Monday, July 30, 2012

A Continuous Negative Loop in her Head

The girls and I were in the minivan talking about bathing suits. This is the time of year when I realize I should have bought the next size swimsuits for the girls. The ones they have won't fit them in a few months. Last year I ended up buying new suits on eBay in January. This year I said I was going to plan ahead.

It turns out that the bathing suits are nearly gone already. I knew this would happen about Fourth of July, but I didn't plan ahead quite like I thought I would.

Plus, we have an additional issue which is that the brunette twin wears a junior or petite women's size now. Have you seen those bathing suits? A strink bikini with a padded top is not going on our third grade daughter.

In the minivan we discussed the possibility of a tankini, basically a two piece bathing suit with a halter top like top and bikini bottom. It wasn't my first choice, but it was a lot better than a string bikini. The girls lobbied hard and I said, "We'll talk to your father about this."

Tears immediately started streaming down the brunette twin's face. She said, "I know why you don't want me to wear a two piece. It's my fat stomach."

After talking to her about why she believed this, I discovered that one of the mean girls in her second grade class kept telling the brunette twin she was fat and ugly. The brunette twin took this mean child's word as the gospel, despite the fact that we talked about how mean and rude and wrong this girl was nearly every night at dinner.


No matter how many times we talk to her, the brunette twin has a loop in her head that says she's not quite pretty or smart or nice enough. I don't know how to change that loop so she feels better about herself. We talk to her constantly about her good points, but she only takes negative comments to heart.

I'm at a loss and she's only eight years old. If this is what she hears when she's eight, what will she hear when she's eighteen?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What's a Landline?

I was on a work conference call when I heard someone dialing a phone. A few seconds later I realized the girls were dialing the phone. Before I could say anything they seemed to hear us and hung up.

When my call was over I said to them, "You cannot pick up the phone and dial RadioDisney when Mommy is on the phone. All the phones in our house are connected to the same line so when you pick up one while I'm on a conference call everyone on the call can hear you."

They looked at me with wide eyes and said, "They could hear us?" It was the same wide-eyed look they gave me when we were walking through the Wabash County History Museum and I told them operators used to connect phone calls because phones didn't have buttons.

It was at that moment that I realized they didn't know one landline connected all the phones in the house. In their world Mommy and Daddy each have a phone and can call each other on those phones. Of course all portable phones would work the same way.

I explained the difference between our mobile devices and the house phones. They nodded seriously and went back to play. I sat for a moment and realized that by the time they grow up and get a house they probably won't even have a landline. Some day they will tell their children the story and it will be like their parents were part of some magical ancient time when people had landlines and telephones connected to a wall. Their children will look at the wide-eyed and ask questions about the good old days, just like our girls look at me now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

And the Winner is

Radio Disney runs a lot of call-in contests. The blond twin recently decided this was her ticket to fame and fortune. She has been listening to Radio Disney to hear when she should call in.

The deal is she tells me when to dial and I dial the phone. Let's face it, she could dial any number of unsavory toll-free numbers by accident. She excitedly grabs the phone from my hands and waits. And waits. And waits.

She walked over to me, handed me the phone and announced, "This thing is broken. I haven't talked to anyone yet."  I tried to explain that they receive thousands of phone calls and cannot answer them all. She didn't care. She wanted a different phone.

This is one of those lessons she'll learn the hard way. Yes, she might win a radio contest, but the odds are better if she just saves her money to buy whatever it is she is trying to win. Of course that won't stop her from trying. I'm chalking it up to youthful optimism.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

No Help Necessary

We were sitting on my brother Steve's deck at Jake's 8th grade graduation party last night when my husband said, "Did you help the girls take apart their bunk beds?"

My blank stare and "HUH?" told him I did not.

I did hear them moving stuff around in their room before we left. They kept saying don't come in here. The brunette twin said, "You'll be surprised how strong we are." I replied, "Don't move the dresser." It turns out I didn't have to worry about them moving the dresser.

When they did do is decide they wanted to separate their bunk beds. Later I'd learn that they asked Daddy for help. He said no. They kept bugging him about rearranging their room. He finally said, "Do what you want." It never occurred to him that what they would do is separate their bunk beds by themselves.

To give you a clear picture of what this means, you have to visualize their bunk beds. We bought them a twin over double, which means there is a twin bed on the top and a double bed on the bottom. The twin bed sits on top four inch metal pins to hold it in place.

Our eight-year-old twin daughters lifted a twin bunk bed up to clear the four inch metal pins and carried it over their double bed before plopping it on the floor. We did hear them drop it on the floor. We thought one of them jumped off the bed. I yelled "Are you ok?" They said, "Yes Mom."

When the reality of what they did set in we were alternately impressed and angry. I had to admit it was clever of them to figure out how to separate the beds and to move them without destroying them. I was mad because they could have really, really hurt themselves.

We asked them why they wanted to separate their beds. The blond twin said, "We wanted some space." I said, "Really? Sleeping on the top and bottom beds wasn't enough space?" The brunette twin said neither of them wanted to sleep on the top bunk.

When we told other people at the party, Aunt Sue-Sue laughed and said, "Well, you didn't tell them not to move the beds." Uncle Dave, who owns a furniture moving company, said, "I should hire them."

We talked to them about why they shouldn't move the beds again and how we were going to rearrange their room to accommodate the new sleeping arrangements. By this morning they had buyer's remorse. They said they wanted their beds back together, but I said no. They will have to live with it for a few weeks and then we'll talk about it again. For now they can live with their remodeling project, if for no other reason than I need to recover from the fact that they did it at all.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Whatever They Want

On the way home from Zoo Camp last Thursday, the blond twin said, "When I'm a mom I'm going to give my kids whatever they want. I won't say no to them."

I replied, "Oh, that is so going on the blog. Someday I'll remind you that you said that and you'll say you didn't. I'm writing it on the blog so I can open the page and read it to you."

Now she thinks it's funny that I put this on the blog. When she's a mom she won't be laughing quite as much.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wandering the Back Roads

I like to go off the main roads and see what's there. Sometimes we do this when we travel. Sometimes I do this when I'm wandering to a local destination. My family makes fun of me calling it the "Shari way." They will say, "There are two ways to get there. The direct route and the Shari way."


Yesterday knowing the "Shari way" kept me out of a traffic nightmare. The girls were in camp at Brookfield Zoo. For reasons I don't remember, a natural gas line exploded under First Avenue, the main street we take to the zoo.

Luckily for me I knew how to get around it via the backroads. While everyone else was sitting in miles and miles of traffic I was able to zip around using side streets and a few hidden routes. I wan't alone for the most part, but the traffic wasn't nearly as bad as it was on the official detour route.

Sometimes just getting off the main road and wandering a bit pays off -- even if you don't use that knowledge for a few years.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wabash is Worth Exploring

Originally published on the Chicago Moms

If you’re looking for a new place for a long weekend, take a look at Wabash, Indiana. It’s an easy 2.5 – 3 hour drive from most suburbs, with plenty of distractions along the way. We just spent four fun days in Wabash. I have to admit we hadn’t thought of Wabash as a road trip destination until the Charley Creek Inn ran a Groupon offer. My husband said, “I’ve heard this is nice. We should go.” So we did.

The Charley Creek Inn was wonderful. It was recently renovated. We splurged on a one bedroom suite, which has a stocked mini-kitchen with a microwave, fridge and Keurig. We brought cereal and juice for breakfast, picking up a gallon of milk at the convenience store across the street. It was a good option for us as our girls are only 8 years old. They don’t want more than a little cereal for breakfast. The area restaurants provided enough food at each meal for us to enjoy leftovers for our last dinner.

When you drive into Wabash you might not realize everything available to keep you busy. In a charming touch, the Wabash Visitors Center left a welcome packet for us at the front desk. There was detailed information about everything from concerts to a walking paths to historic sites to gardens. We looked through the packet and picked a few things to do, including walking the Charley Creek Gardens. This path doesn’t seem like it will take very long until you start down the path. With a maze, labyrinth, wildflower garden, waterfall and sculptures, it’s a wonderful, shaded way to spend a couple of hours.

We also enjoyed the Wabash County Historical Museum. As the tourism director said to our girls, “It’s fun. It’s not a snoozer museum.” It’s very nicely put together with rotating and permanent exhibits. The current feature exhibit honors WWII veterans. Our girls caught all the details we took for granted. At one point they pointed at this tall black thing and said, “What’s that?” I replied, “A telephone from the 1940s.” We then talked about how you made a phone call without pressing buttons. They were fascinated when they say another display with a rotary dial phone. A few minutes later they wanted to know about the typewriter. There are several interactive exhibits on the second floor, including a scooter tour of the area.

The Honeywell Center brings national artists to perform and offers free outdoor concerts. There is an art gallery and restaurant we visited for lunch. If I had planned better, we could have gone to the Savion Glover show. We did luck out and ended up taking advantage of the Eagles Theater directly across the street from the Charley Creek Inn. We had fun at free movie night Monday.

The next time we visit we’ll venture outside Wabash a bit more. There are charming towns in the area such as North Manchester, Lagro, Urbana and Roann. In each place we found several things we could do. We also found a u-pick orchard about 30 minutes outside Wabash. the Wabash County Convention and Visitors Bureau has a full listing of activities and events.

If you’re looking for some place new that will keep everyone entertained, visit Wabash. It’s a trip worth making.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Eight Year Old Logic

Overheard at our house...

Mom:  Brunette twin, why was the phone in your underwear drawer yesterday?

Brunette Twin:  It was on my dresser and in my way so I pushed it in the drawer.

Mom:  Why?

Brunette Twin:  To get it out of the way.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tooth Fairy Delivery

As we were leaving for a long weekend in Wabash, IN, the brunette twin lost her tooth. Ever the careful child, she left this note for our tooth fairy Sarah.

Dear Tooth Fairy,

I am going to Indiana. I will not be home for days. Can you give my tooth money to me in Indiana?

Sarah did bring the brunette twin's dollar coin to Indiana. It turns out a little planning works wonders sometimes.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Math Girls

When I was in school I was constantly told I was good at English and bad at math. I heard it so often that it still echoes in my head. It limited what I thought my career options should be to the point that I didn't even consider anything requiring strong math or science skills, even though many of those jobs are more about problem solving than equations.

This is something I don't want to happen to our girls. Although there is more emphasis on girls in math and science now than there was when I was in elementary school, it is still hard for girls to see themselves as good at math. There are a lot of studies about why this is true. I've read a lot of them and see a lot of the researchers' conclusions in action in our schools. Everything from budget cuts affecting classes to people thinking it's not good for girls to be too smart.

This summer our girls do a little bit of math every day. We have workbooks they can choose from for their daily math refresh. They can pick anything they want, but they must do their math. In part this is to combat the "summer slide" that often happens when kids are out of school. In part it is to make sure they are ready for third grade math.

Most of all I want them to have a strong foundation so they can build their confidence while they build their math skills. The blond twin said today that math was her favorite subject. She's confident that she can do it because she has practiced so much. The brunette twin doesn't gush about math like her sister, but her standardized test scores show she's good at it too.

Some day they will look back at their summers and remember all the fun they had. The half-hour of math they do every day probably won't even be part of their memories, which is fine by me. I want to create a never-ending loop in their heads that they have lots of options in their lives if they study hard and work hard. If summer math can help that, it won't be a memory but an active part of their success.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Role Model to Help Her Build Her Library

The blond twin has been talking about how to build her own library. She wants to keep writing books until her bookshelf is full. As if by magic, Last Laughs Animal Epitaphs, a new book by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, arrived for review.

I pulled all the Jane Yolen books we own and showed the blond twin that building your own library isn't just about writing chapter books. It wasn't until we went to the Jane Yolen website that we realized how many of her books we owned including Owl Moon and several of the "How do Dinosaurs" series. Long before I received any of her books for review, we were Jany Yolen fans. We just didn't realize it until we pulled all her books together.

Now the blond twin is fascinated with Jane Yolen. She realizes she can write chapter books, poems and picture books as an author. On her website, Jane suggested writers keep a journal with story ideas. Of course the blond twin started one immediately. She had ideas on scraps of paper all over the house, so I was thrilled that she started a journal. I won't say that I suggested it previously. When I say start a journal it's about cleaning up the mess. When Jane Yolen says she keeps a journal with ideas it's about the creative process. The blond twin doesn't care about the mess, but she does care about the creative process.

The girls enjoyed reading Last Laughs a lot. They laughed and giggled and then spent some time making up their own animal epitaphs. All I kept thinking about was the tombstones at the Disney World Haunted Castle. Our family favorite growing up was "Dear departed brother Dave. He chased a bear into a cave." At least we all thought it was funny. My brother Dave wasn't as amused.

When they were done, I made them clean out their bookcase to find Take Two! another poetry book by J. Patrick Lewis and Jany Yolen. I read it as soon as it arrived and enjoyed it a lot. Now that the girls were so fascinated with Jane Yolen, I wanted them to read it as well. They enjoyed the poems because they were about twins. And, of course, the blond twin already wrote a poem to her twin, so she felt connected to the poetry.

I bookmarked the Jane Yolen website so the blond twin could visit whenever she wants. As literary inspirations go, I think Jane Yolen is a good one.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Creativity Leads to a Puppet Show

The girls were strangely quite yesterday. They took a lot of paper and crayons into their room. The door stayed closed for hours. Shortly before we went to dinner, Daddy said, "Before you go to bed you need to clear a path to your beds."

I didn't look in their room. I just didn't want to know.

At bedtime the girls asked if they could leave their project on the green rug. I said of course. The green rug is the place they leave their games overnight so nothing is changed or destroyed.

When I went into their room, I was amazed at what they created. There were puppets neatly lined up on the rug. The girls used a piece of paper to draw, cut out and color the puppets. They used yarn to tie the puppets to a pencil. In all they had about 20 different Harry Potter characters.

This morning they finished all their characters and practiced their show. They had nearly 30 puppets in all and several sets when they were done.

The final puppet show included all the characters in the first Harry Potter book. The girls acted out main scenes using their scenery and different furniture. They had different voices for different characters. It was very elaborate and detailed. They were so proud of themselves.  

It was fun to watch because they were so excited. Of course, now we're expecting a new show each time they read the next book in the series. It means six more performances are in our future.

Friday, July 6, 2012

From Baby to Babydoll

I always call the girls baby. Even though I know they are way past the baby stage, I constantly tell them "You'll always be my baby."

Recently the blond twin was in the minivan with me after we dropped the brunette twin at horse camp when she said, "You know I'd like to be your dolly sometimes. You always call Alyssa your dolly but we're your babies and we should be your dollies too."

Wow! Talk about an out-of-the-blue topic.

I replied, "Yes. I do call Alyssa dolly. I've called her that since she was born. I once called you dolly and you got mad. You told me that Alyssa was my dolly and you were my baby."

She thought about it for a moment before letting me know she wants to be my dolly too. So we compromised. For now I call her and her twin babydoll. She flashes this amazing, whole face smile when I call her babydoll. It's nice to be able to make her so happy with a single word.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Uninsurable Eight Year Old

I don't post many political thoughts on this blog. I write mainly to create a diary for our girls. Some day I hope they will read it and it will bring back lots of memories.

Since today is Independence Day, I have to write that I'm so happy that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. The blond twin was recently diagnosed with a mild case of scoliosis. If you're not familiar with scoliosis, it's a genetic condition that creates a curve in the spine. Hers doesn't require a brace or surgery. It's just something to be aware of and watch.

As it is a chronic condition that will need some testing and doctor's visits for the rest of her life she is now uninsurable. Yes, at eight years old she's probably uninisurable. Don't believe me? Search for "can I get insurance with scoliosis?" Most stories tell you to work for a large company where pre-existing conditions are not considered in a group health insurance policy. Maybe she'll be able to find insurance at a price she could never afford. Or she'll find a policy that excludes anything related to her condition, which could cover a lot.

What I want for her is to be able to find her passion and do work she loves. This is hard when you have to take a job have insurance. I have friends who took jobs outside their fields just to get better insurance. It's what they need to do, so they just deal with it. I see the frustration on their faces and hear it in their voices when they talk about work.

I don't want our girls to take a job just so they have the insurance they need. The reality is her scoliosis might not ever bother the blond twin. She might have gone through her whole life not ever knowing it was there except for the sharp eyes of her pediatrician. Now that she has been diagnosed it changes how insurance companies look at her.

I can only hope that the Affordable Care Act clause requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions will still be in effect when the blond twin grows up. She has so many opportunities in life that I hope she will explore simply because she wants to. I don't want her need for insurance to limit her options.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Camp

The blond twin swooned when I asked her if she wanted to go to book camp. She said, "They really have book camp?" It was like her dreams came true.

She loves to write books. These aren't short stories. These are long, detailed, layered stories and illustrations. Everyone who reads them says "She did this for fun?" The idea of spending time at a camp where all the kids were working on books made her smile.

On the first day of camp we discovered that all the other kids in camp were girls. There was one boy signed up for the class, but he never showed up. A whole bunch of girls talking about writing books? It just kept getting better for the blond twin. 

Each day she came home with another story. One day they wrote the "about the author" piece. She teased us about the dedication, but wouldn't say who was included. She fretted about the story and how it should go. She asked a lot of questions about her pictures. In other words, she loved it.

Her teacher did a great job. She not only taught them about writing different parts of the book, she managed to make the blond twin even more excited about writing books. When she came home with her finished book on the last day, the blond twin showed me the side of it first. I didn't understand immediately, but then she said, "Mom, it has words on the spine. It's a real book."

Her new goal is to write enough books to create her own library. I think she's on her way.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

All in My Head

When I stood at the counter signing all the forms for horse camp, one caught my eye. It was a lice release form. Essentially it said that lice was a real possibility given the number of kids who share helmets. I signed something that said I was aware of the risk and didn't assign liability to the stable.

Ever since the brunette twin started horse camp I've been scratching my head. I know it's all in my mind, but I really feel itchy. Of course, I've also started itching my arms and legs too. I guess my mind games extend past my head.