Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

When the clock clicks to Midnight, we'll be sleeping. The one truism about young children is that it doesn't matter what time you go to bed because they always wake up at the same time. We're having a small NYE afternoon party with some friends, then we'll keep the girls on their normal schedule.

Before we go to bed though, I'll put a dollar and a can of food on the table. My maternal grandmother always did this to signify that there will always be food and money in the house for the next year. She said it was an old Scottish custom.

So, as is my custom, I wish you all a happy and safe New Year -- and put a virtual dollar and can of food on your table. We don't know what the new year will bring. There is much turmoil and unhappiness around the globe. These are uneasy times for a lot of people who have health and family problems.

The good thing about a new year is it brings a new sense of hope. The old, bad year is gone. The new year holds lots of promise for better days ahead. It won't be quick, nor will it be easy. We'll all work together to make it better for ourselves and each other. This is my new year's resolution. I hope you'll join me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What I'll Miss about the Christmas Shows

Every year I wait for the Christmas shows. You know those animated specials with Rudolph, Santa, elves, the Snow Miser, etc. I always loved them. Once these shows start, it means that Christmas is on its way.

I know the animation is a bit dated (to put it mildly). Some of the scenes make me cringe, like when the male reindeer tell Clarissa and Mrs. Donner that they will search for Rudolph because, "this is man's work." Yet there is something about the shows that makes me feel like it's really the holidays.

Now that we have the girls, they love the shows. And, we love to sit with them between (or on) us and watch them. What's good about the shows now is not just the tradition we're passing along, nor is it the idea that we're sharing a part of our childhood memories with them.

The best part of watching these shows is making sure the brunette twin sits with her Daddy. As soon as the show starts, she starts.

If the Abominable Snowman is made of snow, why don't they just melt him?
Why does he have to eat? Snowmen don't eat.
How do they now the Abominable likes pork better than reindeer?
Yukon shouldn't put that stuff in his mouth. It's dangerous to put stuff in your mouth.
Why does Hermie want to be a dentist?

Who is Mother Nature?
Why don't we see her?
Why doesn't she tell her boys to behave?
Why does she look different in this show than she did in the last show?
Why is the Snow Miser Mr. Fun? Doesn't the Heat Miser have fun?

Why does that boy play the piano all the time?
Who is Beethoven?
Why does Lucy keep bothering him when he's trying to practice?
Why do the adults talk that way during the show?

She starts talking at the very beginning of the show and doesn't stop until the show is over. Even then, she has follow-up questions. It's hysterical. My husband is a quiet man. He likes to watch TV in peace and quiet. He usually pay attention to shows. If the brunette twin is watching with him, he doesn't get to watch the show. He spends his time answering the brunette twin's questions. Sometimes he doesn't get to finish one answer before she asks the next question.

I usually sit and quietly giggle during these shows. Daddy tries to convince the brunette twin to sit on my lap, but the blond twin is my shadow, so it's only natural that she sits on my lap. Plus, I convinced the brunette twin that Daddy knows all the answers when it comes to these shows. He gets so frustrated. He tries to convince her to watch the show and be quiet, but it never works. She has a million questions and he's the answer man.

It's not as if she only does this for the Christmas specials. She does it for every show. It's just that the shows are concentrated during December, so each one is a special bonus Christmas gift for me.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Moon Girls

Our twin girls are fascinated with computers and the Internet. Many of their friends are already veterans of the PBSkids.com and nickjr.com web site. We haven't let the girls play on the web yet. I need to do some more research about which sites are safe and learn how to block sites before we take that step.

I was pleased to receive this press release from New Moon Girls.

New Moon Girl Media Launches Groundbreaking Online Community for Girls 8-12
www.NewMoonGirls.com Pioneers Girl-Created Content on the Web
Mountain View, CA – November 12, 2008 – The wait for a safe, advertising-free online community for girls 8-12 is finally over. New Moon Girl Media, champion of girl-centered media and publisher since 1993 of the award-winning girls’ magazine New Moon Girls, today announced the launch of the new online community NewMoonGirls.com. For the first time, girls around the world have a safe place on the Web where they can create and share content and develop their full potential through self-discovery and community.


I really like the idea of an advertising-free online community for tween girls. I think it's such a vunerable age. Too often girls are trying (either by choice or peer-pressure) to be older than they really are. The idea of a place where girls can explore their interests in art, science, writing and more in an environment that is monitored by responsible adults is intriguing.

There is also a good discussion board about girls' bodies and feelings. Let's face it. By the time the girls are ready to talk about these things, I'll be considered "old Mom." While I hope they will continue to talk to me, they will also be able to talk to their girl cousins. If neither of those sources work, I hope that reading about what other girls are feeling or going through will help our girls.

The girls are a few years away from being old enough to participate in New Moon Girls, but I'll continue to watch the site. I think it is a good resource to keep in my back pocket for future reference.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fairy Princess Magic

We took the girls to Macy's on State Street on Christmas Eve for lunch at the Walnut Room. We're veterans so we arrived early to pick up our pager. We thought we'd have plenty of time to wander the store, look at the decorations and enjoy the festive spirit before eating lunch. You know the economy is bad because there wasn't a line. We walked up and sat down. If you have ever tried to have lunch at the Walnut Room during the Christmas season, you know that never happens.

The waiter was great. He talked to our girls for quite a while before taking our order. He asked their names, ages, etc. He made a point of asking who was the oldest twin. The girls basked in the attention. Then we saw the Fairy Princess. She wore a green dress with a crown and wand. She was flitting from table to table talking to the children. She asked each child to make a wish and tapped her on the head with some fairy dust. (You might call it glitter, but our girls insisted it was special fairy dust, so let's go with that.) The boys weren't as interested, but the girls were star struck.

Of course, as soon as the meals arrive, our girls had to go to the bathroom. We walked towards the ladies room when the Fairy Princess ran up to us and said, "Wait, are you blond twin and brunette twin? I've been looking for you. I just talked to Santa and he said I had to look for you."

I thought the girls would pass out right there. They couldn't move. They couldn't speak. They just stood there staring with wide eyes and huge smiles. The Fairy Princess talked to the girls for a few minutes and sprinkled fairy dust on their heads -- and mine. Later the Fairy Princess took a few minutes to take photos with the girls. She remembered their names and talked for a bit longer. The girls glowed.

We watched her work her magic on every table in the room. It was a full room, even if there wasn't a long waiting line. She made every child feel like the center of her universe. She charmed the children and the parents.

If you see the Fairy Princess, please tell her the twin's parents send a great big THANK YOU. Her magic will bring us back to the Walnut Room next year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

There's a second verse?

We were standing in church this evening singing Christmas carols when I realized I didn't know the second verse to any of the songs. I stood there looking at the words to several songs thinking, "This thing has four (or five or six) verses? Really?"

There was one little girl behind us who seemed to know all the words to all the verses. The strange thing is the rest of her family didn't know the words. Some day I'll have to ask her Mom how the little girl knew all the words.

The funny thing is most of the rest of the parish didn't know the words either. And, it didn't matter. What did matter is we were together enjoying a beautiful service with others who are part of our new church "family."

We all have several families -- the one we're born into, the one we make with friends, and situational families like a church or other organization. Whichever family you are spending Christmas with, I hope you all have a wonderful day filled with joy and laughter.

Monday, December 22, 2008

One is not enough

We now own two copies of the song "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas." It has nothing to do with our twin girls each wanting their own copy, and everything to do with Mommy not being able to find the first copy.

I know it is in our house. I saw it when we were unpacking the Christmas stuff. The problem is the girls saw it too. I promised them they could hear the song as soon as the Christmas stuff was all up and the boxes cleaned up.

And then it was gone. Not "gone" in the way some items are missing after I clean the playroom. I didn't toss it in the circular file or anything like that. It's gone in the "I have no idea where it went" way that happens when you unpack too many boxes at one time. I promised I would look for the CD, and I did. I searched every place it might be - twice. I still couldn't find it.

I heard that a local radio station included the song it its holiday CD. In a moment of weakness, my husband agreed to stop and buy the CD while he was running errands. Of course, in his normal world, he doesn't care how obnoxious a song is as he is away at work most of the day. Now, though, he's home until January 5. He will get to hear the song over and over and over again.

Now that loud singing you hear is our girls yelling, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas." When they are done with the song, they fall down laughing. At least they recognize that the song is supposed to be funny, and not a shopping list for Mom and Dad.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Santa's Sleigh and the Reindeer

We just cleaned up from one of those projects that starts off as a family event and end up with Mom & Dad creating an engineering miracle. Actually, Dad created the engineering miracle. I was just in charge of the messy, messy frosting bag.

For the past few years, we've put together a gingerbread house with the girls. They loved it, so this year, when I found a gingerbread sleigh and reindeer, I immediately ordered it. It sat in the original, unopened box under our tree until today. The weather here is miserable -- blowing snow, freezing sub-zero wind chills, howling wind that shakes the house. It is a great day for an indoor project. So, we pulled out all the pieces and started to decorate. The girls opened all the candies, while Dad read the directions. Yes, it came with extensive, detailed directions.

The girls decorated the sleigh pieces and the reindeer with the white frosting and candies. Once they were done with all the pieces, we sent them upstairs to play. It was clear the best thing for everyone was for them to get out of our way. Now the real fun began. We had to "glue" the sleigh together with frosting and figure out how to make the reindeer stand up. There was powdered sugar frosting, sprinkles and candies everywhere. An hour later, we have a beautiful gingerbread decoration. It will look great for the various Christmas parties we're hosting during the next week.

Oh, and if anyone asks, it was soooo easy to put together. No mess. No fuss. It's our little secret, okay?

Friday, December 19, 2008

No Holidays Here

We don't celebrate the holidays. We celebrate Christmas. My college roommate celebrates Hanukkah. Some neighbors celebrate Eid. Others don't celebrate anything religious this time of the year.

I send my nice Jewish college roommate a Christmas card. She sends us a Hanukkah card. You know what, we're both okay with it. The message we're sending is "I think of you as part of the extended family and wish you the same happiness as I wish the rest of the family."

No where in the transaction am I thinking, "Hey, I think she's trying to do something sinister by wishing me a Happy Hanukkah." I know she's not thinking, "Hey, she's trying to convert me to Christianity." We're just not that cynical about a simple greeting.

And, I hate the phrase happy holidays. What does that mean? I try to think it means "whatever you celebrate, I hope it is good." It's so generic though that I'm not sure it means anything.

We all talk about living in a multi-cultural world, but how can we learn anything about each others holidays and religions if we're always trying to make everything one? The girls had a party at school today. The kids celebrated numerous different holidays and they all talked about what they celebrate. They are too young to really understand the religious differences between the holidays. It was fun and innocent. Somehow they all survived the party with their own, individual traditions in tact.

So, Merry Christmas to you and yours. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope December 25 is a day filled with friends and family.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kiss My Math

Okay, I'll admit I'm taking advantage of my WIFI to work from the couch and watch TV. Let's just say I'm multi-tasking. When I turned on the TV, the Today Show was on. I'm not fussy about what is on as I just want some background noise and I'm tired of the radio. All the radio talk is about the snow storm we had last night. Shocking! It snowed in Chicago and now traffic is bad! Stop the presses! It's news -- or not for those of us who live here.

Anyway...Danica McKeller is wearing an adorable red dress, looking like a completely put together model and explaining the Distributive Property of math. No, I'm not kidding. She's talking about Kiss My Math, which is her ongoing effort to teach girls that math is cool. As she said (and I'm paraphrasing here), the best part of being a fabulous girl is being a smart girl.

Now I'm paying attention. I've read all the studies about how by 3rd grade girls start to zone out at school because they don't want to be seen as too smart. It's not cool. We know the girls are bright. It's not our assessment. It's something we hear from ever teacher they come in contact with in any setting. One of our challenges will be to keep them engaged and challenged.

I'm totally watching her explain math and wonder how we can transfer that love of math (and learning) to our girls. I'm also learning that I use math's distributive property to figure out how much I'm going to pay for multiple items. All this time I thought I was just too lazy to multiple 7 x $42. Now I learn there is a real math answer for the way my brain works.

The girls are too young to understand the book now, but I'm going to put Kiss My Math on the must buy list. It's probably a good book for me to read right now!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let's Say Thanks

Okay, this is your good deed for the day.

www.LetsSayThanks.com

This is a program run by Xerox. You click on the link, create a card, and Xerox sends it to one of our deserving soldiers. It just takes a minute and you could make someone's day much better.

We're all here complaining about the economy, the weather, the holiday stress, etc. Yet, we're all waking up in our comfortable beds each morning. These soldiers are away from their families for the holidays to make sure we're safer.

Click now. Do your good deed for the day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Finally in the mail

Christmas cards are much more difficult now that we have two beautiful daughters. Before the girls were born, I'd buy a few boxes of cards, write some notes, and pop the cards in the mail right after Thanksgiving. Friends and family told me we were always one of the first cards they received.

Now, everyone wants a picture of the girls. I totally get it because I love looking at pictures of everyone's children. I especially like the offbeat cards. A friend sent a photo of her family at Niagara Falls. They were wearing rain gear, so all you could see were their smiling faces. Well, the parents were smiling. Their son was making a "it's cold and wet and this is fun?" face. It was great.

The problem is getting one good picture of the two of them. I start saving photos early in the year. For this year's card, a photo from Easter was in the running. It's really hard to find a single photo where they both look good. Usually the blond twin is making a funny smile or tilting her head to the side. The brunette twin likes to make funny faces and close her eyes. I floated the idea of sending New Year's cards so we'd have more time to find a suitable photo. My husband looked at me like I was crazy. At the time it seemed like a great idea to me.

It's not like I want a stiff, formal portrait. I just want a photo where they look as cute as they are when I look at them. A big smile and the "I might be getting into trouble" look in the eyes is all I want.

We finally found a photo and had cards made. This weekend we put all the cards in the mail. Whew, done for this year! Now I can take a few weeks off before the hunt begins for next year's Christmas card photo.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's a Wrap

When the girls were very young, a friend explained to me that Santa has his own wrapping paper. She reminded me that the girls might be too young to notice, but as they grew older, it would become more important.

She said it came to her attention because her nieces commented on the wrapping paper under the tree. There was a package without a tag. One of the girls said, "That's from Santa. All his packages have look like that." The girls opened the package and it was, indeed, from Santa.

She committed that lesson to memory and passed it on to all her friends as they became new parents. She also passed along that Santa doesn't wrap presents in Gap boxes. His boxes are a bit more generic, usually without brand names on the top box.

This year we made sure we had a new roll, just in case Santa needed some extra when he arrived. I put it in a safe spot a few weeks ago. Last night, the brunette twin pulled it out and said, "Hey, Sissy, look at the Frosty wrapping paper."

I couldn't help but laugh. I forgot it was there. I really thought we moved it to a new location, but apparently not. So, today Daddy brought home some new wrapping paper -- just in case Santa needs it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Illinois -- Land of Corrupt Governors

I think we need to make a change to our license plates. Currently it says, "Illinois -- Land of Lincoln." I propose the next plates say, "Illinois -- Land of Corrupt Governors."

I don't normally write about politics, but right now CNN is running a live news conference with US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (our hero and one of People's Sexiest Men) announcing the indictment of our Governor Rod Blagojevich. You'd think this would shock those of us who live in Illinois, but it doesn't. He has been under a cloud of suspicion for years. Whenever there was an indictment of someone around him, there would be discussion of Public Official A. We all knew Public Official A was the governor, but the investigation just went on and on and on.

Law enforcement officials arrested him in his home this morning. They rolled him out of bed and into jail. Why? It turns our our governor was (allegedly) trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat President-elect Barack Obama recently vacated. Law enforcement was so worried that he was about to corrupt the U.S. Senate with a seat sold to the highest bidder that they arrested him before he could close the sale.

I know we should be outraged, but this is Illinois. The last decent governor we had was Jim Edgar. He was a man of integrity and even if you were not a Republican, you respected him. Even the governor before Edgar, Jim Thompson left office with his reputation in tack. You never heard any corruption charges against either of them.

Now Governor Blago looks like he is headed for jail, just like our previous Governor. The good news is this is not a partisan issue. Governor Blago is a Democrat, while Governor Ryan is a Republican. This is what happens when your ego gets so big that you forget your constitutional duty.

The sad thing is that the rest of our current State elected officials seem really, really solid. Our Lt. Governor (Pat Quin) is a stand-up guy who works tirelessly for the people. Our Attorney General (Lisa Madigan) has really proven herself to be an outstanding official. Our Treasurer (Alexi Giannoulias) has done a good job protecting our state's money. Our Secretary of State (Jesse White) has a long history of public service. These parts of our State government are good. Unfortunately, their good work is overshadowed by the fact that is our governors seem to be idiots.

You might not understand why we know our U.S. Attorney General by name, but if you lived here you would. We all are grateful that Patrick Fitzgerald is in Illinois. We hope he'll stick around for a long, long time to keep trying to clean up our politics and prevent this stuff from happening over and over again.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Falling through the cracks

We keep a crazy pace in our house -- as do most people who have children. I'm not truly complaining as we're both employed and that's a plus in this economy. We're blessed with two adorable girls and we're all healthy. Okay, we are all a bit congested and coughing, but that's a temporary annoyance, not truly an illness. The problem is that things are starting to fall through the cracks. I feel like everything gets done at the last minute and we're always sitting with a long to do list.

This weekend we were supposed to go to the Polar Express with friends. Weeks ago our tickets arrived and we made plans to go to dinner after the train ride. Saturday night I looked for the tickets. I'm pretty anal retentive about some things, so we always put all the tickets in the same place. Of course it was the first place I looked. No tickets.

I looked in the second place (aka the place the tickets should have been if I forgot to put them in the final spot). This is called the pile. The pile is where all the unread mail, cards, newspapers, school papers, etc. end up. Once or twice a week, we go through the pile. Saturday night I frantically searched the pile -- no tickets. I'm rummaged through every place where papers might hide. I cleaned out drawers, a junk bowl, drawers, etc. Still no tickets.

I realized that the tickets were gone. There was just one more place they might be -- in our mini-van. My husband had it, so I couldn't check immediately. I knew it was a long-shot, but I held out hope. Of course, you already know the tickets weren't there either.

Our only guess was that the ticket envelop was thrown out one night when we were going through the pile. It probably was stuck inside something else and went right into the recycling bin.

I had to call our friends to confess that I lost the tickets. They were upset, as you would imagine. I was equally upset, but for different reasons. First, I pride myself on being organized. People say, "How can you work from home and keep the girls at home too?" I always say we're organized and have lots of help. Second, and most importantly, I ruined a fun day for our girls and our friends. We try to limit the holiday activities and the Polar Express is a big deal for both families.

If I had looked for the tickets last Thursday or Friday, instead of 12 hours before the event, I could have called the event sponsor and begged to have the tickets replaced. I could have worked out some solution, but no one was in the office at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night. I waited until the last minute and ruined the event.

Next week we're going to Breakfast with Santa. The good news is there are no tickets required for this event, so I cannot screw up the fun.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Not the Most Indulgent

Cinderella's Ball follow-up...

Turns out I'm not the most indulgent Mom. Two families brought their princesses in a horse-drawn carriage. Now, that's indulgent.

Those families make my glitter look completely restrained.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Glitter, Glitter Everywhere

If I want to test how badly the girls want to do something, I tell them they must take quiet time or else they cannot go. (We used to call it a nap, but they are waaaaayyyyyy too old for that now.) From the moment they came home from school today, the girls kept asking when they could take quiet time.

Today is not just any day. Today is Cinderella's Ball. Because I am a completely over-indulgent Mom, I bought clear glitter nail polish and white glitter for their hair. Yes, I spoil them and I admit it. After all, this is the Royal Ball. I think princesses always need a little glitter for the Royal Ball.

So we painted their nails, curled their hair and put hair spray in to keep the glitter in place. Yeah, you already know that last part didn't work out very well. There is glitter everywhere in our house. It's amazing how much of a trail a little glitter can leave throughout the house.

The girls have beautiful dresses (bought on resale, of course) and sparkly shoes (thank you Target!) to complete the outfits. They are just glowing with excitement. The questions are coming fast and furious. What will the other princesses wear? Will there be a prince? What songs will they hear? How will they know when to dance?

Daddy and Grampa are taking the girls to the Ball. They didn't start off wearing any glitter, but I doubt they will come home without a load of glitter on them. I figure it's part of the magic that accompanies a Royal Ball. Luckily, Daddy and Grampa are as indulgent as I am, so a little glitter won't ruin their night. The girls are our princesses, and tonight they truly feel like it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Kid's Response

Remember Anita Renfroe’s video of the Mom Song sung to William Tell’s Overture? Vanessa Van Petten (OnTeensToday.com) and her teen board wrote the kid's response. It's pretty funny, so here's your holiday stress relief for the day.

Enjoy!

http://www.onteenstoday.com/2008/12/02/the-mom-song-kids-response-humor-sung-to-william-tells-overture/

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sign the Card!

Once upon a time I was a very active with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois. I'm always happy to help MAW as I think they do amazing work. Here's an easy way to help the Bay Area (San Francisco) chapter raise a little money. It takes just a moment, so SIGN THE CARD!

http://www.groupcard.com/s/nRr3GcdV1ly&ec=92Uc4elTiTV

Original email note

Hi all, As most of you know, Robin and I are very involved with the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation. If you have a moment please go to this link and sign this e-card. It costs you nothing and generates a dollar for Make-A-Wish. Please forward it to as many people as you can... The kids need all the funds we can generate this year to keep the magical wishes flowing. We’d really appreciate your help both in signing the card and spreading the word. On your mark, get set – FORWARD! Post on your FB, My Space, etc. You’ve only got until Friday!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go, Go, Go!!!!

http://www.groupcard.com/s/nRr3GcdV1ly&ec=92Uc4elTiTV

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Confident and Secure

I met with the girls' preschool teacher recently for our first parent/teacher conference. We went through all the usual stuff about how well they were doing academically and socially when she said the most interesting thing. She said, "They are two of the most confident and secure children I have ever had in any of my classes."

This still swirls around in my head. It is interesting that she describes them as confident, because we have seen that before. I always say they have a lot of poise for five-year-olds. Those two walk into a room like they own it. They are definitely stronger together than apart. The brunette twin is a bit more reserved without her sister, but she still can light up a room.

It's the word "secure" that I'm still trying to figure out. Yourdictionary.com defines secure as
  • free from fear, care, doubt, or anxiety; not worried, troubled, or apprehensive
  • free from danger; not exposed to damage, attack, etc.; safe
    in safekeeping or custody
  • not likely to fail or give way; firm; strong; stable to make a knot secure
  • reliable; dependable a secure investment

I know what she means. The girls are not apprehensive or afraid in most situations. They are strong and independent. Still, I wonder how she came up with the word "secure." I would have thought she would have said something like, "They do not have separation anxiety like many preschool children. They are quite independent."

I also wonder how we did it. I'd like to say it was part of our grand parenting master plan, but it wasn't. When you are in the midst of parenting twins, you don't spend a lot of time talking about the big picture. There are a lot of coversations about the nitty gritty of daily life.

I know in all our chats about the girls, we never said, "We want them to be secure." We talked about how we want them to know they are loved unconditionally and how we want them to know that this is always home, no matter where they roam. We never used the word secure, although we seem to have accomplished it. If only everything about raising children would be so easy.