little and her getting upset. I like to be prepared, and I want her to be, too.

So...thoughts?  Tell her now? Wait until she asks? What do you think?

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Room of Her Own

So, as I previously mentioned, I've been all caught up in the redecorating of the girl's room. In hindsight, I probably wouldn't have tried to cram so much into such a short amount of time. From the idea entering my head to the finish of the project was less than a week. There was much driving to pick up furniture and online ordering and many, MANY trips to Home Depot (one of which was spent talking to a straight CREEPER for a good fifteen minutes while he mixed my paint). Although doing it while the kids were out of town was definitely the best option, trying to get it all done super-fast was...challenging. Especially for a perfectionist painter. Who refuses to tape off, because tape is for PANSIES (in my head, I don't say the word 'pansies'...). But I digress.

Be warned...many transformation pictures ahead.

I wished that I'd taken one last picture of the room before I'd done anything to it, but I felt so rushed I just jumped right in. This is when I started painting the walls pink--you can see the hideous taupe color that she lived with for almost five years:
The walls of her room had never been painted, and we bought this home as a 'spec home', meaning that it was brand new, built by the builder. They don't do a whole lot of upgrades to spec homes, and the paint was no exception. It was flat paint, and it literally SUCKS paint in. Like a dying man in a desert. The light pink took two coats, three around the trim; the dark pink took three coats, four around the trim.

After I got some of the dark pink on her wall, I hesitated. I wasn't sure about it. I also needed a break. So I literally laid down in the floor and took a picture, left it up to Facebook. Everyone unanimously agreed that I should keep painting. Thank you, Facebook friends.  You were right.
 On day two, I worked on the bright pink wall and the tree.

That took ALL DAY. While one coat would dry, it would be time to add another to a different area. It was slightly maddening. I finally stopped for a bit to go pick up a new mattress for the bed, and to eat dinner. As soon as we got home, it was back to work.

Day three was all about the flowers and trim The flowers are tissue paper, which means they won't last too long. However, the added benefit is that we can change them out as often as we want, the kids can help make them, etc. Kind of a fun little ever-changing addition to the room. However, despite how it seems, I am NOT a crafty person. I am capable, but I don't enjoy it. Cutting those flowers made me absolutely INSANE. I couldn't wait to be done. Putting them up was fun, though.  Day three wrapped up with trim painting--also maddening. Again, everything needed two coats of paint. Painting the arched window was a straight pain in the ass.
Sunday was reveal day, so I had to hurry to get all the finishing touches taken care of. Paint touch-ups, painting her door, more trim work. I also went to get some sheets and a new lamp for her room. I ordered her comforter online, but that hasn't come in yet. It's just plain white with lots and lots of ruffles. White and five-year-olds probably don't mix well, but it was cheap. I won't feel bad if it gets ruined.

They got back at about 8:00 on Sunday. I helped get them out of the car and whispered in Amelia's ear, "I have a surprise for you..."  She was so sweet--huge smile, lots of curiosity. I made her close her eyes, and when she opened them, she was in shock. We did video it, but she was kind of speechless, so she doesn't say much in the video. After she took it all in, she asked lots of questions: "Did you paint the walls? Are they both pink? Light pink and dark pink? Did you paint a tree?" She also said, "I LOVE my new room!" and "Thank you Mommy!" many, many times. I was both happy that she loved it, and proud that I've raised a grateful child who is truly thankful when someone does something for her.

She slept in her new bed last night. She spent the better part of the day playing in there, including eating her breakfast in the bed. Anderson loves it too. It's just so pretty and bright during the day. Anderson is excited for his new bed (coming soon...). He says he wants new curtains, too. Why curtains, I have no idea.

Let me tell you...I wasn't prepared for the physical pain that this makeover would cause. I carried around the heaviest ladder known to mankind, and it bruised my forearms and shins like you wouldn't believe. I also have a crappy back, and bending to paint, standing in one place, standing in odd positions to paint the highest points--they all hurt badly. I dropped the curtain rod straight on my head. It's heavy. I ran into the foot of Amelia's bed with my knee--HARD. I look like I've done battle, and all I've done is repaint and decorate a room. Sad.

But, who wouldn't endure a little pain for these eyes?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rite of Passage

At this very moment, I am over-the-top, head-over-heels involved in a bedroom makeover project. I am redoing Amelia's bedroom for Christmas/her birthday--no longer will she have plain walls and random non-matching furniture, which she has had her entire life. My girl is getting a "Big Girl" room, complete with "Big Girl" bed. All kids eventually grow out of nurseries and into more age-appropriate rooms. It happens all the time.

Except this is more than just redecorating a room. Much, much more.

When I was pregnant and was told Amelia wouldn't survive, I didn't allow myself to buy anything for a girl. No pink, no purple. No flowers. No lace. Looking at those things while I was still pregnant was literally painful. All of those gorgeous, girly things were for a feminine space, and I wouldn't be bringing home a girl. It was hard. It hurt more than I can describe.

When Amelia was born, and we were told that she didn't have Trisomy 18, we celebrated.  However, we were given many, MANY words of caution. She was still tiny. She was still in a very, very precarious situation. Every day that went by was bathed in uncertainty. And so I didn't buy anything girly. No soft pastel colors. No plush, pink bunny rabbits. No special going-home ensembles. I couldn't let myself hope. I couldn't risk my heart. I couldn't bear the thought of looking at those things in my home and not having a girl to whom they'd belong. I just couldn't. So I didn't. I didn't even buy her a car seat until she was ready to take the car seat test required by the NICU to go home.

When Amelia came home on oxygen, I felt more safe, but not out of the woods. She was still so tiny--less than 4 pounds--and so fragile. We had been given no diagnosis and had absolutely zero idea of what to expect from her both developmentally and health-wise. So, although she had a crib, her room remained undecorated. Plain beige walls. A few picture frames, but nothing else. This is how it stands at this very moment. Plain.

Here we are, almost five years later. My girl is growing (albeit slowly). She is developing at an amazing rate. She's funny, and smart, and very VERY girly. She has worked her ass off her entire life, and has absolutely, 100% earned a room that matches her personality. She deserves a room, a space that is marked as hers, to show her absolute permanence, determination.

So no, this isn't your average room redecorating. This is both something for her AND something for me, for my mama heart. Something I longed to do almost exactly five years ago (we were told she wouldn't survive in November 2008), but couldn't. This is so much more than paint and furniture and art. We both need this.

Stay tuned for pictures. She knows we are doing something, but she hasn't seen anything. It's mostly a surprise. Big shout-out to Nana and Papaw; she'll be going to visit with them for a few days while the transformation takes place. I. CANNOT. WAIT.

Also, as an aside, I'm using customized art from this Etsy store. It is absolutely what I would call my ideal art for a child's bedroom. Whimsical, gorgeous, it exudes happiness. I've been in touch with Phyllis Harris personally, and she has been A-MAZING to work with. I highly recommend if you're in the market for childrens' art.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hair Raising

I was...shall we say..."adventurous" with hairstyles as a kid. And that is putting it nicely. I was very vocal about how I wanted my hair to look, and my mother always let me do whatever I wanted. I don't know if it was because she was an "older" mom and was just tired of fighting kid battles, or if she really just wanted me to have independence and choice, but regardless, she allowed me to make some bad decisions.

Here, let me take you on a hair retrospective.

Note exhibit A:
 I know...there are so many things wrong with this picture. Aside from the knitted ribbon that I'm wearing like a bolo tie, this was my first major hair cut. I just wanted short hair, and a teenager on my street had gotten a nice, cute short 'do. Being the ever-so-hip second grader I was, I insisted on getting the same cut. Never mind the fact that I couldn't put the same amount of effort into the styling as a teen! My mom took me right up to the salon and I walked away with this hot number. Woo-eee.
So then, I had this short hair, so I thought, 'hey, why not just go for it and get a Shirley Temple 'do?' Which is exactly, word-for-word, what I asked for. I asked to look like Shirley Temple. What did my  mom do? She sat me on two phone books at the kitchen table and proceeded to give me a home perm. And voila, here I am! Angel in a school play. I look like your grandma.
Ohhhh, Wendy, Wendy. Please, don't be jealous of my USA Olympics t-shirt (skin-tight, too!), or my awesome clip belt on my high-waisted jeans! Capping off the look is my grown-out perm look. Actually kind of looks like a bad cut I got in about 2002, honestly. I don't have pictures of that one, though.

Now let me warn you about this next one. It's going to BLOW. YOUR. MIND. Not because of the look itself, but because I asked, in no uncertain terms, for the look.  Here, let me preface it with a little description. I told my mom that I wanted it short on the sides, by my ears, and long in the back. I wanted the bangs and top to be PARTED down the MIDDLE and FEATHERED on the sides! You all, I ASKED for that! All because a girl in my class sported the same 'do and I wanted my hair like that, too. Without further ado...

Yes, I had a mullet. Not accidental mullet, even! Note the bad feathering...I never could "train" my hair to feather appropriately. The giant sweater vest and cloth-wrapped earrings only top off the look here. I do kind of remember my mom suggesting I rethink this one, but I was adamant, and I got my wish. Let me tell you, growing out a mullet ain't easy.

Over the rest of my years, my looks have been much less drastic, but I do always opt for change.

I've had this look:
The all-one-length pageboy type cut. Notice my hair was straight here. It didn't become curly until the last 10 years.
Super-short bob. I was growing out a bad cut. I actually kind of liked this one, but I'm not crazy about how the back of my head looks when my hair is short. Crazy? Probably. But still.

Longer bob, all one length. This wasn't a bad cut either, but also not the most flattering. Note again...straight hair.

You know what my hair looks like now--long and curly or straight, depending on the day and my level of motivation.

I tell you all of this because I can tell already that Amelia is going to be like me--very adventurous with her hair. At this point, she's only demanding about her hair styles, and that's an easy one to work with--I don't mind doing silly things with hairstyles, because they're not permanent. But, I can tell, she's going to want to have the crazy cuts, too. Right now she insists she wants incredibly long hair worn in two braids like Anna on Frozen.'s all fun and games, until she chooses a cut like SHIRLEY TEMPLE!!!  Little girls disguised as 80-year old-women are not cute, friends! I'm living proof!

I'm torn. I don't know whether to handle it like my mom and just go with it, or help her avoid making mistakes like her mother. Mistakes that live on forever in pictures. Mistakes that might end up on the interwebs, like my pictures above! I'm not afraid of putting them out there. If I can save just one child from making such fashion mistakes, all the mullets and poodle-perms will not have been in vain!

So what do I do?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Whine? Wine!

Y'all...I'm about to lose. my. mind.

My girl. Oh, my girl. She is in a phase of perpetual whining. And it is KILLING HER MOTHER.

It's not all-out temper tantrums. Honestly, I think I might prefer that. Temper tantrums are rough for a few minutes but subside quickly. This whining thing? It's all day. Every day.  The minute she get doesn't get something she wants ("No, Amelia. We are not watching the Flemish version of "For the First Time in Forever" from Frozen for the 30th time..."). And it doesn't let up.

It's not loud whining. It's these soft little "humph" noises, often followed by a folded-arm flop onto the floor. Accompanying the whine is a dirty look that rivals any, along with the refusal to speak using words.  This is particularly frustrating, because much of her whininess comes when I need her to make a choice. A conversation might go something like this.

Amelia:  I want a snack!
Me: What do you want?
Amelia: I want chocolate chips!
Me: You've had enough chocolate today.
Amelia: Whining noise followed by thumping on ground
Me; You can have ___________, or ___________, or _____________. Which would you like?
Amelia:  (silence)
Me:  Which one?
Amelia:  (silence, evil stare)
Me: Fine. I won't get you anything.
Amelia: Continued whining noises

 Sister can hold a grudge like no other. Let's just say I walked away from the above scenario. If I come back to her maybe an hour later and try to talk to her, I'm still likely to get the whine and the flop.

I think this is why I always enjoyed teaching classes of boys over girls. I loved all my students, but boys were so much easier, so much less drama. All this harrumphing and grudge-holding exhausts me to NO END. I love her to pieces, but she's wearing on me.

The solution to whine? Wine. Lots of wine.

You know how sometimes people start little fundraisers for their families, with a link that you can click to donate? Like a diaper fund for mamas of multiples? I'm going to start a WINE for WHINE fund for myself. Would you please donate? I prefer reds.