Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our Computer Summer

This was first posted on the Chicago Moms blog

I was casually chatting with our girls’ first grade teacher about their assessment scores. There seemed to be a discrepancy between the three different assessment tests they take each semester, with one test lower than the others. It wasn’t terrible, but it was different enough that I wondered why she thought it happened. She said, “Oh, they know their stuff. It’s just hard for them to maneuver the mouse to answer within the test time.”


This is my fault. I’m the mom who restricts her kids tv time and computer time so they would spend more time with imaginary play. We’ve been happy with this decision until they started first grade. It turns out that knowing the answers to the questions doesn’t mean anything if you cannot figure out how to work the computer.


It’s not that they have no computer experience. It’s just that they aren’t quite as adept as other kids. While other kids are playing Scrabble online, we’re playing the Scrabble board game.

We’re taking steps this summer to reverse this. The girls are spending more time playing on websites like Club Penguin and Webkins. They are learning Spanish via an online program. They are playing math games online.


Their teacher’s point is easily actionable, and we are taking action. I realize we’re in the digital age where your ability to work a mouse is as important as your ability to complete double-digit addition and subtraction. I just didn’t realize it would affect our girls’ classroom placement as early as first grade.





Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Always Party with the Nurses

When my brother Dave married his wife, there were about 25 little, adorable, Irish girls running around.  I couldn't keep their names straight, so they were dubbed "the nieces."

The nieces are now grown up with children of their own.  At lot of those children were on display at our nephew's graduation party last Saturday night.   Interestingly, a lot of the nieces grew up to be nurses or otherwise in health care.

Last Saturday, I was sitting at a table with my parents, brother and friends when my Mom started coughing and turning blue.  I tried to get her to talk while saying, "Steve, Steve, Steve, Mom's choking."  He jumped up and grabbed her around the waist.

Within seconds, one of the nieces said, "Move, I'm a nurse."  She grabbed Mom, did the Heimlich maneuver and talked to Mom to make sure she was okay.  A few seconds later she returned to her table as if nothing ever happened.

Mom was okay, but we were all a little shook up.  It's not like we're not all a little emotionally edgy anyway.  Even my Dad looked a little off-color as he kept saying, "Are you okay?" 

I've always adored the nieces, but never more than when one of them helped my Mom.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Two and Done

Last week I finally finished the blond twin's baby quilt.  Yes, I know I'm about six years too late, but it's done and it's wonderful.  Even now she looks at each piece and wants to know the story behind the square.  Why did I pick that shirt?  What did it mean?  Where did she wear it?  Does Sissy have one like it on her quilt?

The quilt did exactly what I wanted.  It is a memory book she'll be able to keep forever and pass it down to her children. 

I guess I shouldn't call it her baby quilt.  Even though I did start saving shirts when she was a baby, she's an adorable little girl now.  Who has a little girl quilt though? 

Already we're saving special shirts for her next quilt.  Given how long it took me to finish her baby quilt, I'm guessing the next one will be for her eighth grade graduation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Dog Training

Oh, we are such first time dog owners.  We spent all this time training Oreo when all we needed to do is wait for summer's heat.  He's a whole different dog now that the temperatures are rising.  He hardly pulls on his leash.  At the start of a walk he might make some moves like he's going to chase a squirrel, but by the end of a walk he doesn't even look at the birds or squirrels.

Twice now he has just stopped in the middle of a walk.  He just dropped down in a shady place to take a break.  He stayed there for a few minutes until he was ready to walk again.  He was panting so hard no one dared to move him.

He gets home, drinks all his water and plops on the floor in a cool place. He stays there for a long time, panting as if he's on a full-speed run.  When he does move, it's slowly.

As my husband pointed out, "He's a Siberian Husky, not a Florida Husky."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Their First Overnight with a Friend

The girls spent the night with a friend last night.  It was the first time they spent the night any place other than Gramma's or with their cousins. 

We were nervous that they wouldn't really spent the night.  Their friend is just far enough away that it isn't a quick trip if they decide not to really spend the night.  We dropped off the girls and their stuff after talking to them (again) about spending the night. They were resolute. 

We enjoyed our child-free time with a movie and a little shopping.  It was funny to walk through Target without them.  When we made it home, we started wondering if we'd get a call.  The time passed and the phone didn't ring. Finally we went to bed. 

In the morning we marvelled that the phone didn't ring in the middle of the night.  We had a quiet morning before the girls arrived home about Noon.

They had a great time.  They played games, read magazine stories about Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, ate ice cream, painted their nails and told ghost stories.  All in all it was a fabulous sleepover.

Now they are planning their first sleepover where a friend comes to our house.  I see many sleepless nights with giggly girls coming soon.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Not Ready for Sandals

The girls love, love, love to have their toe nails polished.  One of our neighbors likes to paint their toe nails different colors and designs.  She does a great job of it.

The girls decided they wanted to try to paint their own toe nails.  I agreed if they would stick to one color per toe and put a towel under their feet while they worked.  They happily agreed.

The end result is clearly a beginner's effort.  There is toe nail polish all over their feet.  Some did make it on their toe nails -- just as much made it on their toes, feet, hands, etc.  It was quite a mess.

They didn't care that they were a mess.  They were very proud of their work.  We'll clean-up the mess and declare their first effort a success.  Next time I might have to provide a little more supervision just to reduce the clean-up stage. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sleeping in the Sauna

Last winter we burned out another humidifier.  We've been running one every night for years because it really seems to reduce the brunette twin's allergy symptoms -- with it she sleeps soundly, without it she is restless. 

Last winter I got tired of buying filters for the cool air humidifiers, so we bought a warm air humidifier.  It adds humidity and heat to the girls' bedroom.  We turned off the humidifier when we turned off the furnace.  The next morning, the brunette twin woke up sounding raspy and sneezing.  The day after she sounded a bit more congested. 

My husband said, "Do we need to turn the humidifier back on even though we're not running the furnace?"  We decided to try it.  The next night she slept soundly and woke up sounding clear -- no congestion, no raspy voice, no sneezing. 

Now we're running the warm air humidifier every night -- furnace, air conditioner, open windows.  We're not sure why, but it works for her, so it works for us.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Family Photos

A couple of years ago we took a family photo.  I was looking at that photo recently thinking how glad I was we made time to do it.  I figured it would be the last family photo that included my Dad.  It never occured to me that the first person missing from the photo would be my sister-in-law Marlene.

We spent a lot of time at Marlene's wake staring at family photos.  Some of those events seemed like yesterday.  Others brought back fond memories.  In each case I was glad that someone took the time to click the photo.

It made me realize I'm way behind in putting family photos in the girls' photo albums.  It's now my summer project. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Sitter

Jayne is back this year as our summer babysitter.  She takes the girls out to classes, swimming, biking, etc.  Her main job is to get them out of the house a few times a week.  The girls like to be out with Jayne, but they don't like that we call her our babysitter.

As the blond twin says, "We're not babies, so we don't need a babysitter.  Jayne is our summer sitter."  They both object every time we refer to Jayne as their babysitter.

I'm not sure if it's a promotion or just a title change, but Jayne is now our summer sitter.  It's actually kind of cute that the girls discussed her title and changed it, so we'll go with it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Back to Reality

When I talked to my brother the night Marlene died, I told him we could pack up and come home right away.  He said, "Nothing will happen before you get back.  Just stay on Mackinac with the girls."

It's a weird thing to be on vacation when someone dies.  On the one hand, you are mourning the person.  On the other hand, you're on vacation.  We decided not to tell the girls until we returned home, so not only were we mourning, but we had to be happy because the girls didn't know that Aunt 'Lene died.

We spent one morning biking around Mackinac, an afternoon exploring in Fort Mackinac and time on the hotel's balcony playing with the giant chess set.  I'm not sure where they learned it, but the girls actually had a pretty good idea about how to play chess.

We had tea in the parlor, which might have been the highlight of their vacation.  They felt like Eloise at the Plaza.  The girls chatted endlessly about the fancy hotel room with the fancy beds. 

All the time I kept thinking about what I had to tell them.  They probably ate more fudge than I would have normally allowed and got away with a bit more than normal because I really wanted them to have good memories of the trip.  Knowing how bad the rest of the week was going to be, I really wanted the trip to be good. 

Now we are back and reality is setting in.  If I could close my eyes and wish my way back to the island, I would.  Instead we're bracing for tomorrow afternoon when we're going to tell the girls' that Aunt 'Lene isn't with us anymore.  I don't know if there's enough fudge on Mackinac Island to help us get through that conversation.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rest in Peace Marlene

I was standing in the lobby of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island when the call came.  One of my brothers asked if I was away from the girls and kept pushing the issue.  I thought, "Geez, it's not like I don't know Dad is sick."  When I assured him I was alone, he said, "Marlene died this morning."

Marlene was my youngest brother's wife.  They would have been married 18 years on July 1.  Her death came suddenly and without warning.  No matter what scenario was playing through my head when my brother called, Marlene died wasn't a possibility.

Of course with sudden deaths, there will be an autopsy before there can be a wake and funeral.  This gives us time to figure out what to tell the girls.  Up until now we've explained every person's death with "she was old and sick."  This doesn't work for Aunt 'Lene.

Aunt 'Lene took the girls to get their ears pierced when they were three.  She made them way too much popcorn whenever we were there.  She introduced the girls to pop, especially Pepsi.  She was the brunette twin's godmother.  She was far too young to be gone now.  It is so unexplainable. Yet, in a couple of days we'll be home again and will have to explain. Her wake will be their first.  I'm not sure we'll take them to the funeral, but they will go to her wake.  All we do now is try to figure out how to explain it all to the girls. 

I talked to my brother last night and he said, "This is the worst day of my life."  I told him I couldn't imagine his pain.  Rest in peace Marlene.  Rest in peace. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

History Repeats Itself

When my brothers and I were young, we received a dog for Christmas.  She was a German Shepard mix that came from the same animal shelter from which we adopted Oreo.  She was the nosiest dog ever.  We decided nosey was a crazy name for a dog so we called her Snoopy.  Everyone thought Snoopy was named after the cartoon character, but people always liked the back story better.  One of our favorite Snoopy stories was when Mom opened the fridge door one Christmas morning and ate some cherries off the cherry cheesecake pie. 

Recently I came into the kitchen to see the blond twin staring into the fridge with Oreo at her side.  I said, "What is the dog doing in the fridge?"  The blond twin looked down and said, "Oreo, keep out of the leftovers."  Oreo was snacking on leftover stir fry while the blond twin was looking for something.  The dog kept snacking until I said, "Shut the fridge door!"

My husband wisely said, "Well, now we  have to remember to always cover the leftovers."  We could also ask the girls to keep the dog out of the fridge, but covering the leftovers seems easier.

Friday, June 3, 2011

We're Starving

Overheard at the bus stop on the last day of school...

Brunette Twin:  "I'm starving."

Blond Twin:  "Mom, we were the only kids in class without a snack today."

Mom:  "Snack?  You had snack time?  You were only in school for an hour and a half."

Brunette Twin:  "We always have snack.  Why didn't you send us with a snack?"

Mom:  "I didn't think you were going to be in school long enough to have a snack."

Blond Twin:  "Well, now you know for next year."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Last Day of First Grade

Today is the last day of school and I'm so happy about it. We'll have a few months without the morning "you are going to miss the bus" panic.  We'll have a few months without the evening "what's for lunch tomorrow" debate.  We'll have a few months without homework, reading assignments and missing glasses. 

What won't change is the time we spend going through all the papers we get from the school.  Every day their backpacks have something that needs our attention.  The girls have spent the last week cleaning out their school classroom and desks, bringing home enormous amounts of stuff.  Rather than a folder of stuff each day, we've been getting a full backpack and a big shopping bag of stuff home every day. 

It will take us all summer just to go through all the piles, binders, folders and envelopes.  By the time we get through the first grade stuff, it will be time for second grade to start.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

No Autographs Please

Oreo is the neighborhood celebrity.  I'm not sure if it's because he's so beautiful or because he's a Husky, but all the kids and adults want to pet him.  They ask a lot of questions when they first meet him.  From then on, every time we pass one of his new admirers, they talk to him. 

It's like I'm his security handler.  People will come to the end of their driveways to pet him.  Children will stop us to pet him.  A teenage girl asked if she could take his photograph the other day.  Of course, he loves all the attention.

It makes me smile because when the girls were little, everyone wanted to see them when I pushed the stroller in the neighborhood.  Now that the girls are older, they want to see the dog.

It's a great way to meet the neighbors, although it would be nice if they asked my name and not just the dog's name.  I realize I could introduce myself, but I'm usually so busy making sure he doesn't jump on them that I forget.  They say, "Hi Oreo, I'm Sue."  I forget to say, "Hi, I'm Shari."  If I was really paying attention to their names I'd be able to introduce myself the next time.  Instead, I just chat because I'm too embarrassed to admit I've forgotten their names.  If only Oreo could help me with that.