Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve Wishes

I'm not one who carries a lucky charm or has a good luck ritual, but there is one thing I do each New Year's Eve. My maternal grandmother always left a dollar bill and a can of soup on her kitchen table. She said it was to ensure there would always be food and money in the house during the new year. I keep the same tradition going. It makes me feel close to her and I like the symbolism of it.

So, for this New Year's Eve, I'm putting a virtual dollar and a virtual can of soup on everyone's table. I wish good luck, good health, and much happiness to each of you in 2008!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Are you still here?

The girls are going to stay with one of my brother's and his family for a few days. I already feel like I need to hug them more and tell them I love them more. I know I'll miss them while they are gone, even though we will really enjoy the break.

When we told them they were going to pack their new suitcases (Christmas gifts from Gramma), they were very excited. When we told them how long they were going to be gone, the blond twin started counting on her fingers. Then she looked at me and said, "That's all. Can't we stay for more days?"

That's my girl. I'm feeling guilty that I'm looking forward to going away without them, and she's trying to figure out how she can get more time for her own vacation. No good-bye tears for her. She wants to know how to extend her away time.

Both girls love to stay at Aunt Sue-Sue's house. It's party time, all the time. Sue has three children of her own, but there are always a few extras hanging around. She comes from a HUGE Irish family (8 or 9 siblings, 40+ nieces and nephews, lots of great-nieces and great-nephews), so our two just fit right in. If she could have, she would have had about a dozen kids herself. It didn't work out that way, so instead she had three and has the rest hanging out all the time.

The good news is our twins won't even miss us. The bad news is our twins won't even miss us. In the end, though, we'll all have a fun New Year's Eve and come back ready to face another wonderful, crazy year together.

So, a big THANK YOU to Dave and Sue. We owe you!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Career Opportunity

Overheard at our house...

Blond Twin: "Mom, sissy is annoying me!!"
Mom: "Quit bugging your sister!!"
Brunette Twin: "It's my job and I like it."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Matching Game

The matching game is a fun way to play with the Christmas cards now that Christmas is over. We do this every year and the girls love to play with it by themselves!

It's so easy.

First, gather all your Christmas cards.
Next, cut the pretty covers off the folding cards.
Now cut those covers in 1/2 for younger kids or 1/3 for preschoolers.
Put mix all the pieces on the floor and let the kids try to match them up.

It's that easy! Educators will probably say it helps with lots of basic skills, but the girls just know it's fun. When all the pieces are ragged, we recycle them.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tracking Santa

Our house is abuzz with Christmas Eve excitement. The girls are giggly about Santa coming tonight. We keep telling them they have to go to bed early so they are asleep when Santa comes. We aren't sure it will work yet, but it's fun.

We're going to track Santa's progress during the day. If you want to know when Santa will visit your house, there are two great sites that track his progress. Enjoy them both tonight!

Norad Tracks Santa 2007

NASA Tracks Santa 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Card

I don't know what it says about the cards I buy, but my husband bought himself a Christmas card this year. He pulled it out of a bag and said, "Here, do you need one of these?" I said, "Yes." Honestly, I did need a "Daddy" card. I didn't like the ones I looked at in the stores, so I didn't buy any of them. The card he bought himself is very nice. I probably would have bought it myself if I found it first.

So, now he knows his present and he's already read his card. Ooooh! Christmas morning is going to be just thrilling for him! I know we're grown-ups, but I still like to surprise him once in a while.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Three in the Bed

Last night I woke up about 2:30 a.m. with the blond twin in my arms. I vaguely remember her coming in our bedroom. I definitely do not remember her crawling into bed with us. And, I have no idea how long she slept in my arms.

As soon as I was awake enough to realize what was happening, I carried her back into her bed. She asked for her favorite stuffed animal and went right to sleep.

The funny thing is this is not the first time this has happened. A few months ago I woke up to find her in bed with us. Again, sleeping in my arms.

She has always been the high maintenance twin. Right after she was born she'd cry just so we'd pick her up. As soon as I picked her up, she'd stop crying. She'd snuggle happily in my arms. When she was a little older, and a little more expressive, she'd make all kinds of happy sounds if you picked her up. She seems to need the close contact.

That being said, she cannot sleep with us. The problem is Mommy and Daddy are too tired to realize she is in bed with us. I think it might be part of her master plan, though. If she can wear out Mommy and Daddy, she can crawl into bed undetected. So far, her plan is working.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Back Story

A while back I read an article about how actors create back stories for their characters. They said it helps them better understand their character and their motivation.

One of the things I love about listening to the girls play is how they create a back story. It's always a rich, detailed back story. In the morning they bounce down the stairs negotiating the back story for the day. Whatever they saw or did the day before might become part of the back story.

For the past few days, their dolls have been playing as Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. This comes from an activity at their school on Monday. Each year the school puts on a live nativity. The children all dress like angels, shepards, wise men, etc. One little girl dresses as Mary and rides out on a donkey. A little boy is Joseph. This year the brunette twin, dressed as an angel, held Baby Jesus in her arms and delivered him to the manger.

Since then, Baby Jesus has been at the center of their daily play. He's been busy too. He has taken swimming lessons, had a birthday party, and built a snowman. He did go on time out yesterday, but I never did figure out why.

Sometimes I ask them about their back story. I have to say that for four-year-olds, the back story always makes sense. It is always has a logical sequence of events from which to start. It evolves during the day as any good story does.

I wonder what it says about the way their minds work. They definitely have vivid imaginations that take an idea from start to finish. It will be interesting to see how this plays into their back stories as they get older.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Daddy's Rules

Overheard at our house...

Brunette Twin: "That's not fair."
Daddy: "We're your parents. We don't have to be fair."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Redefine Christmas

There was an interesting full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune recently. It was a simple graphic with the message "Redefine Christmas." When you go to the website, it's an equally simple site spreading a wonderful message.

I wondered about the legitimacy of the site until I read a story about the family funding the effort. It said the family wondered what would happen if people started spreading the holiday cheer through charitable giving, rather than another "thing" no one really needed. Granted, the family has some money, otherwise they would not be able to fund the message. It doesn't take away from the basic message, though.

What would happen if we all started thinking about the holidays in terms of charity? If we all bought presents for a needy child or gave a few dollars to a local homeless shelter? If we all spent some time volunteering for a group in need?

Christmas is about giving, and we try to teach the girls it is important to give back. This year we "adopted" a child. We took the girls to the store to buy the gifts. It's the first step in a lesson we hope to share yearly. I hope Redefine Christmas is successful in causing people to start thinking about ways to make Christmas more about giving to others who really need it, rather than just giving "stuff."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gramma's Time Out

Overheard at our house...

Blond Twin: "Mom, Gramma left these in the bag she gave you last night."

Mom: "Oh, that's not good. The store must have put them in the bag so we could light the Christmas candles Gramma gave us."

Blond Twin: "You better put them some place safe. Matches are dangerous."

Mom: "Yes they are. Thank you for bringing them to me."

Blond Twin: "I'll have to talk to Gramma about how dangerous matches are next time she comes over. You're not supposed to play with matches. She shouldn't leave them in bags. You need to put them away so no one plays with them."

Mom: "You are right, honey."

Blond Twin: "Maybe I should call her and talk to her about it. She might need a time out."

Mom: "No, that's okay. You can talk to her next time we see her."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Hippo

There's a fun Christmas song called, "I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas" that the girls just love. They laugh and sing every time it comes on the radio. Last year we heard it all the time. This year we have yet to hear it on the radio. Daddy, though, came to the rescue when he bought the CD.

So now we can listen to it all the time. Of course, we have the book about the song. The girls like to see the girl with her hippo. The newest addition to our collection is a pink and purple hippopotamus stuffed animal. This thing gets treated like royalty by the two girls. The brunette twin is hippo's official mommy, but the blond twin gets into the action as well. They do all the stuff they hear about in the song -- play with it, feed it, give it a massage. It's the top toy in the house right now.

It all make the girls happy, so we go with it. The problem is the song is kind of annoying and once I hear it, I cannot get it out of my head. There's nothing worse than when I'm trying to think of something and all that runs through my head is "I wanna hippopotamus for Christmas. A hippopotamus is all I want...."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fear as a Parenting Tool

As we take the girls places during the holidays, many people comment about how well-behaved they are. Several asked how we raised them to be so polite and to listen to us. Here's my secret: Fear. The girls are afraid of us.

They are not afraid we will hurt them or be mean to them. They are terrified that we will not take them anywhere. They LOVE to be out. They LOVE to go places. More than once I've threatened to leave them at home or not let them go to a class. It puts them into a complete panic. For some reason, the thought of staying home with all their toys is terrifying.

I haven't actually made them stay home -- yet. I have taken off my coat and shoes as I am threatening to make them stay home. I have also put my keys away and taken my purse off my shoulder. This immediately puts them into action. Clean the playroom? Done. Try to go to the bathroom? Done. Put the correct shoes on? Done.

So far all I've done is threaten them. Sometimes it just takes a look. Other times I'll say, "You don't have to go to Grammas. If you don't clean the playroom, you can stay home." Just the words cause them to do whatever I'm asking.

Yes, love and respect are good parenting tools, but never underestimate the power of a good threat. Fear works.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lists for Santa

Here's one definite advantage of having twins as our "only" children. They don't have older role models to teach them everything. Yes, they do learn stuff from their cousins, the neighbors and the kids in school. They don't have an in-house source to teach them things, though.

I realized this when we saw Santa this weekend. The friend we went with has older siblings. He had a LIST for Santa. It was funny to listen to him. Our girls went up and when Santa said, "What do you want?" The blond twin said she wanted a pink dress. The brunette twin said she wanted a purple dress. That was it!! It never occurred to them to make a long list. One girl asked for one thing and her sister followed. Talk about an easy task for Santa!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Homework from Santa

Recently the girls and a friend visited with Santa. When their friend asked Santa what kind of cookies he liked, Santa replied, "Please leave me two chocolate chip cookies and half a glass of milk. And, I need one apple cut into eight pieces for the reindeer."

Oh great, I thought. I have homework from Santa. Now on Christmas Eve we need to leave cookies, milk, AND an apple. Now the girls debate whether they each need to leave two cookies, milk, and a cut-up apple or if they can share. I try to tell them they can leave just two cookies. They think they each need to leave two cookies. And, the apple is a big concern. Red, yellow or green? What kind of apples do reindeer eat?

They are only four years old once, so we'll enjoy it while we can. We still don't know what kind of apples reindeer eat, though.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Puppet Bike Theater

Yesterday my Mom and I took the girls downtown to see the Christmas decorations. We were wandering through the German Market at Daley Plaza when we found the Puppet Bike Theater. It's one of those things you have to see to believe, so I found a YouTube video of the show. It's so funny! You just stare at these hand puppets. I kept thinking, "Now I've seen everything." I couldn't stop watching, though.

On the one hand, it's really so simply -- one person, two hand puppets, some music. On the other hand, it's really stupid -- one person, two hand puppets, some music. Yet, the crowd LOVED it. Really. You cannot imagine the laughter and smiles. Everyone cheered like it was a rock concert. The kids couldn't get enough of it.

The performer just parked his or her bike at the corner of Daley Plaza. The kitties collected dollar bills like water. Kids went up to the little door near the bottom of the stage to give a dollar. The kitties danced with the dollar before it disappeared behind the curtain.

Nearby several Chicago Police officers watched the crowd, but never stopped the show. The girls still talk about the puppets. Today they used their stuffed animals to put on their own show. No one gave them dollar bills, though.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Terra Cycle Sign-Up

It's not surprising that our girls are obsessed with recycling. They attend a nature-based preschool and taking care of the earth is an ongoing topic. It's not a deep, heavy conversation, but something woven into every day lessons. And, it's a lesson they take to heart. Every time I move towards the garbage can, they want to see if it's really garbage or if I should be recycling it.

There's a cool web site -- Terra Cycle -- that helps our twin girls understand what happens to the stuff they recycle. Terra Cycle takes plastic bottles and yogurt containers and turns them into stuff you can buy to improve your gardens, increase your composting, or feed the birds. It's a fun concept that puts the ambiguous "recycling" concept into action.

You can sign up to be part of the "brigade" or just visit for information. Either way helps kids understand how recycling really works.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Let it Snow

We had our first real snow fall yesterday. Now everything is pretty, sparkly and white. Most people groan when it snows -- the shoveling, the slow driving, etc. I cheer. It's not just that I like snow, but the girls LOVE the snow. Yesterday morning I let them put on all their snow gear and head outside before breakfast. They thought it was great to wear their pajamas outside to play in the snow.

Here's why I cheer for snow. Any amount of snow means they want to play outside as much as possible. And, playing outside makes them very tired. When they are very tired they go to bed early and sleep through the night like little rocks. For me snow means a good night sleep. So, everyone sing with me, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dadditude Guest Posting by Phil Lerman

Hi everybody! I’m the author of a new book called “Dadditude,” and I’ve been invited by Shari to do a guest blog on my favorite topic: Are all dads idiots, or not?

“It drives me crazy that most bloggers only complain about their husbands,” Shari wrote to me. “If they are all such idiots, why did these women marry them?”

Good question.

Here’s the answer.

I figured this out not at home, but at work. I spent 25 years in newspapers and TV, first as national editor of USA Today, later as co-executive producer of “America’s Most Wanted.” So I had literally hundreds of managers work for me. And you know their favorite story?

“My staff are all idiots.”

I heard this from managers every day: Everyone who works for me is an idiot. They can’t do anything. But don’t worry, because I fixed everything they messed up. Good thing I’m here!

Sound familiar?

These managers were taking control and power in the office place by making themselves seem indispensable. It took a long time for them to learn that you’re not going to get fired if your staff does well. Nobody’s gonna replace you. In fact, you’ll probably get a raise for training such a good staff.

Moms take a while to learn this too. That it’s OK to lose control of the home a little, to give up some of that amazing mommy power to a mere mortal (my wife even lets me dress my son all by myself sometimes! Well, not if he’s going out of the house or anything. But still!)

Trust me. Even if you stop telling everyone what an idiot your husband is nobody’s gonna fire you. Well, you might get suspended now and then. But what the heck. Everybody needs a day off once in a while.

Monday, December 3, 2007


One great thing about this blog is I get to meet people I would not ordinarily have a chance to meet. A great example is Phil Lerman. He wrote a book called "Dadditude: How A Real Man Became A Real Dad." While I haven't read the book yet, I did invite him to be a guest blogger.

Just from our email exchanges, I know we are on the same page about a few important parenting points. First and, perhaps, most importantly, Dads are not idiots. Despite the way TV portrays Dads as bumbling incompetents, Dads are actually quite capable.

I know women who brag about things like their husbands never changing a diaper or giving the baby a bottle. Another woman I know hires a babysitter if she leaves her husband at home with the children. She claims he cannot "handle" their two kids. Huh?

Maybe it's just our circle of friends, but the Dads I know are very involved and competent. We all think of parenting as a team sport. My husband is wonderful, as I tell everyone who comes near me. If he wasn't so involved from the day our girls were born, I'd be dead. It's that simple. There is no way I could have handled all the diaper changes, feedings, doctor's visits, etc. for twins during the first two years. It never occurred to me that he would not be capable of changing a diaper. Even now he's as involved as I am. In our house it's not optional.

Phil is going to write guest posts on the topic of Dads. I hope you'll all welcome him and comment at will.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Christmas Surprise

My husband's Christmas present arrived today and he couldn't be happier. Of course, he wasn't supposed to see it before December 25, but as we pulled in the driveway this morning, there was no way to miss it. A tall, cardboard box was propped against our front door -- no mistaking it for anything other than the golf club he wanted.

He wasn't subtle about it. He handed me a newspaper insert and said, "I want this golf club." So I ordered it right away to make sure it arrived in time. I even consulted our family's best golfer, our high school nephew, to make sure I ordered the correct club.

Still, I was hoping to keep it a secret. Mom and I had a plan to hide it at her house. I checked the deliveries every day to make sure it wasn't at the front door when he came home. Where I screwed up was with the delivery method. I thought it was coming via UPS. Since UPS doesn't deliver on Saturdays, a weekend delivery was not a concern. It came via USPS. The good old U.S. Postal Service. UPS, USPS so close -- and yet so far from a true Christmas surprise.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Nutcracker Ballet

Every Christmas since the girls were born I've watched ads for the Nutcracker and said, "When they get old enough, we're going." Well, this was the year we went. The girls wore their beautiful dresses. Gramma and I chaperoned. It was every little girls' fantasy -- beautiful costumes, graceful dancers, wonderful music. It was just as perfect as I had hoped.

The best part was it was also family-friendly because our regional ballet company, the Salt Creek Ballet, performed at a local high school. The crowd was as upscale as any you might see at the downtown Chicago performance, but with less attitude and more patience. The audience was filled with little girls and their families. Childish whispers filled with delight were scattered throughout the performance as the children asked their parents questions. The parents quickly "shushed" the children, but no one stared. The crowd seemed to understand that these children were so excited they couldn't control themselves.

The dance company performs at local community colleges, four-year colleges, and large high schools. It was our first performance. It was so enjoyable that we are planning to see the Spring show. Even without the downtown prices and attitude, it was a wonderful afternoon. We'll be back again next year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fashion Sense

Overheard at our house...

The garage door opens.

Brunette Twin: "Daddy's home. I missed you Daddy."
Blond Twin: "Daddy, where did you get that jacket. It's so soft. I like the color."
Daddy: "Mommy gave it to me for Christmas last year."
Blond Twin: "Really? I don't remember."
Daddy: "Trust me. She did."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rhyme Time

The girls like to rhyme words. Mostly what comes out is nonsensical. You know the game. Phone rhymes with bone and moan and tone and wone. Of course, wone isn't really a word, but it sounds funny. The more outrageous the rhyme, the more they laugh. Ocassionally there's a naughty word, but I let it pass.

Yesterday the blond twin crossed a new threshold. Kitchen rhymes with b-tch-n and litchen and mitchen, she said sweetly. She's never heard the b-word from us, so she did not know it's a bad word. I let it pass. The girls both laughed, a lot. So, of course, the blond twin said it again and again and again.

Now I had to say something. I knew they rhymed at school with friends. I really didn't want her to repeat the entire rhyme at school. I took a deep breath and explained that the b-word was a bad word and she shouldn't say it again. She broke into tears. "I'm sorry Mommy," she said. "I did not mean to say a bad word." It was both funny and sad.

When Daddy came home, I forgot to tell him. At dinner, the blond twin said, "Daddy, I said something really bad today." And then she looked at me. I told Daddy. He laughed so hard his face turned red. He told her not to say the word again. Then he laughed some more.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Food Policy

We have a new food policy in our house. I instituted it today after another grueling meal with the brunette twin. She sat at the table making faces, whining, and generally trying not to eat her dinner. She kept asking "can I be done now?" After a few times, I screamed, "YES, YOU ARE DONE." I dragged her from the table and put her on time out on the couch. Then I took her mashed potatoes and cheese bowl away from the table. Now she's crying, "I'm hungry. I want to eat more." I said, "No. You want to be done. You are done."

The new policy is when you ask if you can be done, you are done. You must leave the table and I throw away your food. Hungry? Not my problem. I am soooooo completely tired of the food fight with the brunette twin. She eats something one night, but not the next time I serve it. We sit in a restaurant begging her to eat macaroni and cheese because she doesn't like the noodles. We don't ask her to eat liver and onions. This is basic toddler food. From now on if she doesn't want to eat, she doesn't have to. I'm tired of fighting with her. If she'd rather be hungry than eat a certain kind of noodle in her macaroni and cheese, so be it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christmas Count

We traditionally put our Christmas decorations up the Friday after Thanksgiving. Yesterday I crawled into the storage area and pulled out all the boxes. And, I do mean ALL the boxes. I think we had about 30 plastic bins of stuff -- not the big bins, but the medium bins, but still we have a lot of stuff. My mission yesterday was to put up our decorations and sort out the bins. As much as I love Christmas, no one needs many Christmas decorations as we had.

It took all day, but I managed to donate about 15 brown bags filled with unused decorations to a local resale shop. I figured I freed up about five or six bins. This meant we still had a lot of bins, but here's how I figured it broke down:

1 very large bin for artificial Christmas tree
3 ornament crates
4 bins of lights -- indoor and outdoor
1 bin of Christmas glasses/mugs
1 large bin for a small artificial Christmas tree
1 bin of Christmas linens

So far we accounted for 11 containers. The rest were filled with other decorations. In my defense, though, I cannot take credit for all the Christmas decorations. Our girls LOVE the Hallmark plush table-top decorations that move and sing. For the past four years, my husband has bought the new one for them. This means two bins are reserved for those items, and another two are full of the other animated snowmen that seem to multiple in our house each Christmas.

I'm sure I could consolidate more if I'd take everything out of the original packaging. The stocking hangers take up a full bin because the Styrofoam and box are three times as big as the actually stocking holder.

Of course, that's just how I rationalize having so many bins. In the end, even though we donated a LOT of decorations, we have so many Christmas decorations just because we like it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Blessings

The girls are at a fever pitch. It's THANKSGIVING! For them this means as much fighting as possible. It's very out of character for them to be so difficult, but this is a BIG DAY in their world. My husband and I are trying to figure out how to put ten people around a table that seats six, maybe eight if we squish. It's not that we didn't know everyone was coming. It's cold, snowy, and overcast. Generally, it's chaotic here.

And yet, I'm loving all of it. I'm tremendously thankful for our little family of four, for our extended big family, and for all our friends. Most of all I'm thankful for Annette. Without her, it wouldn't be chaotic at all here today.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Medical Awareness

A long time ago I handled media relations for an international medical society. At the time, one of my favorite media catch phrases was "you are in charge of your health care." I always told people that no matter what the doctor or nurse said, you were in charge. I transferred that philosphy from my work to our children when the twins were born. The girls were both more than 6 lbs, so they didn't have to stay in the hospital more than the standard 48 hours. Yet, I watched every single thing that was done to them during that time. I drove the nurses crazy. Why was one of the girls taken from the nursery? Who authorized that test? What were the test results? What do those results mean?

To this day, I still hover over their doctors and nurses. It's not that I don't trust them, but mistakes happen. We changed pedatricians because that office had two girls with the same name. The nurses would bring in two charts. One for our brunette twin and one for the other girl. I'd question how it could happen since the other girl was nearly a year younger than our twins, had a different address, and different parents. None of her vital information was even close to our girls! The nurses always brushed me off. The office staff could not keep the records straight. The final blow came when they started billing us for the other girls' office visits. I not only changed pediatricians, but I filed complaints with our health insurance.

I had a chill when I heard about Dennis Quaid's twins. It's so scary to have newborns anyway, but somehow it always seemed safe to put them in the hands of medical professionals. Do I think the error was intentional? No. I think it was just human error. What I do know, though, is that until our daughters are old enough to take on the job themselves, we are in charge of their health care. It's one of the scariest parts of parenting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Every day people ask me questions about the girls. Here are the answers I'd like to give. I'm sure you'll be able to figure out the questions.

"No, you cannot touch her hair. Yes, it is very long."

"Yes, I'm sure they are twins."

"They are both smart."

"Neither one dominates the other. They are both strong personalities."

"No, I don't dress them alike. I know that some twins' parents do, but we choose not to.

"Yes, they are very close."

"No, I don't have a favorite."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Super Why!

I adore the new PBS show Super Why! The girls lead a pretty tv-free existence, but once in a while I let them watch a show. We stumbled upon Super Why! and now we're hooked.

The show helps kids with reading readiness. The animated characters talk to the viewers the same way my husband and I talk to the girls when we're reading. They spell out words phonetically. You know how it goes. What letter makes this sound? Which vowel makes this sound? Once the word is completed, they sound it out.

The girls are captivated. They love watching show. They practice their letters and sounds all the time anyway. They both really want to read. Some days I'lll find them looking at a book trying to find words they know. It's twin team effort with them, of course.

Super Why! lessons are smart and practical. What's not to love?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Quiet Time

Overheard at our house...

The bedroom door opens slowly. The girls stand by Mom & Dad's bed.

"They are sleeping."
"Should we wake them up?"
"No. They are tired. Let's go play."
"Okay, wanna play babies?"
"No, let's play with the horses."

The bedroom door closes quietly.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Posting Policy

An interesting thing happened when I posted about the MySpace cyber-bulling. People came out of the woodwork. Due to this, there is a new policy for posting on this blog. All posts will be moderated. If you are not willing to sign your name to your thoughts, don't bother. I won't allow anonymous comments any more. I appreciate you reading, but an honest discussion doesn't hide behind anonymous postings. If you won't sign your name to it, don't post it.

Deadly MySpace Cyber-Bullying

There is a story on the front page of today's Chicago Tribune that is so disturbing I cannot stop thinking about it. A young teen and a friend had a falling out. Instead of saying, "Oh well. It happens." The PARENTS of one of the girls set up a MySpace account as a fictional teen-age boy. They started by pretending to be her friend. Then they relentlessly sent mean, nasty messages to their daughter's former friend. The 13-year-old former friend was so distraught that she committed suicide.

This is something PARENTS did. What I don't understand is what made them concoct this plan. Somewhere, two adults sat around and said, "Hey, let's get back at Megan by harassing her." They knew she struggled with depression, and yet they thought it was a good idea? How warped do you have to be to decide to harass a child because she was no longer your daughter's friends

Our girls are growing up in a house where they will have no expectations of privacy. Our only web-connected computer is in the family room where I can see everything. (They are still young, but it's never too early to plan.) I will monitor them like crazy. It's not that I don't trust them -- or expect that I will be able to trust them -- it's that crazy people exist and want to harm them. If you doubt it, try reading Megan's story from the CNN or the Post Chronicle.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Animal Kingdom

Here's why I love our neighborhood. Let's night I came home from teaching about 9:45 p.m. As I turned on to our block a shadowy thing crossed the street. I couldn't figure it out until I shined my headlights on it. A small, red fox was running through the yards. It was beautiful.

I was excited. We've had raccoons, opossums, and deer in the yard before. This summer, one of our neighbors spotted deer eating our hostas. And, the skunks were so bad this summer that we woke up several nights to close the windows. If you've never smelled a skunk spray, let's just say it is strong enough to wake you from a deep sleep.

The fox, though, was a new addition to our animal kingdom. I had not seen a fox running through the yards until last night. I actually sat in front of my garage for a few minutes before opening the door. I waited until the fox moved down a few yards. I really did not want a fox in our garage.

All this and we're still only 30 minutes from downtown Chicago. It's not for everyone, but we enjoy calling it home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Alphabet Show and Tell

The girls have show and tell at their preschool. They bring an item each week and tell a little story about it. It's not new, I know. All the preschools do it. The twist here is everything has to be farm or nature related. And, of course, we need two items for each letter. It's the twin thing, of course.

Some letters are easy. A is for avocado and artichoke. (This is an avocado. We use it to make guacamole. This is an artichoke. It grows on a farm.) E is for evergreen tree branch and a toy elephant. (This is an evergreen tree branch. Most people call it a Christmas tree. This is a toy elephant one of Daddy's friends brought back from India.)

Some letters are giving me fits. Since I'm not proud, I am publicly asking for help with some letters. Here's the list:


I will gratefully accept any suggestions about what the girls can bring to school for those letters. A few things to keep in mind, please. First, I must be able to obtain the items easily. Second, the girls have to be able to put the items in their backpacks. Finally, everything has to be farm or nature related. It's a wide open field, so please help! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Snow Miser

I was duped into buy our first Christmas decoration yesterday. We were at the store buying gym shoes -- or so I thought. I went off to look at some other items. My husband took the girls in another direction to keep them busy for a few minutes. The store was stocked with Christmas decorations and toys already, so keeping them busy wasn't going to be a problem. The plan was my husband and the girls would meet me at the checkout line.

As I stood waiting, I heard the girls giggling. The brunette twin carried an animated, light-up snowman. When she pushed the button, he sang the Snow Miser song from one of the Christmas specials. "I'm Mister White Christmas. I'm Mister Snow." My husband said, "she really wants it. Should we get it?"

Now, my choices were both bad. Either I was the bad guy who said no and ripped the snowman out of her hands, or we bought the thing. I'm pretty sure it was a conspiracy cooked up between Daddy and his twins. Let's just say I cannot wait for the batteries to run out. I'm already tired of the song.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Orange Crush

I am still surprised none of our neighbors called the police on us yesterday afternoon. I had some windows open to air out the house. I was baking an apple pie and some of the juice dripped on to the oven bottom. Smoke was everywhere!

Just as I opened the windows to keep the smoke detectors from going off, the University of Illinois football team beat Ohio State University. Yes, our football team beat the number one ranked collegiate football team in the country -- AT OHIO STATE. We beat them on their home field!

Immediately after the game, we all started cheering "Go, Go Illinois." It was so loud I'm sure everyone in the neighborhood heard us. Actually, everyone for a few blocks probably heard us.

I understand most people probably are not that excited about the game. For Illinois alums, though, it was HUGE. So far this season we've won more football games that we did in the previous few seasons combined. We're probably going to a bowl game. It's all good fun.

After we stopped cheering, the girls started singing the Alma Mater. I think we have two future Orange Crush members in our family.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christmas List

Overheard at our house...

Dad: "What do you want for Christmas?"
Brunette Twin: "A wallet with some money and credit cards."
Dad: "Me too."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I Love You More

The sweetest book arrived on my doorstep yesterday. I Love You More is a flip-side book, so you read one side, end in the middle, flip the book over, and read the new story. Both stories have the same happy ending.

Recently our brunette twin started saying, "I love you more than ...." She loves to come up with new comparisons. I thought she'd love the comparisons in the book, and she does enjoy them. What she really loves, though, are the beautiful pictures. She laughs so hard while looking at the book. She always says, "Look Mom, the fish is wearing goggles."

With twins, it can be hard to keep them interested in the same thing. The girls have unique interests, but I Love You More captivates both of them. I'm sure we'll look for other books written by Laura Duksta and/or illustrated by Karen Keesler. Reading I Love You More has created a new family of fans.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Different Partners

I've noticed that the girls' teachers assumed they wanted to be partners because they were twins. This happened in several classes. The teacher started to put the class into pairs and announced "Okay, you two are partners." The first few times it happened, the girls just went with it. Lately, though, they have asserted their independence. It first happened a few weeks ago in music class when Miss Joan tried to partner them. The blond twin said, "I don't want to be her partner." Miss Joan stopped and stared at the brunette twin. Instead of protesting, the brunette twin said, "I'm her sissy. I don't want to be her partner. I want to play with someone else." It was as if they had discussed it.

Ever since that class, the girls have separated a bit more. They always talk about which kids were their partners at preschool. They love telling stories about what their partners did during different activities. What I love about it is they decided themselves to separate. We always say we don't have twins, but two daughters who share a birthday. Even though their twin bond is completely unbreakable, they understand that some times they should play with other kids.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hidden Treasures

I was making breakfast this morning when I heard the girls squealing in the playroom. I mean loud, high-pitched, excited squeals. I went in there to find the couch cushions on the floor. The girls discovered the hidden treasures between the couch cushions. The real find was the missing apron. The brunette twin held it like a doll and danced around the room. I made a mental note to clean under the couch cushions more often.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Time Change

Whoever decided daylight savings time was a good idea does not have children. The girls were finally over the "we don't want to take a nap, but we're still tired and crabby all afternoon" hump. Now we're adjusting to the time change. They were sleeping until about 7:00 a.m. each morning. Now we're back to waking up at 6:00 a.m. Last year the girls were still napping so the time change was not as bad. This year it stinks.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Panic Driving

The scene: Mom and twin four-year-old girls driving to see Aunt Linda in Wicker Park.
The place: Chicago, specifically Damen Avenue near the United Center.

The blond twin: "Mom, my tummy hurts."
Mom: "Do you have to go potty?"


"Okay, we'll be at Aunt Linda's in a couple of minutes."

Girls start singing a Wiggles song.

"Mom, my tummy really hurts."
"Are you sure you don't have to go potty?" Mom's praying the answer is no. There is no where to pull over and use a bathroom. The neighborhood isn't even one she'd stop in and pull out the travel potty.

"Are you going to puke?"

More panic. Mom grabs a plastic shopping bag and hands it to the blond twin -- tells her to puke in the bag if necessary. Mom holds her breath. Blond twin starts to gag. More strange sounds come from the back of the mini-van. Everyone laughs.

"Honey, that was the biggest burp I've ever heard."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pajama Personalities

People always ask about the girls' personalities. How are they alike? How are they different? How they are alike is easy. Both girls love books. Both girls like to help around the house. Both girls like to sing and dance. Both girls like to ride their bikes. Both girls want to be princess ballerinas.

We bought pajamas the other day that perfectly express how the girls are individuals. The blond twin has bright pink and purple winter pajamas with kitties and hearts all over. The brunette twin has bright red winter pajamas with sparkly, silver snowflakes all over.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cold Prevention

Around here we all just wait for the fall/winter cold cycle to set in. Not just Chicago's temperature drop, but the runny nose, coughing, sneezing illness that inevitably makes the rounds. Since the new advice is that cold medicines are not effective for children under six, we've all been talking about alternative ways to treat our preschoolers.

We use two methods in our house. The first is basic prevention. In addition to the standards -- eating right, washing hands, getting enough sleep -- we also run a humidifier in the girls' bedroom each night. We have a humidifier attached to our furnace, but we seem to need even more humidity. As I understand it, the reason proper humidity seems to help prevent colds is if the air is too dry, nasal passages and throats get dry and small cracks appear, creating places cold germs can enter the body. The moist air prevents nasal passages from drying out and cracking. This prevents the germs from having a place to enter the body. Of course, there are other ways the germs can enter the body, but the moist air at night does seem to help our twins.

The other thing we LOVE is called Sudafed Plug-Ins. These things are magic. Each one is a small, white plastic vaporizer you put into an electrical outlet. You insert a small, mentholated pad into the vaporizer. The heat releases the vapors. It's non-medicated, so it's safe. What it does is open your airways so you can breathe. At the first sign of congestion, we start using the plug-ins. The girls breathe better, sleep better, and seem congested for a shorter time. It's wonderful for my allergies too.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Independence Training

As a certified Type-A personality, friends are often surprised at how laid-back I am with the girls sometimes. For example, they must wear hats when they leave the house. We have a laundry basket near their shoes so they can easily reach their hats. They decide which hats to wear. I rarely interfere with their choices. The blond twin likes to wear her pink/orange/yellow flowery denim jacket with a cream knit cap with a snowman as the top tassle. It's a look only a four-year-old can pull off. She wears it with pride. The brunette twin put on her pink, "jester" hat with her purple Tinkerbelle jacket today. She loves it.

I save my controlling moments for important issues, like cleaning the playroom. If they want to play with their toys, they must clean them up. It's not optional in our house. It takes soooo much longer for them to do it than it would for me to just clean up everything. Sometimes I just want to do it so we can move on, but I really try to resist the impulse.

The important lesson, though, is for them to learn to be independent. They are learning to make decisions quickly. (We're leaving. Get a hat.) They are learning to take responsibility for their actions. (You made the mess. You clean it up.) And, they are learning how good it feels to do a good job. (Please set the table.) It's not perfect every time. Some days we move two steps backwards before we make any progress. We do make progress, though. In the end, I think that's what is most important.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Scary Emails

Every day I receive several "warning" emails supposedly giving me important information regarding my family, health, safety, finances, etc. Sometimes you know the warnings sound a bit fishy, while other warnings sound credible. When you aren't sure whether or not it's true, check out Snopes. It's a great web site for all kinds of urban legends. The editors not only tell you whether your "important warning" is true or not, they help break down the back story. It is really interesting to read the top 25 urban legends currently circulating. You've probably heard about using Vick's to stop children from coughing at night. Is it true? Snopes says no, and tells you how it started. If nothing else, you'll learn something interesting to add to your small talk repertoire.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Preschool Vegetarian

Overheard at our house...

"Mom, are we having a turkey for Thanksgiving?"
"Like Timmy the Turkey at school?"


"Mom do they kill the turkey before we eat it?"
"So they have to cut off his head and pluck his feathers?"
"Pretty much."
"That's disgusting. I'm never eating turkey."
"That's fine honey."

This from a butcher's granddaughter....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Shopping Observation

I saw the cutest baby at Target yesterday. His Mom had him in a front baby carrier. He was happily waving his arms and babbling. His Mom was talking to him. I thought "that looks so cute. Why didn't I carry the girls like that?" Then it hit me. Duh! We have twins. What was I going to do put one on my front and one on my back?

For the first six months, I never left the house by myself with the girls. It was too hard to manage two baby carriers, a diaper bag, etc. In the winter, it was hard enough to carry one in the snow and ice. What was I going to do? Leave one in the car while I carried the other into the doctor's office? Then come back for the second child, leaving the first alone with strangers? Even when I went to visit my parents, I'd call them when we were about two blocks away so someone could come out and help move the girls.

If you think about it, stores are not set up for twin parents. Most shopping carts are designed for one child. Costco does have two-child carts, so they win the prize for forward-thinking. Even if you don't have twins, but perhaps two children close in age, you need a cart where you can put two children. With the growing number of multiples, you'd think more stores would make it easy for parents to shop with more than one child.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Grown Up Dinner

When the girls were first born, everyone would say, "You need to get out of the house." I'd laugh and laugh. Not that it wasn't a good idea, but the implementation was a problem. First, I always looked homeless. Getting ready to go out in public required quite an effort. Second, I was too tired to drive anywhere. I was a hazard on the roads. I once fell asleep in the Jewel parking lot because I sat there too long trying to decide where to go next.

Four years later, I can honestly say things have dramatically improved. We try to get out regularly and last night we had a grown up dinner. Some of my husband's friends at work have a dining club. Two or three times a year they pick a new restaurant and explore. Last night I joined them for dinnner at Ditka's. The food was wonderful. The company was wonderful. The weather was terrible, but some things cannot be controlled. As a bonus, Mike Ditka was in the restaurant. It was all just fun. As much as we love our twin girls, we really love spending time away from them too. It's a healthy balance for all of us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Radio Reports

We always listen to music during the day. We listen to several different local stations depending upon our reception. We're just miles from Chicago, but some days are better for some stations than for others.

For the past few days, though, I've been listening to compact discs only. The news about the San Diego fires is so overwhelming our disc jockeys update listeners constantly. And, of course, the devastation is such that it's important to keep people updated. The problem is our four-year-old twins are quite precocious and actually process what is being said. After one station talked about making sure your family had a fire escape plan, the brunette twin asked me about our fire escape plan.

It's always a good thing to talk about, but I was washing dishes and didn't really listen to what the disc jockey said. (Also, I was kind of hoping their father would be home for these conversations.) Of course, my concern is the radio reports will scare the girls. My hope, though, is that we'll soon be able to turn on the radio again because the fires are over. However scared our girls might feel must be nothing compared to how scared all the people, especially children, really affected by the fire must be feeling.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hooker Halloween Costumes

I dread Halloween. Not because I don't like the concept, but costumes can be a nightmare. The girls always want to be the same thing, but not wear the same costume. For example, last year they wanted to be butterflies, but not the same butterfly. I went to five different stores looking for butterfly costumes. Either they didn't have the right size or they didn't have a butterfly costume. This year I got smart. I went into the costume aisle at Target before Labor Day. The girls wanted to be princesses, but not the same princess. Target carries princess costumes year-round. I was thrilled when they decided to be cheerleaders instead. Those costumes came in different colors and only cost $9.99. Rah! Rah! Rah!

I was looking at the Halloween costumes in various sale inserts this weekend. I don't know when the trend started, but little girl costumes (as small as size 6) have names like "Sexy Devil" and "Dirty Angel." Really? For a size 6 girl? Our twins are 4-years-old and wear a size 6. Most size 6 girls, though, are in kindergarten or first grade. Do children that young need a black, pleather costume with a whip? Or a low neckline and belly cut-out? More importantly, who buys their young child a costume like that?

Apparently I'm in the minority because most costume sale inserts had the same looks. I must be the only person who thinks little girls should not be dressed like hookers for Halloween.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Safer Trick 'N Treating

It's icky and creepy, but there are people out there who do disgusting things to children. We live in Illinois, and some Illinois counties make registered sex offenders place bright red signs on their doors for Halloween. Most of the time, though, you don't know that the kindly old neighbor walking the dog is a registered sex offender.

Family Watch Dog is a FREE online service that helps you keep your family safe. To find out which houses you should avoid, go to the site Enter your street address. You'll see a "house" in the middle of the map, that's your house. All the little colored boxes are registered sex offenders Click on a box to see the name, address, and picture of the person along with his/her crime. It is both empowering and frightening. Remember though, knowledge is power. Once you know where the scary people live, you can avoid those houses for Halloween -- and every other day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Basic Math

There's a basic math problem inherent to being a SAHM of twins. There are two of them and one of me. This is a nightmare for Mommy & Me classes. These classes are designed for parents to interact with a child. The girls and I took a couple of these classes when they were smaller. Some were a nightmare. I finally had to bring it to the tumbling instructor's attention that I needed help. Her reply, "We're supposed to teach you how to do it. We're not supposed to do it for you." A call to her supervisor adjusted the instructor's attitude. Our Kindermusik class is great because the instructor understands that I need help without making me feel incompetent. She realizes I cannot hold and dance with two children simultaneously.

Now I'm searching for an ice skating class. There a class at a local rink that is perfect. The time is great. The cost is great. The problem is it's a "teacher guided" class -- AKA Mommy & Me. They guide us along as I teach the girls how to skate. Right. I'm going to get on the ice with two four-year-olds who are unsteady on their feet. Now, I can skate well. They cannot. Picture yourself with two preschoolers yanking your arms out as they try not to fall. I think you'll understand why I'm still looking for an ice skating class.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Missing in Action

Several things are missing in our house right now, but only one causes great angst with the girls. For Christmas last year, we bought the girls oil cloth aprons with their names embroidered at the top. They wear these aprons to play, paint, and bake. Somehow, the brunette twin's apron is missing. It's driving me crazy. I look for it every day.

Whenever we bake cookies, the girls wear their aprons. Of course, since the brunette twin's apron is missing, baking nearly causes tears these days. Oh, the injustice of it all! We call the blond twin the drama queen, but when it comes to the apron, the brunette twin does a pretty good job of it.

It's not like our house is that big. You'd think that after cleaning out closets and toy bins this thing would reappear. To date, though, no luck. It is still missing in action.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Recall Action Update

Wow! I sent my letter yesterday afternoon. Today I received an email response from one of my U.S. Senators, Barack Obama. I guess the system does work. The emails get sent, and someone actually reads them. It's my small effort to try to keep our twin girls safe from lead paint in their toys. Remember to send your letter today -- courtesy of the Consumers Union.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Take Action About Recalls

Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, is sponsoring a letter writing campaign regarding toy recalls. Their web site notes that more than 12 million children's toys have been recalled so far this year. You can voice your opinion to Congress by visiting their Consumers Union Advocacy site -- cleverly titled Not In My Cart. You can send the form letter to your Congressperson, or write your own. You don't even need to know your elected official's contact information. The site does it all for you. The goal is to send at least 250,000 messages. So far more than 155,000 have been sent. Don't let Congress avoid the issue. Send a message today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Daddy's Girl

Overheard at our house...

"Do you want to see my pretty earrings?"
"Oh, they are beautiful. Why did you get blue earrings? I thought purple was your favorite color."
"Blue is Daddy's favorite color."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Twice the Love

"Welcome to the twin zone." It's how I describe our house. There's no doubt the girls rule our house. They have toys EVERYWHERE -- at least during the day. We do make them put everything away before they go to bed. A few rooms could pass for grown-up space after the girls are in bed. The rest of the house, though, has stuff in toy boxes, baskets, closets, etc. We always say they are twice the work and twice the love.

A book I just finished reading puts "Twice the Love" into perspective. It's a compilation of twins stories edited by Susan M. Heim. What I enjoyed most about the book is that so many stories were written by fathers. The male perspective on fathering twins isn't something you read enough, but it is quite enjoyable.

Three stories really made me laugh. "The List" compares a pre-twins world to post-twins reality. "A Father's Play-By-Play of Childbirth" gives his view of childbirth. "Partners in Crime" describes how twins conspire every day.

I think "Twice the Love" is the kind of book you read, put away, and read again in a few years. The stories will continue to have new meaning as your twins grow older.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Airline Potty Training

Last summer we flew to a wedding in New Jersey. We had planned to drive, but we started potty training the girls shortly before the trip. When my husband realized we would have to stop every two hours or so to find a bathroom, he decided we should fly.

We traveled Southwest because it was cheap, and we could pre-board the girls. When we got on the plane, the first thing I did was head directly to the back of the plane. The rest of the families scooped up the front seats. Why did we go to the back? I figured we'd spend a lot of time waiting for a bathroom. If you've ever potty trained children, you know half the time they actually have to use the bathroom and half the time they just want to see it.

The most important reason we went to the back is that you can no longer stand in line near the bathrooms at the front of the plane. Since 9/11, passengers cannot congregate near the cockpit. Anyone who has potty trained toddlers knows they need to go when they need to go. Rushing up to the front bathroom every time one of the girls had to go to the bathroom didn't seem like a good idea. People get a bit nervous when another passenger runs towards the cockpit -- even if it's just to get a toddler to the bathroom in time. And, remember we have twins. There would have been a lot of running to the front of the plane.

The back of the plane was great. We were the only family with small children. I'm sure the other passengers groaned when they saw toddler twins in the back of the plane, but the girls were good. Even the flight attendants commented on how nicely they behaved. We stocked up on toys/games/books/crayons to keep them busy. I was nervous about the take off and landing, but I really didn't expect their reactions when we landed in New Jersey. Both girls slept the last hour of the trip -- including through the bumpy landing. We had to wake them up to get them off the plane.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Preschool Support

One of the more frustrating things about having twins is everyone knows what is right for your children. It is especially bad when it comes to schools. "Separate them so the dominant one doesn't stunt her sister's academic progress" was common among people who don't realize they are both dominant. "The school will not be able to keep them straight" was one I didn't bother to respond to. They hardly look like twins; it's more likely the school staff will not realize they are twins.

When we started looking at preschools, I was amazed at what other parents were doing. Clocking the amount of math four-year-olds did? Dismissing playtime as wasted academic time? Yikes! Actually, we didn't really look at many preschools. I researched a couple and fell in love with one. I realize it's not wise to fall in love with a school as the admissions process can break your heart. In the Chicago suburbs, where we live, preschool admissions can be a competitive sport.

I wanted the girls to attend their current preschool from the moment I heard about it. It is a nature-based preschool on a children's farm. I mean a real, working farm with cows, horses, chickens, pigs, donkeys, and sheep, with crops and forests. The children spend part of each day outside incorporating nature into their lessons. It's amazing.

The day registration opened, we arrived at 9:00 a.m. We were number 3! I was feeling pretty cocky then. Of course we'd get in, we were number 3! What I didn't know is that all the families currently enrolled in the school were able to advance register for the next school year. This meant that we filled the last two slots in the program we wanted. The next few people in line were not able to get into their first choice. Whew!

I read an interesting post from the Artful Flower (There's no On-Star for the Olympic Mommy Highway) about her experiences finding the right preschool for her kids. I have to say that I completely agree with her philosophy on preschool. And, I have heard many of the same questions she answered. If you are looking for a preschool, keep her words in mind. There are other parents out there who believe you actually know what is best for your child.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lead-Free Toys List

I admit I didn't put this list together, but Pickel, as she's known in the blogworld, did. On her blog, she said, "link away," so I am linking to her list. If you are interested in finding some lead-free toys, here is her preliminary list. If you know of other sources, please comment on her blog or mine.

Christmas is coming soon. I know I'll be searching the list for safe toys for our girls. The blog address is: The posting is called "Lead-Free Toys List."


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mini-van Blues

No one wakes up one morning and says, "I'm going to go out and buy that gas guzzling mini-van I've always dreamed about." The reality that you need a mini-van hits you upside the head one day. We tried living without one. And, we made it about 8 months; then we decided to go on vacation. Now, we were smart enough to realize that our four-door sedan wasn't big enough to transport all our twin's stuff, so we did borrow a Toyota Highlander. In the back of the vehicle we crammed two pack-n-plays, two portable high chairs, a double-stroller, and one set of golf clubs. Once all that stuff was packed, we stared at the other stuff we needed to take, like our suitcases.

We talked about a mini-van after vacation, but didn't do anything about it. A short time later, our car needed major work. We decided it was a sign. We started Internet shopping for a mini-van. I wanted something bold, something that said "Yeah, it's a mini-van. You wanna make something of it." And, perhaps most importantly, something I could find in the parking lot. I found a lipstick red mini-van with everything we wanted. I loved it, even though I only saw it on my computer screen. I imagined walking out of the grocery store and being able to pick it out without hesitating.

My husband went to look at it. He test drove the mini-van we eventually bought. It doesn't scream anything except "suburban mom." It's navy blue. Yes, safe, classic navy blue. The red one I wanted was already sold by the time he arrived -- or at least that's the story I was told. I thought about how much I wanted my red mini-van while waiting in the pick-up line at preschool yesterday. The teachers stared into the first three mini-vans, trying to figure out which kid belonged in which van. All three mini-vans were navy blue.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It Gets Better

Whenever I see parents with newborn or toddler twins, I always stop to talk to them. I always say, "it gets better." Even though I'm a complete stranger, they want to talk. They always want to know when it gets better. When you're in the midst of caring for infant/toddler twins, it's a never-ending cycle of feedings, diaper changes, naps, activities, etc. Just getting them packed and dressed to get out of the house in the winter used to take me an hour. Now I can say with confidence that by the time twins are three-years-old, it gets significantly better.

What changes then? The kids are more independent. They can walk by themselves, feed themselves, and play together. These three things make a twin parent's life so much easier. For the first two years, I always had a baby in my arms. It seemed like carried a girl all the time. I thought my back would ache forever -- even with regular yoga. When they start to walk, you end up with one child holding each hand. You move a lot slower, but it's okay.

For the first three years, I dressed them every day. Then, one day, they started dressing themselves. Yes, it took a lot longer for them to do it themselves than it did for me to do it, but in the end they did get dressed. Of course, I wouldn't have put some of those combinations together, but it made them happy so we went with it. Only a toddler/preschooler can wear yellow, orange, pink and purple -- and be told it's a beautiful outfit.

Sometime after their third birthday, they not only played independently, they wanted some privacy! You'd think the first time they told me to leave them alone in their bedroom I would have been hurt. No way! I practically did a dance down the stairs. I always say that the girls receive many, beautiful gifts for their birthdays and Christmas, but my favorite is the doll house Aunt Sue picked out. With the doll house, they want to play alone. I'm not even invited to play with them. And, they will play for an hour or so. At first I would check on them, but now I just listen to for what is going on.

So, even though it seems like it will never happen, it does get better. One day you'll even start getting regular sleep -- that, however, doesn't really happen until after they are potty trained.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Alma Mater

We're big on public education. We live in a suburb with good schools, so we're covered through high school. College could be a bit dicey, though. My husband and I both attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Recently, I taught the girls one of our school songs, the Alma Mater. Of course, they sometimes call it the "udder mudder," but whatever.

Why did I teach them the song? Well, we're going to want to retire shortly after they start college. It would just be easier on all of us if they'd go to the premiere public university in Illinois. We're proud Illini, so having them follow our path would be logical.

Of course, their father keeps saying they can go to college wherever they want. I'm sure he'll keep thinking that until he realizes the difference between sending them to Illinois and sending them to a private college. I'm sure he'll suddenly remember the words to the Illinois fight song then!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Recall Alerts

The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers a great service for anyone interested in product recalls. You can visit the web site and sign up for F*R*E*E recall announcements. You can chose different categories based upon your interests. Whenever something is recalled, you get an email with details. You can even go back and search to see if the two-year-old car seat your neighbor gave you has been recalled.

I'm signed up for the children's products announcements. As you know, my inbox has seen numerous CPSC emails lately. With twins, we have a LOT of toys. Luckily, we haven't owned any of the recalled products. I'm glad to get the information, though. You gotta love something that helps keep your family safe and doesn't cost anything.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Name Game

We were standing at the pharmacy waiting for a consultation when the girls drifted a little too far away from me. I called them a couple of times, but they were laughing so hard they didn't hear me -- or chose to ignore me. I sternly said, "Katie and Maggie, get over here." They came quickly. The pharmacist said, "Katie and Maggie?"

Those aren't their names, but they could have been Katie and Maggie. Or Lauren and Lindsey. Or Claire and Grace. When we discovered we were having twins, we started working on names. It's hard enough with one, but with two, it becomes a nightmare. We needed two first names and two middle names, in the right combination. Reams and reams of paper were destroyed trying to work out the right names and combinations.

One day, a niece handed us a list of names she'd like for her cousins. One of those names fit nicely with another name we really like. Now we had a match. We didn't immediately chose that name combination, though. We still debated for a few more weeks.

We are happy with the names we put on the girls' birth certificates. Yet, every once in a while I wonder if their personalities would have been different if they really were Katie and Maggie.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Two Down

It was inevitable. Today both girls are sick. There is a bright spot to both girls being sick -- and it's not the constant clinginess and whining. It's that they sleep. A lot. They woke up, ate breakfast, took naps. We played a bit and went to the store for more medicine. We came home, ate lunch and they went back for another nap! It's amazing. I was able to clean and organize the playroom and the kitchen. Two rooms in one day! It might be a personal record.

The real downside is Chicago is having freakish weather. It's nearly 75 degrees today. Yes, in October. Where are we spending this beautiful fall weather? Inside. Oh well, I have all the windows open, so at least we get to enjoy it a little bit.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

One Down

Our house is in medical mode. One of the girls has what we call "the boogies." The phrase seems to cover many mild illnesses. The brunette twin is mildly congested, slightly warm, and clingy. She's not really sick, just a bit under the weather.

This puts the blond twin into action. First, she wants to be her sister's nurse. She takes care of every need. Book? Got it. Blanket? Got it. Stuffed animal? Got it. Don't want that one? Got a different one. Hungry? I'll feed you. The brunette twin loves it!

The problem comes when it's time for the brunette twin to take her medicine. She's taking an over-the-counter fever reducer and a decongestant. The good news is she takes it nicely. No screaming or fighting about taking her medicine. The bad news is the blond twin insists she needs medicine too. I told her she does not need medicine, and she starts coughing. (It's an interesting development, since her sister is not coughing.) I have to admit I do give her a taste of the decongestant to keep her quiet. It is probably about 1/4 teaspoon, but she drinks it like it's her chocolate milk. So much drama for a few drops of medicine!

While all this is going on, the brunette twin climbs on our bed and goes to sleep. Her sister decides she cannot sleep alone and crawls in next to her. There is something wonderful about the twin bond, even if I don't take the time to admire it until one of them is sick.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Strictly Personal

There's a new web project called Project Life Change. I found it in the Chicago Moms blog. The idea is blogging women (moms or not) can post their most desired life changes and find support from all the others trying to make changes. So, for strictly selfish, personal reasons, I'm posting the two things I want to change the most. First, I want to remake my business. I want to write more articles about stuff just because it interests me. Right now I write because I get paid. I'd like to move towards getting paid to write articles about more interesting topics. Second -- and this is strictly vain -- I hate my hair. I want a new hairstyle. I'm stuck in the "this is easy, so let's stay with it" mode. I want to do something new with it. I'm sure there are more deep, meaningful life changes I should be contemplating. For now, though, I'll start with these. If I find success, perhaps it will inspire me to bigger and better things.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Overheard at our house...

"Why are you sitting on the couch?"
"I'm on timeout."
"Who put you on timeout?"
"I did."
"I did something bad. I don't want to talk about it."
"How long are you going to be on timeout?"
"I don't know. I was very bad. I'll tell you when I'm done."

The mystery remains. We still don't know why the blond twin put herself on timeout.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Aha Preschool Moment

I now understand why teachers both love and dread parents. Even though our girls are only in preschool, it's crystal clear to me now. Yesterday was one of my favorite events at the preschool -- the muddy, murky creek walk. Now, you have to understand that the school was not subtle about what was required for this event.

We received two or three notes in the kids' backpacks and several emails. We were told to dress the kids in old clothing you wouldn't mind getting trashed. And, we were told to make sure the kids had a complete change of clothing in their backpacks. (Muddy, murky creek walk = kids getting wet and dirty, right down to their underwear) Even with all the information, several kids came to school in very nice clothing. Some kids came to school without a change of clothes for after the creek walk.

Several parents volunteering arrived in cute outfits and gym shoes. Boots? One said, "Oh, we're going in the creek?" It seemed obvious to me that going on a creek walk meant we're going in the creek, but apparently others did not make that connection. I was especially shocked because nearly everyone involved was in the program last year. It's not like this was a new activity. The teachers were incredibly patient and kind. The creek walk was fun. The kids got really wet and muddy. I got wet and muddy. And, I now have a new appreciation for how hard it is to deal with well-meaning parents.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Radio Reality Check

I always knew the girls absorbed background noise. We always have music on at home. Whenever we start playing new music, the girls start singing it after a few days. When we're in the mini-van, we tend to listen to what they call "our" music. Most of it is typical kids stuff, including our favorite Kindermusik cd's.

Yesterday we were driving back from the grocery store when one twin said to the other one, "Why would you find a naked body in the forest preserves?" Her sister said, "You'd be cold." I froze. I forgot I was listening to news radio when I was alone on the van. When we started driving home, I forgot to put on the kid music cd's. I pushed the cd button and more appropriate sounds came out of the stereo speakers.

I made a mental note to be more careful in the future.