Monday, August 31, 2009

Nearly the End -- Again

When my maternal grandmother first moved to her nursing home she hated it. Every day she said she was going home. Eventually she refused to sleep in her bedroom. The staff would find her sleeping on couches, in chairs, etc. I started calling her every night just before bed time to talk to her. I always told her she needed to sleep there tonight and tomorrow we'd talk about where she'd sleep. This went on for months, until one night I called and she didn't talk about going home. I stopped calling shortly after that.

It's like that with Alzheimer's. One day you remember something and the next day it is gone. We went through all the phases, just like they talk about in all the articles and books. The problem is no one can fully prepare you for how terrible it is when your Grandmother is in the mean phase and she punches you or hits you with a book when you are not looking. Nor can they fully prepare you for the first time she doesn't know who you are.

It drags on and on and on. Gram has been in her nursing home for more than a decade. Trust me when I say no one thought it would go on this long -- nor did we wish for it to drag on this long. Yes, I know I'm saying I wish my Grandmother would die, but if you saw her, you'd wish that for her too. No one should live like she is now.

Recently we received the call that Gram was being moved into hospice care. She officially moved into what they call end-stage Alzheimer's. The hospice staff talked about providing palliative care so she would be comfortable, and she's already DNR, so that's not a concern.

This was a couple of weeks ago and we're still in a holding pattern. The stress of this is beginning to show on my Mom. She was sick Saturday because she visited Gram and found her nearly comatosed, with her eyes and mouth open. It was too much for her. The staff said Gram hadn't eaten in two days and they expected her to fall into a coma shortly. In my mind, this meant is was nearly over. There was no joy in this, just relief.

Then Mom visited yesterday. The staff told Mom Gram drank about 1/2 of her vitamin-enriched protein drink and ate a few bites of food. I nearly snapped. I just didn't understand why is Gram still getting the vitamin-enriched protein drink? This was meant to keep her healthy and keep her weight stable. I realize they cannot stop giving her food and beverages, but why not just plain water to keep her hydrated and stable? Someone please explain the benefits of giving her something that will extend her life? Please? Anyone? It's not a question I can really discuss with my Mom as she's about at her wit's end now. This type of conversation would put her right into a nervous breakdown.

Given that this year we've already buried an in law's mother and my paternal Grandmother, end-of-life weighs heavily on my mind. We're "older parents' as the demographics experts politely say. We haven't formally put all our wishes into writing, but every time something happens, I tell everyone my wishes -- my husband, siblings, friends, etc. I don't want anyone to wonder how I want my final days to be handled. If there are any dissenters, I've told the others they need to make sure my wishes or honored or I'll come back to haunt them. Yes, it's the Type A in me that wants to be in control, but I also want to protect my husband and daughters.

While I realize it's not entirely in my control, but you can be certain I'll do my best to make sure the girls don't go through this with us. I think it's one of our jobs as parents to try to put our lives in order so they can go on with theirs as quickly as possible. One generation suffering through this is enough.

Friday, August 28, 2009

H1N1 -- To Vaccinate or Not

The letter from the school district came home today. The message was simple. Please vaccinate your children against the H1N1 flu. The message echoes everything else I've heard from medical professionals.

I have read every article about the H1N1 vaccine. I mean every, single thing I can find. I have to admit I really don't want to vaccinate the girls. This is an untested vaccine they are rushing to market a month earlier than planned. The research on it is mixed. It might work, but if the virus mutates at all, then it won't work. And, let's face it odds are good the virus will mutate.

As with all flu vaccines, scientists make their best guess about the strain that will infect everyone. How many, many times do we find out later that the annual flu shot was ineffective because the strain of the flu we all tried to prevent was different from the one that eventually invaded? Too many times that I can remember.

I hate this.

I'm not an anti-vaccine crusader. The girls are fully vaccinated. They even received the Chicken Pox vaccine. On another day I'll go into why I really dislike that vaccine, but today we'll stick to H1N1.

If we decide to have them vaccinated, I'll worry about the long-term effects and undiscovered side effects. If something happens later, I'll always wonder if it's related to the vaccine.

If we don't have them vaccinated, and they get sick, I'll regret that decision.

Either way it stinks. It's a lot of worry about an epidemic that may or may not develop. It's a lot of worry about an illness we face down every year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Three Things That Made Us Laugh

The girls do these things that we find funny, even though we wouldn't tell them. Here are the most recent top three things that made us laugh.

1. I was mad at the brunette twin for something (who know what now), and while I was reprimanding her, she made a funny face and moved her mouth to mock me. I dragged her off the couch to her bed. I was so mad at her. She started crying, loudly. My husband, who didn't see what happened, and I laughed when I demonstrated her funny faces to him after she was in bed. It still makes me laugh now that I'm not so mad at her.

2. The girls have a song with the phrase "Yippee Cay Yeah" in it. Whenever they say it in their sweet, giggly kindergarten voices, I kind of smirk. Think about how Bruce Willis ended that phrase in the Die Hard movies and you'll know why I smirk. It just goes to show that different generations interpret phrases differently.

3. The brunette twin made a friend on the bus ride to school. She declared her to be her best friend. A little while later she said, "Mom, what is my best friend's name again?"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Just Get Back to School

I'm more than tired of the back to school stories on the news already. It's not the "how to make the most of the end of summer stories" that I find annoying. It's the "we're having a back to school rally to get families excited about going back to school" stories that grate on my nerves.

Since when do we have to rally families to convince them it's a good thing to send their children to school? Since when do we need parades and fun fests to talk to families about why school is important? Since when do we need school officials to go door to door to remind families school is starting and to encourage parents to send their children?

Really, it's enough. What do these families think their children are going to do without an education? What good comes from letting your children skip school? We spend a lot of time reading articles and listening to radio reports about the importance of going to school about this time of the year. Lately, it just aggravates me.

When we were younger, going to school was not optional. You showed up every day unless you were sick. You had your homework done. You did not cause trouble in class. It was your main responsibility. You had no choice.

We carry the same philosophy with the girls. It's not an optional activity to fill time between bad daytime TV shows. If they want to be self-supporting adults some day, they need an education. It's not up for discussion.

How does that thought process work? Some adult sits around saying, "I don't think we're going to send the kids to school this year. They can just hang out on the front porch." How does that sound like a good idea?

I think the schools should say, "Okay, here's the deal. If you're kid isn't in school, it's not our problem. We're going to stop spending so much money trying to convince you it's a good idea to send your children to school. We're going to take that money and spend it to improve the educations of the children who show up and want to be here."

Okay, I realize that is unrealistic, but it's my imaginary scenario, so I'm going with it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Glued to Golf

We are doing something this afternoon we normally don't do. We're watching golf -- specifically the Solheim Cup. It's a busy Saturday, so we're not just sitting in front of the TV, but kind of using it as background noise. Whenever we hear a cheer, we go to see what is happening.

I could say we're watching it because the girls are in golf lessons and we want them to see professional women golfers. I could say we watching to support the American team or that we're watching because it's being played in a Chicago suburb. None of this is true, though.

We are watching because it is being played on a private course built by a gentleman and his wife. Seriously. Jerry Rich and his wife built a world-class golf course in his back yard. His property also include a full-size Tilt A Whirl and antique car collection.

After reading all the newspaper articles, we realize it's so cool we just have to watch. And, if it inspires the girls to take additional golf lessons, all the better.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First Again

The blond twin was born first, which is about the last time she could claim to be the first one to do anything. Oh, she did eat solid food before her sister, but only my husband and I consider that an accomplishment.

For anything that matters to the girls -- crawling, walking, getting teeth, losing teeth, riding a tricycle, riding a bike with training wheels, riding a bike without training wheels, swimming, skating -- the brunette twin had always been first.

Until today.

The girls have been trying to learn to tie their shoes. They will sit for a long time and try to do it. They give each other pointers and help each other remember the steps.

This morning the girls were getting ready to go to school. I told them to go downstairs and put on their shoes. I said I would tie their shoes after I came down. Since asking them to put on their shoes always buys me a few minutes to get ready, I like to use that to keep them busy. I can always use a couple of extra minutes to get ready.

Today, the blond twin came up after a few minutes just glowing. She said, "Hey Mom, notice anything?" Then she held up her foot. She had double-tied her shoe.

She practically glowed. She giggled and squealed. She explained how she did it step-by-step. She sat on the bed so she could bring her shoe up and demonstrate each step.

The brunette twin was right behind her. She was so excited for the blond twin. You'd think she would be jealous, but she wasn't. The brunette twin asked her sister to show her how to tie her shoes. The blond twin spent some time trying to help, but we ran out of time. The brunette twin said, "I'm never going to learn to tie my shoes." Clearly frustrated, she sulked off out of the house.

As we walked to the bus, the blond twin said, "Don't worry Sissy. I'll teach you how to tie your shoes after school." The brunette twin smiled and said, "It would be good if you showed me how to do it because you are really good at it."

I think the blond twin's smile will stay on her face all day. Finally, she can claim to do something before her sister. Even for twins who are not really competitive, it's a big deal.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Crayons and Other School Supplies

Since so many people asked, here's an update on the 16-count box of Crayons. I never did find them in a store, but when I vented on the blog, several kind people sent me links for online sources. I checked out a few, decided it wasn't worth the shipping and handling charges and moved on. I was perfectly fine sending them to school with the 24-count Crayons. It's just the kind of wild, rule-breaker I am.

One day, my wise and wonderful husband came home with four 16-count boxes of Crayons. Using the kind of out-of-the-box thinking most companies talk about, he didn't look for the Crayons in the school supply aisle. He was in the local Walgreen's and decided to take a walk down the games/toys aisle. There he found the Crayons. Once again he saved the day.

Yesterday all the supplies went to school with the girls. Their backpacks weighed nearly as much as they do. I kept waiting for one of them to fall backwards while we waited for the bus.

In the backpack after school we found a list of other supplies the teacher needs for the classroom. I realize that even in our well-funded school district teachers don't have enough money for everything they want or need, so I'm okay with the extra supplies. Plus, it's not like she wants anything outrageous. Here's the list:

  • Play Dough
  • Zip Lock baggies
  • Dry Erase markers
  • Paper Towels
  • Water Color Paints

Some of these things we already have in the house. (And, let me tell you how happy I will be to get some of the unopened Play Dough out of the house.) Others we'll buy at Target next time we're there. Nothing is expensive or hard to find, so we're happy to contribute. The good news is the school supply rush is over until next year. Let the learning begin!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Finally It's the First Day of School

Today couldn't come quickly enough. Last week we toured the girls' new school for an hour. You might not think you can spend an hour in a school where all the rooms are locked, but we did.

First we picked up their room assignments and bus information. Then we walked the school. The brunette twin had all her questions answered about where the bus drops them off, where their classroom is located, how to find the bathrooms, etc. She felt much better after she had all the information she needed.

Then the real fun started. "Is today our first day of Kindergarten?" was our morning question. We had to count down each day. We filled their backpacks with supplies and talked about kindergarten.

This morning was crazy. Normally I'll take them to the bus about 8:00 a.m. Today school didn't start until 11:00 a.m. Yes, it is one of those "come to school just long enough to get the state money" days. We spent the morning waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. We did their hair, pulled it out and redid it. We ate breakfast and two snacks. We paced anxiously around the house. We checked the time every 10 minutes until it was FINALLY time to go to the bus stop. They skipped to the bus stop.

I thought about skipping home. School has started and all is well.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It does get easier

People always tell me that raising children goes get easier. I realized today that we're at a point where I can honestly say it is a bit easier.

We went to visit some family members who live about two hours away. This morning I told the girls to get up and get dressed and brush their teeth. They packed their own swimming bags with their suits, cover-ups and towels. They played while we got ready.

A few years ago we would have packed the night before to make sure we didn't forget anything. The list would have included twelve jars of food (3 per meal, per child x 2 meals), a change of clothes, ten diapers, diaper rash cream, wipes, toys, 10 bottles, snacks and a stroller. Of course, the girls couldn't help us with any of it.

In the morning we would have fed them, changed them, dressed them, and put them back in their cribs to play while we got ready. Then, before leaving the house, we would have fed them again, changed their diapers, and headed out the door. If we were lucky, this would have happened without us having the change either girls' clothing.

I look at old photos and remember that, at the moment the photo was taken, we thought the girls were so big. We marvelled at their ability to crawl, eat Cheerios with their own hands, and say simple words.

I never thought we'd be at a place where they would make it easy to get out the door. I kind of like the new independence they have developed. Of course, in a few more years they will be completely capable of doing most things for themselves. I wonder if I'll feel the same way then.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Most casual observers think the blond twin is the dominant twin. It's a perfectly reasonable observation because too often the brunette twin gives in to her sister. It doesn't matter if it's a question about choosing candy or playing a game. We're constantly telling the brunette twin not to give in to her sister.

What people don't see is the morning routine in this house. Most mornings the brunette twin wakes up under protest. It's not her fault she's awake and she's not interested in getting out of bed. The blond twin, in contrast, jumps out of bed with fresh batteries. She gets dressed and brushes her hair before any of us knows she's awake.

This is when she starts her duties as the brunette twin's lady-in-waiting. This morning was a perfect example. The brunette twin couldn't bring herself to roll out of bed to choose her clothes. The blond twin went into her sister's closet and started putting together outfits. She brought them to the brunette twin, still in her bed, for the brunette twin's review. When the brunette twin shook her head no, the blond twin went back to pick out another outfit. Once the brunette twin chose an outfit, the blond twin helped her get dressed and comb her hair.

The blond twin's lady-in-waiting duties extend past just helping the brunette twin get dressed. The blond twin is the one to get out the crayons and coloring books, and most often the one doing the most cleaning up. Occasionally, she also feeds her sister food the brunette twin doesn't want to eat. Yesterday the brunette twin decided she didn't want to eat her nectarines, so she asked the blond twin to feed her. I said, "No, you are not feeding your sister." After much protesting, I let her.

As a lady-in-waiting, she is also her sister's constant companion and trusted confidant. They whisper in each other's ears and giggle about their secrets.

It's a role the blond twin was born to play. She loves taking care of her sister, and in return, her sister gives in to her. I'm happy with it because I don't have to fight with the brunette twin to get out of bed and get ready in the morning.

Someday it will change, but for now, as long as it works for them, it works for me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

16 Crayons

Okay, I give up. No, really. I just surrender. Our school supply list includes two boxes of 16-count Crayons per girl. No, not 24-count, which I can find everywhere. They want 16-count. After checking multiple stores and web sites, I still cannot find 16-count Crayons.

I'm done. They are getting two boxes of 24-count Crayons each. If the school wants 16-count Crayons, they will just have to supply them.

Whew, I feel better now. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Back-to-school Dread

The girls go back to school on August 17 and I already dread the time between now and then. The girls are starting kindergarten in a new school this year. Lots of their friends will be there, so they will know some of the children. They are completely ready academically, so I'm more worried they will be bored than I am that they won't be able to keep up.

The problem is that the brunette twin hates change. She spent the first semester last year upset that she was in a new school. Some mornings she would just whine on her way to the new school. Other days she shed tears because she wanted to go back to the farm school. By January she loved it, but until then there was a lot of whining, crying, etc.

Now she breaks into tears whenever we talk about kindergarten. It's not that she won't have friends or won't be able to do the work. She's worried about all the things she doesn't know. The routine is unknown and it's making us all crazy.

Will the teacher know my name?
Where is the bathroom?
What do we do every day?
What is our good morning song?
How will I find my room?
What will we learn?

Add to this the fact that they are taking the bus and she's in a panic. She wants to know who will help them on the bus. Every day we have the same conversation.

What happens if they get on the wrong bus?
Can they ask the bus driver questions?
What happens if they are on the bus and have to go to the bathroom?
When they get to school, will the teachers help them find their classroom?
Who will make sure they get on the right bus to come home?
Will I be waiting for them at the bus stop?
What happens if I'm late?
What happens if the bus is early?

These conversations require a gentle touch. We have to remember that she is afraid of the unknown. We have to remember that she doesn't like change. We also have to remember that she is like this for most things unknown. We just went through this a few weeks ago when we were on a relaxing boat ride. Until all her questions were answered, she wouldn't relax.

I know it will be okay. I really do. She just needs a few weeks in the new school to understand her new surroundings and routine. I just don't know if we're all going to make it until she finally settles in to the new school.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

2009 Quilt Garden Tour

If there are two hobbies I love it's quilting and gardening. For several years I have wanted to go to northern Indiana to see the Quilt Garden Tour. This year, we finally made it.

I admit I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The concept is that there are nearly two dozen sites on a self-guided tour. Some are flower gardens planted to look like quilt blocks. Others are painted murals on buildings. It's all free.

We didn't see all of the sites, but we saw enough that I'm hooked for next year. The sites were well-marked with signs. At each site, a map was available so you could find the other sites. Each garden was beautiful. The murals were outside and easily accessible.

Perhaps best of all, we not only saw some beautiful gardens, we discovered a new potential weekend getaway. Elkhart, Indiana is a lovely town with beautiful parks and a nice river. We also spent some time at the American Countryside Farmers Market. It's sort of an indoor farmer's market with lots of Amish products. It was fun to walk through the different booths and we went home with bags of stuff -- mostly food.

This trip is one we couldn't have made a few years ago when the girls were younger. The diapers, strollers, food, etc. would have overwhelmed us with too much stuff to pack for an overnight getaway. Now that they are five, it's a bit easier to take trips like this.

We did this as a day trip this year. It's an easy drive from the Chicago suburbs. Next year we might make a weekend of it. There are several hotels with pools and lots of cute restaurants. If we have a pool, hotel room and some outdoor activities, we'll all be very happy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Better Off Without Us

When will I learn that the girls can play together quite nicely for hours without us? As soon as either of us interferes, the fighting and whining starts.

I saw this in action today. The girls were playing nicely for a while. Daddy said, "Is anyone hungry for a snack?" As soon as he spoke, it was over.

They started jockeying for position. "I'm first" is the new cry in our house. It doesn't matter what it is, they start jockeying for position. Then they started fighting about their snack choices. Finally, we had to discuss who was sitting next to Daddy.

When Daddy played Frisbee with them, they fought over who went first and who threw the Frisbee best. A casual game of Frisbee became a point-by-point competition.

When we were tired of the arguing, we sent them to their room. An hour later Daddy went to check on them because it was so quiet.

The girls were playing nicely together -- no fighting, no whining, no pouting. He came downstairs amazed at what was going on in their bedroom.

Me? I just made a mental note to leave them alone more often so we all have more peace and quiet.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Yes, They Are Twins

If there is one thing I despise, it's people who say this: "How can they be twins? One is blond and one is brunette." It's even better when they sound completely shocked and start comparing the girls. "Well, the brunette twin is a little taller, isn't she?" "The blond twin has blue eyes, doesn't she?" It's like a list of qualities about our children that we already know about.

It takes everything I have not to make a sarcastic comment about how stupid they sound.

It's not like I start these conversations. Yesterday we were at a beach when a woman said, "Oh, those girls are beautiful. Are they friends?" I said, "They are twins." And then it started. "Oh, they cannot be twins. They don't look a like. One has brown hair and one is blond."

A girlfriend with a boy/girl twin set never has this problem. Another friend with identical twins never has this problem. Although, I have to say that my friend with the boy/girl twins gets another stupid question all the time. Are you ready? "Are they identical?" Yes, people ask her if her boy/girl twins are identical. Sometimes she says, "yes" just because she is too tired to explain the difference between fraternal and identical twins.

Why is it some people don't understand the concept of twins? It seems like something so basic that it shouldn't be a conversation point any more. I don't say this as the mother of twins. I saw it as a person of reasonable intelligence.

I read recently that the number of multiples keeps increasing -- for a variety of reasons. As people get more used to seeing twins, you would think they would be more used to the idea that some twins don't looks alike.

Of course, in my darker moments, I just assume these people lack functioning brain cells, so I talk to them the way I would a toddler. Luckily, those moments pass quickly. I'd hate to think most of the population walking around is a bunch of idiots.