Wednesday, January 30, 2008

We Are More Than Beautiful

Sometimes an author has a book that really intrigues me. A new book by Woody Winfree, We Are More Than Beautiful – 46 Real Teen Girls Speak Out about Beauty, Happiness, Love and Life intrigues me as both a woman and the mother of twin daughters. Our twin girls are young, but I already see the drive to be pretty.

I asked Woody for her thoughts on the unique situation of building an awareness of beauty in twin girls? How can we help them build an individual sense of self, and self-esteem, in a world that compares them because they are twins?

Woody replied, "I will address what I know to be true about inclusion and individuality related to our sense of beauty:

We all need and want to feel a part of the whole – the whole of our family, community, society and world. Equally, we need and want to have a clear identity as an individual, to stand apart, be unique. These two needs being realized in fairly equal balance are a direct measure of our sense of self-worth. We may cringe a bit, but we understand when our daughters want to dress like their peers, don the current hair style, even imitate some feature or fashion of a celebrity. And we also know when this tips too far into a loss of self-identity and individuation confidence and esteem are compromised.

This is the very reason why the narrow, one-dimensional, distorted ideal of beauty in our culture is so dangerous. For too many girls it tips the scale of balance between social inclusion and self-preserving individuation.

The focus of my work has always guided me as a parent – and it is my hope that it does so for others as well. We need to expand the definition of beauty – of self-worth – beyond the narrow measures of the pop culture. As parents, we do this in innumerable ways: role-modeling, watching our own “talk” about weight, calorie counting, “thunder-thighs” etc.; seizing teaching moments to educate about cultural nonsense; strengthening their esteem through our unconditional love; building their confidence through sports, music and other activities.

These are the proven guidelines for parents raising esteemed girls, period. It seems to me these are the same for raising twin girls – only different, only two-fold, only twice as hard. Puns intended. What twins must doubly be impressed with is that what they have together is a precious and rare gift to enjoy and draw strength from (inclusion) and yet each is unique unto themselves (individuation)."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Activity Friends

I like most of the Moms (and the occasional Dad) I meet at the girls' activities. It's fun to swap stories about our kids and their development, or some crazy thing that happened at home.

What I don't understand is why so many Moms tell stories that probably shouldn't leave the family. I realize we're all together being casual, but some stories don't belong outside the house. I know it's a tell-all world, but there are still some things I don't need to know.

Here's my latest example. I was sitting on the bleachers at the girls' ice skating class last week. We were chatting about baby names as one of the Moms is pregnant. We were all talking about how we named our kids and what their nicknames became. One Mom said, "Well, everyone calls me Jane, but my real name is Cynthia. My Dad didn't think I was his child, so he refused to come to the hospital. My Mom put Cynthia as my name on the birth certificate. Once my Dad decided I was his child, he refused to call me Cynthia. He wanted my name to be Jane, so that's what he and his entire family called me since I was born."

I just stopped for a minute. She kept rambling on about her name situation, but all I kept thinking is that I have spent about two hours total with this woman and she decides we're close enough to tell that story? I don't want to know that much about someone I'm going to see for 1/2 hour once a week. It's not like we're especially close, and I'll see her outside the ice rink. And, even if I was thinking we'd be friends, wouldn't it be better to ease into a story about how your Mom was cheating on your Dad and he wouldn't claim you once you were born?

There is something about hanging out with the same group of women every week that build false intimacy. You sit around, chat about life, and seem like friends. The difference is you won't see each other again after the class ends. Once in a while you make a long-term friend, but most of the time you just part with pleasant memories.

And, that's fine with me. So, let's make a deal. Please don't tell me your family secrets. I promise not to tell you mine.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Animal Rescue Clicks

We all know how powerful the Internet can be when it's used for a good cause. Here's another one to add to your favorites.

The Animal Rescue Site

Just like the breast cancer site or the feed the children site, you simply click on the site to do a good deed. The sponsors pay for food and care for rescued animals. How simple is that?

Do your good deed today and add this site to your favorites or add it to your blog.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tag You're It

I've been tagged by Mississippi Songbrid for a meme. I'm supposed to tell 7 random things about myself and then tag 7 more people.

Here are my 7 things...

1. I LOVE roller coasters.
2. I am afraid of Ferris wheels.
3. I really enjoy a good hockey game.
4. Red is my favorite color.
5. My first car was a 1978 Monte Carlo.
6. My first day as a substitute teacher was 9/11.
7. I make really tasty pies.

So now I get to tag 7 new people. Here's my list:

Comments from the Peanut Gallery
Stitching Mama
A Work In Progress
Self Made Mom
These are Words..."Sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble"
Homemaker's Journal

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bargain Shopper

My husband is the best bargain shopper. I was born without the shopping gene. When my pair of black flats wears out, I go out to buy another pair of black flats. I never go shopping for "fun" or "recreation." For me, it's a way to get something I need. It's definitely not fun. I do try to find the best price for whatever I need. It's just not intuitive with me.

My husband, however, has a great eye for a bargain. He reads the newspapers and inserts constantly. He knows what we need, so he's always looking for a good price on something. He even thinks ahead to find great bargains on things we'll need for a holiday or even next year.

Here's a great example. The girls go up one size each year. We know they will need new winter coats next year. He found a great deal at a nice department store near our house. Tonight we bought the girls $100 Columbia jackets for $29.99 each. And, even better, the jackets are sized at 7/8. We might actually get two years out of them.

Okay, that might be stretching it a bit, but one can always hope. All I know is I'm really glad he's has an eye for a good quality bargain.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Money Lessons

We have started discussing when to start the girls on an allowance. We know it's important to teach them good money management. We are teaching them to save money, but not to spend it. When we are shopping we talk about how much things cost. We talk about how Mommy and Daddy work so we can buy things, and they can attend dance lessons, preschool, etc. We know they are getting some basic money management skills, but we don't know if we're ready to leap to an allowance.

I keep going back to this article "5 money lessons for preschoolers." We are trying to instill some better money management techniques than we have. Apparently, we're on the right track. It's a scary track, though. I don't know if we're right or wrong, but I know we'll keep working on it.

We're still debating an allowance, though. I think we're closer to a solution, but not quite ready to implement it today.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Conspiracy Theory

Overheard at our house...

Blond Twin: "Mom, will you tell Daddy why I went on time out today? I was so bad."

Mom: "I don't remember you going on time out."

Dad: "Did you do something bad and you should have gone on time out?"

Blond Twin looks at Brunette Twin. Both girls open their eyes wide and start laughing.

Blond Twin: "No Daddy."

Both girls laugh some more.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

20 Below

We stood at the kitchen window today trying to decide if the neighbor's house was on fire. The wind chill is about -20 (aka 20 degrees below zero). It is cold. The steam coming from their furnace, against the morning sun, took on an orange color -- add to that the constant stream of steam and it looked like the house was on fire. This is the second day of a nasty cold spell.

What did we do with four-year-old twins to keep them busy yesterday during this brutal cold weather? We went out, of course. We went to look at new sinks, had lunch, and bought ice skates. We put on multiple layers, warm winter boots, and headed out. Our mini-van had a full tank of gas, and we had a fully-charged cell phone in case of an emergency.

Hey, we live here. It's cold, there's no doubt about it, but it's not like we don't get this kind of cold spell every winter. We do live in Chicago, after all.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Baby Talk

Driving home from preschool, the brunette twin announced, "Mom, if me and Gaven are getting married, we'll need babies. Where do you get a baby?"

Sure, that's a conversation I want to have in a mini-van cruising along at 40 miles an hour in the snow. I hesitated because I don't want to give the "Mommy's tummy" speech. We have too many friends with adopted children to perpetuate that myth.

"Well, babies come from a women's tummy."

The blond twin said, "Do you mean you swallow them or something?"

"No honey. A man and a woman both have parts that come together to make a baby. Babies start off really, really small. Remember when we were at the beach and we looked at sand? Babies start off even smaller than that. They grow in a woman's tummy until they are born."

Now I'm thinking I'm pretty smart because I avoid all the details, yet it sounded like an answer. A minute later, the brunette twins said, ""How does a baby get out?"

Great. Another part of a conversation I didn't want to have with a four-year-old -- especially not while driving.

"Babies come from a place near your tummy."

The blond twin changed the subject to what the two of them were going to do after lunch.

I never loved that girl more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Preschool Engagement

Congratulations to the brunette twin! Today she received her first marriage proposal. She said yes. Of course, it's not a surprise that Gaven proposed to her. Since they first met in tumbling at 18 months old, they've been inseparable. Now that they are four years old, getting engaged is the natural progression in their relationship.

The funny part is, if they were in college or a bit older, we'd all expect an engagement. Gaven's Mom and I just laugh when our kids are together. They walk along holding hands, whispering secrets to each other, and consulting with each other before making decisions. When they arrive at school, they immediately sit next to each other.

When we signed our twins up for preschool, we read the handbook from cover to cover. (I know, first-timers.) One paragraph made me pause to pick up the phone and call Gaven's Mom. It said something about how children must keep their hands to themselves, not hugging or touching. We actually talked to the preschool director about the brunette twin and Gaven. While we don't want them hugging strangers, it seemed cruel to ask them not to hug each other. She thought we were crazy until she saw them together for a while.

Our blond twin is fine with all this. She sees Gaven as her buddy and she's not at all jealous of the attention her sister shows him. They are kind of like three peas in a pod, but the brunette twin is clearly the object of Gaven's affections.

So Gaven announcing to the preschool that he's going to marry the brunette twin, and her saying that she was going to marry him, didn't surprise anyone. We'll hold off on sending out invitations to the engagement party, though. At least until they get through preschool.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Catalogue Choice

Remember all those holiday catalogues that clogged your mailbox the past few months? Remember how you didn't ask to receive most of them and how many you just threw out? Keep those in mind and visit ASAP. This group helps you unsubscribe from catalogue lists in three simple steps.

We all know how wasteful it is to get catalogues and throw them away. Here's a way to get rid of those you don't want -- and especially those you did not ask to receive! If getting catalogues out of your mailbox isn't enough incentive, the February 2007 Real Simple notes that 8 million trees are used yearly in the production of paper catalogues. Think about that for a while...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Center for Performing Arts

One of the great things about living near Chicago is there are a lot of fun activities each weekend. With young twins, we want to do a lot of activities, but not spend a lot of money. We're always looking for value. We discovered a gem this weekend while attending a children's theater performance at the Governors State University Center for Performing Arts.

The Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia created a show around three wonderful Eric Carle books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Mixed-up Chameleon, and Little Cloud. These shows use puppets to bring the stories to life. It was fun and interesting. The announcer started the show by saying, "This is a no-shush performance." It would be an understatement to say it was kid-friendly. Our girls LOVED it.

On the way out, we saw their preschool teacher with her family. It was quite interesting to hear her take on it. Neither of us had ever been to the Center for Performing Arts before. Both of us would return again.

It's always fun to discover a new venue. The Governors State University Center for Performing Arts has a diverse schedule of child-friendly and adult events. It also has several other charms: comfortable seating, inexpensive tickets, and free parking. The only draw-back is the location. It is in the middle of nothing. I'm glad we drove today in the daylight. It will make it easier to find it next time we attend a show.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lost and Found

The girls take ice skating lessons at a local ice rink. As we walked in today, the sign on the door read, "LOST AND FOUND ITEMS ARE ON THE TABLE. ANYTHING NOT CLAIMED BY FRIDAY WILL BE DONATED." Of course, I walked over to the table to see what kind of things people lost at an ice rink.

There were lots of single gloves and mittens, hats, scarves, and socks. Here's what I don't understand. When your child comes home missing a glove, most of us say, "oh well." When your child comes home without his/her coat, skates, or pants, don't you try to figure out where they went?

Seriously, they had heavy, expensive, name-brand winter coats, skates of all sizes and styles, and several pair of ski pants and jeans. There was even a jock strap or two, but I doubt anyone is going to claim those!

If one of our girls shows up one day without a coat, I'm marching her right back out to find it. I'm sure there will also be the requisite "money doesn't grow on trees" lecture. It's kind of a right of passage, isn't it?

Somehow, lots of kids went home without expensive coats and skate and no one noticed. It was kind of sad really. How little attention do you pay to your child that you never notice he/she no longer has a winter coat? Of course, maybe those families have so many winter coats that they don't notice one is missing. In that case, how do I get on that Christmas gift list?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Boys Rule

In our house, boys are everywhere. It's not what you'd expect in a house filled with twin girls, but my husband made sure he would have some company -- even if that company is plastic and wears pink.

Many years ago, when the first doll came into the house, the girls were trying to think of a name. Daddy said, "Name her Bruce." Bruce was joined by Gavin, Billy Bob, Jack, and Josh. All the girls' dolls have boy names. Our house is filled with boys wearing pretty frocks and carrying pink purses.

It gets a bit dicey when we're out and someone says "What's your baby's name." The girls answer proudly, "Billy Bob." The person asking the question always stares at us. We tend to say something like, "Her sister is Bruce."

It's a family joke now. Every toy has a boy's name, except one. The girls have a toy horse they named "Clarisse" after Rudolph's girlfriend in the classic Christmas cartoon. I don't know how she ended up with a girl's name.

The best part is the girls think nothing of having their boys play with everyone elses dolls with girl names. They proudly carry Bruce and Josh and Gavin everywhere!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Preschool Registration

We received a notice about preschool registration for next year. We're lucky that we found a twin-friendly preschool. I know you're thinking that all schools should be child-friendly, whether they are twins or not. It's really not always the case, though.

Many schools have a "philosophy" about twins. Sometimes the philosophy puts twins together; other times it forces them into different classrooms. More than one twins Mom has complained about being given one parent-teacher conference slot for her two children. It happens more than you can imagine.

The thing to remember is you know your children better than any school district. If you want them to stay together and the school district wants to separate them, you can fight the decision. (Or visa-versa of course.) It's your decision, not theirs. And, many states have passed laws or resolutions stating that school districts should work with parents, and that in the end the parents have the final say about how to best place their children.

Twins Magazine has a series of special reports on schools and twins. You can also search the web for other research on the topic. It's important to do your research and be armed. In the end, remember that you can fight the system and win. Your children's education might depend on it.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Valentine's Day Contest

I haven't been organized enough yet to hold a contest. Luckily, other bloggers are! My favorite right now is from Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes.

For the next few weeks, if you visit her blog and comment, you'll be entered into a contest for a personalized poem to give a loved one or friend for Valentine's Day. Stop by soon to see her work and enter!

Good luck!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Favorite Sign

Okay, just one more Rose Bowl item and then I'm done. This was too good to pass up.

There were many signs and t-shirts reading:

"Our Juice will beat you, but he won't kill you."

Even the USC cheerleaders loved it!

Get it? Illinois' quarterback is Juice Williams. If I have to explain the USC/Juice (think O.J.) connection, you have been out of touch for way too long!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Grown-up Vacations

We really enjoyed our trip to California. It was great to do some grown-up things. Since our twin girls spent their vacation with our family, we organized our trip to do things we wanted to do, but the girls would not have enjoyed.

If you have children, you know how family vacations work. You spend most of your time doing activities the children will enjoy. You enjoy these activities too, but there are always grown-up things you'd like to do if you had the chance. We did all the grown-up things this trip.

First, after flying into San Francisco's airport, we drove from San Francisco to Santa Barbara via Pacific Coast Highway. This is not a trip for timid drivers. Much of the road hangs on the edge of a cliff -- and the drop is deadly. You spend a lot of time driving about 30 miles an hour. And, there are very, very limited services -- never pass up an opportunity to use a bathroom or get gas along PCH. There might not be another opportunity for hours! When the sign says "50 miles to next services," you're thinking it will take about an hour. In reality, it takes two hours because you are only going 30 miles per hour.

We stopped in Big Sur for dinner. Talk about culture shock! Most of the people we saw could be described as either hippy wanna-bes or grunge band groupies. I was wearing black ballet flats, black capri pants, and a sweater set. Yeah, I fit right in. Everyone was very nice, though. Our food was good too. It was a casual way to spend New Year's Eve.

On the return trip, we managed to tour Hearst Castle. It was an interesting tour of a different lifestyle in a different era. And yet, all I kept thinking was how guests arrived in 1930's automobiles over dirt roads! You cannot imagine how scary that trip must have been until you stand at the top of the road. By the way, whatever they pay the bus drivers who drive the big buses up those narrow, winding roads, it's not enough. Our bus driver was amazing!

We also had breakfast at Pebble Beach. Stillwater's (at the Lodge) faces the ocean. The monster storms currently punishing the West Coast were just a "warning" when we had breakfast. This meant the waves were breaking fast and high, so it was a great show.

We managed to spend some time walking along the ocean beaches and eating in restaurants that did not serve grilled cheese. All in all, a wonderful grown-up time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Rose Bowl Ramblings

We had a great time at the Rose Bowl. Yes, our team was thumped, but the game is only part of the experience. Here are some ramblings about the Rose Bowl:

*The parade floats are even prettier and more amazing in person.
*The parade route security did an amazing job.
*People sleep on the streets the night before the parade. The local businesses board up the windows to prevent looting.
*The event staff needs a better grip on the area. Three staff people told me they couldn't tell us how to walk from the stadium to the parade. One told me "This is not my normal post."
*The parking staff was amazing. They filed those cars in with precision.
*The tailgating parties were a blast. Even though we just walked through them, it was great fun.
*There is so much going on outside the stadium. The outside events contributed to the party atmosphere.
*The Navy Seals landing parachutes in the middle of the Rose Bowl was cool.
*The Navy planes that flew over as the National Anthem was ending were cool.
*There was a nice tribute to the armed forces. Several Coast Guard members sat in the first row, next to the game field.
*We sat a few rows behind the University of Southern California bench. I can honestly say it was shocking. The USC players were classless. They mocked everything Illinois did. When the band played our school song, the players mocked it. When the Illinois fans cheered, USC players cheered and hugged each other. When Illinois fans clapped, USC players clapped and jumped up and down. We didn't think we were going to win, but we were out to have fun. The showboating and mocking showed a complete lack of sportsmanship.
*After the game when we said, "Congratulations on the win" most fans were polite.
*It was fun. If you ever have a chance, go to the Rose Bowl!