Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dear Target

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms

Dear Target:

I write this with a heavy heart. I think it’s time we break up. I want to adore you again. When I go into your stores I see the cute clothes and wonderful home accessories. I wander down the aisles reminiscing about last fall when we bought our daughters new bicycles and the times we ran in to purchase diapers. And, with twins we purchased many, many diapers.

The problem is I don’t know if I can trust you again. I’m sure you’re feeling like a victim after having your security systems hacked, but I hope you can understand how fragile I’m feeling about using any plastic card in your stores right now. The never-ending bad news isn’t helping to rebuild my trust.

You see, I’m just tired of all the identity theft drama. My first experience with this kind of fraud came when Michael’s had problems a few years ago. We didn’t have any money taken from our account, but we knew people who were robbed. Since then we also had our U.S. Bank account hacked, which was a customer service nightmare. I’ve never felt more like a criminal than I did when we called U.S. Bank to report the fraud. At every turn I felt like U.S. Bank was more interested in prosecuting us than protecting us. As you can imagine, the minute the fraud issue was resolved we left U.S. Bank.

How do we leave you, Target? We have a long, mostly happy relationship. No matter what we need we can find it in your store. We’ve always been happy with your associates. We even know that we can find a Target wherever we travel so we don’t worry about leaving something at home.

Now though, things have changed. I want to continue our relationship, but I find it hard to go into your stores. I try to wander your aisles seeking needed items. I try to feel comforted by your associates’ smiles and helpful ways. I find myself going with a small amount of cash only to buy a very limited number of items. If I can find it somewhere else, I usually take that option these days.

The problem is that I miss you Target. I don’t want to discover new stores and try to figure out where my favorite items are located. I don’t want to be forced to find new brands in new stores. I want my old Target back, where I felt safe and shopped without worrying if I was exposing my family to a financial nightmare. Of course, now I’m worried about ever using a credit or debit card to shop. I’m starting to wonder if I should return to writing checks. You remember checks, don’t you?

I will say that it’s very customer-friendly of you to offer a free year of credit reporting. Sadly, though, we already have a free year of credit reporting. In 2012 Advocate Healthcare provided that service because our information was compromised after an office was burglarized.

Yes, we’re veterans in this war. It’s a war we’re tired of fighting. They say time heals all wounds, but I don’t think time will heal this pain. My shopping habits are forever changed. I know I can’t completely stop using plastic to pay for purchases, but I will severely limit my purchase to cash on hand as much as possible.

Someday I hope we can be friends again. I hope you’ll understand, Target, if I take a break for a while.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Weather talk Chiberia style

Daddy: You're taking the dog out for a break?

Mommy:  Yes. As soon as I bundle up.

Daddy:  Let me check the temperature. Oh, it's zero now. We might get to 5 or so today.

Mommy:  I didn't think it was supposed to get that warm.

Daddy: It's already zero so we could get there.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Welcome back to Chiberia

The first two days the girls were supposed to be back in school after Winter Break we had wind chill temperatures about -50 degrees. Nope, that's not a typo. Our high never reached zero degrees those days. It was dubbed Chibera (Chicago + Siberia). Ironically, Siberia was a good 30 degrees warmer than Chicago during Chiberia.

We spent the two days bunkered in the house. The only time we went out was when Holly needed a bathroom break. In fact, Holly only went out for a bathroom break. Like good dog parents, we bundled up every day to take her on her usual walk. Holly would go a few houses down the block, do her business and turn around to come home. It was like she wanted to say, "Thanks, but I'd rather be in the house."

Daddy was able to work form home during Chiberia. His company sent an email saying people should work from home if possible. Given all the public transportation problems from train track switching freezing to train doors freezing open at stops, working from home was the right call. I'm not blaming the public transportation operators. It was brutally cold. They all did the best they could under the circumstance.

Now we're starting Chibera 2.0. Today and tomorrow are going to be brutally cold again. Before Chiberia 2.0 started the schools announced closings early in the day. The train companies told passengers to expect delays and problems. Cities warned people to stay off the roads due to ice and drifting snow. Everyone was better prepared this time because we just went through the bad weather.

While Chiberia was an adventure, Chiberia 2.0 is not. Once a year we can deal with the bitter cold because it's winter in Chicago. We expect a terrible few days here or there. What we don't want is to deal with the same terrible weather over and over again. We can't do anything about Chiberia 2.0 except hope it's the last one of the season.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

An I told you so moment

Last year we really questioned why the blond twin wasn't in the advanced math. She's clearly more confident with math than the brunette twin. They can both do the work, but the brunette twin is much more hesitant about new concepts. The blond twin loves a challenge so the new concepts were exciting to her.

A couple of days ago we were sitting at dinner when the blond twin said, "There's this math competition coming up soon and Mrs. D. asked if I'd like to do it. She hasn't picked everyone yet, but she's thinking about putting me on the team."

We were very excited for her. Last year we told everyone who would listen that they had the wrong twin in Fast Track math. We told them all that the blond twin should be in the class. They all told us she didn't have the test scores and wouldn't be able to keep up. A mere six months later the math teacher is considering the blond twin for the school math team.

I have to admit that as the blond twin told us about her potential spot on the math team my petty, little brain screamed, "We told you so." Schools are so dependent upon test scores that they never consider a child's actual skill. They simply defer to the numbers as if all a child is can be quantified through a standardized test.

They never think that a child might have had a bad testing day or maybe she might need some test taking skills. When we saw the blond twin's scores we immediately knew the problem. We worked with her to spend more time on her tests. She thought it was important to be done first. We worked with her to spend more time getting the right answer rather than worrying about being done first. She slowed down and her scores spiked to showcase her abilities.

Of course, I'm not going to look at her math teacher and say, "I told you the blond twin should be in your class. I told you she'd be one of your top students if you gave her a chance. I told you she was smarter than nearly every other kid in that class."

It would be petty and childish. I'm not interested in becoming a problem parent at this point. Besides, the Fast Track math teacher already knows we were right. I don't need to remind her.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The low battery benefit

The girls are starting to talk to their friends more on the phone. These are funny, cute conversations most of the time. The blond twin likes to chat on the phone more than her sister.

The phone they use most of the time is a wireless phone that sits on my desk. For months now I've been complaining that it needs a new battery. I realize a battery is an easy thing to buy, but that means I have to remember to put it on the list. Since I don't use the phone very often for work now that we all connect to conference calls via our computer, I don't think about the phone battery very often.

There is one huge advantage to not getting a new battery. The current battery only had about 15 minutes of life. This means the girls can only talk to their friends for about 15 minutes at a time. I don't have to tell them to get off the phone. The battery starts beeping and they realize they have to hang up.

Maybe we won't replace the battery for a while longer. If nothing else the short battery life prevents one more debate with the girls. The conversation has to end before the battery dies.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Find the rawhide

After Christmas we bought Holly a three foot rawhide on clearance. We gave it to her one afternoon, taking back the end knots when we thought she had eaten enough rawhide.

A few days later I gave Holly one of the knots. I thought she'd finish it quickly, but instead she started playing "hide the rawhide."

Rather than eat the rawhide, Holly decided to start hiding her rawhide. She "buries" it behind the curtain, in corners and under the throw rugs. We find it under the girls bed and in their covers. Whatever we do, we cannot acknowledge it. If we move it or move towards it she will put it in her mouth and move it quickly.

When we had our bitter cold streak last week, Holly used the towels near the front door to bury her rawhide. We watched her put the knot in the middle of the towel and use her paws to move the towels around. It took her a while to completely bury the knot, but she really worked at it. A couple of days later she put her knot on a couch and tried to move some pillows on top of it. She managed to move a doll's dress over it. Satisfied we wouldn't find it, she left it there for a bit before hiding it at the top of the stairs.

If she's not burying her rawhide, she drops it next to Daddy. It's really funny because she'll carry it to him and drop it. She walks away, leaving her treasure with him. I'm never gifted with her treasure. She doesn't seem to trust me as much as she trusts him.

I don't know how long she'll leave the rawhide in the next hiding spot. Someday I expect she'll decide to eat it, but that causes a different issue. If she eventually eats it will we ever know? Or will we just think she's found a really good hiding spot?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Old steroetypes die hard

My Mom worked while we were growing up. While all the other moms were home after school, we went to a neighbor's for a little while before Mom came home from work. Truth be told, we were considered strange in our neighborhood. What kind of mother leaves her children in the hands of a neighbor? The neighbors -- and a few relatives -- were sure we'd grow up to be delinquents. Some how we turned out all right, despite the fact that Mom worked.

No matter how forward-thinking Mom seemed as she moved from secretary to division head to vice president, she maintained some old-fashioned stereotypes. One of the most lingering stereotypes came out again today.

The girls and I were over helping Mom take down her Christmas tree. We had a few ornament boxes and some other boxes that needed to go upstairs. I told her the girls and I could carry the boxes upstairs. Mom said, "You know how I feel about women carrying boxes. I'll wait until a man comes over to do it."

I rolled my eyes and picked up a box. A few minutes later all the boxes were upstairs. The brunette twin snuck upstairs carrying an ornament box. I said, "You are not allowed to tell Grammie that you carried a box upstairs." The brunette twin just smiled and said, "Girls can do anything boys can do."

Of course I agree with her, but we won't tell Grammie. She might have been a workplace pioneer, but she's not quite willing to accept that women and men can do a lot of the same things. At this point I think it's too late to change her mind.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I got the fun one

We celebrated Christmas with the Schmidt side of our family today. The girls came home with too much stuff. We all came home with too much food. It was a fun and relaxing afternoon.

While sitting at the dining room table snacking on party leftovers (or as I called it, eating dinner), the girls started talking about their godparents. I told the girls they had one godparent from each side of our family.

The blond twin said, "Aunt Linda and Uncle Dave are my godparents."

The brunette twin said she had two godmothers. First Aunt Lene was her godmother. After Aunt Lene died, Aunt Sue-Sue took over the job. The brunette twin looked really happy when she said, "Uncle Len is my godfather. Wooohoooo, I got the fun one." She raised her hands in the air and did a little dance in her seat.

We just laughed. There's nothing better than seeing how much our girls love their extended family and knowing how much their extended family loves them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Celebrating 2014

The girls have been talking about how much they want to learn to ski for a while now. A few months ago we decided to book a trip to a local ski resort. We left on Sunday and came back today. The girls never saw a ski slope.

The wind chills during our trip rarely ventured into positive numbers. It was cold, so cold that I'm not sure the heat in our villa ever turned off. Daddy said it turned off a few times, but I can't confirm it. Rather than ski, the girls spent their days in one of two large swimming pools. They had so much fun in the pool. Sometimes we joined them for a two against one volleyball game. Other times they made friends with other kids staying at the resort.

We did manage to spend a few hours outside on New Year's Eve. We made it to the sledding hill, where the blond twin went up and down and up and down until we finally pulled her off the hill. She wanted to sled more, but it was too cold. The brunette twin lasted about 1/2 hour. She spent the rest of the afternoon in the lodge.

New Year's Eve found us at a family party in the main hotel. Fresh snow fell all day, so we decided to use the shuttle service. The snow and ice on the hills was beautiful, if treacherous. The girls lasted until 11:00 p.m. We celebrated the East Coast New Year count down. Right after that the girls decided they wanted to go home and get into their warm jammies.

Just before Midnight we counted down to 2014. The four of us hugged and kissed and cheered the new year. The girls were thrilled that they stayed up to ring in the 2014. We were thrilled that it was finally Midnight so we could all go to bed. We ended 2013 with a fun party and brought in 2014 as a family. It was the perfect way to bring in a new year.