Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy

Every year there is a list of summer reads in the local newspapers. These books are always called "Beach Reads." I laugh at the name because it implies we all have time to sit around at the beach and devour novels. At the same time, I'm jealous because I know some people really do work their way through the list.

This year, I am proud to say I finished my summer reading list. There was only one book on it, so I'm pretty much ahead of the game. A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy by Charlotte Greig might be called chick-lit, but I think that title does the book a disservice. Most of the time I think of chick-lit as the "I cannot survive without a man" genre. This book doesn't fall into that trap.

The story of Susannah, a sophomore philosophy major, is set on a 1970s college campus. It explores the gender politics of the time by exploring the issues all women have been faced with throughout the ages. Susannah has a sophisticated older boyfriend and a challenging college major, so life should be set, right? She finds herself attracted to a fellow student, who is the complete opposite of her boyfriend. Life-altering changes cause her to examine everything she believes in using the great European philosophers for guidance with her distinctly female problems.

What makes A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy sound real is that the author writes really interesting narration. Her words are directed towards an intelligent audience. She makes the assumption we "get it" without having to explain every issue and emotion. Greig also adds a touch of humor in unexpected places for a completely enjoyable read.

Whether you already have a summer reading list or you are just starting to think about it, be sure to add A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy as to the list. It's well-worth the time spent.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Round and Round

The brunette twin doesn't like roller coasters. She's been on a few small coasters and decided she doesn't like them. Her favorite rides go around and around. The faster they spin, the happier she is. Her current two favorite rides are Test Track at Epcot and Sandstorm at Busch Gardens.

Test Track puts you through a series of "tests" like how your vehicle handles a rough road or quick stop. It's pretty entertaining until you get to the final test. For this adventure, your car is nearly catapulted through a door and spun around a track at a very high speed. I didn't think the brunette twin would like it. Given her reaction to the kiddie roller coaster, I was pretty sure she wouldn't like the speed. Boy, was I wrong. As soon as we got off the ride, she said, "I want to do it again." So, we did.

She had the same reaction to Sandstorm. This Busch Gardens adventure is one of those rides that looks like an octopus. The "arms" have several cars, which spin as the entire ride spins. It's a quick and crazy ride. The brunette twin cannot get enough of it. We rode it several times during our last visit. She laughed and laughed. As soon as we finished one ride, she wanted to do it again.

The good news is that I like the rides both girls enjoy. The bad news is Daddy doesn't like either option. As long as I can alternate between roller coasters and spinning rides, we're okay. I need the time waiting in line to reset and get ready for the next stomach turning adventure.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Never Fast Enough

The blond twin loves roller coasters. She gazes at the really high, fast thrill rides with a longing only another roller coaster fan would understand. She wants nothing more than to go on the highest, fastest roller coaster in any theme park.

We've known this ever since she went on her first little coaster at Storybookland in New Jersey. She sat in the back car, with her cousin Maddie, and laughed the whole time. Maddie taught her to ride with her hands in the air. Since then she hasn't looked back.

She's been on several mid-sized roller coasters, like Thunder Mountain at Disney World. These tend to be fast, with lots of twists and turns. She loved every one.

This trip, we went back to Busch Gardens. She rode Cheetah Chase with her Gram and Great-Aunt Bonnie. Near the end of the ride, the park snaps a photo. In her photo, she's smiling from ear to ear, while both Gramma and Great-Aunt Bonnie look terrified.

The next step up at Busch Gardens is the Scorpion. This roller coaster starts by taking you up a steep incline and dropping you into a 360 turn. I looked at it for a while before deciding she might be ready for that coaster.

I love roller coasters too, so I was quite happy to go on it. The downside was that if she didn't like it, she'd be up all night with bad dreams. I weighed my desire to go on the ride with my need for sleep and decided to go for it.

Most people cannot believe she could go on the ride at her age. I always reply that the requirements are based upon height, not age. And, I'm guessing that the roller coaster designers didn't anticipate 48 inch tall five-year-olds. Most kids are a bit older before they are as tall as our girls.

As we were waiting in line, she could hardly contain herself. She was giggly. When we sat down, she squealed. As we were going up the very steep incline, she looked at me and said, "Mom, let's put our hands in the air."

You already know she LOVED the drop, 360 turn and every other part of the ride. She's plotting ways to go on the bigger thrill rides already. Luckily, she's not quite tall enough for those. She might be ready, but I'm not sure I am.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's Not Chicago Traffic

Anyone in a big city will tell you that traffic patterns run your life. You always try to avoid driving anywhere during rush hour. Any unusual weather -- rain, snow, wind, excessive heat -- adds time to your trip. Since I've lived in the Chicago area my entire life, my whole view of traffic is based upon what happens here. These are the rules I live by when driving.

This is how we ended up at the wedding last Friday 45 minutes before the ceremony. The GPS told us it would take 35 minutes to get from where we were staying to the ceremony/reception. Since we were driving during rush hour on a Friday before a holiday weekend, I added 10 minutes to the trip. It was also raining, so I thought it would add another 5 - 10 minutes to the trip.

Funny thing about is entirely local. The Chicago rules don't apply in Florida. It turns out that in the Tampa Bay area where we were travelling, these things didn't really matter. The rain didn't slow down traffic much. I didn't see anything resembling a bumper-to-bumper rush hour.

All told, the trip took 5 minutes more than the GPS predicted. We had plenty of time to visit with the family, take the girls to the bathroom before the ceremony, watch the set-up, etc. It was also one more reason to remember that while on vacation, it is important to leave home behind and remember where you are.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Welcome Addition to the Family

You know how you are never quite sure if the new person joining the family is going to fit or not? It's always that way whether your family lives in the same area or in different states.

My mother's side of the family is spread out in several states. When you first meet our family, it seems quite small, but there are lots of us. And, I have to say that for a family that always lived apart, we're actually pretty connected.

One of my youngest cousins was married this weekend. I met his new wife last summer at the family reunion and she seemed quite nice. She clearly loves him, so that's a big plus in my book. The thing is we haven't spent much time with her as they live in Florida. The reality is we won't all spend a lot of time together, but we'll see each other here and there.

I know she's a welcome addition to the family because of her friends. Her bridesmaids were so sweet and wonderful to our girls at the wedding and the reception. At the wedding, as we were waiting for the ceremony to start, several of the bridesmaids noticed the girls and commented on their outfits. The girls were so excited that the pretty ladies noticed them.

Later, at the reception, the girls and some of the other youngsters were the first ones on the dance floor. Within a few songs, several of the bridesmaids were dancing with them. The girls watched the bridesmaids' every move. They tried to dance like them. Later in the evening, the bridesmaids had several little girls on the side of the room giving them private dance lessons.

Let me just add that these women were in a room filled with good-looking, Ivy League educated, single men. They certainly could have found better things to do than dance with our girls.

If you can judge a person by their friends, then we're glad to have her as the newest addition to the family.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

It's a beautiful, sunny, warm day in Chicago. Tomorrow we're headed to Florida for a family wedding. What is the weather there? Well, rain for the next ten days.

Yes, we're leaving Chicago to stay on the water in Florida where it is supposed to be stormy every, single day.

This should be a fun vacation.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What was That Mom Thinking?

Yesterday was the girls BALLET RECITAL. Yes, it was such a big event in our house that it deserves to go in all capital letters. It was THE BIG DAY.

After the girls performed their adorable routine, they hung out in a back stage room. As a Mommy helper, my job was to keep all the girls busy for the next two hours, until the finale. We were playing a game when a little girl came up and said, "I have to go potty."

As I'm walking her to the bathroom, she said, "I'm hungry. I haven't eaten anything." I responded, "Busy morning, huh?" She said, "No, I was puking all morning and Mom didn't want me to eat anything because she didn't want me to puke on stage."

Now I was making a mental note to wash my hands really well after I get her back in the classroom. I was also wondering, "What was she thinking?" By she, I mean the mom.

I realize the ballet recital is a big day, but as the mom, why would you let your sick, puking child out of the house? First, you're risking that she'll get sick on stage or back stage. Second, you are exposing all the other girls and parents to you child's illness. There must have been nearly 100 girls in the recital from 3 years-olds to teenagers.

I mentioned this to the dance program director, who said she would speak to the girl's mom. While I appreciate the effort, I know it won't do any good. Any mom who thinks she should send her puking daughter to a dance recital won't understand why we all think it is a bad idea.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mothers Talk Key to Kids' Social Skills

This study makes me want to just go back to those who criticize the way we talk to the girls and say, "Told you so." Yes, I realize that's a petty, immature response, but it would feel really good.

In a new study, reported on CNN, "Research from the United Kingdom shows that the way mothers talk to their children at a young age influences their social skills later in childhood."

Ha! All those other mother's in all those toddler classes who used to say, "I don't know why you explain so many things to the girls. My daughter/son/children do it because I say so" were wrong.

We always explain as much as is age-appropriate to the girls. Always. This is because one of the pre-birth parenting books I read talked about how children are a blank slate. They come out knowing nothing, and it is our job to teach them everything -- literally. This is one piece of advice that actually makes sense to me. How can they understand not to touch the oven unless we tell them it is hot and will hurt them? How would they know it unless it is explained to them?

When the little boy in the park slapped another child, we talked about why it was inappropriate to do it. It went beyond the "it's not nice" conversation. When our preschool stalker bit another child because he was sitting next to the brunette twin, we talked about why you don't do that. We also talked about why he might have done it and how he might have responded differently.

We also use this tactic when we're out in public. So, when the girls saw the homeless man on the street in downtown Chicago, we talked about being homeless. When we saw a woman in a wheelchair, we talked about how people get around when their legs don't work. These are not deep, sit down and talk conversations. These things are just woven into our daily chats.

The good thing is we've now trained the girls to say, "Mom, can we talk about the man sleeping in the street when we get in the van?" They know what to talk about in front of other people and what to talk about in private.

It's not a perfect system, of course, because nothing is. I really just always depise the phrase, "Because I said so." I won't say I've never said it, but I really make an effort to avoid it.

Of course, the study also points out that understanding how others feel and good social skills doesn't guarantee good behavior. I can understand that, especially when you are dealing with children. Just because they understand different situations doesn't mean they always know how to deal with them.

I'll take my chances, though, and keep explaining things to the girls. It seems to be working well so far, and now a new study agrees.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What is Your Real Name?

When I was in kindergarten, I went home one day and announced that I wasn't going back to school. I told my parents the teacher was stupid because she couldn't figure out my name. My memory of the conversation with the teacher goes something like this:

Teacher: "What is your real name Shari?"
Me: "Shari."
Teacher: "No, honey, what is your real name? Is it Sharon?"
Me: "No, Shari."
Teacher: "No, I know we call you Shari, but what is your real name? Shirley? Cheryl?"
Me: "I'm Shari."

My mom ended up calling the teacher to explain that Shari wasn't short for anything else. My name was simply Shari. My parents were at the beginning of the name your child Shari (Sherry, Sheri, etc.) trend. The teacher hadn't had a student named Shari in her class before.

Imagine my surprise when the brunette twin said, "Mom, what is your full name?" I said my name is Shari. It's not short for anything. They each have what I call "grown-up" names and nicknames, so they were curious about my grown-up name. Let's face it, most people with an I or Y at the end of their names use the longer version once they become adults. I never had that option, but we made sure the girls did.

Interestingly, though, the brunette twin prefers to be called by her full name. The blond twin always introduces herself with her nickname. The brunette twin introduces herself with her full name.

We had a lengthy conversation about names. Which cousin has one name? Which one has a nickname and a full name? When we were done with the family, we moved on to the friends. Then they started talking about what they were going to name their children.

I think it's an interesting development that they realize people have nicknames and full names. It says something about their critical thinking development. I just never thought I'd have the "what is your real name" conversation with the girls. I'm just glad I didn't have to involve my mom this time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Training the Next Generation

We're hockey fans in my family, specifically Chicago Blackhawks fans. This hasn't been easy in recent years as the team hasn't been very good and the late owner wouldn't televise home games. It was hard to keep track of a team you couldn't watch very often.

This year is a different story. The team is young and exciting. They are good to the fans, and the fans are good to them. The stories you hear about the players are nice and family-friendly. And, now the team is on television for all home games. It's a development that helps tremendously as we train the girls to be the next generation of hockey fans.

They spend an above average amount of time around hockey rinks. Two of our nephews play hockey and we often have visiting relatives playing tournaments in the Chicago area. They take ice skating lessons and are pretty good. (Okay, the brunette twin is really good for her age, while the blond twin is good enough not to fall very often.)

Last night the Blackhawks made it to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1995. This is HUGE as it means four more wins put them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I'm excited and amazed.

I also realize that I cannot stay up so late watching hockey. Saturday night I was up until nearly 1:00 a.m. Last night it was 11:30 p.m. The big problem is once the team wins the game, I'm so excited I cannot go right to sleep. It takes a while for me to wind down.

The next thing for me to do is teach the girls the Blackhawks theme song

“Here come the hawks, the mighty Blackhawks!
Take the attack and we’ll back you Blackhawks!
We’re flyin’ high and now let’s wrap it up!
Let’s go you Hawks, move out!!”

Then it fades out with "Here come the Hawks, Here come the Hawks."

So, if you hear us practicing while we're wandering the grocery store, feel free to join in. The Blackhawks bandwagon is big enough for a few new fans.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's Really There

We found it! After two attempts and much searching, we finally found the waterfall. In our defense, this is a large forest preserve with multiple entrances. Now we understand that we went in the wrong entrance the last visit. And, as much as we wanted to find the waterfall, we didn't have the time to walk the nine mile path from the other parking lot.

I would like to take credit for our success this time, but I have to admit that I had nothing to do with it. We learned from our mistake and parked on the correct side of the park. My wonderful husband has some kind of a built-in GPS. We disagreed about which direction to take as we stared at the map in the forest preserve. If we had gone the way I wanted to, we'd still be looking for the waterfall.

We could hear it before we could see it. When we arrived, the waterfall area was packed with families, as it was a beautiful afternoon. We joined some other brave people walking across the water on some of the larger stones.

At first the girls were afraid. The blond twin let out a shriek as she slipped a bit on one of the rocks. I told her that the only reason to shriek like that was that she was in serious trouble and slipping a fraction of an inch didn't qualify. A man nearby started laughing as I talked. I laughed watching him laugh. I knew he had had the same conversation at some point.

The waterfall was small, as waterfalls go. It was lovely, though, and all the families had a good time. It was a nice way to see all the families hanging out together in the water. What is it about water that brings people together like that?

Overall it was a fun way to spend Mother's Day. The girls were excited about the hike, and we finally saw the waterfall. We can chalk up this day as a big success.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Seeking Waterfalls

I love waterfalls. One of my favorite memories of our trip to Oregon was walking across a bridge with the waterfall dropping right next to us. It was really beautiful and amazing.

Last year we went hiking in Utica, IL. There are several beautiful state parks there, and we chose the smallest canyon as our first hiking experience with the girls. It's a bit dicey to plan a hiking trip with five-year-old twins, so we decided to make it as easy as possible. We chose a canyon with several really cool waterfalls. We had hiked the canyon before, so we had some idea of what to expect.

The girls loved the hike. They were fascinated with the entire process. They liked packing the backpack and getting ready. They discussed the rules with all the seriousness they could muster. The big rule, of course, was not to go near the edge or past the railings. We hiked, explored and laughed. We climbed more stairs than we could image. It was great fun.

The one thing we didn't do was play in the waterfall. We found the place where the waterfall should have been, but it was just a large, pretty rock formation. The area was in a drought, so there wasn't enough water to create a waterfall.

The next day we went to another park in search of a waterfall. We hiked to where the waterfall should have been, but only found a trickle. Technically it was water falling, but not in any kind of quantity. We were two hikes and zero waterfalls for that trip.

For Mother's Day this year, I chose a hike in a nearby forest preserve known for its waterfalls. The rain has been falling lately, so we have hope that these waterfalls will be more exciting than the ones we didn't find last year.

If we've read the map correctly, we should find a waterfall about 1 mile into the hike. My fingers are crossed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ongoing Conversations About Glasses

The blond twin recently learned she should be wearing glasses all the time. Her eyes are not really bad. She needs them to see a bit more clearly when she's reading small letters.

She is not happy about this. The blond twin does not want to wear her glasses all day, every day. She reads everything she can just to prove to us that she doesn't need the glasses. Of course, most of what she's reading is la arge print type, so the small letters that cause her problems are not really in the mix. For now, we decided she needs to wear them in school, but not when she's at home, unless she's reading. While I understand her need to wear the glasses, I am also a realist. The girl is an accident waiting to happen. If she wears those glasses all the time, we'll be repairing or buying glasses a lot.

This development created a new problem. The brunette twin is upset that she is not wearing glasses. Her Dad and I both wear glasses, as do most of her cousins. In our family, wearing glasses is normal. Now she's unhappy that she is the only one not wearing glasses. The brunette twin tries to prove that she needs glasses so she can be like her sister. When we went to the eye doctor, we made a point of letting her know the brunette twin was angling for glasses.

We now have conflicting conversations going on with the girls. On the one hand, we're talking to the blond twin about why it is important for her to wear her glasses and why it's okay. On the other hand we're talking to the brunette twin about why she doesn't want to wear glasses and it's a good thing not to need glasses.

Dizzy yet? I am. Every day when I take them to school we talk about the blond twin's glasses. Some days we talk about what she can and cannot see. Other days we talk about why the brunette twin is the only person in the family who doesn't need glasses. Most days we talk about why it's okay to wear glasses.

Personally, I am a little surprised the blond twin doesn't want to wear her glasses. Considering how much time she'll spend accessorizing her outfits, I cannot believe she doesn't see her glasses as the latest fashion accessory. On the other hand, it's probably a good thing she doesn't think of her glasses as an accessory yet. Once that starts, she'll want different glasses to go with different outfits.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Facebook Group

You can tell it is school registration time because my email is filled with questions from parents shocked to learn that their multiples will be separated in school. In an effort to keep their children together, they turn to the internet. At some point, they find the Twins Law site, and eventually my email as I am the Illinois campaign co-chair. While we're discussing the issue, they inevitably ask, "How can we change the system?"

Here is one weapon we're using in the battle to keep multiples together in school. Social media networking, like MySpace and Facebook, is a powerful tool. To harness that power, we started a new Facebook group called

Keep Multiples Together in School!

Our mission is to raise awareness of the issue, not just in Illinois but across the globe. We recognize that not all parents want their multiples kept together in school, but we want all parents to have a seat at the table when the decision is made.

If you are on Facebook, please consider joining our group -- whether you have multiples or not. Our strength is in our numbers and our diversity. The more people who support the idea, the more powerful the message becomes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mommy Forever

We were helping at a local garden when a teenage boy called out to his Mom. He said, "Mommy, take a look at this." I have to admit I stopped for a minute when he said Mommy. I don't know why, but I always think of Mommy as what little children call their Mom.

I cannot remember the last time I heard a pre-teen or teenager say Mommy or Daddy. I always assumed that by the time children were in Junior High, parents were relegated to Mom and Dad. (Unless they want money. I have heard our nieces smile sweetly and say, "Daddy, I need $20.)

I like when the girls say Mommy or Daddy. (I LOVE when they call Daddy, especially.) It sounds so sweet and innocent because this is the time when they are asking questions and learning every day. Granted, our girls are young, but based on what I see with the nieces and nephews, conversations change greatly as the children become young adults. Now the girls say, "Mommy, how do birds fly?" The high school aged nieces and nephews tend to say things like, "Mom, I need to be at practice at 4:00 p.m. Can you drive me?"

I always saw the transition between Mommy and Mom as a sign the darling babies you held in the middle of the night and taught to ride a bike were growing up. It seemed like a time when they stopped being so sweet and innocent and tried to become a bit more worldly and introspective.

I just assumed I'd stop being Mommy and become Mom soon. Hearing that boy yesterday gave me some hope. I know it won't last forever, but now I have hope to be Mommy just a bit longer.

Friday, May 1, 2009

One Mess at a Time

We have a rule in our house that only one room at a time can be a mess. Lately, I realize we might need to change it to only one floor of the house can be a mess at one time.

The girls can take a simple game and turn it into an elaborate adventure with lots and lots of side adventures going on. Yesterday they had a classroom, with a pool and a library in their game. This can create a mess in many different rooms, as each different part of the game needs its own space.

Here's what happened yesterday. The girls bedroom was the school. They set up play centers, just like they have in their preschool. (When it was snack time, they came downstairs with their dolls and ate at the breakfast bar. Some rules are not flexible.)

Our bedroom was the pool. To make it a pool, the girls took their pool towels and hooded bath towels and put them on the floor next to our bed. When the dolls wanted to swim, they jumped off our bed (aka the diving board) into the pool (aka the towels).

The bathroom was the library, so it was filled with books. Two dolls were in the library reading books while the other critters were in the pool.

I like this because it shows great imagination and keeps them busy for hours on end. They have rich, detailed back stories on each part of the game. It's fun to just watch them go through the whole story. When they tell us about their afternoon, they talk about the game like it was real.

So, I guess I'll have to surrender and say that only one floor of the house can be a mess at any given time. I don't think I'll tell them that, though. It's more fun for them when they think they are getting away with something by playing in several rooms, rather than in just one.