Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's not a big, empty building

My husband works for an insurance company.  Somehow this causes a truly minor, but really annoying problem.  It happened to me twice in the past couple of weeks.

The first time was when I was filling out the paper work at a new doctor's office.  The receptionist looked at the forms and said, "This question asks where the primary insurance holder works, not the name of your insurance company."

The second time was in the emergency room last week.  The registration clerk corrected me when I told her where my husband works.  She said it twice, as if I didn't understand the question.  Then, just to really annoy me, she said she had to "verify our insurance before he could be officially admitted."  She backed off on that when I said, "HE WORKS FOR THE INSURANCE COMPANY."

Why is it always so surprising when I say he works for an insurance company?

So, here's my public plea for a little common sense.  His company owns a big, high profile building in downtown Chicago.  Someone has to fill that space. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

They Might Not Let Me Out

You know how the hospital emergency room is about the least private place possible?  And at the worst possible time, everyone can hear your problems?  And you think about the craziest things when you are someplace like the emergency room in the hospital? 

Well, while we were waiting for a doctor to look at my husband, an elderly woman was brought into the room next to ours.  Her husband reported that she was having problems doing everyday tasks and remembering things.  They were in the emergency room because they couldn't get in to see a specialist for six to eight weeks.  Her primary care physician didn't think it was a good idea to wait, so he recommended they walk into an emergency room.  (Oh, there's more on that another time.)

The nurse started asking the woman basic questions like her age, the date, the year, etc.  She asked the woman a few questions that made me stop.  I knew some of the answers, like who is the president and what year is it.  Here's what I couldn't answer quickly:

How old are you?
*Really, I have to always do the math.

How long have you been married?
*In a real number?  Or can I round it?  Can I have a minute to do the math?

What is the date?
*This is a trick question.  I know the day.  I know the month and year.  What I never know is the actual date.  The problem is in my world, dates are rarely relevant.  I know that every Tuesday is gym day and Wednesday is library day at school.  I know that the first Wednesday of the month (regardless of the date), the girls have a 1/2 school day.  The date?  Not so much.  When the woman couldn't answer the question, I turned to my husband and said, "What is the date?"  He knew immediately.

So in the end, I could not answer three of the eight questions they asked her.  I think she answered more questions that I could have. I don't know what happened to her, but I do wonder if they would have let me out or if they would have required more testing.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Daddy's Girls

The girls are obsessed with Daddy being in the hospital.  When I first told them he was in the hospital they cried and asked some questions.  I answered them and they decided the thing to do was draw Daddy some pictures.  A dozen or so pictures later, I took those to Daddy in the hospital.

When I came home, they were surprised that I didn't bring Daddy with me.  They didn't realize that he was staying in the hospital.  They thought he was there for the day and would be coming home.

This realization didn't go over well for Daddy's girls.

The questions about the hospital came quickly.  What did his room look like?  Who was taking care of him?  Did he have his pajamas?  Was he cold?  Was he sad?  Who would feed him?  What was he eating?  Did he have a TV to watch basketball?  Would someone bring him a toothbrush?  Where would he sleep?

Then they realized Daddy wouldn't be home to put them to bed.  We talked to Daddy just before bed and they both cried, which made him feel terrible. 

The first questions in the morning were about Daddy.  Every step of the day went back to Daddy.  If we're eating breakfast, are you sure someone is feeding Daddy breakfast?  We're brushing our teeth, so is Daddy?  Does Daddy need clean socks?  Everything they did brought out a question about Daddy.

They made plans to take care of Daddy when he comes home.  When he does come home, I know that no Daddy will have more attentive in-house nurses than those two.  Of course, they have big plans, so I hope he's resting up now.  I'm not sure he'll get much rest once they are taking care of him.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Too Tired to Fight About It

Yesterday did not turn out as planned.  We thought my husband was taking the day off to run errands, take the girls to an eye doctor's appointment and generally keep them busy on their last day of Spring Break.  (AKA keep them out of Mommy's hair for the day.)  We ended up visiting the emergency room; he ended up in emergency surgery.

My parents came over immediately when I called and kept the girls all day.  They took them to lunch, the eye doctor and to play.  They kept the girls busy all day.

I spent the day running between our house and the hospital.  Two hours until surgery?  I ran home to make sure my parents were set with the girls appointment, call my work, organize the rest of the day.  Two hours between the end of surgery and when I could see hubby in his room?  I ran to get a babysitter, call his office, buy groceries, etc.  (No, it wasn't normal weekly shopping.  My husband was going to go grocery shopping, so we drained the house of all food.  We didn't even have a drop of milk for breakfast or a slice of bread for a sandwich.  There wasn't anything in the house that was easy-to-eat.)

After visiting with my husband -- who had really good painkillers because he was a happy, happy guy -- I came home, put the girls to bed, called a bunch of relatives, cleaned up the house, and went to sleep.

Today I'm just too tired to fight with the girls about anything.  Right now I should be getting my allergy shots, but they do not want to go, so I'm blogging and they are watching television.  I'm not trying to sound like a martyr about yesterday's craziness because I know he would have done the same thing for me.  This is just a public surrender.  I'm too tired to fight about most things today, so if it won't cause them short-term or long-term physical harm, the girls will probably get their way today.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mampedia Voices

I've been asked to contribute to another fun Moms networking and blog called Mamapedia.  My first featured post is "Grown-up Fun:  The Realities of Parenting."  It's a repost of something I wrote for this blog, which is fabulous.  You have to love it when you can adapt content for new audiences.  I hope you'll join me on this new adventure.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chicago Moms Blog

I'm excited to announce that I've join the fabulous group of local bloggers on the Chicago Moms Blog.  My first post "Too Many Summer Activity Choices" appeared yesterday.  (Of course, I would have posted about this yesterday, but I didn't read all my email until today.  You know how that goes.)

The best part is I get to contribute two or more times a month to the conversation about parenting in Chicago.  I hope you'll join me on this new adventure.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What does this say?

Overheard at our house...

Blond Twin:  "Mom, I'm going to make a book.  Will you please tell me how to spell some words?"

Mom:  "Sure honey."

Blond Twin:  "I want to spell all the months and days of the week."

The girls laugh and start singing the days of the week song they learned at school, complete with hand clapping. 

Mom:  "How about if I write out those words and then you can keep the paper in front of you while you draw your pictures for each word?"

Blond Twin:  "Okay."

Mom writes the words and hands the blond twin the paper.  A few minutes later, she hears the girls whispering and arguing, but ignores it.

Brunette Twin:  "Um, Mom, we cannot read some of these words.  Why did you write it in script?"

Mom:  "I didn't.  I printed each word."

Blond Twin:  "Mom, you must be confused.  This is script writing. I can read print words."

Mom:  "No, I printed it."

Brunette Twin:  "Well, okay, but it's scribbly and we cannot read it."

Mom:  "Are you saying my handwriting is messy?"

Blond Twin:  "No, we're just saying we cannot read it.  I have an idea.  Why don't you spell the words and we'll write them on the paper?"

Brunette Twin:  "Good idea Sissy.  We can read our own handwriting, but we can't read Mom's."

Blond Twin:  "Mom, what she means is..."

Mom:  "What she means is I have messy handwriting and you cannot read it.  I get it."

Brunette Twin:  "Don't worry Mom.  I'm sure if you practice it will get better."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Break

Finally the girls are on Spring Break.  I couldn't be happier.  I know I'm supposed to complain that they are going to be underfoot for a week, but I'm really looking forward to it.

I'm happy we won't have to run to catch the bus in the morning.  Lately getting the girls out of the house in the morning has been a chore.  Usually we just run through the neighbor's backyard, but lately it's been mushy and muddy, so we have to walk "the long way."  This adds five minutes to our routine, which doesn't sound like much until you are trying to get two children out of the house.

I'm happy we won't have to worry about remembering juice for breaks, gym shoes for gym class or books for library day.  It will be nice to just wake up and let them play all day in their pajamas if they want.  We do still have after school programs like dance and gymnastics.  For the most part, we're free from normal scheduling.

The girls can wake up when they want, play when they want, and eat when they want.  We don't have to watch the clock until late in the day.

Even though I still have to work, it's a nice break from the everyday routine. Of course, being Chicago, Spring Break is starting with some snow.  No one said Spring Break actually came with Spring weather.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Keeping Secrets

Overheard at our house...

Blond Twin:  "Mom, we have a question."

Brunette Twin:  "Is it okay if we keep a secret from you?"

Mom:  "I don't know.  What is the secret?

Brunette Twin:  "Well, if we tell you, it won't be a secret."

Mom:  "True."

Blond Twin:  "So, can we keep a secret from you and Dad?"

Mom:  "I don't know.  If you tell me the secret, will it get you in trouble?"

Brunette Twin:  "No."

Blond Twin:  "Really Mom.  It won't get us in trouble.  We just want to have a twin secret"

Mom:  "It's okay, as long as it won't get you in trouble."

Blond Twin:  "Good because we want to keep some secrets between us twins, but we don't want to get in trouble."

Brunette Twin:  "We think we should have some twins secrets, so we won't tell you this."

Somehow I already regret letting them keep their secret. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Party Math

The girls attended a birthday party Saturday afternoon. When we received the invitation, I asked the birthday girl's Mom, "So, how many children did you invite to the party?" Her response made me realize I need to ask the question more often.



The Mom replied that she invited four children to the party. This means the girls were 1/2 of the invited crowd.

I have to admit I never asked the question before. Most of the parties we've been to have an overflow of children. There are siblings, cousins, friends and others just everywhere. In some cases the parents invite all the girls in the child's class or the child's tumbling class or something along that line.

This family doesn't have a lot of relatives in the area, so I didn't think it would be a huge party.  It wasn't at an expensive location where you would expect a small crowd.  (I realize it could have been a budget issue, but that wasn't my first thought.)  I knew she didn't have many people to invite, but I never thought it would only be four children and the birthday girl.

The implications of inviting the girls are bigger with a small party. We're one invitation, but two children. If the girls don't attend, it's a really, really small party. The Mom said that if the girls couldn't make it, she would move the party to the next weekend if that was better for us.

I told her we'd make the party and thanked her for the invitation.

It's not very often that we don't attend a party, but from now on I will be more mindful of the party crowd. I feel a new responsibility to make sure we don't ruin someone's birthday party.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Flash Forward

You know how people always talk about having a flash back?  I had a flash forward today in the dentist's office.

The girls had their teeth cleaned today.  I was standing there listening to the dental hygienist talk about how vitamins and sealants prevent kids from getting cavities.  I kept wishing they had things like topical vitamins and molar sealants when I was a child.  It would have saved me a lot of time in the dentist's chair -- or at least I think it would have.  Anyway...

The brunette twin was getting her teeth cleaned.  She's our nervous girl, so her sister held one hand and I held the other.  Daddy managed to escape the fun for a minute.

I heard the blond twin saying, "It's okay Sissy.  You are doing a very good job.  You're almost done.  It's just about over. What a good girl.  You really are doing a very good job."

I stopped and flashed forward.  I realized that when the brunette twin has children, she'll have both her husband and her sister in the delivery room with her.  I don't know what her husband will be doing, but today I heard her sister rehearsing her lines.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Taking the Bus is Okay

The daffodils are peaking through the mulch.  The azaleas have new leaves.  The snow is melted.  The trees are starting to bud.  I realized today that spring might actually be around the corner.  A few minutes later, an even more exciting thought came.  We made it through the worst of the cold, snowy winter weather and never missed the school bus.

Oh, we were close a few times.  Just yesterday we arrived at the bus stop as the driver was about to pull away.  We had to walk around the block as the back yards are too mushy to cut across to get to the bus stop.  Still, we made it.

When the school year started, I dreaded winter.  I was certain that it would be completely miserable standing outside waiting for the bus, but it turns out it was not so bad.

I wrote about driving to the bus when it was really cold, and I do the same thing when it's pouring rain.  I guess I whimp out a bit on those days.  Otherwise, I just deal with the weather.  I bought a long, wool coat that is two sizes too big so I can bundle up sweaters and other winter clothes.  In the really cold weather, it's like wearing a heated blanket when you wear all those layers.

Overall, I'm pretty proud of us.  Some days were easier than others, but in the end we figured out how to survive our first year of taking the bus.  It's a little thing, but we did it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Staring at Other Children

I realized this morning as we were sitting in a restaurant that I have a bad habit that I need to break.  If I see two children about the same size, I stare at them to see if they are twins.  Of course, some times it is easy.  Even I can identify the identical twins.  It's the fraternal twins that intrigue me -- for obvious reasons.

Once in a while I'm sure the children are twins.  Those parents make it easy by dressing their fraternal twins in identical outfits.  

It's the other possibilities that intrigue me.  Today I was staring at two little girls who walked in with their father.  They were about the same height and wore similar coats.  I looked at them as they walked by to see if I could tell if they were twins or just sisters who happen to be about the same height.

I admit I'm fascinated with it.  Once in a while someone looks at the girls and says, "How old are your twins?"  I always want to ask, "How did you know they are twins?"  The brunette twin in a good 1.5 inches taller than her blond twin.  One has green eyes; the other has blue eyes.  They really don't look like twins.  One woman told me, "They act like twins."  I didn't think to say, "How?"  Now I wish I had.  I always want to know what people mean when they say, "They act like twins."

Some times I ask parents.  If we're standing in line, I might say, "Oh, they are so cute.  How old are they?"  It's the easiest way to figure out if my hunch is correct.  It's not always possible, though.  It's a little hard to strike up a conversation with someone walking by our restaurant table.

I don't know when I started this, but I do realize I have to stop it.  Most parents -- me included -- don't like it when you stare at their children.  Of course, parents of infants expect it.  Even parents of toddlers patiently deal with it.  By the time the children are a little older, parents think it's creepy.

I'm one of those parents.  I don't like it when people stare at the girls, but now I realize I do the same thing to other children.  If I've stared at your children, my apologies.   

Friday, March 5, 2010

I Need You to Speak English

I know this is a very controversial topic, but here goes.  I need some families in my neighborhood to learn English.  There, I said it.  I'm not trying to take away anyone's ethnic identity, but I don't understand how you can live in this country for years and years and not learn basic English.

This came into play several times this week already.  First, the girls are having some friends over tomorrow to watch movies.  One of the moms called to ask what sizes the girls wore.  I didn't understand until she said, "Birthday party.  What size?"  I tried to explain that it wasn't a birthday party, but didn't get anywhere.  Her daughter is going to show up with birthday presents.  No, that won't be too awkward.

Because the girls take the bus with several children on the block, I tried to explain to a neighbor that her daughter wasn't coming to the party tomorrow because I only invited a few of the girls' classmates.  I know her daughter knows about the party, so I wanted to make sure everyone understood who was invited.  The mother had no idea what I was trying to say.  It was like I was talking to the wall.

Last summer a neighborhood girl fell and hurt herself.  I carried her to her house, but couldn't communicate with her father.  Luckily it wasn't a serious injury, but still it would have been nice to explain to him what happened. 

While I like our ethnically-diverse school, the fact that so many parents don't speak English very well is also a burden on our schools.  We have translators for five or six different languages -- as if we couldn't use that money for other programs that would benefit the children.

It's not like we're the only English speaking family in the neighborhood.  On the contrary, the number of families who don't speak English is actually quite small.  It's just that those families have children who play with our girls. 

I don't want to talk about something complicated like stock derivatives.  I just need the neighbors to learn enough English that I can have a conversation with them about our children. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Frustrating Phonetic Spelling

It's hard to explain how frustrating I find phonetic spelling.  Their school uses it to help the children learn to read and spell.  I get the concept of why it should work.  What I really, really dislike is that they don't follow-up with, "Well, it sounds like it should be spelled like that, but here's how it is correctly spelled."

This comes up all the time when we're doing their homework.  Often their homework involves writing sentences.  They keep saying, "Mom, Teacher says we should write our own sentences.  You don't need to help us spell words."

Sorry.  No can do.  If I am going to help them with their homework, I want to teach them how to do things correctly.  This means sentences start with a capital letter and end with some punctuation.  This means that sentences use proper grammar (at the kindergarten level of course) and correct spelling.

They like knowing how to spell words.  They get frustrated, though, when they misspell something and I explain how to spell it correctly.  As the brunette twin likes to say, "Mom, that doesn't make any sense.  Why is the F sound spelled with a PH?"  I always reply, "I know.  It's crazy, isn't it?" 

I don't know why we want to teach them to spell by ear when American English doesn't really work like that.  Let's face it, American English is a mess.  There are rules and exceptions to every rule.  Most words aren't spelled the way they sound.  There are multiple ways to spell and different uses for the same-sounding word (think about too, two and too). 

If we're going to teach them to spell, let's do it correctly from the beginning.  These are easy words.  If we don't get the foundation right, then how will they get the more complicated words correct? 

Plus, the girls are advanced enough that they understand the concept.  Now when we say too, they understand it is spelled and used differently than to or two. 

Maybe it's just the English teacher in me, but I'm fighting this one all the way.  I don't see the point in teaching them to do it incorrectly and then having to teach them the correct spellings later.  Let's just do it right the first time and save us all some frustrations.