Saturday, December 29, 2012

Let it snow

For the first time in nearly a year we had some snow fall yesterday. It wasn't much, but it was cold too so I went looking for my snow boots.

I couldn't find them.

I knew I owned snow boots. I remembered wearing them a lot two winters ago. Last winter was so mild I think I wore gym shoes every day. I'm not sure I put on any winter boots last winter.

This lead to me searching the house wondering where I stored my winter boots. I eventually found them, but then I was afraid to put my foot in one. I hadn't even thought about these boots for more than a year. Can you imagine all the icky things that could have been in my boots? I imagined lots of things, but nothing was in my boots.

I anticipate wearing these boots a lot this winter. We've decided not to go to Florida this January. The last time we didn't go to Florida in January we had a harsh winter which included a blizzard.

Now you are looking for your winter boots, aren't you?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tea party time

Every year after Christmas we have our girls' Girl Scout troop over. Right now we have 10 tween girls giggling and whispering in our house. It's loud, silly and fun.

Our girls set the table early this morning. They decided which china to use and carefully folded napkins. After lunch they set out cookies like they were creating an artistic masterpiece. By 12:30 p.m.they were pacing, despite the fact that the start time was 1:00 p.m. 

During the years we've been doing this we've gone from highly programmed parties to more relaxed games of telephone and freeze dance. I looked at a photo from the first tea party a few days ago. I was amazed at how young the girls seemed.

It's one of the joys of having the same group of girls around. We can look at the photos and see how much they have changed throughout the years. Some things stay the same. Our girls like to wear their Christmas dresses to every tea party. One friend always wears a dress with leggings underneath. She has worn something like that every year.

This year we have four kinds of cookies, two kinds of M&Ms, grapes and colby jack cheese sticks on the menu. We have chocolate milk, egg nog, white milk and water for our beverage selection. The games include telephone, freeze dance, hot potato played with a Rudolph stuffed animal and watching a One Direction concert.

The girls are just having so much fun. Right now they are laughing hysterically in the family room because they cannot get through one round of telephone without completely breaking down. They just decided to play Simon Says. I used to decide the schedule, but now I just provide supervision. Once I get them started they keep themselves busy.

The annual tea party is is one of my favorite holiday gatherings. It's fun, relaxed and festive. I can't wait until we do it again next year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Memories

6:30 a.m.
Blond twin: "Wake up! Wake up! It's Christmas morning. We're gonig to see if we've been naughty or nice."

Brunette twin:  "We've been nice! Santa left us one big box each."

6:45 a.m.
Brunette twin:  "So far I've been nice every year."

7:30 a.m.
Blond twin: "What do you want to play first? Let's Dance or Wipeout?
Brunette twin: "Let's Dance!"

8:15 a.m.
Mom and Dad are downloading the iTunes software so they can fill the girls' new iPod Touches.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Grammie is on the naughty list

The brunette twin screamed when she saw Cane (our elf on the shelf) sitting on the piano. She said, "Who moved Cane?"

We all denied touching Cane because we know you should never, ever, ever touch the elf on the shelf. I said, "Maybe Grammie did it. She didn't know any better. I be Cane will forgive her."
The brunette twin turned to me and said, "She did know Mom. I told her not to touch the elf and why. I read the book to her so she'd understand why she shouldn't touch Cane."

At this point I'm stuck. I have nothing left to say to defend Grammie. I said, "Talk to Cane. I'm sure he'll understand."

The brunette twin would not be pacified. She fretted about what would happen now that Grammie touched Cane. She wondered if Santa would be so angry he wouldn't bring any presents.

As for me, I'm just glad I'm not Grammie right now. The brunette twin is really angry. Of course it won't last long, but at this moment Grammie is number one of the brunette twin's naughty list.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Can we be Merry already?

Oh I cannot wait for the girls' Winter break to begin. This has been one seriously long and crazy week. Monday the girls didn't want to go to school. Even though we had a media blackout in our house, the girls were still talking about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims as we walked to school on Monday. A few days later we were driving when the brunette twin said, "You know what's so sad about those kindergartners who were killed Mom? They didn't get to live their lives." I cried softly as I drove because she was right and because I realized this was going to be on her mind for a long time.

Tuesday two bank robbers broke out of a federal prison in downtown Chicago by repelling down a 15 story building using a rope made of bedsheets. The last credible sighting of these two was in a suburb not all that far from us so our schools were on lock down.

Not to be outdone, a local crazy picked up for a DUI in the middle of Tuesday night made threats against a local school and the local police department. The officers who went to his home found weapons and ammunition. Both are safely in the police lock-up and the crazy drunk is in custody. Sooner or later they will have to release him and he'll just go out to buy more weapons and ammunition.

I feel like every day the girls come home with a letter from the school district office about a new problem, how to cope with the old problems or a possible future threat. This week it has been hard to remember that we live in a nice, typically safe neighborhood.

I'm tired of all this. I feel like every day there's a "crazier than the day before" news story with the ability to negatively affect our girls. I need a few days with all of us at home baking cookies and making hot chocolate. Tomorrow is the last day of school for two weeks. It can't come fast enough for me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

You're afraid of what?

We were walking to school when the blond twin said, "You know what I'm afraid of?" I replied, "No, what?" She said, "Bison."

After a few steps pondering this answer I said, "Ok, I'll ask. Why are you afraid of bison?"

It turns out she was reading a book about wolves and a pack of wolves attacked a bison. Before the wolves could feast another bison managed to spear a wolf and kill it. This is why the blond twin is afraid of bison.

Now, as fears go this one isn't so bad. Really, what are the chances of the blond twin encountering a bison any time soon?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Assuming the worst

We had Sunday night football on TV while we listened to the blond twin read a Christmas story when the news broke in to say that President Obama was going to speak at the Sandy Hook memorial service. We all sat and watched the President. The girls asked a few questions, but not many.

When they were getting ready for bed, the brunette twin said, "I don't want to get shot."

I immediately held my breath. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let her watch President Obama. She's such a worrier that maybe we should have kept the media blackout going.

The brunette twin was sitting in my lap so I said, "What do you mean baby?" She replied, "I know I have allergies, but I don't want to get shots. I don't think I need them."

We launched right into a conversation about her allergies, how we're tired of listening to her sniffle, how good shots will make her feel, etc. She wasn't buying any of it. She doesn't want to get allergy shots.

We promised her we wouldn't make any decisions right away. We'd take her back to the allergist and then talk about it again.

I walked out of the room grateful I misunderstood what she said. I might worry about her safety every day in school, but I don't need her to carry that burden.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shattered innocence and broken hearts

I didn't want to our girls to know about the mass shooting in Newtown, CT yesterday. Maybe something along the lines of "something bad happened really far away" if anything at all. Unfortunately, the girls' elementary school took it out of my hands.

The girls walked out of school excited about the weekend. I don't remember which girl said it first, but one of them whispered to me, "There was a shooting in a different school. There's a note in my backpack. Can we talk about it when we walk home?"

I told her we'd talk as much as she wanted.

When there's something difficult to discuss or potentially embarrassing to one of our girls or someone else, we always talk about it when we're alone. Sometimes one of them will ask if we can talk about something in the car. Sometimes they want to talk about it when we get home. Yesterday we talked about the it on the way home from school.

I heard words coming out of my mouth, but those were nearly out of body moments. They asked questions. I answered. I didn't provide more information than necessary, but I did answer all their questions. The girls had a lot of questions. I didn't have all the answers and I told them that when appropriate.

As soon as we got home Daddy called. Both girls wanted to talk to Daddy. They cried. I tried not to cry. We hugged a lot. They cried some more. I hugged them some more.

It's completely incomprehensible for adults to realize that one person was so sick that he walked into a school and killed 20 children. For two little girls who love school, it's terrifying. We don't have the words to make them feel better right now.

Neither girl wants to go back to school. The brunette twin doesn't want to go back ever. The blond twin doesn't want to go back next week. She wants to stay home until after Winter break. I don't want them to leave the house either, even as I recognize that this is a completely unhealthy long-term solution. Still, if they are in our house we can keep them safe.

At least that's what we tell ourselves. I realize we have to leave the house. We have to go out into the world. Monday we'll walk to school with Oreo, just like we do every school day. We'll pack lunches, make sure backpacks are ready and argue about whether or not to wear gloves. (Momma says yes. The girls always say, "It's not that cold.)

I only wish I felt good about that reality. I feel an overwhelming sadness and I'm far removed from the tragedy. Mostly, I wonder how it's ever going to be possible for the Sandy Hook Elementary School families to get out of bed each day. Believe me when I say that I recognize my fears are their realities. Nothing happening here is as bad as what is happening there.

Friday, December 14, 2012

This is why our girls do not watch the news

I'm sick to my stomach. All I want to do is go to our school and bring our girls home. I want them in my arms and safe in our house. It's not that easy though is it?

Mass shootings seem to happen more and more in the United States. Today's in Connecticut seems to be on track for the worst (or close to the worst) school shooting in history. It is on every channel. I've been watching it for a while now.

Our girls will not see it. We don't allow them to watch the news. Everyone in the family and all the babysitters know that the girls don't watch the news. We feel that they are nine-years-old and don't need to see all the violence and sadness in the world.

I'm strict about it. I don't turn on the TV when they are at home. If I decide to watch the news, I make sure they are upstairs or downstairs. I won't even turn on the news if they are on the same floor. I won't take the chance that they might overhear about some child beaten or some car accident or some mass shooting.

Yes, I'm limiting their knowledge of the world. I realize they will find out the harsh realities sooner or later. I want them to be mature enough that we can discuss the issues and feel like they understand those issues. I want them to have some world view so they understand that bad things happen, but that doesn't mean those bad things are going to happen in their neighborhood.

Mostly I keep hoping that some how, some way I'll be able to explain why these things happen in a way that makes sense. As I sit here right now I'm not sure there is ever going to be a moment when I can explain such violence in a way that makes sense. I do know that I can control their information flow until I can process it.

This won't last forever, but as long as I can make it happen I will. Childhood is so fleeting. There is no reason for our girls to learn about all the sadness when we can protect them from it for a while. They will grow up fast enough without us forcing them to process these kinds of adult problems when they are so young. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Elf on the Shelf is making Christmas shopping harder

We were walking to school when I reminded the girls that they needed to write a letter to Santa. The brunette twin said, "I'm not writing a letter this year. I told the elf what I wanted. He talks directly to Santa so I don't need to write a letter."


It's great that the elf is taking the information back to Santa, but it's a problem for those of us who still need to buy our girls Christmas presents.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

We have to buy them Christmas presents?

We were discussing Christmas presents when we came upon a shocking discovery. We hadn't bought a thing to put under the Christmas tree for our girls. Actually, to clarify, we hadn't bought anything that would come from us.

I feel like I've been Christmas shopping for the girls for a long time now. I bought all Gramma's gifts for the girls. We've discussed gift ideas with relatives on both sides. We've received ideas from the girls. What we haven't done is buy anything that will say "Love, Daddy and Mommy" on the gift tag.

In what is highly unusual for us, we're scrambling for gifts. We have ideas so we're not totally lost. We're just not where we usually are this close to Christmas. Luckily we figured out our situation before December 24. Now we're crossing our fingers that we're still in time for standard shipping and the stores are not sold out.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I'm not your friend

Overheard walking home from school

Blond Twin: "My friend at school said her mom is her best friend. Will you be my friend?"

Mom:  "Sorry baby. I'm your Momma, not your friend. You'll have lots of friends, but just one Momma."

Blond Twin: "You're more special than a friend."

Mom: "You too blondie."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Casual holidays

We're in an funny place with the girls and Christmas. The things they loved before like the Polar Express are too young for them now. They still want to see Santa and go downtown, but the "must do" list is shrinking.

In past years there were breakfasts with Santa, father/daughter dances, train rides and more. This year we had two things on the schedule as of Thanksgiving. Oh, I know more will pop up, but we aren't booked every weekend.

It's a nice development to a hectic holiday season. While before we were looking to make sure they had lots of fun memories now their participation in Brownies, church and after school activities means they have lots of holiday events. Whether it's a community service project with Brownies or a party at school, they have built-in holiday activities.

We have a few things planned like decorating Christmas cookies at the Fairmont Chicago and ice skating with friends. We have to shop for our adopt-a-family and wrap a lot of presents for family and friends. These will be great tween-age holiday memories even if they are bit more casual.

Monday, December 3, 2012

No more lifetime subscriptions

Last year the girls talked us into buying a lifetime subscription for an online game site they liked. The site was appropriate for children through age 12, so we thought it was a good deal since we'd get a few more years for the cost.

This year we cannot get the girls to go to that site. The blond twin said, "It's boring now."


We should have known better. The problem was two-fold. First, one part of the site had learning games through age 12. The girls are reading and doing math at or above that age level. They are bored with the games even though their ages mean they should still be challenged. Second -- and perhaps more importantly -- they are nine years old. Their tastes change quickly. For them a lifetime membership doesn't meant the same thing as is does to us.

We learned our lesson. We'll buy the ocassional monthly membership, but nothing more. I'd like to think we won't make the same mistake twice.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The NHL lockout is ruining my quilting

Now that I've finished creating my quilt from Dad's shirts I need the motivation to finish it. Part of my problem is the weather has been warmer than you might expect for November. I was not ready to snuggle under a quilt to I watch TV or read when I was still opening windows. Part of my problem is the NHL lockout means we haven't had any hockey on TV this season.

As I sewed the quilt top I imagined myself with the quilt on my lap watching the Chicago Blackhawks. Dad taught us to love hockey so it would be like he was there in spirit with me. Well, no hockey meant no motivation to finish.

The weather took a sharply winter turn this week, which is my new motivation to finish the quilt. Even if the NHL lockout lasts the entire season the cold weather is still coming. Like it or not I'll end up on the couch with a quilt on my lap. If I want it to be Dad's quilt, I need to get moving.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Two phases of nonbreakable ornaments

When our girls were little we used only the nonbreakable ornaments on our Christmas tree. I was certain that the girls would pull the tree over at some point. Somehow we made it through the toddler years without the tree hitting the ground.

A couple of years ago I started putting up our glass ornaments again. I like the way the lights sparkle against the glass. I put them up high where the girls couldn't reach them. We made it through each Christmas season without any major incidents.

I thought we were passed the point where I had to worry about using the glass ornaments. I was wrong. It turns out the greatest threat to our glass ornaments involve the words, "We'll decorate the Christmas tree."

The first year the girls decorated the tree they were so careful with the ornaments. I didn't allow them to hang many glass ornaments. The girls did a good job with the ones they were allowed to touch. Last year they did nearly the entire tree by themselves. I think they broke one ornament each.

This year it was like a glass breaking contest. As soon as Daddy left to run some errands, I said, "Let's surprise Daddy by finishing the tree before he gets home." Ha! That would have been a very good idea except I didn't leave enough time on the schedule to clean up all the broken ornaments.

Since we buy a Christmas ornament every time we take a trip we had a lot of new ornaments to replace the broken ones. It isn't as if our tree is bare. Still, I did learn my lesson. From now on we'll focus on buying nonbreakable ornaments. I'll think about glass ornaments again when the girls are in college.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Will they know we wrapped these?

I've been ordering Christmas presents for the girls' teachers from school, piano, etc. We had a drawer full of stuff waiting to be wrapped. While Daddy put up the tree, I had the girls wrapped their teacher gifts.

There was a lot of wrapping paper, tape and bows. There was a lot of giggling, paper tearing and second attempts. There was a lot of ribbon everywhere. They wrote the gift tags using their best handwriting with swirls and hearts.

After all the presents were wrapped the brunett twin said, "Do you think they will know we wrapped these?"

Of course this was her worry. The brunette twin wouldn't think about how much people would like the gift. She would worry that her work wasn't good enough. I said, "Oh yeah. These are so pretty they will know you had to be the one who wrapped these."

She seemed satistified with my answer while she fiddled with a ribbon. I told her how pretty her presents were again. She bounced upstairs to her room happy that she did a good job. I was happy that she was happy, even if I wish she didn't have the worry in the first place.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A day with Daddy

When the girls are together the blond twin claims Daddy. She's glued to him because, well, they are both blond after all.

During Thanksgiving break the blond twin came down with a nasty cold. She spent a day sitting on a couch with a blanket. She slept, played on the computer and watched some TV.

This gave the brunette twin an opening. She glued herself to Daddy, helping him put out the Christmas lights, walk Oreo and work in the yard. She glowed the whole day. She said, "This is so much fun. I get to have Daddy all to myself today."

We try to take the girls out by themselves, but it's still hard to pull of regular dates. Between school, extra-curricular activities and play dates we're busy and tired. The brunette twin's reaction proves we need to make another effort to one parent/one child time on the calendar.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Celebrating My Birthday

I had a weekend long birthday celebration. We enjoyed brunch at North Pond, walked through Lincoln Park Zoo and visited the Chicago History Museum. It was a lovely day with above average temperatures and bright sunshine.

On my actual birthday the girls had a friend spend the night. All three girls frosted the cupcakes with loads of sprinkles.

The best part of my birthday was the cards the girls wrote. The brunette twin wrote a sweet card with adorable drawings. The blond twin wrote a card with sweet drawings and a lovely verse. My favorite part of the card was when she wrote, "You're not old."

Yes, my darling baby wrote a birthday card to let me know I wasn't old. Even though the reality is I am an older mom, she always gets upset when I say, "Sorry, I'm old. Deal with it." This bothers her a lot. To make me feel younger on my birthday she wrote a card telling me I'm not old. It was cute and caring, even if it wouldn't have been most people's idea of a happy birthday card.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I want braces

The brunette twin wants braces. Now. Right now. Immediately. I told her that eventually she will get braces. All the kids in the family seem to have had braces. She does not want to wait.

This all started at the last Brownies meeting. A friend has braces with colorful metal pieces. They were sparkly and flashy. She was completely taken by them.

Braces have moved from a medical procedure to a fashion accessory. The brunette twin is giddy at the thought of wearing braces.

I haven't had them, but I understand they are painful at first. Let's hope she feels the same way when she actually gets braces.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Deleting One Direction

The girls think One Direction is dreamy, of course. They have posters on the wall. They know all the songs. They read all the tween magazines.

Yesterday One Direction was on a morning show. We taped all four hours to get the One Direction segment. This evening the girls watched the show. They sang and danced each song. They giggled and whispered secrets. It was adorable.

When they wouldn't get ready for bed I found my new favorite threat. I said, "If you don't get into bed in the next five minutes then I will delete One Direction."

They moved so quickly that I realized what a good threat I created. Our initial plan was to delete the One Direction show sometime early next week. The taping is taking up four hours on our DVR. I'm thinking that we might want to keep it. "I'm going to delete One Direction" is something I'm planning to say as long as it keeps working.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Do you like your new haircut?

One fun thing about the girls is they still young enough that they don't always filter what they say. I recently came home with a new haircut. In the space of a couple of hours each girls said, "Mom, do you like your new haircut?" They said it with a smile, but it was clear they didn't like my haircut.

It turns out neither of them like my haircut. There are many reasons for this. First my hair is quite a bit shorter than it was. The girls wanted me to grow my hair to be as long as theirs. Let's just say that was their plan not mine. My hair was quite a bit longer than it had been in a long time and they liked it that way.

I hadn't planned to cut so much, but the stylist suggested a big change. I went with it. I was ready for something different and I walked out with something different. I'm not sure I really like it as much as I liked the idea of something different.

The good news is my hair will grow so they won't have to live with my haircut for long. Even better is that when my hair grows I won't have to listen to the girls question my judgement. It's a bit scary when your daughters start passing on their fashion sense and I think they might be right.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What does an Alexis look like?

We were walking to school when the blond twin starting asking about Alexis. She wanted to know what Alexis looked like. I asked the blond twin why she was asking about Alexis since she was in her class.

The blond twin said, "Not her Mom. The car. Alexis the car."

I said, "Oh, no. The car is called Lexus. When people say a Lexus, they mean one Lexus. It's not Alexis."

The blond twin replied, "Oh, I thought it was Alexis like my friend. How cool would that be to have a car named after you?"

Monday, November 5, 2012

No police contact this week please

Somehow the girls had a full house for their Halloween party Saturday. Despite handing out invitations to a whole bunch of adults we ended up with 15 children running around in costume.

Normally we'd put Oreo on a tie-up in the backyard and have a party. He loves to be part of the action. We decided it wasn't such a good idea for this party. I don't worry about him harming children on normal days. Since he was attacked on Halloween, things haven't been normal.

Oreo spent the afternoon at Grammie's house. The two of them had a quiet afternoon, which was perfect for both. We went over to pick-up Oreo after the party.

On the way home we were driving down a busy road when I glanced up at the rearview mirror. I saw some bright lights coming at us quickly. I didn't have time to say anything before this car rammed us as we were moving. Yes, we were rear-ended while we were driving. I immediately stopped the mini-van. The bright yellow car moved around us, hitting our passenger side back bumper.

The car didn't stop. It sped down the street with a trail of liquid behind it.

I started yelling to call 9-1-1. My husband didn't have his phone so I grabbed mine. My hands were shaking as I dialed the number. A man drove next to our mini-van to say that the same car almost hit him a few blocks back.

Luckily for us my husband had the presence of mind to figure out the make of the car and the first part of the license plate. If I hadn't been yelling call 9-1-1, he probably would have gotten the whole license plate number.

Since this is going to end up on court, I'll skip a lot of the details except to say the idiot driving ended up hitting a Com Ed transformer box before his car stopped in the middle of a busy intersection. There were emergency vehicles from several suburbs involved. We ended up at that location because the police officer who took our report asked us to follow him to see if it was the same car that hit us. It was.

No one will be surprised to learn that the idiot was drunk. He was so drunk in fact that the police said he was completely incoherent. He smashed his car so badly that he needed to be cut out of his car.

We were all okay, except for a lot of aches and pains. Even today we're a bit achy. Nothing was broken and we're grateful for that.

It wasn't until the light of day that we realized why we weren't injured more. We had a bike carrier hitch on the back bumper. It was smashed into the bumper when the idiot rammed his car into ours. The hitch seems to have taken a lot of the impact so we didn't end up in the emergency room.

If I had one goal for this week it is for us not to have any contact with the local police departments this week. Each officer has been very kind and professional, but enough is enough. I'm ready to take a break now.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Can I say something bad?

We were trying to get our nine-year-old twin daughters ready for bed Halloween night, but things weren't going well. They didn't want to take off their costumes and get ready for bed. They were so upset about Oreo's injury. They just wanted to talk about what happened.

We tried our best to keep them moving, but it’s not every Halloween that your dog gets attacked by another dog. It was very scary to see the other dog’s jaws locked on their dog’s throat. No matter what we said the girls wouldn’t stop crying and talking about the attack, the police, Oreo bleeding. In the end we wanted them to talk so we would know what was going on in their heads.

The brunette twin was standing in the bathroom when she said, "Can I say something bad?"

I said, "Sure baby."

She said, "I hate those stupid, f*!*!ing people."

I was going to say that we don't call people stupid when the rest of her statement sunk in. I said, "Excuse me? Where do you hear talk like that?"

She replied, "Uncle Dave talks like that all the time."


We all have moments where we have potty mouths on my side of the family. I don't swear a lot, but when I'm overtired or frustrated or annoyed or mad I can throw in a few choice words. I realize it's the sign of a simple mind. Some days it's just an easy way to express myself when I’m too distracted to find a more appropriate word. Some days it’s just the most descriptive way to describe something. I don't do it in front of the girls though. I'm careful about that.

I call it channeling my inner-Dad. My father always swore. I think he probably started because it annoyed my paternal Grandmother so much. After a while it just stuck. He used swear words as all sentence parts. Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs could all be replaced by a choice, unrepeatable word. For him being tired or frustrated or annoyed or mad had nothing to do with how often he swore.

We learned to swear with Dad at a young age. I always tell the stories about watching hockey with Dad. He would get so mad he'd swear at the TV. If Mom was in another room she'd say, "What happened?" We'd reply something like "a))hole missed the shot." We were little. We didn't know what we were saying. We were just repeating what Dad said.

I didn’t realize it was really a problem until I ended up in the principal’s office in kindergarten. A quick phone conversation with Mom and I was back in the classroom with a stern warning about my language. It made for an interesting dinner conversation that much I remember. We had a long chat about what Dad says and what we can repeat.

As we got older we learned to distinguish between things Dad said and things we should say. I'm not saying we never said any bad words. You can be certain that we said our fair share while watching hockey with Dad. We just made sure not to get caught by Mom.

Now it's my brother Dave's turn to carry on the family tradition. I explained to the brunette twin that while Uncle Dave might say certain things it was never okay for her to repeat them. She said, "I know Mom that's why I asked if I could say something bad." Seems that she knows the lesson and how to get around it. Turns out I need to think a bit more before I answer her questions from now on.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Off to the vet we go

This has been a long morning. The girls cried when they saw Oreo. He was clearly off this morning -- slow like he hadn't slept last night. He wasn't mean or angry. He was just slow. We did all the normal things and when we came home I realized Oreo was still draining some gunk from where he was bitten.

Last night it stopped bleeding, but this morning it was all wet again. It's not in an area he can lick so it's not like he was trying to clean it. I called the vet and away we went.

Our poor, sweet, beautiful dog now has two drains where the other dog punctured his skin, antibiotics, pain medicine and a big blue cone. When the office staff saw him they said, "Oh, Oreo has a party hat." If I'm sure of anything it's that he doesn't think of the cone as a party hat.

He needs to wear it so he doesn't scratch the drains out or injure his skin where the vet tech shaved it. She said it would bother him until it grows back, with the worst part being the next two weeks.

Oreo needs to go back to the vet on Monday to remove the drains and check the wounds. My fingers are crossed that he's done then.

In the meantime we have a wounded dog who couldn't be more like a stuffed animal right now. For all the days I wanted him to calm down, I never wanted it to happen because he was injured.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Halloween Nightmare Ends with a Bloody Dog

When the phone rang Daddy sounded a bit scattered. He was talking about Oreo bleeding and trying to tell the story, but it was hard to hear him. The girls and their friend were wailing in the background.

He was about two blocks from our house when the neighbor's white pit bull ran out the front door and attacked Oreo. The pit bull grabbed Oreo under his neck and wouldn't let go. Daddy was kicking the pit bull. The girls were screaming and crying. The pit bull's owner was on the ground trying to get her dog off Oreo. A neighbor ran over and moved the girls away from both dogs.

When the owner finally got her dog off Oreo, she apologized and told Daddy her dog had all his shots. She was truly sorry.

I didn't care that she was sorry. Her dog attacked Oreo and drew blood. It all happened in front of our girls and their friend. Daddy and I were both angry.

We went to the police and had a report written. We called City Hall to leave a message for the animal control officer. No matter how sorry the owner was, I insisted on escalating the attack. We don't know if Oreo will get sick in a day or a week or not at all. I wanted it documented in case a problem developed.

The girls went trick or treating with Daddy once he was done with the police report. They seemed to enjoy themselves, but when they walked into the house and saw the blood on Oreo they started crying again. I tried to clean the blood off Oreo, but it's in a bad spot. It's right at the place when his neck bends under his jaw. It's not easy to get there. He moves away when I try to clean him. Every time he moves his head the blood spreads. He finally stopped bleeding, so at least that's a good thing.

He calmed down after coming into the house. It took a while though. He was really anxious when he first came home. He stopped panting and plopped down into his spot. The girls don't want to leave him alone. They want to hug and smother him with attention. It's hard to tell them to keep away from him, but he needs to stay calm so we can watch him. His behavior is back to normal. We want to observe him overnight before deciding if he needs to go to the vet. If he was still bleeding, of course we would take him to the vet tonight. Since he stopped bleeding and is calm now, we decided to watch him.

Tomorrow we'll follow-up with the animal control officer. We'll try to clean Oreo. After a few days of extra attention I hope he'll be back to normal. I'm not sure I can say the same thing about the girls, though. They were so excited about trick or treating with their friend. I'm so angry at our neighbor for ruining their special evening. We wanted to create a special, fun memory. What we ended up with was a nightmare for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We're starving

The girls came out of school yesterday complaining that they were staaaaaarrrrrrrvvvvvviiiiiinnngggggggggg. Really, they were very, very, very hungry and probably starving.

I said, "Not enough pizza for lunch?" They don't eat the school lunches often, but we do treat them with the pizza when it's served.

They looked at each other and said, "We didn't get to eat our pizza. We had dry cereal."

In our school district if you don't have lunch the school won't let you go hungry. You'll get something to sustain you, but not enough to encourage you to come without your lunch again. You get a bowl of dry cereal.

I had to drag out the story, but it turns out the girls did sign-up for piza. They forgot their lunch punch cards when the went to the lunchroom. The rule is if you don't bring it you don't get to go back for it.

They didn't appreciate that I sided with the school. They wanted me to get mad at the school, but I said, "You're in third grade. How did you forget your lunch punch cards? You need to be responsible for your lunch when you order it."

What I really wanted to talk about was how the two girls, in two different classes, each forgot their lunch punch cards. They didn't want to talk about it at all. They just wanted to remind me that they were staaaaaaarrrrrrrvvvvvvviiiiiinnnngggg.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Girls Night Out with Grammie

Whenever we say we're going out on a Saturday night our girls immediately say, "Can we stay overnight at Grammie's?"

I love this. Mom is their only grandparent now. I'm happy that they ask to spend time with her. The minute I confirm with Mom, the girls start planning. They ask every day when they are spending the night at Grammie's.

As soon as they get to Grammie's they want to change into their pajamas. A night at Grammie's means the girls are going to hang in their jammies watching TV and playing games. They play card games like 31 and board games like Aggravation. They plan to eat either pizza or mac-n-cheese, followed by a treat before bedtime. Grammie always keeps some chocolate in a glass bowl. I'm sure they sneak some of those. Of course Grammie always knows they are eating it so the girls only think they are sneaking it.

For me the best part of the night is that they are making fun memories with Grammie. If grandparents are unconditional love, Mom excels at that with all her grandchildren. The more the girls can bask in Grammie's love the better.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You're sort of invited to a Halloween party

The girls asked to have a Halloween party this year. We've done it in the past with good results so we said yes.

Since the girls are in two different classes this year we really had to limit the number of kids they invited. In the past we'd have friends, family and classmates. This year it's only a few school friends. We had 25 invitations so they each created a list of 12 friends to invite. We printed invitations and sent them to school.

The girls told me they had given out all the invites. I waited for people to start responding.

A few days later I mentioned the party to a mom whose children were on the list. She said, "I don't remember getting anything." The next day the crossing guard said, "Hey, before the girls get out of school I thought I'd tell you they invited me to their Halloween party."

This was when the lightbulb went off.

On the way home I asked about distributing the invitations. The girls said they hoped I didn't mind but they invited a few people not on the list like their crossing guard, school librarian, lunch lady, etc. They did give out most of the invitations to their friends, but ran out so they just told their friends about the party. Of course their friends promised to tell their parents, so the girls thought it was all working out.

I've been emailing their friends to invite them to the party. If there's one thing I know it's that those kids won't remember enough details to give their parents the information. And, if our girls said they were invited to a party I'd tell them I'd deal with it when I saw an invitation.

The good news is the parents think the invitation distribution story is funny. The better news is I found out about the problem early enough to fix it. Let the party begin!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Piano Girls

The girls are getting ready for their upcoming piano recital. One of the songs they will perform is a duet. Oh, there is nothing funnier than listening to them bicker while they rehearse.

They fight about who is taking up more space. They argue about who is play too quickly. They pick at each other about their hand placement. Just to annoy each other they play one scale too high or too low.

It's like listening to a sit-com about an old married couple. The funniest part is the song is really coming along. They sound really good together.

I always tell them that no one will love them more than their twin and no one will be able to annoy them as much as their twin. They don't realize it, but every time they rehearse this song they prove the second part of my statement correct.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Stayin' Alive

When my Dad died we received many plants. Mom kept a few, which created a lot of entertainment for all of us. If there's one thing we know about Mom it's that she has a brown thumb. And, that's not a criticism. Mom would tell you that she cannot keep a plant alive.

We were stunned that the plants were still alive a year after Dad died. We often comment on how healthy the plants look. Honestly we're a bit stunned at Mom's new green thumb.

Recently Mom and Aunt Bonnie took a road trip to see their sister, Aunt Dar. Before she left Mom said, "Will you take care of my plants?" Of course I agreed to plant sit.

I've never been so nervous regarding plants. I really worried that I would kill the plants. Somehow I was certain that I could have a hand in growing beautiful flower gardens in our backyard, but I was certain I would kill these houseplants.

Mom came home and I couldn't wait to get her plants to her. I managed to keep the plants alive while she was gone. As I drove to her house, I couldn't get Bee Gee's song "Staying Alive" out of my head. As I drove away from Mom's I felt a great sense of relief. I had three plants in my care and all three made it back from vacation. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Third Grade Step-up

I thought third grade would be just like second grade, but a year later. What I've noticed is that third grade is a whole step up for the girls in terms of maturity and independence.

They need so much less help than they did in second grade. They do their homework as a team. All we  do is check. They make their own lunches. All we do is check to make sure they put in all the pieces. They get themselves dressed, brush their teeth and hair, and tie their own shoes. Last year they did these things but we spent a lot of time reminding them piece by piece.

It's wonderfully liberating. They are at an age where they can do things by themselves and still like to show off their independence. It's not a battle. It's still shiny new. And, it's good for all of us.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Virginia Wolf Does What Mommy Can't

Our girls were fighting about this or that or whatever when I finally separated them. I just couldn't take the bickering anymore. I was too frustrated to talk to either of them when I remembered a new book which recently arrived on our front porch for a book review.

I walked to the blond twin and handed her the book Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear. I said, "Read it and tell me what it's about."

A good book tells a story within a story. As Virginia Wolf opens, Vanessa is trying to be with her sister. Maybe she wants to play. Maybe she wants to draw together. Either way it doesn't matter. Virginia is howling. Vanessa tries everything to make her sister feel better. She comes up with a great idea. She'll create an imaginary, perfect place called Bloomsberry.

When the blond twin was done, I asked her what the book was about the blond twin said, "Virginia's sister was crabby." I said, "Really? Read it again."

When she read it a second time we talked about how Virginia was sick. Vanessa loved her so much she would do anything to make her sister feel better, including creating a gorgeous place called Bloomsberry. The blond twin said, "I love Sissy that much." I said, "Really? Maybe you should let her know."

A few minutes later the girls were reading Virginia Wolf. They discussed who would be the artist and who would be sick. They debated who loved the other one enough to create her dream world. It was adorable to listen to them.

Kyo Maclear wrote a beautiful book about sisterly devotion. Isabelle Arsenault drew pictures so beautiful I think you could pull any one of them out of a book, frame it and display it as an art collection. The words and illustrations work together to tell a story I'm not sure I could verbalize.

It's one reason I like having so many books around. I didn't have to fight with the girls or lecture them. I just handed them Virginia Wolf and let the book work its magic.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Synchronized Sleeping

When we bought the girls' bunk bed we decided to get a twin over double. We said the double bed was so they could have a friend spend the night, but in reality the girls use the double bed every weekend. As much as they like their own space, they still like to sleep together.

What's really cute about them sleeping together is they do something I can only describe as synchronized sleeping. When I check on them before going to sleep they often have the same arm over their heads or are curled in the same direction. It's adorable.

Sometimes they are so different it's hard to believe they are twins. When they are synchronized sleeping it is a reminder that they are more alike than they are different. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Is he a celebrity?

The girls were reading some teen magazine when the brunette twin turned to her sister and said, "You haven't met any celebrities have you?"

The blond twin said, "Yes I have."

I said, "Really? Who?"

She replied, "Santa. He's a celebrity. I met the real one at Breakfast with Santa one time."

The girls then discussed how the mall Santas weren't the real Santa. They decided Santa was famous and counted as a celebrity.

I couldn't stop smiling. They might be racing towards "tweenage" but in so many ways they are still my little girls.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Are we over informed?

The brunette twin's blood test came back with high cholesterol numbers. This is not surprising given that high cholesterol and high blood pressure run on Daddy's side of the family. The doctor told me she needed to watch what she ate, reduce her fast food consumption, avoid dairy, limit high cholesterol foods, eat veggies and fruits.

It's not that I'm taking her diagnosis lightly, but I cannot wonder if we are over informed about some things. I realize it's good to know that you have high cholesterol because it can cause heart problems later in life, but the brunette twin is nine years old. Isn't that a bit young to start monitoring her diet and spending all our time telling her she can't eat this or that because she has high cholesterol?

The irony is that we eat pretty much what the doctor suggested. I don't remember the last time we drove through a fast food restaurant to get dinner. I'm actually not sure that has ever happened in our family. They eat a nearly vegetarian diet. There are the occasional hot dogs, hamburgers and bacon. Neither girl eats much meat, though. They do eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of milk, so I guess we're going lower-fat and reducing those items.

The girls have gym at school every day. We walk to and from school every day. I know they get their exercise. At home the brunette twin wants nothing more than to sit and read as much as possible. I'm certainly not going to stop her from reading so she can exercise more to reduce her cholesterol.

Information is a difficult thing sometimes. I realize we need to take her high cholesterol seriously and we will. I'm sure there are additional dietary changes we can (and will) make. I'm just not sure we have enough information to understand why she has high cholesterol to really understand the steps we need to take.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

That's what the smoke detector sounds like

I've been collecting cast iron cookware for the past few years. I really like the way food cooks in those. When we were in Tennessee this summer we stopped at the Lodge Outlet. It was like I stepped into cast iron heaven. After a few dazed minutes during which I could not concentrate with all the choices in front of me, I finally settled on a few things.

I've been making pancakes on two cast iron griddles. When those get hot there is a decent amount of smoke. Now that I know this is normal, I always open a few windows when I cook with the cast iron griddle.

This morning I had three cast iron pans in the oven and a griddle on the stove top. I turned on the range hood and opened a window. I guess I underestimated the amount of smoke because just as I was about done with the last pancakes we heard loud beeping.

It took a minute before we realized the smoke alarm was going off. I ran into the family room to turn on the fan. We opened lots of windows. A few minutes after it started, the smoke detector stopped beeping.

Of course the girls were worried that the fire department was going to come by. They thought the smoke detector was connected to the fire department so when it went off it triggered a visit from the firemen.

The good news is the smoke detector works. The bad news is the weather is getting colder so I need a new strategy to clear out the smoke when I cook. Clearly one window cracked open and the range hood vent wasn't enough.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bra shopping with the babies

After a long and stressful week I took the girls out for a fun afternoon. It seemed like a good way to take their minds off all the medical stuff that happened.

We were in Target spending the gift cards Uncle Steve, Alyssa, Jake and Zack gave the girls for their birthday. I wasn't planning to go bra shopping with the girls, but we were standing in front of the display looking at socks when the girls started begging to try on bras.

Are you kidding was the first thing that ran through my mind. The second thing was the realization that they would need bras sooner than I liked to think. I think of the girls as my babies, but they are clearly tweens headed in a direction requiring bras. Several girls in their classes already wore bras. Our girls talked about bras constantly.

We bought them the American Girl book about taking care of their bodies. They worked hard to explain to me the physical changes requiring a bra. When I changed the topic, they let me know they read it in the book we gave them. They had an official source behind their constantly lobbying.

They stood in front of the display talking about which bras to try on. They made fun of the bras with the molded cups. They giggled about how silly they would look in those. They finally settle on bras I'd actually let them try on and wear. I think calling it a bra is a bit overselling the item. It's more like a half tank top, but it said bra on the tag so they were thrilled.

We left Target with bras for each girl. They were so excited that they could hardly stop talking about the undergarments. They thanked me so many times I finally lost count. It's probably a bit early for them to wear bras, but it made them so happy I was glad to buy bras. It was worth it for the smiles.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why don't I feel better?

We weren't home when the pediatrician called with the ultrasound test results. In a quiet message on our answering machine she said some things I didn't understand, plus the words "the radiologist said everything appears normal." We listened to it multiple times to make sure we heard it correctly.

These were the words we wanted to hear, but they didn't make me feel better. Maybe it was the drama from the ultrasound techs trying to figure out if the bump was a lump or a palpable mass. Maybe it was the doubts that conversation put in my head. I don't know, but I still don't feel settled about the whole issue.

I realize the radiologist's diagnosis is the final word as far as the pediatrician is concerned, but the brunette twin still has a 1.5x1.5 inch bump on the back of her neck. The pediatrician thought we should just watch it. I don't know how I feel about it. The brunette twin is self conscious about it now. She asks if you can see it whenever she puts her hair in pony tail. She feels it every morning to see if it's still there.

When the office calls about her blood test results I think we need to ask some questions. I don't know if those answers will make us feel more comfortable, but it might be a good start.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Let's draw blood

The pediatrician said she thought the bump on the brunette twin's neck was a lipoma, essentially just some misplaced fatty tissue. She asked about a family history of high cholesterol and heart disease. Since both run in my husband's side of the family, she ordered a lipid profile for the brunette twin.

The brunette twin was not happy that she was going to have blood drawn. She asked a lot of questions in great detail. She talked to Daddy about times when he had blood drawn. She researched cholestrol and started talking about what food was good and what was bad. She talked to her friends, one of whom already had a lipid panel done. It turns out doctors routinely order lipid panels for children with a family history of high cholestoral starting at age nine.

The morning of the test we tried to keep the brunette twin's world as routine as possible. Daddy walked the dog. Mommy cleaned up the house. The girls played. The only difference was we didn't eat breakfast when Daddy came home from walking Oreo. The brunette twin had to fast before her test.

When the tech called the brunette twin into the office, she stood up and started crying. The tech looked shocked until we explained that the brunette twin had never had blood drawn before. The tech was kind and gentle, but the brunette twin clung to me. It was over before she worked herself into a panic.

Once it was done the brunette twin was exhausted. She proudly showed off her bandage like a war wound. Her pride lasted until we were at the restaurant when she ripped the bandage off. By the time breakfast arrived, she was chatting about the experience like an old pro.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Write that it's a palpable mass

As a follow-up, our pediatrician ordered an ultrasound of the bump on the brunette twin's neck. We arrived at the hospital to a waiting room full of people. I could see the brunette twin's anxiety rising as we waited. The blond twin was edgy as her sister became anxious. The two of them talked and tried to read and play, but mostly they just want to be together.

They were in the bathroom together when the tech called the brunette twin. I called them and she said, "Oh, it's okay." I replied, "They are just playing. They've been in there a long time." Truth be told I was glad they went into the bathroom to play. For some reason those girls always end up giggling and laughing when they are in the bathroom together. It's like their private play space.

We barely entered the room when the blond twin started trying to distract her sister. Throughout the ultrasound she did her best to keep her twinnie from thinking about the ultrasound. Even though it didn't hurt the brunette twin, you could see the fear in her eyes.

About half way through the test the brunette twin's eyes welled up. She barely kept the tears from falling. The tech said she needed to get someone else to look at the ultrasound. That's when the tears started from both girls.

The brunette twin started crying because she was scared. Why did someone else have to come was all she wanted to know. The blond twin cried because her sister cried. She asked the brunette twin what she could do to make her feel better.

When the second tech came in both women started poking the brunette twin's neck. They used their fingers and the ultrasound want to go over the same spot time and time again. They started discussing what to put in the notes. Was it a lump? Or a palpable mass?

In the end they decided on palpable mass as the description. For some reason this made more sense to them than saying it was a lump. For me it made no difference. There was something that concerned them and I had no one to talk to about it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

How long has that been on her neck?

The brunette twin woke up on day complaining about her neck hurting. When I felt the back of her neck, there was a sizable bump. It was soft and squishy, but it was there. Within a few hours, I pulled her out of school to visit the doctor.

During the exam the doctor looked at me and said, "How long has that been on her neck?" In my parent of the year moment I said, "I don't know."

It's the problem with independence, isn't it? As the girls do more and more stuff by themselves, we have fewer opportunities to notice things like bumps and bruises. If I still brushed her hair twice a day, I would have seen the bump on the back of the brunette twin's neck. As it is, Daddy brushed her hair right before bed. It's more of a check to make sure she did a good job on her own than anything else, so he didn't notice the bump either.

The doctor just kept talking when I was sure she was going to say something like, "What do you mean you don't know?" She didn't show any reaction to my response, but I certainly had a reaction. Even though I realize the girls are older now and need more privacy, I need to do a better job of checking in with them to see what new issues require our attention.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sleep is NOT Punishment

If there is on thing I wish the blond twin would learn it is that sleep is not punishment. The girl just drive me crazy with her complete aversion to sleep. She wants nothing more than to stay up late. We want nothing more than to get her into bed on time.

The problem is that she doesn't sleep late when she's up late. The next day she's an overtired, cranky girl.

The brunette twin would really like to sleep as much as possible. When I say "You were up late last night. You need to take quiet time (aka a nap) this afternoon" the brunette twin happily agrees. The blond twin acts like we're the meanest parents ever.

Someday she'll say to me, "I'm so tired. I wish I had time for a nap." I'll remind her that when she had the opportunity to nap she never wanted to sleep. It's always that way isn't it? When you're a child you don't appreciate things like being able to sleep just because you're tired.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Radio Disney Free Zone

Whenever we go somewhere the girls beg to take the mini-van. This is a change from the days when they couldn't wait to drive in Daddy's car. They like to play with the automatic windows in the back seat, which is something they cannot do in the mini-van.

When I asked my husband why the girls always want to ride in the van these days he laughed and said, "Oh, I told them my car doesn't get Radio Disney."

Now I get it. They are obsessed with Radio Disney. They know all the words to all the songs. They watch videos on YouTube. They read about the bands in their magazines. A ride without Radio Disney? Horrors!

Of course they only believe this because Daddy said it. The same words from me and they'd roll their eyes.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Celebrating Daddy's Birthday

We were discussing Daddy's birthday when the blond twin said, "No, don't buy Daddy anything. We have so much stuff in the basement we don't use. We'll wrap it. We shouldn't be wasteful." Of course, I was a bit skeptical of this plan. We do have some unused, unopened stuff in the basement, but it's not like we're hording stuff.

As Daddy's birthday came closer the girls got a little giddy. They started making Daddy birthday cards. They wrote and illustrated comic strips for Daddy. They couldn't wait to give Daddy his presents.

Daddy smiled and ahhhhed at each present. A couple he recognized, but several he didn't. I did buy him two things just to round off the pile. He laughed at the comic strips as much for the  creativity as for the story. He said it was a great birthday.

When I mentioned the girls' plan to give him presents without buying anything, he smiled and said, "Well, they were right. I didn't remember all of it."

Hmmmm....maybe I should take the girls' gift giving advice more often.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Happy Birthday Babies

Our girls turn nine today. It's so hard to believe that they are nine years old. It seems like time so long ago that we were making bottles by the dozens and buying diapers by the case. They are smart, strong, charming young ladies. We marvel at how they can be both grown up and little girls at the same time. They are busy developing their own tastes and interests while still being fiercely loyal twinnies. 

They are our joys and our loves. As I always tell them, "No matter how old you are, you'll always be my babies"

Happy, happy birthday babies.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Not Quite a Number

Overheard at our house...

Mom:  I cannot believe you're going to be nine years old.

Brunette Twin:  I know. This is the last year we're digits. Next year we'll be numbers.

Go ahead and think about it. I had to...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Smile for the Camera

Recently I was interviewed by a Chicago Tribune reporter about working as a contract employee. The story was about how people choose to work as contractors and why.

The reporter called and said, "We'd like to take a photo to go with the story. What are you doing today?" It was a normal day really. School pick-up and then golf lessons. Walking Oreo and making dinner. She immediately picked up on golf lessons. She said, "You said one of the reasons you worked as a contractor was to be able to do things with your girls, right?" A few minutes later we arranged to have the photographer come to the golf course.

We were at golf lessons when the call came that the photographer wouldn't make it. What was I doing tomorrow? Well, that day was even more normal -- pick-up at school, walk Oreo. The editor said, "What time is school pick-up?"

The next day a nice, young man showed up to take pictures. He took a few of me sitting on the back patio working. Oreo played nicely with the photographer. A few minutes later we walked to the school. That's when the fun really started.

As soon as the girls met me by the crossing guard, the photographer started clicking away. He snapped pictures all the way home. He took a few shots in the house with the normal chaos that happens when we arrive home. 

A bit after he left I called the school principal to let her know the photographer was taking photos of us. I wasn't bragging as much as I was letting her know so she would be able to answer questions from other parents. After all it's not every day that a photographer follows two students, their Mom and dog home.

Of all those photos, which did they use online? One of the last photos he took after we came home. I was hot and sweaty. You can see the sweat on the front of my shirt just under my chin. I was disgusting. Of course I realize no one else will realize how hot and sweaty I was at that moment. They probably just think I was a bit disheveled as a busy Mom juggling work, daughters and a dog. At least that's what I hope they think.

The good news is the print photo is much better. The girls and I are walking on a tree-lined sidewalk with Oreo. What do people say when they see the photo? "Oreo looks so cute." With comments like that there's no chance we'll get big heads and start signing autographs any time soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Can't Help But Feel Left Behind

We were sitting at dinner listening to the brunette twin talk about her school day. She was talking about Fast Track math when the blond twin's eyes teared up and she said, "I can't help but feel left behind because I'm not in Fast Track math." Then she started crying.

I held her while she asked why she wasn't in the class. She wanted to know why she wasn't smart enough. Daddy and I said all the right things about class limits and not enough space. She eventually stopped crying, but barely.

This is the problem with having the girls in different math classes. I completely understand that the blond twin didn't quite score high enough to make the cut. She barely missed it, but she missed it. We have to manage her disappointment without letting her think that she's not good enough to be in the class. We don't want this to put her on a "I'm not good at math" path. That would be the worst outcome of all.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Oreo's Buried Treasure

This morning the blond twin dropped an open bag of chocolate chips. She told Oreo not to eat any and he walked away from the mess on the floor. As a reward she opened a new box of dog biscuits. After she gave Oreo his treat, he played with it for a bit before standing by the patio door.

When we let him out, Oreo trotted to the grass with his dog biscuit in his mouth. We watched him play with it for a few minutes before he started digging in the grass. A minute later he dropped the biscuit in the hole and started burying it.

The girls and I stood at the window watching. This was a new behavior for Oreo, who hasn't shown much interest in digging. He took a lot of time pushing the dirt over his buried treasure with his nose and his paws. He patted it down, using his paw like you would use your hand. It was fascinating to watch.

A little bit ago I gave him another dog biscuit just to treat him. He walked around the house with it for a while before walking over to the patio door.  I was on a conference call so I didn't open the door for him. Oreo stood there for a while before dropping the dog biscuit at the door. He walked over to his favorite spot and plopped down.

An hour later the dog biscuit is still sitting there, waiting to be buried in the yard. It fascinates me that he wants to bury these rather than eat these. I with I could ask him why, but his communications skills haven't advanced that far yet.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Boy Band Posters Everywhere

Now that the girls are boy band crazy, they keep pulling posters out of magazines. They kept asking if they could put them on their walls. Eventually we broke down and said it was okay.

The girls spent a couple of hours in the basement deciding which posters would grace the walls above their beds They swapped posters like baseball cards. They came to agreement and waited and waited and waited until finally we said "Let's put up the posters."

The girls jumped up on their beds and giggled when they looked at their walls. They couldn't wait to get to bed so they could look at their posters. They are happy girls because they have their posters on their walls.

We know the posters will change and change as they get older. As long as we continue to get those smiles, we'll keep changing them as needed.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Bliss of Back to School

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

There’s a certain joy to having our girls back in school. They are so excited about having new teachers. They have new backpacks and clean shoes. They jump at the chance to leave early for school as it gives them a few more minutes on the playground with their friends. It’s the fun of something new isn’t it? I’m a little jealous. I always liked to go back to school. I liked shopping for school supplies and buying new socks. I liked putting all my stuff in my new desk.
Every year at the beginning of school I get the urge to buy myself new pencils, notebooks, socks, shirts, etc. Now that we have children I can indulge that urge and buy them school supplies without feeling guilty. I go through my closets and sort through my clothes, just like I do theirs. I clean my desk of its summer stacks and try to find the top. Hey, I might not succeed, but at least I try.
I always think I’m going to get so much done when they go back to school. I have visions of cleaning closets and straightening drawers. I think about going to lunch with friends and getting my hair cut. None of it gets done because I work from home. I don’t know when I think I’m going to get all these extra things done since I still have to work. For some reason I cannot get it in my head that just because they are in school doesn’t really mean that I have all this extra free time.
It does mean my time is more my own, even if it is work time. I work in peace for a few quiet hours, drinking hot tea rather than tea that was hot before one of our girls needed something. I can take conference calls without worrying that our girls are going to pick-up the phone to dial Radio Disney at the worst possible moment. It also means I can make myself a lunch without wondering if they will eat it.
After a full and fun summer, we’re all ready to get back into the school routine. Back to school is a new opportunity to make fun new memories for our girls. I told them that they will only be in third grade once so they should enjoy every minute of it. I look forward to enjoying it with them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Her Own Cinderella Moment

The blond twin has a bad habit of not paying attention to what she is doing. This leads to a lot of spilled stuff, bruised limbs and bumped heads.

The other night we were out to dinner with Gramma when the blond twin bounced herself off the bench, hit her head on the table and sat back up. The best part is she never stopped talking. Gramma said, "Are you okay?" She said, "Yes. It doesn't hurt." And she kept telling her story. It's like she really didn't realize she hit her head until Gramma asked her.

The moment which ended up with her on knees in the kitchen cleaning the cabinets was a little morning fun. She was talking and waving her hands and she managed to spill her orange juice in a way that spread it all across the kitchen floor and several cabinets. I cracked and told her I'd clean up the floor because we needed to get to school, but she had to clean the cabinets.

She wasn't very happy when she cleaned the cabinets. She complained that it wasn't fair that she had to clean all the cabinets when we didn't know which cabinets were hit with orange juice. She complained when I told her she had to open the cabinet doors to clean the insides.

She moaned and groaned like it was hard labor, but eventually she finished. I don't know if she learned her lesson or not, but at least we have clean cabinets.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Third Grade Stinks

The blond twin came home from school with a story that still makes me cringe. The teacher told the class they needed to start wearing deodorant because so many of them were stinky after gym.

It's not that she told them to wear deodorant that makes me cringe. I know enough teachers to know that's a standard conversation in junior high school. Kids don't seem to realize their perspiration starts to smell. Parents don't seem to realize their children become more "fragrant" as they go through puberty.

What make me cringe is the idea that third graders are starting to smell. According to everything I've read their perspiration starts to smell once they go through puberty. The idea of third graders going through puberty is just frightening to me.

This seems to be the third grade parents' main conversation. Girls showing signs. Boys showing signs. All of us say it's way too early for our children to go through puberty, but none of us know how to stop it. Instead we band together and try to figure out how to go through it gracefully.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pay the Babysitter

Whenever we have to pay someone like the girls' babysitter or piano teacher, I hand the girls the money and say, "Pay Anna. Or Amanda. Or Phebes." You get the point.

Sometimes I say to the girls, "You know Anna doesn't teach you for fun. This is her job."

My point, and they get it, is that people work for money. The way you get paid is to work. The way you take control of what you want is to work. You want to buy an iPod? You need to work and save your money until you can afford it.

They talk about working and saving for what they want, so I know it's a lesson they understand. Sometimes ongoing, subtle lessons actually work.

Friday, August 31, 2012

I'm Bringing Dreamy Back

One of the birthday presents the girls received was a Tiger Beat magazine. My first thought was "that is still around?" My second thought, after the giggling and squealing stopped, was "they are officially tweens."

You know all about tweens. It's that magical age between little girl and teenager when boys are cute and things are still innocent. The girls are firmly there.

They talk about their favorite boy bands and singers constantly. They are "crushing" on different boys all the time. They discuss clothes and cute hair and fun nails.

Whenever I mention a specific boy band or singer to their Daddy or Gramma I roll my eyes up and say, "He's so dreamy, isn't he?" One of the girls will giggle and explain why he's dreamy.

The other day we were talking about boy bands and the blond twin said, "I think Cody Simpson is more dreamy than any of those guys." Since then both girls have used dreamy to describe cute boys in their class and on TV.

I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself. Without much effort I worked dreamy into their vocabulary. Of course, if they know I think it's cute when they say it they will stop so it's our secret, right?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Her Personal Fast Track Math Tutor

Last year both girls were in the Fast Track Math class. This is an advanced math class based upon test scores. There were two sections last year, but only one this year. The brunette twin made it. The blond twin did not.

It's not that she doesn't know it. Today she sat at the breakfast bar and explained to her twin how to do her Fast Track Math homework. She went into great detail about how to figure out the answer and then helped her sister figure each answer. Of the 25+ problems, the two of them only had one wrong answer.

We always tell the blond twin to slow down. She works harder at being done first then getting all the answers right. There's no doubt in my mind that if she took her time on the last standardized test she would be in Fast Track Math with her twin. She only missed the cut by 4 or 5 points.

Instead, I'm encouraging the girls to work together on the brunette twin's Fast Track Math homework. It helps the brunette twin build her confidence and it helps the blond twin sharpen her math skills. My secret motive is that when the blond twin does the work with her twin, she gains the same information she would if she was in the class. It's not a great plan, but sometimes you just have to work with what's available to make sure your children get the education they need.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Weekend in St. Louis

We ended our summer with a long weekend in St. Louis visiting Aunt Mary (aka Daddy's sister) and Uncle Terry. Our niece Maddie was coming to visit her Gramma and Grampa (aka Aunt Mary and Uncle Terry) so we timed our trip to visit Maddie.

We took Amtrak down which was a treat. It was nice not to drive. We did a lot of driving this summer and weren't looking forward to two long drives for a long weekend. Our girls were able to play their games as the train had electrical outlets by each seat. They liked being able to get up and walk through the train cars.

In St. Louis we stayed near Forest Park. I didn't know this treasure was there before this trip, but I can tell you we will be back. There are several museums and each one is free. We strolled the beautiful St. Louis Zoo and the Art Museum. We walked around the Great Basin and through a lovely garden. it was a fun and free day.

The next day we went to the Missouri Botanical Garden to see the Lantern Festival. This was one of those times I was really glad I didn't visit the website to see what the Lantern Festival was about. The lanterns were large-scale events, not small decorations. Each one was more spectaular than the last. Some of them moved. Others blew smoke. Sometimes the lights flickered. It was all magical.

On our final day we went to the St. Louis Science Museum. The girls participated in a demonstration about gravity that ended up with a water balloon falling three stories.

St. Louis was so much fun. It's nice to be in a city where everything is close and inexpensive. Having Aunt Mary and Uncle Terry -- and sometimes Maddie -- makes it an even better weekend trip.