Saturday, December 31, 2011

Peace and Happiness

This has been a miserable year.  It would be too depressing to go through the list of reasons, but we can agree that Marlene's and Dad's deaths would rank as the top two on the list.  All the other things just compounded the sadness and stress. 

I hated 2011 and am quite glad today is New Year's Eve.  I just want to eliminate so many unhappy memories, but I know that's not possible. 

They say that what doesn't kill you is supposed to make you stronger, but I would like to opt out of that concept.  I don't want to get any stronger in 2012. 

What I want for our family, and what I wish for you, is peace and happiness in 2012. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Learning Our Art Preferences

Recently a daily deal site had discount passes for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. My husband emailed and said, "We should go at least once," so I bought passes.

I think we can sum up our visit in the words of the blond twin who said, "It's a bunch of towels with a rope. This is art?"

We try to expose the girls to as much as possible. We figure if you live in the Chicago area, you should take advantage of the opportunities the area provides. I have to admit we all seemed to agree with the blond twin.

There was a really cool exhibit in the foyer called Sonic Arboretum. It featured a collection of horned speakers, creating a sound garden playing an original work designed just for the foyer's acoustics.

What did we learn? I was glad the museum was packed because I like the idea of a modern art museum, even if modern art isn't our taste. Still, I'm glad we went to expose the girls to the concept. It's great to have the opportunity to visit so many different art museums and learn about our personal and family preferences for future outings.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


The blond twin wrote this adorable poem for her sister's Christmas card. 

Just you and me
Just you and me
together forever
I just want to say
Thank you for being there!
Always at school
I think about you
so thank you!
Just us

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Snapshots

Overheard at Our House Christmas Eve
"I made you all presents," announced the blond twin. She wrapped special items from around the house for each of us.  She included a few coins as well.  She wrote lovely poems in each card.  The brunette twin opened her package to find her favorite joke book.  She shrieked like it was the most exciting book ever, even though she's been reading it for a year.

Overheard at Our House Christmas Morning
"See, Santa doesn't listen to parents.  He always gets us what we want," said the brunette twin after opening presents.  For months Mom and Dad said, "No DS games in this house."  Despite that parental stand, Santa brought the DS that she and her sister listed as their number one item in their letters to Santa.

Overheard at Mom's Christmas Afternoon
"Oh, Shari.  It's beautiful," Mom said when she opened her gift from us.  I made a quilt from Dad's shirt sleeves so he could still put his arms around her.  It was the only moment I saw her tear up the whole day. 

Overheard at Our House Christmas Evening
"This is the best Christmas ever," said the blond twin. 

You know what?  She was right.  I was worried it would be sad since both Dad and Marlene died this year, but it wasn't.  We were all together and ready to put the sadness of the past year behind us. I know New Year's Eve is the official time to start fresh, but we did our best to start fresh on Christmas. It was a really nice, relaxing, laughter-filled Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Are You Buying Us Presents?

The girls are nervous.  They pretend not to be, but they are worried.  A few weeks ago they bought us presents from their school's holiday shop.  They excitedly wrapped them and put them under the tree.

Several times since then they've asked, "Are you buying us presents?  There's nothing under the tree with our names.  You have presents.  Aren't we getting anything?"

We just laugh and say, "Santa will bring you presents so we don't have to."

They don't find this funny.

We find it quite entertaining.  First, we didn't plan to start this angst, but it works in our favor.  Whenever they are misbehaving we remind them that they don't have any presents under the tree yet.  Second, they waiver between "of course Mom and Dad are buying us presents aren't they?" and "when are you going to wrap our presents?"  For whatever reason they really have a lingering doubt that we're going to buy them presents.  It's interesting to listen to them try to explain the lack of presents.

Since Christmas is only a few days away, I suppose it's time to wrap their gifts and put them under the tree.  It's time to stop their angst and let them start trying to figure out what is in each box.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Eyes Have It

The girls have been begging for bangs for a while now.  I resisted because I know bangs = ongoing maintenance. 

After months and months and months of reminding me that I promised to think about it, I finally called them into the bathroom.  I took the scissors and cut their bangs. 
They giggled and kept trying to look at their hair while I snipped.  The brunette twin turned her head at just the wrong moment.  I snipped the hair a bit shorter than planned.  The blond twin stood "like a statue" when it was her turn.  Her bangs fell right where I planned.

They were so happy to have bangs they couldn't stop looking at them.  They still walk by the mirror and admire their bangs.  I'm happy that they're happy for now.  Who knew something so little could make them so happy?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Truth be told

Overheard on the way home from piano lessons...

Mom:  "It has been a long week.  I'm glad it's Friday because I'm tired."

Brunette Twin:  "Why are you tired?  It's not like you do anything."

Mom:  "Really?"

Brunette Twin:  "All you do is sit at the computer all the time."

Mom:  "Who cleans?  Who cooks?  Who takes you to school?  Who walks your dog?"

Brunette Twin:  "Dad."

Mom:  "Don't I do any of it?"

Brunette Twin:  "Only when Dad's not around."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Handwriting Lessons

I have what would politely be called messy handwriting.  I could give a long list of reasons from being left-handed to never really caring.  My handwriting is so distinctive that few people need to look at the mailing label to know an envelop is from me.

Imagine my surprise when the blond twin said, "Hey Mom, does this look like your name?"  She had copied my first name from my signature on her assignment notebook.  It was a perfect copy.

I could say I'll clean-up my handwriting so it's not so easy to copy, but odds aren't good that's going to happen at this point.  It's more likely start signing school forms with my first and last name.  Eventually she'll master that too, but at least it will buy me some time.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Expert Advice on Managing Your Children's Holiday Gift Expectations

This was originally posted on the Chicago Moms

At the Chicago Moms/Chicagonista holiday party, Editor in Chief Jim Silver pulled up a chair to chat about what was hot for kids this year. He asked what was in our girls’ letter to Santa. I replied, “More than they will get, of course.”

He told me that for every gift-giving occasion, he always has his children write a list for twice as many items as he’s planning to give them. For example, if he’s thinking about buying three things, he’ll ask his children for six ideas.

He said that it was a good life lesson because if you always get half of what you want, you’re doing well.

I thought about it a lot since the party last night. First, Jim had a great idea about the list. I tend to say that they should only put what they really, really want on a list. Something like, “Santa cannot bring you everything because there are so many kids in the world” is usually part of the conversation. After thinking about what Jim said, I think I’ll ask the girls for more. I think that limiting their lists builds their expectations.

Also, because they have so many relatives, the girls tend to get most of what they want. It’s true that they don’t get everything on their lists, but it’s pretty close.

Fom now on we’ll definitely encourage them to put down twice as many items as we think they will get. It will be good for them to learn that not everything on your wish list ends up under the Christmas tree, but if you end up with half it’s a good haul.

Disclosure: I did win a doll during the holiday party. It didn’t have anything to do with Jim’s advice, but I thought I’d disclose it anyway because was a party sponsor.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Missing Three

The girls wear glasses to school.  They have very weak prescriptions, so they don't wear them when they are running around on the playground.  They do have to wear them in class or when they are reading at home.

This morning I said, "Get your glasses.  I want to clean them before you go to school."

The blond twin couldn't find either pair of her glasses.  It was an interesting development since she supposedly wore one pair at school yesterday.  She frantically ran from place to place looking for either pair of glasses.  She prefers the blue frames, but was desperate to find either pair.

The brunette twin handed me her glasses to clean.  She was a little smug because she had her glasses and her twin couldn't find either pair.  The brunette twin put the clean glasses on her face and walked away. 

A few minutes later I said, "Where are your glasses?"  The brunette twin looked at me and said, "I don't know."

Somehow between her trip from the kitchen to the powder room to the dining room, she took off her glasses.  Not only did she put them down, but she didn't remember doing it.  She started looking for her glasses.  A few minutes later she announced, "It's the strangest thing.  I cannot find my glasses."

Yes, she lost her glasses.  No, I don't know why she took them off her face and neither did she. 

We were all looking for any of the missing glasses when the clock chimed.  We had to leave for school.  It was too late to keep looking.

I don't know what they think they are doing after school, but there will be no fun for them until they find their glasses.  In fact, there might not be any fun even if they find their glasses. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Plastic Advantage

I was at a Christmas party last night when I realized I couldn't find my coat check ticket.  I dumped my purse and still couldn't find the little pink ticket.  When I talked to the coat check woman, she said, "Can you identify the coat?"

Sure, it's a long, black wool coat.  I described the collar and buttons.  She still had multiple coats that fit the description.  She asked, "Do you know the brand?"  I had to admit I owned the coat for so long I just didn't remember.

Then I remembered something unusual about my coat.  I said, "I have plastic bags in the pockets."  She said, "What?"  I replied, "We have a dog and I have plastic bags in the pockets." 

She laughed as she went through the pockets of the coats she thought were most likely mine.  She handed me the coat and said, "Well, that's the most unique way to describe a coat."

Score one for plastic bags.

Monday, December 5, 2011

No More Multitasking

I've come the the realization that I cannot multitask anymore.  I realize numerous studies have shown that you're not really more effective when you multitask, but I still continued to try.  If I have to sit on a two hour conference call, shouldn't I be able to answer emails, write blog posts and shop online as well?

The problem is my memory isn't very good when I multitask.  Unless I'm truly focusing on something, I forget that I've done it.  There are lots of examples.  I keep putting the same entry in the checkbook multiple times.  It seems that I put in the entry when we spend the money and when it clears the account.  I cannot count the number of times I've gotten in the van and then gotten out to make sure I've really locked the front door. 

There will still be some multitasking.  I'll make dinner and listen to the girls practice piano for example.  Maybe I'll still answer emails while I'm on conference calls.  It's just that for important things, I need to start concentrating.  I think it's one more sign of my old age catching up with me.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Life Without Bars

When we brought Oreo home, he didn't want to go into his crate.  He spent nearly two months locked in a crate in the animal shelter.  The first night we put him in the crate, he tried to break out.  For the first few nights, I would wake up at night from the noise he made trying to get out.

Eventually he settled into his crate.  He dutifully went in every night right after his last bathroom break outside.  He would walk right in the door and into the crate.  When the weather was bad, we'd find him huddled in the crate. 

Lately he has been spending more time in the girls' room after they go to sleep.  He'd stay up there on the rug next to their bunkbed long after they went to sleep.  It's almost as if he thought he'd get to stay there if he was quiet.  Every night we'd call him downstairs and he's sleep in the crate.

Everything changed Thanksgiving week.  Oreo was sick.  The kind of icky dog sick that resulted in lots of messy clean-ups.  One night I awoke to hear him howling in the middle of the night.  He'd never done this before, so I came downstairs.  He was huddled in the corner with a mess in his crate.  I took him outside, cleaned-up the crate and went back to bed.  He slept at the top of the stairs while his crate dried and his blanket was washed.  The next night he went back in the crate.

A couple of nights later I heard him howling again.  I went downstairs to see him trying not to step in the mess.  I took him outside and cleaned the crate again.  He ran upstairs and slept at the top of the stairs.  When I crawled back into bed I told my husband that I just hoped Oreo didn't get sick on the carpet before we woke up.

He didn't get sick on the carpet.  He did run downstairs and get sick in the foyer, a place he'd been sick previously that week.  Since I had seen it enough during the day, I'm pretty sure he was sitting next to the front door when he got sick.  It was his standard place to say, "Um, hey.  Get me outside now!"

The rest of the week he'd run to the corner at the top of the stairs when it was bedtime.  Eventually we decided to let him spend the night there.  We discussed it a lot.  Even though everyone told us we'd eventually be able to get rid of the crate, we were skeptical.  We weren't sure what he would do outside the crate all night.

We also knew that once he was out of the crate, he wouldn't go back.

Turns out he positions himself at the top of the stairs and he stays there until the girls come down in the morning.  Even when Tom wakes up and rushes out the door at 5:30 a.m., Oreo stays put.  He's not going anywhere until the girls wake up.

I have to admit I don't miss having the big metal crate in the living room.  It's in the basement, though, just in case we need it again. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Treading Carefully in New Territory

When we were kids, my cousins all moved to fun locations that made for great vacation memories.  It also meant that when Gramma or Grampa (on either side) needed help, they had to call us.  They weren't able to spread the calls among the family because we were it for little things like mowing the lawn or big things like emergency room visits.  We never just went over for a visit.  There was always an "as long as you are here" list.

Mom hated those lists.  She'd always tell us she was never going to make a list like that.  We laughed because it seemed like a long time before we'd have to deal with the possibility.

Now that Dad is gone, we are keenly aware that we are treading into new territory with her.  It was one thing to offer help when Dad was sick.  He wasn't about to have strangers in his home doing anything.  Thankfully my brothers are quite handy.  There's no way I would have been able to fix the leaky shower in the upstairs bathroom or plow the driveway after the blizzard last year.  Mom was happy to have the help and Dad was happy not to have strangers around.

It all worked well.

Now we're in a new place with Mom.  She needs help.  There's no way she can handle the house all by herself.  The problem is she doesn't want to become my Grams who always had a list when you visited.  Just the other day she said, "I wish you would just come over to visit. I wish I didn't always have to ask for help."

It's important to understand that she wasn't asking me to repaint the house.  She simply needed help getting Christmas decorations down from a cabinet above the fridge.  Even with a ladder she's not tall enough to do it easily.  It's one of the disadvantages of being 4' 10" tall.

We're starting to figure out the system, but not without some growing pains.  Last week I called Mom to say I had a few hours and see if she needed help.  She said she was fine.  A few hours later we make plans to go to a restaurant near her house with friends.  I called back and said, "We'll be down the block about 6:00 p.m.  Do you want us to come over and do anything since we're nearby?"  This time she asked us to stop by and move some empty Christmas decoration boxes upstairs and out of the way.  

What was the difference?  The first call was simply to offer help.  With the second call we were going to be in the neighborhood.  It was a drive-by, not an intentional destination.

At some point we'll find a way to help Mom and let her keep her independence.  It is not easy because every time we help it's another reminder that Dad isn't around to help anymore.  After more than 50 years, Mom is really on her own.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Where is that sound coming from?

I was on the phone with my husband when the sound started.  It was a small whine that I couldn't identify at first.  It took a minute to realize it was Oreo.  The problem was I couldn't figure out where he was.

I walked to the front door and he wasn't there.  I was still on the phone as I wandered the first floor looking behind chairs and under the dining room table to see if he was there.  After a few minutes I yelled upstairs to the girls.  They couldn't find him up there either.  It wasn't until I stood in front of the basement door that I solved the mystery. 

I opened the door to see Oreo sitting in the dark on the top stair just whining.  His ears were down as he jumped through the door.  I told my husband that I don't know how he ended up locked in the basement.

A little later that morning, I went downstairs and found lots of dog food on the stairs. When the brunette twin brought up his morning meal, she must have dropped some on the stairs.  My best guess is he went down the stairs to clean-up the mess and ended up behind a closed door.

Oreo has never been fond of the basement.  He will go down a few stairs if we're in the basement, but he doesn't usually wander around by himself.  Somehow I doubt this latest incident will help with that fear.