Sunday, January 31, 2010

Clean Satisfaction

I hate to admit this, but here goes.  I like cleaning the girls' room.  Once a month of so we all spend time going through all their stuff and cleaning up the room.

It's not so much the process that I like, but it is the end result.  When we take the time to go through their stuff bin by bin and drawer by drawer, we clean out a lot of junk.

The blond twin is not attached to many things.  As soon as I say we need to get rid of something, she throws it away.  She has a few dolls and stuffed animals she won't part with.  Everything else can go.  Those things are just extras in her daily play with her favorites.

The brunette twin never wants to get rid of anything.  No matter how torn, dirty or disgusting, she wants to keep it.  She has been known to break into tears at the thought of getting rid of a broken toy that she didn't even remember she owned.

Me?  I keep making excuses to get rid of stuff.  The stuffed animal with the hole in it?  Well, despite the fact that I quilt, I cannot figure out how to fix the hole.  It has to go.  The purse with the teeny, tiny stain inside?  Well, it cannot be cleaned.  It has to go. 

Today we managed to get the room back to a pre-Christmas level.  Oh, there are some new things, but it's balanced by all the things that we eliminated.

I know some people clean their children's rooms when they are at school.  Not us.  We make them part of the pain -- errrr process.  It's their mess, so we make them clean it with us.

When it's all clean and everything is in place, I like to just stand there and admire our work.  Of course, I am fully aware it won't look that way until the next time we clean the room, but for those few moments, it is a wonderful feeling.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Perfect Baby Shower Gift

Forget all those things you think you should get for your baby shower.  After six years with the girls, I think the best thing we could have gotten is stock in any company that makes children's medications.  Given all the colds/flu/pains/allergies/etc. that we've gone through, we've bought more than our fair share of decongestant, pain killer, cough syrup, bandages, allergy relief.

Really, we could be making money off our ongoing support of the pharmacuetical companies. At the rate we're going, a few shares of stock might be the best thing to put into the girls' college fund.

People always said, "When they start school, they get everything."  Then they would follow-up with something like, "It's good because it builds their immunity."  Okay, I give.  As we're going through the latest round of colds and ear infections, I keep wondering when their immunity will be strong enough to fend off the next virus.

And, they like to take turns, so they aren't sick at the same time.  I cannot decide if that's a good thing or not.  On the one hand, I'd like to get it over with by having them get sick at the same time.  One the other hand, there are benefits to having one twin feel well enough that she dotes on her sister.

The only good thing is my wonderful husband works near a pharmacy.  He's a regular there these days.  There is always one more thing that needs to be picked-up in our never-ending effort to keep the latest bug at bay. He'll be back today with the latest list of things we hope will cure the common cold.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Checking Our Girls' Credit Reports

The brunette twin received her first credit card application when she was about 18 months old.  I called American Express to decline the offer.  The customer service representative developed quite an attitude as she said, "We only take direction from the person who received the offer."  I patiently explained that the brunette twin was not of a legal age to make such decisions and suggested the customer service agent look at the recipient's birth date.

Needless to say, she apologized and promised to take the brunette twin off the mailing list.  Of course, she did say it as if she was doing me a great favor, but at least it was done.

I read a story the other day about how parents need to check their children's credit reports for identity theft.  The reporter noted that identity theft against children is on the rise because most of the time the parents don't check children's credit reports, so it goes on for years without anyone figuring it out.

Most of the time it's discovered when parents and their children are working on student loan applications for college or a first car loan application.  Even though it seems like it should be easy to resolve, it actually becomes a multi-year mess involving a lot of paperwork and police visits. 

I know two people who have been the victims of identity theft.  One was a student of mine who had a decade-long nightmare trying to clear his name.  Even after the person had been charged, he couldn't get his credit report cleared.  Of course, it was dragging on because the accused's lawyer kept continuing the case for lame, but legal reasons.  The only reason he could go to college is a relative agreed to co-sign his loan papers.  At one point the FBI considered changing his social security number.  It's a nightmare to put it mildly.

He referred me to the Identity Theft Resource Center where I found a helpful fact sheet about identity theft and children.  It's eye-opening to see how easy it is for some scumbag to steal your child's identity.

The story reminded me to put checking the girls' credit reports is on my to do list.  If you haven't thought about it before, you might want to consider putting it on your to do list for your children.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Reflections on the Man in the Red Suit

It's interesting to hear parents talk about Santa Claus.  Parents who celebrate Christmas tend to include him in the celebration.  Parents who don't celebrate Christmas tend to tolerate him.  It's the few that fall outside those norms that puzzle me.

While waiting for the girls to come out of a gymnastics class, I overheard one mom tell another mom that they won't allow their daughter to believe in Santa.  This mom told her daughter that Santa is the work of the Devil and allowing him into a Christmas celebration condems you to a life burning in, well, you know where.  My first thought was, "huh?"  It's a bit dramatic to say that Santa is the root of such evil.  How about, "Our family doesn't focus on Santa for Christmas?"  Even if you don't choose to include Santa in your holiday celebrations, why he have to be the bad guy?  She said her daughter was afraid of Santa, and she was happy that she kept her daughter from going down the path to evil. 

Wow.  Talk about a dramatic streak.  Let's just say I don't chat with that mom while waiting for gymnastics to end.  I'm happy to let her have her beliefs.  I just don't want to be subjected to them.

I also ran into another mom who told her children that Santa was old and might die before he could deliver presents on Christmas Eve.  It was another "huh?" moment for me.  I understand not having the money or time or interest to pursue the traditional Santa-based Christmas, but killing off Santa?  Really?  She didn't understand why her statement caused her children to sob.  She was mad that they started crying. 

I'm not saying everyone has to include Santa in their Christmas events, but I just don't understand why those who don't feel the need to be so dramatic about it.  After all, what has Santa ever done to deserve such a harsh fate?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Connect Safely

Since attending the LeapFrog presentation, I've surfed the ConnectSafely.org web site a lot.  Co-director Larry Magid has impeccable credentials on the topic of children and cyber-safety, as well as a friendly style that made you want to learn more.  

During his presentation, Larry talked about all the research related to children and their virtual lives in a way that recognizes that the virtual world is here to stay.  Usually experts say, "keep your kids focused on other things."  Larry said something to the effect of, "It's here to stay, so learn to live with it." 

He did stress the importance of balancing screen time with real life interactions with actual human beings.  At one point he said, "When we talk about screen time, we're talking about all screens, including those from our sponsor, LeapFrog."  The LeapFrog representatives smiled politely, but the statement did resonate with the mommy bloggers in attendance. 

In our house, a screen is a screen.  A television, computer or LeapFrog screen all carry the same weight in the balance of screen time and real time. 

Unlike us, the girls will grow up with a virtual world as part of their real world.  In our school district, kindergarten classes spend time playing computer games as learning tools.  By second grade, they are doing online research and basic PowerPoint presentations. 

My favorite part of the ConnectSafely.org site is Safety Tips & Advice.  I bookmarked it and reference it frequently.  Whenever I read a news article or hear a radio story about something related to cyber-bullying or sexting or chat rooms, I look to the site to balance the media report. 

I like having a source to balance the sensational reports.  It's one way we can make sure the information we use to make decisions about the girls' virtual world.  I realize they are still very young, but I also feel like we need to find as much information as possible now so we make the best decisions while we're still on the ground floor.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kids Online Safety

A few weeks ago, LeapFrog sponsored a session about keeping your kids safe online.  As we're starting to let the girls play online once in a while (hey, someone has to care for the Webkins), it's a topic of great interest for us.  So, I dressed up like an adult and headed out to learn something that would help us keep the girls safe as they started their virtual lives. 

Larry Magid, from ConnectSafely.org, started with a startling statement.  He said our kids were safer online than the media lead us to believe.  While online predators made interesting news stories, the reality is it is statistically rare. 

I was shocked.  Every parent I know worries about some stranger trying to make contact with his/her children, but the reality is it doesn't happen all that often.  In fact, it happens so rarely it's hardly worth worrying about at all.

Larry used an interesting PowerPoint deck to illustrate his points.  He leads up to the big moment with a lot of useful information about cyber-safety.  It's really the near the end when he gets into the realities of online predators that a light bulb came on in my head.

As with most things, the greatest threat to the girls will come from people they know.  While I'm not saying we'll let them wander the virtual world unsupervised, I'm focused on how to keep them safe from cyber-bullies more than from cyber-predators. 

It's a mental shift I'm happy to make.  I think it's always safest to have the best and latest research available so you can make the best plans.  Since the girls are young, I know this will soon be a major part of our lives.  I'm glad an expert put us on the right track for cyber-safety.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I'll Love You Forever

Julie's comment reminded me of something I've been meaning to ask for a while.  Does anyone else get the creeps while reading "I'll Love You Forever?"  It's not the story about the mother's rock steady love for her son and his for her.  It's the sneaking around part that makes me cringe.

If you haven't read the book in a while, the story is about a mother who loves her son no matter what.  When she gets older, he tells her how much he loves her.  This is the sweet part.

The rest of it is about how she crawls on the floor in his childhood bedroom to rock him while he sleeps or climbs into his bedroom window when he is an adult to rock him while he sleeps.  This is the part that makes me cringe.

Maybe it's just me (and it very well could be), but why does the mother crawl on the floor to see her son?  Why does she crawl up the side of the house to get into his bedroom?  Wouldn't she just walk through the door?  Later, when she's sick, why doesn't he just come in through the front door?

It seems to me that this is one step up from monsters under the bed and strangers looking through windows.  I know this is family sneaking in on family, but it doesn't make it any less creepy for me.

Overreacting, I know.  Still, I won't mind it when they outgrow this book.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I'm living at home FOREVER

The brunette twin does not like changes in her routine.  She has her comfort zone and she likes it there.  This week the school has ISEL testing, so her teacher is in and out of the classroom working individually with different children.  This means there is a substitute in the classroom.  The brunette twin does not like this at all.

The substitute has different ways of doing things.  It's not like she has completely changed the routine, but she shifted it enough that it took the brunette twin out of her comfort zone.  The brunette twin knows the substitute will be there for two more days, so now she's lobbying to stay home.  Yesterday she had a headache.  Today her throat hurts.  She'd rather stay home than go to school with a substitute.

It's not that I think the substitute is doing anything wrong.  On the contrary, she sounds perfectly nice.  The blond twin says good things about her.  Their regular teacher is in and out, so she is keeping an eye on the classroom.  The brunette twin just doesn't like change.

I see this a lot in her personality.  The other day we were watching TV and a commercial came on where a mom sent her daughter a "care package" at college.  I asked the girls if they wanted us to send them care packages.  The blond twin gave me a list of what I should put in her care package.  The brunette twin's eyes started swelling with tears.  She looked at me and said, "I'm going to stay at home and go to college, Mom.  You aren't going to make me leave home, are you?"

This is a common theme with her.  Recently she was upstairs in the hall and said, "Mom, when I get married, I'm going to live at home, okay?"  I suggested she might want to live in her own house with her family.  I explained tha tshe could buy a house near us and we'd visit her often.  She got a little edgy and said, "No, Mom.  We'll live here.  Me and my husband will live in my bedroom and our children will be in the office.  We can use my bathroom." 

One thing about the brunette twin, she does think through her options.

One of these days I need to videotape these conversations.  When she's starting college applications, I can play it again to remind her that she's not going away to college because she said she wants to live at home.  Of course, given her personality, the brunette twin might be okay with that idea even then.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We're The Advance Team

When I worked in public relations, I spent a lot of time with advance teams.  From local politicans to national names, more people than you might expect have someone doing advance work. 

You know how effortless it looks when you see someone walk into a room, greeting people, wearing the right clothes, and working the room?  It takes a lot of work.  Advance people spend their time gathering information and relaying it back to the home office.  The point is to make sure the politican or celebrity knows what he/she is getting in to and provide some talking points.

I realize now that we do the same thing with the girls, although on a slightly smaller scale.  Whenever we go somewhere, we talk about who is going to be there and why.  We talk about how the girls know these people -- Mommy's college friends, extended family, Daddy's work friends, etc.  We talk about any time before now that the girls might have seen these people and remind them about that event/activity/etc.  We talk about what will happen when we get there.  We talk about what is expected of them.

Really, we are the girls' advance team. 

We find it makes them more comfortable.  Even when they don't really remember anyone from our last visit, they recognize the names and stories.  They often check-in with us to make sure they are meeting expectations.  They seem to enjoy feeling like they are in on some kind of family secret.

Oh, they still cling to us until they are ready to venture out on their own.  The advance work seems to make that time a bit shorter. 

After we are back in the mini-van, we debrief.  We'll talk about what they did right and what needs some work.  They'll tell us what they liked and didn't like.  We talk about the things we might all do differently the next time. 

The most fun is when they do advance work with us.  The girls did it recently before I went to a school party.  As we were driving over, the girls gave me the rundown on their classroom and classmates.  It was so natural that they didn't even notice they were dong it.  We just had another conversation on the way to a party.  Of course, as we came out of the party, they wanted to debrief.  It was great to realize that this is now an expected part of our routine.   

When they say that all your previous experiences work their way into your parenting style, I didn't realize how true it was.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"What Matters Now" Free eBook

Seth Godin is the kind of marketing guy that makes it all look easy, even though you know his success comes from an amazing amount of hard work.  After all, lots of people are good at what they do. 

His bio calls him an "agent of change" and now he wants to take that idea to the general public.  Seth recently pulled together ideas and inspiration from about 70 thought leaders in different fields.  The free ebook "What Matters Now" can either be a quick read on the train commute home or the inspiration for a better 2010. It's up to you.

What you should do now is click and download the ebook.  You can decide later how to use the information that will make you laugh, sigh and roll your eyes.  One thing you will not do is be bored with it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Towels Everywhere

We don't have a mud room in our house.  The back of our family room near the garage door or the front hall foyer fill in as needed.  With all the snow, those spaces are really, really messy right now.

All those beach towels we use in the summer are now snow towels.  Instead of soaking up warm pool water, they are busy soaking up melted snow.  I have them spread out all over the place to catch the snow that seems to be embedded in everything. 

We have at least two sets of the girls' hats, scarves, mittens and ear muffs drying on towels.  One of their friends was over this afternoon and had her stuff on more towels.  Add in the girls' snowsuits, coats and boots, as well as my coat, scarf, mittens, boots, etc., and it's a big mess. 

It's a fun mess though.  While my husband shoveled snow in the dark this morning before work, the girls played outside, giggling in the newly fallen snow.  This evening, when I shoveled the snow in the dark, they plopped down in the snow and buried each other.  Yes, one of them took a shovel and piled snow on her sister.

While this doesn't sound like fun to me, they loved it.  They had snow everywhere.  Their hair is so wet right now I might as well add some conditioner and call it a shower.  They have changed clothes so often that there is a whole load of wet clothes just from their time in the snow today. 

The only reason they won't get a shower today is I don't think we have enough towels.  The first set of snow towels is sitting in the washing machine.  The second set is on the floor right now -- where they will stay until the winter storms are done tomorrow.  The girls aren't done playing outside yet and we're not done shoveling.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Waiting...

I might be a bit crazy, but I am actually kind of excited about the weather forecast.  The latest is that we are getting between 6 and 10 inches of snow tonight.  We should wake up tomorrow with a lot of snow on the ground.

I know.  I'm crazy.  Most people are willing the snow not to fall.  Me?  I'm waiting for it.

The thing is the girls LOVE the snow.  They cannot get enough of playing in the snow.  They will be so happy to have so much snow. 

I'll even shovel it.  I like to shovel snow. 

If this turns out to be another bust where the news hypes the upcoming snowfall for days and then we get a dusting, I'll be so diappointed.

Yikes!  What is wrong with me?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ready to Get Back to the Routine

I'm ready for winter break to be over.  I know that everyone complains about how their kids drive them crazy, but that's not my problem.  The girls have actually been quite good.  They are a bit overtired from the excitement of Christmas parties, New Year's Eve, etc., but overall they have not been a problem this break.

My husband has been off for the two weeks the girls have been home, so he's had most of the heavy-lifting where they are concerned.  They follow him like puppies, which I find so entertaining.  The other day I walked out of the bathroom and realized I was all be myself.  No one knocked on the door while I was in there.  No one yelled something at me through a closed door.  No one was waiting when I opened the door.  It was a silly, yet enjoyable moment.  I'm sure every parent can relate to it. 

I'm ready to get back to the routine so I have a reason to ignore my to do list.  I had a list that included things like put the photos in the photo album and clean the basement.  It wasn't a long list, but it had a bunch of stuff on it that I really wanted to get done.

Some of it did.  We cranked through a few good projects.  Some things came up as the days developed.  One day we were stuck in the house as the blond twin had the flu, so we took down the Christmas stuff and put it all away a bit earlier than usual.  I spent a day on the couch reading a book that wasn't on my list because the blond twin kindly shared her flu with me.  One day it was just nice outside so the brunette twin and I went ice skating at local outdoor rink.

It's the other stuff that didn't get done that is bothering me.  I wanted to do a few more things than we managed to get to, but it's always that way, isn't it?

At least if we're back in the school/work routine I'll have a reason to not complete my to do list.  Even on my most ambitious day, "I have to help the girls with their homework" sounds like a better way to spend my time than "I need to clean out the lower kitchen cabinets."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

They are Officially Old

Shortly after my maternal grandmother died, I was out to lunch with my Dad.  He looked at a couple of people in the restaurant who struggled with walkers and canes and said, "With both grandmothers gone now, we're the old people in the family."

I didn't know it at the time, but he was planning to take that seriously.

My parents are life-long smokers.  I mean heavy, heavy smokers.  In the winter, when the house is closed for days on end, it is hard to walk in the door without gagging on the lingering smoke.  I try not to wear anything good to their house as just a few minutes inside means I'll smell like an ashtray for the rest of the day.  Even my hair absorbs the smell.

My Dad is showing the effects of 60+ years of smoking in so many negative ways.  These days he's a bit slower than usual, which you'd expect with age.  You also see him struggling to breathe as the emphysema takes its toll.  One of my brothers thought Dad was going to drop on the driveway while snowblowing it a few days before Christmas.  Of course, Dad told him he was fine, but my brother could see that he was struggling and took over the job.

My Mom is not any better, but she covers it well. 

We have long since given up trying to get them to stop smoking.  After years of trying, we've finally decided to let it go.  The problem is we're dealing with strong-willed adults who don't really want to listen to their children. 

It's not like we haven't seen it coming for a while, but I guess while the Grams were alive it was secondary to what was going on with them.  My paternal Grandmother was in and out of the hospital so much that we didn't always take the time to notice the changes as my parents moved towards old age.  My maternal Grandmother wasted away in a nursing home for years.  We did see the toll that took on Mom, but it wasn't something we could change so we just tried to be supportive. 

What I wish I could change is the "we're old" mentality.  They have really taken it as their mantra.  When we were younger, my parents talked about trips and adventures they wanted to take when they retired.  Now when we mention something they dismiss it as too much work or too complicated because Dad's on oxygen. 

Instead of trying to make the most of these years, most of the time I feel like they are just counting down the days.  Unfortunately, we're all stuck in the countdown with them.  It's their choice and we cannot change it -- no matter how much I wish we could.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Mean Mom's Club

I just finished an ebook called Mean Mom's Club -- The Mom's Rule Book by Maureen LoBue, M.Ed.  It's the kind of handbook I would give to anyone having a baby because it would be a nice reference book on those days when you wonder why you wanted to have children.

We all have those days, don't we?  We thought it would be so wonderful to have children, but then you have those days when you just want to run away and sit on the beach by yourself.  While you know this is normal, Maureen puts it in writing. 

In fact, much of what she puts in writing can be called basic common sense parenting.  It's just that when you're out there with all the other parents who are doing things that just make you scratch your head, it's nice to read The Mom's Rule and remember that the basics never change.

No matter what the current parenting trend, things like safety and security are always most important to children.  She talks extensively about the importance of knowing which developmental stage your child is in and how this affects their actions.  She also states that a parent's goal is to raise a happy, responsible caring person.  The rest is just fluff.  It's nice if your child wins some major award, but it's nicer if they are well-adjusted and happy. 

She has some basic rules, which also happen to be the titles of her chapters.  Read these and tell me which ones sound most like you.

Being a Mom is Going to be so Great!
I'm Going to be the Perfect Mom ... Yeah Right
You'll Always Be My Baby ... No Matter How Old You Are
Common Sense ... Makes Sense
I Brought You Into This World .. And I Can Take You Out
There's a Difference Between Need and Want ... And I'll Tell You Which it is
I Get to be President of the Mean Mom's Club
Noboy Knows My Kid Like I Know My Kid

Right now we're in the "you'll always be my baby" phase.  The brunette twin craves the security and permanence of knowing that she'll always be my baby.  When she does something wrong, she looks at me and says, "Am I still your baby?"  I always tell her that I'm not happy with what she did, but she's still my baby.  She just needs that reassurance. 

I really smiled when reading the book dedication.  When's the last time you said that?  Maureen dedicated the book to her sons because when they were growing up, she used to say, "It's in the Mom's Rule Book."  Now she had the rule book in writing to pass on to them.

I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.