Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oreo is helping us with our dog search

As we review the different dog rescue organizations, we find that there are a few we go back to over and over again. Each one requires an application with reference checks and home inspections. While we're not ready to bring a new dog into our home yet, I decided to get the application process started with one group.

I completed the application with all the required information, including a lengthy description of our time with Oreo. Rescue groups are understandably interested in your pet history. I filled in all the boxes truthfully, including an explanation of how we exercised Oreo since we don't have a fenced in yard. This worried me a bit since most of the rescue groups stress the importance of a fenced in yard to exercise your dog.

When we adopted Oreo from the shelter the manager said a fence was irrelevant. Even a six foot fence won't hold in a Siberian Husky if the dog wants to get out. They have been known to jump a high fence or dig under a fence. He said we would need a tie-up even if we had a fence. He also said the most important thing was to make sure Oreo walked a lot.

I have to say that we learned quickly that a tired Oreo was a happy Oreo. He was always happy to go on a walk and always happy to come home. The more we walked him the better his behavior. We always thought that he was so well-behaved because we had him on such a consistent walk schedule. We never worried about a fence while we had Oreo. After reading the rescue group websites, it seemed like not having a fence might be a big problem.

The rescue organization called a couple of hours after receiving our application. The representative immediately invited us to come visit the dogs. I was surprised to hear from them so quickly as the website says it could take up several weeks to complete the application approval process. She said, "You had a Siberian Husky and managed to keep him from running away. You will be fine with any of our dogs."

I was happy and sad at the same time. One the one hand our experience with Oreo gave this group confidence in our ability to handle another dog. On the other hand, talking to the representative makes me miss Oreo so much. I'm happy we're moving towards another dog and comforted by the thought that our time with him is helping us adopt another dog. He might not be here in body, but his spirit is strong in our lives.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Back together with tears for one

While we waited for the brunette twin to come home, we stopped by a pet adoption event. There were several rescue organizations we've been watching all in one place this afternoon.

We put in an application to adopt one of the dogs at the adoption event. We were able to meet her, walk her and spend some time chatting with her foster family. While at the event we also met a couple of other dogs we liked a lot.

As we left we told the rescue group we'd be in touch. There are a couple of things on the calendar soon so we don't want to adopt a dog if we won't be home. It's not fair to the dog to bring it home and then place it in a kennel for a few days. We realize the dogs we met today might not be there, and we're okay with that possibility. There are several dogs we like on this group's website. I'm certain several would make good pets for our family.

When we left the blond twin started crying. She really, really wanted to bring a dog home. She cried so hard she started hyperventilating. She said, "My heart is breaking."

I felt her pain through and through. If we had thought about it we wouldn't have brought the blond twin. We thought it would distract her while we waited for her twin. Instead we built up her hopes for a new pet and then dashed them. She understood why we didn't get a dog, but she still had a broken heart.

When the brunette twin came home the blond twin ran into her arms and cried. The brunette twin just wanted to talk about her fun weekend. The blond twin just cried about the dogs that didn't come home with us. They held a strange conversation asking each other questions and understanding the answers before asking more questions. One was giddy happy while the other was teary and inconsolable. They continued to talk about their own topics in parallel. It was pretty impressive to see and hear.

A little while later we took them to see Monsters University. As the girls walked they held hands and whispered twin secrets. In the car on the ride home they put their heads on each other's shoulders and talked and talked and talked.

They were back together and ready to face the world. The blond twin gave her sister her present, which was received with hugs and squeal. The brunette twin brought her twin a gift, but I don't think the blond twin even realized it was for her. The best gift for the blond twin was her sister coming home. They went to bed tonight mad at each other for some infraction that wouldn't matter if they weren't so overtired, but they still slept together. Even when they are mad at each other, they find great comfort in being together. It's a closeness we hope they will keep forever and ever.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day two apart

Last night was rough for the blond twin. When I was done working I took her on a bike ride to her friend's house. Amira joined us on a bike ride to a park. After the girls played there for a while, we headed to another park. I turned the wrong way so we ended up at a park, but not the park in their plans. They still had fun before we rode home.

Once we were home the blond twin really started missing her twin. She wanted to call her to tell her Sissy how much she missed her. I explained that her sister was out having fun and the blond twin would not call her Sissy to make her feel guilty about going camping. The blond twin was not happy with me.

After a pizza dinner the blond twin started really worrying about bedtime. She kept saying, "I can't sleep without her. I can't go to bed without my twin." She looked so sad. We distracted her with a puzzle. She and Daddy have been working on this puzzle for about a month now. Well, actually the blond twin and Daddy started the puzzle about a month ago. Since then Daddy has been putting it together here and there. It's a really hard 1,000 piece puzzle. At this point all that's left are a lot of dark brown, black or grey pieces with lots of shading. They all look alike so it's hard to find the piece you are looking for. I spent about one-half hour searching for one piece. The blond twin reached across the puzzle and said, "I think this is the one you're looking for Mom." She plopped the piece in the open slot. I looked at Daddy and said, "Did she really just find the piece?" He laughed. She's really good at puzzles, as is her Daddy.

We talked to the brunette twin before bed, but the connection was not very good. The brunette twin called several times before she was able to talk to each of us. She sounded like she was having so much fun. She just bubbled with news and couldn't wait for the next day.

The blond twin slept in her sister's bed with a whole bunch of stuffed animals. She actually slept later than we expected. After a full morning running errands with Daddy, her friend Claudia came to spend the night. The blond twin is so relieved to have a friend over. Claudia is very close to both our girls. I call her our triplet. The blond twin is back in her element with a built-in playmate. Claudia isn't her twin, but she's close.

The brunette twin called to let us know she was having so much fun. They went swimming, had ice cream, played with some other kids and got lost on a hike. She was just brimming with news. The blond twin teased her by saying, "Daddy and I went to Target and I bought you something." At the end of our conversation the brunette twin said, "You know you can call me if you want." She sits somewhere between having a great time and missing us. Mostly I think she's having a great time, but thinks she should miss us more. It's so fun to hear her excitement as she talks about her adventures with Juliana. She bubbles from topic to topic to topic. Juliana has two younger siblings, so the brunette twin is also experiencing what it would be like to have two younger children in the house. She likes it, but I'm not sure she'd like it full-time.

I'm still surprised the brunette twin went camping and that she's having so much fun. She's our cautious child. She could hardly stand to spend the night at Girl Scout camp last month as she was so nervous -- and she had both Juliana and the blond twin with her. She had to go over the plan a dozen times before she felt comfortable packing her stuff. She is not the child I thought would make the first break and spend a weekend away with friends. Yet she jumped at the chance to go camping for two nights in a strange place without her twin. I'm happy for her. I think it's a great development for her, but it still surprises me.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Day one apart

The girls were invited to go camping with a school friend. At first they both wanted to go, but then the blond twin changed her mind. She wasn't sure she wanted to be away for two days.

The brunette twin was nervous about the trip, but decided she was going to go anyway. The promise of swimming and fishing and camp fires was too much for her to resist. Her friend has a permanent trailer at a campground so it's not like they will be roughing it in a tent.

As the brunette twin packed today she asked a lot of questions. Could she call home if she wanted to talk to us? Who would take care of her if she hurt herself? What if she wanted to come home? We talked through all her concerns. Daddy had a great idea. He suggested she take her iPod so she could text her twin if she wanted to talk to her. Yes, the campground has wi-fi. Doesn't every place now?

We dropped the brunette twin at her friend's house with a big duffel bag. Of course the weather is now cooler than normal so she packed cool and warm weather clothes. In a separate bag she had Koala and some other comfort items. The brunette twin was giddy about the trip.

When we got back into the car, the blond twin had tears in her eyes. She said, "I miss my Sissy. What am I supposed to do without her?" A few minutes later she said, "She didn't even hug me good-bye." She was so lost without her twin.

A few hours has passed and so far the brunette twin called just once to let us know they were on the road to the campground. She sounded so excited. The blond twin hasn't quite figured out what to do with herself until I'm available to be her playmate. She watched videos about training a horse and a new movie we recorded recently. Now she's reading a book and asking when I'll be done working.

Tomorrow the blond twin has a friend coming over to spend the night. It will even out the weekend for them since they will both be with a friend. The blond twin's challenge will be getting through the night without her twin. The brunette twin is surrounded by her friend's family, including two toddlers who adore both our girls. She'll be busy and tired tonight with all the excitement of exploring the campground. The blond twin will be in their bedroom by herself, always reminded that her Sissy is not with her.

It's the first time they've been apart overnight. It will be a good experience for both of them, even if they both struggle a bit to find their own way.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Negotiating for a new dog

We've been exploring different dog rescue organizations. Some time this fall we promised the girls we'd adopt a new dog. The different rescue groups have websites so we're able to research their adoption requirements, applications and fees. We're also able to see the types of dogs they have available at any given time.

It has been good for the girls to realize that the dogs they liked last week have been adopted. I like that they see these dogs finding "fur-ever" homes as the rescue groups like to say. I like that they realize now that just because they like a dog doesn't mean they will get it. I explain to them over and over that lots of people are looking for dogs, which is a good thing. We want the dogs to get adopted.

We've been discussing the types of dogs and ages for a while now. The brunette twin wants a puppy. She has Uncle Steve on her side. She emailed him recently to let him know she appreciates his efforts to get her a puppy. The blond twin wants two dogs. She clearly remembers Daddy telling her that we might get two dogs.

Every time we look at a rescue organization's website both of these become major negotiating points. I don't want a puppy. Dogs that young need to go out every three or four hours -- 24 hours a day. I don't want to get up in the middle of the night to let the puppy go outside. I don't want to deal with the puppy chewing stage. I also know that it's harder to place older dogs, even dogs that are a couple of years old. My preference is to adopt a dog that is a couple of years old.

We looked at one site with about a dozen dogs around six months old. If we're going to get a puppy, I'd consider one about six months old. Those puppies don't need to go out in the middle of the night. They are ready for training. The brunette twin isn't convinced. She wants a tiny, squirmy puppy.

The blond twin has started negotiating for an older dog for her and a puppy for her sister. What she wants is to end up with two dogs. She knows if she lobbies for the dog I want and the dog her sister wants she has a better chance of succeeding.

I have to admit it's a good strategy. She really thought through how to get what she wants. She doesn't ask for a specific dog, but rather thinks about the big picture.

In the end I don't think either of them will be happy at first. I don't see us getting two dogs, but if I had to choose, we'd get two dogs rather than a puppy. Of course, when we finally decide on our next dog they will be thrilled. It's one thing to want something in abstract. It's another thing to have a live, playful dog begging for your attention. In the end, the live, playful dog will make them forget all the negotiations -- at least that's our plan.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Daddy thinks it's cute

The girls are at a point where they have to try on their clothes. It's just not possible for me to bring home clothes and expect them to fit. Now we have them pick out clothes and head to the fitting room for the fashion show. They are giddy as they try on clothes.

It's like my nightmare has come to life. I don't like to shop. There isn't a store around that can stay in business based upon my shopping habits. I'm one of those people who wears out a pair of black shoes and buys another pair of black shoes. I don't go in to browse the shoe department for enjoyment. I go in with a purpose.

The girls are recreational shoppers. They want nothing more than to spend all day at the mall trying on clothes and shoes and accessories. They run from store to store to store just to look. They don't even care if they buy anything.

We were at the mall recently buying some back-to-school clothes. After three or four stores I thought my head would explode -- the lights, the noise, the crowds. I just wanted to get out of the stores.

The blond twin was getting annoyed that we wouldn't let her buy every dress she tried on. The main problem was they all looked adorable on her. We wanted her to narrow down her choices to one dress. She wanted them all. It's a common problem with the blond twin. We rarely find something that doesn't fit her in her size. Everything looks cute on her as she's a tall, thin mannequin.

When I thought I couldn't dislike shopping anymore Daddy came upon the perfect way to get us out of the store. He looked at the blond twin and said, "I really like that one. You should get it."

Daddy is a very smart man. He knows the blond twin won't fight with him about the dress because he likes it. He knows she'll go with his opinion because she's wants to please Daddy. It upsets her if she thinks he's mad at her.  She prides herself as Daddy's girl.

As soon as he said he liked one of the dresses she stopped trying on clothes. It's not as if she hadn't already tried on a lot of clothing. She was just trying on other dresses to keep herself busy. She had plenty of options when Daddy voiced his opinion.

From now on I think Daddy needs to come with us when we shop. He could really keep the whole process moving just by giving his opinion on different outfits. Unfortunately, it only works on the blond twin. The brunette twin isn't quite as willing to bend to his opinion yet. She's not above using Daddy to get out of the store, though. In fact, when she was tired of watching her sister try on clothes, she said, "Daddy really likes that shirt. Right Dad?" Daddy quickly agreed. The blond twin smiled and changed into her own clothes.

It's a new twist for the brunette twin. She likes to shop, but when she's done, she's done -- even if her sister is not. I was proud of her for figuring out how to get what she wanted without starting a fight with her twin. I was also amused that she knew how to manipulate her sister in such a subtle manner. Mostly I was impressed that she was able to adapt one of our parenting techniques to get us all out of the store. It might be time to let her evaluate her sister's new clothing fashion show. I bet she'd get us out of the store a lot quicker than we would on our own.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The problem with cereal

For whatever reason our girls have decided that they won't eat cereal during the summer. I vaguely remember saying something at the beginning of summer about how I realized they were tired of cereal since they eat it every day before school. They started complaining about eating cereal every morning towards the end of the school year. I might have said something about how they wouldn't eat much cereal during the summer and we'd try to have more toast, English muffins, pancakes, biscuits, etc.

I don't know when we moved from "I'd rather not eat cereal" to "NOOOOOOT CEREAL." We're firmly in the "no cereal in the summer" camp. I'm not happy about it.

Once in a while when I run out of alternate breakfast foods I throw out cereal as an option. You'd think I was telling the girls I was going to make them eat dirt. Really, the reaction is just over the top. It is a "you said we didn't have to eat cereal" whine that could break glass.

At first I was willing to play along with the "no cereal in the summer" game. I started it so I was willing to go with it for a few weeks, but now it's annoying me. It's time to take control of breakfast again. The girls will eat whatever we have, but they have to stop whining about cereal.

Of course, now that I'm going to return to cereal as a breakfast option I suppose I need to make sure we have some cereal in the house. When I started my annual "eat all the food we have in the house" purge this summer we ate the last of the cereal. I think we're down to one box in the basement that no one likes. It's time to donate that box to a food drive and start all over.

This time if the girls whine about eating cereal I'll make sure they eat something very healthy and tasteless. They will be begging for their favorite cereals at that point.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer fun without the summer sitter

When we were planning the girls' summer activities this year we left out an important element. For the past six years we've had a summer sitter. First it was our niece Samantha, then our friend Jayne. Their job was to take the girls to different activities and generally keep them busy during the weekdays while I worked. It wasn't a full-time job, but it was enough that the girls did everything we wanted them to and more.

This year we decided the girls were old enough to be without a summer sitter. We reasoned that they had two week-long camps (Girl Scouts and horseback riding) with full day schedules. They also have a writing/drawing camp running 1/2 day for two weeks coming up. In between we had vacations and other activities. We figured that when they weren't in camp we could fill their days with play dates with friends and lazy play-at-home days.

When we designed our grand summer scheme it was March or April. The whole thing seemed so easy when we put it on paper. As we moved closer to Memorial Day, and the girls getting out of school came closer, I started to wonder if we made the right choice.

It turns out we did.

So far their summer has been a mix of activities and play, with a good dose of pool time. They've spent lots of days riding their bikes in the neighborhood, playing with friends and bouncing from pool to pool. They've had sleepovers at camp and with friends. They've spent days in their pajamas playing in our basement or their room.

One of my main worries was they would be bored so they would beg to watch television all the time. They haven't done that, but they have spent more time in front of a screen than planned. The girls used the money they received for their communion to purchase 7-inch tablet computers. They've had a great time learning to use them. Of course, one of the first things they learned was how to download their favorite shows and videos. When they say they are playing on their tablets I just assume they are watching a show. They have games and texting and other activities, but they are enjoying the ability to watch shows on demand just as much.

So far their summer is going just as planned, which is a pleasant development. We figured this summer was an experiment. If it went well we'd use this summer as a blueprint for future years. If not, we'd have to find a new summer sitter. It's nice when your plans come together in real life just like you put them down on paper.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

You smell familiar

Overheard at our house:

Blond twin:  "Mom if I tell you the truth, will you be mad?"

Mom: "What's up?"

Blond twin: "Well, after my shower I wanted to put on some perfume so I went into your bathroom. It turns out you don't have any perfume in your bathroom. I thought it was perfume, but I think it was Dad's cologne."

Mom laughs: "And..."

Blond twin: "I put some on and I smell like Dad. I tried to shower, but I still smell like Dad. I mean I want to be like Dad, but I don't want to smell like him."

Mom: "Come here. (sniffs blond twin as she gets closer) Oh yeah, you smell like Dad. There's nothing you can do until it wears off."

Blond twin: "Do you think Dad will notice?"

Mom:  "Honey, he's color blind, but he can smell."

Blond twin: "Do you think he'll be mad?"

Mom:  "No, he likes that cologne. I'm sure he'll like it on you."

Friday, July 5, 2013

Nashville the perfect summer road trip destination

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms.

We went to Nashville for Spring Break this year. We took a seven-day road trip that left us wanting to go back — and soon. Since so many people are planning summer vacations, here are some suggestions to help you plan your Nashville vacation.

Nashville is an easy one-day drive, but we broke up the drive going to and from Tennessee. One of the joys of a road trip is the ability to stop and see sights along the way. We spent our first night in Bowling Green, KY with plans to visit Mammoth Cave the next morning. I had fond memories of Mammoth Cave from my childhood road trips to Florida.

It turns out that Mammoth Cave is a big-time tourist attraction now. You really have to plan your trip and buy tickets in advance. It’s hard to walk-up and get tickets if you are on a schedule. We ended up going on the tour at Diamond Caverns, which was a beautiful choice. It’s an easy tour of a truly stunning showcase of nature’s beauty.

After a quick drive, we were in Nashville and ready to tour. We went to several of the city’s top tourist destinations as this was our first trip. Our favorites include:

Belle Meade Plantation is a fun, family destination filled with history and charm. The tour guides are quite knowledgeable and exude Southern charm. We especially liked the race horse history associated with Belle Meade as our girls are horse crazy.

Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art has the coolest sculpture trail. Our nine-year-old twin daughters rolled their eyes when we said we were going on a sculpture trail, but quickly grabbed the map looking for the art. It was a scavenger hunt for them. I didn’t want to leave the glass bridge. There was something magical about walking on a glass bridge and seeing the gardens through the glass blocks.

The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson was at the top of my must-see list. I am a political junkie so I always want to see these historic places. I have to give The Hermitage staff credit for not trying to backpedal when it came to the slavery issue. The Hermitage is true to what happened during the era without making it the only issue. The grounds and home are stunning. The restoration is full of stories that make the president and his family real people, not just historic figures.

The Grand Ole Opry was the kind of place we figured we had to see because it seemed like you couldn’t leave Nashville without a visit. We didn’t know anyone performing, but we didn’t care. This was the only attraction we planned. We bought tickets about a month before our trip and I’m glad we did. It was a standing room only crowd the night we went in March. What I didn’t realize about the Grand Ole Opry is that it is actually a live radio program. The biggest surprise of the night was how much our girls enjoyed Jesse McReynolds and his band. We don’t listen to a lot of bluegrass music, yet our girls were captivated. At the end of the show I said, “Who was your favorite performer?” Both our girls said, “The old guy on the mandolin. Did you see how fast his hands were moving. Jesse was awesome.”

The next day we were in downtown Nashville at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop when one of our girls started flipping through CDs. She kept looking until she found a Jesse McReynolds CD. She listens to it all the time and even plays it for her friends. I think Jesse created a new bluegrass fan that night.

Nashville was a fun vacation. There are so many more things I could write about from restaurants near Vanderbilt University to the Nashville Farmer’s Market to Music Row. Nashville is a fun family destination for every budget. There are a lot of free things to do to keep a family busy. You can find lots of discounts and coupons on attraction websites and in hotel lobbies.

The Nashville Visitors Bureau has an easy to navigate website to help you with all your planning. Visit http://www.visitmusiccity.com/ for more information.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer photo fun

When the girls were born I decided to try to write a note on the back of every photo. Something brief with names and locations so they will always know why we took the photo. This comes from cleaning out both of my grandmother's homes and throwing out hundreds and hundreds of photographs. Neither Gram ever marked a picture. We had no idea who some of those people were, although we could make a guess here and there.

While we wouldn't have kept all the photos, I would have liked to have a wedding photo of my great-grandparents and some photos of my grandparents when they were young. We couldn't sort through their photos so everything went into the garbage.

For the most part we've been good about keeping the girls' photo albums updated. When they were little the photos were all about them and their milestones. Now the photos are a bit more about our travels and their activities.

About two months ago I realized we hadn't updated their photo albums in a long time -- and by that I mean two full years. One Saturday about that time I spent four hours going through the images and ordering them online. This might not seem like the best way to spend a Saturday, but since I had twisted my ankle and couldn't walk anyway it was about the only productive thing I could do.

It truly took my four hours to get the images sorted and ordered. I saw how many photos I ordered when I clicked "submit" but what that number meant didn't hit me until the seven pound box arrived on our front porch.

The photos have been sitting on a table in our family room. I did write on the back of some of them. This week I decided I was going to get the photos done. I'm tired of looking at them.

Last night I was writing on the back of the photos when the blond twin asked if she could help. She grabbed a pen and started writing notes. At first her notes were very straightforward, like mine. After a while she started writing and giggling and drawing on the back. She personalized every photo with her own message -- usually to her sister. This caused the brunette twin to want to write on the photos too. They wrote funny things, as well as the basic information.

As they were going to bed they said, "We had so much fun writing on the photos? Can we do it tomorrow?" I said, "Of course. You're such good helper girls you can do them all." They squealed and said, "It will be so much fun. Thanks Mom."

Oh no, thank you girls. You've taken a task I dreaded and turned it into a fun summer project. By the end of the week the photos will be captioned and in their photo albums. And the best part is they think it's fun.