Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Getting ready for our new arrival...

You know how women report nesting before they have a baby?  I think I'm going through that, even though we're not having another child.  We've been talking about getting a dog for a while now.  It looks like that is going to happen some time before Labor Day.

In preparation for this family event, we've been talking about the dog non-stop.  We talk about how to take care of the dog.  We talk about how the dog will change our days.  We talk about what would have to happen at a specific time if we had a dog.  Just this morning as the girls asked to play before breakfast I said, "If we had a dog, you'd have to take it outside right now." 

At breakfast, the blond twin made a list of items we need for the dog ranging from dog food to a blanket for the cage bottom.  The brunette twin talked about all our options for a veterinarian.  It turns out she's been paying attention.  She gave me a list of three local veterinarian offices we pass regularly.  I wasn't paying attention, but she was.  When she gave me the list, I realized she was right.  I recognized the buildings from her descriptions.

I've been trying to clean out some stuff so we have room for dog food, toys, etc.  I've been thinking about times during my day when I'd be able to stop working and take the dog for a walk if the weather is bad.  If the weather is good, I have been thinking about when I can take my laptop outside and work on the patio so the dog can play outside.  When we were out bike riding last week, I noticed a lot of people walking their dogs on the path. 

Right now I have the girls' baby quilts spread on our living room and family room floors.  I've been saving old shirts since they were infants.  I cut out the designs and put them in a box.  I figured once I had enough, I would make quilts.  Last winter I did put the top to the blond twin's quilt together.  It needed a few more pieces to be truly big enough to be called a twin-sized bed quilt, so I put it back.  I never did much work with the brunette twin's quilt top though.  The other day I realized that if I wanted to spread out the quilt pieces on the floor, I'd better get moving.  It's my quilting style.  I put the pieces on the floor and look at them for a day or two.  I rearrange them, sometimes two or three times. 

Now I'm ready to sew the top pieces together.  It's the last big project before our new family member arrives.  When they say adding a dog is just like adding a child, they are right.  At least for me anyway.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer is Overrated

I'm on the Chicago Moms blog today talking about why we put too much pressure on ourselves during the summer months.  Join me in the conversation -- http://thechicagomoms.com/2010/07/summer-is-overrated/

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Twins Moment

We were visiting my relatives in central Illinois when I had my most recent "twins moment."  My cousin said she was on her way to work, even though she was supposed to be off that night.  She is a nurse in an area hospital.  She said she was taking a shift for a friend whose newborn granddaughter was in the NICU.

I said, "Why is she in the NICU?"

She said, "Because there is something wrong with the baby." 

Then the light went on in my head.  It's not normal for babies to end up in the NICU.

As any parent of twins or higher order multiples will tell you, most multiple births end up with one or more of the children in the NICU.  We didn't have that experience.  When our girls were born, they were each more than 6 lbs.  One of the nurses told me that they were the only twins born in that hospital that year that didn't spend time in the NICU.  The girls came home in 48 hours, just like a healthy singleton.

This is not the normal experience for parents of multiples.  Most multiples end up in the NICU for some reason that is not necessarily life-threatening.  When you talk to parents of multiples, you'll hear stories about how the babies were born early and spent time in the NICU gaining weight.  Other times there is a more serious problem.  In most cases, the babies spent time in the NICU and went home. 

Sometimes I forget that all my conversations run through our twins filter.  It's the only parenting reality we have, so it's not like I can turn off the filter.  It's just one more example of how having twins changes the way you view the world.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Eating Adventures

I've always been intrigued by the idea of a CSA.  I like the concept of supporting local farm.  I like the idea that the farmer uses organic methods.  What always concerns me is what to do with the vegetables we don't normally eat. 

This year we put aside my wavering and took the plunge.  We joined the Earth & Skye Farm in large part because it has a pick-up location close to us.  The other advantage was that we could purchase a 1/2 share.  This was important as we didn't know how much produce we'd get each week and purchasing a 1/2 share was a nice way to ease into the CSA.

Just before the first pick-up, our farmer Patti (yes, she signs her emails, your farmer Patti) sent an email saying basically, "It's been really, really wet this spring.  We don't know what, if anything, will grow.  If you want to get your money back, let me know now.  Otherwise, we'll all go on this growing journey together."

I have to say this was both scary and reassuring.  I don't know much about running a farm, so when the farmer says she doesn't think it's going to be a good growing season, I have to believe her.  On the other hand, she was letting us know in advance, so she was putting good customer service practices into action.  I held my breath and decided not to ask for a refund.

Now I'm glad we didn't get a refund.  So far we have gotten a good supply of vegetables each pick-up and everything had been really, really fresh and tasty -- just like you'd imagine vegetables that came right off the farm should taste.

I'm still a little unnerved by some of our harvest.  I have turnips and kohlrabi sitting in the fridge because I'm not quite sure what to do with either.  I am still looking for a recipe that makes me say, "Let's cook it."  At some point I'll have to face beets too.  My only beet-eating experience comes from picnic salads.  I have to figure out what to do with those too.

Would I do it again?  So far I'd say yes.  I know I wouldn't purchase some of the vegetables if I saw them at the Farmer's Market, but now that they are in the house, we're on a new eating adventure. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Moving Up and Moving On...

The past couple of weeks, I've been busy with one of my favorite activities -- shopping clearance sales.  I've ordered summer clothes for next year from some of my favorite stores.  Since the girls are moving into a size 10, I ordered most summer clothes in a size 12.  I have some size 10 clothes already, so I went for the next size.  It's possible they will be in a 10 next summer, but not likely.

When I ordered the clothes, I had a rude awakening.  The girls are outgrowing some of my favorite clothing brands already.

One of the brands only goes to size 10.  As I ordered a few things, I realized we're just done there.  It's a shame because I really like Naartjie clothing. It's well-made and just different enough that you don't see everyone wearing it.  They make a few, adorable lines each year.  We've done very well with their sales.  Now we're done with the entire brand.

I just had the same experience with the Gymboree.  Their clothes go up to a size 12.  It's possible we'll get one more year out of them, but only for the blond twin.  The brunette twin is already in a size 10.  I doubt she'll stay in size 12 clothes for two years.  I always do well with the basics at Gymboree.  Their clearance sales tend to have the smaller sizes available, but when something larger is available, it's always a good price.

My other favorite children's clothing lines go up to 14 or higher, so we're okay there.  It's just another transition for me to make.  The girls won't notice the difference.  All they know is every time they outgrow clothes, we go into the basement to find new ones in the right sizes.  For me, though, I need to find a new online site with the right sizes and great clearance sales.  Otherwise -- gasp, gasp -- we might need to start shopping at the stores in the mall.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Go Wide

One thing about having bright children is you are constantly trying to keep them challenged.  They move so quickly that stuff that keeps most children challenged for weeks bores the girls in days.  Stuffed away in cabinets and drawers, we have the books, puzzles and games to prove it.  They loved each one for a short time and then forgot about each one.  I was talking to a teacher friend about this and she said, "You need to go wide."

I really like this idea. 

A lot of people brag that their first grader is reading fourth, fifth or sixth grade books.  I understand why this seems like a good idea, but we don't want them reading books that are inappropriate for their age group.  While they can read the words, most of those books have situations and stories that are inappropriate for their age group.  It's true they can read the story, but they are not really grown-up enough to comprehend it all.  And, truth be told, I'm not sure I want them to know about all those situations and issues this soon.

Instead, to feed their curiosity, we're building on different interests.  The girls want to learn Spanish, so we have a book/CD set featuring Dora the Explorer.  While they feel like they are too old to watch the show, they like learning Spanish from her.  When they outgrow that set, we have the Hooked on Phonics series waiting.  They continue to be interested in nature.  We nurture that through books and programs.  The brunette twin came home from a program discussing invertebrates and what it means for animals not to have a spine. 

We have a piano now, which means we'll soon have piano practice in the house.  Of course, Daddy says the best time to practice is between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but I think the girls will practice on the weekends too.  After all, why should he miss all the practice entertainment?

The idea of "going wide" has a lot of appeal for me on several levels.  Most of all I like that it exposes the girls to a lot of different activities to support their interests.  I don't think being several steps above grade level in reading or math is the only measure of a bright child.  I think it includes the ability to solve problems, be creative and understand how different things work.  Going wide seems to fit with that philosophy, so we'll try it for a while.  At this point, there doesn't seem to be any downside to it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Emperor's New Clothes

I've written before about how much I adore the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  It's such a beautiful space, with creative and well-done shows.  We've seen several productions there -- ironically none have been a Shakespeare play.

This time we went to The Emperor's New Clothes.  As usual, it was a wonderful show.  The set was simple and colorful.  The costumes added dimension and humor to the characters.  Our girls laughed at the clothes as much as the show.  The story has been updated with funny references that keep the adults laughing while the kids enjoy the rest of the performance.  And, it is funny -- not in that corny kids' show way.  It's funny in a sophisticated way that entertains both children and adults.

About half-way through the show, my mind wandered a bit.  It really had nothing to do with the show.  It had everything to do with a talking child near us.

I wasn't mad.  On the contrary, I expect children to talk during a family theater production like The Emperor's New Clothes.  I watched the child ask the parent a question.  The parent tried to quiet the child quickly.  Through it all, the performers never broke character.  It was like they didn't even realize the child was talking.

When I read the performer's bios, I realized these are all seasoned professionals.  I think people don't give actors who switch between children's theater and more traditional, grown-up shows enough credit.  These performers moved easily into a situation where most of the audience was under 12 years old, with the short attention span and restlessness that comes with that age group.  Even when the noise level went up, the performers maintained their professionalism.

And they were professionals.  They sang each song like they were on Broadway.  Their voices were strong and clear, no matter where you sat in the theater.  It's one of the most wonderful parts of seeing a show at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  The audience is close to the stage.  No matter where you sit, you have good sight lines and can hear everything.

We were all happy to see The Emperor's New Clothes.  While we were there, we picked up the upcoming schedule.  The next time we go, it might just be an adults-only date night.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Competitive Swimming

The girls aren't taking swim lessons this year.  They can swim well enough that we decided they didn't need any more formal lessons.  Any child who happily goes down the tall slide at the water park and swims out of 12+ foot deep water is just fine in my book.

Not in theirs, though.  They've decided they want to take swim lessons again.  Why?  Well, a friend is in swim lessons.  He just moved from Level 2 to Level 3.  This is a source of great annoyance for the girls.  When they left swim lessons, they were in Level 2.

I keep trying to tell them it doesn't matter what level they were at the last time they took swim lessons.  I keep trying to tell them that if they continued with swim lessons, they would be in Level 3.  They don't want to hear about it. 

All they want to do is go back to swim lessons and get to Level 3.  This is not going to happen for lots of reasons.   

What we are doing is letting the kids all swim together.  This seems to make the girls happy.  They realize they all swim at about the same level.  They all swim in deep water like fish.  Still, the girls spend a lot of time comparing their swimming skills with their buddy. 

I told them they can change the way they talk about their swim lessons.  They can say, "We don't take swim lessons anymore.  We stopped at Level 2."  This seems to make them feel better, although I heard them tell him, "If we were in swim lessons, we'd be in Level 3 too."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

She has a what?

The brunette twin has been complaining about her teeth, so I took her to the dentist this morning.  He examined her and said, "She has a canker sore."

I said, "A what?"  I mean I've heard of canker sores, but I had no idea what one looked like.  He showed it to me and said it would heal by itself in a few days. 

I said, "How does someone get a canker sore?"

He replied, "Usually it's stress or she's run down."  And, the best news?  Canker sores reoccur. 

Huh?  She's six.  What kind of stress does a six-year-old who plays all day have?  She's run down?  Really?  With her nearly vegetarian diet, daily multi-vitamin and 10 - 12 hours of sleep each night?  I'd like to be that stressed and run down.

I thanked him for the good news that she didn't have a cavity and we left.  I couldn't help but feel that it would have been better if it was a small cavity.  If I'm going to feel like the Mom of the Year, I think I'd rather it be because she was eating too much chocolate than she was stressed and run down.  In the first case we spoil her with too many treats. In the second, it sounds like we're overworking her and withholding healthy food. 

Of course, as soon as we left the dentist's office, the blond twin started complaining that her mouth hurt too.  If the brunette twin has a canker sore, the blond twin was determined to have one too.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Smallest Space

Our house is very comfortable.  It's not huge, but we all have enough space, except when it comes to the girls' toys.  We struggled to keep all their toys in their bedroom.  Eventually we just surrendered.  We have all the girls' Barbie stuff, books and puzzles in the living room now.  It's their main playroom.  They have the entire room, plus the adjoining dining room to play in every day.

What I don't understand is how with all that space, they always end up playing in the smallest space in the room.  They set up elaborate games in the space in the corner behind the couch.  They have a two "story" doll house on two shelves in the TV cabinet.  They spend hours playing with their dolls in this cabinet. (Of course, they don't play with the real doll house they have in their bedroom.)  The other day I found them in the foyer.  The living room was empty.  They moved all their stuff into the foyer.

I don't know what it is about small spaces, but they always end up playing in the smallest possible space.  Some days I think we should just move all their stuff into a closet and reclaim the living room.  They'd be happy in the small space and we'd get a room back.  I realize it won't work, though.  I'm not sure we have a closet big enough for all their stuff.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Daddy Says...

Overheard at our house...

The blond twin strolls by wearing a short, pink, ruffled skirt and matching pink top with flip flops on her feet.

Mom:  "In a few years we're going to tell her she can't wear an outfit like that outside the house."

Dad:  "In a few hours I'm going to tell her that."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July Already?

Summer is supposed to be carefree and easy, but I'm feeling a lot of pressure these days.  The girls are about half-way through their summer vacation.  There is so much stuff we want to do.  At this point I wonder if we'll get it all in.

The problem we're running into is that what we want to do is really seasonal.  We want to get to a concert at Millennium Park.  We want to get to the sculpture exhibit and play in the children's garden at the Morton Arboretum.  We want to visit some friends at their new summer house in Michigan. 

Some of the things on our list, like bike riding in the forest preserves, can wait until fall.  As long as we don't have ice on the paths, we can ride.

It's just the true summer stuff that we seem to be running out of time to complete.  Maybe it's because I just received a back to school shopping email today that this is front of mind.  In my world, summer is just getting started.  In other places, it's already over.