Saturday, January 31, 2009

Notes from Disney II

Some more random thoughts about Walt Disney World...
  • Staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge might be better than visiting the Animal Kingdom theme park. The random nature of the animals meant we never knew what we'd see out our balcony. At various times we saw zebras, giraffes, antelopes, African cattle, and exotic birds. It was always a delight.
  • The best sign I ever saw in a hotel room was on the sliding glass door to our balcony. It said something like "For your privacy, keep curtains closed. The animals are under constant video surveillance." In other words, we can see in your room, so if you are doing something we shouldn't see, close the curtains.
  • The Lion King and Nemo shows at the Animal Kingdom theme park were great.
  • No matter what the travel guides say, Epcot is not designed for small children. Once you ride Test Track and the Nemo ride, it's really for older children/adults.
  • The interactive chat with Crush (from Nemo) was best thing at Epcot.
  • No matter what you think, matching outfits on your family makes you look like you've never been out of the house before. It's not cool unless you are part of a family reunion or special tour group. If it's just the four of you in matching t-shirts and khaki pants, you look ridiculous.
  • You can tell where people are from by the way they dress. Those of us from cold weather locations wore shorts and t-shirts in the 74 - 80 degree weather. Those from warm weather locations wore long pants and sweaters.
  • I was on a ride with a woman who made the Charlotte character in Sex in the City look unkempt. I kept thinking she thought she was at a garden tea party, not a Disney resort.
  • The next time we go, we'll spend one day at the pool or playing miniature golf. Four straight days of parks was too much for us and the girls. Even though we worked hard not to overdo it, there is so much going on it's nearly an impossible task.
  • Our girls were the perfect age for the trip. I saw a lot of people with two and three year old children. I kept thinking, "What do you think they will remember from this?"
  • The Disney cast members (aka employees) were nice and kind no matter what park we were at.
  • Indulge your inner little girl and let your girl(s) do the hair/nail salon treatment at the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique. It's adorable. Plus, you don't have to wash the fairy dust (aka glitter) out of the bed sheets.
  • The backpack diaper bag was the best thing we purchased when the girls were born. We used it every day. Instead of diapers, we packed it with extra clothes, sunscreen, hats, etc. It was great.
  • We cannot wait to go back again.








Thursday, January 29, 2009

Notes From Disney

I have been visiting the Magic Kingdom since it first opened, At one point during this trip, my husband asked, "is it what you remembered?" The answer is definitely yes. The Magic Kingdom is an enchanting as ever, especially when you visit with two young girls.

Here are random notes from our visit:
  • You can spend a day at there and not go on any rides. The shows are great. We LOVED the laugh factory featuring the Monsters, Inc. characters.
  • The food is much better than I remembered. We made reservations at several table service restaurants and had good meals at each one.
  • The dining plan is totally worth it.
  • The park has aged gracefully, with the new attractions keeping it fresh. The exception is Tomorrowland, which is a bit outdated.
  • The Princesses are not paid enough. They spend a lot of time with each little princess and make those girls feel like the center of the universe. It cannot be as easy as they make it look.
  • It is worth the money to stay on property to to take advantage of the bus service. The day visitor parking lots are scary -- and we did not visit during a busy season.
  • Always bring your princess dress with you. It's $25 at Target, but $50+ if you buy it at the park. And, yes, the little girls do wear the dresses all day.
  • The train is underappreciated. We used it to get from place to place in the park, so we didn't have to walk all the time.
  • Fastpass is wonderful. We used it a lot.
  • The fireworks are pure Disney magic.
  • The Illuminated Parade is amazing and fun.
  • We avoided meltdowns by carefully planning our day. We spent no more than 6 hours in the park, with breaks scheduled at different times. We also had plenty of snacks to keep the girls going.
  • It is good to alternate between rides and shows. This gives everyone (especially the youngest in your group) a chance to recharge.

I know it's not just the Magic Kingdom anymore, but when I think about Walt Disney World, I still think about the first park. In my mind, it is still the best.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm becoming my mother

There is totally something wrong with me -- and I blame my mother. When we were children, mom couldn't go on vacation unless the house was clean and the laundry done. She always said we were going to bring a mess home with us, so she wanted the house clean when we returned. Why add a mess to a mess? We used to spend the week before a vacation cleaning, organizing, and cleaning.

When we were younger, I always thought it was crazy. Now I do the same thing. We're leaving for Disney soon, so I'm organizing photos, filing papers, and doing laundry. I have been going room by room taking care of all the odds and ends I have been meaning to do for weeks now. Our house will be organized and my to do list will be (mostly) taken care of by the time we leave.

Of course, it wouldn't be a vacation unless something goes wrong while we're getting ready to leave. This time the sink our wash machine drains into overflowed. Turns out it's clogged -- even though we have one of those mesh lint trap things on the end of the drainpipe to catch the lint. Given the amount of laundry we do during a regular week and the extreme laundry we've done due to our flu adventure last week, this is not surprising. What's annoying is it decides to clog as we're washing the clothes we need to take on vacation. We already went through one bottle of drain opener, but that didn't help. We're going to try one more bottle, then we're going to have to call for help.

Since I cannot leave the house with dirty laundry, we'll have to take care of this. Plus, when we get home, we'll have loads of laundry, so we need to take care of this anyway. Why does it matter if I do the laundry now or when we get home? I don't know. All I do know is that I realize it's one more sign I'm turning into my mother. I try, but I don't understand how it happened.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thoughts of Joy

A friend just sent this thought..

Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize
how good things really are.
Marianne Williamson

This might be my new life philosophy, and one to use to raise our girls.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cold Medication Warning

Considering how sick we've all been, it's amazing we haven't tried any drugs. I believe in better living through (legal) drugs. Decongestants are my friend during cold and allergy seasons. In large part, I thank my ability to walk to ibuprofen. There were days I could hardly walk after carrying a baby around for 12 hours or so. It's one of the things about having twins. You are always carrying a baby.

I recently received an email about a dangerous drug found in many cold and flu medications. I'm sure you've probably seen the message about Phenylpropanolamine (PPA). It comes with a long, long list of medications we probably all have in our cabinets. The scary message is that PPA might increase bleeding in the brain (aka a stroke).

Here's what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has on its web site:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking steps to remove phenylpropanolamine (PPA) from all drug products and has requested that all drug companies discontinue marketing products containing PPA. In addition, FDA has issued a public health advisory concerning phenylpropanolamine. This drug is an ingredient that was used in many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription cough and cold medications as a decongestant and in OTC weight loss products.

Snopes.com calls the alert true, but outdated. In any case, I'm passing it on to you. I live in a "better safe than sorry" world. Here's the link to the official web page if you want to see the full list of medications.

http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/ppa/

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why I'll miss Jenna Bush

I am watching the inauguration activities, of course. In fact, I'm glued to the coverage, which is only possible because I work from home and can work wireless. Plus, I have a laptop with a long-life battery. No matter what your political party, the peaceful transition of power is a glorious thing to watch. Every four years I marvel at what an amazing country we live in.

As I watch the coverage, I caught a few glimpses of Jenna Bush. I realize now that I am a bit sorry that we won't see much of Jenna Bush any more. I have always thoughts that our blond twin is going to look just like Jenna when she grows up. In fact, I have several newspaper clippings of Jenna Bush in the blond twin's baby book.

When I mention this to anyone, they stare at me like I'm a bit crazy. Usually they have to ask which one is Jenna. For some reason people cannot keep a blond/brunette twin set straight. I'm not sure why. You'd think the hair color would be a clue, but there is something about the word "twins" that confuses people. As soon as they hear it, they spend a lot of time trying to figure out who is who.

As soon as I show a photo of the blond twin and one of Jenna Bush, everyone sees the resemblance. (I don't think our brunette twin is going to look like Barbara Bush, though.) I realize I will be able to watch the blond twin grow up, so I'll be able to see if the prediction comes true. There is something fun about seeing Jenna grow up and looking at the blond twin's future.

I'm sure Jenna Bush is happy to have her privacy back. Me? I hope we'll see her once in a while so I can see if my hypothesis holds.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

At Least the Timing is Good

Last Wednesday, the brunette twin stayed home. She started throwing up the night before and we decided it wasn't a good idea to send her to school. Her sister decided she was going to go to school. As the blond twin said, "I'm not sick. Why should I miss all the fun. Besides, mom, I have a job at school. I'm the light girl. If I'm not there, the classroom will be dark." Okay, who am I to argue with that logic? Off to school she went.

Ever the thoughtful daughters, the girls took turns being sick. The brunette twin was back to her happy-go-lucky self on Saturday. We held our breath as the blond twin seemed pretty healthy. We wondered if was possible for her to miss this stomach bug. Then it was bed time. The blond twin started complaining that her stomach hurt. She went to sleep, but I said to my husband, "That girl is going to be sick before the night is over." Sure enough, she erupted for the first time about 10:00 p.m. It was a long, long night with her.

Amazingly, her sister slept right through the first three hours of fun. We stared at the brunette twin in her bed, sound asleep. We were in the room with the blond twin crying and the lights on. We were in the bathroom across the hall where the shower ran and ran as the blond twin and I both needed to clean up. The blow dryer ran in our bedroom. No matter how much we tried, we were loud and noisy. The brunette twin just rolled over. When she finally woke up, the brunette twin muttered a few words and went back to sleep.

As we were standing in the kitchen this morning, my husband looked at me and said, "At least the timing was good. Think about it. Because school was closed two days last week, they only missed one day of school. I was home most of the time to help. And, it will all be over before we get on a plane for our vacation next week."

You have to admire that kind of thinking. Even in the midst of the laundry (oh, the laundry), the midnight showers and the constant cleaning, he can find a silver lining to the whole thing. I knew marrying him was a great idea!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's 30 below zero, Let's go shopping

It's not like I was aching to leave our house today. The temperature was 7 degrees below 0 (aka -7), with a wind chill of about -30. I was quite happy in my nice, warm house.

Then our niece came by. We recently arranged for her to come by some Thursday nights to babysit the girls so we can get out of the house for a while. We look forward to our nights out, but we didn't expect her to come over due to the cold.

We had to decide what to do with our free time. The movies we want to see didn't start at convenient times. We certainly weren't going to do anything outside. So, we did the next best thing and went to Costco. Many layers later, we were out the door. If we had thought about it for very long, we wouldn't have gone.

We had a long list of items, and as you can imagine, we managed to get a lot done in a short time. Somehow shopping was a lot faster without five-year-old twins tagging along. The store was empty and cold. I cannot imagine what it takes to try to keep those huge warehouses warm. It was so empty that we went aisles and aisles without seeing another customer. The demonstration people were so happy to see us that they offered us numerous samples. No one else was going to try the food.

After we loaded up the car, we drove home on the empty streets. Every sign along the way had a negative temperature displayed. It was like each sign was saying, "Did you think before you came out here?"

We put our niece's car in our garage before we left. We thought it would keep her vehicle warm. When we arrived home and opened the garage door, we were surprised to see the snow and ice on her vehicle still frozen. No, nothing had melted. Even though her car was in the garage, it was so cold that everything was still frozen.

We did our part to stimulate the economy, but the entire time I kept thinking, "WHAT ARE WE DOING OUT HERE. ARE WE INSANE?" We knew the answer to that question, so there was no need to say it out loud.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

So much snow and cold

Oh, there is so much snow. It comes in 3 - 4 inch waves every day or two. The snow is so high I can no longer see most things in our backyard, like our solar lights or the sedum we left standing to feed the birds. The girls can barely walk through it -- and they are in the 95th percentile for height in their age group. Plus, suddenly the snow seems to come with blizzard warnings. I've learned more about blizzards in the past few weeks than I ever wanted to know.

Now we have bitter, dangerous cold coming. How cold, you ask? Well, the area school districts are cancelling school tomorrow because the wind chill will be so cold that exposed skin could freeze in minutes. Yes, just minutes. They are worried about the children getting frostbite while waiting for the bus.

The anticipated wind chill is -30. Our high temperature is going to be -1. We already have a - 15 windchill, so it's not much of a stretch. We're in the house for the duration because I don't think Friday is supposed to be much better.

The girls already had Friday and Monday off. Now they have Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday off. Yes, five days of family bonding. So, thank you to everyone who left ideas on how to keep them busy.

What amazes me is how upset the girls are that they won't be in school. They LOVE going to school. You can tell they are in preschool. The older kids are thrilled to have a winter weather day. They will do anything to get out of school.

Not our girls. They cried when I said they didn't have school. It was like I was taking away a favorite toy. Of course they are still in preschool, so for them school is one big play date.

Me, I just take it in stride. I grew up here, so for the most part the winter weather isn't a surprise. (Okay, the blizzard warnings are a bit freaky.) I try to recapture the joy I felt playing in the snow each time we all head outside. Yes, we are shovelling a lot of snow, but we're also laughing a lot as we try to smash snow into hats, down the backs of coats, etc.

It's one of the good things about having young children. They remind you how much fun simple things like snow can be.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cabin Fever Coming

Here's this week's weather forecast:

Monday -- snow in PM, possible blizzard, bitter cold
Tuesday -- snow, bitter cold
Wednesday -- snow, cold
Thursday -- bitter cold (-10 to 0 for high temperature)
Friday -- snow, bitter cold

I know if you live in Canada or Minnesota, you're not feeling much sympathy right now. It's not like we don't expect this weather in Chicago in January, but it always makes me feel like crawling into bed and staying there. It's not possible, of course, between family and work, I have to get out of bed.

The problem is I have to keep the girls busy so they don't realize they are stuck in the house all the time. They will go to school and dance class, but that is probably it for this week. I don't want to be outside, why would I take them outside?

Plus, even though they get into the car seat and buckle themselves, it's not like they do it quickly. Even if I thought I needed to go somewhere, I have to face the fact that I'll be standing outside saying, "Buckle quickly baby, Mommy is really, really cold." I always end up going from one girl to the other. Inevitably each seat belt locks up when it's raining or really cold. I don't like doing that when it's 30 degrees. If there is going to be a sub-zero wind chill, there's no way I'm taking them out unless it is absolutely necessary.

So, if you have any ideas on how to keep our girls busy, feel free to let me know. I could use the help right now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Thank you Jeff Foxworthy

I don't know if Jeff Foxworthy really said these things, but this came in an email today. These are so true. There is one I'd add, though.

If you refer to everything in Illinois outside the Chicago metro area as downstate, you live in Chicago. This drives my husband crazy. Chicagoans refer to towns near the Wisconsin border (north of us) as downstate. We refer to towns on the Mississippi River (west of us) as downstate. Obviously anything south of us is downstate, but we appear to be directionally challenged when it comes to the rest of the state.

So, with gratitude (or apologies) to Jeff Foxworthy, here goes...

This is what Jeff Foxworthy has to say about Chicago ..
  • If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you live in Chicago
  • If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you live in Chicago
  • If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you live in Chicago
  • If 'Vacation' means going anywhere south of I-80 for the weekend, you live in Chicago
  • If you measure distance in hours, you live in Chicago
  • If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day and back again, you live in Chicago
  • If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you live in Chicago
  • If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you live in Chicago
  • If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you live in Chicago
  • If the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph -- you're going 80 and everybody is passing you, you live in Chicago
  • If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you live in Chicago
  • If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you live in Chicago
  • If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you live in
    Chicago
  • If you find 10 degrees 'a little chilly', you live in Chicago

Friday, January 9, 2009

Another "DUH" Study

CNN.com is running a story about how troubled teens are more likely to become troubled adults. I know I should have a different reaction, but my first thought was "DUH!" Really, some researchers spent thousands of dollars to come to that conclusion?

Don't we already know this? We all know people who were "troubled" teens and most of the time they remain troubled adults. It could be something as simple as always being late to something more difficult like breaking the law. It's rare for a troubled teen to receive the help he/she needs to learn to manage the problem. Most of the time people say, "it's just teenage stuff. He/she will grow out of it." Well, guess what, that doesn't always happen. For everyone who outgrows it, many more carry it into adulthood.

A girlfriend of mine married a man from a very successful family. He had numerous problems that this family hid from her because they were convinced that if he married a "good girl from a good family" he'd suddenly be able to handle his problems. Well, he couldn't and now they are divorced. He was a troubled teen who became a troubled adult.

I think you can see it in even younger ages, although it's taboo to speak of it. We have a problem now with a boy in the girls' class. He is soooooo smart. Really. He knows all the answers, can read chapter books, etc. What he doesn't have are the skills to control himself. He has decided that the brunette twin is his girlfriend. When they go to circle time, he punches any other child who tries to sit next to her.

I know the teachers and his parents are aware of his problems. He doesn't just act like this with the brunette twin. He screams at the teacher, tries to hit her, and exhibits other problematic behavior. I don't know the details -- and it's none of my business until it impacts our girls.

Now I spend a lot of car rides home from school discussing how to deal with this boy. I enlisted the teacher's help both to make sure she was aware of the problem, and to make sure she know we were aware of the problem.

I see his future and it's not easy. His parents are very involved in the school and sometimes I think that's the only reason he hasn't been punished more. Of course, we are talking about preschool here, so I don't know if it's appropriate for him to be punished more severely. I do know that I would already predict that he'll be a troubled teen; so if this study is correct, he'll take those troubles with him for a long time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mom Corps

In this economy, I know a lot of women looking for full- or part-time work. Some are motivated by fear that something will happen to their husbands' jobs. Some are motivated by a desire to keep a toe in the work force. Others just want to start working again now that the children are in school full-time.

If you haven't check out Mom Corps yet, do it now. This site offers flexible job opportunities for women across the country. From marketing to sales to accounting, there are always interesting opportunities available.

Even if you are not ready to take the plunge yet, sign up for the free newsletter. The information in each issue is worth reading. There are tips and advice that every Mom can use.

I will admit that I haven't applied for any jobs through Mom Corps as my own contacts keep me quite busy so far. I do enjoy reading the newsletter and scanning available jobs. And, I have called friends to let them know about available jobs.

It's free, interesting and useful. In this economy, it's more important than ever to know your options. What do you have to lose by visiting Mom Corps?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's Just Easier

I find myself justfying things in my head by saying, "It's just easier." And, I find myself doing it more and more these days. When does "it's just easier" come into play?
  • When the girls end up with more food in their hair than their mouths, I put them in the bathtub and say, "It's just easier than brushing that hair later."
  • When they want to wear mismatched clothing to school and I'm tired of fighting about it. I'm sure they are not the first preschoolers to show up in crazy outfits.
  • When they put on shoes that are completely wrong for the outfit and we're just going to the store. I think of it as expressing their individuality.
  • When they insist on wrapping a gift, and use at least one roll of tape to keep the paper together. I tell myself that tape is cheap and it's a good learning experience for them.
  • When they want to read one more book before bed. I could put down my foot, but then there would be a lot of drama. It's just easier to read another book and move on. It's a book, after all.
  • When I let them bring baby dolls to the grocery store and end up holding the dolls. I could insist the dolls stay in the van (and they usually do), but once in a while I'm too tired to fight about it.
I realize I'm the parent, so I have to set the standards. Sometimes, though, I just don't want to be a tough guy about something that doesn't really matter. If they have fun eating some ice cream and end up wearing most of it, oh well. The bathtub will clean up the mess and they'll have fun playing in the water. It's a win-win, even if I do feel like I'm taking the easy way out.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I'm Ready to Get Back to Normal

This is the last day of our extended winter vacation. We didn't go anywhere, but all four of us have been off work and out of school. Our schedule was crazy. It's been fun, but between the Christmas parties, "to do" list and fun outings, we're exhausted.

I always heard parents say they couldn't wait for school to start again, but I didn't understand it until this break. I have to admit that I'm ready to return to our normal routine. The girls are off-schedule these days and it shows. Actually, it shows on all four of us.

Ever since they were infants, we tried to keep them on a decent sleep schedule. We're all happier when they get enough sleep. During this break, they were so tired that they took afternoon "quiet time" a couple of times. It was a great for us because they woke up happier, but it created difficult bed times. The girls were just not ready to sleep at their regular bed time. For every hour they slept, they tried to move their bedtime back. One night we couldn't get them down until nearly 10:00 p.m. Usually they are sleeping by 8:00 p.m. The next day we wondered if quiet time was such a good idea.

In addition to the lack of sleep, we've been together nearly the entire vacation. Even with the parties and outings, it's a lot of togetherness. The girls are wearing on each other. The brunette twin wants her space, but the blond twin just wants to play with her. We have a huge to do list of exciting activities like putting away the Christmas decorations and cleaning the basement, so they don't want to help Mom and Dad. A friend did come over and the girls were much happier -- until she left. Mom and Dad escaped one night when a babysitter became available at the last minute. Otherwise, we've been together.

At this point, Daddy and I are tired of repeating ourselves. I get that the girls are only five years old, but I'm really tired of correcting the same problem over and over and over again. I know they will outgrow this and we'll move on to other repetition, but right now I'm going to snap if I have to say "stop whining" or "eat your lunch/dinner" or "don't touch that" or "leave your sister alone" one more time.

The girls are anxious to go back to school to see their friends. He doesn't say so, but I think my husband will be glad to get back to the relative peace and quiet of his office. Me, I'm taking this lesson and making a mental note to schedule more activities for the girls when it's Spring Break. I learned my lesson.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Resolution to Reduce Mommy Brain

Since I became a Mom, I swear I cannot remember things. I am always searching my brain for a word, memory, etc. In the chaos of taking down the Christmas decorations today, I stood in our kitchen and tried to remember what we call that thing in the basement that cleans the clothes. Really, I had so many things swirling in my brain at that moment that I couldn't come up with the words "washing machine." My husband asked a simple question, but I just couldn't come up with the answer, even though I could picture the appliance in my head.

A friend calls this "Mommy Brain." She says that since she became a Mom she feels like an air traffic controller trying to juggle all the planes her family has in the air. When something comes out of nowhere she struggles for a place to fit in her her brain. We talk a lot about not being able to remember a simple word because it's outside our realm of immediate concern.

To reduce this, I signed up for a word of the day program. Your Dictionary (http://www.yourdictionary.com/) sends a new word every day. It's interesting and educational, but also fun. I have a few new words I'd like to work into a conversation -- if I ever have a conversation with someone else I think might understand the word.

So, go sign up for it now. It's fun and free, plus it makes you feel worldy and intellectual. Even if the only two people who understand the word are you and me.