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.