Sunday, September 30, 2007

Timeout

Overheard at our house...

"Why are you sitting on the couch?"
"I'm on timeout."
"Who put you on timeout?"
"I did."
"Why?"
"I did something bad. I don't want to talk about it."
"How long are you going to be on timeout?"
"I don't know. I was very bad. I'll tell you when I'm done."

The mystery remains. We still don't know why the blond twin put herself on timeout.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Aha Preschool Moment

I now understand why teachers both love and dread parents. Even though our girls are only in preschool, it's crystal clear to me now. Yesterday was one of my favorite events at the preschool -- the muddy, murky creek walk. Now, you have to understand that the school was not subtle about what was required for this event.

We received two or three notes in the kids' backpacks and several emails. We were told to dress the kids in old clothing you wouldn't mind getting trashed. And, we were told to make sure the kids had a complete change of clothing in their backpacks. (Muddy, murky creek walk = kids getting wet and dirty, right down to their underwear) Even with all the information, several kids came to school in very nice clothing. Some kids came to school without a change of clothes for after the creek walk.

Several parents volunteering arrived in cute outfits and gym shoes. Boots? One said, "Oh, we're going in the creek?" It seemed obvious to me that going on a creek walk meant we're going in the creek, but apparently others did not make that connection. I was especially shocked because nearly everyone involved was in the program last year. It's not like this was a new activity. The teachers were incredibly patient and kind. The creek walk was fun. The kids got really wet and muddy. I got wet and muddy. And, I now have a new appreciation for how hard it is to deal with well-meaning parents.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Radio Reality Check

I always knew the girls absorbed background noise. We always have music on at home. Whenever we start playing new music, the girls start singing it after a few days. When we're in the mini-van, we tend to listen to what they call "our" music. Most of it is typical kids stuff, including our favorite Kindermusik cd's.

Yesterday we were driving back from the grocery store when one twin said to the other one, "Why would you find a naked body in the forest preserves?" Her sister said, "You'd be cold." I froze. I forgot I was listening to news radio when I was alone on the van. When we started driving home, I forgot to put on the kid music cd's. I pushed the cd button and more appropriate sounds came out of the stereo speakers.

I made a mental note to be more careful in the future.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dinner Plans

Overheard at our house...

"Let's make dinner."
"What do you want to make?"
"Chicken, chocolate, guacamole cake."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Playroom Clean-up

I can always tell when the girls have outgrown their toys. They start fighting more and whining more. Last week I heard "there's nothing to play with." I thought, "really, I can make that happen." And then I decided it was time to clean out some toys and introduce some new ones.

Each holiday I put away a few toys. When they grow bored with one, I'll switch it out for another one. Since Christmas is coming, I purged all the toys they've outgrown, broken, etc. Ten brown, paper grocery bags later, the room was much cleaner. The grocery bags went to a local resale shop. The rest went in the garbage.

The girls seem much happier with less stuff. I'm happier that the room seems a bit neater. And, neither girl seems to notice that Mom purged their stuff.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Greener Cleaners

This month's Parenting magazine has a great article about how to clean your house without all the harsh chemicals. It's a nice review of greener cleaners. We try to use green cleaners to reduce the number of chemicals the girls breath in and touch.

One of my favorites is using baking soda to clean sinks, tubs, etc. It's a great cleaner and really inexpensive. You can also use baking soda to gently remove stains from your laminate countertops.

If you want to really save money and help the environment, you can read the article at your local library. Our twin girls LOVE to go to the library. It's a win-win outing for you and the kids.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Singing in the Store

A woman in the grocery store gave me the "look" the other day. It wasn't because I bumped her cart or anything hostile like that. I got the "you're crazy" look because we were singing in the store. The girls and I have a long history of singing in stores. It started when they were little. If they became restless, a song would always buy me enough time to get through the check-out line. Now, you have to realize I cannot sing. I mean, I'm okay, but no one is offering a record contract.

In addition, we don't just sing typical kids songs. We sing Motown songs. When they were babies, I realized quickly that the girls like to hear songs. A song could stop them from crying within seconds. I also realized I didn't really know any baby songs. I do know the full Motown catalogue, though. When asked nicely, the girls can sing "Can Help Falling In Love With You," from start to finish. (Or course, they call it "Wise." Can't figure out why? Sing the song.) They can also belt out "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" and "Goodnight Sweetheart." We adapted some songs to use their names. One of our favorites is The Four Seasons song "Sherry." Listen, when your name is Shari, you either learn to love the song or you'll go crazy. Everyone thinks it's soooooo original to sing that song to me.

We have no shame. We'll sing songs whenever, wherever. As soon as Christmas songs start invading every store, we're in heaven. So many silly songs to sing! So many funny voices and dramatic hand gestures!

Sometimes, when the mood is right, strangers actually laugh at us. We're okay with that. It's always better than the "look."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It's Twins

I just finished reading a great book by Susan Heim: It's Twins!. If you have twins or know someone expecting twins, this is a must-read book. My favorite line is in the introduction where Susan says that only parents to twins really know what it's like to have twins. It's so incredibly true. Sometimes I walk up to strangers with infant twins and say, "It gets better." Many times the parents start asking a dozen questions at once because they don't know anyone else with twins. It's Twins! is like having hundreds of friends to share your story with, and each one is saying "You are not alone."

The book is broken into age-related sections, so the advice is relevant and interesting. You can read it to learn about your twins' current stage -- or if you are really brave, read ahead to see what is next. I didn't always agree with the advice, but it is interesting to learn how other people handle the uniqueness of raising twins. Sometimes I laughed because the stories sounded so familiar. I almost cried while reading the story "Get a Good (Padded) Bra." I spend a lot of time being elbowed, poked, etc. I laughed so hard my husband thought I was crazy.

The "Intriguing Twins" stories featured people whose names you might recognize. While the stories were interesting, all I kept wondering was how their parents survived before disposable diapers, instant formula, and exersaucers. It's hard enough to raise twins with all our modern conveniences. I couldn't imagine doing it without a Target nearby!

No matter what stage your twins are in, be sure to pick up It's Twins!. It is a book you'll refer to over and over again.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Clothing Count

A friend and I talked about switching from summer to fall clothes yesterday. I told her I needed to pick up a few more long sleeves shirts and pants for the girls as I only had about 15 of each. She said, "With 15 I wouldn't have to wash clothes for at least a week." This might be true for a singleton parent, but with twins, the math is different. My magic number is 21.

Our two girls still (thankfully) wear the same size. The blonde twin is adorable, but she's a mess. Have you seen the commercial for the new movie "Good Luck Chuck?" The woman keeps dropping things, tripping, spilling, etc. That is the blonde one's day, on a preschool level. It takes at least two shirts to get her through a regular day. The brunette twin can usually make it through the day with just one shirt. This puts us at three shirts a day, and 3x7=21.

I always have to change their clothes after school. Their nature-based farm preschool spends some time outside every day -- either in the barns or in the woods. It's one of the reasons we send them to the school. This means, though, three days a week during the school year they each wear two complete outfits.

With 21 shirts and bottoms (pant or skirts), I can make it through most of a week without doing any laundry. Of course, it's most of the week -- not the entire week.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mommy Said...

Why do the words "MOMMY SAID" get an immediate reaction? Yesterday I asked the girls to pick up something. "Please pick up that blanket." No response. "Please pick up that blanket." No response. "Please pick up that blanket." No response. "Mommy said please pick up that blanket now." Immediately, the blanket gets folded and put away. I'm Mommy, right? Why isn't it good enough that I ask? Why does "Mommy said" get a better reaction?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Trick Question

Overheard at our house...

Dad: "How many ears does a three legged-dog have?"
Brunette Twin: "Two Dad." Eyes roll slightly. Short laugh.

She's four now, so of course she has the right answer and gets the joke.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dancing Meatballs

Frankly, it's just fun to open the email inbox and see the words "Dancing Meatballs" jump off the screen. This is a must-visit site for anyone wanting to find out what is going on in your town. I think the offerings are limited to larger cities right now, but it's worth it to check it out. Dancing Meatballs searches for the best, affordable fun and sends you the information, along with all the important links. We found several fun family events through the weekly e-newsletter. And, never underestimate the fun of telling people you found the activity through Dancing Meatballs.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Two Times the Whining

The girls had a fun, family birthday party last night. Since they were playing with their cousins until late, they didn't get enough sleep last night. I know everyone thinks that if they go to bed later they will sleep later, but it doesn't work that way. No matter what time they go to bed, they still wake up between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. each morning.

Today they are tired and whiney. I'm glad there are two of them and two of us. We use tag-team parenting often. Luckily we each have a shadow, so there's no fighting about which girl wants to hang all over which parent.

Today is one of those days I glad happened on the weekend when my husband is home. I would not want to do this by myself. Of course, it doesn't help that I have a small cold, so I'm whiney too. I guess my husband would really like to be at work today. If I had to put up with all three of us, I'd want to be working in an office too.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Four Already?

Four years ago today we raced to the hospital because the twins were coming. We though we were having two girls, but until they were born, we weren't certain. The ultrasound techs always said, "Twin A is a girl. Twin B...well that baby is a bit more shy. What did they tell you last time? Girl? Yeah, Twin B could be a girl." We sat through a very girly baby shower thinking, "If Twin B is a boy, we're in trouble." Happily both twins were girls, so we didn't end up with a baby boy in pink.

When we saw them in the nursery for the first time, we were stunned. When you are expecting twins, you get the concept that there are two babies. When you see them for the first time, it's overwhelming and frightening. The nurse asked their names. I asked which one was born first. We named them alphabetically, according to who was born first. She stared at us. She asked if we wanted to think about it and decide which names "fit" which baby. I said, "They are an hour old, they look like babies. They need names before we'll figure out their personalities, so we'll stick with our first thought."

Oh, how wrong I was. We figured out their personalities the first night. One girl cried just to be held. She'd cry. I'd pick her up. She'd fall asleep in my arms. I'd put her down. She'd cry again. She just wanted to know we were there for her. The other girl loved to snuggle in and sleep on your shoulder. It was heaven to sleep with her in a chair for a while. We always used it to sneak in a little nap of our own. "Oh, I cannot move now. The baby is sleeping."

At first I didn't think we'd all survive. One of the girls needed a bottle every two hours, 24-hours a day. Luckily we had a lot of help or I don't think we would have survived.

Now I just look at them and say, "How can you be 4 already?"

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pick-up Panic

I know what time the girls are supposed to be picked-up from preschool. So, about 10 minutes earlier, I left the discount, but totally lacking in service, card outlet store without any cards. Even at 49 cents each, it should not take more than 15 minutes to check out of a card store -- especially since I was only the third person in line! Anyway...I left the store and headed to the girls' school. It's about 15 minutes from the card store, so I knew I wouldn't be the first in line. If you pick-up kids from school, you know that five minutes late is no big deal. You sit that long in the pick-up line anyway. My plan was to swoop in, fling open the doors, pick-up the princesses, and go.

About five minutes from the school, I was stuck behind several trucks screwing up traffic. I'm not sure why, but we're stopped. Now I'm was panicky. I don't mind being the last Mom to pick-up my kids, but I do want to pick up them. A few minutes later, I called the school to say I was coming. I pictured the girls sitting on the front porch waiting for me with their teacher. I imagined that they were sad and wondered if I was going to come get them.

Ten minutes later I arrived at the school. I raced into the building. The teacher brought them back inside since I was now interrupting her lunch. Yikes! Nearly out of breath, the girls did not even look at me when I came into the classroom. They were playing like nothing was going on. I told them I was sorry I was late. They said that's okay; we knew you were coming. I smiled. I might have been panicked, but they didn't even notice. All was well again.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Switch Planet Swap

We have a lot of stuff. Our girls are the youngest cousins, so everyone generously passes down their toys. We happily accept all cast-offs. And, we love hand-me-downs from our friends too! The problem is we have sooooo much stuff I don't always know what to do with the duplicates or toys the girls have outgrown. I just found a great web site to solve part of the problem.

September's Parenting magazine had an item about Switch Planet. It's a great site that allows you to swap DVD's, books, CD's, and more. You create a wish list. Other people see your list and send you the items. They get credit for their swap, and get points towards their own wish lists.

It was great fun just to read the lists. It's amazing what people are looking to add to their collections. Me, I'm going to go through our old kids and grown-up CD collection. I know I have stuff other people want. And, I know I want stuff other people want to get rid of. Nice way to recycle, huh?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Too Much Work

Overheard at our house...

"Let's play with the babies."
"Okay."
"You want to be the Mom? You get to clean the kitchen, make lunch, and stuff."
"No, it's too much work. I'll be the sissy."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Life & Loss

Today is my maternal grandmother's 94th birthday. Four years ago, as we waited for our twins to arrive, my Mother said, "wouldn't it be great if they were born on Gramma's birthday?" All I kept thinking was "oh please, no!" While Mom prefers to think of September 11 as her mother's birthday, the rest of the world remembers it as a day filled with tragedies and tears. I willed the girls to wait until after September 11 to make their arrivals.

This morning CNN profiled a set of six-year-old twins who were born on September 11, 2001. Their father said people always look confused when he tells them the girls' birth date. Then the realization of what else happened that day passes across their faces. Even though the girls weren't born until 2003, that mix of congratulations and "oh, September 11" wasn't something I wanted the girls to deal with forever.

In the midst of the sadness, CNN also profiled the memorial being built. The fund, the National 9/11 Memorial still needs contributions. Whether you contribute to remember someone or to celebrate someone, making a contribution is a good way to give thanks for everyone who stepped up on that day and for all the good things in each of our lives since then.

Monday, September 10, 2007

School Bells

Today is the first day of the new preschool year. The girls attend the coolest preschool ever. I cannot tell you how much we love this place. The school is in a red barn on a children's farm. Yes, a real, working children's farm. The girls run into the school every day. They cannot wait to start the school day.

In addition to all the usual preschool stuff, they spend time on the farm each day. The farm has cows, pigs, sheep, horses, chickens, goats, turkeys, donkeys, and a few other animals. If they are not learning about animals, they are hiking through the pine forest, taking a muddy murky creek walk, or singing songs around the (not lit) campfire. A former teacher painted nature murals in the classrooms, so the kids are always surrounded by trees, flowers, etc.

Of course, they also do the traditional academics. The nature emphasis was the big draw though. Every preschool teaches kids how to write and how to recognize letters. How many preschools do you know of that take their kids on pony rides?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Weighing Me Down

I have to admit I'm not always the brightest bulb in the pack. The girls have been in the 95 percentile for height and at least the 80 percentile for weight since they were born. For years I always had a baby/toddler in my arms. Now, though, the girls are 42 inches tall and weigh at least 40 pounds each. You'd think I'd know better than to keep picking them up and/or carrying them. Sadly, I don't.

Recently we were downtown for an afternoon. We were still about six blocks from the van when the girls started complaining about how they were tired. We both picked up a girl and carried her to the van. While it did stop the whining, I spent the rest of the night barely able to move my shoulders. Last night one of the girls fell down and started crying. I scooped her up and held her in my arms for a while.

It's not that I didn't know that one day the girls would be too big for me to carry. It's just that I thought they'd be more than four years old when it happened. Luckily, 20 minutes of yoga can still undo my inability to stop carrying/picking up our girls.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Missing Miss Joan

The girls love their Kindermusik teacher, Miss Joan. We've been part of her class for more than two years now. I credit her with helping their language development. (And, with teaching me the words all the children's songs I could hum, but never sing because I forgot the lyrics.) They wanted to sing with her so much that they started talking in real, full sentences at a very early age. I always appreciated that Joan saw the girls as two individuals who share a birthday, not just twins. She encouraged them to work up to their potential. Joan & I just realized that the girls new three-day-a-week preschool schedule means they won't be able to take her class this Fall! If you have a Kindermusik instructor near you, call for the free class opportunity. I don't know if Kindermusik will help them ace the ACT, but I do know it helped them navigate language development and coordination. Oh, the growing up transitions are hard, even at this age.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Preschool Meteorologist

Overheard at our house...

"Dad, is that hurricane coming to our house?"
"No, it's going to hit the West Coast."
"How about that one?"
"No, that one's headed towards Bermuda."
"How about that big red storm in the middle of the map?"
"That might cause some rain tomorrow."

Seems Daddy and his girls are watching the Weather Channel a bit too often.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Goodbye Summer '07

I live for summer fun. We love to be outdoors as soon as Chicago's weather allows. This summer, though, we spent as much time indoors as we did outdoors. At first it was beautiful; the flowers bloomed and the birds came visiting. Then the cicadas invaded. It was so loud that you couldn't talk outside without yelling. It was so messy that you couldn't walk without crunching a cicada. Then the heat hit. The air conditioner ran and ran. Then the rains fell. Now the heat is back and the mosquitoes are so bad we cannot go in the backyard without getting attacked. All in all we had a fun summer. We took great pictures of all our adventures. We saw many friends we don't get to see during the school year. The girls learned to swim. Both love to bike ride. Overall, though, I'm really ready for fall. The leaves are already starting to change colors, so help is on the way.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Circus Memories

Most people think girls are all about princess dolls and hair ribbons. Our girls are princess obsessed, but they are also obsessed with another topic: body functions. Farts, burps, pee, poopies, and any other bodily function is an endless source of fascination. We had to establish new rules to accommodate this fascination. First, no talking about farts, burps, pee or poopies at the dinner table. Second, no talking about farts, burps, pee or poopies in public.

You can only imagine their delight when the circus elephant decided to dump a huge load in the center ring during a performance yesterday. Forget the clowns, the trained dogs, the camel, the high wire act, the acrobats. Near the performance's end, one of the elephants decided nature was calling, and let out a waterfall and dumped a lot of manure. It was the highlight of the show for the girls and their father. All the girls talk about is how the "elephant pooed while the woman with the red feather hair was riding on top." It evokes loud, giggly laughter every time.

No doubt about it. They are three-years-old.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Twin Talk

Before you leave the hospital with your two bundles of joy, the staff sits down and discusses all the things you need to watch for as your twins develop. Turns out twins, just because they are twins, are prone to all kinds of scary things because there were two of them in the same womb. Our girls were 37.5 weeks along and more than 6 lbs. each, so a lot of the developmental delays did not apply as they might have if the girls were smaller. The thing that scared me most was the idea of twin talk.

The nurse said it was very common for twins to develop their own language. She said it might continue for years. Yikes! Luckily, that did not happen to us. Both girls spoke clearly from an early age. They had things to say and they wanted to make sure we understood.

Until now. We live in a suburb with a large Eastern European population. Many neighbors speak Polish and English. The girls play with a friend who speaks Polish at home. Now, the girls think they speak Polish too. It's pretty funny, because they seem to have entire conversations in "Polish." I always think it is cute for the first 15 minutes or so. About half an hour of them speaking "Polish" and I'm ready to crack. Next summer we want them to take Spanish classes. So, in their minds, they will be tri-lingual.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Still Time for Niki

Every summer we create a long list of things we want to do. This summer we made it to the #1 thing on my list -- several times. Niki In The Garden is a wonderful, bold art sculpture exhibit at the Garfield Park Conservatory (truly a Chicago treasure). This isn't stiff, stare but don't touch art. Artist Niki de Saint Phalle created huge, beautiful sculptures to touch, climb on or sit inside. You experience her art through all your senses. In the Garfield Park Conservatory, the 34 sculptures come alive within the surrounding garden.

The girls loved the sculptures. They still talk about crawling inside the skull and on top of the lions. Of course, they also talk about the woman who smiled at the girls crawling on one sculpture and said it was nice to be able to bring a friend to the exhibit. Our girls looked at her and said, "we're not friends, we're twins." She looked confused and walked away. (It was the blond/brunette fraternal twin confusion again....)

The good news is it is not too late for you to see this exhibit. It's open through October 31 -- and, the price is unbelievably reasonable. Adults are only $5 and children are free. Plus, you can park for free in an adjoining lot. Get out your calendar now and pick a date to see Niki In The Garden before it leaves town.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Look

Overheard at our house...

"Dad, sissy gave me the look."
"Give her the look back."
"Dad, now she gave me the look."
"Give her the look back."

Mom & Dad start laughing....