Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve Wishes

I'm not one who carries a lucky charm or has a good luck ritual, but there is one thing I do each New Year's Eve. My maternal grandmother always left a dollar bill and a can of soup on her kitchen table. She said it was to ensure there would always be food and money in the house during the new year. I keep the same tradition going. It makes me feel close to her and I like the symbolism of it.

So, for this New Year's Eve, I'm putting a virtual dollar and a virtual can of soup on everyone's table. I wish good luck, good health, and much happiness to each of you in 2008!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Are you still here?

The girls are going to stay with one of my brother's and his family for a few days. I already feel like I need to hug them more and tell them I love them more. I know I'll miss them while they are gone, even though we will really enjoy the break.

When we told them they were going to pack their new suitcases (Christmas gifts from Gramma), they were very excited. When we told them how long they were going to be gone, the blond twin started counting on her fingers. Then she looked at me and said, "That's all. Can't we stay for more days?"

That's my girl. I'm feeling guilty that I'm looking forward to going away without them, and she's trying to figure out how she can get more time for her own vacation. No good-bye tears for her. She wants to know how to extend her away time.

Both girls love to stay at Aunt Sue-Sue's house. It's party time, all the time. Sue has three children of her own, but there are always a few extras hanging around. She comes from a HUGE Irish family (8 or 9 siblings, 40+ nieces and nephews, lots of great-nieces and great-nephews), so our two just fit right in. If she could have, she would have had about a dozen kids herself. It didn't work out that way, so instead she had three and has the rest hanging out all the time.

The good news is our twins won't even miss us. The bad news is our twins won't even miss us. In the end, though, we'll all have a fun New Year's Eve and come back ready to face another wonderful, crazy year together.

So, a big THANK YOU to Dave and Sue. We owe you!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Career Opportunity

Overheard at our house...

Blond Twin: "Mom, sissy is annoying me!!"
Mom: "Quit bugging your sister!!"
Brunette Twin: "It's my job and I like it."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Matching Game

The matching game is a fun way to play with the Christmas cards now that Christmas is over. We do this every year and the girls love to play with it by themselves!

It's so easy.

First, gather all your Christmas cards.
Next, cut the pretty covers off the folding cards.
Now cut those covers in 1/2 for younger kids or 1/3 for preschoolers.
Put mix all the pieces on the floor and let the kids try to match them up.

It's that easy! Educators will probably say it helps with lots of basic skills, but the girls just know it's fun. When all the pieces are ragged, we recycle them.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tracking Santa

Our house is abuzz with Christmas Eve excitement. The girls are giggly about Santa coming tonight. We keep telling them they have to go to bed early so they are asleep when Santa comes. We aren't sure it will work yet, but it's fun.

We're going to track Santa's progress during the day. If you want to know when Santa will visit your house, there are two great sites that track his progress. Enjoy them both tonight!

Norad Tracks Santa 2007

NASA Tracks Santa 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Card

I don't know what it says about the cards I buy, but my husband bought himself a Christmas card this year. He pulled it out of a bag and said, "Here, do you need one of these?" I said, "Yes." Honestly, I did need a "Daddy" card. I didn't like the ones I looked at in the stores, so I didn't buy any of them. The card he bought himself is very nice. I probably would have bought it myself if I found it first.

So, now he knows his present and he's already read his card. Ooooh! Christmas morning is going to be just thrilling for him! I know we're grown-ups, but I still like to surprise him once in a while.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Three in the Bed

Last night I woke up about 2:30 a.m. with the blond twin in my arms. I vaguely remember her coming in our bedroom. I definitely do not remember her crawling into bed with us. And, I have no idea how long she slept in my arms.

As soon as I was awake enough to realize what was happening, I carried her back into her bed. She asked for her favorite stuffed animal and went right to sleep.

The funny thing is this is not the first time this has happened. A few months ago I woke up to find her in bed with us. Again, sleeping in my arms.

She has always been the high maintenance twin. Right after she was born she'd cry just so we'd pick her up. As soon as I picked her up, she'd stop crying. She'd snuggle happily in my arms. When she was a little older, and a little more expressive, she'd make all kinds of happy sounds if you picked her up. She seems to need the close contact.

That being said, she cannot sleep with us. The problem is Mommy and Daddy are too tired to realize she is in bed with us. I think it might be part of her master plan, though. If she can wear out Mommy and Daddy, she can crawl into bed undetected. So far, her plan is working.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Back Story

A while back I read an article about how actors create back stories for their characters. They said it helps them better understand their character and their motivation.

One of the things I love about listening to the girls play is how they create a back story. It's always a rich, detailed back story. In the morning they bounce down the stairs negotiating the back story for the day. Whatever they saw or did the day before might become part of the back story.

For the past few days, their dolls have been playing as Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. This comes from an activity at their school on Monday. Each year the school puts on a live nativity. The children all dress like angels, shepards, wise men, etc. One little girl dresses as Mary and rides out on a donkey. A little boy is Joseph. This year the brunette twin, dressed as an angel, held Baby Jesus in her arms and delivered him to the manger.

Since then, Baby Jesus has been at the center of their daily play. He's been busy too. He has taken swimming lessons, had a birthday party, and built a snowman. He did go on time out yesterday, but I never did figure out why.

Sometimes I ask them about their back story. I have to say that for four-year-olds, the back story always makes sense. It is always has a logical sequence of events from which to start. It evolves during the day as any good story does.

I wonder what it says about the way their minds work. They definitely have vivid imaginations that take an idea from start to finish. It will be interesting to see how this plays into their back stories as they get older.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Daddy's Rules

Overheard at our house...

Brunette Twin: "That's not fair."
Daddy: "We're your parents. We don't have to be fair."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Redefine Christmas

There was an interesting full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune recently. It was a simple graphic with the message "Redefine Christmas." When you go to the website www.redefinechristmas.org, it's an equally simple site spreading a wonderful message.

I wondered about the legitimacy of the site until I read a story about the family funding the effort. It said the family wondered what would happen if people started spreading the holiday cheer through charitable giving, rather than another "thing" no one really needed. Granted, the family has some money, otherwise they would not be able to fund the message. It doesn't take away from the basic message, though.

What would happen if we all started thinking about the holidays in terms of charity? If we all bought presents for a needy child or gave a few dollars to a local homeless shelter? If we all spent some time volunteering for a group in need?

Christmas is about giving, and we try to teach the girls it is important to give back. This year we "adopted" a child. We took the girls to the store to buy the gifts. It's the first step in a lesson we hope to share yearly. I hope Redefine Christmas is successful in causing people to start thinking about ways to make Christmas more about giving to others who really need it, rather than just giving "stuff."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gramma's Time Out

Overheard at our house...


Blond Twin: "Mom, Gramma left these in the bag she gave you last night."

Mom: "Oh, that's not good. The store must have put them in the bag so we could light the Christmas candles Gramma gave us."

Blond Twin: "You better put them some place safe. Matches are dangerous."

Mom: "Yes they are. Thank you for bringing them to me."

Blond Twin: "I'll have to talk to Gramma about how dangerous matches are next time she comes over. You're not supposed to play with matches. She shouldn't leave them in bags. You need to put them away so no one plays with them."

Mom: "You are right, honey."

Blond Twin: "Maybe I should call her and talk to her about it. She might need a time out."

Mom: "No, that's okay. You can talk to her next time we see her."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Hippo

There's a fun Christmas song called, "I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas" that the girls just love. They laugh and sing every time it comes on the radio. Last year we heard it all the time. This year we have yet to hear it on the radio. Daddy, though, came to the rescue when he bought the CD.

So now we can listen to it all the time. Of course, we have the book about the song. The girls like to see the girl with her hippo. The newest addition to our collection is a pink and purple hippopotamus stuffed animal. This thing gets treated like royalty by the two girls. The brunette twin is hippo's official mommy, but the blond twin gets into the action as well. They do all the stuff they hear about in the song -- play with it, feed it, give it a massage. It's the top toy in the house right now.

It all make the girls happy, so we go with it. The problem is the song is kind of annoying and once I hear it, I cannot get it out of my head. There's nothing worse than when I'm trying to think of something and all that runs through my head is "I wanna hippopotamus for Christmas. A hippopotamus is all I want...."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fear as a Parenting Tool

As we take the girls places during the holidays, many people comment about how well-behaved they are. Several asked how we raised them to be so polite and to listen to us. Here's my secret: Fear. The girls are afraid of us.

They are not afraid we will hurt them or be mean to them. They are terrified that we will not take them anywhere. They LOVE to be out. They LOVE to go places. More than once I've threatened to leave them at home or not let them go to a class. It puts them into a complete panic. For some reason, the thought of staying home with all their toys is terrifying.

I haven't actually made them stay home -- yet. I have taken off my coat and shoes as I am threatening to make them stay home. I have also put my keys away and taken my purse off my shoulder. This immediately puts them into action. Clean the playroom? Done. Try to go to the bathroom? Done. Put the correct shoes on? Done.

So far all I've done is threaten them. Sometimes it just takes a look. Other times I'll say, "You don't have to go to Grammas. If you don't clean the playroom, you can stay home." Just the words cause them to do whatever I'm asking.

Yes, love and respect are good parenting tools, but never underestimate the power of a good threat. Fear works.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lists for Santa

Here's one definite advantage of having twins as our "only" children. They don't have older role models to teach them everything. Yes, they do learn stuff from their cousins, the neighbors and the kids in school. They don't have an in-house source to teach them things, though.

I realized this when we saw Santa this weekend. The friend we went with has older siblings. He had a LIST for Santa. It was funny to listen to him. Our girls went up and when Santa said, "What do you want?" The blond twin said she wanted a pink dress. The brunette twin said she wanted a purple dress. That was it!! It never occurred to them to make a long list. One girl asked for one thing and her sister followed. Talk about an easy task for Santa!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Homework from Santa

Recently the girls and a friend visited with Santa. When their friend asked Santa what kind of cookies he liked, Santa replied, "Please leave me two chocolate chip cookies and half a glass of milk. And, I need one apple cut into eight pieces for the reindeer."

Oh great, I thought. I have homework from Santa. Now on Christmas Eve we need to leave cookies, milk, AND an apple. Now the girls debate whether they each need to leave two cookies, milk, and a cut-up apple or if they can share. I try to tell them they can leave just two cookies. They think they each need to leave two cookies. And, the apple is a big concern. Red, yellow or green? What kind of apples do reindeer eat?

They are only four years old once, so we'll enjoy it while we can. We still don't know what kind of apples reindeer eat, though.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Puppet Bike Theater

Yesterday my Mom and I took the girls downtown to see the Christmas decorations. We were wandering through the German Market at Daley Plaza when we found the Puppet Bike Theater. It's one of those things you have to see to believe, so I found a YouTube video of the show. It's so funny! You just stare at these hand puppets. I kept thinking, "Now I've seen everything." I couldn't stop watching, though.

On the one hand, it's really so simply -- one person, two hand puppets, some music. On the other hand, it's really stupid -- one person, two hand puppets, some music. Yet, the crowd LOVED it. Really. You cannot imagine the laughter and smiles. Everyone cheered like it was a rock concert. The kids couldn't get enough of it.

The performer just parked his or her bike at the corner of Daley Plaza. The kitties collected dollar bills like water. Kids went up to the little door near the bottom of the stage to give a dollar. The kitties danced with the dollar before it disappeared behind the curtain.

Nearby several Chicago Police officers watched the crowd, but never stopped the show. The girls still talk about the puppets. Today they used their stuffed animals to put on their own show. No one gave them dollar bills, though.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Terra Cycle Sign-Up

It's not surprising that our girls are obsessed with recycling. They attend a nature-based preschool and taking care of the earth is an ongoing topic. It's not a deep, heavy conversation, but something woven into every day lessons. And, it's a lesson they take to heart. Every time I move towards the garbage can, they want to see if it's really garbage or if I should be recycling it.

There's a cool web site -- Terra Cycle -- that helps our twin girls understand what happens to the stuff they recycle. Terra Cycle takes plastic bottles and yogurt containers and turns them into stuff you can buy to improve your gardens, increase your composting, or feed the birds. It's a fun concept that puts the ambiguous "recycling" concept into action.

You can sign up to be part of the "brigade" or just visit for information. Either way helps kids understand how recycling really works.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Let it Snow

We had our first real snow fall yesterday. Now everything is pretty, sparkly and white. Most people groan when it snows -- the shoveling, the slow driving, etc. I cheer. It's not just that I like snow, but the girls LOVE the snow. Yesterday morning I let them put on all their snow gear and head outside before breakfast. They thought it was great to wear their pajamas outside to play in the snow.

Here's why I cheer for snow. Any amount of snow means they want to play outside as much as possible. And, playing outside makes them very tired. When they are very tired they go to bed early and sleep through the night like little rocks. For me snow means a good night sleep. So, everyone sing with me, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dadditude Guest Posting by Phil Lerman

Hi everybody! I’m the author of a new book called “Dadditude,” and I’ve been invited by Shari to do a guest blog on my favorite topic: Are all dads idiots, or not?

“It drives me crazy that most bloggers only complain about their husbands,” Shari wrote to me. “If they are all such idiots, why did these women marry them?”

Good question.

Here’s the answer.

I figured this out not at home, but at work. I spent 25 years in newspapers and TV, first as national editor of USA Today, later as co-executive producer of “America’s Most Wanted.” So I had literally hundreds of managers work for me. And you know their favorite story?

“My staff are all idiots.”

I heard this from managers every day: Everyone who works for me is an idiot. They can’t do anything. But don’t worry, because I fixed everything they messed up. Good thing I’m here!

Sound familiar?

These managers were taking control and power in the office place by making themselves seem indispensable. It took a long time for them to learn that you’re not going to get fired if your staff does well. Nobody’s gonna replace you. In fact, you’ll probably get a raise for training such a good staff.

Moms take a while to learn this too. That it’s OK to lose control of the home a little, to give up some of that amazing mommy power to a mere mortal (my wife even lets me dress my son all by myself sometimes! Well, not if he’s going out of the house or anything. But still!)

Trust me. Even if you stop telling everyone what an idiot your husband is nobody’s gonna fire you. Well, you might get suspended now and then. But what the heck. Everybody needs a day off once in a while.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dadditude

One great thing about this blog is I get to meet people I would not ordinarily have a chance to meet. A great example is Phil Lerman. He wrote a book called "Dadditude: How A Real Man Became A Real Dad." While I haven't read the book yet, I did invite him to be a guest blogger.

Just from our email exchanges, I know we are on the same page about a few important parenting points. First and, perhaps, most importantly, Dads are not idiots. Despite the way TV portrays Dads as bumbling incompetents, Dads are actually quite capable.

I know women who brag about things like their husbands never changing a diaper or giving the baby a bottle. Another woman I know hires a babysitter if she leaves her husband at home with the children. She claims he cannot "handle" their two kids. Huh?

Maybe it's just our circle of friends, but the Dads I know are very involved and competent. We all think of parenting as a team sport. My husband is wonderful, as I tell everyone who comes near me. If he wasn't so involved from the day our girls were born, I'd be dead. It's that simple. There is no way I could have handled all the diaper changes, feedings, doctor's visits, etc. for twins during the first two years. It never occurred to me that he would not be capable of changing a diaper. Even now he's as involved as I am. In our house it's not optional.

Phil is going to write guest posts on the topic of Dads. I hope you'll all welcome him and comment at will.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Christmas Surprise

My husband's Christmas present arrived today and he couldn't be happier. Of course, he wasn't supposed to see it before December 25, but as we pulled in the driveway this morning, there was no way to miss it. A tall, cardboard box was propped against our front door -- no mistaking it for anything other than the golf club he wanted.

He wasn't subtle about it. He handed me a newspaper insert and said, "I want this golf club." So I ordered it right away to make sure it arrived in time. I even consulted our family's best golfer, our high school nephew, to make sure I ordered the correct club.

Still, I was hoping to keep it a secret. Mom and I had a plan to hide it at her house. I checked the deliveries every day to make sure it wasn't at the front door when he came home. Where I screwed up was with the delivery method. I thought it was coming via UPS. Since UPS doesn't deliver on Saturdays, a weekend delivery was not a concern. It came via USPS. The good old U.S. Postal Service. UPS, USPS so close -- and yet so far from a true Christmas surprise.