Thursday, March 31, 2011

Her Own Personal Monster

Overheard at a swimming pool during Spring Break...

Mom:  "Stop carrying your sister around on your back.  She can swim on her own."

Brunette Twin:  "But she's tired.  I can carry her.  I'm strong."

Mom:  "If she's that tired, she should get out of the pool."

Brunette Twin:  "It's okay.  I like it."

Mom:  "Every time she doesn't want to do something, you do it for her.  You need to stop giving in to her.  You are creating a monster"

Brunette Twin:  "But she's my little monster."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where are the Caregiver Friendly Memberships

**This was originally posted to the Chicago Moms blog***

When our girls were born, I stayed at home. During the first few years, we had memberships to several museums and a zoo. We went to these places a few times a year to see the exhibits, play in the children’s areas and take classes. A couple of years ago, I went back to work. I work from home, so my hours are flexible. I was able to continue to use our memberships. It wasn’t until we hired our niece as our summer babysitter that I realized most memberships are not caregiver-friendly.
The first summer she babysat our girls, we’d make plans for her to take them different places. I’d call to find out the best way for her to use our membership as her name was not on the card she carried. The responses surprised me.
One museum said she couldn’t use it at all and she’d have to pay all three entry fees. Another said to send a letter with her, which I did. She was then grilled for nearly 1/2 hour. No one ever called me to confirm that she was our babysitter. The staff just grilled her as if she was trying to steal something. A third museum said the membership covered our children, but the babysitter would have to pay the entry fee. None of these were caregiver-friendly policies.
I found the same problem with local park district water parks and pools. If I wanted our babysitter to take the girls to the pool, I had to buy a family membership for our girls, then a separate membership for the babysitter. In most cases, the extra cost was nearly the cost of the family membership.
Not surprisingly the most caregiver-friendly membership was at the Brookfield Zoo. They said, “We’ll add her to your membership for a small additional fee. She’ll have her own card so she can bring the girls whenever she wants.” We gladly paid the additional extra-card fee. The girls spent a lot of time at the zoo attending camp, classes and hanging out with their friends.
I realize that when we buy a membership it’s for our household and our niece doesn’t live in our house. However, she is working for our family. And, it’s three people in the museum — whether it’s me and the girls or our niece and the girls. Either way we’re still using our family membership, which covers at least four people.
I spoke to friends about this problem. One told me they buy their family memberships in their babysitter’s name. They add four children to the membership so she can bring their children and friends. Another friend told me she lists her babysitter as her partner. She said, “We’re a same-sex couple.” A third friend said she lists her babysitter as a household member. No one ever questions that her last name is different from the rest of the family. My friend thinks the museum probably assumes the babysitter is a step-child.
I realize these are all options to work around the problem. Still, in this age of electronic everything, I find it hard to believe that it’s so difficult to accommodate caregivers on a family membership. We would gladly pay an extra fee to add our niece to our memberships. Since we live in an electronic world, she would have shown up on our family record just with a click of the mouse.
This year we’ve solved the problem by letting our memberships expire. Some museums the girls will just skip. Others we’ll pay the day rate once and call it done. We’ll take advantage of the Museum Adventure Pass Program as much as possible, especially since the Morton Arboretum is part of the program. There’s not much our girls like more than the Children’s Garden at the Morton Arboretum in the summer.
As museums consider why attendance is falling and how to increase memberships, I hope they will develop real, workable plans for adding caregivers to memberships. It would be a small step that would reap big benefits.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In Defense of Chuck E. Cheese

A week ago right now we were at a birthday party.  It was the girls' first event at Chuck E. Cheese.  It was everything I remembered.  It was loud.  It was chaotic.  It was sensory overload in all ways.

In spite of all the downsides adults complain about and children love, there is one thing they do at Chuck E. Cheese that I had forgotten about.  When you enter the restaurant, they stamp your hand and your children's hands with the same number.  When you leave, they use a black light to make sure your number matches the children you are taking out the door.  If you don't match then you don't leave together.

I have to admit this impressed me.

As a parent I felt good knowing that the girls could not walk out the door.  I realize it was still my responsibility to watch them.  What made me feel good was knowing that if (okay when) I lost sight of one of the girls, she had to be in the play area or restaurant.  She couldn't just wander to the grocery store next door.  I also felt comfortable knowing that no one else could leave with one of the girls. 

I give Chuck E. Cheese a lot of credit for implementing and maintaining this system.  In this day of budget cuts, it would be easy to eliminate the person handling entrances and exits.  Instead they realize this is a selling point for parents that keeps them coming back.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Apologies for the Weather

I'm sorry about the continuing winter weather.  Just like I can make it rain by washing our minivan, I feel responsible for the cold weather.  I went a little crazy and put the warm winter boots in the basement.  I compounded the bad weather karma by throwing out a couple of pairs of old, torn snow gloves.

Immediately after I finished cleaning out the girls' too small winter clothes, we plunged into the cold weather again.

I'm sorry.  I promise not to clean out the winter clothes next year until after Memorial Day.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's Not Our Fault

At some point every morning I say, "If you miss the bus, you won't go to school.  You will have to go back to bed and stay there until Daddy gets home."  It's an effective way to motivate the girls to get out the door in the morning.

Today we were in the "must get out the door now or miss the bus" rush when the tree service showed up.  They are taking down and moving some trees for our patio project.  We knew they were coming; we just didn't know when.

My husband ran outside to talk to them and I kept trying to get the girls ready.  When it became clear that we were about to be late the brunette twin said, "To be clear mom, if we're late it's not our fault.  It's because Daddy and you went to talk to the tree guys."  The blond twin chimed in with, "Yeah, so if we miss the bus, you have to drive us to school.  We're not going to get in trouble because it's not our fault."

They made it to the bus on time, so we didn't have to drive them to school.  I have to admit that I admire the way the brunette twin set the boundaries.  She'll stand her ground when she thinks it's necessary. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's Leggings Season

At the beginning of each school year, my goal is to get the girls through the entire year in the same size.  I try not to replace their clothes throughout the year unless they move into a new size.  If their jeans are torn and tattered, so be it.  As long as their shirts aren't completely stained, they can wear them.

We were so close this year.  They are down to two pairs of jeans each.  These are the last two surviving pairs.  The rest were destroyed during the year.  It's one of the downsides of having PE every day.  It's great that they get the break during the day, but it really takes a toll on their pants. 

This morning the brunette twin started playing with her jeans.  She said, "Mom, I think I need to start wearing my leggings to school.  These just don't fit."

March in Chicago is an iffy time weather-wise. Some days make you think that spring is coming; others make you think winter is never gong to end. There will be a few more cold days, but the girls will have to deal with it.  Leggings season starts in our house today.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Happens in the Garage?

Whenever we leave Oreo in the garage for a while, I wonder what he does.  We leave him with a new, big bone, so I know that keeps him busy for the some of the time.  Still, he's not chewing the bone the whole time we're gone. 

It has been a while since we've come home to find anything chewed or moved, so we know he's not exploring.  Most of the time when we open the door, he's just sitting there.  It's like he's just waiting to be let back into the house.

Now I know that's exactly what he's doing.

When I go to Mom and Dad's, I try to take Oreo with me.  They have a fenced in yard that's a nice place for him to play or run.  At first when he's in the backyard, he does explore.  He'll chase a bird or run back and forth with the neighbor's dog. 

After a while, he parks himself near the back door and sits upright.  The last time we were there I gave him a new bone.  He didn't even touch it.  He just sat at the backdoor.  He will lie down once in a while, but he spends most of his time just waiting to be let into the house.  Even though he doesn't go into Mom and Dad's house, he just sits there patiently waiting.

As soon as someone comes out the door again, he starts playing.  He'll run from end-to-end, play fetch and enjoy the attention.  I thought he'd like being outside more than he did being in the garage.  In the end, he seems not to care where he is if he's alone. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Back to One Bed

When the girls were little, people had loads of advice for us.  A lot of it focused on the equipment we'd need for twins.  We didn't take all the advice, as you would expect.  Where would we put two of everything?  Most of the time we had just one item and we switched the girls from place to place.

After they first came home, we put them in the same crib.  They stayed together until they were so big they would wake up each other just by moving.  We moved them to two cribs, but side by side.  They would wake up and play in their cribs until we came to feed them.

The girls graduated to twin beds that were in the same room.  They happily slept across from each other. 

During the past year, the girls discovered that if they worked together, they were strong enough to rearrange their room by themselves.  We'd hear furniture moving and just wait to be called to see their latest arrangement.  They never tried to move the dresser, just the beds, rocking chair, toys, etc.

Their favorite arrangement seems to be putting their beds together so it's like one king-size bed.  They like sleeping next to each other so they can whisper secrets before they fall asleep.  The past couple of nights they've moved to a new arrangement.  They both sleep in one of the twin beds.  They haven't rearranged the beds.  They just moved themselves onto one of the twin beds.  The other bed gets their critters and dolls.

I know it's only temporary.  The blond twin loves sleeping with her sister, but sooner or later the brunette twin is going to want her own space back.  Still, there's something sweet about them sleeping together.  It reminds me of those first days when we thought things were so crazy and uncertain. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Streak is About to End

I thought we might get through their childhood without going to Chuck E. Cheese.  I've successfully convinced the girls it was too far away for us to just visit.  For seven and one-half years I was able to get away with this.  I guess I just hoped we'd get through another year or so without spending time with the germs, noise, mess, etc.  Oops, I mean the games, life-like bears and pizza.  At that point the girls and their friends would be too old for Chuck E. Cheese. 

My luck ran out.  This Saturday we break the streak.  The girls are going to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese.  The birthday girl only invited six children, so it would be hard for us not to attend.  We don't really have anything else going on.  It's just that I don't want to go.

Of course I will take the girls to the party.  I know they will play games, watch the show, eat too much pizza, have fun and talk about it for days. 

My husband doesn't have to go.  I got him out of it because he has to stay home and watch the dog.  It's the least I can do for him.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Beautiful but High Maintenance

Someone asked me to describe Oreo.  I said, "If he was a someone you were dating, I'd say that he's beautiful, but high maintenance." 

The dog is really beautiful with his icy-blue eyes and black and white coat.  He has that young bounce when he walks.  Strangers tell me how pretty he is.  Just as twins fascinate people, we've found that Huskies fascinate people. 

Huskies are not for the hands-off dog-owner, though.  He's really high maintenance.  He requires a lot of attention.  He requires a lot of exercise.  He's not the kind of dog that can entertain himself.  He has to be right next to you at all times.  When I work, he's right behind my chair.  I cannot get away from my desk until he moves.  He wants to make sure that if you are doing something, he's part of it. 

Why is he worth it?  Mostly because he's a really sweet dog.  He's completely loyal to us -- okay the girls first and then the adults in the house. 

Are we glad he's part of the family?  Yes.  It has taken a while, but he's fully enmeshed into the routine of our house.  He's our dog now.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

All Four with Four Eyes

The brunette twin didn't pass the in-school eye screening.  The health aid sent home a note saying she couldn't read the last two lines.  This upset her greatly.  She took great pride in being the only one in the family without glasses.

Yesterday she was playing with her sister's glasses when she said, "You know nothing is blurry anymore."  She immediately had my attention.  We talked about what was blurry and how much better everything looked when she wore her sister's glasses. 

This morning, the brunette twin decided to wear one pair of her sister's glasses to school all day.  The blond twin has two pairs, so they were "matching twinies" as they like to say.  The blond twin's prescription is very mild; she can see without her glasses.  Her glasses "clean up the edges" as her optometrist likes to say.

The blond twin -- a child who treats her glasses like disposable silverware -- spent quite a while explaining to her sister the best way to take care of eyeglasses.  She talked to her about when to wear them (reading, playing piano, doing math) and when not to (in gym class, running around on the playground).  She showed her sister how to clean them (water and a soft towel).  It was really impressive.  She doesn't do any of these things, but she was very interested in making sure her sister knew the rules.

Tomorrow night we take the girls to get a real eye exam.  We know the brunette twin will need glasses.  At first I thought she'd fight us about it.  Now I think she'll be happy to pick out her own glasses. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Scream and Then Blood

There hasn't been enough going on in our family lately, so the blond twin decided to add a little excitement to our "let's have a quiet afternoon" Sunday.  She was in the basement playing with her Sissy when she started screaming that blood curdling scream that makes parents stop breathing.

Daddy ran downstairs to find her standing at the bottom of the stairs screaming and crying.  At first we couldn't figure out what happened.  It's hard to understand a hysterical seven-year-old, especially one with a wailing twin in the background.  We finally figured out that the girls were on their teeter-totter when the blond twin fell and hit her head on the corner of their toy box.

At first we didn't see all the blood coming from the blond twin's head.  Her long hair and sweater covered it.  I hugged her and put my hand on the back of her head.  I saw a little blood, so I took her upstairs to get her in the shower. 

When I pulled up her hair to take her sweater off, I saw all the blood on her sweater.  Unfortunately, the brunette twin saw it too.  I had Daddy hustle the brunette twin out of the room before she became hysterical.  She was already gasping and tearing up.  The last thing we needed was two hysterical girls. 

Let's just say the blond twin wasn't happy about taking a shower.  We did a lot of convincing and promising to get her into the water.  We gave her some painkiller while she was in the shower.  Given the size of the bump of her head, we didn't want to wait.  It was going to hurt more than she could ever imagine. 

It wasn't until she was out of the shower that we decided she didn't need stitches.  Once the blood washed away, it was clear that she was hurt, but didn't require an emergency room visit.

The girls are in a winter academic camp, but the blond twin didn't want to go.  She just wanted to stay home and milk her injury for all the cuddling, treats and TV time she could get.  Plus, I'm sure it really did hurt as much as she said it did.  The brunette twin went off to camp, leaving her sister at home snuggling with Mommy. 

By the time we picked up the brunette twin, the blond twin was a bit better.  She and Daddy did decide to move the teeter-totter for a while.  One bloody fall was enough.  It's now an outside toy.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tentative Scheduling

The hospital finally said that Dad had to go home.  He doesn't need true nursing care, so they really cannot help him anymore.  Now he's home and it's a whole new ballgame of home health care workers coming in and out.  It's still new to all of us, so we're trying to be available to help Mom as much as possible.  The reality is Dad isn't going to be self-sufficient ever again, so we do need to be around to help Mom.  The last thing we need is for her to end up in the hospital due to exhaustion.

This puts us in a strange state I call tentative scheduling.  We were invited to a party, which we really want to attend. My RSVP email said something like, "Dad's health pending, of course."  We have a family reunion cruise planned for this summer.  I know we should be buying plane tickets and updating our passports, but we haven't yet.  As with everything else, we don't know how Dad will be by July, so we aren't making any plans.

I'm not saying that we're sitting around waiting for a call requesting help.  The girls' world is pretty normal.  They still go to all their programs and see their friends.  As a family, we still go out to dinner, see movies, attend church, and plan vacations.  It's just that now our trips are car-based.  We're planning to visit some family in Maryland soon.  This is an easy trip that's less than a day's drive away.  We're not planning to put ourselves on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean any time soon. 

It's a strange mix of normalcy and urgency.  Some days I feel like everything is simply moving along.  Other days I feel that high-strung, stress all day.  The problem is we don't know what any day will be until we wake-up that morning. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bed Books

Sometimes I don't know how the girls fit into their beds.  Between the critters, dolls, and themselves, I'm always sure there isn't room for anything else.  Even though we limit the critters, somehow they continue to multiply on the girls' beds.

Recently the girls have started hiding books in their pillowcases.  They put them on the bottom so their heads aren't on the books.  At first it was just the brunette twin.  She's moved from being a reluctant reader to an avid reader.  When I first discovered a book in her pillowcase, she asked me not to tell Daddy or Sissy.  She said, "Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and read."

Of course, I know this isn't really true.  She sleeps like a rock.  It's not her fault that she has to wake up so early in the morning.  On her own, the brunette twin would sleep until Noon every day.

Recently the blond twin started hiding books in her pillowcase.  I guess the secret is out, although they still think Daddy doesn't know about the books.  I don't have the heart to tell them that Daddy knows. 

The other night we heard a loud thud from their room.  My husband ran upstairs thinking that one of the girls fell out of her bed.  It turned out that the brunette twin hid a children's dictionary in her bed.  It fell on the floor, made a really loud noise and neither girl woke up.

I walked into their room this morning and the blond twin was reading a book in bed.  I wanted to tell her to stop, put on her glasses, turn on some lights, etc.  Instead I started thinking about putting a flashlight in their room.  Reading a book under the covers with a flashlight is a childhood tradition, isn't it?  If she wants to read, I think we should make it as fun as possible.