Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Off the One Direction concert schedule

The girls are One Direction crazy, just like every other tween girl I know. One Direction is going to be in concert near us this summer. Last summer I took the girls to see Big Time Rush. It was fun and the girls had a great time. I decided to take a look at tickets to see what might be available on the resale market and how much it would cost.

First, let me say that One Direction tickets went on sale more than a year prior to the concert. At the time I had no idea that One Direction existed. At the time lawn seats were about $40. Prime seats were about $110.

I went to a reputable ticket reseller to find out how much the mark-up would be. It took about five minutes for me to realize there is no way we'd be seeing One Direction this summer. Lawn seats started at $110. Prime seats were $650 per ticket. It's not a typo. For me to take the three of us to see One Direction it would cost nearly $2,000.

We had a great time at Big Time Rush. It was the place where the blond twin developed her Cody Simpson crush. As soon as we figured out the system, we downloaded his album to her iPod Touch so she could listen to it daily. I thought it would be the first of many, many concerts.

I guess today was a wake-up call. If we're not able to buy tickets when they first go on sale we're not going to the concert. I realize ticket prices might drop as we get closer to the concert. I'm not going to try to buy any at this point. Fun is fun, but for as much money as it would cost we could go on vacation. Since I'm the one making the choice, I know what I'm choosing.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Trash talking test scores

The girls recently took their EdVision assessment. This is the follow-up to their September test. The idea is to see how much they have grown during the school year and identify problems before the big ISAT test in March.

The blond twin was despondent when she came home. Her reading scores had only gone up 200 points. Another child in the class had a 600 point increase. Still, she landed in the 97 percentile. I was thrilled. She was not.

We spent a lot of time talking about how her initial scores were so high and she really didn't have that much room to grow. When you start third grade reading at a fifth grade level and move up to a sixth grade level in one semester, most people would be thrilled.

The blond twin didn't want to hear it. She wanted to go up 600 points like her classmate.

The brunette twin's scores didn't come home yet. She spent a bit of time trash talking with her sister about whose test scores would be better. It's easy to claim victory when your scores haven't come home yet. There were all kinds of bets from cleaning their bedroom to carrying backpacks.

I don't know when the brunette twin's scores will come home, but I'm kind of looking forward to it. Trash talking is adorable when you have nine year old girls fighting to be the superior reader and math whiz of the house.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Third grade stand up comedy

Two jokes from dinner tonight

Blond twin: "What does a mouse need?"
Dad: "What?"
Blond twin: "Mouscles. Get it not muscles, mouscles."

Blond twin: "What do you call a sleeping bull?"
Brunette twin: "Bulldozer. Get it? Bulldozer."

Mom and Dad laugh because the girls are laughing so much. It's like these are the funniest jokes they've ever heard. Sometimes dinner is fun.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Do not disturb is bliss

The girls have taken to spending a lot of time in their bedroom. They often announce, "We're play in our room. Do not disturb us." This is great.

Of course, when they are mad at us, they say, "Do not disturb" in a slightly more angry or annoyed tone of voice. I know this is meant to punish us in a "we're not talking to you now" way.

I find it so amusing. They think they are punishing us by not talking to us, but I enjoy the silence. Eventually they come out of their room and chat as if nothing happened. Sometimes they announce that they aren't mad at us any more.

Whether they just want some space to play or stew, I enjoy when the girls say, "Do not disturb." The next time we go to a hotel I'm going to swipe one of those door hangers. It will make it easier for me to remember what I'm supposed to do.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Up to the challenge

The blond twin was in music class when her teacher asked if anyone plays an instrument. She said, "Oh I take piano lessons." He said, "Do you want to play something to show us what you know?" She said, "Ok."

She sat down and played a song called Igor is Captain, one of her recital songs. It took her months to learn this song. She played it with one hand, then the other, then hands together. She worked really hard and it shows in the way she plays. It's beautiful to hear and to watch.

When she was done her music teacher said, "Wow. That was great." Then he gave her some school "money" as a reward. She offered to play piano whenever he needs someone to help him.

The music teacher in the past has dismissed the blond twin when she said she takes piano lessons. I'm pretty sure he won't do it again. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Scrabble their minds

We have a Scrabble Flash game. The girls like to play it, so tonight we cleared the dining room table for a "beat the parents" game. They named their team "The Awesome Twins." They named our team "Lame Mom & Dad Stuff."

The best part of Scrabble is learning how their minds work. For the letters STAXE. We came us with a list of words from SET to TAXES.

When we play Scrabble the team not on the clock plays a shadow game to see what the other team missed. They came up with many word we didn't see. When our time was up they said, "You missed SEX." We said, "Huh?" It wasn't that we missed it. We just didn't use it. Clearly they would have.

A few rounds later we were looking at a terrible five letters for them. There just weren't many words. Just before time was up the girls said, "PISS. Is PISS a word?" Oh my, we started laughing. I mean the kind of snorting, tearing laughter that turned faces red.

We followed sex and piss with a big fart. The girls both grabbed for the Scrabble Flash tiles when one of them let out a loud fart. We all laughed, even though neither one of them would admit the deed.

Whoever thought Scrabble was dull hasn't played in our house. It's a full contact sport which I can't wait to play again. For all the trash talk, Mom and Dad were the winners. Lame indeed.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Down she goes

We were walking home from school when I put my foot down on the gravel next to the road. There was three or four inch difference between the road and the gravel. I went down. Hard. It wasn't my most graceful moment.

Both girls started crying. Oreo started licking my face. All I kept thinking was "what happened?" I tried to regain my composure when a neighbor driving by stopped and said, "I'll drop off everyone and come back to get you. I'll drive you home." At first I said, "Oh, I think I'm ok." Then I stepped on my foot. I took her up on her offer.

A few minutes later we were all in her car, Oreo tucked between the girls in the back seat. Once we arrived home my ankle and foot really started to hurt. My next call was to Daddy who said, "I'll be on the next train home." By the time he came home my entire left side was hurting. My right knee was skinned, but somehow I didn't rip my jeans. I'll take that as a small victory.

Two days have gone by and I'm feeling much better. My ankle didn't swell as much as I feared, probably because I spent the first day with ice on my foot and my ankle on a pillow. My wonderful husband walked Oreo yesterday so I didn't have to stand much. I don't have the "you definitely sprained your ankle" bruise I've had when I've done this before.

The good news is my left side isn't hurting and my ankle is better. The girls have been my ladies-in-waiting for the past few days. Daddy walked Oreo and took care of the girls while I was elevating my ankle and taking pain killers. It wasn't the way I thought we'd spend the past few days, but all is well in the end.

Three days away from the petri dish

Normally when I look at the school calendar and realize how many days off the girls have I sigh. Loudly. Often with frustration. I don't think they have a full month of school from start to finish in any given year.

This January I see three days off -- after they return from winter break. If I could I'd add a day or two in there. That's how much this flu outbreak concerns me.

I admit that I haven't been paying much attention until recently. For the past week news reports have been warning of an outbreak -- a really nasty, dangerous outbreak. Since then I've heard numerous stories about how bad the flu outbreak really is across the country. 

A friend told me her father's nursing home requires everyone to wear a mask and gloves. Another person told me that local schools are preparing to deep clean more often to kill the germs. I've heard about schools sending emails to parents reminding them to keep their sick kids at home.

It all adds up to a strong desire to keep the girls away from the school. I realize they can end up with the flu virus any time they are in public. The reality is schools are major league petri dishes. Before Thanksgiving a nasty stomach bug was going around. At one point nearly one-third of the kids were at home sick in each girls' class. 

The last time I remember hearing so much about the flu was the year the girls were born. It was so severe that a record number of people died. Our girls were so little that we didn't want to expose them to the germs. I think we only left the house because we had to for January and February that year.

This year we don't have that option. I'm happy they have three days off school so the germs have time to die before they spread. I don't want them to be home from school, but I'm happy for the time they will spend away from the petri dish.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Toy tipping point

As the girls were cleaning out their playroom and bedroom last week I realized we might be at a tipping point with the things that keep them busy. We've moved from complicated toys with dozens of pieces that don't cost that much to smaller things that cost more.

In my world this is a good thing. The girls still have more Monster High dolls and Barbie stuff than I ever thought possible. They have games and puzzles and books and CDs. It's not like they don't have anything to keep them busy. They spend hours in their bedroom playing with their dolls. When they are bored they move to the basement playroom and play for hours there.

What they don't have anymore are the developmental toys -- think play kitchens, building blocks and pretend beauty salons. Now we have dolls and iPod Touch devices and books.

It's a development we enjoy. They are busy. We're not tripping over lots of little pieces. As long as we can keep them busy it's all good, even if the new, smaller toys cost as much as a whole Christmas' worth of the large, plastic toys.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The most wonderful time of the year

This is my favorite part of the year. We spent a week cleaning and organizing. We went through our kitchen cabinets and all the closets. We sent bags and bags and bags of stuff to a local resale shop benefiting a women's shelter. The girls cleaned out their toys and games. I think they threw away two big garbage bags of stuff.

We went through the girls' dressers to match socks. We threw out clothes with holes or stains. We matched mittens and hats. We went through all the junk in their backpacks.

We pared down to what we use, even though it's more than we really need of course. We put everything on the 2013 calendar.

Oh, I know it won't last long, but boy it feels good right now. By the end of the week we'll be back to the normal chaos. I'll be looking for something in a pile of mail we haven't read yet. The girls will be fighting because they cannot find matching socks. I'm sure mismatched mittens will be on their hands.

For now we're going to enjoy our beginning of the year organization. It feels so good to feel so in control of our surroundings.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A perfect outcome

In our quest to get stuff done while the girls are on winter break, we scheduled a few medical appointments. Today they went to their annual eye exam. This made the blond twin both nervous and excited.

This first thing she said this morning was, "What if I don't have to wear my glasses any more?"

I replied, "Honey, the only person I know who ever went from needing glasses to not needing them at all is your cousin Maddie. I wouldn't count on it." She was so hopeful that I didn't want to completely crush her optimism. I figured I'd let the eye doctor talk to her about the importance of wearing her eye glasses.

She kept talking about not having to wear her glasses any more. She really disliked wearing her glasses. Her eyesight wasn't really bad. It was just a fraction off, enough to give her a headache when she played on the computer too long or sat under florescent lights all day. She always tries to leave her glasses at home. More often than not she succeeded because I was not always paying attention.

She made a point of telling me over and over again that the school photographer told her she should take off her glasses because she looked prettier. She talked about that every time we took a photo. She talked about being "fancy" without her glasses.

Have I mentioned that she really disliked her glasses?

I don't know how she did it, but she came home with perfect vision. I knew the minute she bounced through the door with a huge smile on her face. At first I thought she was just playing with me. I didn't really think she could have gone from needing glasses to perfect vision, but she did.

I know at some point the giddiness will wear off, but it won't be soon. The worst part is she'll be all too happy to constantly remind me that she was right.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Are dental x-rays safe for children?

This was originally published on Families in the Loop.

I am a difficult parent. It’s the only conclusion I can come to now that I’m in a stalemate with our dental office. Don’t get me wrong. Our dentist is very nice. I also like that she has an all-female staff. I think it’s important for our twin daughters to see that women can be anything they want to be, from dentist to receptionist.

The issue with has to do with X-rays. I strongly feel that our daughters shouldn’t be exposed to unnecessary X-rays, while her office believes we should have as many as the insurance company will pay for as part of our yearly benefits. I don’t think that money should be a determining factor in the number of X-rays my daughters receive. And I’m fairly certain her office wouldn’t be so keen to X-ray our girls if the insurance company didn’t willingly pay for the procedure.

Dental X-rays are a hot topic among parents. When you talk to other parents, you realize you aren’t alone with your concerns about the long-term effects of X-rays on children. While official organizations continue to state that dental X-rays for children are safe, many investigations are still being made and the jury’s still out.

In Radiation in the Dentist Chair, the author details the questionable safety research and excess radiation related to the cone-beam CT scanner. Unfortunately, I read this piece after allowing one of our girls to have the procedure done. We were barely inside the office when our dentist told me that she was worried about our daughter’s teeth coming in correctly. She said she had a new machine, the cone-beam CT scanner, that could show her what was going on with our daughter’s teeth, and our daughter was in the scanner before I had time to ask for time to do some research first.

Another New York Times article, Radiation Worries for Children in Dentists’ Chairs, did little to calm my nerves. This piece outlines parents’ concerns about radiation and talks about alternative ways to take pictures of teeth. Once I realized so many other dentists were using methods that didn’t push any radiation into their patients, my concerns grew.

Of course, as with so much medical research, conflicting information abounds. Most reputable medical organizations do not think X-rays should cause patients concern. Still, now that we know radiation exposure is cumulative over a lifetime, why expose our children to any more than is medically necessary?

I don’t know what the answer is for our girls. Perhaps we’re creating long-term dental problems by limiting the number of dental X-rays they receive each year. Or perhaps we’re saving them from unnecessary radiation exposure. It’s hard to say at this point. Yet given the uncertainty of the research, I am more comfortable limiting their X-ray exposure than I am allowing the dentist to X-ray at will. If only I could get our dentist’s staff on board with my thinking.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It is 22 outside and our windows are open

I walked into our house this evening and my eyes started watering. I started coughing. The smell was overwhelming. I opened a window.

Our girls have discovered perfume. They love to spritz their pillows with one of the body sprays that come with the scented body lotion kits. They received some tween perfume for Christmas. They wear it daily.

The problem is they don't seem to have a sense of smell. They spray so much it makes me gag. They just love to smell it.

How they could spray so much perfume and not realize how strong it smelled baffles me. I'm not kidding when I say that my eyes started watering as soon as I opened the door between our garage and our house. So, now it's 22 degrees outside and I have the kitchen window open. Our furnace has been running nonstop since I opened the window. I'll do anything to air out the house.

I think it's better in here, but I'm not sure. My nose stings from the perfume hanging in the air. Even if the smell went away, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Make a New Year’s resolution to make the world a better place

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms.

When you look back at 2012, there were so many stories which divided people in ways that were silly, scary and strange. I read about families who didn’t talk to each other because they supported different presidential candidates. I read the horrible, horrible things people said to each other during the Chicago Teacher’s Union strike. There were terrible comments left every day at online sites because people could be anonymous. I watched people swear at each other in stores and flip their middle fingers as they drove.

It’s a “me, me, me” world we Americans have created. People are disconnected from families and friends. People are so worried about getting their share it never occurs to worry about anyone else. Children are raised to be constantly competitive and single-minded in their quest for success. Community is a dirty word that seems to imply softness, rather than connections.

How did we get this way? Some say it’s a general breakdown of manners in society. Some say it’s because we all live so far apart from our families now that we’ve forgotten what it means to be a family. Some say it’s because we have virtual friends and don’t remember how to connect with actual people. I think there is something to all these theories.

Most of all I think we’ve lost track of what is important. Each time there is a disaster, be it a mass shooting like the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre or a weather event like Hurricane Sandy, we hear all the right words. We hear people talk about the importance of family. We hear people talk about how the “things” we accumulate aren’t as important as the people we love. We hear that we’ll work together to make the world a better place.

And we do believe all those things for a while. Then real life takes over. The sensational news story fades into the background for all but those people directly affected. Everything goes back to normal, which is the problem isn’t it? Normal these days is rude and selfish. It’s all about getting what I want even if I have to walk over other people. It’s about getting what I deserve, even if I didn’t earn it. It’s about watching carefully to make sure no one else gets something they don’t deserve.

For 2013, what can you do to make the world nicer? It’s a question worth pondering since one of the things we have total control over is our actions. We can decide to be nice or we can decide to be rude. We can decide to give someone a break without feeling like we’re not getting our share. We can decide it’s time to be a human being again instead of an over-tired, over-scheduled human doing. Mostly we can decide we don’t like the way things are today and do what we can to change the tone of society.

Yes, I know it won’t be easy to keep your middle finger down when the idiot on the expressway cuts in front of you when there isn’t enough space. Yes, I know it will be hard to keep quiet as your relative — again — lectures you on why your politics are wrong. Yes, I know the lazy neighbor with weeds in his lawn is a jerk because those weeds set seed in your carefully manicured yard.

All these things are annoying and the aggravation builds in all of us. The question is what do we do about it? What if instead of reacting each time we just let some of it pass? Has flipping off the bad driver really made you feel better? Have you ever been able to convince your relative his/her politics are pointless? Are you ever going to convince your neighbor that a perfectly manicured lawn will improve his life?

Maybe, just maybe 2013 is the year to learn to live with some of the things that seem so annoying. Maybe 2013 is the year to start worrying about people rather than things. Maybe 2013 is the year to start of a cultural revolution of manners and kindness. Will it work? I don’t know. What I do know is that at this point it can’t hurt to try.