Friday, February 27, 2009

Just a Whiny When Will Winter End Post

This is just a little winter-is-never-going-to-end whining. We are very lucky that we live near family and have a niece who babysits one night during the week. This is great because it gives us regular time to just hang out together and the girls LOVE their time with our niece. We know we're lucky to be able to do this on a fairly regular basis.

Here's the whine, though. It's a miserable winter in Chicago. It's been a very snowy, bitter cold few months. Our activity choices are limited between Christmas and St. Patrick's Day because there is not much you can do outside.

Lately for our date night, we're in a rut. We go to dinner and then do something like go to Costco, Target or the grocery store. It's productive, but not necessarily the kind of couples fun we would like to enjoy.

A few weeks ago we went out when it was so bitter cold we set a new record low. Last night we went out in a complete downpour. We received more than 2 inches of rain in a few hours. It was so slow at Target that only one cashier was open and there was not a line.

We just cannot spend all our time in stores. It's expensive and not much fun to do every week. We have gone to some movies, but lately we have two problems. The first is the timing doesn't work. Too many movies start at either 5:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. The second is that there haven't been too many movies we really want to see.

As soon as the NCAA tournament starts, we can go to a local sports bar and overdose on basketball. It's enjoyable now that Illinois banned smoking in bars and restaurants. We're also considering bowling, or some other indoor activity.

In the summer it's so much easier. We can go to a neighboring suburb, eat outside and then walk around. Some of our area suburbs have beautiful houses; others have charming downtown areas. One is right on a river. It's easy to spend a little time just walking, talking, and relaxing.

I know you probably have no sympathy for us. I realize how many people would love to be able to go to the store without the kids. I know that I'm just being whiny. I do recognize that we're lucky we have babysitters. We're lucky we can go out alone so often. We're lucky we have so many options for going to different stores. Last night, standing in the cold, rain I just hit a wall. I WANT SPRING!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How Old Are You?

We had never been to our church at night for mass, so I was looking forward to seeing the church at night. Our small, simple church was lovely at night. The large, white cross behind the alter had beautiful shadows. The large trees outside waves slowly in the large windows. All in all it was lovely.

As soon as we walked into the church, the brunette twin announced she wanted to sit in the front of the church. We never sit in the front pews. I like to be anonymous in the back of the church so we can slip out to find the bathroom or a tissue or whatever. So, I took a deep breath and we sat in the front of the church.

Our Ash Wednesday mass was huming along nicely when the priest started his sermon. He was talking about the meaning of Ash Wednesday. Along the way he said he had just celebrate his birthday and happen to mention his age.

The blond twin leaned over and with excitement whispered, "Mom, you're older than him. How old are you again?"

So, I did what everyone would do and said, "We'll talk about it later."

She whispered, "Not later. Tell me now."

I whispered my age to her and she said with a smile, "You are older than him."

At least she didn't say it out loud. I'm just waiting now, though. I know that one day she's going to announce my age to our parish. It's just a matter of time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A New Playdate Trend I Can do Without

I'm not sure how it started or why, but the last few times the girls had friends over, the Moms brought food. One Mom brought lunch. Another Mom brought snacks. I mentioned this to a friend who said she noticed it too recently.

There's nothing about us that says, "we need food." Really, no matter when you walk into our house we're cooking something. Okay, so most of the time I'm throwing a bunch of stuff in the crock pot and calling it dinner, but it still smells good. The point is, we have food. And, we usually have healthy food. You need fresh fruit, healthy-versions of your favorite cookies or organic string cheese? You're in the right place.

I'm not sure how to say, "Thanks, but we have cookies." The last thing we need is a bag of Oreos or a pizza. At the same time, I don't want to be rude. How can I refuse to accept food from a friendly face?

It never occurs to me to bring food. If we just made cookies, I might bring a few, but order a pizza? Maybe I'm just inconsiderate, but the thought never crosses my mind.

Before I can figure out how to respond to this new trend, I need someone to explain to me how and why this started. After that I can figure out how to handle it without sounding like an ingrate.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Comfortable in Our New Faith

When we decided to move to a new church, we started looking at different religions to see if we could find a better fit. We did a lot of research into various religions and talked to a lot of people. For many different reasons, we kept coming back to the idea of joining an Episcopal Church. This, of course, led us to more research and more conversation -- and then we decided to visit an Episcopal Church.

I have to admit that one reason we liked the Episcopal Church is that it is very close to the Catholic Church, but still so very different. As I always say, "We didn't have to learn an entirely new language." Of course it's not always easy. I tend to think of it as speaking English, but not always American English. You know how you think you speak English, but then you visit Canada? They also speak English, but with a few differences. It's a lot like that.

One of the things we liked right away was the welcoming greeting on the weekly mass bulletin. It said something to the effect of "all baptized Christians are welcome to join us for communion, including small children." We felt like we were part of what was going on, not like visitors. We also liked that the entire service was written out so you always knew what was going on and the words to say if you wanted to participate. The best part was that everyone held the same booklet. We didn't stick out like newcomers because we were reading from the same pages as everyone else.

While we felt rather strange at first because we didn't yet understand the rhythm of everything, we now feel comfortable with the mass. Today at church our Bishop presided over two baptisms and some confirmations. I cannot explain why, but for the first time, I felt like we were really comfortable with the congregation. I didn't feel like the "new" family any more. I'd liken it to putting on a comfortable, old sweater where you feel warm and cozy, yet completely relaxed. It was nice. And, as soon as I start to all the new words, then I'll really start to feel like the sweater fits.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ummm, photos of my children?

Since I work on a virtual team, we don't get together face-to-face very often. This week another team member was in Chicago for training, so that meant three of us were in the same city. We had a team meeting to brainstorm our plans for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Before we had our serious meeting, we had a fun lunch during which we just chatted about kids, pets, etc. One of my teammates pulled out some photos of her children. Another one showed us his dog (aka the dog that barks at the most inappropriate time during each conference call). Me? I just sheepishly said, "I don't carry photos of the girls. Most of the time they are with me, so I don't need a photo." They both laughed and declared me a "bad mom" in a joking way.

I have to admit that as I was packing my bag to go downtown for the meeting, it never occurred to me to bring photos. I did remember my umbrella (40 degrees and raining) and my notebook. I thought far enough ahead to realize I would need cough drops for my cold, but pictures? It never made it to my packing list.

It's not that I don't have photos. It's not that I didn't think they would have photos. It's just that it didn't occur to me that I might need photos of the girls. I'm nearly always with them -- by choice, I might add. Why would I need photos when the "real thing" is always with me? I did manage to show a few photos off my cell phone, so I almost redeemed myself.

Yesterday I was going through a backlog of photos to write notes on the back and organize the girls' photo albums. I found a few photos that I cropped and put in my wallet. Now, it's possible we won't all get together again until next year, but at least I will have photos whenever it happens. The photos will be old by then, but hey, at least I'll have some.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's not always about YOU

A girlfriend is taking a short vacation all by herself. She's leaving her sons with her husband and getting away for a few days. When I told her I felt like I needed a vacation after our Disney trip she said, "Well, that trip wasn't really for you was it? Disney is really about taking our kids through the experience. This trip is really just for me. I'm taking a few days just to sleep late and eat at restaurants that don't serve mac-n-cheese."

I thought about her words as I was sitting with some friends recently. When I said we had just been to Disney and loved it, one of the women said, "How could you love it? The whole time I was there I kept thinking they should serve more alcohol in the parks. It's the only thing that would make it enjoyable." Then another woman compared it to "suffering through lunch at American Girl." This led them down a path of complaining about other things like soccer games, ballet recitals, wrestling matches, school field trips, etc.

I was struck by their comments because they sounded like they were forced to go to these activities. It was like they were being held against their wills. They complained about the children underfoot. They complained about the cost of everything. They complained about how these horrors kept them from doing what they really wanted to do.

All I kept thinking is "Hey, once you have kids, it's not all about you anymore." Really, if you hate the things you do with your children, then maybe you should rethink your parenting philosophy. I'm not saying that being a parent is all fun and games, or that it's always enjoyable, but no one forces you to do most things. You think your children don't know you're unhappy? If it's that miserable for you, then stay home. This goes for everything child-related they complained about during our visit.

There are plenty of times I close my eyes for a moment and imagine I'm doing something else rather than whatever I'm doing at that time. Sometimes I imagine I'm lying on a blanket on the backyard reading a book. Sometimes I imagine I'm walking along the beach. It's not that I'm always unhappy with EVERYTHING. It's that I like to remember that I had a choice in how my life has turned out so far, and right now watching our girls grow up is the top of my list. Yet, I don't just want to watch, I want to participate -- to be part of their happy memories.

It's always a balacing act, isn't it? I can always spend time reading more books or pursuing other hobbies when they girls are teenagers and hanging with Mom and Dad is so not cool. Right now I'm going to enjoy as much of their attention as possible.

Monday, February 16, 2009

No one is perfect and it's okay

A favorite website of mine, On Simplicity, recently posted a list of 12 reasons why you're not perfect and it's okay. As someone who can be a bit of a Type A personality at times, I keep this and read it often.

I think too often as parents we try to hard to make sure our kids always have "the best" of something. It might be an art set or a bike. The reality is, nothing is ever going to be as perfect as we want it to be. Sometimes you just need to kick back and recognize that the life is good, even if it is not perfect. The sooner we realize that, the happier we'll all be.

You’re Not Perfect and You Never Will Be: 12 Reasons Why That’s a Good Thing

1. No one gasps in horror when you inevitably screw something up. Instead, you can get away with an “Oops” and a charming smile.
2. When you do get something incredibly right, you get to celebrate and bask in the glory–not get a chorus of “Yeah, yeah—what else is new?”
3. You get to try new things without fearing they’ll ruin your perfect track record.
4. People trust your advice because it came from trial and error, not from some superhuman talent.
5. Expecting amazing things from yourself can be a great thing. Having the outside world expect amazing things from you can be soul-crushing. Just ask
Superman.
6. Sometimes the best ideas, art, and inspiration come from mistakes.
7. Who wants to color inside the lines all the time or live life like a paint by number?
8. The straight and narrow may be the fastest way to get somewhere, but it sure as hell isn’t the most exciting or even fulfilling.
9. Incredibly high standards of perfection can only alienate the people in your life and make them feel judged.
10. Having “off” days is a part of life. They’re what make the other days sparkle.
11. Perfection is so much more thrilling when it hasn’t become routine and mundane.
12.
Persistence can work just as well as perfectionism, without all the stress and guilt.

Here is the link so you can see the entire original post, with the cool photo: http://www.onsimplicity.net/2009/02/not-perfect/

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss

Sometimes I think scientists are out to ruin the mystery of everything. On Valentine's Day, the day of love and romance, a new study talks about the science of kissing. Here's the CNN story.

Do we really want to know that much about kissing? How about if we just leave it alone and let a kiss be one of the best things about waking up, leaving, coming home, going to sleep, etc.

The blond twin has taken to giving us a kiss on the cheek. I'm not sure where it came from, but she takes great delight in it. After she kisses you on the cheek, she giggles. It's such a sweet simple act. Why do we need to analyze it?

On this Valentine's Day, I send a hug and kiss to everyone. Happy Valentine's Day to you and your loved ones.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hello, My Name is Shari

I attended my first AA meeting this week. There was a nice bunch of people there. They kept welcoming me and introducing themselves. I smiled and said, "Hello, my name is Shari."

The problem was that I didn't think I was attending an AA meeting. I thought I was going to the Vestry meeting for our new church. Since we are new to the church, I went to the church hall as it was the only meeting room I knew about. I sat there for a while and wondered why the meeting hadn't started.

I thought it started at 7:00 p.m. About 7:15 p.m., people started to trickle in. I didn't recognize anyone, but we're new to the church, so I didn't think anything of it. I asked when the meeting started and someone said, "7:30 p.m."

I noticed that everyone was picking up a book when they walked in, so I walked over and looked at the book. I said to the man next to me, "Oh, someone left the Alcoholics Anonymous books out." He looked at me for a minute and said, "Um, this is an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting. You aren't at the right meeting, are you?"

Now I felt really stupid. I said, "Is there another meeting room in the building?" The nice man took me downstairs to the other meeting room. It turns out that there is a whole different level of the building. The lower level (aka basement) is huge. There are offices, meeting rooms and a small chapel. You would never know it from the main floor, but there is a whole different world under ground.

I entered the other meeting already in session. It did, indeed, start at 7:00 p.m. I left the meeting with the rest of the group, so now I know how to find the correct meeting room for the next Vestry meeting. As for the AA meeting, I hope they had a productive evening. Since I didn't stay, I don't know how it went, but I do know they had cake, so it couldn't have been all bad.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

MegaSkills for Babies, Toddlers, and Beyond

I like this book. The tag line for MegaSkills for Babies, Toddlers, and Beyond is "Building Your Child's Happiness and Success for Life." Isn't this every parents' goal for their child(ren)? Everyone I know says, "S/he can be anything s/he wants as long as s/he's happy."

The book is broken down into age-appropriate activities and building blocks. Unlike books that just list the skills your children should have at a certain age, MegaSkills gives you "recipes" for helping your child develop those skills.

The building blocks are broken into categories to make it easier for you to focus on specific skills. For younger children, there are categories like confidence and motivation. As your children get a bit older, the activities get a bit more complicated to reflect your child's new skills.

At the end of the book are forms you can use to measure how your child is progressing. These aren't A, B, C types of grades. Rather these are checkpoints that measure three areas: not enough yet, sometimes and a lot.

One of my favorite parts of the book is in the very back where the MegaSkills library suggestions lists different books and the skills they reinforce. A list of books accompanies each skill. The great thing about the list is that you can find all these books at the local library, which of course offers free circulation. I know these books probably are there because we've read most of them at our local library.

MegaSkills is an interesting and supportive book. If you know anyone with small children, it's worth adding to their library.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Twin Talk Now?

When the girls were born, the pediatrician warned us about the possibility of twin talk. In slow, serious tones, he explained that often twins develop their own secret language. It truly was a language because they understand what the words mean and respond accordingly. This was bad, according to him because it stunted their normal language development.

Fast forward a few years and the girls show no signs ot twin talk. They chatter along with a rich, mature vocabulary. They have things to say and they are going to make sure we understand what they are saying. Twin talk is no where to be found.

Recently they started making strange, babbling sounds. These are accompanied by hand gestures and funny faces. I tried to figure out what they are doing, but couldn't. So, I had to just ask.

They looked at me and said, "We're speaking Polish." And then they walked away babbling on and giggling.

I just laughed. They have a lot of friends at school whose parents are from Poland. These children are bi-lingual, so when they have a play date, both languages are spoken at home. The girls decided they could speak Polish by just imitating what they thing they hear while playing at a friend's house.

Now that I know what they are doing, it's hysterical. They nod their heads in agreement and seem to understand what the other one is saying. It's their own version of twin talk -- just a few years later than the pediatrician predicted.

Friday, February 6, 2009

You Don't Go Grocery Shopping

A Mom in the preschool pick-up line mentioned that a friend was complaining about grocery shopping -- or at least her inability to go grocery shopping with infant twins. She asked me how I did it. I think my answer surprised her. I said, "Oh, you don't go grocery shopping by yourself. It just doesn't work."

I know it sounds crazy, but think about the logistics involved with a grocery shopping trip and infant twins. First, you have two infant carriers. In order to get them from the car into the grocery store, you have to either carry them into the store or find a grocery cart in the parking lot.

If you think about the average American grocery cart, there is a seat for one child old enough to sit up. So, where do you put two infant carriers? You could put them in the basket part of the grocery cart, but then where does the food go?

Once in a while you can find a grocery cart with an infant seat up front. This is great for one child, but where does the second child go? You could put the second child in the basket, but then you are not buying many groceries.

When they are older, you can use the little race cars with the basket in the back. This means, though, that your children are at least walking, if not a little older like preschoolers. For the most part, those carts are inside the store by the front doors. If your children cannot walk, you're still carrying them back and forth because those carts cannot leave the store.

Trying to get to the grocery store is one of those things you don't think about until after the twins are born. In those pre-twins days, when you're just dreaming about the babies, you're sure it's just like going to the store with one child and you can handle it. The reality doesn't set in until you're completely out of diapers or formula or laundry detergent. It's only in those moments that you realize how twins change your routines.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Travel Bags for Twins

When we were children, my mom would put together travel activity packets for us. We'd bring crayons, coloring books, crosswords, games and other things to keep us busy when we travelled. Of course, back in the dark ages when we went on vacation, we were all crammed into the family station wagon. You know how you could put the seat down and have that long, open space? My brothers and I would roam the back area freely. Seat belts? I'm not even sure our back seat had seat belts. If so, we never used them.

Flash forward to our family vacations and most of our trips involve a plane. After hearing all the horror stories about planes sitting on the tarmac for hours, we decided to be prepared. We updated my mom's travel activity packets with small games, crayons, coloring books, cards, books and snacks. We tried to make sure it was all new, so the girls would not be bored with it before the trip started. You can buy small travel games at dime stores or Target for just a few dollars. It's money well-spent for your travel sanity.

The girls carried small duffel bags filled with games, toys and snacks. There was a lot of negotiation about who carried which snack. We learned from our last trip and made sure they were wearing slip off shoes.

When we arrived at the airport, they picked up their bags and trooped through the airport like seasoned travelers. When we stood in line at security, they knew to take off their shoes and put them in the bin. We talked about this over and over again before arriving at the airport, so they wouldn't be surprised.

It would have been nice if they fell asleep on the plane so we could read the newspaper, but that didn't happen. Instead, my husband and I each sat with a girl and played/colored for the entire flight. We had a lot of options, so when one activity was deemed "boring" we just moved to the next one. The girls were great on the plane because they were busy on the plane. They didn't have time to get bored or whiny.

Whenever we fly, we hear a child or two causing problems. I know it's probably not the normal reaction, but I always think, "what is wrong with those parents?" If you know you're going to be on a two hour flight, you need to bring two hours worth of stuff to keep your children busy. I realize that coloring or playing a game is not the most fun for the parents, but isn't it better to color with your child than yell at them for an entire flight?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stop Cyber-Bullying Campaign

Vanessa Van Petten, the author of "You're Grounded!" and moderator of www.OnTeensToday.com, asked those of us with parenting blogs to help her raise awareness about cyber-bullying. This growing problem scares me to my bones. I already see problems with bullying in the girls' preschool. We have one child who has hijacked the class. The good news is once we leave the school, he's out of our day.

What scares me is when the girls start going online. They are quite young, so they don't spend any time on the computer. If they did, though, our school bully could track them down outside the school. The girls wouldn't have any place to feel safe from him. This is why I read everything available about cyber-bullying. I want to have a firm grasp on the topic and ways to prevent it long before we might face the problem.

For parents of children who are online, I know there are a lot of resources available, but I want to share two more:

6 Things You Need to Know about Cyber-Bullying
How to Stop Cyber-Bullying from Happening

Since I live in a better-safe-than-sorry world, I hope you'll take a minute to read these to help keep the children in your world safer.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lost in Translation

You know how sometimes you are in different parts of the country, and it's still the United States, but the language sounds different? I don't mean the different accents. What I mean is the way different words mean different things in different parts of the country.

Here is my most recent example. We were going through security at the Orlando airport on our way home when this happened. It was loud and noisy, with a lot of activity going on around us. The girls were standing between me and my husband. The Transportation Safety Authority employee started talking while he was going through our stuff.

TSA: "Please remove your coat."
Me: Looking around to see who is wearing a coat, wondering whom he is talking to since I'm right in front on him. The girls are wearing fleece sweatshirts and my husband already took off his windbreaker.
TSA: "There is a zipper to the bottom, so please remove your coat."
Me: Still looking around and straining to hear him. Finally asking my husband, "What is he saying? I cannot hear him."
Husband: "Take off your sweater."
Me: "My sweater?"
Husband: "Take off your sweater."
TSA: "It has a zipper, so take off your coat."
Me: "Oh, okay."

I wore the same light sweater (about the weight of a golf shirt) through security in Chicago and no one looked at it. Several of the TSA employees probably thought I was a nut as it was bitter cold when we left. Trust me when I say that no one in Chicago would ever have called my sweater a coat. In my world, a coat is something heavy that keeps you warm. In Florida, where my aunt actually wore a scarf because it was about 65 degrees, my sweater was a coat.