Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Day Inspiration

If you are wondering how to spend Leap Day, here's an amazing, inspirational video that reminds us all that every day is an amazing gift -- Leap Day or not.

The audio is a bit out of synch, but it's worth listening to.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bring on Spring

We shoveled snow AGAIN yesterday morning. There is more snow in the forecast for this weekend and next week.

The girls have cabin fever, even though we get out quite a bit. They are tired of their toys and each other. I tried introducing new toys, without much luck. They just don't want to play inside anymore. They want to play outside, but it's too cold and icy most days. They talk about swimming and bike riding a lot. They just want to get out!

Monday I was so excited because I saw some daffodil shoots coming up. Today they are buried with snow. It's like winter will never end.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Photo Contest Plug

This is a shameless plug for votes!

One of our nieces entered her daughter's photo in a photo contest. She just learned that she is a finalist in the contest. You can vote for her at Search for Malissa O'Hara and vote!

Even if she doesn't win, her photo is going to be published in a book called "Endless Journeys." Please vote early and vote often -- and give her a "10."

Thank you!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

School Conflict

The girls are forced into a third year of preschool because their birthday falls just after the deadline. Although we LOVE their current preschool, we decided to check out our public school district's pre-K program. It's closer to home, runs five days a week, and is a good introduction to regular public school class settings.

We walked in and took the tour. The facilities were nice. The teachers taught an academic program designed to meet or exceed state guidelines. It all seemed like good fit for the girls. Near the end of the tour, I told the teacher that we wanted to keep the girls together. She said the school district always separates twins.

And so the battle began.

I'm sure she thinks we're going to follow the school district's recommendations without questioning the logic behind them. This is where she is completely wrong. Call me crazy, but I don't think people who have never spent a single moment with our daughters are in the best position to make decisions about what is best for the girls. It's not that I think all twins should be kept together, but I definitely don't think they should all be separated.

There is something you read about called twin discrimination in school. It's subtle, but twins message boards are full of stories. Parents report being given one parent/teacher conference time for both children, rather than one time slot for each child. Or there are situations where teachers give one end-of-the year gift to a set of twins because "they can share."

This is the first time we've run into it. I plan on fighting it until teachers, principals, and school administrators realize twins cannot be lumped together any more than single children. It won't be easy, but our daughters are depending on us to get it right. Their educations are too important not to fight.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Homeless Chic

Since becoming a Mom, I have perfected a look I call homeless chic. In the winter, the look consists of a pair of sweatpants and one of my husband's old shirts. My hair is usually pulled back and I wear my glasses. I know, it's a good look.

I wasn't always so well-dressed. At one time, I actually looked presentable when going to the mailbox. Then the girls were born. When they were newborns, one of us was up every two hours, 24-hours a day feeding a baby. I slept in my clothes. When the girls started sleeping through the night, I started wearing pajamas to bed, but my day time attire never improved.

First we were teaching the girls to feed themselves. This involved me spending a lot of time cleaning the floor. I destroyed knees in my sweatpants at an amazing rate. Once they learned to feed themselves, I promised myself I would wear real clothes again.

Now they are four-years-old and I'm still a model of homeless chic. My only New Year's resolution this year was to not look homeless every day. It took about a day to break that one.

The problem is the blond twin is a klutz. At least once a day she spills something -- usually her milk or water at snack time. This means every day I am on the floor numerous times wiping up a spill or crumbs or cheese. The list goes on and on.

While I'd like to look less than homeless, it just isn't practical yet. Although, I do dream that one day I'll wear jeans and a sweater like the Moms in the magazine ads. Somehow their kids never spill anything.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Activist Parenting

I'm written before about being an activist parent. I try to let my elected officials know what I'm thinking about how they can help keep our daughters safer. Note that I said HELP keep our daughters safe. I think it is ultimately our responsibility, but we do need some help. Consumers Union has an ongoing campaign to lobby Washington officials to do their parts. Here's a section of the latest email I received from them. If you have a minute, be sure to click and send a message to your Washington officials. It takes everyone's help to keep our kids safe.

Lawmakers just passed legislation to make cars safer for kids--addressing backovers, dangerous power windows and gear locks. This is a huge victory, but cars are not the only products unsafe for our children.

In just the past weeks, Chinese-made children's plastic rakes, sketchbooks and other toys were recalled for high lead levels. The kid's blood pressure cuff by Fisher-Price, found to have high lead levels by Consumer Reports, remains on the market (although many retailers chose to return it to the manufacturer voluntarily).

The House passed its safety reform bill before Christmas, and the Senate is about to vote on its own strong measure. We have momentum now for a second big victory!

Tell your Senator to vote YES for the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act and send this bill to the President.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Separation Anxiety

Overheard at our house...

Brunette Twin: "Mom, are you coming to our Valentine's Day Party?"

Mom: "Yes, I'm one of the volunteer parents helping run the party."

Brunette Twin: "Do you have to come? I like it better when you drop us off and come back later."

Mom: "Yes, I'm going to come."

Brunette Twin: "Can't you just not do it?"

Mom: "Nice. You don't want me at your school?"

Brunette Twin: "I like it better when you just drop us off and don't watch us at school."

Mom: "I always thought you'd be older before you tried to keep me away from your parties."

Brunette Twin: "What?"

Mom: "Nothing. Get your coat on."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Operation Shower

There was a haunting photo in the newspaper last week of a solider's funeral. It wasn't the flag-drapped casket that made me so sad. It was the very young widow clutching her blanket-wrapped infant.

Whether you have children or not, everyone knows how hard it is to make the adjustment when you add a baby to the family. Now, imagine doing it while your spouse is away at training or deployed. The March Parenting magazine has a small mention about an organization that helps the troops' families by hosting showers for pregnant military spouses.

Do your good deed for the day by donating money or baby gear to Operation Shower.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Unbearable Sadness

If you ever needed a reason to remember that tomorrow is promised to no one, living in Chicago the past few weeks has done it for you. First there were the shootings at a Lane Bryant store that killed five innocent women simply shopping on a Saturday morning. Then two local soldiers were killed. This week five college students at Northern Illlinois University were killed while sitting in a classroom. The gunman, who committed suicide, was also from this area.

The NIU shootings are so recent that it's overwhelming still. One sad, and bright, note comes from the Virginia Tech community. No matter which message board I read, Virginia Tech students, supporters, alumns, faculty, and staff offer words of encouragement and sympathy. It's an amazing outreach from a school still reeling from its own tragedy.

It all makes me want to bunker down and never leave my house. It makes me want to hold my girls and my husband tightly and never let them out of my site. We all know, though, that it's not possible to LIVE that way. Instead we go about our daily lives and pray today isn't the last day. We read stories about the people who have lost their lives as they were just starting out or in the prime of their lives. And we hope their families know that as they grieve, we all grieve with them.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

We spent a wonderful Valentine's Day. First my husband surprised us with Valentine's bags with candy and cards in the kitchen. The girls went crazy. I let them eat chocolate candy hearts before breakfast. Later my husband came home early and took us to dinner. We ended the night buying a dryer at the mall.

Oh, buying a dryer isn't on your list of romantic ways to spend Valentine's Day? Well, I'd blame it on the fact that we have four-year-old twins, and being without a dryer for more than a few days is really an inconvenience. The reality, though, is we have a history of doing these things.

Several years ago we spent Sweetest Day on our backs in the crawl space with staple guns. We were putting insulation under the hardwood floor in our family room. It's true, although anyone who has ever heard that story thinks we're messing with them.

It might just be me. I'm all for my husband telling me he loves me and spoiling our girls. I just don't want it to be done on one day. I'm the same way with Mother's Day. I don't want to go to brunch or stand in line at a restaurant. Please! I'd rather my husband and the girls make me breakfast, and spend the rest of the day some place low key with my family.

The girls are really young still. These moments fly by so quickly. I don't want to spend all my time trying to get away from them. I want to build the memories and family traditions they will carry with them forever. A family dinner on Valentine's Day is perfect for us. Mother's Day eating at a diner in a small town nearby is wonderful. I want them to understand it's about spending time together and showing we love each other -- not a big gift or fancy dinner.

Buying the dryer? Well, that was just a bonus.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Preschool Co-eds

Overheard at our house...

Twin four-year-old girls stand in the kitchen with plastic medicine cups.

Blond twin raises her medicine cup and clanks her sister's cup.

Both girls yell, "Cheers" and then chug down the medicine.

Mom thinks, "Great. They are training for their college sorority days already."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cabin Fever

This is one of those days when I really wish the girls were not twins. They have been bickering all day. It's cold again (-10 degree wind chill). It was even colder yesterday. We haven't been out much, so they are wearing on each other -- and me.

I want to just yell, "Stop aggravating your sister. You're older. You know better." The problem, of course, is neither one is really older. They are just ten minutes apart, and developmentally they are in the same place.

They are four-year-old twins who have spent nearly every moment of the past three days together. Even a few hours at school today wasn't enough of a break. They are bickering all the time about everything. When I try to separate them, they both cry, "I want to stay with my sissy."

Instead we bring out new games, let them finger paint until their clothes are destroyed, and read stories. This too shall pass.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Clean-up Princesses

The girls are four-years-old, which means they are obsessed with the Disney Princesses. Their current obsession is Cinderella. The Cinderella story shows up in all the different ways they play all day.

There is one part of the Cinderella story I wish would hang on until they are teen-agers. The girls have started cleaning everything. They get down on their hands and knees to clean the floors. They pretend to wash dishes. They are constantly doing laundry.

I watch this and wish they were old enough to really help clean. I know that when they are old enough to really be helpful, they won't touch the dishcloth.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Don't Touch the Lawn Chair

One of the quirkiest things about Chicago happens all across the city every time it snows. People dig out the parking space in front of their homes/apartments/condos and put lawn furniture in the clean space to save it. This means while you are driving to work, the store, whatever, your lawn furniture, extra tables, sawhorses and 2x4s, etc. mark the spot you so carefully cleaned. Outsiders think this is nuts, but if you live here you know you NEVER move that stuff and take that parking space. Bad things happen when you do that.

Now the city is trying to crack down on the practice. WBBM-AM, our news radio station, has a great photo and the story on its web site. The city isn't having much luck, though. The practice is embedded into the DNA of Chicagoans. By Chicagoans, I don't mean the people living in high rises in expensive neighborhoods. I mean the people living in the real neighborhoods where families raise children and generations live within blocks of each other.

Yes, it's a crazy, archaic practice, but it's fun and funny. Since we're getting enough snow this winter to qualify as the south part of the North Pole, the practice isn't going to stop any time soon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Smile Sweetly

A friend with a friend having twins asked me for one piece of advice for this soon-to-be Mom of twins. I told her to pass along one thing to her friend. She needs to learn how to smile sweetly and say, "How old are your twins?"

It's my favorite line. Everyone thinks they know how they would raise twins. And, they always want to pass those words of wisdom to me. Complete strangers in the grocery store check-out line tell me how to raise the girls. Other parents in classes tell me what they think we should do about separating or keeping the girls together in school. Of course, I can tell in seconds that they not only do not have twins, they do not know anyone with twins.

Rather than tell them they have no idea what they are talking about, I smile sweetly and ask, "How old are your twins?" This immediately stops the unsolicited advice. The reality is, only someone with twins understands what it is like to have twins. I don't know what it is like to have one child. We have only had twins. I don't know what it is like to have triplets -- having two at one time is not the same as having three at one time.

Perhaps it is time for a truce. You don't tell me how we should raise our twins, and I won't offer you unsolicited advice. Deal?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Party Math

We have an annual Super Bowl tailgate party. We invite friends to come by and we tailgate before the big game. It doesn't matter who is playing. The point is to just get everyone together.

We used to send about 20 invitations out. On a good year, when we sent 20 invitations, we'd have somewhere between 20 and 25 people come by. Now that most of our friends have spouses and children, the math changes.

This year we only invited local families whose children are friends with our girls. We only sent 10 invitations. If everyone had come by, we would have had about 50 people in the house, besides the four of us. We received a nice mix of RSVPs, and planned for a party of 20. Two families cancelled the morning of the party due to illness. Our count quickly went from 20 to 10. As it was, we had four adults and six children.

The other thing that changes when children are in the party mix is the food. An RSVP count of 20 is different now than it was before the girls were born. We no longer need to figure food for 20 adults. We figure food for eight adults and 12 children. It's a different mix of grown-up tailgate favorites like sausage and burgers, and kid-friendly food like banana muffins, grapes and string cheese.

Perhaps my favorite part of the party is the last line on the invitation that says, "Come for the tailgate, go home for the game." Most of the time I can barely stay awake until the end of the game. Somehow that hasn't changed since having children.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Princess Daredevil

Yesterday was a snow day in Chicago. Most of the schools and many businesses were closed because we woke up to 7+ inches of snow. It was beautiful outside. Shortly after breakfast we put on layers and layers of warm clothes, and headed out to shovel the driveway. The brunette twin was as happy as she could be. She loves to be in the snow for as long as possible.

We weren't out very long when the blond twin began to whine that she was cold and wanted to go inside. The good thing about having a four-year-old is we can let her stay inside by herself in the playroom. We can open the door to check on her, and she's happy to play inside. It's a win-win situation for everyone. So, she went inside and immediately set-up a tea party for her dolls. I commented to my husband that if she was just a few years older, she would be busy making a wonderful breakfast and setting a beautiful picture-perfect table. We'd come in from shoveling snow, and she's have homemade hot cocoa and fresh baked muffins for us. It's just her personality, for the most part.

She also had this other dimension that just amazes us. She's an absolute daredevil. Today we took the girls sledding to a hill close to our house. The blond twin doesn't just want to sit in the saucer sled and fly down the hill, she wants to go as fast as possible. She wants to go down on her tummy. She wants to spin all the way down. One run, she pulled her hat over her eyes so she couldn't see where she was going. If she stops face-first in the snow with the saucer sled on top of her, all the better. She laughes the entire time.

Eventually the brunette twin tired of going down the hill and wanted to play in the snow-covered park. The blond twin had to be dragged off the hill. She was covered in snow and soaked from her wet hair to her snow-filled socks. And, she couldn't have been happier.