Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's Spring Somewhere

Yesterday it was spring in Chicago. It was warm, sunny, and beautiful. Yesterday was just a tease, but what a glorious tease. We went outside and worked in the garden. The girls played on the playset all afternoon. It was so wonderful that we didn't want to come in the house.

We drove to one of our favorite parks for a long walk while the girls rode their bikes. It's fun to watch them develop. The brunette twin pedals like mad while she smiles. It's like a race for her. The blond twin pedals like she's on a leisurely Sunday drive. She has a satisfied look on her face because she is so proud of herself -- riding a bike by herself!

Today, it's winter again -- cold, grey, dreary. It's like the winter that will never end. We had snow last week and cold weather every day. This week is supposed to be filled with rain, rain, and more rain. At least we have yesterday to remind us that beautiful days are coming.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fire Safety

We're a bit behind, so we just changed our smoke detector batteries today. Yes, I know we are suppose we change the clocks, but we didn't. My husband checks them regularly, so we know the batteries still work. This alarming video, though, tells me that smoke detectors might not be so helpful.


I have always said that if there is ever an emergency, the blond twin and I will have to wake the brunette twin and my husband. Those two could sleep through anything. It's really unnerving, though, to see the children in the video sleeping through the fire alarms.

The girls regularly have fire drills at their preschool, so I know they know what to do in case of the fire alarm goes off. We also talk about it at home. The video is a good reminder that smoke detectors are just a tool to help keep us safe. In the end, no amount of practice helps if you sleep through the screeching smoke detector.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bullying Lawsuit

The story about a high school student in Fayetteville, Arkansas who has been bullied to the point other kids beat him up on the school bus and in classrooms makes me sick. This child has endured YEARS of physical and mental abuse. The public school district did nearly nothing to stop it. His parents finally filed a lawsuit. Suddenly, people are taking the situation seriously.

My first thought after seeing the story was where are the parents of these bullies? If a school called me to say that our girls are bullying another child, you better believe we'd take immediate action. There would be serious consequences for their actions. This boy was beaten up by dozens of different students. How is it all these junior high school and high school students have been beating up another student for all these years and none of the bullies' parents have tried to stop it?

My second thought was about his parents. How was it they didn't take stronger action until now? I might have a short fuse, but there is no way I'd let other children bully our girls for three or four years. The first thing I would have done is pull them out of the school district. As soon as that was complete, the lawsuits against the bullies' families and the school district would have started flying.

I realize his parents thought they were doing the right thing by trying to work with the system, but guess what? The system doesn't always work. In the end, your job as a parent is to protect your child at all costs. Allowing other children to beat him up in the classroom, on the bus, or in a park, for years and years is not doing your job. In the interview, his Mom said the school district would not call the police, even though she requested it. I kept wondering why she didn't call the police? You cannot rely on others to take care of your children.

Luckily this story (so far) ends with a lawsuit and not a child with a gun in a classroom. It's a horrible and sad story. It's also strengthens my resolve to be an activist parent who is willing to fight the system when I think it is in the best interests of the girls.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Crazy Drivers

Two driving observations from today...

1. I was driving on the I-55 expressway this morning in the far left lane. The man in front of me was driving about 45 miles per hour. People were zipping by us. I was stuck behind the slow poke. It took a minute, but I realized that the reason he was driving so slowly was he was shaving as he drove. (Again, in the far left lane on a major expressway.) He was using a disposable razor and looking in the mirror to shave.

2. A few hours later, I was driving on I-294 when I saw a man in the car next to me eating a piece of fruit and talking on his phone. He was driving along without any hands on the wheel.

It was at that moment when I realized how grateful I am that I can work from home and do not have to drive with these nuts every day.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bunny Logistics

I already know the brunette twin is going to be the one to figure out the secrets of holiday helpers like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. She asks way too many questions about how they get things done. She wants to know how the Easter Bunny gets to all the houses since he doesn't have a sleigh like Santa. How does he get in the houses? Who helps him carry all the eggs? How does he know how many children are in the house? Who helps him put out all the eggs?

My standard answer "He's magic" didn't really do it for her. She counters with "Adam said the Easter Bunny...." It turns out she's been collecting information from school and other friends. She processes all the information and has to discuss the inconsistencies.

Luckily, I turn to Daddy for help with these questions. She believes everything he says, so it works for now.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why I Won't Be at Easter Mass

On the eve of one of the holiest days in Catholicism, I am feeling more than a bit of Catholic guilt. You see, we will not be going to church on Easter Sunday. And, we don't go to church on Christmas. We opt out of two of the most holy, joyous days of the year. The Christers (who only show up to church on Christmas and Easter, and then act as if they own the place) finally did us in.

We tried to go to family mass for Christmas when the girls were two. They put on their matching plaid Christmas dresses and we headed out. The girls were so excited. When we arrived at the church, about 20 minutes before mass started, we couldn't find a place to sit. It wasn't that the pews were filled with people -- rather the pews were filled with coats. A few people from a group arrived early and saved the entire pew (or pews). We walked up and down the church looking for seats. Some people merely ignored us. Others were rude to the girls. Some told us if we wanted seats we should have gotten there earlier. It was a charming display of Christmas spirit. Instead of going to mass, we went to my sister-in-laws for dinner. We were about an 90 minutes early, but no one was rude to us.

I haven't gone to Easter mass in years. The twice-a-year people who attend this mass tend to be more obnoxious than those at Christmas mass. I try to avoid ending the Easter season with a desire to hit people by attending Easter vigil mass. I always enjoy Easter vigil mass, but this year I just didn't feel like attending. It's been a long, tiring week and I'm not feeling well. I just feel like I'd be a hazard on the roads if I drove when I'm this tired. Yet, I'm struggling with the feeling that it's an obligation and I should be there.

I know it's not just our parish that struggles with the Christers. I hear similar holiday horror stories from friends and family -- no matter what their faith.

So, now we have our own Christmas and Easter traditions, which revolve around friends and family. We celebrate Christmas as Jesus' birthday. We haven't really discussed Easter as a religious holiday yet. Death and resurrection are pretty deep topics for four-year-olds.

Next week we'll go back to mass and be grateful for "regular" Sundays again. Until then, Happy Easter to everyone.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Holy Water

When we were children, the Lenten season was about giving up something. It was supposed to make us stronger and more reflective. Now, I try to do something good during Lent to make it more about helping others.

There is a wonderful new project underway to provide clean water to those around the world. We take it for granted in this country that the water that comes out of our taps will be clean enough to drink. Maybe it's not perfect, but we rarely worry about water-borne diseases. According to a recent Chicago Sun Times article by Colleen Falsani every 15 seconds, a child dies from water-related diseases. Patients suffering from water-related diseases occupy half the hospital beds in the developing world. The scary numbers go on and on.

The good news is there is a new UNICEF project underway to help bring clean water to places where it scarce. The Tap Project asks restaurant patrons to donate a dollar or more when paying the bill.

We did this last Sunday. We happened to be having lunch when I saw the note included with the check. We didn't know much about it then, but it seemed like a good idea. We added a couple of dollars to the check total and went on our way. It was a painless way to make someone else's life better.

With this being Good Friday, take a minute to do something good for someone else. It's the least those of us lucky enough to be able to afford to eat out in restaurants can do.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Principal's Office

Yesterday I met with the girls' new preschool principal. When we toured the school, the teacher leading the tour told us we could not keep the girls together. They would be separated, and there was no discussing it. She drew a long, deep line in the sand.

We were very unhappy about this. I started pulling together my support information. I had research studies on about separating twins in school. from a great web site called Twins Law. I surveyed area school districts. I asked their current preschool teacher to write a letter. I called their Kindermusik instructor, who had been an elementary school teacher. I pulled up the State of Illinois resolution about parental involvement in the placement of multiples. I was set with a two inch stack of supporting evidence. Frankly, I thought they should just do it because we asked. If that didn't work, though, I wanted to make sure I had outside research supporting our position.

When I arrived at the school, I handed all the registration information to the clerk. Almost immediately, I was called into the Principal's office. After we sat down, I told the principal about our tour, how happy our friend's were with the school, and what the teacher said about placing the girls together. I gave her the letter from their current teacher and asked if we could keep the girls together in preschool. Her reply? "Sure. We do it all the time."

I just sat there and stared for a second. She talked about how she couldn't understand why the teacher took such a hard-line stand. We spent the next ten minutes just chatting about our children and the school district. We had to do something to fill the time it took for the clerk to get the girls' registered.

So, in the end, all we had to do was ask. I'm still glad I had all the research to support our position, but I'm also very glad I didn't need to use it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Attention Grabber

The brunette twin gets really annoyed when her sister ignores her. And, it happens a lot. The blond twin knows this bugs her sister, so she does it on purpose. It shows up in different ways. Sometimes one of the will be sitting a few feet from the other and she has to repeat the same question multiple times. Other times one will be in another room and ignore her sister calling her.

The brunette twin has figured out how to use her slightly-bigger-than-her-sister size to her advantage. She simply walks up to the blond twin and picks her up. She puts her arms under the blond twin's arms, clasping her hands around the blond twin's waist. She then carries her blond twin wherever she wants her to be.

You'd think the blond twin would protest, but she doesn't. The first time the brunette twin did it, the blond twin did protest. Now, though, it's a game they both like to play.

The first time I saw the brunette twin pick up her sister, I just stared. I couldn't believe she could do it -- nor could I believe her sister would let her. Now I just let is play out. I'm not sure where it's going, but I think the brunette twin just became the dominate twin.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

House Party

One of the great things about living in Chicago is the variety of inexpensive entertainment options for adults and children. Today we took advantage of a children's concert at the Harris Theater.

Dan Zane is a Grammy award winning musician who currently fronts a tremendously popular children's music band. His show was filled with songs that had lyrics children love, with music adults love. This wasn't the Itsy Bitsy Spider show. He had a full band -- drums, bass, trumpet, saxophone, guitars -- and some great guests. There was a tap dancer, beat box artist, and a full Mexican music group. All of them shared the stage at various times.

The songs included one about a circus, an anti-war anthem, an ethnic religious chant, and several Mexican folk tunes. A few of the children's songs would have fit nicely on several local radio stations. It was fun, engaging, and multi-cultural at the same time.

The girls love this stuff. The blond twin had to dress for the ocassion. Today she wore her green Christmas dress, navy blue tights with polka dots, and red shoes. She carried a pink purse to top it off. The brunette twin sat in the show staring at the stage. Sometimes I thought she had stopped breathing becuase she sat so still. She took in everything that happened on the stage. We've been discussing all the details since we returned home

We had fun. It was quite the show. Perhaps the best part was the audience was made up of lots of parents from different eras, but most of them were close to our age. For once I didn't feel like the oldest mom in the place!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Stuck in My Head

We went to see Jersey Boys last week. It might just be the perfect musical. There is great music, and the whole audience sings because everyone knows the songs. It's an interesting story -- with enough swearing to make the Soprano's proud. It's not sweet and sappy like some musicals, nor is it deep and meaningful. The simple set lets the music and the story shine through. It's just plain fun.

The problem is I cannot get those songs out of my head. It's an improvement over the usual kids music that plays in my head, but it drives me crazy. I cannot remember all the words, so I have these blank places where the music doesn't have words, but that la-de-da sound where the words should be. So I broke down and bought the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons Greatest Hits CD.

The girls went crazy the first time I played it because the first song is "Sherry." They yelled, "Mom, you're in a song." We all sang and laughed. (Really, when your name is Shari, you have to make peace with the song. You don't have to love it, but you do have to develop a sense of humor about it.) Now we have all the words to all the songs.

After listening to the real singers, I have to say, the four actors who played the group were really, really good. I think the man who sings the Frankie Valli parts must sit with a cup of tea and honey during the day so that he can hit those high notes every night.

The good news is the songs aren't just in my head anymore. Today the blond twin started singing Sherry while we were in the van. Everyone in the house sings them now, so I don't feel alone anymore.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tooth Fairy Economics

Our girls haven't lost any teeth yet, but they have friends who have. It is a big topic of conversation -- and they are only in preschool!

We've been talking about how much the tooth fairy leaves per tooth. In our family, there are a variety of options. The tooth fairy leaves my one brother's children a silver dollar. My other brother's children receive $2 per tooth.

This article from CNN talks about how this topic is causing much anxiety among parents across the country. I was shocked to learn that the tooth fairy leaves some children as much as $20! For that much money, I have some teeth to donate.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Disney Princesses

The girls are princess obsessed. They love all things that have to do with princesses -- tiaras, gowns, carriages, etc. Of course, most princesses belong to Disney. We read the stories, watch the movies, and talk about stepmothers all the time.

Someone needs to explain why the Disney princesses don't have mothers. Except for Sleeping Beauty, they all have fathers, but no mothers. We don't know what happened to their mothers, except several of them were replaced with wicked stepmothers.

This leads to much discussion about where the princesses' mothers are. The girls want to know how the mothers died. Was the princess sad when her mother died? Why is the stepmother mean? It's enough to depress anyone, let alone young children.

We try to answer all the questions, but Disney doesn't give the answers. We know Cinderella loses both her parents and is left with her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Snow White ends up running away from her stepmother, the evil queen. We reassure the girls that these are just stories, but the girls are four. Each story is very real to them.

For someplace that is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth -- the Magic Kingdom -- Disney does a good job of marketing sadness and pain.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Fashion Advantages

I was reading an article about spring fashions and realized there are many fashion advantages to being a Mom of twins.

1. I wore my ballet flats for so long they are now fashionable again.

2. My completely neglected eyebrows have the fashionable fuller look.

3. My nails are the perfect, unpolished length. I used to wish my nails would grow. Now I don't have time to do anything with them, so they are always long.

4. It's nearly pony tail season again. I don't have to worry about a decent hair cut until fall!

5. My spring/summer shorts are much more "together" looking than my winter sweatpants. I can look pulled together with much less effort.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

One Inch Taller

Overheard at our house...

"Mom, look at us."

"Put your sister down."

"I'm bigger than her, I can carry her."

"You're not that much bigger. No more piggyback rides."

"Come on Mom, I can do it."

"No. Put her down."

Lots of laughing in the living room.

"Mom, look at us. Now I'm a pony."

Mom just sighs....

Friday, March 7, 2008

What were they thinking?

What is wrong with some parents? When you name your children, you have to remember it is for life -- or at least until they are old enough to correct parental stupidity. When we found out we were having twins, we immediately started making lists of names -- first name and middle names. We had dozens of combinations. Our goal was to give the girls names that would last from childhood through a professional career.

We've all heard those names that make us stop and think, "what were those parents thinking?" The other day I read an interview with Tom Thomas. I thought, really, thousands of names and the only combination you could come up with was Thomas Thomas? Or I read that a family named their twin daughters Reno and Nevada. Yeah, they will be proud of those names one day.

The story I read today makes me want to bop these parents in the head. There is a family of Packers fans that named their new twin sons Brett and Favre. No, I'm not kidding. Here is the link to the story (Last year there was a family in Indiana that named their son Wrigley Field, so it's not a Wisconsin thing.)

It's great to cheer for your favorite team, but every time they go to the park, Mom is going to yell, "Brett, Favre, time to go." Really? It's just the latest case of "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?"

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Deer One

We have a deer wandering through our yard right now. We first spotted her in the neighbor's yard. She was trying to get a drink from the neighbor's pond. She couldn't quite negotiate the rocks, though.

Our girls are fascinated. They have been standing at the window since we first sighted the deer. They report every movement like sports announcers. "She's in our yard eating the grass!" "She's back in Sue's yard by the pond!" "She's in Steve's yard. I hope they don't let the dog out!"

A lot of the neighbors complain about the deer eating their plants, bushes, and trees. It seems this deer doesn't like much in our yard. She hasn't tried to eat the sedum, evergreens, ornamental grasses or tree bark. She only ate a bit of the grass.

I don't know how long she'll stay, but the girls will be talking about this for a long, long time.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Name Game

When we found out we were having twins, we started the name game -- first names, middle names, nicknames, etc. We had a matrix with options. It was a never-ending battle.

We checked the Social Security website to make sure we weren't picking one of the top ten names. We didn't want our daughters to have the same name as half their class. Shari was a popular name when I was growing up. I was one of four Shari's on our block. I hated having the same name as so many others.

Here's a fun web site I wish I had known about when we were deciding names -- This site allows you to put in your first and last name. A few seconds later you find out how many other people in the country share your name. It's really fun!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Second Language

The girls are learning sign language at their preschool. I think it's pretty interesting to watch them practice the different letters, often arguing about the nuances of their hand formations. As I watched them do it this morning, it hit me. If they are going to learn sign language, then we need to learn it to.

Actually, if they are going to learn any second language -- sign or Spanish or French -- we need to learn it. Otherwise, by the time the are fluent, we won't have any idea what they are saying. The girls will be having entire conversations that we won't be able to understand.

When they were born the doctors warned us about twin talk where the girls would not speak "standard" English, but their own version of it. They never did that because they have always wanted to make themselves heard.

This is another story. We're encouraging them to learn a language we don't speak. Not the brightest parenting move, I'll admit. The only good news is they are still young enough that we can catch up.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Morning Light

The girls wake up way too early -- at least for Mom & Dad. There is something really sweet, though, about how they greet each other. It's like they haven't seen each other for days. They hug and kiss and smile and giggle. It's one of those moments when I realize how strong their twin bond really is.

We raised them as two little girls who share a birthday. They call themselves "sisters," not "twins." At school they have their own friends and play with different children each day.

It's not often you see the twin bond emerge. When they are tired, they want to snuggle with each other. When they are hurt, they want to comfort each other. In the morning, they rejoice at seeing each other. It makes me a little jealous, but also brings great comfort knowing they have each other.