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?