Friday, June 29, 2012

Lunch Change

During the school year the girls make their own lunches the night before class. They are in charge of making their lunches, packing their portable fruit and filling their water bottles. In the morning they choose a treat and put everything into their lunch boxes.

I'm not sure what I was thinking, but so far this summer they haven't been making their own lunches. Sure when we've had frozen pizza it's something I still have to do. I'd rather they weren't putting their hands in the oven, even with an oven mit. What I don't know is how I started making their sandwiches again.

I do know that my days of making their lunches are over. I had a work conference call last week and said, "Girls you have to make your own lunches." The brunette twin said, "Ok. We don't know why you were making them anyway."


From now on they are back in charge of their lunch. As long as they have a sandwich, fruit and drink, it's all good.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Double the Money, Double the Fun

The brunette twin could hardly talk about anything else but pony camp all weekend. She bubbled every time she said something.

We walked into pony camp yesterday and her face fell. She stared at the other kids in line. While the sign-up was for six to eight year olds, it was clear the majority of the kids were six. And, they were tiny six year olds. There wasn't a child who came up to her shoulders.

She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "I'm the oldest kid here. I don't want to stay here. Please let me come home."

My heart broke for her.

When we walked in the woman giving directions asked if we were there for pony camp or horse camp. I looked at the girls and said, "Come with me."

We walked to the office and I asked about moving the brunette twin to horse camp. They said they could do it. Horse camp was twice as much money and twice as long as pony camp. I handed my debit card to the clerk and signed the paperwork.

We had to run home and get the bruntte twin some leggings as horse camp had different clothing requirements. She already had a lunch, but it was more of a heavy snack. I didn't think to get her more food while we were home.

When we came back she changed quickly and said, "What if I don't make any friends?" I said, "You came to be with horses. You all like horses. You'll find someone to hang with during class." She didn't look convinced as she went back to her seat on the bench because she wanted to be with the horses so badly.

As we left the blond twin went through her worries. What if Sissy doesn't make any friends? What if she is scared? What is she gets hurt and I'm not there? I didn't tell her the brunette twin had some of the same concerns when we left her at book camp.

The good news is the brunette twin loves horse camp. It is just as wonderful as she imaged. She came home flithy and smelly and happy. What else could I ask from horse camp?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Separation Anxiety

The brunette twin often says she'd like her space. She says the blond twin won't let her just do what she wants to do like read or draw a picture. Last week she had the chance to do whatever she wanted to when her twin was in book camp. The brunette twin didn't like it as much as she thought she would.

The first day we left the blond twin, the brunette twin as a little edgy. When I asked her what was wrong she said, "What if they aren't nice to Sissy? What if she doesn't make any friends? What if her teacher doesn't like her?"

The second day she came home and said, "I don't know what to do with myself."

The third day she said, "When does pony camp start?"

By the fourth day she settled into a routine of reading her book and playing by herself.

This week she's relieved because her pony camp starts. The brunette twin has been bouncing about this since we discovered it a couple of months ago. It's going to mean four crazy, overlapping days since the pony camp starts earlier than book camp. We'll have pony camp drop off, book camp drop off, pony camp pick up and book camp pick up.

The good thing about this schedule is they both have something fun and exciting to do each day. They will both have stories to tell. And, the brunette twin will be too busy to worry about her sister.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Yellow Freckles

What's black and white and yellow?  These days it's Oreo's face. He was in the backyard chasing something when he discovered the lilies. For some reason he decided to put his face in the lilies. Yep. He has lily pollen all over his face.

Of course on him it looks like yellow freckles. We took some photos to capture the new look. He's not a big fan of the camera so we have two or three good images out of the dozen attempts.

The girls swooned when they saw his face. The blond twin declared, "Oh mom, he's even cuter now."

I agree he does look pretty cute, as long as the pollen stays on his face and not on anything else in the house he'll stay cute.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Technology Failure

I was late picking up the blond twin from her summer camp this week because my computer calendar reminder didn't launch like I thought it would. I'm sure it's not the technology's fault. I'm certain that I didn't schedule it properly.

How sad is that? I was 30 minutes late to pick-up the blond twin because I relied on my computer calendar rather than my memory. I was watering plants in the backyard and walking the dog when I should have been at her camp. It wasn't like I didn't know I needed to pick-up our daughter. It was that I just figured my electronic calendar would remind me.

When I arrived at her camp, the blond twin was happily chatting with her teacher. She's in "book camp" where they are learning all the elements of writing a book. The blond twin and her teacher were discussing the "about" section in which a short description of the author is written.

I apologised a lot and hugged her tightly. She said, "Oh mom, I knew you weren't going to leave me here. I told my teacher you were probably walking Oreo."

Okay, so she was not worried, but I was. Mostly I was worried that I was so reliant on technology that I didn't bother to even try to remember what time I had to pick-up our daughter.

You can bet that won't happen again. Now I have notes on my paper calendar and make mental notes about important times.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Go Ahead and Count

The girls have taken to counting things to make sure they have an equal number. This usually happens when they really like something (think candy or chips) or really don't like something (think some vegetables). The counting drive me and Daddy crazy.

To stop it, we came up with a new rule. If you count, we change the number of items. If it's something you like, we take one away. If it's something you don't like, we add one. When you tell on your sister for counting, we do the same.

I'm sure they are still couting, but at least now they do it quietly. I'll take that as a compromise.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day to my Wonderful Husband

This year the girls decided to make presents for Daddy. I was told that I was not to buy him any gifts from them. They said that anything they can make would be much better than anything I can buy. 

I don't know what they've wrapped up in the shiny paper with the pretty bows, but I know Daddy will love it.

Happy Father's Day to a man who is a great Dad and wonderful husband. The girls and I are very lucky to be part of your world.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Twin Bond in Action

We had to take the blond twin for an x-ray this morning. Nothing series, but just something the doctor wanted to check regarding her spine. In the days leading up to the appointment, we talked a lot about what an x-ray was and what it would feel like. We made plans for all four of us to go with to the hospital.

The blond twin had a lot of questions, but the brunette twin was the real mess. Every time we talked about it her eyes would well up and she'd try not to cry. This morning the blond twin was clearly very nervous and clingy. She sat on my lap while we were waiting. When the nurse said only one parent could go into the room, the blond twin grabbed Daddy's hand.

The brunette twin and I sat in the waiting area. She buried her head into my shoulder and quietly cried. She whispered questions to me as tears ran down her face. She was so nervous. I felt badly for her because I knew that nothing I said would make her feel better. She just wanted her sister.

Eventually she moved from my lap to the seat next to me. She stopped crying, but wouldn't let go of my hand. She kept asking questions.

When the blond twin and Daddy came out of the x-ray room, the brunette twin ran to her sister and hugged her. She walked next to her as we walked out of the hospital. I asked the blond twin a lot of questions and she seemed fine with her x-ray experience.

I always tell them that no one will ever annoy them as much as their twin and no one will love them as much. Today we saw the second part of that on display. No matter how nervous or worried Daddy and Momma were, the brunette twin felt it twice as much.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Where did that tooth come from?

Overheard at our house about lunchtime...

Mom: "Okay, who is missing a tooth? I found one in the soap dish in your bathroom."

Blond Twin: "Sissy, open your mouth. Are you missing any teeth?"

Blond twin stares into the brunette twin's mouth counting missing teeth.

Blond Twin: "Nope. These are all the same teeth you were missing before."

Brunette Twin: "Open your mouth."

Brunette twin puts her finger in her sister's mouth and counts her missing teeth.

Brunette Twin: "Nope. You're not missing any new teeth either."

Overheard at our house at bedtime...

Blond Twin: "Daddy are you missing any teeth? We have one in the soapdish."

Daddy: "I found it on the carpet and put it there. It must belong to one of you."

Well, the mystery was partially solved. We know where the tooth came from, but don't know whose mouth originally came from.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Second Half Planning

This was originally posted on the Chicago Moms

We were sitting in the Harris Theatre enjoying “I Bought a Blue Car Today” when star Alan Cumming talked about how old he was. He said something to the effect of “If you think of 80 as a nice long life, I’m currently middle-aged and moving towards the second half of my life.” This stuck with me as I’ve been trying to figure out what comes next for me.

I’m not in that “woe is me. I’ll be fifty soon” zone. It’s more of a time to make plans and do some research. Our girls are still too young to be completely independent, but I see that happening quickly. A few years ago I went back to work full-time, and the transition is a bit smoother now. I work from home, which affords a lot of flexibility to still be involved in our girls' school and other activities.

Still, before they were born I was active in a couple of organizations. I miss that interaction. Part of me wants to get involved in a cause I really want to support. Part of me wants to do something really different just to see if I can do it. Of course, I realize I could do both, but the reality is time is in short supply — both on a daily basis and in the long-term view. I want to focus on one or two things that make me happy outside of my family and work. It’s an important part of my world.

I know it can be done. I recently searched for a colleague I lost touch with a few years ago. There wasn’t a problem; I just lost the time to be in regular touch with all the people in my world once we had twin daughters. I always wondered if she wrote the book she discussed so often. It turns out Ann Saul wrote her book titled, “Pissarro’s Places.” After 25 years of self-study, Ann is now a widely-quoted, recognized expert on Pissaro. She lectures, writes articles and continues to promote her book. All this comes during her “retirement.”

My other inspiration comes from an article I read called “At 98, once-illiterate lobsterman is an author.” The title tells the point of the story, but the details are inspiring. He makes me believe I can do anything my heart desires if I just focus and take a chance.

What comes next seems to be a common theme among the women I talk to lately. Our school district is considering what to do about an old building that currently serves as our Junior High School. I’m sitting on one of the committees. I talked to some of the moms in the girls’ Brownies Troop. One mom volunteered immediately. She said, “I just want to feel like I’m making a difference.”

It’s what we all want, isn’t it? The question for me is how do I do it? With so many options, I’m sure I’ll find my place, especially since I have such great inspirations to keep me on track.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Great Smoky Mountains

I was sitting on a conference call when I read an email from my husband. He forwarded a GroupOn deal for a hotel in Pigeon Forge, TN, with a note that said, "I've always wanted to go to the Smoky Mountains."

We just came back from the Great Smoky Mountains. I didn't have high expectations because people kept saying, "Oh, Pigeon Forge is just like the Wisconsin Dells." Those are not words of praise in my book.

Happily we discovered there were a lot of similarities along the tourist strip, but Pigeon Forge has the Great Smoky Mountains. There's nothing that compares to hiking up a trail to find a waterfall or watching a black bear stop traffic.

In no particular order, here are some highlights:

We hiked to Clingman's Dome on the first day. We actually ended up there by accident, but we were so happy to have made the wrong turn. It was breathtaking to be up so high.

We hiked to Grotto Falls to find a group of girls swimming in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Our girls joined them by taking off their shoes and wading. The water was so cold, but it was so fun for them.

We discovered several nice local restaurants. Our goal is to always eat local and never eat at a chain restaurant. We accomplished that for the most part. On the drive down we stopped at a Waffle House. Every time we saw a Waffle House sign on the road I'd say, "Hey, there's a Waffle House. Are you girls hungry?" The first ten or fifteen times I said it the girls reacted. By the time we drove home they just ignored me when I pointed out the next Waffle House.

Laurel Falls was listed in the guidebook as an easy hike, but then again no one mentioned the warning signs. As we started up the hike there was a sign saying, "Warning:  Steep drop offs. Fatalities have occurred. Watch Children Carefully." Let's just say the sign wasn't kidding. There were some very scary drop offs on the path. The hike might not have been as strenuous as Grotto Falls, but the warnings were scarier. The waterfall was beautiful.

We saw the most interesting wildlife on the way to and from Cade's Cove. At the first stop we saw a blue-tailed salamander. At the Visitor's Center the girls saw copperhead snakes peeking through the walls. Luckily the guide also saw it and pointed out that the snakes were poisonous, so everyone stepped away. The highlight was the drive out of Cade's Cove. We were just a few miles from the end of the loop when all the vehicles came to a stop. At first we didn't see anything but fingers pointing out windows. Suddenly cameras appeared. A few seconds later we saw people moving towards their vehicles in a nearby parking lot. It was then that we saw the black bear moving in the forest. The bear lumbered around and finally crossed the road. We were excited to see him so close -- and happy that he wasn't closer.

Between nature adventures, we visited the other local attraction:  Dollywood. It was a charming amusement park with rides that surprised us. Battle Station might have been our favorite. It doesn't look like much more than a water ride where you shoot water guns at different targets. It isn't until you move away from the station that you realize you are the target. People standing along the path have water guns they shoot at you. By the end of the ride everyone is soaking and laughing. We did it twice in a row. Hey, as long as we were wet, we might as well enjoy it.

The Great Smoky Mountains were a wonderful vacation spot. We had so many more things we wanted to do, but we had to go home. We'll put it on our list of places to visit again.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Step by Step

If there's one thing I want to change this summer it's a new habit the girls have developed. It used to be that when we said "go get ready for bed" the girls went upstairs to change and brush their teeth and hair. We'd go upstairs, remind them to get out their clothes for the next day, check their teeth and hair and put them to bed. It wasn't always perfect, but they were proud to be able to do it all by themselves like big girls.

Lately we have to remind them of every step of the process. I call it the step-by-step-by-step. When I get really frustrated I say, "It's like we have babies again. We have to say get in your room. Take off your clothes. Put on your pajamas. Go into the bathroom. Get out your toothbrush. Put toothpaste on it."

I admit it's not my finest parenting moment. I realize they are only eight so they have short attention spans. They also don't want to go to bed. They want to stay up and play. It's their parents who think it's time for them to go to bed. I don't like the step-by-step lecture, but I know that one day I won't have to say it anymore. If nothing else, they will get so tired of it that they'll start getting ready the way they should just to make me stop giving the step-by-step lecture.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Boss Has Spoken

Sometimes I wonder if we trained Oreo or he trained us. Lately I think he's training us.

Our unusually hot Chicago weather means that he's been drinking a lot of water. One night we were sitting on the couch when Oreo bounced in, barked at me and walked away. He stood by his water bowl. My husband said, "I think the dog wants some water."

A few days later we were baking in record heat. It was nearly 100 degrees outside, which is crazy heat for late May. We had been taking Oreo out every few hours for a bathroom break since he was drinking so much water. Since he had been out regularly, I decided to skip his 2:30 p.m. walk. It was a weekend, so it wasn't as if we had to get the girls from school.

This seemed okay for a little while. About 3:00 p.m. he came over to me and started barking. He moved towards the door and started barking again. When I didn't move, he came back to me and started barking. I took the hint. I got up and walked the dog.

Ok, now that I see it in writing, I realize he had us trained. I don't always feel like we're in control of our children, so I guess I shouldn't feel like I'm in control of Oreo either.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Green Grass of My Dreams

Since our backyard has been a construction zone for most of the past two years we just gave up trying to put down grass seed. We spent a lot of time looking at piles of clay and dirt and dreaming about what our backyard would look like once we finished the construction.

Last fall we spent a lot of time leveling the construction debris and making it look like a backyard again. We spend a lot of money on grass seed. Some of the spots filled in nicely. Others required more work.

This spring we start putting down grass seed with mulch, grass seed alone, grass seed with special coatings, grass seed, well you get the picture. We've been putting down grass seed for months trying to take advantage of the abnormally warm weather. We water the seeds daily and keep filling in when bare spots develop.

As I walk through our yard staring at the gaping holes, I realize we might need a new approach. We haven't done any weed-and-feed yet this summer because we've been putting down grass seed. You cannot put down weed killer (which kills seeds) and grass seed at the same time. The result is that the clover and weeds have filled in some of the empty spaces quit nicely.

We might have to try a new approach to filling in our lawn's construction scars. I'm not sure what we're going to do, but since the grass seed has become the world's most expensive bird seed, it's time for a new approach.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Time to Fight More

We were driving to dinner after a long day together when my husband made a comment about my driving. It was the kind of thing that on any other day I would have just ignored or perhaps even found helpful. Today I made some cranky comment and kept driving.  Did I mention it was a really long day of togetherness for all four of us?

The brunette twin said, "Are you two getting a divorce?"

I said, "Baby, what makes you think that?"

She replied, "You're fighting. Doesn't that mean you're going to get a divorce?"

Let me just say that a cranky exchange in the car is all the fighting she ever hears. It's not like we're screaming in the house and happy outside. We're pretty much always stable and happy.

I explained to her that one little cranky comment didn't mean we were getting a divorce. The brunette twin brought up the fact that three years ago I broke the mirror on Daddy's car and he was really mad. (True story, but that's for another day.) Did I ever mention the girl has a really good memory?

I said, "Does this mean that every time you're mad at Sissy you're going to leave her and not love her?"

The brunette twin said, "She's my twinny We'll always be together. It's not the same."

I sighed and turned it over to Daddy who said, "Nope. You're doing just fine on your own." Then he grinned and looked out the window.

A few years ago a girlfriend told me that she thought it was time she started having more conversations with her husband in front of her daughter. They had gotten into a disagreement about something simple like the groceries or some similar errand. Her daughter was upset and thought they were going to get a divorce because they were disagreeing.

She and her husband decided they needed to work through more problems in front of their daughter. They wanted her to understand that two people can disagree and still love each other. They weren't discussing anything ultra-personal or high stress. Things like chores and what to have for dinner, etc. were now on the table for them to discuss with her, rather than having those conversations after she went to bed. They realized they needed to be better models for a long-term relationship.

I think they have something. I think we'll start working through little problems in front of the girls. This might help them understand that we can disagree and still work it out so that we're still a family. Of course, this is something I need to convince my husband is a good idea. Other than the time that I broke his car mirror, I'm not sure I've ever seen him really mad. As much as I want to teach them this lesson, I'm not interested in breaking another mirror to do it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Spring Cleaning for Our School Library

This was originally posted on the Chicago Moms

We’re lucky that the girls receive magazine subscriptions every year as gifts. We also pick up chapter books at our library’s “friends” bookstore throughout the year. From time to time we receive an package of books from Kids Can Press with a note asking for a review. You know what this means by the end of the school year? We’re overflowing with old magazines and well-read books.

Last weekend we went through the girls’ reading materials. We created two stacks — save and donate. We decided to donate books to the girls’ classroom library and share some with a cousin in downstate Illinois. When their cousin is done with the books, we asked her to donate them to her school.

Going through all the books and magazines was like a trip through their second grade school year. They touched each book and discussed the best place for it. Sometimes their logic surprised me. Animal Masquerade, a charming book about animals going to a party, was deemed as a school book. I thought it was too young for their class, but they reminded me that some kids in their class don’t speak English well so it would be a good book to help them learn to read and speak English at a second grade level. Other books like Pirate Girl’s Treasure and Dear Flyary also went to school for the same reason. The Cricket, ASK and Highlights magazines all went to school, along with some of the chapter books we bought at the library book sale.

Daisy’s Perfect Word went down to their cousin. Even though Daisy has dark hair, they thought Daisy reminded them of their blond-haired cousin. We sent their cousin about half of the chapter book collection. She reads the same series and was excited to have some books of her own to read at home. We discussed sending some magazines, but weren’t sure the magazines would survive the trip with the books. It seemed safer to carry the magazines to school.No matter what children’s reading materials you have at home, consider donating them to your local school library. At some schools, like our cousin’s rural school, there is simply no money for additional classroom reading materials. Even at our well-funded school, the teacher was grateful for the reading materials, especially the magazines. By the end of the year classroom libraries can be a bit worn from use. New materials give the kids something interesting to read for this year and beyond.