Saturday, May 31, 2008

Potty Talk

Overheard at our house...

Blond twin: Mom, wanna see how Gavin pees?

She lifts the lid and stands over the toilet.

Mom: You are not supposed to watch other people go to the bathroom. You know that. You need some privacy when you go potty and so does Gavin.

Blond twin: It's okay Mom. He said we could watch.

Mom: I don't care. You don't watch anyone go to the bathroom.

Brunette twin: Giggles loudly

Blond twin to brunette win: Let's go play Tarzan....

Note to self. Pay more attention when the kids are together, especially in the bathroom.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Wrong Sex

A lot of things have me shaking my head lately and wondering what is going on. The latest is a story about a couple who abandoned their twins because the babies are "the wrong sex."

Yep, they had girls. Clearly, this couple has cultural and psychological issues that I will not even attempt to figure out. I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. What makes me crazy is that this is not the first time the "wrong sex" discussion has come up.

I see it in friends who "try for a boy," only to end up with a third girl. I see it in people with two children of one sex who say they would like to have another, but don't want to end up with another of the same sex. I see it in the wife of a friend who said she could never have a daughter in the house because she wouldn't want the competition. (Yeah, she actually said that to the mother of twin girls.)

Clearly, these people didn't work very hard to have children. For those of us who struggled with multi-year science projects, a child -- boy or girl -- is a miracle. Sometimes I think it should be harder to have children. Maybe they would appreciate what a tremendous gift each child is if they had to work harder to conceive him/her.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Little Things

We spent a few wonderful, sunny days in Lake Geneva to kick-off our summer. It was wonderful, as always. We're lucky because we have friends who live up there. When they go on vacation, we house sit. The house is right across the street from one of the lakes in the area. It's beautiful and relaxing.

During our weekend, we went to Chocolatefest in Burlington, WI, where the girls giggled and screamed on the carnival rides. We roller skated down the lakefront. We fed the geese and ducks all our stale bread. We played in the sand on the beach. We blew bubbles off the front deck. We took them for ice cream after they put on their pajamas. We walked out on the piers looking for snapping turtles.

Today I asked, "What was your favorite part of the weekend?" They replied, "Sleeping in our princess sleeping bags." It made me smile. Of all the things we did, the thing they liked best was "camping out" in their sleeping bags. Of course, they only slept in the princess sleeping bags because we forced the issue. On their own, they would have stayed up all night talking and giggling. Mom and Dad, mean parents that we are, made them stop talking and go to sleep.

I have to admit that I love their favorite part of the weekend. It's good to know they appreciate the little things, as well as the big trip. If their favorite thing was sleeping in their princess sleeping bags and giggling through the night, then we seem to be raising two pretty happy girls.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thank You

On Memorial Day we are supposed to honor all fallen soldiers, but today I want to honor three who are special to me. Two of them I never even met. One died way too young, but after his service.

My father-in law was a WWII POW. He survived the Bataan Death marches. If you don't remember what happened during the Bataan Death marches, go back and read your history books. He died long before I married his son, but I am grateful to him for so many things.

My uncle served in the Korean War. His service brought him home safely, only to have him die from cancer while his three children were each younger than five. I have always felt it was wrong that we spent so much time with him and his children only have pictures.

The third soldier is my friend Julie's nephew. He died serving in our current conflict. The email she sent to us after he died would still bring tears to my eyes -- if I had been smart enough to save it. I never met him, but I am still grateful for his sacrifice -- and sorry for her pain.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Always Talking

The brunette twin is wearing me down. She is always talking. She chatters all the time. If she's awake, she is talking.

It's a combination of random comments and questions about how stuff works. She remembers every detail of every book, every activity, every show, every song. She can sing every word of every CD we own. She'll ask a dozen questions about something new until she figures it out.

She stores the information for future reference and links everything together whenever possible. Sometimes she does this while we are reading a book. She'll look at something and it will trigger a memory. She did this yesterday when we were reading a book. There was an unusual musical instrument in the book. She ran to the playroom to find a book called Zin Zin Violin. She opened the book to the page with the same instrument.

She does this while we're driving. It's not distracting enough that she's talking to her sister and asking me questions while I drive. She also has to pull things out of her memory, which means I have to think about my answer. We'll be driving along and she will say something about a building that looks like another building we saw while on vacation. Or she'll see a flower and it will remind her of a shirt someone wore one day. The scary thing for us is she's always right. Her memory is amazing.

It means we need to always pay attention because some where, some day, we'll need to remember some obscure detail. Her great memory will certainly help us improve our memories!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Walking Distance

When we bought our house, one of the things I really liked was that we could walk to the elementary school, parks, recreation center, and library. At the time I had fantasies of a Mayberry-style life where we'd all walk everywhere as one happy family.

Now I'm glad we live so close because gas just hit $4.19 a gallon at the gas station down the block. I drive a mini-van and it costs nearly $100 to fill the tank. Instead of walking for health and relaxation, we'll be walking as a money-saving measure. We'll also be improving our health, so it's not a bad thing we won't be driving as much.

I do have to admit that gas prices do play into the activities the girls will participate in this summer. There are so many fun things they could do, but most of the things they will do are within a mile or two of our house. If I can find activities at the library, recreation center, or local community college, it's even better as each of those places is within a few blocks of our house.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ode to Trader Joe's

When you have young children, your goal is to get a few things done and keep them busy. Luckily for us, we live near a Trader Joe's grocery store. I happened upon Trader Joe's shortly after it opened as I was looking for some organic baby food. The store didn't carry it, but it did have lots of other kid-friendly attributes which brought us back time and time again.

First, the store has preschool-size shopping carts. From the time the girls were about 18 months old, I'd go to the store just to get them out of the house. The fact that I could pick up groceries and keep them busy was a bonus. The girls would spend an entire morning wandering around Trader Joe's pushing the little carts.

Second, the people are really nice. By this I mean both the employees and the customers. When the girls were toddlers, and didn't have as much control, they would occasionally run into another shopping cart -- or shopper. People always spoke with a smile when they saw toddler twins trying to manage the carts. The employees are equally patient and cheerful. The employees often offered the girls snacks (after checking with me, of course) and drinks.

Third, the store has balloons. I don't need to explain how much small children love balloons. The girls walked out of the store like they won the lottery. They'd play with the balloons in the van and in the house. The best part is the balloons lose the helium overnight, so we would throw them away in the morning.

We still spend a lot of time at Trader Joe's. The food is good. The prices are good. The people are good. What's not to like?

Monday, May 19, 2008

SuperNanny Auditions

The television show SuperNanny held auditions in Chicago this weekend. According to news reports, the auditions were packed. I realize lots of people want their 15 minutes of fame, but really, do you want those 15 minutes to be on SuperNanny? A show that tells the entire world that you are a completely incompetent parent who has no control over your own children? A show based on the fact that you cannot maintain a decent household? A show that lets millions of people laugh at your stupidity? Are we really that desperate for attention?

I haven't seen an entire episode, but the snippets I've seen are scary. Children who spend their time throwing food at their parents. Parents who have children screaming and swearing at them. Children who run the household. It's just sad for the children because they are the products of bad parenting. It's scary to watch adults turn to SuperNanny and ask for help. This isn't brain surgery. It's basic parenting. If you let your children run all over you, they will. A little discipline goes a long way.

I cannot imagine any reason I would look at my husband and say, "Honey, the girls are so out of control, I think we should try to get on TV and see if SuperNanny will be able to restore order in our house." Luckily, hundreds of other families completely lack any self-respect, so millions of viewers will be able to watch, laugh, and feel better about their own families. No family is perfect, but I don't know anyone self-absorbed and desperate enough to ask SuperNanny for help.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Justice for Megan

Few things make me as happy right now as knowing that Lori Drew is going to stand trial for her part in Megan Meier's suicide. I don't know Lori, and I did not know Megan. I have been following the story closely since it was first reported. It horrifies me that an adult -- supposedly a grown, mature person -- went to such extremes to be mean to a child, especially a child with a known history of clinical depression. It horrifies me more that she has never taken responsibility for her actions.

One of Lori's former employees recently admitted she was part of the hoax and talked about it on a morning television show. This girl is now 19 years old. She took responsibility and showed remorse for her actions. If nothing else, she knows what she did was wrong.

The indictment yesterday made me feel as if there is now going to be some justice for Megan. Adults are NEVER supposed to be intentionally cruel to children -- and when they do, they need to be held responsible.

You can read the latest here:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

An Inconvenient Time Out

A friend with two-year-old twins called to say she started putting them on time out. She was frustrated because her children always seemed to act up at a time when putting them on time out would make the family late for church, a family dinner, a doctor's appointment, etc. She asked me how I handled it.

Here's my time out trick. When we first started putting them on time out, I used to do it when it wouldn't interfere with anything -- aka when it was convenient for me. Yes, I know that sounds very selfish, but there's a method to the madness.

If the girls did something wrong, I would put them on timeout to make the point that being bad means punishment. When we first implemented the time out as punishment, I tried to do it when we didn't have to be anywhere. I wanted them to have a nice long time out, not one cut short because we had to be at the doctor's or a class. I wanted them to understand that being on time out was a bad thing.

There were many times when a good, consistent parent would have put the girls on time out, but this Mom didn't do it. I want to make the point, but I also recognized that the girls became a bit wilder when we were going somewhere important like the pediatrician, Gramma's, church, etc. I let those moments slide. I wanted their full attention when I put them on time out.

Now that we've done it enough, we rarely actually put them on time out. Now we just threaten them with time out and they change their behavior or actions. It's not a perfect system, but it works for us.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

This is a prom dress?

Where were this girl's parents? Or perhaps another responsible adult? She had this dress custom-designed, which means someone saw it before she tried to wear it to a high school dance.

She, of course, thought it was perfectly appropriate. Her friends thought it was great. Luckily, some adult realized it was a bathing suit and not a prom dress. She wasn't allowed to participate in the dance. After she was refused entry, she started a fight in the hotel, demanding to know why her dress wasn't appropriate and demanding her money back. Yeah, like a school administrator was going to write her a check in the hotel lobby.

I doubt our girls will be allowed to wear a bathing suit that skimpy, let alone a prom dress. This is just another case of absentee parenting. It's sad for the child because she grows up not understanding what is appropriate and when. It's sad for society because she's another example of how absentee parenting leads to bad behavior. It's just sad.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rainy Day Blues

It's been raining all day. By rain I mean downpours that are causing streets to flood, plus high winds that bend trees. Yeah, it's the perfect Mother's Day. In our house, it is.

The girls are so excited about Mother's Day this year because they understand it. They have been making cards and giving "you're the best Mommy" hugs and kisses for days. They managed to keep the BIG secret until yesterday when the blond twin blurted out, "If you go to the store, don't buy Crocs!" The brunette twin gave her "the look." The blond twin looked panicky and said, "You're not getting Crocs for Mother's Day, but still don't buy any shoes." I pretended to not to hear it.

The girls started the day by bringing me presents in bed. They really wanted to serve breakfast in bed, but the clean up on that would have been enormous. Now I wish we had eaten breakfast in bed, but at the time it seemed better to wait until we came downstairs. We went to brunch and walked through a beautiful garden -- yes it was still raining, although only lightly at this point.

Now we're waiting for Gramma and Grampa to come over for dinner. It will be the perfect ending to a perfect day.

The crocs are light blue. Of course, I think they are perfect.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Secrets of the Heart

I know what I'm getting for Mother's Day because I handed my husband a sales insert and pointed it out. I asked for a pair of crocs and some jibbets to make it easier to slip on shoes every time I need to leave the house. The girls and Daddy went shopping at the correct store, so I'm guessing the crocs are in the house. You'd think this might dampen the excitement, but it doesn't. It actually creates a new level of fun.

My husband talked to the girls about keeping a secret and how they are not allowed to tell Mommy what she's getting for Mother's Day. They have taken this responsibility very seriously -- or at least a seriously as four-year-old twins can.

Every time I tell them to put on their crocs, they look at each other and giggle. One day I mentioned it would be nice to have shoes to slip on because it would be easier to get out of the house. They started whispering and laughing.

The other day I asked what I was getting for Mother's Day. They responded, "A box of horseradish and old socks." Then they both looked at each other and giggled again. (In our house whenever you ask about a gift, we make up some crazy combination that usually includes horseradish. You'll have to ask my husband why horseradish is always included.)

Now they have taken to teasing me. The brunette twin said, "Mom, what do you want for Mother's Day?" I gave my standard answer, "Hugs and kisses from my babies." She said, "Well, you're getting a purple paper, an old shoe, horseradish, snowflakes, and ribbons." Then the two girls fell onto the floor laughing and whispering.

To their credit, they have not told me what my real gift is. They work hard to make up silly answers and not blurt our the truth. It is so much fun to know their secret and to see them work so hard to keep it. When I open the package on Mother's Day, I promise to be completely surprised.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Fairy Chronicles

The Fairy Chronicles is a wonderful series with the motto "inside you is the power to do anything." Each story teaches a lesson about positive values from courage to respect to self-esteem. Our girls are only four years old, so they are a bit young for all the lessons in the series. They are learning about chapter books in preschool, and these books are a nice introduction to the joys of chapter books.

The newest book, Cinnabar and the Island of Shadows, features magical creatures living on a secret island. The story highlights teamwork and girl power. Since reading the book, the girls are obsessed with shadows. There is a beautiful drawing of the four fairies on a sea turtle that simply enchanted our girls. The Fairy Facts at the back of the book are an added science lesson.

What I like best about the series is that it captures the girls' imaginations. After we read a story, the girls incorporate the messages and action into their imaginative play. Different stuffed animals become fairies and the games follow the stories. Sometimes the girls themselves pretend to be different fairies.

I think we'll collect the entire series and read them over and over again. The Fairy Chronicles is that kind of a collection.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Who is Older?

The eldest child always thinks he/she had it harder than the younger siblings. Well, researchers found it's not a myth. It really happens. I'm the eldest child in my family, and the eldest grandchild on both sides, so I know this story from MSN is true

What I don't know is how this will play out with our twin girls. The blond twin is technically older, but the brunette twin is slightly bigger. As soon as the brunette twin grew taller than her sister, the blond twin started treating her as the boss. In fact, the brunette twin takes on all the stereotypical features of the oldest child, especially being responsible. The blond twin cannot move without her sister becoming the safety patrol. The brunette twin monitors everything her sister does and reports any safety infractions immediately.

The blond twin gets too close to the road (oh, say four or five feet away) and the brunette twin drags her back. The blond twin puts something near her mouth and the brunette twin reminds her not to put anything except food in her mouth. The blond twin not only had a built-in playmate and best friend, she has her own personal safety monitor.

One day the blond twin will understand what it means to be the older sister. I wonder how the roles will change then.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Shift Happens

Here's a great video link that explains how most parents feel about today's educational system. It's not that we don't feel like our children are receiving a decent education, it's that most of the time the education is outdated before it's completed. How do you mix what you need to know for a world that doesn't exist yet with what will help you learn to think in a way that you can adapt as required. It's a problem that has always existed, but the speed at which technology changes magnifies the problem.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Wrong Time for the Right Time from Chicago Moms Blog

Oh, this post is so funny that I actually cried. Whether you have one child or more than one, you know this is entirely true. I altered one word (sox, with an e) to thwart the weirdos searching for something really dirty. Otherwise, this post is entirely as written by one of the brilliantly funny Moms on The Chicago Moms Blog. Enjoy!

May 03, 2008
Wrong Time for the Right Time

The thing I miss most since becoming a parent?
You know....
When we first brought that baby home, melting our hearts with his huge blue eyes, it was the farthest thing on my mind.
It's 7 years later. Enough already.
He works an early day so he can spend the rest of it with us. Which means the alarm goes off at 5:45AM and I convulse with shock. Every morning. 'Cuz I'm slow that way.
I write freelance. Which means I stay up after the kid (and man) have gone to sleep, tip-tapping furiously away. Yo Yo Ma's sprightly tones drifting through the speakers.
But the funny part? I used to be THE Morning Lark. And him? The Night's Original Owl. A week or so goes by and we'll look at each other like starved ocelots desperate for some of Fuddrucker's
finest. And we'll be thwarted. For at least a couple of nights.

Here's how it goes....
7:30PM. And I wonder if dosing my kid with Benadryl when he doesn't actually have a cold is necessarily a bad thing.
7:45PM. And the kid has cottoned on to subtext. He doesn't understand it, but he's got that kid thing. You know, the ability to thwart plans he shouldn't even know about?
8:00PM. I've dropped the kid in a warm bath with that mellow lavender stuff that's supposed to guarantee a drowsy baby.
8:15PM. The kid is laughing uproariously at shapes he can mold his sudsy hair into.
8:30PM. And my sweetheart just yawned. The kid? Is a prune and more wound up than when he went INTO the bath.
8:45PM. 2 Chapters of his book, a glass of milk, and even a lullaby. I give the man what I hope is a smoldering look. He asks me if I have something stuck in my eye.
9:10PM. We tell the kid if gets out of bed ONE MORE TIME, we will tie him to it until he's 16.
9:15PM. He slipped into the bathroom announcing he's "gotta pee!"
9:25PM. I'm hammering on the bathroom door, making dire threats.
9:30PM. Sweetheart is yawning again. Kid shouts a request for a glass of water.
9:45PM. There's a thud in our son's bedroom. "I'm OK!" he yells quickly. "But could I borrow the broom for a minute?"
10:00PM. The dishes are humming their way to clean in the dishwasher. Medium has been watched. Sweetheart is sitting on the couch next to me, ready to make his signature move, when... "Did Daddy kiss me goodnight?" He stands in the doorway, looking like a little angel. I bite my lip to keep from exploding in frustration.
10:15PM. He looks me deep in the eyes, fighting another yawn. "Honey," he says. "What about tomorrow morning? I could wake you up, or..." he waggles his eyebrows.
"I have a deadline," I admit. "I'll be up for hours."
We groan, leaning into each other. Kissing and considering... maybe we still could. Hopeful kisses. Haven't-faced-reality-yet kind of kisses.
From the back of the house comes another thud. The dog comes scampering around the corner, with what I swear is a look of 'Don't blame me, the kid did it!' on her face.
"I'll kill him, then I gotta go to bed," he says, sadly. "We'll try again tomorrow night."
"Tomorrow," I agree, with a sigh.
And more hope than faith.
Original Chicago Moms Blog Post

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wasting Away in Preschool

I took the girls to their new preschool today for the entrance assessment test. They had nearly perfect scores. Even though we liked the school during our tour, and everyone we talk to likes the school, I have to admit I have a bad attitude about the whole thing.

The girls' birthday is just a few days after the school deadline. If they had been born a few days earlier, they would be going to kindergarten. People keep saying condescending things like, "They will be so far ahead of all the other kids by the time they get to kindergarten." Or my favorite, "It's good for twins to have an extra year in preschool." No matter how many times I hear these things, I still feel like the girls are being punished for an accident of birth.

They are completely ready for kindergarten -- and that's not my opinion. It's the opinion of their current preschool teacher. She said they were more ready than most of the children moving up to kindergarten. Great news! Except they get to waste away in preschool again. At their current pace, the girls will start kindergarten reading and doing basic addition/subtraction. Most kindergarten students don't read and do basic math! Will they learn new things next year? Yes, I'm sure they will. It's a good school, but it is still their third year in preschool.

The problem is few Illinois school districts test children with close birthdays any more. It was too difficult to establish a cut-off line. The private schools stick to the same birthday deadline as the public schools because parents used to put their kids in private kindergarten and transfer them to the public schools for first grade.

So, I feel like the girls are going to spend a year waiting for the other children to catch up to them (aka wasting another year in preschool). It's a feeling I cannot shake, no matter how many people tell me I'm wrong.