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....