Friday, November 30, 2007

Nutcracker Ballet

Every Christmas since the girls were born I've watched ads for the Nutcracker and said, "When they get old enough, we're going." Well, this was the year we went. The girls wore their beautiful dresses. Gramma and I chaperoned. It was every little girls' fantasy -- beautiful costumes, graceful dancers, wonderful music. It was just as perfect as I had hoped.

The best part was it was also family-friendly because our regional ballet company, the Salt Creek Ballet, performed at a local high school. The crowd was as upscale as any you might see at the downtown Chicago performance, but with less attitude and more patience. The audience was filled with little girls and their families. Childish whispers filled with delight were scattered throughout the performance as the children asked their parents questions. The parents quickly "shushed" the children, but no one stared. The crowd seemed to understand that these children were so excited they couldn't control themselves.

The dance company performs at local community colleges, four-year colleges, and large high schools. It was our first performance. It was so enjoyable that we are planning to see the Spring show. Even without the downtown prices and attitude, it was a wonderful afternoon. We'll be back again next year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fashion Sense

Overheard at our house...

The garage door opens.

Brunette Twin: "Daddy's home. I missed you Daddy."
Blond Twin: "Daddy, where did you get that jacket. It's so soft. I like the color."
Daddy: "Mommy gave it to me for Christmas last year."
Blond Twin: "Really? I don't remember."
Daddy: "Trust me. She did."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rhyme Time

The girls like to rhyme words. Mostly what comes out is nonsensical. You know the game. Phone rhymes with bone and moan and tone and wone. Of course, wone isn't really a word, but it sounds funny. The more outrageous the rhyme, the more they laugh. Ocassionally there's a naughty word, but I let it pass.

Yesterday the blond twin crossed a new threshold. Kitchen rhymes with b-tch-n and litchen and mitchen, she said sweetly. She's never heard the b-word from us, so she did not know it's a bad word. I let it pass. The girls both laughed, a lot. So, of course, the blond twin said it again and again and again.

Now I had to say something. I knew they rhymed at school with friends. I really didn't want her to repeat the entire rhyme at school. I took a deep breath and explained that the b-word was a bad word and she shouldn't say it again. She broke into tears. "I'm sorry Mommy," she said. "I did not mean to say a bad word." It was both funny and sad.

When Daddy came home, I forgot to tell him. At dinner, the blond twin said, "Daddy, I said something really bad today." And then she looked at me. I told Daddy. He laughed so hard his face turned red. He told her not to say the word again. Then he laughed some more.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Food Policy

We have a new food policy in our house. I instituted it today after another grueling meal with the brunette twin. She sat at the table making faces, whining, and generally trying not to eat her dinner. She kept asking "can I be done now?" After a few times, I screamed, "YES, YOU ARE DONE." I dragged her from the table and put her on time out on the couch. Then I took her mashed potatoes and cheese bowl away from the table. Now she's crying, "I'm hungry. I want to eat more." I said, "No. You want to be done. You are done."

The new policy is when you ask if you can be done, you are done. You must leave the table and I throw away your food. Hungry? Not my problem. I am soooooo completely tired of the food fight with the brunette twin. She eats something one night, but not the next time I serve it. We sit in a restaurant begging her to eat macaroni and cheese because she doesn't like the noodles. We don't ask her to eat liver and onions. This is basic toddler food. From now on if she doesn't want to eat, she doesn't have to. I'm tired of fighting with her. If she'd rather be hungry than eat a certain kind of noodle in her macaroni and cheese, so be it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christmas Count

We traditionally put our Christmas decorations up the Friday after Thanksgiving. Yesterday I crawled into the storage area and pulled out all the boxes. And, I do mean ALL the boxes. I think we had about 30 plastic bins of stuff -- not the big bins, but the medium bins, but still we have a lot of stuff. My mission yesterday was to put up our decorations and sort out the bins. As much as I love Christmas, no one needs many Christmas decorations as we had.

It took all day, but I managed to donate about 15 brown bags filled with unused decorations to a local resale shop. I figured I freed up about five or six bins. This meant we still had a lot of bins, but here's how I figured it broke down:

1 very large bin for artificial Christmas tree
3 ornament crates
4 bins of lights -- indoor and outdoor
1 bin of Christmas glasses/mugs
1 large bin for a small artificial Christmas tree
1 bin of Christmas linens

So far we accounted for 11 containers. The rest were filled with other decorations. In my defense, though, I cannot take credit for all the Christmas decorations. Our girls LOVE the Hallmark plush table-top decorations that move and sing. For the past four years, my husband has bought the new one for them. This means two bins are reserved for those items, and another two are full of the other animated snowmen that seem to multiple in our house each Christmas.

I'm sure I could consolidate more if I'd take everything out of the original packaging. The stocking hangers take up a full bin because the Styrofoam and box are three times as big as the actually stocking holder.

Of course, that's just how I rationalize having so many bins. In the end, even though we donated a LOT of decorations, we have so many Christmas decorations just because we like it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Blessings

The girls are at a fever pitch. It's THANKSGIVING! For them this means as much fighting as possible. It's very out of character for them to be so difficult, but this is a BIG DAY in their world. My husband and I are trying to figure out how to put ten people around a table that seats six, maybe eight if we squish. It's not that we didn't know everyone was coming. It's cold, snowy, and overcast. Generally, it's chaotic here.

And yet, I'm loving all of it. I'm tremendously thankful for our little family of four, for our extended big family, and for all our friends. Most of all I'm thankful for Annette. Without her, it wouldn't be chaotic at all here today.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Medical Awareness

A long time ago I handled media relations for an international medical society. At the time, one of my favorite media catch phrases was "you are in charge of your health care." I always told people that no matter what the doctor or nurse said, you were in charge. I transferred that philosphy from my work to our children when the twins were born. The girls were both more than 6 lbs, so they didn't have to stay in the hospital more than the standard 48 hours. Yet, I watched every single thing that was done to them during that time. I drove the nurses crazy. Why was one of the girls taken from the nursery? Who authorized that test? What were the test results? What do those results mean?

To this day, I still hover over their doctors and nurses. It's not that I don't trust them, but mistakes happen. We changed pedatricians because that office had two girls with the same name. The nurses would bring in two charts. One for our brunette twin and one for the other girl. I'd question how it could happen since the other girl was nearly a year younger than our twins, had a different address, and different parents. None of her vital information was even close to our girls! The nurses always brushed me off. The office staff could not keep the records straight. The final blow came when they started billing us for the other girls' office visits. I not only changed pediatricians, but I filed complaints with our health insurance.

I had a chill when I heard about Dennis Quaid's twins. It's so scary to have newborns anyway, but somehow it always seemed safe to put them in the hands of medical professionals. Do I think the error was intentional? No. I think it was just human error. What I do know, though, is that until our daughters are old enough to take on the job themselves, we are in charge of their health care. It's one of the scariest parts of parenting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Q&A

Every day people ask me questions about the girls. Here are the answers I'd like to give. I'm sure you'll be able to figure out the questions.

"No, you cannot touch her hair. Yes, it is very long."

"Yes, I'm sure they are twins."

"They are both smart."

"Neither one dominates the other. They are both strong personalities."

"No, I don't dress them alike. I know that some twins' parents do, but we choose not to.

"Yes, they are very close."

"No, I don't have a favorite."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Super Why!

I adore the new PBS show Super Why! The girls lead a pretty tv-free existence, but once in a while I let them watch a show. We stumbled upon Super Why! and now we're hooked.

The show helps kids with reading readiness. The animated characters talk to the viewers the same way my husband and I talk to the girls when we're reading. They spell out words phonetically. You know how it goes. What letter makes this sound? Which vowel makes this sound? Once the word is completed, they sound it out.

The girls are captivated. They love watching show. They practice their letters and sounds all the time anyway. They both really want to read. Some days I'lll find them looking at a book trying to find words they know. It's twin team effort with them, of course.

Super Why! lessons are smart and practical. What's not to love?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Quiet Time

Overheard at our house...

The bedroom door opens slowly. The girls stand by Mom & Dad's bed.

"They are sleeping."
"Should we wake them up?"
"No. They are tired. Let's go play."
"Okay, wanna play babies?"
"No, let's play with the horses."

The bedroom door closes quietly.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Posting Policy

An interesting thing happened when I posted about the MySpace cyber-bulling. People came out of the woodwork. Due to this, there is a new policy for posting on this blog. All posts will be moderated. If you are not willing to sign your name to your thoughts, don't bother. I won't allow anonymous comments any more. I appreciate you reading, but an honest discussion doesn't hide behind anonymous postings. If you won't sign your name to it, don't post it.

Deadly MySpace Cyber-Bullying

There is a story on the front page of today's Chicago Tribune that is so disturbing I cannot stop thinking about it. A young teen and a friend had a falling out. Instead of saying, "Oh well. It happens." The PARENTS of one of the girls set up a MySpace account as a fictional teen-age boy. They started by pretending to be her friend. Then they relentlessly sent mean, nasty messages to their daughter's former friend. The 13-year-old former friend was so distraught that she committed suicide.

This is something PARENTS did. What I don't understand is what made them concoct this plan. Somewhere, two adults sat around and said, "Hey, let's get back at Megan by harassing her." They knew she struggled with depression, and yet they thought it was a good idea? How warped do you have to be to decide to harass a child because she was no longer your daughter's friends

Our girls are growing up in a house where they will have no expectations of privacy. Our only web-connected computer is in the family room where I can see everything. (They are still young, but it's never too early to plan.) I will monitor them like crazy. It's not that I don't trust them -- or expect that I will be able to trust them -- it's that crazy people exist and want to harm them. If you doubt it, try reading Megan's story from the CNN or the Post Chronicle.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Animal Kingdom

Here's why I love our neighborhood. Let's night I came home from teaching about 9:45 p.m. As I turned on to our block a shadowy thing crossed the street. I couldn't figure it out until I shined my headlights on it. A small, red fox was running through the yards. It was beautiful.

I was excited. We've had raccoons, opossums, and deer in the yard before. This summer, one of our neighbors spotted deer eating our hostas. And, the skunks were so bad this summer that we woke up several nights to close the windows. If you've never smelled a skunk spray, let's just say it is strong enough to wake you from a deep sleep.

The fox, though, was a new addition to our animal kingdom. I had not seen a fox running through the yards until last night. I actually sat in front of my garage for a few minutes before opening the door. I waited until the fox moved down a few yards. I really did not want a fox in our garage.

All this and we're still only 30 minutes from downtown Chicago. It's not for everyone, but we enjoy calling it home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Alphabet Show and Tell

The girls have show and tell at their preschool. They bring an item each week and tell a little story about it. It's not new, I know. All the preschools do it. The twist here is everything has to be farm or nature related. And, of course, we need two items for each letter. It's the twin thing, of course.

Some letters are easy. A is for avocado and artichoke. (This is an avocado. We use it to make guacamole. This is an artichoke. It grows on a farm.) E is for evergreen tree branch and a toy elephant. (This is an evergreen tree branch. Most people call it a Christmas tree. This is a toy elephant one of Daddy's friends brought back from India.)

Some letters are giving me fits. Since I'm not proud, I am publicly asking for help with some letters. Here's the list:

H
I
N
O
U
V
X

I will gratefully accept any suggestions about what the girls can bring to school for those letters. A few things to keep in mind, please. First, I must be able to obtain the items easily. Second, the girls have to be able to put the items in their backpacks. Finally, everything has to be farm or nature related. It's a wide open field, so please help! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Snow Miser

I was duped into buy our first Christmas decoration yesterday. We were at the store buying gym shoes -- or so I thought. I went off to look at some other items. My husband took the girls in another direction to keep them busy for a few minutes. The store was stocked with Christmas decorations and toys already, so keeping them busy wasn't going to be a problem. The plan was my husband and the girls would meet me at the checkout line.

As I stood waiting, I heard the girls giggling. The brunette twin carried an animated, light-up snowman. When she pushed the button, he sang the Snow Miser song from one of the Christmas specials. "I'm Mister White Christmas. I'm Mister Snow." My husband said, "she really wants it. Should we get it?"

Now, my choices were both bad. Either I was the bad guy who said no and ripped the snowman out of her hands, or we bought the thing. I'm pretty sure it was a conspiracy cooked up between Daddy and his twins. Let's just say I cannot wait for the batteries to run out. I'm already tired of the song.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Orange Crush

I am still surprised none of our neighbors called the police on us yesterday afternoon. I had some windows open to air out the house. I was baking an apple pie and some of the juice dripped on to the oven bottom. Smoke was everywhere!

Just as I opened the windows to keep the smoke detectors from going off, the University of Illinois football team beat Ohio State University. Yes, our football team beat the number one ranked collegiate football team in the country -- AT OHIO STATE. We beat them on their home field!

Immediately after the game, we all started cheering "Go, Go Illinois." It was so loud I'm sure everyone in the neighborhood heard us. Actually, everyone for a few blocks probably heard us.

I understand most people probably are not that excited about the game. For Illinois alums, though, it was HUGE. So far this season we've won more football games that we did in the previous few seasons combined. We're probably going to a bowl game. It's all good fun.

After we stopped cheering, the girls started singing the Alma Mater. I think we have two future Orange Crush members in our family.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christmas List

Overheard at our house...

Dad: "What do you want for Christmas?"
Brunette Twin: "A wallet with some money and credit cards."
Dad: "Me too."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I Love You More

The sweetest book arrived on my doorstep yesterday. I Love You More is a flip-side book, so you read one side, end in the middle, flip the book over, and read the new story. Both stories have the same happy ending.

Recently our brunette twin started saying, "I love you more than ...." She loves to come up with new comparisons. I thought she'd love the comparisons in the book, and she does enjoy them. What she really loves, though, are the beautiful pictures. She laughs so hard while looking at the book. She always says, "Look Mom, the fish is wearing goggles."

With twins, it can be hard to keep them interested in the same thing. The girls have unique interests, but I Love You More captivates both of them. I'm sure we'll look for other books written by Laura Duksta and/or illustrated by Karen Keesler. Reading I Love You More has created a new family of fans.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Different Partners

I've noticed that the girls' teachers assumed they wanted to be partners because they were twins. This happened in several classes. The teacher started to put the class into pairs and announced "Okay, you two are partners." The first few times it happened, the girls just went with it. Lately, though, they have asserted their independence. It first happened a few weeks ago in music class when Miss Joan tried to partner them. The blond twin said, "I don't want to be her partner." Miss Joan stopped and stared at the brunette twin. Instead of protesting, the brunette twin said, "I'm her sissy. I don't want to be her partner. I want to play with someone else." It was as if they had discussed it.

Ever since that class, the girls have separated a bit more. They always talk about which kids were their partners at preschool. They love telling stories about what their partners did during different activities. What I love about it is they decided themselves to separate. We always say we don't have twins, but two daughters who share a birthday. Even though their twin bond is completely unbreakable, they understand that some times they should play with other kids.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hidden Treasures

I was making breakfast this morning when I heard the girls squealing in the playroom. I mean loud, high-pitched, excited squeals. I went in there to find the couch cushions on the floor. The girls discovered the hidden treasures between the couch cushions. The real find was the missing apron. The brunette twin held it like a doll and danced around the room. I made a mental note to clean under the couch cushions more often.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Time Change

Whoever decided daylight savings time was a good idea does not have children. The girls were finally over the "we don't want to take a nap, but we're still tired and crabby all afternoon" hump. Now we're adjusting to the time change. They were sleeping until about 7:00 a.m. each morning. Now we're back to waking up at 6:00 a.m. Last year the girls were still napping so the time change was not as bad. This year it stinks.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Panic Driving

The scene: Mom and twin four-year-old girls driving to see Aunt Linda in Wicker Park.
The place: Chicago, specifically Damen Avenue near the United Center.

The blond twin: "Mom, my tummy hurts."
Mom: "Do you have to go potty?"

Silence

"No."
"Okay, we'll be at Aunt Linda's in a couple of minutes."

Girls start singing a Wiggles song.

"Mom, my tummy really hurts."
"Are you sure you don't have to go potty?" Mom's praying the answer is no. There is no where to pull over and use a bathroom. The neighborhood isn't even one she'd stop in and pull out the travel potty.

"No."
"Are you going to puke?"
"Maybe"

More panic. Mom grabs a plastic shopping bag and hands it to the blond twin -- tells her to puke in the bag if necessary. Mom holds her breath. Blond twin starts to gag. More strange sounds come from the back of the mini-van. Everyone laughs.

"Honey, that was the biggest burp I've ever heard."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pajama Personalities

People always ask about the girls' personalities. How are they alike? How are they different? How they are alike is easy. Both girls love books. Both girls like to help around the house. Both girls like to sing and dance. Both girls like to ride their bikes. Both girls want to be princess ballerinas.

We bought pajamas the other day that perfectly express how the girls are individuals. The blond twin has bright pink and purple winter pajamas with kitties and hearts all over. The brunette twin has bright red winter pajamas with sparkly, silver snowflakes all over.