Friday, August 29, 2008

art not ART

Last night, while sitting on the grass at Millennium Park listening to Sonnie Rollins perform during the first night of the Chicago Jazz Festival, I had an interesting conversation about art education. A girlfriend commented that this was the exact kind of art education she wanted for her son -- easy, casual, fun and interesting. He was playing with our girls and a girl whose family occupied the blanket next to ours. The kids were having fun while being immersed in world class jazz. It wasn't ART. If you think about it, you know the difference. ART is formal, stuffy, high brow and almost scary for children. When you say "art" it's just woven into the fabric of our lives.

We then talked about how so many schools take an interesting topic, like art, and make it as boring and mundane as possible. When we were in school, we were dragged to the Art Institute of Chicago for field trips. It should have been an amazing experience, but it wasn't. First we had a million rules to follow. Second, the teachers spent all their time telling us to be quiet and lecturing us about the ART. We had to walk from painting to painting like little soldiers. We had to stand in front of one piece of ART and listen to the lecture. We were "shushed" if we so much as coughed. It was all very formal, stiff, and contrived.

We do a lot of stuff with the girls that would fall under the category of art education. We go to plays, ballets, concerts, art exhibits, etc. The difference is we don't do ART education. We won't bring them to a play that isn't kid-friendly. We tend to admire paintings and sculptures in public places or less formal galleries. Sometimes we just admire the pretty color blue in the sky.

When my friend started talking about art education, I realize it's what we want for the girls too. We want them to enjoy the arts as we do. We want them to admire a musical genre we don't normally listen to at home (oh, like jazz) for its beauty and complexity. We also want them to understand that art should be something you feel good about. We felt very good last night as we sat on the blankets eating dinner and watching the kids play. It didn't even feel like an art lesson.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Induce! Induce!

I used to read stories about parents who induced child birth and thought, "How terrible! They should just let the child be born naturally." Now I get it. Especially for people who induce at the end of August so their children wouldn't be born in the beginning of September.

In the U.S., most states use September 1 as the cut off date for kindergarten. Your child must be 5 before September 1 in order to attend kindergarten.

Our girls are being punished this year because their birthday falls just after September 1. After their first days of their third year of preschool, all I keep thinking is it is punishment because we weren't smart enough to induce on August 30.

The preschool curriculum is designed to prepare children for kindergarten. The schools teach children the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. These are all things the girls already know. Their teacher told me point blank that the girls will "reinforce" the basic preschool concepts. Let's face it, preschool isn't meant to be a three year program.

Those with birthdays close to September 1 are punished for an accident of birth. If you have an opportunity, learn from our mistake. Induce! Induce no later than August 30 so you can avoid this nightmare.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Will you be happy if I tell the truth?

The girls were in BIG trouble last night. What they did wasn't as bad as the fact that they lied about it. You know how it goes. "I don't know how it happened." "I didn't do it." "It's not my fault." We explained to them that we were more angry that they lied than we were that they made the mistake. Let's face it, they are four years old. They make a lot of mistakes.

We talked about telling the truth and how much better it is not to lie. Today, the blond twin came to me and said, "Something bad happened. Will you be happy if I tell the truth?" Of course I told her telling the truth would make me happy, so she did. It was a little problem, so it was easy to solve.

The blond twin ran to her sister and said, "Mommy's not mad because I told the truth."

This is going to be an easy parenting demand while they are young. The mistakes aren't very big and the consequences are usually small.

In a few years, though, I'm not sure I really want to know the truth. Do I really want them to tell me the truth when they are teenagers? It's not that I want them to lie, but I'm not sure I want to know everything!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Yes, Your Majesty

The girls have a new habit that is just too funny. For some reason, they now answer my questions with the phrase, "Your majesty." It goes with everything.

"Girls, are you ready for lunch?"
"Yes, your majesty."

"Get off the couch now. Do not jump on it again!"
"Yes, your majesty."

"Your majesty, can we have a snack?"

They don't say it all the time, but they say it enough that it's now part of the routine. Every time they say it, they crack up, and most of the time, so do I. It's so funny because they say it with just a hint of sarcasm, like it's an inside joke between the two.

Once in a while, I'll address them as Princess. After all, if I'm the Queen, then they are princesses. Also, it makes them laugh.

I wish I could tell you how it started, but I really can't. All I know is whenever they say it in public, it causes others to smile. The other day, a woman looked at her pre-teen daughter and said, "I think you should call me your majesty from now on."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Divergent Interests

We knew it would happen some day, and it turns out today is the day. The girls interests are separating. Today is the first day of t-ball. In my world, it's the perfect t-ball program. It's one half hour, one day a week.

Daddy bought the girls t-ball mitts in their favorite colors. Yes, t-ball mitts come in different colors. He gave the mitts to the girls this morning. The brunette twin was so excited. She had a million questions about how to put it on, how to throw the ball, how to catch, etc. The blond twin just looked at it and said, "thanks. It's pretty."

We knew the blond twin wasn't very excited about t-ball. She didn't even want me to sign her up for the class. She said she'd rather sit with me and watch Sissy play. We signed her up anyway. The brunette twin WANTED to play. She's been pushing to play baseball for a while now. She loves to watch her cousins play and wants to be part of every game.

There will be many more times when one of them wants to do something the other one doesn't. I just thought they'd be a little older before they needed their own schedules.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Language Stars

A few months ago, I asked my husband which language he wants to learn. We know how much being bi-lingual helps in today's global world. We also know it's not a good idea for the girls to speak a language we don't understand. Even if we're not as fluent as they are, I'd like to be able to understand what they are saying.

If you are in the Chicago area, here's an interesting opportunity to learn more about foreign language classes from Language Stars. We have friends whose children have participated in the program. We hear good things from them.

Now, if we could just convince Language Stars to open a school in the SW suburbs, we could participate too! For some reason, the company thinks no one south of I-55 wants to learn a foreign language.

Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Lincoln Park Center1741 N. Elston Ave.Chicago, IL 60622


Events will be held at parks near the suburban centers located in:
· Arlington Heights
· Barrington
· Deerfield/Northbrook
· Hinsdale
· Flossmoor
· Naperville
· Wilmette/Evanston

For center locations and addresses please visit

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Religious Drama

There's a great line near the end of Jersey Boys where one of the guys says something like, "I'm the one Italian in 100 who doesn't like the drama." I've been thinking about that line a lot.

We're Catholic. In the American Catholic Church these days, there is nothing but drama and conflict. Women fighting to be part of the church. (Oh, please don't tell me how important women are to the church. Really. Don't waste my time.) Huge financial settlements with people who were not treated properly by men of the cloth. Revelations that our Cardinal ignored people warning him about a problem priest who later was convicted of harming children. It goes on and on and on. The drama never ends.

Now that our girls are old enough to start Sunday school, I'm beginning to question whether or not I want them to be Catholic. Don't get me wrong...I LOVE our parish. Even though I completely disagree with many of the Catholic teachings, I love our parish. I don't know if that's enough, though, for us to continue to practice Catholicism.

When I asked my husband about his thoughts, he replied, "You don't see me wanting to go to church every Sunday, do you?" I talked to another friend, a devote Catholic, who said she's reached the breaking point with the church. She's trying to figure out what to do, but she's had enough drama as well.

It's the constant betrayals that hurt so much. We hear one thing in the Sunday service, and see the Archdiocese doing something else all week.

And, my nagging concerns about women in the church are now screaming issues. It's one thing if I choose to work through them myself. I don't think it's okay for me to force the girls to accept a system that puts women as third class citizens -- after priests and lay males. Let's face it, the Catholic Church is entrenched with old, white men making decisions. They are much more interested in maintaining the status quo than becoming inclusive.

What will we do? I don't know. I do know we'll be religion shopping for a while. We have several formerly-Catholic friends who have converted to other religions. We'll be talking to them and each other about what to do next. I think it's important for the girls to grow up with a religious foundation. I just don't think the foundation is going to be the one I chose. I just cannot take the ongoing drama.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Age-appropriate History

I learned a valuable lesson this weekend. We visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. It is truly amazing. The exhibits, information, staff, architecture are all wonderful. We had a terrific visit.

The hardest lesson wasn't anything I read or saw during the visit. It came when we tried to explain some of the issues to our four-year-old twin daughters. About half-way through our visit, I realized we need to pay more attention to how our adventures fit their emotional and mental development.

When we came to the exhibit showing Lincoln's coffin, I ended up saying, "He was old. He died." I felt terrible about it, but I couldn't figure out how to explain assassination to preschoolers. "Some people kill other people because they don't agree with them" still seemed a bit deep for preschoolers. A museum doesn't seem the place to get too deep about death. We've talked about it, but in abstract terms. I don't want to explain that people kill each other because the next question will be "how?" I realize they will learn these things as they grow up, and I don't the appropriate age to explain it in detail, but I know it's not four.
I found myself walking them quickly past the exhibit about slavery to the reproduction of Lincoln's law office. I didn't even want to think about how to explain slavery. It's not that I want to gloss over history, but how much about slavery will a four-year-old understand?

In the future, we'll be back to the Lincoln Presidential Museum. It is truly a must-see place for everyone. I realize now that even though it's a great place, it probably wasn't the best place for preschoolers. Instead of just going places because we're interested, we need to start thinking about whether or not the visit is age-appropriate for the girls.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Today's Miracle

When this little boy was swept into Lake Michigan last winter, we all waited to hear he died. As a parent, it was horrifying that such a freak accident would take a child. Sorry to sound so cynical, but once you read the story, you'll know why we went to that dark place.

The good news is he made it. If you have any doubts, this story should help you believe in miracles...,0,3559721.story

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tomato Picking

The girls have a very important summer job. They take a big bowl to the garden and pick the tomatoes. My husband has been training them for this ever since the girls could toddle into the garden. They LOVE helping Daddy.

They are also quite protective of the tomato garden. They are upset with themselves when a "too green" tomato ends up in the bowl. They often inspect the tomatoes like they it's their official job. Sometimes a really ripe tomato ends up in in their mouths.

Last week I decided to help pick tomatoes. Let's just say I won't be doing that again. The girls monitored my every move. The brunette twin thought I was going to pick a "not quite ripe" tomato and yelled to her sister, "Come here and look at this tomato Mommy wants to pick. I don't think it's red enough yet." The two of them stood around the plant debating whether the tomato was red enough. Funny thing -- I moved on to another plant. Neither one of them seemed to notice, but the conversation they had made me laugh.

The blond twin said, "Mom, you should leave this to us. Daddy taught us which tomatoes to pick, so we don't need any help."

So, I don't pick tomatoes anymore. Now I just open the patio door and hand them a bowl. It's a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Brillante Award

Now that I've had time to visit everyone's blogs and post my surprise, I'm happy to share my award with seven women who write blogs that make me laugh and think. They are the kind of women I'd like to have over for dinner some time because I think we'd have a lot to talk about -- not that we'd always agree, but it would never be dull. There are so many others I could have included, but the rules of the game invite winners to nominate seven blogs, so here they are:

A Work In Progress

This Crazy Thing Called Motherhood

These are Words..."Sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble

Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes

Comments from the Peanut Gallery

What's all the Ruchus?

Tasha's Take

The winners can copy the badge on the side of my blog and use it on their blogs. Now they get to spread the happiness to other bloggers who make them smile. How fun is that?

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's not just like twins

We were at a birthday party when a woman said, "Oh, our girls are so close in age they are just like twins." I smiled weakly and said, "Nothing is just like twins except twins." She then tried to explain why her daughters were just like twins. I excused myself immediately with the "I have to check on our daughters" excuse.

Why do people always tell me that their close-in-age children are "just like twins?" Last time I checked, twins are two children born on the same day and at (or near) the same developmental level at the same time. Your son and daughter who are 14 month apart are not "just like twins." It wasn't easier for me because we really have twins, while yours are "just like twins."

I don't know why people feel obligated to point out that it was harder for them than it has been for us. Last time I checked, having children is always hard. It is hard to have twins? Of course it is. When they were little, we never slept. One of them was awake every two hours 24-hours a day. You see how you function when you are sleeping only 1 1/2 or 2 hours at a time for months on end.

"They were so close in age they were just like twins" is one of those phrases that just annoys me. It shows how little those people know about twins. So let's make a deal. Please do not say it to anyone with twins -- especially if you don't know the family. (Yes, strangers have said it to me in the store/library/etc.) If you don't say it to me, I won't stare blankly at you like you are, perhaps, the stupidest person on the planet.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cutie Girl

Overheard at our house...

Blond Twin: "You're a cutie Momma."

Mom: "Oh, thank you honey, that is very sweet."

Blond Twin: "But you're not as cute as me!"

Friday, August 8, 2008

Go to your corners

I found the fastest way to stop the whining/fighting/etc. I threaten to separate the girls. As soon as I tell them to go to separate rooms until they stop whatever they are doing, they cling to each other. The thought of being separated really gets their attention.

It's not that they won't separate. They usually do when they are with a group of children. They play with others and don't cling to each other. It's that they want to decide whether or not to play with each other. They don't want me to tell them they have to be apart.

I often find them playing different games in their bedroom. They don't want to play together, but they want to be together. They want their space, but still be close together.

Once in a while I physically separate them just to prove I will actually do it. You know how your parents always had those threats that you knew they would never follow through with -- no matter what? We don't have those in this house. Once in a while I follow through just to make sure they know it's not an idle threat.

The upside of separating them is they are so adorable when they see each other again. They hug each other like they have been apart for days instead of minutes. They hold hands and go off to play. For the rest of the day, they are very good. Hmmm...maybe I should separate them more often?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No, the other right hand

I'm left handed. It was a nightmare to be left handed when I was growing up. Teachers kept trying to tell my Mom that I needed to "convert" to my right hand because they didn't know how to teach a left handed student to write or draw. I went to the principal's office in kindergarten because I told the teacher I was left handed and refused to pick up a pencil with my right hand. Schools never had left handed scissors. I had to work twice as hard to figure out how to do everything because my teachers were always right handed -- and by teachers I mean everyone from my parents to educators at the school.

I never did learn how to knit or crochet from my Grandmother because she was right handed. "Do it the opposite way" doesn't really work, even though it's what most people said.

This has come into play recently with the girls. I realized I cannot teach them how to tie their shoes. I do it "backwards" so they cannot figure out how to follow my directions. When you are left hand dominate, you automatically pick up everything with your left hand. The girls both start with their right hands. I cannot figure out how to teach them to do it.

Now it's a job I've outsourced to their babysitters. From our college niece to the high school girls in the neighborhood, all the babysitters are trying to teach the girls how to tie their shoes. It's pretty funny to watch them do it. The girls love the attention, so it all works out.

There is a list of other things I realize I will not be able to help them learn, like playing baseball or bowling. It's okay, though, because I really don't do those things well anyway!

Monday, August 4, 2008

By the way, they are twins

For someone who HATES when people refer to our daughters as "the twins" I realized today that I have been pointing this out to people all summer. It started at the girls' first summer camp. I made a point of telling the teacher that the girls are twins. This continued for golf and swimming lessons. It's like I feel some obligation to point this out.

Part of this feeling comes from the reality that if you didn't know they were twins, you'd never pick our daughters out of the crowd as "the twins." With one blond and one brunette, they look like friends, not twins. Part of it comes from my belief that people don't respect the twin bond enough. Too often everyone wants to separate twins "for their own development." While our girls are very independent, their willingness to be independent comes from their proximity to each other.

Their preschool teacher pointed this out to me once. She said they rarely even spoke to each other during class. If she ever called one girl by her sister's name, the response was always, "No, I'm the blond twin. She's over at the writing center." She was intrigued that they always knew where the other one was, even if it didn't seem like they were paying attention to each other.

It's an adjustment in my thinking, but I realize this might be a new summer ritual. So, I'll just have to get used to saying, "By the way, they are twins." It's the shocked look I receive when I say it that I'll probably never get used to.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Brillante Award

Thank you so much to Angela at Stitching Momma for giving this blog an award!
Part of the fun of winning the award in nominating others. I promise to do this soon, so keep reading to find out who I nominate.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Personal Time Balance

This article is so funny! It's not the end with all the good advice that made me laugh. It's the part about needing to find a calming activity that doesn't make her go to sleep.

If you have a family, you know she's right. We all (mothers and fathers) need to find some time for ourselves, but how do we fit it in with our activities at work and home? It's one of the ongoing struggles in our house.

Ironically, it was easier for me to get my daily relaxation and exercise when the girls were smaller. I would load them in the stroller and walk through our beautiful neighborhood. There are many advantages to living near the forest preserves. The trees and gardens are beautiful. Sometimes I would walk around just staring at the flowers while the girls played or napped in the stroller. Daily contact with nature is a wonderful thing. These days the girls are too big for a stroller, so my daily walk is a bit more difficult.

When I try to get my husband out of the house, he says, "I have personal time on the train to and from work." It's not my idea of quiet time, but I have to take his word for it.

I know that soon the girls will be teenagers who are gone all day and will give us all the personal time we want. It's one reason why I want more time to myself, but I don't push it too much. Soon I'll be wishing I could spend more time with our girls.