Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cold Prevention

Around here we all just wait for the fall/winter cold cycle to set in. Not just Chicago's temperature drop, but the runny nose, coughing, sneezing illness that inevitably makes the rounds. Since the new advice is that cold medicines are not effective for children under six, we've all been talking about alternative ways to treat our preschoolers.

We use two methods in our house. The first is basic prevention. In addition to the standards -- eating right, washing hands, getting enough sleep -- we also run a humidifier in the girls' bedroom each night. We have a humidifier attached to our furnace, but we seem to need even more humidity. As I understand it, the reason proper humidity seems to help prevent colds is if the air is too dry, nasal passages and throats get dry and small cracks appear, creating places cold germs can enter the body. The moist air prevents nasal passages from drying out and cracking. This prevents the germs from having a place to enter the body. Of course, there are other ways the germs can enter the body, but the moist air at night does seem to help our twins.

The other thing we LOVE is called Sudafed Plug-Ins. These things are magic. Each one is a small, white plastic vaporizer you put into an electrical outlet. You insert a small, mentholated pad into the vaporizer. The heat releases the vapors. It's non-medicated, so it's safe. What it does is open your airways so you can breathe. At the first sign of congestion, we start using the plug-ins. The girls breathe better, sleep better, and seem congested for a shorter time. It's wonderful for my allergies too.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Independence Training

As a certified Type-A personality, friends are often surprised at how laid-back I am with the girls sometimes. For example, they must wear hats when they leave the house. We have a laundry basket near their shoes so they can easily reach their hats. They decide which hats to wear. I rarely interfere with their choices. The blond twin likes to wear her pink/orange/yellow flowery denim jacket with a cream knit cap with a snowman as the top tassle. It's a look only a four-year-old can pull off. She wears it with pride. The brunette twin put on her pink, "jester" hat with her purple Tinkerbelle jacket today. She loves it.

I save my controlling moments for important issues, like cleaning the playroom. If they want to play with their toys, they must clean them up. It's not optional in our house. It takes soooo much longer for them to do it than it would for me to just clean up everything. Sometimes I just want to do it so we can move on, but I really try to resist the impulse.

The important lesson, though, is for them to learn to be independent. They are learning to make decisions quickly. (We're leaving. Get a hat.) They are learning to take responsibility for their actions. (You made the mess. You clean it up.) And, they are learning how good it feels to do a good job. (Please set the table.) It's not perfect every time. Some days we move two steps backwards before we make any progress. We do make progress, though. In the end, I think that's what is most important.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Scary Emails

Every day I receive several "warning" emails supposedly giving me important information regarding my family, health, safety, finances, etc. Sometimes you know the warnings sound a bit fishy, while other warnings sound credible. When you aren't sure whether or not it's true, check out Snopes. It's a great web site for all kinds of urban legends. The editors not only tell you whether your "important warning" is true or not, they help break down the back story. It is really interesting to read the top 25 urban legends currently circulating. You've probably heard about using Vick's to stop children from coughing at night. Is it true? Snopes says no, and tells you how it started. If nothing else, you'll learn something interesting to add to your small talk repertoire.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Preschool Vegetarian

Overheard at our house...

"Mom, are we having a turkey for Thanksgiving?"
"Yes."
"Like Timmy the Turkey at school?"
"Uh-huh."

Silence.

"Mom do they kill the turkey before we eat it?"
"Yes."
"So they have to cut off his head and pluck his feathers?"
"Pretty much."
"That's disgusting. I'm never eating turkey."
"That's fine honey."

This from a butcher's granddaughter....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Shopping Observation

I saw the cutest baby at Target yesterday. His Mom had him in a front baby carrier. He was happily waving his arms and babbling. His Mom was talking to him. I thought "that looks so cute. Why didn't I carry the girls like that?" Then it hit me. Duh! We have twins. What was I going to do put one on my front and one on my back?

For the first six months, I never left the house by myself with the girls. It was too hard to manage two baby carriers, a diaper bag, etc. In the winter, it was hard enough to carry one in the snow and ice. What was I going to do? Leave one in the car while I carried the other into the doctor's office? Then come back for the second child, leaving the first alone with strangers? Even when I went to visit my parents, I'd call them when we were about two blocks away so someone could come out and help move the girls.

If you think about it, stores are not set up for twin parents. Most shopping carts are designed for one child. Costco does have two-child carts, so they win the prize for forward-thinking. Even if you don't have twins, but perhaps two children close in age, you need a cart where you can put two children. With the growing number of multiples, you'd think more stores would make it easy for parents to shop with more than one child.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Grown Up Dinner

When the girls were first born, everyone would say, "You need to get out of the house." I'd laugh and laugh. Not that it wasn't a good idea, but the implementation was a problem. First, I always looked homeless. Getting ready to go out in public required quite an effort. Second, I was too tired to drive anywhere. I was a hazard on the roads. I once fell asleep in the Jewel parking lot because I sat there too long trying to decide where to go next.

Four years later, I can honestly say things have dramatically improved. We try to get out regularly and last night we had a grown up dinner. Some of my husband's friends at work have a dining club. Two or three times a year they pick a new restaurant and explore. Last night I joined them for dinnner at Ditka's. The food was wonderful. The company was wonderful. The weather was terrible, but some things cannot be controlled. As a bonus, Mike Ditka was in the restaurant. It was all just fun. As much as we love our twin girls, we really love spending time away from them too. It's a healthy balance for all of us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Radio Reports

We always listen to music during the day. We listen to several different local stations depending upon our reception. We're just miles from Chicago, but some days are better for some stations than for others.

For the past few days, though, I've been listening to compact discs only. The news about the San Diego fires is so overwhelming our disc jockeys update listeners constantly. And, of course, the devastation is such that it's important to keep people updated. The problem is our four-year-old twins are quite precocious and actually process what is being said. After one station talked about making sure your family had a fire escape plan, the brunette twin asked me about our fire escape plan.

It's always a good thing to talk about, but I was washing dishes and didn't really listen to what the disc jockey said. (Also, I was kind of hoping their father would be home for these conversations.) Of course, my concern is the radio reports will scare the girls. My hope, though, is that we'll soon be able to turn on the radio again because the fires are over. However scared our girls might feel must be nothing compared to how scared all the people, especially children, really affected by the fire must be feeling.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hooker Halloween Costumes

I dread Halloween. Not because I don't like the concept, but costumes can be a nightmare. The girls always want to be the same thing, but not wear the same costume. For example, last year they wanted to be butterflies, but not the same butterfly. I went to five different stores looking for butterfly costumes. Either they didn't have the right size or they didn't have a butterfly costume. This year I got smart. I went into the costume aisle at Target before Labor Day. The girls wanted to be princesses, but not the same princess. Target carries princess costumes year-round. I was thrilled when they decided to be cheerleaders instead. Those costumes came in different colors and only cost $9.99. Rah! Rah! Rah!

I was looking at the Halloween costumes in various sale inserts this weekend. I don't know when the trend started, but little girl costumes (as small as size 6) have names like "Sexy Devil" and "Dirty Angel." Really? For a size 6 girl? Our twins are 4-years-old and wear a size 6. Most size 6 girls, though, are in kindergarten or first grade. Do children that young need a black, pleather costume with a whip? Or a low neckline and belly cut-out? More importantly, who buys their young child a costume like that?

Apparently I'm in the minority because most costume sale inserts had the same looks. I must be the only person who thinks little girls should not be dressed like hookers for Halloween.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Safer Trick 'N Treating

It's icky and creepy, but there are people out there who do disgusting things to children. We live in Illinois, and some Illinois counties make registered sex offenders place bright red signs on their doors for Halloween. Most of the time, though, you don't know that the kindly old neighbor walking the dog is a registered sex offender.

Family Watch Dog is a FREE online service that helps you keep your family safe. To find out which houses you should avoid, go to the site www.familywatchdog.us. Enter your street address. You'll see a "house" in the middle of the map, that's your house. All the little colored boxes are registered sex offenders Click on a box to see the name, address, and picture of the person along with his/her crime. It is both empowering and frightening. Remember though, knowledge is power. Once you know where the scary people live, you can avoid those houses for Halloween -- and every other day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Basic Math

There's a basic math problem inherent to being a SAHM of twins. There are two of them and one of me. This is a nightmare for Mommy & Me classes. These classes are designed for parents to interact with a child. The girls and I took a couple of these classes when they were smaller. Some were a nightmare. I finally had to bring it to the tumbling instructor's attention that I needed help. Her reply, "We're supposed to teach you how to do it. We're not supposed to do it for you." A call to her supervisor adjusted the instructor's attitude. Our Kindermusik class is great because the instructor understands that I need help without making me feel incompetent. She realizes I cannot hold and dance with two children simultaneously.

Now I'm searching for an ice skating class. There a class at a local rink that is perfect. The time is great. The cost is great. The problem is it's a "teacher guided" class -- AKA Mommy & Me. They guide us along as I teach the girls how to skate. Right. I'm going to get on the ice with two four-year-olds who are unsteady on their feet. Now, I can skate well. They cannot. Picture yourself with two preschoolers yanking your arms out as they try not to fall. I think you'll understand why I'm still looking for an ice skating class.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Missing in Action

Several things are missing in our house right now, but only one causes great angst with the girls. For Christmas last year, we bought the girls oil cloth aprons with their names embroidered at the top. They wear these aprons to play, paint, and bake. Somehow, the brunette twin's apron is missing. It's driving me crazy. I look for it every day.

Whenever we bake cookies, the girls wear their aprons. Of course, since the brunette twin's apron is missing, baking nearly causes tears these days. Oh, the injustice of it all! We call the blond twin the drama queen, but when it comes to the apron, the brunette twin does a pretty good job of it.

It's not like our house is that big. You'd think that after cleaning out closets and toy bins this thing would reappear. To date, though, no luck. It is still missing in action.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Recall Action Update

Wow! I sent my letter yesterday afternoon. Today I received an email response from one of my U.S. Senators, Barack Obama. I guess the system does work. The emails get sent, and someone actually reads them. It's my small effort to try to keep our twin girls safe from lead paint in their toys. Remember to send your letter today -- courtesy of the Consumers Union.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Take Action About Recalls

Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, is sponsoring a letter writing campaign regarding toy recalls. Their web site notes that more than 12 million children's toys have been recalled so far this year. You can voice your opinion to Congress by visiting their Consumers Union Advocacy site -- cleverly titled Not In My Cart. You can send the form letter to your Congressperson, or write your own. You don't even need to know your elected official's contact information. The site does it all for you. The goal is to send at least 250,000 messages. So far more than 155,000 have been sent. Don't let Congress avoid the issue. Send a message today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Daddy's Girl

Overheard at our house...

"Do you want to see my pretty earrings?"
"Oh, they are beautiful. Why did you get blue earrings? I thought purple was your favorite color."
"Blue is Daddy's favorite color."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Twice the Love

"Welcome to the twin zone." It's how I describe our house. There's no doubt the girls rule our house. They have toys EVERYWHERE -- at least during the day. We do make them put everything away before they go to bed. A few rooms could pass for grown-up space after the girls are in bed. The rest of the house, though, has stuff in toy boxes, baskets, closets, etc. We always say they are twice the work and twice the love.

A book I just finished reading puts "Twice the Love" into perspective. It's a compilation of twins stories edited by Susan M. Heim. What I enjoyed most about the book is that so many stories were written by fathers. The male perspective on fathering twins isn't something you read enough, but it is quite enjoyable.

Three stories really made me laugh. "The List" compares a pre-twins world to post-twins reality. "A Father's Play-By-Play of Childbirth" gives his view of childbirth. "Partners in Crime" describes how twins conspire every day.

I think "Twice the Love" is the kind of book you read, put away, and read again in a few years. The stories will continue to have new meaning as your twins grow older.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Airline Potty Training

Last summer we flew to a wedding in New Jersey. We had planned to drive, but we started potty training the girls shortly before the trip. When my husband realized we would have to stop every two hours or so to find a bathroom, he decided we should fly.

We traveled Southwest because it was cheap, and we could pre-board the girls. When we got on the plane, the first thing I did was head directly to the back of the plane. The rest of the families scooped up the front seats. Why did we go to the back? I figured we'd spend a lot of time waiting for a bathroom. If you've ever potty trained children, you know half the time they actually have to use the bathroom and half the time they just want to see it.

The most important reason we went to the back is that you can no longer stand in line near the bathrooms at the front of the plane. Since 9/11, passengers cannot congregate near the cockpit. Anyone who has potty trained toddlers knows they need to go when they need to go. Rushing up to the front bathroom every time one of the girls had to go to the bathroom didn't seem like a good idea. People get a bit nervous when another passenger runs towards the cockpit -- even if it's just to get a toddler to the bathroom in time. And, remember we have twins. There would have been a lot of running to the front of the plane.

The back of the plane was great. We were the only family with small children. I'm sure the other passengers groaned when they saw toddler twins in the back of the plane, but the girls were good. Even the flight attendants commented on how nicely they behaved. We stocked up on toys/games/books/crayons to keep them busy. I was nervous about the take off and landing, but I really didn't expect their reactions when we landed in New Jersey. Both girls slept the last hour of the trip -- including through the bumpy landing. We had to wake them up to get them off the plane.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Preschool Support

One of the more frustrating things about having twins is everyone knows what is right for your children. It is especially bad when it comes to schools. "Separate them so the dominant one doesn't stunt her sister's academic progress" was common among people who don't realize they are both dominant. "The school will not be able to keep them straight" was one I didn't bother to respond to. They hardly look like twins; it's more likely the school staff will not realize they are twins.

When we started looking at preschools, I was amazed at what other parents were doing. Clocking the amount of math four-year-olds did? Dismissing playtime as wasted academic time? Yikes! Actually, we didn't really look at many preschools. I researched a couple and fell in love with one. I realize it's not wise to fall in love with a school as the admissions process can break your heart. In the Chicago suburbs, where we live, preschool admissions can be a competitive sport.

I wanted the girls to attend their current preschool from the moment I heard about it. It is a nature-based preschool on a children's farm. I mean a real, working farm with cows, horses, chickens, pigs, donkeys, and sheep, with crops and forests. The children spend part of each day outside incorporating nature into their lessons. It's amazing.

The day registration opened, we arrived at 9:00 a.m. We were number 3! I was feeling pretty cocky then. Of course we'd get in, we were number 3! What I didn't know is that all the families currently enrolled in the school were able to advance register for the next school year. This meant that we filled the last two slots in the program we wanted. The next few people in line were not able to get into their first choice. Whew!

I read an interesting post from the Artful Flower (There's no On-Star for the Olympic Mommy Highway) about her experiences finding the right preschool for her kids. I have to say that I completely agree with her philosophy on preschool. And, I have heard many of the same questions she answered. If you are looking for a preschool, keep her words in mind. There are other parents out there who believe you actually know what is best for your child.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lead-Free Toys List

I admit I didn't put this list together, but Pickel, as she's known in the blogworld, did. On her blog, she said, "link away," so I am linking to her list. If you are interested in finding some lead-free toys, here is her preliminary list. If you know of other sources, please comment on her blog or mine.

Christmas is coming soon. I know I'll be searching the list for safe toys for our girls. The blog address is: http://adopttwoboys.blogspot.com/ The posting is called "Lead-Free Toys List."

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mini-van Blues

No one wakes up one morning and says, "I'm going to go out and buy that gas guzzling mini-van I've always dreamed about." The reality that you need a mini-van hits you upside the head one day. We tried living without one. And, we made it about 8 months; then we decided to go on vacation. Now, we were smart enough to realize that our four-door sedan wasn't big enough to transport all our twin's stuff, so we did borrow a Toyota Highlander. In the back of the vehicle we crammed two pack-n-plays, two portable high chairs, a double-stroller, and one set of golf clubs. Once all that stuff was packed, we stared at the other stuff we needed to take, like our suitcases.

We talked about a mini-van after vacation, but didn't do anything about it. A short time later, our car needed major work. We decided it was a sign. We started Internet shopping for a mini-van. I wanted something bold, something that said "Yeah, it's a mini-van. You wanna make something of it." And, perhaps most importantly, something I could find in the parking lot. I found a lipstick red mini-van with everything we wanted. I loved it, even though I only saw it on my computer screen. I imagined walking out of the grocery store and being able to pick it out without hesitating.

My husband went to look at it. He test drove the mini-van we eventually bought. It doesn't scream anything except "suburban mom." It's navy blue. Yes, safe, classic navy blue. The red one I wanted was already sold by the time he arrived -- or at least that's the story I was told. I thought about how much I wanted my red mini-van while waiting in the pick-up line at preschool yesterday. The teachers stared into the first three mini-vans, trying to figure out which kid belonged in which van. All three mini-vans were navy blue.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It Gets Better

Whenever I see parents with newborn or toddler twins, I always stop to talk to them. I always say, "it gets better." Even though I'm a complete stranger, they want to talk. They always want to know when it gets better. When you're in the midst of caring for infant/toddler twins, it's a never-ending cycle of feedings, diaper changes, naps, activities, etc. Just getting them packed and dressed to get out of the house in the winter used to take me an hour. Now I can say with confidence that by the time twins are three-years-old, it gets significantly better.

What changes then? The kids are more independent. They can walk by themselves, feed themselves, and play together. These three things make a twin parent's life so much easier. For the first two years, I always had a baby in my arms. It seemed like carried a girl all the time. I thought my back would ache forever -- even with regular yoga. When they start to walk, you end up with one child holding each hand. You move a lot slower, but it's okay.

For the first three years, I dressed them every day. Then, one day, they started dressing themselves. Yes, it took a lot longer for them to do it themselves than it did for me to do it, but in the end they did get dressed. Of course, I wouldn't have put some of those combinations together, but it made them happy so we went with it. Only a toddler/preschooler can wear yellow, orange, pink and purple -- and be told it's a beautiful outfit.

Sometime after their third birthday, they not only played independently, they wanted some privacy! You'd think the first time they told me to leave them alone in their bedroom I would have been hurt. No way! I practically did a dance down the stairs. I always say that the girls receive many, beautiful gifts for their birthdays and Christmas, but my favorite is the doll house Aunt Sue picked out. With the doll house, they want to play alone. I'm not even invited to play with them. And, they will play for an hour or so. At first I would check on them, but now I just listen to for what is going on.

So, even though it seems like it will never happen, it does get better. One day you'll even start getting regular sleep -- that, however, doesn't really happen until after they are potty trained.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Alma Mater

We're big on public education. We live in a suburb with good schools, so we're covered through high school. College could be a bit dicey, though. My husband and I both attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Recently, I taught the girls one of our school songs, the Alma Mater. Of course, they sometimes call it the "udder mudder," but whatever.

Why did I teach them the song? Well, we're going to want to retire shortly after they start college. It would just be easier on all of us if they'd go to the premiere public university in Illinois. We're proud Illini, so having them follow our path would be logical.

Of course, their father keeps saying they can go to college wherever they want. I'm sure he'll keep thinking that until he realizes the difference between sending them to Illinois and sending them to a private college. I'm sure he'll suddenly remember the words to the Illinois fight song then!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Recall Alerts

The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers a great service for anyone interested in product recalls. You can visit the web site and sign up for F*R*E*E recall announcements. You can chose different categories based upon your interests. Whenever something is recalled, you get an email with details. You can even go back and search to see if the two-year-old car seat your neighbor gave you has been recalled.

I'm signed up for the children's products announcements. As you know, my inbox has seen numerous CPSC emails lately. With twins, we have a LOT of toys. Luckily, we haven't owned any of the recalled products. I'm glad to get the information, though. You gotta love something that helps keep your family safe and doesn't cost anything.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Name Game

We were standing at the pharmacy waiting for a consultation when the girls drifted a little too far away from me. I called them a couple of times, but they were laughing so hard they didn't hear me -- or chose to ignore me. I sternly said, "Katie and Maggie, get over here." They came quickly. The pharmacist said, "Katie and Maggie?"

Those aren't their names, but they could have been Katie and Maggie. Or Lauren and Lindsey. Or Claire and Grace. When we discovered we were having twins, we started working on names. It's hard enough with one, but with two, it becomes a nightmare. We needed two first names and two middle names, in the right combination. Reams and reams of paper were destroyed trying to work out the right names and combinations.

One day, a niece handed us a list of names she'd like for her cousins. One of those names fit nicely with another name we really like. Now we had a match. We didn't immediately chose that name combination, though. We still debated for a few more weeks.

We are happy with the names we put on the girls' birth certificates. Yet, every once in a while I wonder if their personalities would have been different if they really were Katie and Maggie.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Two Down

It was inevitable. Today both girls are sick. There is a bright spot to both girls being sick -- and it's not the constant clinginess and whining. It's that they sleep. A lot. They woke up, ate breakfast, took naps. We played a bit and went to the store for more medicine. We came home, ate lunch and they went back for another nap! It's amazing. I was able to clean and organize the playroom and the kitchen. Two rooms in one day! It might be a personal record.

The real downside is Chicago is having freakish weather. It's nearly 75 degrees today. Yes, in October. Where are we spending this beautiful fall weather? Inside. Oh well, I have all the windows open, so at least we get to enjoy it a little bit.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

One Down

Our house is in medical mode. One of the girls has what we call "the boogies." The phrase seems to cover many mild illnesses. The brunette twin is mildly congested, slightly warm, and clingy. She's not really sick, just a bit under the weather.

This puts the blond twin into action. First, she wants to be her sister's nurse. She takes care of every need. Book? Got it. Blanket? Got it. Stuffed animal? Got it. Don't want that one? Got a different one. Hungry? I'll feed you. The brunette twin loves it!

The problem comes when it's time for the brunette twin to take her medicine. She's taking an over-the-counter fever reducer and a decongestant. The good news is she takes it nicely. No screaming or fighting about taking her medicine. The bad news is the blond twin insists she needs medicine too. I told her she does not need medicine, and she starts coughing. (It's an interesting development, since her sister is not coughing.) I have to admit I do give her a taste of the decongestant to keep her quiet. It is probably about 1/4 teaspoon, but she drinks it like it's her chocolate milk. So much drama for a few drops of medicine!

While all this is going on, the brunette twin climbs on our bed and goes to sleep. Her sister decides she cannot sleep alone and crawls in next to her. There is something wonderful about the twin bond, even if I don't take the time to admire it until one of them is sick.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Strictly Personal

There's a new web project called Project Life Change. I found it in the Chicago Moms blog. The idea is blogging women (moms or not) can post their most desired life changes and find support from all the others trying to make changes. So, for strictly selfish, personal reasons, I'm posting the two things I want to change the most. First, I want to remake my business. I want to write more articles about stuff just because it interests me. Right now I write because I get paid. I'd like to move towards getting paid to write articles about more interesting topics. Second -- and this is strictly vain -- I hate my hair. I want a new hairstyle. I'm stuck in the "this is easy, so let's stay with it" mode. I want to do something new with it. I'm sure there are more deep, meaningful life changes I should be contemplating. For now, though, I'll start with these. If I find success, perhaps it will inspire me to bigger and better things.