Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wii warriors

The girls have Wii marathons. They will get into a groove where they play certain Wii games for hours. They are very competitive. The blond twin especially acts as if the outcome of every game is going to change the fate of the world.

One day the brunette twin decided to abandon her Wii marathon and take a nap. She was tired and wanted to sleep. The blond twin asked me to play. Until that moment I had spent exactly zero minutes with the Wii controller in my hands.

The blond twin kept telling me what to do. Move here. Jump there. Hit that thing. Don't hit that thing. She grew increasingly frustrated when I didn't move the controller quickly enough. When I missed an important jump from one moving thing to another, her avatar came back to rescue me.

Or so I thought.

What she really did was kick me off into the boiling oil. Yes, the blond twin killed me in the Wii world. I said, "Why did you so that?" She said, "Are you kidding? I'm so much faster without you." I did say she was competitive about her Wii, right?

One day she was really frustrated with her sister about this or that. I said, "If you want I can play. Oh, that's right, you killed me the last time I played." She replied, "You weren't very good Mom."

From the kitchen Daddy said, "I think Oreo would have done a better job than you did." The girls laughed and asked the dog if he wanted to play.

To summarize, my daughter kicked me off the platform because she was better off without me. The consensus is that Oreo could do a better job than I did. I think it's safe to say my Wii career is over before it really started.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The pet food police

You know how everyone talks about how competitive parents are? Everyone is comparing how perfect their children are as they eat their organic meals and star in the school play? Every child is a star athlete and scholar? Those parents have nothing on the pet food representatives at any chain pet store.

I was in Petco buying Oreo's dog food. The all-natural pet food representative cornered me to explain how I was killing my dog by allowing him to eat the pet food in my cart. She went on and on about the dangers in his dog food. Within a few minutes a store employee joined the conversation. Between the two of them they made me want to go home and apologize to Oreo for not feeding him an all-natural, organic, homemade, nutritionally-balanced meal twice a day.

I thanked them for the information and pushed my cart away as quickly as possible.

When we adopted Oreo from the animal shelter we tried a lot of different dog foods. We spent a lot of time cleaning floors and carpets. Nothing sat well in his stomach until we found his current brand. Once we realized he could tolerate this brand we never strayed. I mean never, ever, ever strayed.

We don't give him table scraps or rawhide chews. He get a bone once in a while, but only a specific type of beef bone from Petco. We found out the hard way that messing with his diet creates messes for us to clean up.

If this makes us bad pet parents, then so be it. Unless the organic dog food representatives are going to get on their hands and knees to clean up Oreo's mess after he eats their food, we'll stick with what we feed him now. I won't let anyone assign Mommy guilt to me. There's no way I'll allow anyone to assign pet owners guilt.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Piano competition

Overheard at our house...
Daddy:  "After this game you need to start working on your to do list. You have your piano recital in a few hours. We need to leave here at 1:00 p.m. Everything needs to be done."
Blond Twin: "We're last in the recital."

Daddy: "We still need to be there on time."

Brunette Twin: "We'll be the best at the recital that's why we're last."

Daddy: "We just want you to do your best. It's not a competition."

Brunette Twin: "We will do our best and we will be the best."

Wouldn't it be nice if she had that much confidence all the time?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Snow dog in motion

We received a few inches of snow last night so we were outside shoveling early this morning. We moved Oreo's tie-up to the front yard so he could be near us while we shovelled. He played in the snow and bounced around like a puppy.

His best moment happened as the girls were getting ready to leave for school. The girls were outside with the door open. I was putting Oreo's leash on so Daddy could take him on the walk to school. The girls were giddy and giggly and talking to Oreo with the door open. He took advantage of the open door and ran out.

Immediately the panic started. The girls started running around screaming for Oreo to come back. Daddy grabbed a treat and went outside. I put on my shoes, grabbed a coat and ran outside.

We know better than to chase Oreo. We're not going to catch him. We all stood our ground and called to him. Oreo ran the length of our block at full speed. He went from one end to the other in full gallop.

It was beautiful to watch. He just flies up and down and back and forth. He was so happy to be running.

The girls weren't as happy. The blond twin begged him to come home. The brunette twin cried as she called her dog. He ran close to them, but not close enough that they could catch him. Given his speed, he'd have to stop in front of them for them to grab him.

I just watched him. As long as he was in site, we were fine. He ran for a while and then came to grab the treat from Daddy's hand. He sat nicely while Daddy put the leash on him.

I wish we had a place where we could let him run more often. We've tried tennis courts, but he's not interested in fetching a ball. It's just not enough space for him to really get up to speed.

For now I'll enjoy the moments when he gets out and takes an unplanned long as he keeps coming back.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I thought I was the better golfer

When the girls have a day off school, we take them to hit golf balls at a local sports dome. The girls were hitting balls from the mat.

The blond twin was really hitting well. She hit the ball off the tee as well as I've ever seen her. It wasn't perfect. Her balls were a bit more horizontal than they should have been and they often took a strange angle. Still, she was really hitting them far. She hit one, dropped the next ball, hit another one and on and on.

This unnerved the brunette twin. She struggled to hit the ball off the tee. Sometimes it just rolled off. Sometimes it went on a sharp angle away from the tee. She would stop, watch her sister, get nervous and start questioning everything she was doing.

I kept talking her through the process. I said, "Are your legs lined up? Are your hands on the club properly?" I just kept asking her questions until she was properly lined up.

She just couldn't get the consistency she normally has when she hits the ball. I just adore watching the brunette twin hit the ball. When she's on her game it's a beautiful arc followed by good distance. She just shines.

Yesterday she looked at me and said, "Why is Sissy hitting the ball so well? I thought I was the better golfer."


Instead of believing she was good at golf, she let her sister's success undermine her confidence. It never occurs to the brunette twin that they could both be good. If her sister is good at something it means the brunette twin is bad at it.   

We spend a lot of time trying to give the brunette twin the tools to build her self-confidence. We sit with her every night to make sure she understands her math homework. We practice things over and over again to make sure she is comfortable with whatever she is doing. It could be walking her through her responsibilities as an alter server or practicing her book report.

The self-confidence seems to be situational for her. The brunette twin gains the confidence to do that task, but it doesn't create a building block for her. The next time she is faced with a challenge, she doesn't think "Hey, I did well before. I could do well now." In her mind she says, "Oh, this is new. I cannot do it."

It's discouraging some times. We will continue to work with her, but we just don't know how to turn these situations into building blocks so she has the self-confidence to believe that she is actually good at something.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I love our family

We were exchanging cards this evening when the blond twin said, "I love our family." It was the best Valentine's Day gift ever in a day full of fun Valentine's Day moments.

My day started with breakfast in bed. The girls brought me a plate with strawberries, piece of Chocolate candy and bread with sunflower butter on it. They told me that they would have brought up some juice but were afraid they would spill it on the stairs.

We walked to school with a bags of Valentine's and candy. I walked with a cookie tray in the air as if I was delivering a pizza. The girls thought it was so funny that I could walk so far with the cookies in the air. I said, "Hey, Mommy waitressed her way through college." Some skills stay with you.

The Valentine's parties were really just ice cream and passing out Valentine's cards. I helped in the brunette twin's room. The official room parent couldn't take the day off work. The kids were running around passing out Valentine's when the brunette twin asked if she could give Valentine's to some other teachers. When she returned to the classroom she said, "Where is my ice cream?" In a cringe-worthy parenting moment I realized I gave all the ice cream to the class and didn't save her one. I took the girls to an ice cream parlor right after school to redeem myself, but I'm not sure the brunette twin forgave me.

The girls were so excited about making a special dinner for Daddy. They decided they wanted pizza, so we pulled a frozen deep dish out of the freezer. They set what they call a "pretty" table and waited for Daddy to come home.

We exchanged cards and candy before dinner. It's what we want for the girls -- to know that it's special because we're together not because we exchange expensive presents. It was when the blond twin declared, "I love our family." She was right and we all felt it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who needs a nap?

Overheard while driving...

Blond twin:  "Four hour naps? Who needs a four hour nap?"

Mommy: "Oh, you know truck drivers need to sleep a bit or sometimes people just need some place to rest for a while."

Blond twin: "Oh, that's wierd."

Daddy: "Aren't you glad they can read now?"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

We are not that poor

The brunette twin told me she needed shirts. She had just a few that fit and she said she wore the same ones over and over. I asked her why she didn't say anything earlier. She said, "You're always saying we don't have extra money so I didn't want to say anything."

At that point the blond twin chimed in that she needed jeans. She had one pair that was too small.

I said, "We're not that poor. We can afford to buy you clothes. When I'm talking about not having extra money it's for things like a horse or a new Wii or going out to dinner every night. We can afford to buy you clothes."

The brunette twin said, "Oh good. I need another pair of gym shoes too. Mine are too small."

I smiled and then I sighed. In our efforts to teach the girls the differences between needs and wants they seem to have gotten the impression we're poor. While we're shopping we'll talk to them about what we're buying and why. We'll discuss waiting to buy things on sale rather then buying them at full price. We'll talk about how we budget and how spending, saving and investing all fall into that budget.

We thought we were just teaching them basic good money management. We wanted to explain how we manage money. Our goal was to make sure the girls understood that we work hard for our money and spend it wisely.

It turns out the girls think we're poor just because we don't buy them every crazy thing they want at the moment they want it. They come up with all kinds of crazy ideas from buying a horse to going to London to meet One Direction. Whenever we say no or later or you should save for it they seem to take it as a sign that we don't have enough money to buy them what they need.

I realize some of this is because they are so young. They don't have a grasp on what it means to have a thousand dollars as opposed to having a million dollars. For them it's all just the same as a $5 bill. I'm not sure we'll change our money education strategy, but I do think we'll try to put it into perspective a bit more. We want them to know how to manage their money without thinking that we don't have enough money to buy what is needed.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Daddy on his own

Tonight was the girls' Father/Daughter event. In the past my Dad always went with Daddy to escort the girls to the Father/Daughter dance. It was good because there was one of them to dance with each girl. It was also good because Grampa liked to dance. When Daddy didn't want to, Grampa was happy to dance.

Last year Uncle Dave went to the Father/Daughter event with his goddaughter. This event had a bunch of different games so Uncle Dave and the blond twin took on Daddy and the brunette twin.

This year the PTA held a dance again. The girls decided to go just with Daddy. They decided they were old enough that he could handle both of them by himself.

Of course, Daddy did fine. In third grade it's basically a girls dance party with all the Dad/Grampas/Uncles standing against the walls waiting to be called into service. Our girls found some friends and danced the night away.

The girls were excited to tell me about the conga line, limbo and line dances. During the slow dances they took turns dancing with Daddy. They also managed a group slow dance so they could all be together. At some point the disc jockey played "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" by Elvis. The girls know this was Grampa's favorite song. When I asked them about the dance it was the first song they mentioned. I hear rumors of Daddy doing the chicken dance, but I haven't seen any proof. 

There was a photo booth where each ticket bought you three photos. Daddy took serious and funny photos with each girls. The girls managed to take photos with friends too.

As we put them to bed we talked about how much fun they had. I told the girls they were very lucky to have such a wonderful Daddy and I meant it. They hugged Daddy and agreed. Some day I hope they look back on the photos with big smiles and happy memories.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Creature of habit

Every morning when we get back from walking the girls to school, Oreo drinks his entire water bowl and stands by the patio doors. If I don't get there quickly enough he walks over to me, stares for a bit and then walks back to the patio door.

After a while I check on him to make sure he hasn't wraped his tie-up around the tree or started snacking on the garden. For some reason he likes to eat leaves off the Japanese maple.

This morning I looked out the door and saw his tie-up. He wasn't on it. I opened the patio door in a panic. I walked around the patio in my slippers looking for Oreo.

I didn't see him.

I ran into the house and put on my coat and shoes. I tried to figure out how much of a head start he had on me. When was the last time I saw him? I thought about how mad the girls would be if I had to tell them I lost Oreo. I grabbed my purse, looking for my keys as I went to grab a leash. I mentally planned a route to search for him when I saw on something. It was Oreo.

It turns out I didn't put him outside today. For whatever reason he decided he didn't want to go out. I'm such a creature of habit that it never ocurred to me to look for Oreo in the house. He always goes outside during the day unless I force him to stay inside. I bent down to put him, took off my coat, put away my purse and went back to work. It turns out he can change his patterns, but I cannot. Who is the trained one in this house?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Doing double duty

We have these great recliners we bought for our back patio. They are so comfortable I often work outside just to enjoy the chairs. These chairs are big and sturdy. We want to enjoy them for a long time so in the winter we put them in the living room. They sit in front of the TV the girls use for their Wii.

The girls love the recliners. They watch their movies and shows on the smaller TV just to sit in the recliners. They make themselves comfortable with pillows and blankets when it's cold outside. Sometimes they put a small table between the recliners for their snack or beverage or remotes. It's as if the living room becomes a cozy den for them when we add the recliners.

It's also good for the chairs. The rest of the furniture sits on the patio all winter. Last winter it was so mild that we never got around to buying patio furniture covers. This winter has been significantly colder and snowier already. We regret not having patio furniture covers, but those aren't available now We learned our lesson and will buy some next fall to keep the snow off our furniture.

The recliners are going to be permanent fixtures in our living room for as long as we keep them. I wouldn't have picked these recliners for our living room, but the fabric and metal colors actually coordinate nicely. For us that's actually just a bonus. Given how functional it is to have the recliners in the living room, we'd keep them there even if they didn't match.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Unhappy with her increasing dependence

Today is my Mom's birthday. While we're celebrating another year, she's unhappy about her increasing age.

It's not that she's not happy to celebrate her birthday. It's that she recently said she feels like she's always asking us for help and it's not going to get any better as she gets older. She said she doesn't like asking for help and doesn't like knowing that she's going to do it more and more in the coming years.

I reminded her that she and Dad helped us tremendously through the years. When our girls were little she'd cover over every week to watch them for the time between when I left to teach class and Daddy came home from work. When I sprained my ankle and ended up in a soft, boot cast Dad drove me to and from class so I could continue to teach. Dad came over whenever we had a house problem that needed his expertise. I cannot remember the number of times I called Mom to say, "I have to take one twin to the doctor. Will you please come over and watch the other one?" Of course she always did.

I know both my brothers could create their own lists. Mom and Dad were always available to help. This does not make my Mom feel better.

For her asking for help puts her in the same, dependent category my grandmothers were in when we were growing up. Many weekend days were spent going from Gram to Gram to mow the lawn or shovel snow or do some other house project. This fell to us because we were the only relatives in the area. Everyone else moved away.

As the grammas got older it because more about doctor's appointments and hospital visits and grocery shopping than anything else. Mom made weekly visits to see her mother long after her mother had forgotten that Mom was her daughter. We offered to split the visits, but Mom always said it wasn't our responsibility.

She sees herself as becoming a burden and that doesn't sit well with Mom. She was independent long before the women's liberation movement, which she never supported. She used tell stories about women chastising her at her desk when she became a bank officer. You'd think these women would be happy to see another woman rise through the ranks, but they always lamented that she was letting down other women because she had "Mrs." on her nameplate. Even within a movement to give women more freedom she was an independent.

I realize we cannot make this better for Mom. I wish we could convince her that she's not a burden, but I'm not sure we can. For now we can just be as casual as possible about helping her until she finally accepts that none of us can do it without each other.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Winter mess everywhere

We are in the middle of our annual winter mess. There are boots and towels and winter gear everywhere. It's not like we don't know it's coming. Every summer we make moves not to end up with a winter mess.

Two years ago we added extra large area rugs in the foyer and the family room to corral all the winter boots. This eliminated using all our towels on the floor to keep all the wet boots organized.

We put in a three row shoe organizer and a credenza with baskets, drawers and an open shelf last summer. We spent a bit of time organizing our hats, gloves and scarves so we'd be able to find things quickly. The girls put their backpacks on the shelf. In the morning they just grab and go.

I realize now that it's not about being organized. We are pretty organized. In the summer we seem to have enough space. Oh, there are flip flips and baseball caps all around, but those don't take up as much space as all our winter gear.

The reality is we have four people with seven pairs of boots. The girls and I each have a pair of snow boots and a pair of warm, fuzzy "walk to school" boots. Poor Daddy somehow survives with only one pair of boots. No matter how organized we are, for a few months we add seven pairs of boots to the mix. Of course the boots don't fit into the shoe organizer so they just sit on the floor by the door.

We have lots of scarves and mittens and hats drying whenever we're out in the snow. Last Wednesday the weather changed from rain to sleet to snow during one walk with Oreo. It was snowing hard when I walked him after dinner. I had two coats and two of everything else spread out across chairs and tables drying.

It's just a fact of life during winter. No matter how we try to avoid it we will have a winter mess for a few months each year. I think we'll just stop trying to avoid it at this point. We can plan and organize as much as we want, but stuff takes up space.

We're going to embrace it as a sign of a busy, happy family. Some day we'll look back on it fondly when the girls are in their own houses and we only have our own boots, hats and gloves to worry about.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Nine at nine

The girls have been begging us to let them go to bed later. During the school week the blond twin talks about what time her classmates go to bed. She discusses every mention of bedtime in class, Girl Scouts, church, etc. She monitors this like a detective.

The blond twin also discusses this with others as if they will sway our decision. She tried to bring them over to her side. Whenever someone gives her any new ideas she immediately brings them to our attention.

The brunette twin lets her sister do the talking. She'd like to stay up later, but mostly she doesn't want to get in trouble for asking after we've already told the blond twin it wasn't going to happen.

Recently Daddy came up with a plan. The girls would get to stay up until 9:00 p.m. on weekends if they went to bed by 8:00 p.m. during the week. He knows how precise the girls can be so he defined weekdays as Sunday through Thursday and weekends as Friday and Saturday.

They agreed to our plan. They know the rules and take it all very seriously. Whenever one of them thinks she has misbehaved she will ask if this means she has to go to bed early this weekend. It's a big deal that they can earn an extra hour on the weekends and they are taking it seriously.

The only person not happy about this plan is Mommy. Don't get me wrong. I realize the girls are getting older and should be allowed to stay up a bit later. It's just that I'm really tired by the time they go to bed. They might not be ready to go to bed, but I am completely ready for them to be in bed. I want the peace and quiet for downtime before I go to bed. I'd like a little time to watch TV, read the newspaper or whatever else crosses my mind.

In this case, I'm having the growing pains. They don't feel any better now than they did when I was growing up.