Thursday, December 31, 2009

Just in Time

This has been a long, difficult, sometimes overwhelming, year.  I cannot even recap it in my mind without needing a cup of tea and a nap.

I feel like I've spent all of 2009 running a bit behind and getting things done just in time.  For someone as organized as I tend to be, it's a little unnerving.  We managed to get everything done this year, but I never felt like I was in control of anything.  "At least it's done" was my mantra for 2009.

True to form, 2009 is ending just in time.  I am really ready to have this year end and start a new one. 

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, but here's my resolution for 2009.  I'm going to banish, "just in time."  I will work to make sure as much as possible is done in advance so we're not running to the grocery store the day before the family gathering or searching for the right birthday card the morning of the party.

I'm going to try to turn "just in time" to "in advance."  It's my only 2010 resolution, so I'm hopeful I can keep it throughout 2010.  I don't expect to be perfect about it, but I do expect to keep it top of mind.  It will make all our lives a lot easier. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Saying the Bad Words

We don't let the girls say certain words.  At this age, the big two on the list are hate and stupid.  It's actually pretty easy to keep them from saying those words in regular conversation.  They tend to catch themselves before they say one of the bad words and switch to a word that won't get them in trouble. 

Yes, I know those are words they hear every day from other people, but I really want to teach them that words choice matters.  Some words are harmful and some are helpful.  It's easy to fall into the trap of saying something just because other people say it.  It's a lot harder to use another, more descriptive word. 

Instead of saying, "I hate this stuff."  I make them think about what they don't like and explain it that way.  The other day the brunete twin started to say, "I hate green beans."  As she started to say it, I gave her a look that stopped her cold.  I said, "Do you want to rephrase that?"  She thought about it for a moment and said, "I don't like the way the green beans squish in my teeth."  I smiled and told her she did a good job.  She beamed.

We've run into new problems when they start singing their favorite songs.  It's amazing to me how many children's songs include the words hate and stupid.  I guess I never really listened to the lyrics of children's songs until the girls started singing them. 

Now that they are moving to older music, it's even harder.  I don't let them listen to anything too old -- after all they are only six.  They are -- of course -- obsessed with Taylor Swift.  She writes pretty sweet and innocent songs.  Still, in her songs, she says hate and stupid many times.  It's perfectly appropriate for her to do so at her age, but it creates a conflict for the girls.

They LOVE to sing Taylor Swift songs.  Now, each time they are about to sing a song with the "bad words" they ask.  Whenever we're driving and they are singing, they ask if they can sing "the bad words."  

I always want to laugh because they are so serious when they ask.  It's like a solemn responsibility.  If they have been good, I let them sing the bad words.  If they have not, I tell them no and explain why.

When I do let them sing the bad words, they just giggle.  They think they are really getting away with something.  I try not to giggle with them because they are so innocent about all of it. 

I'm sure the list of bad words will grow as they get older.  I'm sure I'll have less and less control over what they say as they get older.  What I hope is the lessons we teach them now will stay with them so they understand the important of using the right words.  

Monday, December 28, 2009

Full Body Contact Church

At church on Christmas Eve, I grabbed the blond twin's arm and sternly said "stop it now."  I'm sure I sounded like a mean mom to everyone around me, but I didn't care.  I couldn't take her anymore.  I was in too much pain -- actual physical pain.

The blond twin is a high contact child.  She cannot be close enough to anyone.  She doesn't sit near you, she sits on your lap.  If she cannot sit on your lap, she sits so closely that you cannot move that side of your body.  She's always been this way.  When she was a baby, she always wanted to be held.  She likes the close contact.   

In church, the translates in painful ways.  She cannot stand next to me, she tries to stand in front of me.  Or, in her case, she stomps on my feet, with an elbow to my side as she goes by.  While we're sitting in the pews, she's elbowing me to snuggle in, pulling my hair so she can whisper in my ear and kicking my shin as she swings her legs.  It's a painful experience, even though she's not with us for the entire service.

The girls spend the first part of church services in what we call "Children's Church."  They learn an age-appropriate version of the day's lesson.  It's not until just before communion that they join us.

Then the fun begins.  It's a weekly adventure.  A few weeks ago she started to kneel up on the pew so she could speak to me.  In the process, she put her elbow on my thigh and pressed down.  She used the elbow to push herself up to my ear.  It hurt -- a lot. 

I turned to a mom behind me and said, "It's like a never-ending full body-contact wrestling match with this girl."  She laughed.  She comes to church with six boys under the age of 10 and doesn't have these problems.  No wonder she's laughing.

It's hard to believe such a sweet and loving child can cause so much pain, but I have the bruises to prove it.  Now I encourage her to sit next to her Daddy.  For some reason she doesn't seem to do as much damage to him.   

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Same Place, New Season

We take advantage of a lot of Chicago's attractions.  We figure if you're going to live here, you should take advantage of everything the area offers.

Today we went to the Morton Arboretum.  We met a friend (who had never been there) for a winter walk.  I have to say that with the mild weather and gently falling snow, it was a lot like something out of a movie scene. 

(And, thanks to the Museum Adventure Pass program, we did get in free.)

We walked through the maze and climbed to the top of the tree house.  We walked around lake just outside the Visitor's Center.  We spent some time enjoying the Enchanted Railroad. 

While we did all these things, people around us rented snow shoes and trekked various trails.  Some people brought their cross country skies.  It was all fun to watch.

I was thinking about how different the Arboretum looked during the winter.  We have spent many fun summer and fall days there.  In the winter, though, it's like a whole new place. 

We enjoyed it a lot.  I'd like to think we'll be back next year to snow shoe. If the girls had a few more layers, we might have tried it this year.  

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Giving and Forgiving

You know how rare it is that a newspaper article makes you laugh these days?  It's even more rare for an editorial to make you laugh, but yesterday the Chicago Tribune nailed one.

Called Giving and Forgiving, the article takes a look at what you can give to the woman in your life and what will get you in trouble.  It's quite entertaining.

It reminds me of a conversation we had when we were first married.  I informed my wonderful husband that any useful gift would not be well received.  I gave him a list of examples including anything that involves cleaning or cooking.  Several years later, I really wanted cast iron pans.  It took a lot of convincing before he would allow me to put those pans on my Christmas list.  I eventually convinced him that I really wanted them. 

When I read the editorial, the funniest line was "How about a little help here?"  I have to admit I'm guilty of that this year.  I'm busy trying to clean out our house.  I cannot think of a single thing I really need or want.  Of course, if I really put some effort into it, I could probably come up with something.

The wonderful thing about my husband is he buys really thoughtful, terrific gifts.  I'm not worried about what will be under the tree for me this year.  Him, on the other hand...well, he might want to worry. 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Baby juice for breakfast

I was sitting with some other parents while waiting for the girls to finish dance class when one of the mom's started talking about her breakfast conversation.  It turned out her daughter wants a little sister, so she asked her mom to drink some baby juice for breakfast.  While the rest of us were trying to figure out what baby juice is, she said, "I laughed so hard.  A few months ago she asked me how babies were made and I told her Mommy drank baby juice to make her." 

This opened the floodgates for stories about how the other parents explained how babies are made.  I just stared at them for a bit.  I was amazed that no one just answered the question.  They all came up with these elaborate stories that seemed way too complicated for the question. 

I realize it's an uncomfortable topic, but how detailed do you need to get when a five or six year old asks how babies are made?  It's not like you are pulling out a high school biology book or a PowerPoint deck to explain the mechanics and after-effects. 

It's such a natural question for their age group.  The girls have several friends with infant siblings.  They saw those moms go through the entire gestation and post-partum timeframe.  As they asked questions, we answered them in the simplest possible terms.  They know it takes a man and a woman to make a baby.  They know babies come from a woman's private parts.  They know babies grow in a woman's tummy. 

As far as I know, that's the grand sum of their baby-making understanding. And, you know what? That's all they need to know right now. It never occurred to me to make up a story when they asked their questions. 

Some of it they learned from their friends.  They asked a friend how the baby was going to come out of her mommy's tummy.  The little girl said, "It drops from between her legs."  Okay, it's not technically how it happens, but it's close enough for a six year old.  They asked if it was true as confirmation of information they already had.  If I made up a story, they would have gone back to their friend and said, "My Mom says you are wrong." 

Sooner or later I'd have to admit I lied, and nothing good comes from that conversation -- even if they are so young.   

I wondered what these parents are going to do when their children's friend's moms have babies. Do they have to bring the other parents in to their lie? Or do they just hope those children won't talk to their children.

I realize the questions will get harder as the girls get older, and I hope we'll be able to continue to answer their questions honestly.  For the most part, I'm sure we will because we want that type of open dialogue with them.  Plus, the I'm just too lazy to make up a lie and keep it going.  I don't have the time, nor do I have the energy. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Homework, Part II

Okay, here's the other thing that frustrates me about the girls' homework.  There are numerous errors in the worksheets.  I realize I cannot blame the teacher for this as she is just copying it out of a book.  Yet, I'm frustrated with it.  Here are a few recent examples.

The girls do a lot of word searches for homework.  Last week we searched and searched for a specific word.  (Remember, this is 1st grade level work.  It's not that hard that an adult cannot figure it out.)  We couldn't find the word.  My husband wrote a note that we couldn't find the word and asked the teacher to point it out.  We spent a lot of time looking for it and wanted to know how we missed it.  She wrote back, "It looks like the publisher forgot to include that word."

Yesterday we finished another word search and the word green was staring at us.  It wasn't on the word list, but there were only five letters not circled and they clearly spelled green.  The girls were frustrated that they didn't have green on their word list, so I told them to add it and call it done.

The girls also do a lot of crossword puzzles for homework.  More than once we have only one word left, and it clearly is the answer to the clue.  The problem is the number of boxes for that clue do not line up.  We've had to improvise a few times to make it work.

I do know it's not the teacher's fault.  Still, I cannot help but wonder if this is the first time she's used these materials.  If it is, I can understand her not knowing about these problems.  If it isn't, then I know she's just copying anything to appease us -- and that's not an option that will make me a satisfied customer. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'll give you homework

When the girls started kindergarten, they complained a lot about the work. The typical complaint on the way to school was, "Do we have to go? It's so boring. We already know all this stuff. Can't we just stay home until school is harder?" So, I waited to see if it moved towards more challenging work, but it never did.

The school district uses the ISEL test to measure where each child is at the beginning of the school year. The children take it again at the end of the year to measure progress. When we received the girls' ISEL scores, we decided it was time talk to their teacher. Given their scores, we didn't know what progress could be made -- and we didn't know what they would be doing all day in class while the other children were making progress.

The conversation started well, but quickly deteriorated. When I suggested the girls might be ready for more challenging work, she took this as an insult. She suggested giving them more work, but I countered with, "We know they already know the alphabet, so giving them more pages where they identify and circle one letter isn't what we had in mind. We're not looking for busy work; we're looking for more challenging work."

In my mind, nothing good comes from the girls being bored in school. It is a waste of their time to sit through work they could easily teach the other students. A cousin who is a teacher told me that the bored children in her classes tend to get into more trouble. A girlfriend, who tests completely off the gifted charts, talks about how much time she spent in the principal's office because she was so bored in school -- even in the advanced program. I don't know if the girls will test into a gifted program, but I do know their ISEL test scores clearly indicated they needed more challenging work. And, I don’t want them to start getting into trouble just because they are bored.

Given my personality, I'm not the Mom who is going to say, “Oh, honey, you should just sit quietly while the other kids do their work. Maybe you can help some of them.” I am the one who will fight to make sure the girls get what they need.

There was some grumbling, but eventually the school designed a program to keep the girls challenged. They decided to have a teacher’s aide pull them out for about 20 minutes and do more challenging work with them. We were happy that they did step up and meet the girls' educational needs. The girls enjoy the more challenging work. They don't complain about being bored any more. They talk a lot about their "pull out" time and what they learn. It's been very good for them.

Somewhere, though, I think their teacher is standing in the office copying homework for the girls with a bit of vengeance in mind. We've been buried in homework. The girls have an average of six pages of homework Monday through Thursday evenings. Seriously, six solid pages of first grade level homework.

Before my chat with her, the girls averaged a page or two of homework each night. I think she decided that since we wanted more challenging work, she was going to bury us in it.

Most nights we're up to the challenge. We get it done because the girls love to do it. They usually read the instructions and start doing the work before I can even supervise. There are some things like word search puzzles they will do completely without me.

Some nights it just doesn't get done. We might finish part of it, but not all of it. On those mornings when I'm filling the backpack, I just put in a note letting their teacher know we did not finish the homework.

One thing I do know is that as much as I want to, I won't ask her for less homework. They are always up for the challenging, even if I'm not.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Driving to the Bus

It's cold in Chicago.  I nearly froze waiting for the school bus yesterday, so today I took a different approach.  I put the girls into the mini-van and drove the two blocks to the bus stop.

Yes, I know I'm a whimp, but it's really, really cold here.  The temperature won't get into double digits today.  The wind chill is well into negative territory at about -25 degrees.  It's really windy.

It's just miserable.

So, yes, despite my extra-warm gloves and Thinsulate ear muffs, I drove the girls to the bus.

When we wait at the bus stop, I add two other girls to the party.  One girl lives across the street from the bus stop.  In warmer weather her Mom and I chat as we wait.  These days, she just opens the door and lets her daughter out.  She has a two month old baby.  I don't see any reason for her to bring the baby out in this weather.  I will be there anyway, so what's one more?

The other girl lives on the other side of the bus stop.  Her Dad used to wait at the bus stop and then jump in his car to get to work on time.  When I got to know him a bit, I suggested he leave her with us and head to work so he wasn't always rushing.

Seriously, I'm there anyway.  What's another girl or two?

Today everyone was in the mini-van listening to music and waiting for the bus.  When it arrived, they jumped out and ran on to the warm bus.

On the way home, our girls will get off the bus and into our warm mini-van, while the other girls run into their warm houses.

Call me a whimp if you want, but I like being warm.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Glitter, Glitter Everywhere

You know the big difference between raising boys and girls, especially at this age?  I've decided it's not sports or toys or games.  It's glitter.  Everything the girls do involves glitter -- lots and lots and lots of glitter.  Sometimes it's called fairy dust or angel dust.  It's all the same sparkly stuff.

I admit I'm guilty of encouraging their glitter obsession.  When they wanted to put glitter in their hair for the Father/Daughter dance, I happily pulled out some glitter and hair spray.  When they wanted to go to get their hair done at Disney, they came out with so much green fairy dust in their hair that I kept saying, "I'm glad I don't have to clean those sheets."

Every craft project involves glitter.  A recent park district program called "Glamor Girls" included decorating a purse and creating lip gloss.  When I read the description, I didn't realize this meant "pour as much glitter as possible into the smallest pot of lip gloss."  I'm thinking about saving it for next year's Halloween costume.  It's about the only time I can imagine them wearing purple or pink lip gloss with that much glitter.

I realize glitter is harmless.  It's simple and fun and the girls love it.  The problem is that once it is in your house, no amount of vacuuming or sweeping or dusting can remove it.  If we're going to continue with the glitter craze, I need to figure out how to get it out of our rugs, off the couch, out of the clothing, etc.  Any advice?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Divine Back-up

The blond twin is taking what she learns at church very seriously these days. She has decided to talk to God on a regular basis.

The problem is, she’s not talking to God about her hopes and fears. She’s not asking the kinds of deep questions you’d expect of a six-year-old about fairies or monsters or princesses.  She’s asking God for back-up when she thinks she’s in trouble. Here is a perfect example from yesterday morning

Mom: “Blond twin, did you brush your teeth?”

Blond Twin: “Yes.”

Mom: “Did you get the back molars? And do a good job with the front teeth?”

Blond Twin: “Yes.”

Mom: “Are you sure?”

Blond Twin: “Hold on.”


Blond Twin: “God says I did a good job. My teeth are clean.”

Seriously, how do I respond to that? Do I say “Is God sure?” What’s my comeback here?  She’s done this a few times now and each time I just stop. I don’t want to minimize her conversations with God, but I never thought of God as her back-up.

I’m glad she’s thinking about God, understands that God is important in her daily life and looks for ways to talk to God. I’m just not sure if this is the way her Sunday school teacher envisioned the conversations.

Friday, December 4, 2009

How Much Medicine?

Remember a few years ago when all the children's cold medications were pulled from the shelves because parents were overmedicating their children?  Today I realized I am on the opposite end of the parenting spectrum.  I just read a bottle of children's pain reliever and realized I've been under-medicating the girls.

For some reason, I am in denial about how tall the girls are and how much they weigh.  They were both recently measured, so it's not like I don't have updated numbers.  It's just that I tend to think of them as being smaller than they are.

No, I don't know why I cannot update their stats in my brain.  Every time I pick up one of the girls, I am well aware of how much they have grown.  And my back routinely punishes me for carrying them more than a step or two.  On a regular basis I marvel at how grown-up they are and how they aren't my babies any more.

Yet, when I give them medicine, my brain reverts back to some number that is five or six pounds less than what they currently weigh.  This can be a big deal if you are trying to break a fever.  The right amount of medicine would help our girls feel better faster.

I think I'll blame it on the medicine bottle.  If the numbers were bigger, then I would look at them more and realize my mistake.  Yeah, that's the problem.  It's not my complete inability to process that the girls are growing up.  It's that the numbers on the bottle are too small.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Privileged Life

Here's an article from Chicago Parent magazine that I need to read whenever I feel like I'm having a bad day. 

In another's loss, one woman realizes how privileged she is

My day might still be crappy, but I have to remember how privileged I am just to be with my girls and husband.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You Need a New Priest

There's something about the holidays that brings up religion in conversations where it normally wouldn't be a topic. I was talking to a cousin about our move to the Episcopal Church. We talked about how comfortable it was for us and how much the girls enjoy it.

As a life-long Catholic, she wanted to know what made us move. She also feels frustrated with certain aspects of the church, but she never thought about leaving. When I expressed our reasons, she said, "Oh, you didn't need to leave the church. You just needed to talk to a different priest."

I told her we were happy where we are and changed the topic.

It’s one of the things that really bothers me about our decision to change. It’s that people do not just accept it and wish us well. They keep questioning our thoughts and decisions about our family’s religion. They keep trying to convince us that we should leave the Episcopal Church and head back to a place where we were uncomfortable and disagreed with the basic foundations on the premise that some day things “might change.” 
 Why would we want to spend our time waiting to see if something will change in a church hierarchy where we disagree with the most basic rules? Why wouldn’t we want to a place where we feel comfortable with both the community and the foundation of that community? Why not try to be happy, rather than fight something that will never change?

Friday, November 27, 2009

How Much do I Hate Black Friday?

I hate everything about Black Friday.  I would rather pay more than get up at 4:00 a.m. to stand in line -- in a crowd -- to fight for some item.  And, since you know how frugal I am, you know how much I must hate Black Friday.

I also dislike the phrase "Black Friday."  It's so overused now that I cannot stand to hear it.

What are we doing on Black Friday?  We're going to put up our Christmas tree and decorations.  We'll hang out at home most of the day.  In the late afternoon, we might visit a neighboring suburb's Christmas Walk.

Of course, I'm done with my Christmas shopping, so I'm not feeling any shopping stress at all.  I hope your Black Friday is as relaxing and enjoyable as ours.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Things I am Thankful For Include...

My wonderful, patient, smart husband.
Our daughters, who truly are miracles.
Our comfortable, cozy home where great memories are made.
Our friends and family, who make life enjoyable and crazy.

I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with too much food and football.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

And Just Like That...

The girls were watching the Wonder Pets recently when I realized that they had outgrown the show.  I knew it was a bit young for them, but they always liked when the animals started singing like opera stars.  They loved to mimic the songs throughout the day.  I always laughed when they started singing like opera stars to ask if they could have a snack or go outside.

Part of the reason they still watched the Wonder Pets was that I'm not really well-informed about children's television.  They watch so little of it that I'm not sure what the next set of age-appropriate show are or when they air.  Instead, I have a few favorites they will watch, with the Wonder Pets being on the list.

They were watching this particular episode when the brunette twin turned to her sister and said, "Why doesn't Tuck just open the bag?  That's where the baby bird is hiding."

And just like that I realized they had outgrown the Wonder Pets.  They still imitated the singing during the show and laughed when the critters did something silly.  Yet, it was clear they weren't challenged by the story and were a bit bored some of the time.  Of course, they were so thrilled that I let them watch TV that they didn't complain. 

For me it was a little sad to realize they were moving on from the sweet, simple shows.  The older shows will be more in line with their age and intellect, but they won't be as charming.  It's one more sign that my babies are officially big girls now.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Hundred Dresses

A friend and I took our girls to see The Hundred Dresses, a world-premier performance by the wonderful Chicago Children's Theatre. This production is based on a children's book of the same name originally released in 1944.

The story revolves around a new girl who doesn't quite fit in with the rest of her second grade class. Her dress isn't quite right. She has a funny accent and a strange name. The popular girl in the class bullies her and the others go along, wanting to fit in with the popular girl. I cannot stop thinking about the story and how relevant it is today.

It is hard to believe the story was written in 1944. You can find the same dynamic in classrooms across the country every day. Children who are different for some reason become the target of those who want to make themselves feel cool. The popular kids marginalize those who are different to keep their place in the social structure. It's hard to believe that, despite all the anti-bullying rhetoric and programs, nothing has changed since 1944.

In the story, Wanda's father moves them to a big city where she won't be the only one with an accent or a strange name. In real life, those kids who are bullied take different routes. Some of them move, as the family realizes the bullying won't stop as long as the child is in the same school or community. Some of them turn those experiences into anger, which drives them to success in adulthood. Have you ever listened to interviews with people who achieve success in some field? They often talk about how they were the shy kid in school and had no friends or how they were unpopular because they were different. Others take a darker path.

A few months ago, a student at a wealthy, high-achieving local high school committed suicide. Yes, the article does admit that he had other problems, but the one thing I couldn't get over was how long he was bullied. From elementary school through high school, this poor young man endured unimaginable bullying. His parents worked with the school and tried to save their son. Yet, in the end, he chose to end his life. Of course, after he died, students and others came out to promise they wouldn't let it happen to another child.

It's always that way, isn't it? After something terrible happens to a child, the community comes out to say it won't happen again -- that this will be the last time a child is bullied, feels like an outside or is left on the sidelines. The community swears it will come together to make sure everyone is part of the "in crowd."

We know that's not true, even as we hope it will be. We know there will always be kids on the outside, who don't quit fit in with whatever is cool or popular at that moment. We also know that we don't want our children to grow up to be on either side of it. We don't want them to be bullied, and we don't want them to be the bullies.

The real question, though, is does a middle ground exist? And, if it does, how do we make sure our children are there?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Let me dial the phone for you

The other day the girls were a little tired.  They were still adjusting to the time change and I could tell they were a bit edgy.  I sent them upstairs to play as I thought this would help.  I was wrong.

The blond twin started crying and screaming at her sister almost as soon as she set foot in their bedroom.  I couldn't figure out the problem at first because I had a hard time understanding her through the tears.  It turned out she and her sister were fighting about a boot for one of their dolls.  

I took all the boots away and told them to crawl into bed until they calmed down.  I told them they couldn't get the boots back until they calmed down and behaved.  Yes, I'm wicked.  I know.

The blond twin started crying even louder, saying that she was going to tell Daddy.  This is her new favorite threat.  Whenever she gets mad at me, she yells, "I'm going to tell Daddy."  Usually I just ignore her.  On this day, I decided enough was enough.  I said, "Please, let me dial the phone for you, then you can tell Daddy all about it."

She looked stunned for a minute, then walked up to the phone and talked to Daddy.  She didn't feel better after talking to Daddy because he told her to quit fighting with her sister.  Then she walked out of the room.

I started laughing when I tried to explain to my husband what was going on.  I tried to laugh quietly so they don't hear me.  After all, I had to go in there and be the disciplinarian.  I finally just hung up on him because he was making me laugh even more. 

When I went back into the room, I said, "Do you feel better now that you've talked to Daddy?" 

The blond twin said, "No.  He said we had to stop fighting."

I said, "Funny, that's what I said too."

The blond twin replied, "I don't want to talk about it.  Come on Sissy.  Let's play."

We'll have to see if she still thinks the "I'm calling Daddy" option is a good idea.  All I know is my husband might get another call or two until she finally understands that calling Daddy is not a threat.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gee, Why Didn't We Think of That?

I was at the allergist's office completing my new patient intake.  The doctor asked about all kinds of things, including my sleep habits. She said, "Do you sleep well?  Do you feel rested when you wake up?" 

What did I say?  Well, because I'm not so bright, responded with an honest, "No.  I don't always sleep well."

In an instant I regretted those words.  She started going down the path of "I think you have sleep apnea."  I cut her off by saying, "One of our girls has night terrors.  She is often up at night screaming, so some nights are better than others.  When we do have a night when she's up some or all of the night it takes a few nights before I feel like I am caught up with my sleep."

She talked about night terrors for a few minutes and then she said, "And, be sure not to let her watch anything scary right before she goes to bed."

I stared at her for a minute as she explained why showing a scary movie right before bed to a child with night terrors was a bad idea.  I thought about sarcastically saying, "Golly  gee.  Why didn't we think of that?  You sure are smart."  Instead, I just smiled and nodded. 

Sometimes the thoughts in my head are best left there.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Another Great Gift Deal

Here's another great personalized gift deal. is offering 40% off everything on its site, along with free shipping.  This includes clearance items.

At checkout, you need to put the code "holiday09" to redeem the discount. 

This offer is good until January 31, 2010.  Now you have extra time to make a list of gifts for next year and get everything ordered in advance.

Yes, I did order some stationery.  No, I don't have a financial interest.  It's just another good deal I have to share. 

Times might be tight, but that doesn't mean you cannot give great gifts.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How Schools Stifle Creativity

This is a news story that every parent and teacher should read. Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., is described as an expert in creativity, innovation and human resources.  While I don't know the details about his credentials for all those areas, I think he is dead on regarding his assessment of what is wrong with our schools today.  In the CNN story "How Schools Stifle Creativity" he talks about how standardized testing is the opposite of creative teaching.  He talks about how we're all born with natural creativity and our institutions, such as schools, stifle this creativity.

What is most interesting to me is that his experience is world-wide and he sees the same things happening in schools around the world.  He sees schools teaching to the bottom rather than lifting up the top.  He notes that the problems of today and tomorrow will require immense creativity and talent, and that we're not developing the future leaders who can solve these problems.

We have all seen it in our public and private schools.  Classes are geared towards getting good test results.  This goes on even through high school and college.  Anything not "focused" is considered a waste of time.  You want to take an art class just for something different to do?  You want to take European history because you think it is intersting?  Wasteful.  You should be learning more about the things that will get you into a good college and/or job. 

People seem to forget that most of the time, the answer to a problem starts with someone sitting around saying, "What if we did X?"  In medicine, it's called basic research.  This means that researchers test different theories just for the sake of seeing what happens.  It's not focused and driven towards finding a cure for a specific disease or condition.  It's all about the "what if" questions.

In our test-driven world, it's not considered productive to wonder "what if" unless there is a specific point to the answer.  You can apply this to different age groups.  What if I spend another hour each day working on her letters?  Will this make her a better reader?  What if I spend another hour each day working on math?  Will that improve his ACT score?  What if I take this advanced business course?  Will this help me land my dream job?

Why does the "what if" question always have to be so focused?  How about we try to change the conversation so the preschool parent says, "What if she spends some time in nature looking at different plants and animals?"  Or if the high school student says, "What if I spend a few hours volunteering at the local library?"  Or the college student says, "What if I take the art history course just because I've always been interested in the topic?"  These are simple ways to improve creativity in our children and young adults.  They take nothing but our understanding that this kind of "slack time" is actually very important to a child's future happiness and success.  

All we need to do is give them permission to be children and explore their (often fleeting) interests.  Unfortunately, that's a very big leap from the way most people view education these days.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Too Much Sleep?

This story just made me laugh.  Like any parent has to worry about the negative health effects of getting too much sleep! 

We struggle just to get an average of seven to eight hours of sleep a night.  It doesn't sound like it should be that hard because our girls are in bed and asleep most nights between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.  Still, we really have to work to get a decent amount of sleep. 

At this point, I don't know if I could sleep 12 hours any more.  It does sound good though. 

Is too much sleep making you tired?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Am I The Prettiest Girl?

Daddy learned a hard lesson last night. The girls were tired and a bit under the weather.  They were getting ready for bed.  I was in the bathroom brushing teeth and he was in the bedroom helping them put on pajamas and brushing their hair. 

He was talking to the blond twin when she started crying, loudly. By the time she ran from her bedroom to the bathroom, she could hardly even speak. She was wailing and shaking. It took a bit, but I finally realized what happened.

The blond twin, who adores her father, asked him if she was pretty. Somehow the question of whether or not she was prettier than his sisters entered the conversation. What my husband didn't realize is that when your daughter asks if she's pretty, the only answer is "the prettiest girl in town." I don't care if you are standing next to a supermodel. When your daughter asks if she's pretty, the answer is always that in your eyes she's prettier than anyone else.

It's not that he has to lie to her. What he's saying is he thinks his daughters are the prettiest girls in the world. Isn't that what every little girl wants to hear?

In our case -- since we have twin daughters -- we qualify that a bit to keep the peace. I always tell the blond twin that she's the prettiest blond girl, and I tell the brunette twin that she's the prettiest brown-haired girl around. One thing about having two girls is you need to make sure it's always even.

In Daddy's case, he learned the correct answer the hard way. The blond twin -- a child who hangs on Daddy's every word, who insists that her paper napkin matches Daddy's at every meal, a child lovingly called the drama queen -- is not the child who should receive a politically correct answer. When she asked if she was prettier than his sisters, he replied something to the effect of "you are all pretty." While this is the nice, correct, won't start a fight in the family answer, it is not the answer a little girl needs to her from her Daddy. What she needs to hear is "You are the prettiest little girl."

I shot him a look and loudly said, "Baby, Daddy didn't mean you aren't pretty. What he means is that all of you are pretty, but you're his girl. Of course he thinks you are pretty."

She wasn't convinced. She stood in the bathroom in full drama queen mode --crying, shaking, and hyperventilating. Nothing he said made her feel better.

Daddy started back-pedaling. He started telling her that she was the prettiest little girl, but she wasn’t convinced. At one point he was clearly annoyed that he had to keep telling her than she was his pretty, blond-haired girl. He had that edge in his voice like, "aren't we done yet."

I had to keep myself from laughing at him. He wasn't quite sure what went wrong, but it clearly went wrong. I just looked at him and said, "No more golf for you buddy. You're going to have to save that money to pay for therapy when she grows up."

I'm not sure he was amused, but I am sure he knows the right answer to the question now. Somehow I think his sisters will understand if he tells the girls they are the prettiest girls he knows.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Great Bargain Gift

I was browsing through the zillions of catalogues that have been showing up daily in the mailbox when I found the best Christmas deal. (Somehow I still get a zillion catalogues, even though I’m always taking myself off the mailing lists and I’m on the Direct Marketing Association’s do not contact list.)

Garnet Hill has a shopper bag for only $10. The great part is they will monogram the solid color bags for free. It's an adorable bag that comes in numerous colors and patterns. The bag looks great and costs a little. What’s not to like?

Yes, I ordered some for Christmas presents. I had to call the 800 number as the web site was not coding the free monogramming correctly.  The nice customer service representative handled my order quickly and apologized for the web site error.  It was easy. 

No, I don't have a financial interest in Garnet Hill. It's a catalogue I like to see so I can see how the "other half" lives. Even if my bank account suddenly overflowed with extra funds, I doubt I could bring myself to spend $300 on a cashmere sweater. It's just not in my DNA.

What is in my DNA is the desire to share a great deal when I find one. Now, go, shop, and be frugal.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Reading Test

We read books to the girls every day. We always let the girls pick out the books they want to hear. Today I discovered the downside of their growing ability to read.

When some of the stories are a little long or I do not feel like reading everything, I've been know to -- well -- let's say I shorten the stories a bit. I might skip a sentence here or there. In drastic cases I've been known to skip entire paragraphs.

Those days are long gone now. I was reading a story to fill some time before we had to go to the bus. I knew the story was too long, but I didn't want to fight about it. I just opened the book and started reading.

About half-way through the story, I skipped a paragraph and moved on. The brunette twin busted me. She said, "Mom, that's not what it says. You forgot to read this paragraph." She then proceeded to read the paragraph I skipped.


I know they can both read, but I didn’t put it all together until that moment. Now when I read a story, they are reading with me. They know what the words on the page say, so they are following where I am on the page.

I should have put this together. The other day the phone rang and I put a book down. When I picked it back up, I said, “Now, where was I?” The blond twin looked at the book and said, “Here Mom. The last thing you read was….” She was right. She knew exactly where I stopped reading. Of course I should have, but I didn’t put it all together at that moment.

The good part about them being able to read is I can now say, “Why don’t you read your sister a book? I want to hear you practice reading.” The downside of them reading is one of my favorite parenting tricks is gone. Oh well, at least they still ask us to read to them once in a while…even if it is starting to feel like a reading test these days.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bad for Daddy

My husband is really good about giving me time to get out of the house. He recognizes that it’s not easy to work from home and have the girls at home with me all day. It’s a lot of togetherness. Sometimes it is really good, like when they do something cute. Other times it’s just a long day, like when they are overtired or not feeling well or just being naughty. So, he encourages me to get out of the house with friends or for work.

I have a confession to make. It makes me feel a bit guilty to say it out loud, but here it goes. I'm rather amused when I come home from having fun to find out that the girls were bad for my husband. It’s not that I want them to be bad for Daddy, but it does entertain me to find out they have been bad. There, I said it.

Here's the thing -- they adore Daddy. Really. All day they talk about Daddy. There a bit of hero worship going on in our house. And, I encourage it. I really do want them to adore their father as much as I do.

It's just that some days the girls drive me crazy. Some days they are just tired or whiney or crabby or whatever. When he comes home, I'm not always sure he understands why whatever they were doing was driving me crazy. I realize he understands it because he listens to me explain it, describe it, complain about it, and otherwise talk about it over and over again.  Yet, there is something different about having to survive it.

What I really like is the knowledge that he lives through it once in a while too. I like the common parenting bond it creates when I come home to find that they do the things that drive me crazy to Daddy too.

After all, I don't want him to miss out on all the fun just because he goes into the office each day.

Monday, November 2, 2009

TARP Funds Everywhere

Okay, you know how everyone is talking about how they don't know where their TARP money is?  I found it on every major road in my area.  In the past two months, road construction projects sprang up everywhere.

And, by everywhere I do mean EVERY SINGLE MAJOR ROAD.  There isn't a way to get around this area without seeing a TARP sign.  I should probably expand that from beyond my suburban area to say the entire Chicago metro area.  Friends from the far west to the north are commenting about the sudden road construction.  Everyone notes the TARP signs.  Yes, now we know where our money is going. 

Just to sound like a complete ingrate, it's driving me crazy.  I realize the roads need to be fixed.  I realize I've been complaining about some of these roads for years.  What I don't understand is why they all need to be fixed at the same time. 

Seriously.  Driving in this area is a mess.  Even my favorite back roads are under construction. 

There is no way to get from here to there without a road construction project slowing down the trip.  Of course, when all the projects are done, I'll be glad my tax money went for these projects.  It's just the process that drives me crazy.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Since it's a weekend, our suburb has trick or treating today from 1:00 - 8:00 p.m.  Considering we normally get about 20 kids total, this is going to be a long day.  Other than the few kids in the neighborhood, we don't get many trick or treaters.  Our houses are pretty spread out.  If kids want a lot of candy in a short time, this isn't the neighborhood for them. 

The girls like to hand out the candy after they are done trick or treating, but this year the day will be long.  To keep the girls busy, one of us will take the girls to my Mom's and my brothers' houses.  The other one will stay home, watch college football and wait for the 20 trick-or-treaters to show up.  All-in-all, a good day for everyone actually.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Are We There Yet?

On a recent trip to visit family about two hours away from home, the girls started saying, "Are we there yet?"  I have to say I don't like this development.

When they were infants, we would time our trips so we could feed them before we left and they would sleep most of the way.  If they woke up, they would play with the toys above their infant carriers.  When they were toddlers, they would play with some toys and I'd read them books while Daddy drove.  In the preschool years, we would read books and let them watch videos. 

"Are we there yet?" means the girls are no longer entertained by the videos. We need a new travel strategy. 

If there is one thing I remember from our family car trips, it is how much we loved annoying my parents by saying, "Are we there yet?"  We said it over and over again until my Dad threatened to leave us on the side of the road.  We never really worried about being left on the side of the road because we knew this meant Dad would have to pull over.  If there was one thing we knew, it was that Dad only pulled over when the gas tank was empty.  As long as he had gas in the station wagon, he wasn't going to waste time pulling over. 

The first few times the girls asked, "Are we there yet?" we simply answered and told them to watch the video.  By the tenth time they asked, I told them I would turn off the video and they would have to talk to us the rest of the trip if I heard that question again.  This worked the rest of the drive.

For the next trip, I need a new strategy.  I am thinking about bringing some other things, like crayons and coloring books, to keep them busy.  I bring some easy books for them to practice reading. 

Most importantly, I cannot let them know how annoying the phrase it.  When they figure out how much it annoys me, it will become a game of "how much can we annoy Mom."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Twin Stands Alone

I've always wondered what it is like to be a twin.  Even before we had twins, I was fascinated with an aunt and uncle who were twins.  The bond that starts before birth is something I think is nearly sacred.  We work hard to maintain that bond in the face of an overwhelming general opinion that tries to split the bond.  An amazing number of people in various professions and with varying connections to us will comment that we need to start separating the girls to make sure they develop their own personalities. 

A woman who is both a twin and a reporter wrote an interesting book that I need to pick up one of these days.  In One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular Abigail Pogrebin spent more than two years interviewing 40 sets of twins.  She talks about the tension between going through life with someone who loves you completely and wanting to forge your own identity.  The Newsweek story about her book is called, "A Twin Stands Alone."

She tells a few stories that I hope the girls never have to experience, but she also tells other stories that I can already relate to, so I can only assume when they get older they will relate as well.  Mostly I like that she emphasizes how close the twins are as adults.  No matter how many miles separate the twins or what terrible things happen, they still maintain the twin bond.  There's not much I want more in the world than to see them as close when there are adults as they are today.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Daycare as Punishment

My husband was talking to about a little girl who goes to bed at 7:00 p.m. and gets up about 5:30 a.m.  He was trying to figure out that scheduling.  We decided that her parents must work and she went to daycare early -- say 6:30 a.m. or so.

Since it had been a long, whiny day with our over-tired six-year-old girls, my husband looked at them and said, "If we have another day like this one, maybe you two will go to weekend day care."

While I will say that the girls usually understand sarcasm, this was totally lost on them.  On a normal day, they look at him, roll their eyes and say, "Daddy, you're kidding."  Today it didn't work that way.  Both girls looked at each other and then looked at Daddy.  Then they started crying and said, "We'll be good from now on.  Please don't make us go to weekend daycare.  We don't want to go to weekend daycare."


Now we had to fix this situation.  I said, "Daddy, daycare isn't punishment, right?  You don't go to daycare because you are bad, do you?"  My husband said, "Now girls, daycare isn't really bad.  You have friends in daycare right?  It's fun for them."


I don't think they were really convinced, but the crying stopped and we finished dinner.

The problem, of course, is that they do know several classmates who go to daycare after school.  We don't want them to think that daycare is a terrible place.  We don't want them to think their friends are bad because they have to go to daycare.

The blond twin dropped the topic, but the brunette twin didn't.  As she was ready to fall asleep, she said, "Mom, we don't have to go to weekend daycare, right?  Dad was only kidding, right?"

I told her she wasn't going to weekend daycare.  She would stay home with us like normal.  I also told her that if they continued to be whiney, they were going to start taking naps again.  She actually liked this option and said, "As long as I get to sleep in my own bed, I'll take naps for you every day."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

D-List Bloggers

You know how there's a group of influential Mommy bloggers you keep reading about in the newspapers and magazines?  Well, I'm happily not one of them.  I write about the girls and our family as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, and entertain others.  It's more of an online diary that I will -- some day -- put into order for the girls.  It's like my version of an online scrapbook.

So, thanks to Alma at Marketing Mommy (corrected!), I am now officially part of the D-List Bloggers.  (With apologies to Kathy Griffin, of course.)  We're a group of bloggers who blog for the fun of it.  We're not considered "top tier" bloggers and we don't want to be.

It's fun on the D-List.  No pressure.  We can write whatever we want without worrying about offending the corporate sponsors.

I'm glad to be on the D-List.  Thank you for joining me on the adventure.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cuddliest Halloween Ever

We are having the cuddliest Halloween ever.  Given that the blond twin screams all night after watching a Disney movie, it's not surprising that we're not big on the scary parts of Halloween. 

There are a couple of good haunted houses in the area and some scary activities our park district is sponsoring, but there is no way we are visiting any of them.  If the blond twin experiences any of these things, then she will be screaming all night.  There's no way I want that to happen if I can avoid it. 

Instead, we have a sweet, cuddly Halloween going on here.  We have the least scary witches ever.  Our ghosts make Casper look mean.  The pumpkins are all smiling.  How did we do it?  Well, it does take some planning, but we also have a secret weapon.

One of their friends has a little sister named Leah.  Rather than tell the girls we think a decoration will frighten the blond twin, we always say, "I think Leah might be afraid of that.  We don't want to scare Leah."

It works like a charm because they adore Leah. They invite her to play dates and treat her like she's their little sister.  They wouldn't do anything to scare Leah, so any decoration that might scare Leah is not allowed in our house.

Of course, the fact that the decorations won't scare the blond twin is a bonus for us.  As long as we keep using Leah as our excuse not to bring any scary things into the house, we might all enjoy Halloween. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Art Institute of Chicago through the Eyes of the Girls

I took the girls to the Art Institute of Chicago recently.  I had a free afternoon and my membership card (thank you GroupOn), so it seemed like a good way to hang out.  I wanted to see the new Modern Wing and show them the Thorne Miniature Rooms. 

I learned a few things about taking small children to the Art Institute.  The first was that I needed to edit which galleries we visited as a lot of the works were not appropriate for six-year-olds.  The second thing I learned was that the bathrooms were not that easy to find when we really needed them.  Of course, that could have been because I didn't really know where we were on the map.  I always asked one of the very nice employees for help.  The third thing was that the girls love the artwork, but needed a bit more downtime.  Now that we found the children's area in the Modern Wing, we know where to head to take a break. 

In the words of the girls, here were their impressions of the various galleries.

European Art before 1900:  Mom, why is Jesus bleeding on the cross?  Why doesn't that woman have a top on?  Why do all these people look sad? 

Impressionists:  Oh, look at the pretty colors.  It's a haystack?  I think it looks like a vase. 

Contemporary Art:  Look at the ballerinas.  Hey, I just played with that picture on the computer game downstairs. 

Photography:  Can we do that with our cameras?

Sculpture Court: (and other sculptures)  Why doesn't that guy have arms?  What happened to her body?

Modern Wing:  Oh, look at the pretty colors.  Look at the light over there.  Why is that thing hanging from the ceiling?

Thorne Miniature Rooms:  Can we put these in our doll house?  Look at the trees outside the windows (in the miniature rooms).  I want a doll bed like that.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shake 'Em High

I first noticed it in the powder room.  Yesterday I noticed it in the girls' bathroom.  We have streaks running down our walls.  At first I thought it was because it was steamy in their bathroom when I give them a shower.  Then I thought about it and that doesn't follow for the powder room.  There isn't a bath or shower in that room, so why would it be steamy?

The next time the girls' washed their hands, I watched and rolled my eyes.  The girls washed their hands and shook them before drying them.  Yes, before their hands reached the towels, they shook them in the air to get the water drops off.  The best part was when they started laughing when they shook their hands.  It was like a competition to shake them the highest and the fastest. 

Suddenly I understood why we have streaks running down our walls.

It's not something you might notice in other bathrooms, but we have deep blue paint on the walls.  It really is a beautiful color.  Lots of people comment on how pretty it is when they are at the house.  However, a lot of things that might not show up on a white or pale color wall show up on our bathroom walls.  Also, our bathrooms are pretty average to small in size.  If you had a large bathroom with more open space, the drops would probably just hit the floor. 

So, cross one more mystery off the list.  We'll try to get the girls to stop shaking their hands, but it's so funny when they laugh that it might not be worth it.  I think it's probably easier to just sponge down the walls once in a while.

Friday, October 16, 2009

H1N1 Overload

Okay, I'm officially sick of hearing about the H1N1 virus.  Yes, I know it's scary.  Yes, I know we should all be taking precautions.  Yes, I know it's potentially dangerous.

What I don't understand is what we should do about it?  Other than wash our hands a lot and try to stay healthy, what can we do?

In our area, the major drug store chains have the seasonal flu vaccine.  Ironically, the doctor's don't have it, but the major drug store chains do.  No one has the H1N1 vaccine yet. 

Yet, every newspaper, television news cast and radio news report insists on reporting about H1N1 non-stop.  First the stories were about how dangerous the H1N1 virus is to certain populations.  Then the story in the Chicago area was about a high school student who had H1N1 when she died.  Of course, she also had an underlying heart condition, but that's not dramatic enough.  Now the stories are about how families want to get vaccinated, but no one has the vaccine. 

To make us even crazier, every time a student in any school is confirmed with H1N1, the news reports it.  I recently read an article about how every case of flu right now is the H1N1 virus because there have not been any confirmed cases of the seasonal flu in our area yet.

Okay, let's recap.  All the flu going around right now is H1N1.  Even if you want it, none of the H1N1 vaccine is available.  Once the vaccine does become available, it takes your body something like 30 days to build to full immunity.  Of course, by that time, the seasonal flu will be rampant in the Chicago area.

I'm done.  There's nothing we can do about H1N1 except maintain our preventive measures, get enough sleep, eat right, and try to stay healthy.  It's time for the media to move on.  The daily H1N1 updates are making us all crazy about something we cannot control.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Night Terrors Are Killing Me

Someone said, "You sound tired." I replied, "The blond twin kept waking up last night." She wasn't sympathetic because she thought this meant the blond twin woke up and went right back to sleep. I wish that was how it happened.

The blond twin has night terrors. Anything can trigger them. I dread days when she watches a movie. Pick a movie, any movie. There is always a character that frightens her. The first fifteen or twenty times she watched The Little Mermaid, she woke up because Ursula frightened her. The new Barbie movie has a scary man named Wenlock. We've read the book a gazillion times, but the movie kept her up all night.  When she's watching a movie, you don't think she's afraid. It's not until she goes to sleep that the night terrors start.

She doesn't just wake up. She wakes up screaming at the top of her lungs. Sometimes she's also sitting up in bed. The hard part is she's not really awake.

We spend a lot of time trying to get her to calm down and go back to sleep. Once we do get her to sleep, we need to unwind and go to sleep. Let me just tell you it's really hard to go to sleep when you know your child is going to wake up screaming again any minute.

Since I know she's going to wake up screaming, I drift in and out of sleep waiting for the next event. It's a terrible way to spend a night.

If it gets really bad, I just crawl into bed with her. There is something about being really close to me (or Daddy or Sissy) that comforts her. She sleeps as close as possible to me. The important part is she does calm down and sleep.

Me? Not so much. It's hard to sleep with a six-year-old plastered against you.

In the morning, she doesn't remember any of it. I'm exhausted, of course, but happy that we made it through the night.

The big problem is we don't know what will trigger it. Sometimes it's a movie; other times it is because she is tired. And, we don't know how long it will last. Sometimes she wakes up a few times, but falls into a deep sleep before midnight. Other times it is an all night event.

The doctor says she'll outgrow it. I thought she said the blond twin would outgrow it by the time she was six. Given recent events, we need to go in and have that conversation again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A New Hiding Spot

When the girls were little, I would put stuff on top of the refrigerator to hide it until I could move it. I still put something there if I need a quick hiding place. Turns out I need a new hiding place.

The blond twin said, "Hey Mom, what is that pink thing on top of the fridge?"

I said, "Huh?" (Yes, I know you're impressed with my quick, crafty response.)

She replied, "Mom, the pink thing in the plastic on top of the fridge. It must be mine because it's pink."

I looked up on top of the fridge to see a pink shirt I bought as a Christmas present. It took a minute for me to reply because the realization that she was sitting on a stool at the breakfast bar looking at the top of the fridge took a minute to settle in.

My first thought was simple: When did she get tall enough to see on top of the fridge?

I said, "No. It's tissue paper in the wrapper. It's not for you."
Okay, it was another lame comeback, but it was the quickest thing I could think of at that moment.

As soon as the girls left the room, I moved the shirt. Then I started scouting a new hiding place. Of course, I could just put everything in our bedroom as soon as I buy it, but we know that won't always happen. I'm still working on a new hiding spot. It's probably not all that hard, but I keep getting distracted with the idea that she's so tall now.

When did she get so tall?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Finish this sentence

The girls have a song that includes the phrase "Yippee Cay Yeah."  They sing the whole song with glee.

Because I am of what is delicately called "a certain age," I finish the sentence in my head with an unrepeatable phrase. 

Think about it.

If you didn't finish the sentence in your head, go find someone who has seen the first Die Hard movie.  Ask him/her to finish the phrase "Yippe Cay Yeah."  It's not like Bruce Willis just says it once.  He repeats it over and over again.  Now you know why I cannot repeat it out loud, but it always plays in my head.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Already in Question?

Overheard at our house...

Blond Twin:  Do you think Santa is real?

Brunette Twin:  Of course he is.

Blond Twin:  Angelina says he is not real.

Brunette Twin:  Angelina doesn't know how to read.  How would she know?

Blond Twin:  She said she just knows.

Brunette Twin:  I don't believe her.  If you do, Santa won't bring you any presents.

Blond Twin:  Okay, I believe in Santa. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ream of Paper

You know how after all the Christmas presents are open the toddlers just want to play with the empty boxes?  This is kind of how I feel about blank, white copy paper these days.

The girls have loads of coloring books.  They have loads of crayons.  Yet, the crayons never see work on the inside of a coloring book.  The girls love to take blank sheets of paper and create their own pictures.

These aren't just pictures of flowers or animals.  It's like they are illustrating a story.  Each piece of art comes with an entire back story.  They draw very nice pictures, with well thought out stories. 

They two of them bring all the materials to the breakfast bar and spread out everything.  They have pens, pencils, crayons, markers and scissors.  And, by the end of the afternoon, they use them all. 

It's fun to watch them draw and listen to them discuss stories.  It's like listening to a team of kindergarten writers working on an age-appropriate storyboard.  I like to hear them negotiate which pictures go with the words. 

This Christmas, I think Santa should bring reams of white paper.  It would be the best present they receive.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Fun Fantasea

The girls love the Shedd Aquarium.  They run from exhibit to exhibit, fascinated by the fish and other underwater creatures.  They love it so much we became members.  It's a membership that is well worth the price.  Last week an invitation for a members-only event showed up in my inbox.  I immediately RSVPd. 

The Shedd has a new show to replace the old dolphin show.  I have to admit we were not fans of the old show.  I realize the point of the museum is to educate, and the show focused on educating people about the animals.  This is noble, but not something the girls would sit through.  First of all, the conversation was too advanced for them.  Second, they were bored.  I was happy to read that the show was being re-imagined -- and the result is a truly wonderous, multi-media event featuring sea lions, dolphins, penquins and red-tailed hawks. 

We saw the show during the members-only event.  The girls sat mezmerized during the entire show.  True to form, the brunette twin asked me lots of questions while the blond twin sat nearly attached to her Daddy.  The show started with a video showing a bit of the Shedd's history.  There was a Cirque du Soleil feel to the beginning of the show that I won't spoil by detailing here.  It's a beautiful opening that grabs your attention.  The animals interacted with the audience in a way that was unexpected and charming.  When the penguins walked up the stairs, everyone moved out of the way to give them the space they need.

What made it better, at least for the younger children, is that this was also shown on a big screen.  The girls are not tall enough to see over everyone's heads, but they don't have to.  As the penguins walked up the stairs near us, the girls watched the audience react and looked at the screen to see where the pengiuns were.  It was a nice mix that added to the excitement. 

The beluga whales performed much like the dolphins, which was unexpected.  I guess I never thought much about how a whale would interact with its trainer.  My favorite animal was actually not even a water creature.  The show included two red-tail hawks, rescue birds, that fly across the water.  The close-ups of these birds were so beautiful. 

When we came home, we saw the show again in an unusual way.  The local news broadcasts covered the show.  It looked just as pretty on the television screen as it did in person. 

We cannot wait to see it again after it opens on October 16.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lazy Saturday

It's not often I publically thank a big company, but last night Best Buy gave us a good gift.  We bought a new washing machine there this week.  Today it is being delivered.  Last night we received a message that the delivery was scheduled for between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. today.

Most days this would annoy me because we have to spend the entire day waiting for the delivery.  Today, though, I think it's a welcome gift.  The past few weeks have been really crazy.  We needed a day to just hang out and stay in our house.

Of course, we didn't really just stay in the house today.  The girls spent a couple of hours with my parents at Grandparents Bingo.  The school did a nice job on the event.  I ran out to a couple of school fundraising resale events to pick up some clothes for the girls.  Tom spent some time getting ready for the delivery.  You know the drill -- clear a path in the basement, disconnect the old washing machine, clean up the area, etc. 

Even with all the little things, we spent most of the day just hanging out.  It's a grey, damp day, so it's a welcome break from the yard work and errands we would have felt compelled to complete on a normal Saturday.

So, thank you Best Buy.  We enjoyed the excuse to watch college football and camp out.  Now, if only Illinois would pull out a win against Penn State.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Still Purple

Several people asked about the brunette twin's favorite color.  It is still purple.  Nothing changes there and I don't expect it to for a while.  Of course, she could surprise us, but she is just not a child who changes easily. 

Her favorite doll is a stuffed bear she received as one of her first critters.  She has other, newer dolls and stuffed animals.  She plays with all of them, but the bear is her favorite. 

She doesn't like to change.  She likes things just the way they are.  I expect that she'll happily keep purple as her favorite color for a while. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mom, Why Does Someone Want to Kill the President?

I wasn't listening to the radio this morning, but the brunette twin certainly was.  As I was loading the dishwasher and the blond twin was talking about her glasses, I barely remembered that the radio was on.   Apparently the disc jockeys were talking about the Facebook poll asking if the president should be assassinated.  The brunette twin caught every word of it. 

My first thought was that I needed to listen to more CDs in the morning and not the radio.  My second thought was, "What is wrong with people?"  Once a day someone does something that makes me ask what is wrong with people?  This story about the Facebook poll really has me wondering how deep the craziness goes. 

I realize people disagree with the President, but when did it become acceptable to publically wish the President dead?  Did I miss a memo?  I heard a while ago about the pastor encouraging his flock to pray for the President's death.  I chalked that up to an isolated bunch of ultra-religious crazies looking for publicity.  Now there is a Facebook page asking if the president should be assassinated?  What is going on?

When did we start expressing our political views by encouraging people to kill someone?  I've read the U.S. Constitution and the Federalist Papers, and I don't remember this being part of the Founding Fathers' thinking.   

Elementary schools these days focus on being respectful and kind. They call it character education.  What kind of character are you building for your children when you openly wish the President would be assassinated?  How do you teach children it's okay to be respectful to some people and not others? Do these people say, "Hey, we're respectful to the mailman, but not the President of the United States or people who support him.  We want those people to die."

Yes, I know both sides of the political debate are rude and obnoxious.  I realize this is part of the larger breakdown of basic manners in society.  Yet, it disturbs me that it has become so acceptable that people openly wish another person would die just because they disagree with him.    

I am sure the brunette twin will want to talk about this more when she gets home from school.  It's a story that will have "legs" for a while.  The sad part is we can teach her to be respectful and tolerant, but it's getting to be harder and harder to find examples of this in society at large.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yellow is My Favorite Color

I could have predicted the blond twin would change her favorite color, but I didn't.  As I was buying clothes one or two sizes from now in last week's favorite color -- pink -- I didn't take into account that she would have a new favorite color one of these days.  If I had been thinking about the child, instead of the really cute clothes, I would have only bought one size in advance. 

Of course she changed her favorite color.  It's just part of her personality.  She always has a favorite, but it's always changing.  She falls in love with each new doll or critter.  She plays with them, changes their clothes, sleeps with them and won't let them out of her sight -- until the next new one comes along.  It's not like she discards the old toys.  She just moves the new ones to the front of the line. 

She decreed purple as her favorite color at about two years old.  By three pink was her favorite color.  And, let's face it, pink had a good run.  For her to stick with one thing for that long is unusual.  I think this is why it lulled me into a false sense of security. 

Now she wants everything to be yellow.  Today she wants to change her bed sheets from the orange and pink flowered sheets to the yellow gingham sheets.  She wants to buy some yellow clothes next time we go shopping.

So, we're moving yellow to the front of the line.  The blond twin will get some yellow clothes here and there.  She'll add yellow headbands to the collection and bask in her favorite color for now.  The good thing is pink is cute with yellow, so she'll have lots of brightly colored outfits for a while.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Feel Free to Share with All Cubs Fans

Overheard while waiting to get into a high school football game, as told by our nephew's Catholic school principal...

What did Jesus say to the Cubs?

Don't do anything until I get back.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Snap Goes the Mommy

One thing they don't tell you about parenting is it is not the big things that cause the most problems, it's the little, continuous problems that drive you crazy.  The girls have a few habits right now that are going to drive me right over the edge.  One day my husband will come home and find me sitting on the floor rocking in the fetal position. 

The brunette twin says "no" or "I don't like it" to everything now.  Go ahead, ask any question.  She'll answer with one of those things.  I just about imploded the other day when I picked a sweater for her to wear and she said, "I don't like it."  It wasn't that she said it that time that pushed me to crack.  It was that it she says it all day, every day. 

The blond twin leaves a debris field around her whenever she eats.  The other day she was eating a chocolate chip muffin at the breakfast bar.  By the time she was done, she managed to get crumbs evenly distributed across the entire kitchen floor.  I had to clear a path to get them out of there so I could clean the kitchen.  I was on a conference call when they ate, so I'm not quite sure how she did it.  My guess is that she took advantage of the bar stools and turned back and forth as she ate.  It's just a guess though.

What drives me crazy is we have the same conversations with them about these things every, single day.  My husband will say, "They are only six."  I know he's right, but it still drives me crazy.  It's the cumulative effect of trying to correct these bad habits that makes me crazy some days.

Of course, I realize that one day I'll wish my ongoing problem was cleaning up the debris field after every meal.  It's just that right now those days seem very far away.