Monday, June 29, 2009

The Nail Polish Trick

The girls love nail polish. It fascinates them, especially when the older cousins and babysitters wear bright blue, green or orange on their fingers. I don't let them wear nail polish on their finger nails, but I do paint their toe nails. I have found this to be quite useful when I need them to sit still for ten or fifteen minutes.

I told them that they need to sit still until I tell them they can get off the chair otherwise their nail polish will smudge and I cannot fix it. Yeah, I know it's a scam, but it's a good one. Think about it. They get their toe nails done, which makes them feel grown up and I get a little peace. It's all good.

This weekend I needed 15 minutes of peace and quiet to get something done. I made a big deal out of painting their nails with two coats (!) of polish. The first coat was pink. The second was sparkley. Pink and sparkley? They were thrilled with the idea and cooperated fully with the process.

They sat still while I paint their nails and then admired their toes while they dried. The two of them just sat there chatting and trying to blow on their toes. Someone told them if you blow on your nails, they dry faster. Well, this might work on finger nails, but it doesn't work on toe nails. It's pretty funny to watch them try to do it.

When I told them they could move, they wanted me to double-check their toe nails to make sure. They weren't going to risk ruining pink, sparkley toe nails.

I realize this won't last forever, but I am certainly going to take advantage of it while I can. It is fun and works for all of us, so it's a great trick.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why are you nice to him?

Overheard at our house...

Mom: "One more time and you'll be on time out. Clean up that mess. Do you understand me?"

Brunette Twin: "Yes."

Mom: "What do you want to do about dinner?"

Dad: "I thought we were going to finish the leftovers from Monday night. We might as well clean out the stuff."

Mom: "Okay. I'll make the girls' peanut butter sandwiches and cut up an apple."

Brunette Twin: "That's not fair. Why are you nice to him and not to us?"

Mom: "I'm mad at you. Once you behave, I'll be nice to you too."

Brunette Twin to Blond Twin: "That's not fair. She should be mean to all of us."

Blond Twin: "Shhhh. Mom is going to hear you and we'll be in more trouble."

Brunette Twin: "No she isn't. She's busy."

Mom: "Yes I hear you and you are about to get into more trouble."

Both Twins: Complete silence.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Try E-rewards for A Little Extra

Everyone is looking for a way to make a little extra money these days. There is a company called e-rewards that does consumer surveys, which is worth checking out.

Before I started working so many hours, I would do surveys for the company. Once you sign-up, you get to choose the categories of interest, so you are only offering opinions on topics you understand.

The rewards system is set-up so you see something as early as $15. It's pretty easy to do the surveys and free to start. You don't end up with cash, but you do end up with "dollars" towards gift certificates, magazine subscriptions, discounts, etc.

I always found the surveys to be interesting, and it is easy to redeem your dollars. I never had any trouble with the process. At one point I was able to exchange my dollars for airline miles, which I then turned into UPromise points. It was easy and will benefit the girls' college funds in the long run.

The whole process is free for participants. I know there are a lot of paid posts on blogs these days, but this is not one of them. I have recommended e-rewards to friends, and decided it would be a good thing to share with others. If you're in the market for a little bonus, play money, check out e-rewards. It is worth the time.

UPDATE
Thank you Jacque for updating my information. When I joined, it was open enrollment. Now it appears you need to be invited. I've also been told if you send an email to customer service you might be able to enroll.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Power of Daddy

The girls have had a really fun week. Between friends and family, our backyard has been full whenever the weather allowed. They are tired. I mean that kind of whiney, snappy, clingy tired that drains you just listening to it.

This morning we were out running errands when we snapped. I looked at my husband and said, "We are going to regret this when we try to put them to bed tonight, but they are napping this afternoon." He agreed. If they sleep more than 15 minutes during the day, it makes getting them to sleep at night a mess. They just don't want to go to bed at a reasonable time.

This morning, I didn't care. I said, "I didn't wake you up so early, so don't make me pay for it all day. You could have slep later, but you didn't, so stop being crabby" so many times this morning that I felt like a recording.

I put them down for a nap and about 45 minutes later, they woke up. They went downstairs and said, "Daddy, did we sleep enough?" He said, "No, go back to sleep."

And they did.

Seriously, they went back upstairs, crawled back into bed and went back to sleep. The blond twin slept another hour. The brunette twin is still sleeping.

They would never do this for me. They would start to negotiate how much longer they needed to sleep. For Daddy, they just turned around and went back to bed.

Since we're headed into Father's Day, it seems like a good time to honor the power of Daddy. His word is golden. They adore him and listen to him. There's nothing I like better than watching them together because he's such a good role model for them. If it's true that little girls model their future dating relationships on their relationship with their father, then our girls are in good shape.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer? What Summer?

I woke up today to the sound of rain on the windows -- again. So far since the girls have been out of school, it has been a cold, rainy summer. Oh, wait. I should say that it has been a cold, rainy summer and spring.

They start school again two months from today. I'm crossing my fingers that they actually make it into the pool before then. I mean they are taking swim lessons, so technically they are in a pool twice a week. What I want for them is the kind of running around with family on the pool deck and playing all afternoon in the water kind of pool days.

Given that we haven't hit 80 degrees yet -- and most days barely hit 70 -- it's not looking too good. Oh, I realize we'll have a nice day or two here or there, but it isn't enough.

If you live in Chicago, you know that the way we all survive January - March is by saying, "But it's so beautiful here in the summer." Okay, well, we do have the beautiful part down. Our garden looks fabulous. The rain has definitely been good for the flowers.

It's the warm weather we're missing. The "warm your bones so you can survive another cold winter" sunshine and heat. If you find it, let me know. I'm looking for it in Chicago this summer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Finding the Gifted in Our Children

I'm reading an interesting book called "Parenting Gifted Kids: Tips for Raising Happy and Successful Children" by James R. Delisle, Ph.D. What I really like about this book is it puts the idea of giftedness into terms I understand.

I almost wish the book had a different title because I think it's a book most parents should read. The book stresses that not all gifted children are gifted in every subject. Some children are brilliant artists, while others are math junkies. One child might test as gifted, yet be unable to write good essays. Another child might be a great writer, but not test as gifted.

Our girls are only going into kindergarten, but every teacher they have ever had -- from Kindermusik to pre-K -- told me that they were above average. Does this mean they will be classified as gifted? We don't know that yet. All I do know is as I am reading this book, I can identify with everything he talks about.

Much of the book talks about helping your child find his/her way in the world. Isn't this what every parent wants to do? To find your child's passion and help him/her achieve it? Maybe your child is an automobile fanatic. If he/she grows up to own a garage, it might not be the traditional definition of success as this doesn't come with a fancy office or big title. Isn't this a parent's definition of success though? Your child has a career he/she loves and is making a living at it. I know I think the person who can keep my 11-year-old vehicle running is a genius in his field.

Other parts of the book talk about building a child's character. Another example of a topic all parents can relate to whether their children have stellar test scores or not. I especially like the chapters titled "Write your dreams down in pencil" and "Make a life, not a living." Those are good lessons for anyone at any age, aren't they?

I don't know what the future holds for the girls, but I like the roadmap this book presents. First, advocate for your child. Whether your child needs more challenging science projects or more time to practice the oboe, it's your job to help make it happen. Second, let your child lead the way. Third, make a life, not just a living.

This is a book I'll keep handy and refer to often. Somehow I don't think the basic lessons in the pages will change as time goes by. I'll be happy to read it often for a refresher course.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Unhappiness is Part of Happiness

I really like The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Recently she wrote an article about how happiness and unhappiness are related. Here's a quote from the story "That is, the things that bring happiness also bring frustration, anxiety, boredom, fear, etc."

Isn't that so true? It is one of those things they don't tell you about parenting. Sometimes you will love the little darlings and sometimes you would happily trade them for an extra hour of sleep. Maybe you wouldn't permanently trade them, but the thought is there.

Too many times as parents we believe everything should be cheery and happy all the time. Sorry. but no one's life is like that. Everyone has moments when they sit and wonder "what was I thinking?"

At the same time, there are moments of amazing joy brought on by little things like the first word your child reads or when she kisses you and says "I just wanted to kiss you." It's like you need to understand that not every day is going to be completely happy, so you need to appreciate those that are. And, you need to realize that unhappiness is part of the equation.

I have a friend with small children who is complaining that her brain is going to mush. She is tired of all the baby books and baby songs. She wants to feel like her life has meaning. For some reason, she doesn't see what she is currently doing as having meaning. She feels like she's wasting time. I asked her what she thought she'd be doing with toddler twins and she had some fantasy of spending days at the parks having picnics. Well, we all know that does happen on occasion, but most days are spent changing diapers and cleaning up messes. The children are at that stage, so it's just the reality.

I think her thoughts are common among new parents. We're always told about the joy and happiness. No one talks about the boredom and frustration that are often the flip side of the joy. I always try to think of the frustration as a phase -- something the girls will move through to a better place. We're trying to teach them to ride bicycles. Oh, I can write a book about the frustration of that process. Yet, there are also wonderful joys, like when they finally understand the mechanics of bike riding. It's not smooth and easy yet, but we're getting there.

It's not that the reality is always bad. As Gretchen said, "So all bad feelings aren’t created equal. A bad feeling can accompany something that will, in the end, lead to happiness – or not." I choose to try to find the happiness in most things, so I completely agree with her statement. Life is short; it's time to choose to be happy as often as possible.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Think I Would be Acquitted

I'm thinking about walking over to a neighbor's house, hitting her upside the head and saying, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?"

A neighbor girl lost her tooth. The tooth fairy brought her $15. No, that's not a typo. She received $15.

Our tooth fairy, who is named Sarah by the way, brings a single, dollar coin when our girls lose a tooth. So far they have been thrilled to receive the coin. This might change once they realize $15 is a lot more than their going rate.

I know you see the problem.

Yet, we like these neighbors. Our daughters play together all the time. When they built their new fence, they put in a back gate so the girls could run from house to house. Still, I would like to just melt down.

I realize I cannot really do this, but the temptation is strong. I keep thinking that even if I get arrested, all I need is a jury full of parents. They would understand and I would be acquitted of a crime.

I wouldn't really do it because it's just wrong and a very bad idea in so many, many ways. At least I have the satisfaction of letting it play out in my head, which preserves neighborhood harmony and avoids any legal ramifications.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just to Prove Me Wrong

I was staring in the girls' closets the other day wondering how they ended up with so many clothes. Believe me, I do know the answer to the question. They have so many clothes because I buy them lots of clothes.

In some ways, I still have the farm school mentality. Every school day required two outfits, and at least one thing -- shirt or pants -- was destroyed each week. I never panicked about the cost because nearly all their clothes come from my favorite resale shops. It's hard to be upset about throwing away a shirt that you paid $2 for.

These days the girls are in a public school, so I need to adjust my clothing counts. They really only need one outfit per day with a few extra items for special occasions. I could reduce the number of clothes they have because they wear the same few things all the time. As soon as their favorite items are washed, they wear them.

I am still planning to reduce the number of clothes, but last night the blond twin reminded me why I always have extras. We were at a local park when I looked at her favorite pink capris. She has a large stain in the middle of the pants and marker on the back. It's possible we'll be able to salvage them, but not likely. We've been down this road before and to be honest, it's not always worth the trouble to try to salvage the clothing. Most of the time we spend more money trying to clean the item (water, soap, stain remover, etc.) than it cost to buy it. This might not work for most people, but when you shop as much resale as I do, it's usually the case.

I don't have this problem with the brunette twin. She rarely ruins her clothing, except for the knees in her jeans. The blond twin is a different story. A few weeks ago I asked her how she ended up with dark purple marker in the back of her white shirt. She said, "I don't know, but my back still itches." She then took her hand and tried to scratch her back. In her hand was the dark purple marker. I just sighed. I looked at the shirt, thought about it for a minute, and decided it was probably going in the garbage.

Even thought the marker is washable, we're talking about a dark purple marker on a white shirt. I know from experience the marker will not completely come out, so why bother? I washed it once. It didn't come out. I threw out the shirt.

I think I need to adjust my thinking. I'll buy fewer clothes at once, recognizing that I'll need to fill in the gaps more often. I'd like to think the blond twin will grow out of this, but I know better. I spent enough time with our now-college-age nieces to know she'll get a little better, but not completely outgrow it. It's just not in her genes.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I'm Cheap and I Share

I'll admit to being cheap. Even before the recession, I always looked for inexpensive or free entertainment. It's not that I won't spend any money to keep us busy. If you read the blog regularly, you know I'm happy to spend when necessary. I just don't feel like everything needs to be as expensive as possible.

During the past year, I've become friendly with the girls' friend's Moms (aka the women who sit with me during ice skating, ballet, school activities, etc.). We were all talking about keeping the children busy this summer. Not the camp from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. every day kind of busy. More along the lines of finding different things for them to do that are interesting and don't cost a lot of money.

We exchanged emails and now I have become the neighborhood entertainment coordinator. It's a job I come by naturally. I was always telling stories about what we did with the girls. The other Moms kept saying, "How did you find out about that?" So, I decided to start sharing my favorite ways to keep the girls busy.

The first email was a list of activities at the local library that we signed up to attend. The first one was yesterday. The Traveling Reptile Show brought all kinds of gross, icky reptiles, including an albino python. (One Mom commented that the snake looked like raw meat or uncooked chicken because it its strange color.) There was a good crowd and I'd say the girls knew about 1/2 the children. They were as excited to see their friends as they were the cool and creepy animals. There are a number of other things we're going to do at the library this summer. It's close, free and fun. What's not to love?

The second email was about a free concert tomorrow night. The local community center is hosting a Jamaican one man band. Now, would I seek out a Jamaican one man band for entertainment? Probably not. Yet, I cannot pass up the opportunity as he's going to perform right down the block and it's free. As an added bonus, the community center will be open during the show, so there are bathrooms.

There are lots of other activities going on in area suburbs. Whenever we're going to attend one, I will send an email to all the local families interested in free and fun activities. As I told one Mom, "I'm cheap and I share." Even when the economy isn't in the dumps, fun, free, local activities are among my favorite ways to spend time. If you add a few friends and family members, it's even better.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Our First Pet

In our extended family, there are lots of pets on both sides. Mostly there are dogs, but the occasional gerbil or bird sneaks in. Our friends have lots of pets ranging from birds to frogs to dogs. For a while now, the girls have asked for a pet.

Last week, we gave in and joined the pet parade. Yes, the girls now have pets. Our generous, kind neighbors gave us 10 male guppies. About $50 worth of stuff later, we have a small fish tank.

Now, I'm not naive. It never occurred to me that the girls would take care of the fish. I always hear about people who say they added a pet to the family, but their child(ren) will take care of it.

Right. I always think, "What planet do you live on?" In the end, it is always the parents who take care of the pet. I took on the fish knowing the maintenance would be mine. I never once thought the girls would take care of the fish. They are good about getting up and feeding the fish, but that's it. I clean the fish tank and handle the rest of it. And, it's okay.

There is one important reason we started with fish. They are small, don't require much maintenance and have short life-spans. Sorry to be such a downer, but I didn't want a pet that would live for 10+ years. I'm happy to start with something that will entertain the girls for a while and then nourish our tomato plants.

If this goes well, we might move up to something larger. Or, maybe this will eliminate the girls' interest in a pet. Either way, they are official pet owners now and they love it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Project EverGreen

There's a lot of chatter about how so many teens won't have jobs this summer because of the recession. Well, here's a way to fill that time to help others.

Project EverGreen (based in New Prague, Minnesota) has a program that matches people willing to mow lawns and do other lawn care projects with families of deployed military. Think about it for a minute. It's so simple, yet so helpful. In our house, we're always trying to figure out when to mow the lawn. Does it fit in Saturday's schedule? Sunday afternoon? Perhaps one day after work? It's not like it's hard, but it's one more thing on the to do list.

For families of deployed troops, they are already "short" one family member, so the remaining parent is both Mom and Dad for the children. I know there are a lot of single parents out there, but I think we can all agree that being a single parent because your spouse is deployed to a war zone is a special situation.

Project EverGreen matches volunteers with families who could use a little lawn care help through the GreenCare for Troops project. If your schools are like ours, the teens can probably receive community service hours for their volunteer time.

Hmmmm...an opportunity to help soldiers' families and complete community service hours while being outside in the beautiful summer sun? Sounds like a winner to me. If it sounds good to you, please pass along the idea.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Advantage of Two

I work from home on a flexible schedule that averages 35 hours a week. When people hear this, they say, "How can you do that? I could never do it with my kids at home."

This is where one of the advantages of twins kicks in. With two children of the same age, their interests are similar. They can keep each other occupied for hours on end.

One of the reasons I went out to look for a new work project was that a couple of years ago the girls started playing in their bedroom with the door closed. For a while this amused me greatly. Since I wasn't spending all day taking care of them like I used to in the bottles/baby food/diapers phase, I found myself with a lot of free time. I relished the quiet time and used it to do all the things I always said I would do if I had the time. I cleaned out the closets. I made real dinners. I caught up on magazines. And, then, I was bored.

Happily, I was able to fill it with a project that pays me to work from home. I'm lucky that the girls are willing to help with my work. I always tell them that Mommy works so they can take ballet, ice skating, etc. They understand the connection between my work calls and time on the computer and their activities.

I try to schedule conference calls while they are in school. If that doesn't work, I'll tell them they have to stay in their room and play. Once in a while I'll let them watch TV during a call. This always keeps them quiet because I don't normally let them watch TV. Once it is turned on, they stare at the screen. Sometimes I wonder if they are still breathing when the TV is on.

There are lots of wonderful things about twins, but I have to say the ability for them to keep each other busy is my favorite right now. I love hearing them play together and I appreciate how it helps me stay employed at home.