Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Pickiest Eater

When we adopted Oreo, people said, "You'll never clean your floor again."  It was one of the benefits everyone mentioned.  Dogs are supposed to eat anything that falls on the floor.


Oreo is a picky eater.  He will see something on the floor, sniff it, lick it and walk away.  The only exception is when we're eating dinner.  He cruises the blond twin's space two or three times a meal.  He knows he'll find a few crumbs underneath her chair.  She'll eat all her vegetables, but somehow manages to wind up with everything he likes on the floor around her.  It's not on purpose because she creates the same debris field wherever she eats.

He doesn't like so many things it is easier to talk about what he does like.  I used to wait to see if he'd eat it, like it was a science experiment, but no more.  It has gotten to a point that when I drop something, I just pick up the item.  I know the outcome, so why wait?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Funny Girls

The girls have a new Sunday ritual with Daddy.  He reads the newspaper and they read the comics. Since we subscribe to both Chicago newspapers, each girl has her own comics section.

It is so cute to see them come down in their pajamas and ask if the Sunday paper is in the house.  The three of them sit at the breakfast bar or on the couch reading and talking.  They share newspaper sections so they each get to read the comics.   

Daddy used to be able to sit in peace and enjoy his newspaper, but not anymore.  He has competition for certain sections, but somehow I don't think he minds a bit.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dog on Front Porch

The brunette twin's backpack fell apart one day.  Two zippers wouldn't work, so she couldn't close it.  I knew when we bought it that it wouldn't last like the LL Bean backpack she had through five school years, but I didn't think it would fall apart in the middle of a school year. 

The new book carrier of choice was a messenger bag.  She picked out her favorite from the LL Bean sale website.  A few days later it arrived.  She's thrilled.  She carried it like it's the best thing she has ever seen.  I'm thrilled because I know the LL Bean bags are tough enough to survive a few years with her.

The blond twin lobbied for a new messenger bag as well.  Her logic was that her backpack is the same kind as her sister's and clearly wouldn't make it through the school year either.  I didn't really agree as the brunette twin is a lot tougher on her stuff than the blond twin.  Still, I did have a nagging feeling that she might be correct and bought her a messenger bag as well.  Hers came from a different company.  Every day after school the first thing she asked was, "Is my messenger bag here?"

Today she brought in the mail and I started laughing.  It turns out her messenger bag should have arrived today.  On the delivery notification card were the words "DOG ON FRONT PORCH!"

Of course, the postal carrier was correct.  It was so muddy in the backyard that I put Oreo on the front porch for a while.  He likes to be outside, but there was no way I was putting him in the back to play in the mud.

The postal carrier had to get nearly to our front porch before he could have seen Oreo.  True to form, Oreo didn't even bark when he saw the carrier.  If he had, I would have gotten the package from the carrier.

Now the blond twin is really mad at me.  I'm not sure how this is my fault, but we know she'll never blame Oreo.  Maybe I shouldn't have laughed when she read the postcard, huh?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Out of Balance

The blond twin is having a hard time with her sister's growth spurt.  She developed a jealous streak because her sister has been getting new clothes at a faster rate than she has.  The blond twin understands that it's because her sister is growing, and none of her clothes/coats/etc. fit anymore.  It doesn't make her feel better, though.

The new coat seems to have pushed her over the edge.  Since the brunette twin has been showing off her new coat, the blond twin keeps saying, "It's not fair.  I want a new coat too."  We talked about how we don't get new things just because we're tired of the old things.  She said she knew that when she outgrew her coat, she'd get a new coat too. 

We went into the basement to look at the new clothes waiting for her.  She took a few things upstairs and tried them on with glee.  It didn't really help, though.  She's feeling a little left behind still.

The girls used to be much closer in height.  Now that the brunette twin seems to be outpacing her sister, the blond twin doesn't like it.  She says, "We're twinnies.  We supposed to be the same size.  It's not fair."

She has started telling everyone that she's the older twin.  Sissy might be taller, but she's older.  It seems to be her way of equalling the balance -- for now at least.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Group Anxiety

Sometimes I look at the work our girls are doing in second grade and wonder when items like PowerPoint presentations became standard fare.  This month, the girls are working on a team report about dangerous weather.  Everything from tornadoes to blizzards to typhoons are being researched and documented.

The blond twin seems to be working with a pretty good group.  They have some typical second grade problems, but overall they seem to be working at a reasonable pace and all doing their jobs.

The brunette twin is having a different experience.  The way she tells the stories, she's the only one really working in her group.  The other two spend their time playing and not doing their parts of the project.  She finally asked me what she should do.  I said, "What do you think you should do?''

She said, "Do it myself. I don't want to get a bad grade."

I told her she was not going to do it by herself.  The other two were not going to get credit for her hard work.

When I taught college English classes, I used to tell my students that if they had any problems within their group, they needed to tell me before the final presentation/paper. Once they completed their presentation and turned in their final paper, everyone received the same grade.  If they talked to me throughout the process, I could help them work out the problems -- even if it meant reducing an individual's grade for lack of participation. 

We talked about what she should tell her teacher and what she should expect from the other students.  She was going to start by outlining who was going to do what part so she could explain to her teacher what was done and the specific parts the other two were not doing.

I feel badly for her.  In my mind, I always hope their school experiences will be positive.  This one is causing her great anxiety.  The reality is this will probably help her more than the blond twin's experience will help her. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dumb Luck is Better Than No Luck

Yesterday afternoon we took the girls downtown to ice skate.  We try to do this once a year as they think it is so fun to skate outside in the shadows of the skyscrapers.  They are pretty good on the ice for about an hour.  After that they start to fall a lot and spend more time hanging on the side railings.  In other words, they get tired.

Even though they don't want to get off the ice, we always have something else planned so we can say that it's time to move on.  Last night the blond twin just fought us when we said it was time to get off the ice.  She was anxious to show Daddy her ice skating skills.  She kept saying, "But there's one more thing I want to do."

As if we planned it, there was a sign on the building saying, "Rink and building closed at 5:00 p.m. tonight for a private party."  If I didn't believe in dumb luck before, I had my proof now.  The blond twin wasn't happy, but she stopped fighting with us.

We went to dinner and then stopped by the Bean (aka Cloud Gate) to see the LuminousField light and sound show.  The interplay of the lights, colors, people and Bean was really fun.  It was cold, so we didn't stay long.

As we walked to the parking lot, we saw a bunch of girls walking with skates on their shoulders.  They were headed towards the rink we left a little while before.  The blond twin said, "I bet they are going to the party."  She ran to her sister and they started talking about next year's ice skating outing. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Buyer's Remorse

The brunette twin outgrew her winter coat recently, which should be an easy thing to replace.  After all, it's winter in Chicago, so we're all still wearing winter coats.  In the retail cycle, it's bathing suit season.  All the winter coats have already been on the clearance racks for weeks now.

I came up empty in four different stores before I started wandering our local mall trying to come up with a solution.  I was walking by a store called Forever 21 when I saw a rack of winter coats on clearance.  I picked up a petite small short wool coat with a hood and realized it might fit the brunette twin.  A woman and her daughter walked by at the same time.  I said to the woman, "This is an odd question, but would it be okay if your daughter tries on this coat?  She about the same size as my daughter."  The girl tried on the coat and it fit.

The price tag made me really happy.  The coat was about $35 full price.  It was on sale for $22.  I was really happy with the price, the fit, the color, everything.  When I made it to the cash register, the clerk said, "Oh, this is such a good deal."  I agreed.  She then said, "that will be $11.99." 

Yes, the coat was 50% off the sale price, plus tax.  It was such a good deal. 

The brunette twin looked so cute in the coat.  She loved it and didn't want to take it off.  It wasn't until I saw her in it that I had buyer's remorse.  I realized she wouldn't be able to wear much more than just the rest of this winter.  By next year it would be too small on her.  I should have bought a petite medium.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Natural or Adopted?

Originally posted on the Chicago Moms blog

I was standing at the counter scanning a routine medial form when something caught my eye. Under our daughter’s name was the line

Natural child: Insured has financial responsibility

I asked the receptionist what “natural child” meant. She said, “Oh, it means she’s really his daughter.” I gasped and said, “So, if she was adopted, you’d put that on the form?” The receptionist said, “Oh yeah. Insurance companies want to know if it’s your real kid or not.”

I stood there frozen. There were so many things I thought about saying. What came out of my mouth was “In 2012, the fact that we are still distinguishing between natural and adopted children is appalling. I cannot believe the office actually puts it on a form.”

She tried to explain why it was there, but only made it worse. This was one of those cases when less said would have been a lot more comforting.

Several hours have passed and this still upsets me. First, as a mother I find it horrifying that there’s still a distinction between natural and adopted children. Second, as a consumer, I cannot understand the difference between natural and adopted children where the insurance company is concerned.

I might be able to understand noting financial responsibility in cases of foster children or other unusual situations. Perhaps if parents are divorced and the non-custodial parent has financial responsibility it’s worth noting in a file.

You’ll see that I said “noting in a file.” At no time should a child stand there and read anything about who is responsible for his/her health care financial responsibility. This is an adult problem that children should not worry about.

Our daughter was very upset that she was listed as a “natural child.” She said, “You mean if I was adopted they wouldn’t let me see the doctor?” She’s only eight-years-old, so she didn’t quite understand what it meant. Of course, I’m a lot older than eight and I don’t understand the point either.

I’m going to contact our insurance company and ask about “natural or adopted.” I might not get the answer I want, but at least I’ll be able to register my complaint. Now that I know about this practice, I cannot let it go undocumented.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sticks and Stones

Yesterday we stood talking to the crossing guard when Oreo found a metal stick wrapped in green plastic.  It was about an inch in circumference.  The stick as was the kind local realtor's use to post their signs on corners.  Oreo put it in his paws and started chewing on it. 

The crossing guard asked if I should take it away from him.  I said, "No, he cannot hurt it and he's busy, so it's fine."

A few minutes later she looked at him and said, "Did he chew through the metal?"

Sure enough, the stick was broken in two.  He managed to gnaw through the metal without breaking the plastic.

We stood there staring at the dog, who was still happily playing with the broken stick.  The crossing guard kept saying, "I cannot believe he did that."  The girls just laughed like it was something he did all the time.

I couldn't either at first, but given some of the other things I've seen him do, I guess I'm not surprised that he's strong enough to chew through metal.  It does make me want to be extra careful when I'm playing with him.  An accidental chomp could be really painful.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Second Grade Style

The girls are giddy today about Valentine's Day.  They took a bag of Valentines to school for their class and teachers.  In the bag they added Valentines for everyone from the custodian to their PE teachers.  They have one for their crossing guard and lunch lady.

It's so sweet, isn't it?  Second grade is just a wonderful time.  The girls are old enough to be able to help prepare Valentines, but not old enough to be cynical about it.  There's a sweetness to their work that comes from being excited that you can create and distribute your own Valentines.

I'll be headed to school today for their ice cream social.  As room parent, my job is to scoop ice cream for the class.  Last night we went to the store and they picked two flavors:  Cookies and Cream and Vanilla.  I bought two gallons of each, but now I'm wondering if I should have bought more.  We also bought whipped cream and sprinkles. 

Sugar and cards.  It's the perfect Valentines celebration.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chicago Auto Show Anxiety

Originally published on the Chicago Moms blog

We’re headed to the Chicago Auto Show this weekend to research a new vehicle. Our ten-year-old mini-van is falling apart. It has more than 110,000 miles on it, so it’s not like it hasn’t earned the right to fall apart. It’s just that we were hoping to get another year out of it.

For years now I’ve been planning to replace the mini-van with something smaller. I even had a vehicle or two in mind. Every time I saw one, I’d say to my husband, “What do you think? Will it work for us?” It’s the main issue with a vehicle, isn’t it? We can talk about the color and features and gas mileage, but in the end the question of whether or not it will fit your family’s lifestyle is always at the top of the list.

Last week we were in Florida to enjoy the sun, sand and theme parks. We rented a smaller SUV to drive around while on vacation. We really enjoyed the car, but every time we drove somewhere we’d talk about whether or not it was big enough.

Oh, it was fine for hauling the girls to and from after-school activities and summer camp. We’d be comfortable driving downstate to visit the relatives. It would be too small to take a trip Wisconsin with us, our stuff, the golf clubs and the dog. We don’t think we could get all four bikes in the back for biking anywhere.

This is the problem, isn’t it? One vehicle is too big for every day use, but perfect for all the other times when you need to carry a lot of stuff. Another vehicle is perfect for every use, but too small to carry much stuff. We want to find something that works for both parts.

Of course you also have to factor in cost and longevity. We keep our vehicles for a long time so we need something that will last. The cost of everything we’re looking at gives me panic attacks — and we’re not looking at anything that would qualify as a luxury vehicle.
I don’t know if we’ll find the perfect vehicle or just settle for something good enough. All I do know is I just want to get this over with so I don’t have to do it again for a decade.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Strangest Winter

We're having the strangest winter in Chicago.  It has been warm and dry from Thanksgiving on.  I'm not really complaining.  Last year I walked Oreo in the piles of snow and sub-zero temperatures enough for a lifetime.

There is one thing I do miss, though.  We usually take advantage of the local park district's outdoor ice rinks in the winter. We spend several afternoons just hanging out with whoever else is brave enough to skate on the uneven outdoor ice.

The girls like zipping around the rink.  I do more watching than I do skating most of the time.  Even though they are pretty good skaters, I'm always certain one of them is going to fall.  I think it's an occupational hazard to worry about your children, isn't it?

This year the retention pond near our house has some water, but no ice.  As I walked Oreo today, I watch small ripples glide across the top of the water with the breeze.  It was a lovely site, even if it wasn't what I normally see there this time of the year. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Summer Blond Again

Last summer I let the blond twin use Sun In to create blond highlights in her ever-darkening hair.  Our family had a long, hard summer.  The Sun In brightened her hair and her mood.  It made me happy to see her so happy with something as simple as blond streaks.  Since then, strangers have asked us about the blond twin's hair many times.  The blond streaks really do look adorable on her.

The problem is using Sun In has the same maintenance issues as any other hair color product.  If you stop using it, then you start getting dark roots.  Yes, my eight-year-old daughter had dark blond roots growing in once she stopped spending time in the summer sun.

I spent a lot of time pointing out her ever-darkening roots.  She glared each time I said she was going from sun-kissed blond to dark blond.  Her reaction was always funny -- at least I thought she was funny.

During our trip to Orlando, I sprayed some Sun In on the top of her head.  While we were enjoying Sea World, the Clearwater Marine Hospital and the Kennedy Space Center, the Sun In worked its magic to lighten her hair again. 

She's now totally blond again.  She's a happy girl because she is blond from top to bottom.  I'm thinking that I'm a bit crazy to let her do this, but I started it, so it's my own fault. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Winter WOW

The brunette twin loves the story of Winter, the dolphin featured in The Dolphin's Tale book and movie.  When we started planning our trip to Florida, we researched the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Hospital.  To our delight, they now offer different tours.

We signed up for a general admission and behind the scenes tours.  The brunette twin told us numerous times how excited she was that we were going to see Winter.  I didn't realize how excited she was until we arrived.  Just before we went in, I said, "Are you excited?"  She said, "This is the dream of a lifetime."  

She took that excitement through the tour.  The guide told us funny stories about the months the marine hospital was closed to the public while the movie filmed.  He showed us how movie magic created the scenes the director wanted and the leftover artifacts.  He charmed the group.  The brunette twin didn't care.  All she wanted was to see Winter.

Once the tour was over, we went right up to a dolphin training exhibition.  The trainers told us how they worked with Nicholas and he showed some of his work.  The girls sat at the glass enjoying the entire show. 

Immediately after the show, we ran up to see Winter.  The girls stood for a few minutes staring at the dolphin area.  It took a minute to find Winter because she was on the far side.  Once we saw her, the girls couldn't stop staring. 

After a few minutes, the brunette twin looked sad.  I pulled her aside and she said, "There are too many people near my Winter."  She didn't realize that everyone there saw Winter in the movie and wanted to see her in person.  She felt like Winter was hers alone. 

The blond twin supported her sister's Winter obsession.  Every time Winter did something, the blond twin made sure her sister saw it.  She was as excited as the brunette twin, but she seemed to understand that this was her sister's moment.

The highlight of the day came when the girls walked to the area on the far side of the tank.  They were the only two standing there when Winter came over to get the attention of Hope, a baby dolphin who was new to the hospital.  She clicked and made all kinds of noises.  At first Hope responded by showing off for Winter.  When her trainer jumped into the tank, Hope ignored Winter.  It was clear Winter didn't like this.

Winter responded by looking at the girls and clicking and making other noises.  It was really like she was talking just to the girls.  The girls were giggling and talking to Winter.  The dolphin kept looking at the girls like she understood them.  It was so perfect for the girls.  They couldn't believe Winter was talking to them.

When Winter swam away, the girls decided it was time to go.  We started to head towards the parking lot when a photographer asked us if the girls wanted to take a photo with one of Winter's old prosthetic tails.  Of course the girls wanted to hold the tail and take a photo.

We went back up near Winter's tank and I'm glad we did.  The trainer put Winter's prosthetic tail on her and they did some physical therapy.  It was so interesting to watch. It turns out that Winter only uses the tail for physical therapy.  She doesn't wear it all the time like you might think.

When we drove up to the hospital, I didn't think we'd spend much time there.  It's a small facility, so I figured we'd do the tour, visit Winter and leave.  Three hours later I wished we could spend more time.  It was so interesting and educational for all of us.