Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Jealous One

Oreo is a jealous dog.  He wants the girls' attention all the time.  If they are not playing with him or petting him, Oreo sits close to them.  When they eat breakfast, he sits between their chairs and the breakfast bar.  If they play Wii, he sits on the floor near them.  He cannot be close enough to them.  They are his girls. 

Since the girls are off on break, they had several play dates at our house.  This made Oreo a bit crazy.  When they closed the door to play in their room, he sat outside whining for a few minutes.  It wasn't a bark and it wasn't a howl.  It was a completely different sound that can only really be described as a whine.

When they went into the basement to play dolls, he paced the house trying to figure out how to go down with them.  When he finally did calm down, he plopped himself in the middle of the living room rug -- right above where they were playing.

Even attention from me and my husband didn't make it any better.  He wanted his girls and wasn't happy until their play date left.

When we brought him home nearly four month ago, we really hoped he would get along with the girls.  I guess we have our answer now.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Most Wonderful Two Weeks of the Year

***This was originally posted on the Chicago Moms Blog***

We’re starting my favorite two weeks of the year. It’s not just Christmas and New Year’s that make it special. It’s not just that the girls are going to be home on break. It’s that my husband is on vacation for the next two weeks. My husband has a lot of vacation, a perk that comes with marking your 25th anniversary with the same company. He has been taking the last two weeks of the year off for as long as we’ve been married. It’s completely wonderful.

We try to have some fun while he’s off. This year we’ll take our annual trek downtown to see the lights and sights. We’re going to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the Christmas trees and the Jim Hensen exhibit. We’ll do lot of outdoor things like hiking in the snow or ice skating in a local park — weather permitting, of course. We’ll celebrate the holidays and watch too many bowl games.

The best part of his time off is the other stuff we get done. The “let’s get organized” bits that we accomplish during these two weeks makes it so much easier to move back into the post-holidays school/work/life routine. We’ll do some stock-up shopping so we can quickly make lunches when school resumes. We’ll take down the Christmas decorations and put the house back in order. We’ll do some preliminary work on our taxes, which are always complicated as I’m self-employed. We’re planning a pretty big backyard project for this summer, so he’ll spend time at City Hall figuring out what permits we need. We’ll try to get the paperwork completed and back so we can start processing the permits.

I realize most people don’t get excited knowing their building permits are being processed and the garage freezer is full, but it gives us a sense of security. Even if we cannot get out to the store due to the winter weather sure to hit in January, we will have food. Even if we have to alter the schedule a bit due to the spring weather, the project will be ready to start.

It will only last a few weeks, but for those few weeks into 2011, we’ll be organized and ahead of the to-do list. Just the thought of it gives me hope for a less stressful 2011. Oh, I realize it won’t last, but I’ll take the feeling while I can get it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On the Day After, She Rests

The blond twin must be exhausted now that Christmas is done.  She spent the last week making presents and cards for everyone.  She wrapped up homemade presents for each of us, using everything from colorful napkins to wrapping paper she made herself.  She wrote and illustrated Christmas cards for each of us.

She finally guilted her sister into wrapping a present for her.  The brunette twin took to candy canes off the tree and wrapped them.  She might not have put as much thought and effort into her gift, but the blond twin was thrilled to finally have a gift under the tree from her sister.

Of course, they had gifts for each other stashed in their closets, but those didn't count.  The blond twin wanted her sister to make her a gift.  I didn't see a handmade card from the brunette twin to the blond twin.  Still, the blond twin didn't seem to care.

Now the blond twin can take a break.  At least until Valentine's Day anyway.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Setting the Christmas Morning Expectations

We were talking about Christmas morning when I reminded the girls, "You know on Christmas morning we're going to have to let Oreo out before we open presents."

As I like to remind them daily, "You wanted a dog and having a dog changes a lot of things." They didn't realize having a dog meant they would have to wait before opening their presents.

The girls looked horrified for a moment before I reminded them that the first thing we do every morning is take out Oreo.  Our yard does not have a fence, so we put him on his leash and walk him in the yard.

He gets a few minutes outside to make up for the hours he spends in the crate each night.  It is really just a few minutes, but once the girls realized this would delay opening their presents, their eyes opened wide.

Of course, they do realize that Oreo's needs cannot wait until they are done opening their presents.  They understand it in theory anyway.  We'll see how Christmas morning really goes.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dashing Through the Decorations

We took the train downtown last night to see the Christmas decorations.  Our "must see" list is pretty much the same from year to year at this point.  If we want to enjoy ourselves, we have to remember that the girls are still too young to drag them too many places.

We spent about three hours downtown and certainly made the best use of our time.  When we got on the train, it felt like we had just arrived.  I started feeling like we didn't spend enough time anywhere, but these are Christmas decorations.  How much time are you really going to spend admiring Chicago's Christmas tree.

In the time we were downtown, we visited Macy's to see the big tree and windows.  We wanted to eat at the Walnut Room, but the line was way too long.  We did get to see the Macy's Christmas fairy, though, so the girls were happy.  This was the third year we saw the fairy.  They didn't care if they ate at the Walnut Room, but they did care about seeing the fairy.

Once we realized we weren't eating at the Walnut Room, we set off to find another restaurant.  It was harder than you might think to find a sit down restaurant with a kid's menu, so we ended up at a burger joint.  It wasn't the Christmas dinner we imagined, but it was fun.

The German Market and Chicago Christmas tree were fun, although crowded.  There was a street performer dressed as an all-white angel who stood perfectly still.  She entertained people without moving.  The girls talked a lot about how she stood so still for so long.

We also saw the puppet bike performer.  This is a goofy thing to explain.  The person created a theater on the back of his bike.  He rides to different corners and does puppet shows.  These aren't shows with a story.  These are shows of puppets dancing to goofy songs.  It's really funny, even though it might not sound like it.  The girls just giggled.

As we waited for the train home, a little girl pointed at us and said, "Hey, they are going home too."  Another family sat across us on the way downtown.  They were headed home as well after a quick, but fun evening.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Who Has Time for Holiday Entertaining?

This was originally posted to The Chicago Moms.

A girlfriend called to say she was reading a leading magazine and was frustrated with all the stories about how to throw the perfect holiday party. She said, “Who are these women and how do they have enough time to throw the perfect party every year?”

I know what she means. I stopped looking at November and December issues of the women’s magazine years ago. I find all the “perfect Thanksgiving” and “host the most wonderful holiday open house” stories a little depressing.

Between the holiday activities for the school, Girl Scouts, library, church and community center, we’re lucky we can find time on the calendar to decorate, shop, wrap gifts, send cards and see the relatives. Host a big Christmas party for dozens of family and friends? I don’t know where it would fit on the calendar.

First we’d have to find an open weekend date. We haven’t had a “do nothing” weekend date since before Halloween. Even if we could find an open date, then we’d have to find time to organize a party. I realize we could outsource most of it, but we cannot outsource all of it. Finally, we’d have to have the party. Given that our friends and family have calendars that look like ours, I don’t know how they’d find time to attend.

Would it be fun? I’m sure it would. Every time we all get together it’s fun.

Still, I think it would be more fun if we had the party in January or February or March — after the holiday activities have slowed down. party when weekend dates are a bit more available and the winter doldrums set in seems like the way to go. We’ll bring family and friends together at a time when we could all use a party. I see a Super Bowl Tailgate or March Madness Open House in our future. Who knows? Maybe we’ll do both.

Monday, December 20, 2010

And neither one noticed

We wrapped the girls' Christmas presents yesterday.  We stacked boxes under the tree and waited for them to come home.  We talked about who would notice first and wondered if they could resist shaking the boxes.

Who noticed first?  Well, we're still waiting to find out.  Neither one of them commented on the boxes under the tree.  They didn't look at the tags nor seem to realize the boxes were there.

All that parental anticipation for nothing. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Oreo's Height Problem

In the nearly four months we've had Oreo, we have been able to train him to be a better household member.  He doesn't jump on people any more.  He sits when asked.  He is better on the leash.  We have one problem, though, that no amount of training will help.

Oreo is full-grown now.  His height is set.  Perhaps the most delicate way to describe the problem we have is to say that Oreo is an unfortunate height.  To state the obvious, he is a dog and dogs sniff.  Whenever Oreo sniff someone, he starts in places he shouldn't sniff.

It's not that he's trying to be inappropriate; it's just that those places are exactly the same height as he is.  All he does is stand there and, for most adults, he's now in a bad place.  Or, as a friend's daughter said, "Oreo keeps goosing me."

I'm not sure what we'll do about it because his height won't change.  We try to keep him from sniffing people, but it's such a natural act for a dog that it's hard to get him to stop.  We are working on it and, luckily, we have understanding family members and friends who think it's funny -- for now anyway.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Will I Be Big Like You?

The brunette twin already has body issues and it bothers both of us a lot.  She's obsessed with being thin.  It might be because she's the tallest (aka the biggest) in her class.  It might be because her sister is so "don't you feed that girl" thin.  It might be because all the girls on Disney shows are scary thin.  In any case, she spends a lot of time worrying about whether or not she is still thin.

In her innocence, she recently asked me, "Will I be thin like my cousin or will I be big like you?"  I assured her she would be thin like the cousin she's most likely to grow up to look like.  We have a photo of this cousin when she was about three years old.  If we show it to anyone, they say, "What a cute photo of the brunette twin."  We're pretty sure she'll look a lot like this cousin when she grows up.

What I wanted to say was "You know, Mommy didn't start out this big.  It took five years of infertility drugs and other medications to help me get this way."  I wanted to tell her that I spent months feeling so sick and tired that I could hardly move.  I wanted to tell her how sore my stomach and hips were from all the shots I gave myself and others gave me.  I wanted to tell her that for years Mommy didn't wear anything except elastic waist pants because her stomach and hips were so bruised and swollen from all the medications that the pressure from regular pants would make her cry.  I wanted to tell her that Mommy is working on being healthier every day, but it's harder than it looks. I wanted to say that if I had an hour or two every day to spend at the gym, I could get back to "wedding weight" in faster time. 

I didn't say any of that, of course.  She's seven.  All I want her to know is she's beautiful as she is and help her develop a better body image.  Some day when she's older we'll have a different conversation.  My baggage can stay in my head for now. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Walk with the Nice Old Lady

Overheard on the way into church...

Daddy:  "I'll carry the big box into church.  You two get in front of me."

Brunette Twin:  "I'll carry the little box into church."

Blond Twin:  "What am I going to carry?"

Brunette Twin:  "Nothing.  We got it.  Just go walk with the nice, old lady in front of us."

Blond Twin:  "You mean Mom?"

Brunette Twin:  Can't speak.  Just laughs.

Mom:  "I heard that."

Monday, December 13, 2010

This Year's Christmas Gift Flub

Every year I manage to screw up a Christmas present.  A couple of years ago my husband brought his golf club in from the front porch.  I thought it was coming UPS, but it came USPS.  See, the difference is UPS doesn't deliver on Saturday, but USPS does.

This year my screw-up has been smaller.  I ordered these funky night lights that are like bubble lights, but with glitter and stars.  The purple one came in the mail a couple of weeks ago.  The pink one came in the mail a couple of days ago.  I left it on the breakfast bar after I opened the package.  I forgot about it.

When we came back from the bus, the brunette twin picked up the night light and said, "Hey, this is cool."

My first thought was to let her take it upstairs right away, but I resisted.  I put it with its twin in the closet.  I'm going to wrap-up both night lights and put them under the tree.  When the girls open the presents, the brunette twin will recognize it, but I'll say, "You haven't seen it before."

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Breaking the Black Clothing Barrier

Since the girls were little, I had a simple clothing rule.  They don't wear black clothing.  I don't put them in black shirts, pants, skirts, dresses or coats.  I figure that they will spend their teenage years and beyond wearing black, so while they are children they should wear lots and lots of color.

If you think about it, babies and children are the only ones who can wear bright pink, orange and green summer outfits.  When children wear a crazy mix of bright colors, people think it's cute.  When you get to be a teen or older, you look like you cannot match your outfits. 

I've taken that idea from concept to implementation.  I put them in the most colorful, brightest, craziest outfits possible.  They wear bright sunshine colors in the summer and jewel-tones in the winter.  They are always eye-catching.

This week, we're breaking the black clothing barrier.  I bought the girls a black shirt and black pants for the church Christmas pageant.  It's crazy, I know.  For theatrical production celebrating the birth of the light of many lives, our girls are wearing black.

The incredibly talented man who creates our church pageant is producing a puppet show this year.  The kids are creating puppets, so they will be puppeteers.  As puppeteers, they will wear black.  It's as good a reason as any to break the black clothing barrier.   

It had to happen sooner or later. I'm just glad it's a one time pageant so I can try to hang on to the bright is better clothing theory for as long as possible.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Twelve Down

The girls have so much stuff it's hard to control it.  We have very generous friends who pass down all the toys their children have outgrown.  We have very generous relatives who spoil the girls.  This results in way too much stuff in our house.

Usually I require the girls participate whenever I clean out their stuff.  I want them to understand that when some stuff comes in, some stuff needs to go out. 

Three weeks ago, I decided I had spent enough time trying to get the girls to clean up their stuffed animals.  I went into their room while they were in school and reassigned a dozen stuffed animals.  By the time they got home, everything was done.

In the days that have gone by since then, the girls haven't even noticed that the stuffed animals are gone.  We always say they have so much stuff that they wouldn't know if anything was missing.  Now we know it's true.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Seeds of Doubt are in Place

The girls are at that transition age when princesses and stuffed animals are on the way out, as are other childhood fantasies.  We see notice this more and more during the Christmas season. 

Even though several children have told them that there is no Santa Claus (GASP), the girls refuse to believe them.  The brunette twin has started questioning things that she didn't last year.  When we watched the classic show "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," the brunette twin spent a lot of time saying, "Is that true?"  She also asks a lot of logistics questions concerning Santa.  She needs to know how he gets down the chimney since we have a glass enclosure instead of standard, opening fireplace doors.  She alternates between questioning Santa's existence and defending him. 

The girls are already moving beyond princesses and fairy tales.  They started waivering on the princesses around Halloween.  The blond twin was so excited to be Belle for Halloween until the day she came home from school in tears.  The other girls made fun of her costume by saying, "Princesses are for babies."  The blond twin came home just so sad about her costume.  Since then, the girls have gone back and forth about whether or not princesses are for babies.

Now we're questioning everything magical about Christmas.  It's a downward slope from here.  First we question it, then we start putting all the pieces together, then we're out of the little girl innocence and into the tween years.

I see where this is going and I don't like it. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

More Letters to Santa

You can tell the girls are looking at all the Christmas inserts every Sunday.  In her letter to Santa, the brunette twin asks for things she hadn't even played with yet.

Dear Santa:

We hope you have a great Chrismas and that we are great and so are our parints. 

We have a lot of toys, but we would like some more.  Please can I have a Nintendo DS and a Nintendo SI?  Tell me with a present if I was good. 

I would love a princess dress please and some green earrings, but strawbereys if you can find them.  I have glovs with holes in the fingers and like mittens, but kind of like gloves please and a manacure set.

Can I get a guitar and an Ipod and a head set that gos with it, please Santa?

Love, love, love, love, love, love Brunette Twin and Blond Twin

Friday, December 3, 2010

Letters to Santa

While we were putting up some decorations downstairs, the girls were supposed to be putting up their little tree in their bedroom.  When they came down, they announced they had written letters to Santa -- all by themselves.  Here is the blond twin's letter:

Dear Santa:

I have been good to my Mom and Dad and I have been helpful.  I no you are real and I am thankful for you when I hear you're there.  I love you and I hope I have not been on the notty list.  I hope I get a little toys because some kids don't h ave any toys and I once helped them by giving them some of my toys. 

Love, love, love Blond Twin and love, love, love Brunette Twin

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Rookie Shopping Error

We belong to UPromise.  We set up the account shortly after the girls were born. College is going to be expensive, and we're happy to take all the help we can get.

Since I am a big fan of online shopping, we benefit a lot from our UPromise account.  This year, though, I made a rookie shopping error.  I forgot to shop through our UPromise account.  All our Christmas presents are en route or in the house.  I only remembered to shop through UPromise for the last few orders.

I realize it's only a little bit here and there that I missed, but every little bit helps.  Oh well, maybe next year....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas through Oreo's Eyes

You know how they say that Christmas is best viewed through a child's eyes?  This year we're having fun viewing it through Oreo's eyes.

He isn't sure he likes all the animated, singing decorations in the house.  We collected the Hallmark snowman series for the past couple of years.  The girls love the songs and books.  They like to go around starting the animated figures and laughing. 

This drives Oreo crazy.  The first day we had them out, he'd bark and growl at the snowmen.  Once in a while he'd just stand there staring, like he was waiting for it to start again.  I walked in the living room to find him sitting, quietly and alertly, staring at our Frosty decoration.  It's light activated, so it goes off randomly.  The snowman lifts his hat and sings a bit.  Oreo is trying to figure out how it all works.

He has reacted to the outdoor decorations as well.  The first time he saw the neighbor's nativity scene, he stood and growled.  He was protecting me from the plastic people, and he was doing a good job.  I had to drag him away from the display.  Another neighbor has a bunch of blinking lights with music.  Oreo just stood there staring and moving his head back and forth.  He tilted his head like he was trying to figure it all out.  He didn't want to leave, but I was cold, so I dragged him down the block.

Oreo wasn't fond of the wrapping paper rolls we had out to wrap some packages last Saturday.  He just barked and barked and growled at each roll.  I feel much safer knowing he'll protect us from the evil wrapping paper rolls.

A few days into the Christmas season and he still doesn't like the animated decorations, but he has stopped barking at them.  Now when they start, he just stares.  He still doesn't trust those snowmen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just Sad and Mad at Things Out of My Control

My Dad is not in great shape these days.  He's on oxygen full-time now and he's looking fragile.  

When I see Dad like this it makes me sad and mad.  I'm sad because he's falling apart so quickly.  He's not really old enough to be in such bad shape.  I'm sad because our girls won't really know the Grampa who roller skated and biked all over the neighborhood.  I'm sad that every time I leave him, I wonder if I'll ever see him again.  I'm sad that my father is suffering, even though he doesn't complain.  I'm sad that my mother is afraid to leave my father for fear of what will happen to him.  She doesn't want him out of her sight and I cannot say I blame her. 

At the same time, I'm mad.  I'm mad because my husband and I will be married 13 years in a few months, yet our girls are only seven years old.  If we had been able to conceive when we wanted to, our girls would be 12 or so.  They would have known the Grampa the other cousins knew.  I'm mad that my parents chose to smoke packs and packs of cigarettes each day for more than half a century.  Yes, I know it's hard to quit, but we begged them for years to stop smoking.  The effects of all that smoking are showing up in their health these days.  (Mom's not in great shape, but she's better than Dad, which is the best thing you can say these days.)   I'm mad because there isn't anything I can really do to make it better for my parents and our girls.

The girls have been talking about Grampa a lot this weekend.  Part of the conversation is about the things Grampa cannot do, such as go ice skating with them.  Part of it is about how we need to be careful with Grampa so we don't hurt him.  A lot of this conversation centers around Oreo.  We managed to teach him not to jump on anyone just in time for Thanksgiving dinner, but Oreo still managed to injure Dad.  The dog banged his head on Dad's hand.  Dad now has a huge, dark bruise on his hand.  Part of the conversation has been about the upcoming Cinderella's Ball.  In the past, Daddy and Grampa took the girls to the father/daughter dance.  This year, we don't know if Grampa will be able to attend.  The girls are upset about this and, at the same time, they seem to understand that Grampa isn't well.  He might not be in the hospital any more, but he's still sick.

I don't want the girls' most vivid memories of my father to be those of an old man carrying an oxygen tank around.  Yet, that's what will happen now.  There is no going back at this point.

I'm tired because I know I cannot control the things that are making me sad and mad.  I just want to figure out how to work through it all so I'm neither sad nor mad. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Losing Battle

Two months into the battle, my war on the blond twin's ear infections is a complete failure.  My husband took her to the pediatrician yesterday because she was up two nights in a row crying about her right ear hurting.  Of course, she has an ear infection.

I know it's not anything we've done, but I still feel like we are failing her.  She has spent the past couple of months taking a nasal spray and an antihistamine every day.  As soon as she sniffles, she get a decongestant.  It's a lot of daily medicine for an otherwise healthy, little girl.

I used peroxide in her ears every time she showers and the minute she complains about ear pain.  She takes extra Vitamin D every day.  We have a humidifier going nightly in their room.  Now I wonder what the point of all of it was.  The pediatrician said there was really nothing else we could do.  Some kids are just prone to ear infections.  We pulled out all the stops and she still has an ear infection at the same time as usual.

The next stop is another appointment with the ENT.  I see ear tubes in her future, which might not be a bad thing at this point.  I don't really want her to go through the surgery, but I also don't want her to be on antibiotics for six months again.

It's just a losing battle.  I'd like to surrender, but for the blond twin's sake, it can never happen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Adventure Walking Oreo

It's raining here, but at least it's warm.  It's nearly 60 degrees, which is crazy warm for late November in Chicago.  My husband is home, but I said, "I'll walk the dog in the rain tonight and you get to walk him when it's 20 below."  I thought I had the better part of that deal.  I'll take warm and rainy over bitter cold any day.

I was at the corner of our block -- about four houses away -- when it all went wrong.  Oreo went in one direction and I went in the other.  I yanked the leash only to have it come back at me -- minus Oreo.  Somehow the leash disconnected from his choker chain.  I stood there thinking I should run home and get help, but that seemed like a really bad idea.  The girls would be hysterical once I walked in the door without Oreo.  I decided to try to find him myself before running home. 

Oreo ran across the street into the neighbors' yards.  I went after him with my flashlight.  There I am walking through the unfenced yards with a flashlight calling the dog.  I kept thinking, "Well, at least if someone calls the police I'll have help looking for Oreo."

I gave up and went back out to the street.  It was one of those moments when I wished I lived in a neighborhood with lots of streetlights.  Do you know what it is like to look for a black and white dog in the dark?  Suddenly I heard his choker collar clanking against his dog tags.  He flashed by me and ran head-first into a moving car. 

The woman driving the car stopped, jumped out and started crying.  She was sure she killed Oreo.  For a moment, so was I. He was on the ground, not moving.  I kept thinking, "Crap.  I killed the dog and we don't even have a decent picture of him.  The girls won't even remember having a dog."

I just stood there for a moment contemplating my next step.  Everything flashing through my mind seemed like a really bad idea.  Suddenly, he jumped up and started running down the block.  He was stunned, but not injured.  He ran about two blocks when he cornered two young Asian women walking near an apartment complex.  Neither one spoke much English, but they were clearly frightened.  I would be too if a 50 lb. Husky was staring me down.  He wagged his tail and tried to get their attention.  I called him, but he ignored me.  A few seconds later he came to me.  I guess he figured I was better than nothing since those women were not going to play with him.

We made it home, but I was still shaking as I told my husband what happened.  He said, "Are you going to tell the girls?"  I said, "Nope.  Some day they can read about it when I turn that part of the blog into a book."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Our back-up alarm

The blond twin has some crazy, internal alarm that goes off about 6:30 a.m. every morning.  We finally told her that she had to stay in bed until 7:00 a.m. on weekends.  To her credit, she does wait until 7:00 a.m. to come into our room on weekends to wake-up her still-tired parents.

Then, out of nowhere, she slept in until 7:30 a.m.  Of course, we were awake and waiting for her to come into our room.  At the same time, we enjoyed the extra peace and quiet until the back-up alarm went off.

It turns out that Oreo also has an internal alarm clock.  Shortly after 7:00 a.m., he howled for a minute as if to remind us that he was there.  When we didn't come downstairs, he stopped.  We had another short howl a bit later.  Around 7:40 a.m., he really started howling.  He wanted some attention and wasn't interested in waiting for us anymore.

Now we know that if the little blond alarm clock doesn't go off, the black and white canine version will.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I want my own room

The blond twin looked at me the other day and said, "I want my own room."  I said, "Not today you don't."

A few years ago we took down the wall between the two smallest bedrooms and made it one big room for them.  It has two full-size closets so they each have their own stuff in their own closet.  It is now a big bedroom/playroom.  They love to close the door and play for hours.

I knew some day one of them would want her own room.  We do have a spare bedroom, so we'll have room for them to split.

A few hours after declaring that she wanted her own room, the girls re-arranged their room and put their beds right next to each other.  They said, "We want to sleep together."  They went to sleep holding hands and giggling.

I guess they are not quite ready for their own rooms after all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

That's not snow...

If you drive by our house right now, you'd see a lovely dusting of white snow on the ground by our bushes.  Only it's not snow.  It's dog hair -- lots and lots and lots of dog hair.

I knew Oreo would shed his winter coat in the spring, but someone forgot to tell me about shedding his summer coat right now.  He is shedding clumps of hair.  It's like tumbleweeds in our house. 

At first I thought he was sick.  One of my brothers said, "He's losing his summer coat and getting ready for winter."  What?  I never heard of that before.

Now I'm brushing him every day and cleaning our floors every day.  As for the front yard, I was going to pick-up all the hair, but now I might just leave it as a decoration.  In a few more days I'll have enough to make a lovely coating of snow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Their World Stays the Same

This was originally posted to The Chicago Moms.  Since this was written, my father is now out of the hospital.  I write this blog as a virtual scrapbook for the girls, so I am still reposting it here.

My father is in the hospital. For more than a week now we’ve been on a roller coaster of days that often start with the phrase “Are you kidding me?” We also seem to say, “How did that happen?” a lot these days. There’s no end in sight right now.

Even with this all swirling around us, we have a simple rule regarding our girls. No matter what is happening, their world stays the same. They go to school. They go to Girl Scouts. They do their homework at the breakfast bar. They play with their friends. We all walk the dog after dinner. They go to bed at the same time. For as long as we can make it happen, their world doesn’t change.

I discovered that this might be an unusual response while at Brookfield Zoo Friday night. One of the other moms chaperoning the Girl Scout field trip said, “There’s no way I could be here. I’d have to be at the hospital.”

I certainly understand her feelings. I have often felt like just stopping what I was doing and going to the hospital. Still, it’s not all about me. Right now I have to find a balance where I can be mom, daughter, wife, co-worker, volunteer, etc. Most of those roles can flex a bit, but not mom. If nothing else, the girls will have as much stability as possible while we deal with my Dad’s health problems.

They do know Grampa’s in the hospital. We went to visit him on Halloween. The girls paraded through the hallways in costume, delighting the staff and patients. They understand that Grampa is very sick, but don’t know all the details. They are, after all, just seven years old. They don’t need to know every detail about his condition. They wouldn’t understand everything and most of it would just frighten them. We answer the questions they ask without giving too many inappropriate details. We think age-appropriate and simple seems to be the best way to go right now.

I’m starting to wonder how long we can keep up this pace. Of course, the answer is that we’ll do it as long as we have to. No matter what else is happening, we’ll keep the girls world as stable as possible for as long as possible.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

We need to talk

The girls spend all day together. You'd think that they'd be talked out by the time they get to bed, but it doesn't seem to work that way. Every night they want to talk just before they go to sleep.

It's part of their bedtime ritual. After we say our prayer and before Daddy tells them it's time to go to bed, they talk.

If they misbehave during the day, the worst punishment is to say, "No talk time tonight." You'd think taking away talk time was the worst thing we could do to them.

One night I said, "What do you talk about before you go to sleep?" They giggled and replied in unison, "Twin secrets."

I just smiled and walked out of the room. I like that they want to talk to each other first thing in the morning and last thing before they go to sleep. I only hope they are always that close.

Friday, November 12, 2010

And the winner is...

The blond twin came off the bus with a huge smile on her face.  She said, "Mom, guess what?  I won second place in a coloring contest.  And, I got a trophy."

The brunette twin was not smiling.  She started crying and said, "It's not fair.  Why can't I win a trophy too?"

We knew this day was coming.  As much as we try to avoid competition between the girls, it's growing in a lot of ways.  This is a reality check for all of us.

We always tell the girls that they cannot both be good at everything.  One of them is better at math and the other better at spelling.  One walked first and the other ate real food first.  We try to make sure they know that they each have their strengths, which is all well and good until there is a trophy involved.

We're still celebrating the blond twin's trophy.  She is so proud of it she can hardly stop smiling.  Her sister has come around a bit, but she's still jealous. 

As for their parents?  Well, we're just dreading the days to come when the competitions won't be about coloring contests, but about things much more serious to the girls like making a team or winning a college scholarship.  Those are the competitions we really dread.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dog Walking Clothes

Since the time change means it's now dark at 5:00 p.m., I realize I don't have the right clothes to walk the dog every night.  It's not that I don't have sweatshirts, coats, etc.  It's that the goes-with-everything black or blue wardrobe I own isn't really practical anymore.

We live in an area with no sidewalks and no street lights.  We have neighbors with horses in their backyards and can walk to the forest preserves.  I've written before about the wildlife we see regularly.  It's as close to rural as you can get within 20 minutes of Chicago. 

This means the black winter coat I've worn and loved for more than a decade isn't the best thing to wear while walking Oreo after his dinner.  It's probably not a good idea to wear it even in a suburb with sidewalks and street lights.  I know it's a bad idea when I'm walking on the street in the dark.

I've already adjusted his dinner time so he eats a lot earlier than he used to.  This helps a little, but it's still pitch black by the time we get walking.  I don't want the dog eating at 4:00 p.m. because I'm still working and then it's a long time for Oreo to go between meals. 

I have a few substitutions I can borrow from my husband.  He has a ski jacket with reflective stripes and a light grey sweatshirt.  I have a long, warm grey and black winter coat I can use in a pinch, but it's still pretty dark. 

What I need is a light or something else to carry with me so I can be seen in the dark.  It's probably a lot more practical than getting a new dog-walking wardrobe, especially considering how much I dislike to shop.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Even Oreo Hates Mondays

Oreo hates Mondays.  I used to think he was just feeding off my desire for permanent weekends, but now I realize he has his own reasons to dislike Mondays.  He doesn't like when we all go back to work/school.

On the weekends we're all around, drowning him with attention.  If he's not playing with the girls, he's in the backyard with us while we work in the yard or taking a walk with my husband.  It's a love-fest for a dog who thinks he should always be the center of attention.

I'll admit his quest for never-ending attention is our fault.  When he came home, we all played with him as often as possible.  I'm not sure the girls have paid attention to any of their toys since he came into the house.  As soon as they get up in the morning, they immediately play with Oreo.

Come Monday, it's just me and the dog.  He spends the first part of the day trying to get me to play with him.  By lunch he's resigned to the fact that I won't spend all my time with him.  He parks himself right next to my desk, though, just in case. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The World's Oldest Guppies

Our neighbors gave us about twenty male guppies about two years ago.  Two of them are still alive.  I just did a little research and it seems both should be dead by now.  Guppies have a life span of a year or eighteen months.  Two years seems to be on the high side.

Okay, how do I know they were all male you ask?  I don't.  I did threaten our neighbor that if he didn't give us all guppies that were either male or female, I'd bring all the babies back to his house.  Given that he had so many fish because he had both males and females in his fish tank, he was careful to give us only males.  

The fish just keep swimming along happily on the kitchen counter.  Now that we have Oreo, they are completely ignored and rarely fed.  They don't seem to mind.  They just keep swimming along.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ear Infection Prevention

Last year the blond twin had an ear infection from December through March.  There were probably a few days during that time when she didn't have one, however given the 10 bottles on leftover antibiotics in our fridge, there were only a few days.  She's always had an ear infection or two each winter, but last year was completely over the top. 

Most of the time we didn't even realize she was sick.  My "Mom of the Year" moment came around Christmas when I took her for a recheck after the first course of antibiotics.  The doctor said, "Oh, now she has a double ear infection."  Huh?  We thought she was so much better.  It repeated after we returned from Florida and took her back for another recheck.  It was the same story.  She had a double ear infection.  The girl had gone on two plane rides and lots of roller coasters without complaining.

The ENT explained how a child with a double ear infection could take so much pressure change.  It turns out that a single ear infection is painful because it throws off your balance and is unbalanced in your head.  If you have a double ear infection, then you're balanced since both ear canals are full of fluid, so there's no room left for fluid to move and cause pain.  How's that for irony?  A single ear infection is more painful than a double ear infection.

A big complication is that the blond twin is allergic to certain antibiotics.  Some things that might clear up the infection would cause other problems for her, so we went on a hunt to find out how to prevent ear infections.  So far we've had her tested for allergies and taken her to the ENT.  She has new medicine she takes daily and advice from the ENT to follow.  We've added a new humidifier to their room and run it all the time to keep humidity levels appropriate. 

I've been researching other things we can all do from taking Vitamin D to not getting colds ourselves.  We easily get our five a day fruits and vegetables, but I'm still looking for ways to improve our diets to keep ourselves healthy. 

Yes, I realize I'm heading right over the edge with this.  This year I'm determined to keep that girl out of the pediatrician's office. It might make us all a little crazy, but the end results will be worth it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I am a officially bag lady

I thought I'd be older when this happened, so I'm a bit surprised to admit this at my current age.  I am a bag lady.  In my case, it's intentional, but I'm still a bag lady.

I find that being hyper-organized is the only way to survive, so during the weekend, I put everything we need for different activities into different bags.  In our van recently, we had a bag and boxes of snacks for Girl Scouts, a bag for a church project, a bag for the school Halloween party and a bag of stuff to give to a friend's younger children. 

In the office, I have bags we are filling with outgrown clothes and toys that will soon be donated to a local charity shop.  I have a bag filling up with old cell phones that we'll give to our local parks department.  They give them to seniors for emergencies.  I have a lovely bag I use just for church Vestry meetings.  I have another one I use only when I'm teaching church school.  All my stuff goes into the bag so I just have to pick up the bag and go.

Of course, I have bags in all my coat pockets now.  We're trying to be good neighbors and remove Oreo's deposits as often as possible.  Yes, I know it's required to do it every time, but I'll admit I slack off when he makes a deposit in an empty lot.

I'm passing this along to the girls -- for better or worse.  If they are in an activity, they have a bag dedicated to the stuff they need for it.  This has saved us on numerous mornings when we realize -- as we're walking out the door -- that they have Girl Scouts.  We just grab the bag with all their Girl Scout stuff and go.  We're not running around looking for crayons and scissors and books.  Everything is already in one place.  They are future bag ladies in the making.

I realize I'm not a bag lady in the traditional sense, but given the number of bags I have for different reasons, it's clear I'm a bag lady now.  I think it's time to embrace my new status.  Anyone know where I can get an "I'm a bag lady" t-shirt?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Costumes

Last year, Santa brought the girls princess dresses to wear during our Disney trip.  In a moment of insanity, I actually thought the girls would be able to wear those dresses for Halloween this year. 

The blond twin outgrew her Ariel dress, but the brunette twin's Belle dress now fits her.  It's a great, big ball gown that really makes her feel like a princess.  She's thrilled to be Belle as in her words, "The yellow dress matches my blond hair."  She's planning her hair and all the accessories. 

The brunette twin presented a different problem.  She outgrew her Belle dress and wanted to be a vampire.  Part of the reason she wants to be a vampire comes from our recent trip to Six Flags Fright Fest.  When we saw the show "Love at First Bite" there was a dark-haired female vampire.  She wore a sexy vampire costume, complete with fishnet stockings and stiletto heels.  This was the brunette twin's inspiration for her Halloween costume.   

Add to the mix the fact that we live in Chicago, where the weather could be 80, but is more likely to be 40 and raining.  The brunette twin needed something more age- and weather-appropriate.

Luckily, we found a floor-length gown she loves.  It's purple velvet with lots of gold brocade.  We added some plastic vampire teeth so she could be a princess vampire. 

She's happy and we're happy.  All is well for this Halloween.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Gramma's Shoes

My Mom is tiny.  She's barely 4' 10" at this point.  One of the fun milestones for each granddaughter has been for them to start wearing Gramma's clothes and shoes.

The girls are now part of this tradition.  It started out innocently.  My Mom said, "When the girls get a bit bigger, I have some winter boots that will fit them."  The girls heard this and have been waiting -- impatiently -- to fit into Gramma's shoes.

This is the year they can wear Gramma's boots.  The brunette twin fits into them with normal socks.  The blond twin will have to wear heavy or two pairs of socks.  Still, she will wear Gramma's boots.

Since Mom is so tiny, all her shoes and boots have heels.  I cannot remember Mom ever wearing a pair of shoes, boots or sandals without heels until she bought her first pair of gym shoes.  The boots she gave the girls have small heels, which thrills them to no end.  They cannot believe they get to wear heels. 

The problem is they are going to get spoiled wearing Gramma's shoes.  My Mom always bought really, really nice shoes.  We buy shoes that will take the girls through one season as we know they will outgrow them before the next season.  Mom bought them to wear for years.  Her boots are really lovely. 

Until they outgrow them, the girls will beam every time they put on those boots -- just as their older cousins did before them. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dog Obedience School Rewind

We finally got Oreo into an obedience class.  It's close and comes highly recommended by our vet's office.  We heard good things about the owner from a neighbor.  We were really happy to be on our way to a better trained dog.

The first class was last week.  Let's just say it didn't go well.  Oh, the dog did fine.  He was on par with the rest of the class, so we were pretty happy with that.

The problem was we were delinquent parents.  We brought the wrong leash.  We brought the wrong kind of training treats.  Ours were broken dog biscuits.  They wanted soft treats that wouldn't make crumbs.  Only my husband went to class.  It turned out that all the other dogs had both owners.

So, tonight is the second class.  We'll bring the correct leash.  We bought training treats.  We are both going to class.  We're hoping to get it right this time.

Who knew dog obedience school was more about us than the dog?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Oreo's Play Dates

Oreo has a busy social schedule.  The neighbors behind us have two teenagers who really want a dog.  Their parents said, "NO," so they've adopted Oreo.

It's pretty funny some days.  Last Friday, the girls were playing at one neighbor's house and Oreo was at another neighbor's.  Adam came over and said, "Can I take Oreo out for a walk and to play for a while?"

Of course I sent Oreo out with Adam.  A few minutes later, I looked out and saw several of the neighborhood boys playing with Oreo in the backyard.

When he brought Oreo back, Adam asked if he could take Oreo out again when he was off school next week.  I agreed and wrote in on the calendar.

Yes.  I now keep the dog's social calendar along side the girls'.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anatomy of a Week

The house is clean.  There is food in the fridge.  We're ready for a new week.  The girl are happy to go to school to see their friends.  The Sunday paper is half-read. 

How are we going to get all this homework done?  How did that happen?  What are we making the girls for lunch tomorrow?  When is pizza day this week?

No, you cannot wear that to school.  What do you mean you cannot find two matching socks?  Give me your lunchboxes so I can clean out everything.  Where did this come from?  You need what by when?  Pick a shorter book.  We don't have time to read a 50 page book tonight before you go to bed.  Just dump the mail on the pile. 

Did you study your spell words for tomorrow's quiz?  What do you mean you cannot find your glasses?  Yes, you have to go to school today.  No, I'm not going to finish the Sunday paper -- just toss it.  Do we have to eat dinner tonight?  Can't we just skip it?   

Finally!  We survived another school week.  Get out of bed and get ready for school.  I didn't ask you if you wanted to get out of bed; I'm telling you to get moving.  We'll have leftovers for dinner.  Let's go through the mail pile.  Let's try to find the breakfast bar.  Has anyone fed the fish this week? 

Run errands.  Clean up and organize house.  Try to have some fun.

Get ready for a new week.  Finally relax from last week.  Go to bed and start all over again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Little Echo

Overheard at our house...

Brunette twin: "If you don't stop it, you could be a garage dog Oreo."

Mom just smiles.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Simple Dedication

I'm working with Carrie at Blog to Books to turn this blog into a book for the girls.  After all, it's why I write the blog.  Someday I want them to be able to look back at what was happening and remember all their growing up adventures.

The work is completely stalled right now because I cannot come up with a dedication for each girl.  It seems so simple.  All I have to do is write a couple of sentences and send them to Carrie.  For someone who can write paragraphs about some little thing that happened during the day, this should be easy.

It's not.

I have a dozen drafts started, but none of them say exactly what I want to say.  This could be because I don't know exactly what to say.  If I had a clear vision of what I wanted to say it would be easy.  I have variations on a theme, yet it's not quite what I want to put at the beginning of a book I hope they will have forever. 

I'd like to give the girls the books for Christmas, so I need to get moving.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fun at Fright Fest

We’re big amusement park fans. This year alone we’ve been to four different parks in three states. I’m embarrassed to admit our theme park adventures didn’t take us to Six Flags Great America until a representative from Discover Card emailed and invited us to Fright Fest.

Fright Fest was a different adventure from what we were used to because the rides, shows and characters were all Halloween-themed. These really fun, costumed ghouls wandering the park just walked up to people and interacted. One time a ghoul grabbed a camera and started taking photos of a group. Another time a ghoul put his arm around a young woman who must have thought he was one of her friends. She didn’t even realize he was there for about a block. When she did realize it, she jumped and screamed. The rest of her group laughed. It was fun to be in the park because the other guests there were all in the Fright Fest spirit.

Our favorite ghoul moment came as we were leaving the park. A family walked in front of us. The father kept calling “Samantha.” She ignored him. A ghoul in a bloody bride’s dress heard him and started screaming, “SAMANTHA, answer your father.” She followed the family until they left the gates. We were all in tears because we laughed so much. The bloody bride was relentless. She screamed and screamed at Samantha. It was hysterical.

We did enjoy Love at First Fright. It was all you would expect from a Halloween show. Every song had a Halloween connection, with the Time Warp getting the biggest response. The girls knew most of the songs and laughed at the costumes. Our middle school neighbor understood the show on a different level. She caught most of the adult jokes and sang all the songs. I just sat back and enjoyed the current event references woven into the plot.

We made it on all the roller coasters we wanted to ride, often more than once. Our blond twin is a well-documented roller coaster fanatic. It cannot go high enough or fast enough for that crazy girl. The blond twin went on the Eagle three times before I decided it was enough. All told she rode different roller coasters more than a dozen times in one night. She loved every ride.

For me the ride I won’t go on again is the Orbit. It looks so harmless. You get into your cage and it starts to spin, kind of like a Ferris wheel. The difference is the Orbit takes you upside down as you are spinning. When it stopped, I could hardly walk straight. The other three girls were running to get back into line. I went on it a second time, but I wouldn’t do it a third. I was dizzy for a few blocks after that ride. It was the last time I went on a ride that I didn’t watch first.

During Fright Fest, several haunted houses join the attractions. We didn’t visit the haunted houses. I’m not sure our girls are quite ready for that. Yes, I get the irony. The blond twin will go on anything that twists, turns and goes upside down with frightening speed. She’s afraid of haunted houses. We call her the thrill seeker, but she is only seven years old. The brunette twin wouldn’t even walk near the haunted houses.

The scariest moment of the night came when we were on the Eagle. At the top of the first hill, it started to rain. I kept thinking, “I’m on top of a crazy roller coaster, in the dark, in the rain, looking at traffic on the Tri-State.” It was a great, as was our night at Fright Fest.

Disclosure: Discover Card sent Shari free tickets to Fright Fest. She and her family paid for all the other theme park adventures themselves.

This is an original Chicago Moms Blog post.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oreo's first casualty

We knew it would happen eventually, and it didn't take long. Oreo destroyed one of the girls' toys.  And, to his credit, he didn't just choose any toy.  He decided Bitty Baby was going to be a good chew toy.

We knew something was wrong as soon as we walked in the door from church.  Daddy was standing at the door with an angry look on his face.  I asked why the dog was outside and Daddy said, "You'll find out in a minute."

When the blond twin saw Bitty Baby, her favorite, most loved baby, she started crying.  She sobbed and sobbed until her eyes were red.  She said, "I don't like that dog anymore.  I want to get rid of him."

Now, in his defense, it wasn't totally his fault.  The blond twin left Bitty Baby in a vulnerable position.  The temptation was too much for Oreo.  He is, after all, just a dog.

A bit later the girls were in their room swaddling and cuddling Bitty Baby.  They were making plans to take care of her, as if she was in rehabilitation. 

They will be more careful in the future, but let's just say it will be a long time before Oreo is out of the dog house.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It just looks like a dog

Since we live near the forest preserves, we see a lot of wildlife.  The other day we were walking Oreo when the blond twin spotted something walking through a neighboring golf course.  It strolled across the golf greens as a few golfers stood and watched.  It plopped down under a tree, sitting up much like Oreo does when he wants to go out.

The blond twin said, "Is that a dog?"

I said, "Nope.  It's a coyote."

We stood there for a minute watching the coyote.  He never moved.  He just sat under the tree as if he was waiting for the next golfer to hit the ball.  We moved on once Oreo became really impatient. 

As we walked away, I made a mental note not to walk that way once it gets dark in the late afternoon.  It's cute to watch the coyote in golf course, but I don't wan to run into him while walking Oreo.

Friday, October 8, 2010

No Commenting Allowed

The girls are in a Daisy Troop at their school.  There are 16 girls from 12 different families involved.  For the last meeting, they asked for volunteers to help with a craft.  Three mothers showed up to help.  In addition to the three co-leaders, this made for a grand total of six adults to help 16 girls.

I'm not going to complain about the lack of parental participation.  It's a road to nowhere.  Some parents just aren't going to take the time to volunteer.  Yeah, yeah, I know they are busy.  It's a good thing none of us are busy.  We're just sitting around eating bon bons and getting manicures. 

My problem was that several parents made snippy comments when they came to pick up their girls.  They walked over to the table where we were finishing the craft and sarcastically said things like, "Looks like fun" or "How did you get stuck with that?" 

Really?  Here's the deal from now on.  If you are not willing to spend the time to help, then you cannot make rude comments to those of us who do help.  The next time someone who couldn't take the time out of her busy schedule to help makes a sarcastic comment, I reserve the right to say something equally sarcastic back.  It's part of the deal.  You don't get to be condescending and sarcastic to those of us volunteering to help your children.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When is it too stained to wear?

Our girls can destroy clothing at an awe-inspiring rate. Last night our brunette twin dropped her dinner on the front of her shirt. Her attempts to remove the food were really quite acrobatic for someone who was seated. After we stopped laughing, we realized she created a big stain on the front of her shirt.

Stain remover and an extra wash didn’t remove the stain. I said, “Great. One more shirt in the trash.”

My husband said, “It’s not so bad. She can still wear it.”  In a way my husband was right. The shirt was fine for playing outside or wearing while making crafts. It’s a good theory that you see in many magazines. These stories talk about how children’s clothes should be sorted into different categories so your child always has something appropriate to wear. In reality, I don’t have time to keep different clothes for different reasons sorted and organized. All their clothes are good enough to wear most places. They have nicer clothes to wear to church and on holidays. Otherwise, everything else is fine to wear on any day.

Since I purchase, sort and recycle most of their clothes, I made the final decision to throw out the shirt. It was nearly too small for the girls and now it had a big stain on the front. It was an easy decision.

It’s not that I find clothing disposable, but I do have some limits. The girls have a lot of long sleeve shirts with small stains on the sleeve cuffs. I don’t mind them wearing those shirts, even though they have stains. I think most children’s clothing has stains on the cuffs. I don’t mind the occasional tiny stain on the bottom of the shirt or in some obscure place, like under the arms.

However, I draw the line at a really noticeable stain right in the middle of the front of the shirt. Sometimes it’s just too stained to wear.

This was originally posted on the Chicago Moms blog.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Show Me State

I think the blond twin is going to grow up to be on the debate team in high school.  Everything we say become the subject of a debate in which she needs us to prove that we're right. 

In many ways, I understand that this is our fault.  I'm not big on "because I said so."  When we have time, we try to explain things to the girls so they understand why we are doing something a certain way.  We have found that if we do this a couple of times that we don't have to go into detailed explanations any more.  They just get it.

Lately, the blond twin has decided she needs to double-check everything we do or say.  When I told her I fed Oreo, she went and looked in his bowl.  When I told her she needed to wear a plaid shirt to school, she wanted to see the note from her teacher.  Before she would bring apples for snack for their Johnny Appleseed project, she asked a lot of questions about who Johnny Appleseed was and why she needed to bring apples. 

It's a constant negotiation with that girl.  She never just accepts an answer.  She always has to ask "why" or "who said" or "what do you mean."  

Some days I think I'm confused, but I don't think it's me.  I think it's her.  While most of the family lives in Illinois, it's clear that the blond twin lives in Missouri -- the show me state.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

New Household Order

Overheard at our house...

Mom:  "I think from now on in the morning you should say good morning and kiss me before you kiss the dog."

Brunette Twin:  "Why?"

Mom:  "I'd like to think when you kiss me, I'm not getting second-hand dog germs."

Blond Twin:  "Well, we really want to kiss Oreo first.  He misses us when we're sleeping at night.  We miss him too"

Mom:  "Okay, so are you saying you don't miss me?"

Brunette Twin:  "We miss you Mom, but we miss Oreo more."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Love/Avon Army of Women

On the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (surely you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month), the Love/AVON Army of Women is seeking volunteers to participate in breast cancer prevention studies.  It's an easy and quick way to make a big impact in breast cancer research from the comforts of home.

All you have to do is go to and create an account to become a volunteer.  The program is maintained entirely online.  It just doesn't get any easier to help medical researchers move towards eradicating breast cancer. 

The Love/AVON Army of Women initiative is focused on recruiting ONE MILLION WOMEN for breast cancer research, with the long term goal of preventing breast cancer all together. You help them reach their goal by signing up today and forwarding this information to other women.  Together we are a powerful force.  Let's use that force to find a cure for breast cancer.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Things I Cannot Say to the Dog Anymore

When I'm mad at Oreo, I say things just to let off steam.  He's a dog.  He has no idea what I'm saying, but it makes me feel better.  Unfortunately, some of the things I've said to Oreo cause the girls to cry because they think I'm serious.

I realize how seriously they were taking my rants when I said something about how much fun Oreo will have in the snow this winter.  The brunette twin replied, "Who cares.  You'll take him back to the shelter before then."

Here's my list of the top three things I can no longer say to Oreo:

1.  If you pee in the house again dog, I will just kill you.
2.  You could be a garage dog, you know.  There's no reason you ever need to come into this house.
3.  Don't push me dog.  I'll take you back. 

So, next time he pees a small lake in the foyer, then runs through it in fear because he's been caught and drags it throughout the entire first floor of our house, I've been told I have to say, "It's okay Oreo.  You're just a puppy.  We need to train you not to pee in the house."  (One thing about our first floor, you can run in circles for a long time, especially when you are afraid.  Just ask Oreo.)

Let's be honest for a moment.  If the girls are home, I'll say something like that.  If they are not home, I'll threaten to take the dog back to the shelter and put him in the garage while I clean up the lake and wash all the floors on the first floor.  I realize yelling at the dog doesn't really help anything, but it does make me feel better as I'm on my hands and knees cleaning up dog pee -- again.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Getting into dog training school is harder than we thought

Oreo is a pretty good dog, but it's clear he's never had any training.  We're working with him every day.  Still, several people recommended we take him to a dog obedience class.  It sounded like a good idea, so we went in search of a class.

In my head, I called a few places, found the class that best fit our schedule, and signed up.  In reality, I spent four hours on the phone talking to everyone from pet store chains to private trainers.  None of those conversations went as well as I had planned.  It turns out that getting your dog into a training class is a bit harder than we thought.

Two different pet store chains had openings.  One was for a 3:00 p.m. class on Fridays.  The other was for 9:00 a.m. on Tuesdays.  Both of those dates/times would work if I didn't have to get the girls to and from the school bus.  All of the times I could make were booked through January.

Several private facilities had openings at satellite locations.  One didn't have anything at the Oak Lawn training center, but did have one in Naperville at 6:00 p.m.  While I am available, it would take at least 90 minutes for me to get to Naperville during rush hour.  Since the class is only 45 minutes long, it didn't seem like a good use of my time.

Local park districts with classes were either full or not running.  For some strange reason, either the classes were full or there were not enough people interested to run the class.

I started asking everyone I know where they trained their dogs.  I made many calls to those people without a decent match either.

Several people recommended trainers who come to your house, which ended up costing $100 or more per hour.  I want to train the dog, but I'm not desparate enough to spend that kind of money quite yet.

In the end we found an area training center with a class starting October 20.  It starts late, which will make for a long day.  We're just happy to be in a class at this point.  Until then, we'll continue to work with Oreo at home. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Hard to Be Seven

Jamie Lee Curtis wrote a great book called "It's Hard to be Five."  It talks about the struggles five-year-olds go through as they move into bigger bodies and bigger emotions.  It gives examples of how hard it it to control those bodies and emotions.  I think I'd like to rename it "It's Hard to be Seven."

The girls are just struggling these days.  They are so tired from school that we've cut out most after-school activities.  They are anxious to learn everything and get frustrated when they don't get it right the first time.  They are frustrated because the favorite pants/shorts/skort/skirt/shirt/dress they wore last week doesn't fit this week. 

The blond twin expresses this mostly when she's doing her homework.  She's a perfectionist who catches on quickly.  She works hard to make sure she not only knows the answer, but understand how to arrive at it the next time.  Her frustrations show up when she doesn't understand something the very first time.  This morning the blond twin threw her pencil on the breakfast bar and started crying because she misspelled the word kayak.  I keep saying, "You're a little girl just learning all this stuff.  You're not supposed to get it right every time."  It doesn't seem to help her, though.

The brunette twin is sitting somewhere between "I love Disney princesses" and "I'm too old to play with princess stuff."  She's frustrated a lot and doesn't know why.  My "what's wrong?" Is usually met with "I don't know."  Yesterday we were walking Oreo when the blond twin started crying.  I asked "what's wrong?"  She replied, "Sissy pushed me down."  After a long conversation dragging information out of her piece by piece the brunette twin finally admitted pushing her sister because she thought the blond twin farted as we were walking.  I said, "For this you pushed your sister down?  Why didn't you just tell me so I could handle it?"  She replied, "I don't know."

These are the times I want to take them back to earlier days when it was all carefree and fun.  I know this is part of growing up.  I know that the way they learn to deal with these things will impact how they deal with frustrations in the future.  I know that "this too shall pass" is a great phrase to repeat when we're in the middle of these frustrating days. 

I just want to make it easier for them.  I don't want the blond twin to cry because she misspelled kayak.  I don't want the brunette twin to push her sister in frustration.  Still, I know we cannot make it easy for them all the time.  They need to learn to deal with life's problems in a way that is constructive.  If they don't learn it now, it won't get any easier to teach this lesson when they are older.  I still don't like it, but I understand and hope we'll be able to help them find ways to grow into their growing bodies and emotions.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shakespeare is wasted on the young

I’ve always struggled reading Shakespeare. The last time I really made an attempt was back in college. The words on the page were just difficult and heavy in many ways. I realize now that the problem was that I was too young to appreciate it.

We were invited this weekend to see Romeo and Juliet at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. I saw it through older eyes, with the experience lacking in my college years. It was an entirely new work for me. For this production, the set was more West Side Story than old-world Shakespeare. The costumes were simple and unobtrusive. The simplicity of the set and costumes allowed us to focus on the story. The actors’ body language and voice inflections gave life to the words we’ve all seen and heard so much. Yet, the words were entirely different for me now.

When Romeo and Juliet ran away and got married, I wanted to say, “Wait. You’ll find another love shortly.” Juliet was 14 when she married Romeo. Weren’t we all sure we were going to marry our high school boyfriends at 14? When the young men were getting ready to defend their family honor in a street fight, I wanted to say, “It’s not worth it. Don’t waste your time.”

These are the things that adults say to young people. I’m sure my parents and teachers tried to keep me from making youthful mistakes, but who listens at that age? You don’t realize until you add some life experience that they were right. You’re sure the high school boyfriend is the one. You’re sure the wrong done to you is the most terrible thing ever.

For someone who wrote hundreds of years ago, Shakespeare still resonates with common-day themes. When the young Capulet and Montague men battle, it’s for the same reasons as today’s misguided youth. “You disrespected me, so I’m gong to get revenge.” When did revenge ever solve a problem? It’s sad that we haven’t learned anything since Shakespeare’s time. The reality is that the older I get, the more likely I am to think that all revenge is a waste of time.

Well, maybe except for the idea that living well is the best revenge. Unfortunately, a long and happy life for Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t make for a good play. Shakespeare wrote a beautiful play in Romeo and Juliet. I’m glad we took the time to see it through experienced eyes. I appreciated it in ways I couldn’t in college. It’s one of the great benefits of growing into a well-rounded adulthood. I can go back and finally understand why my high school teachers and college professors thought a particular work was worth enjoying.

This is an original post of the Chicago Moms Blog. I did receive free tickets for the performance from the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tired Dog = Tired Owner

People keep saying, "a tired dog is a good dog."  I get that.  A tired dog won't cause a lot of trouble because he doesn't have the energy.

What they keep forgetting to say is that for the dog to get tired, the owner needs to get tired.  If Oreo is going to sleep the morning away, we need to walk a mile or two after dropping the girls off at the bus.  In the afternoon he gets a shorter walk as we pick up the girls from the bus.  After dinner he gets another one mile walk.

All of this wears out the dog, but it wears out all of us too.  He's tired and so are we.   I guess the good news is we're all too tired to get into any trouble.  The bad news is that if we're going to keep us this pace, I need a new pair of walking shoes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Seven already?

Today is the girls' 7th birthday.  It is so hard to believe that the helpless, fragile babies we brought home seven years ago are now smart, independent, little girls.

I suppose they were never as fragile as we thought they were.  We worried about everything those first days.  We often wondered what they would be like when they grew up.  There are a lot of notes in their baby books about family members and their predictions.  Now we know a little more and it's even better than we could ever have imagined. 

The blond twin has always been our attention-seeker.  The first night in the hospital she would cry just to have someone hold her.  She'd fall asleep in your arms and cry as soon as you put her back in her crib.  This should have been a sign, but at that point we were too tired to try to figure out what that meant for her personality.  She loves to learn, especially math.  She loves the challenge of new things like addition and subtraction.  She remembers everything.  She's always trying to take care of someone or something (like Oreo).  It's part of her personality to be nurturing. 

When they came home, we called the brunette twin "the Little One" because she was smaller than her sister. It was only a couple of ounces, but it was a big deal back then.  Now she's taller than her sister by an inch or two.  She loves science, even if she doesn't call it that yet.  Anything that she can analyze and ask "why" is a topic she wants to discuss.  She's often quiet and sensitive, and she's fiercely loyal.

I think back to those first days and remember feeling like we wouldn't all survive.  I used to be glad we just got through a single day.  Every day I'd think "today they became a little older and more independent."  Even if back then independent meant they were taking steps towards lifting their heads off the pillows or crawling, we saw progress.  We relished each milestone and promised to never forget the exact day when they first rolled over or crawled.

Already those memories are fading, but they are well-documented in baby books and in photos.  What I look forward to most now are the memories we'll make with our little girls.  I hope they know we love them even more than we did the first day we brought them home. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

He's just a dog

The girls are having a hard time understand why Oreo doesn't think things through the way they do.  My new answer to everything is, "He's just a dog."  I find myself answering questions with this saying dozens of times a day.

The good news is the answer works for all the girls questions.  No matter what they want to know, it works.

*Why did Oreo pee in the hall?  He's just a dog and we're still training him. 

*Why did Oreo try to eat the dead bird?  He's just a dog.  They eat anything.

*Why did Oreo try to eat the blanket in his crate?  He's just a dog.  Maybe he was hungry or bored.  I don't know. 

*Why can't Oreo get his outdoor tie-out untangled from the tree?  He's just a dog.  He doesn't understand how it happened, so he cannot fix it.

*Why does Oreo chase squirrels?  He's just a dog.  He'll chase anything that runs.

*Does Oreo love us?  He's just a dog, but I think he does.

Monday, September 13, 2010

We're Reading the Signs -- It's Time to Slow Down

One of the wonderful things about living in the Chicago area is that there are always a dozen fun things we could be doing on any given day. We’re always on the go doing something we think will be fun. If it’s also subtly educational, like listening to a concert or going to an outdoor art exhibit, even better. We seek out the free or low cost events, so it’s not like these activities stress our budget. They do, however, stress our time.

We’re going through a lot of transitions in our house this fall. The girls are now in first grade. This means they get on the bus at 8:30 a.m. and return home at 4:00 p.m. When they leave in the morning, it’s like they are going off to work. When they come home, they are tired like they have just put in a full work day. In a way, they have. Their job is to learn as much as possible in school.

We also just adopted a dog from our local animal shelter. He’s a one-year-old, black and white Husky with icy blue eyes. He’s beautiful, good with the girls, and a sweet dog. We’re working through the house training issues and getting him into the household routine.

It all adds up to a screaming need to slow down. We have been making hard decisions about what to do and when. And, it’s taking a complete mind-change to adapt.

Before full-day school and a dog, it would have been normal for us to say, “Let’s go apple picking and meet some friends for lunch Saturday.” We would have left shortly after breakfast and returned home late in the afternoon. Now we step back and think about whether or not it’s too much running around for the girls. After a long school week, they probably need time to just play and relax. We also have to think about how much time we can leave our new dog alone. We crate him for when we’re out of the house for short trips, but don’t want to leave him in the crate for four or five hours in the afternoon.

It’s not like I’m worried about what we are missing out. We’ll still be active. It’s just that we’re choosing activities through a new lens. It is going to take a bit to adapt to all the changes. We have to stop thinking we’re missing out on some fun and realize that we’re gaining well-rested children. We have to pick and choose our activities more carefully so we balance doing fun things with the need to take care of our newest family member.

Mostly we need to remember that in Chicago, there is always something fun and interesting to do. It’s our job as parents to make the hard decisions about which ones we participate in and which ones we put in the “next year” file.

This is an original post for The Chicago Moms.