Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas w/o the family

I've mentioned how much I miss my family who are scattered up and down the west coast with me being the only one in Los Angeles. And at Christmas, this used to be a major travel time for us with trips to visit my sister in Oakland, DG's family also in the Bay Area, and my mom and brother in Seattle.  In recent years, however, we've decided that we want our kids to have their own Christmas traditions and we now stay home.  The kids wake up in their own beds, go out to their own living room, and greet the wonder that Santa has left them.

But the best part of all?  We don't entertain anyone on Christmas day.  No one comes over for dinner, we don't have to go anywhere to be with relatives, we don't even need to have a fancy dinner in the dining room with the china.  We can stay in our pajamas all day and enjoy not having to do anything.  That's what we did this year.  We ate Chinese food at the counter for lunch.  I made Prime Rib for just the 4 of us (it only had one bone!).  We sat on the couch and watched A Christmas Story and drank hot chocolate in front of the tree.

Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE spending time with family and friends.  We had an amazing time with friends on Christmas Eve with a wonderful dinner and singing Christmas carols around their living room piano.

I have a tripped planned to visit my sister in mid-January, and the whole family will trek to Seattle for my mom's 78th birthday in April.

But this Christmas--gloriously alone, and I don't regret it.

So the Holiday wrap up goes like this:

T1 and T2 standing next to each other in the school program. Miracle!

A super rainy night at Disneyland. The rain looks like snow in the camera.

Listening to amazing carolers at the Tam 'O Shanter's holiday dinner

Christmas morning. I was the only one up FOREVER. Kids didn't get up until after 8!

Reading the response letter from Santa. He asked them to be good to each other in the new year and to listen to their parents. hahahaha

T2's special trip to the American Girl Store with friends for a fabulous lunch.

Overall, our holiday break has been wonderful.  Now on to New Year's resolutions.  I am definitely going to do things differently in 2011.  How about you?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Memories

Remember when you were little, and there's that one thing from Christmas, or Hanukkah, or whatever winter holiday you celebrate that really stands out in your mind as the most funny, or heartbreaking, or heartwarming?  I think everybody has a memory like that.  I've got several.  Like the year my dad left and my 10-year-old brother put up all the Christmas lights by himself.  My mother was so touched--at least I thought she was touched, but it was probably more a mixture of pride in her resourceful son, guilt in her divorce decision leaving us without a "Christmas light hanger," and sadness at her first Christmas as a single parent.  Or the year my brother, sister and I stayed up all night--I mean literally all night--waiting for Christmas morning.  We piled into my room with blankets and stories; we were all teenagers at the time.  We still talk about it.  Every holiday season, I call my sister and say, "Hey, remember this song from that album that we listened to every Christmas?  Remember the one with the red cover?"

As my own kids are now the age when Christmas memories are being formed, I wonder what they'll remember when they get older.  Will in be this year, when Los Angeles was deluged with rain storms of epic proportions that have kept us inside for days?  They've moved from watching Pokemon on TV, to playing Pokemon on the DS, to playing Pokemon cards in T1's room.  (Seriously, is Pokemon really that compelling?)  Honestly, I think they're completely loving this unstructured time just to be kids without all the school, homework, activities, and playdates.  Or will it be decorating the tree and uncovering the beauty of ornaments that slip their minds as the months between Christmases pass? 

This was the first year that I think they'll remember decorating the tree.  I decided to let T1 put on the tree topper.  He is told so much that he needs to be careful, keep his hands to himself, play nicely and gently.  I thought I'd give him a special task that would usually be bestowed upon a family member with excellent dexterity and calm, two things T1 doesn't really have mastery over yet.  My thinking was, let him have something that calls upon his burgeoning maturity and bridges him from little kid to big kid.  Maybe I thought too soon.

Yes, the tree topper broke, and then all hell broke loose.  I got upset with DG, who was upset because he had a feeling that T1 couldn't do it, and then T1 went crying out of the room and hid because I yelled.  Definitely a Christmas memory I'm not proud of, but here it is, for all of you--familly foibles and all.  Off to Stat's we went to get another tree topper.  And, Christmas memory restored.

Maybe it would have been better if we waited a year for this.  Maybe he would have been just that much bigger and could reach the tree top better.  Maybe we would pick a tree without a knot sticking out that would allow the topper to slip right over the top.  Maybe, who knows.  But this is the memory we have.  This is the one I'll remember and I'm sure he'll remember and we'll laugh, "Remember that year we broke the tree topper? Hahahahaha"

It reminds me of that scene at the end of A Christmas Story.  Ralphie's family Christmas dinner is ruined by an unfortunate incident with some neighborhood dogs and the Christmas ham.  They go to a Chinese restaurant and while the waiters are singing Christmas carols, food is brought to their table.  The camera zooms in and they're smiling, laughing, and enjoying themselves.  The voice over describes the memory and you can see that this is the Christmas memory that they'll remember, not the missed ham.  I think of our tree topper the same way.  Every year, when I unwrap it, I'll remember the successful adornment and think about how T1 grew up a little that year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  May the memories you make this year be joyous ones, and if they're not, I hope there's at least some humor.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Come Fly With Me

I've written here many times about how much I love traveling alone on a business trip and how wonderful and quiet it is in a hotel room. It's nice to read and rest and have that time to myself, but what I absolutely loathe about traveling alone is the flying.

There's an irrational fear that takes over me just before the plane takes off. My heart starts to race and I shut my eyes tightly, like a frustrated baby in that moment before a desperate shriek. But I can't scream. I have no outlet for the anxiety that grips me in that moment. Then with an unnatural, awkward lift, the plane is in the air, we're on our way, and I'm fine.

I'm not sure exactly why I have this crazy fear of take-off, but I do have a general idea. It's probably a mix of statistics and knowledge of what's at stake. Most plane travel is extremely safe. It's probably safer than driving, but if a plane is going to crash, it's usually soon after take-off. And what's at stake in that event, when I'm traveling alone, is the thought, just the thought, of my family without me. That's what's at stake in my mind on the plane.

So that's why I have a little ritual that I do that makes me feel better, however hokey it is. In that tight-eyed moment as the engines are roaring, I visualize every member of my family. I'm embracing DG. I'm swinging T1 around me. I'm watching T2 dance as I smile. I picture my parents and my brother, my sister, nieces and nephews. It's calming. The tightness lessens; My hands don't grip quite as hard. I'm okay and then it's over.

I am grateful to have this little thing that I do. I can fly and know that I'll be home to love up my little family soon enough.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I did it

Well, I did it.  I finished National Blog Posting Month with this, my 30th post in 30 days.  I am humbled by the perseverance required to write and publish everyday, and I learned a few things:

1.  I can find some topics to write about that might be of interest to myself and maybe a couple of others.

2.  The practice of writing everyday is very good for my writing skills.  It's a lesson in craftsmanship.  One has to think about structure, vocabulary, purpose and breadth.

3.  While the practice of writing everyday is good for writing, publishing everyday is not.  There were very many days this month when it pained me to push that publish button.  I know that if I had more time, if I thought a little bit more, my posts would be more interesting.  I mean, who really wants to hear every, little mundane detail of someone else's life? For me, it's better to write when I have something to say.

4.  I can show my children through my example that when you commit to something, you must fulfill this commitment.  A couple of times when I wanted to quit, I knew that I'd be sending the wrong message.

So now that it's over, what am I going to do with all that free time?  Maybe I'll pay a little more attention to my kids.  Maybe I'll be able to read more books.  Maybe I'll have that time to organize my office.Maybe I'll think of more blog topics.  I don't think I'll publish everyday anymore, but I do know that I'll keep writing.  It's what I do.

Thanks for coming along with me this month.  It's been quite a ride.  Now, I'm going to hibernate......

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Key to Good Study Skills for Kids? Less Homework

There is a tremendous amount of controversy surrounding public education and who's responsible for today's failings kids.  Is it teachers? (the documentary Waiting for Superman faults teacher's unions).  Is it lack of funds? (in California, K-12 education has been cut beyond needing a tourniquet and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight).  Is it parents? (working parents are too busy to get involved in their children's education).  Then there is the other side of the controversy.  Kids who are over-scheduled and stressed out are facing tremendous consequences of burn out as they strive to be the best, have the highest SAT scores, take the most AP courses, and get into the top colleges.  The documentary Race To Nowhere addresses this citing homework policies that have kids working for 6 hours a day or more as contributing to the problem. The film also says that teaching to the test, and teaching kids how to take a test, is not giving them the critical thinking skills that they will need to succeed in college or life.

As a college teacher, I see this manifested in two ways.  Many of my students are unfocused, unprepared, and unmotivated.  Definitely a product of a failing education system.  On the other hand, I see students who are trying to balance more than one job and a family while trying to gain an education to advance beyond their current life and the lives their parents had.  They are tired and careless.  They can't focus.

I think about this a lot with regard to my own kids who, in second grade, while still relatively new to the public education system, are already showing a tendency toward patterns that could stick with them for the life of their education.

T1 wants to get his homework over with.  Just today, he asked me, "Why do we have to do the same thing week after week?" They do about 2 worksheets a day as well as writing spelling words 5 times each twice a week.  "It's boring," he says.  I understand the idea of repetition as a way to reinforce concepts and to practice skills, but this is the same work he's doing in class.  It's mega-repetition to the point of boredom.

T2 has the opposite opinion about the homework.  She almost always turns it into a game for herself.  Today, she pretended to be a teacher and gave a lesson on the homework to her doll.  She enjoys doing it and creates similar work for herself when she doesn't have homework.  I believe she has the intrinsic motivation that makes a life long learner. 

Homework is part of education.  Lifelong learners are constantly seeking answers to questions long after their formal education is done.  They practice homework simply because they are never done learning.  Homework and studying are how lifelong learners get to be lifelong learners.

Then again, there is research from Duke University by Harris Cooper that shows that there is no skills reinforcement with homework in elementary school.  Children basically know what they need to know from the work they're doing in class.  So why do they do homework?  They have to, right?  How else will they have the skills to study in middle school or high school?  They've got to do something, right?

Our district last year developed a homework policy that is in line with the current research on the subject.  The rule of 10 minutes per day per grade level is currently what my children are expected to do.  We're doing that, but like I said above, it seems like even this 20 minutes needs an overhaul to make it relevant to the child's life and stimulating to their critical thinking sensibility.

I think the answer is elusive.  I try to create more interesting tasks within the required homework, but that's often met with, "Mooommm, we don't have to do that!"  Is the 20 minutes a day workable for my kids?  Absolutely.  Even though I don't know exactly what the magic panacea is to the dull homework, I do know what motivates my kids and I am more than willing to modify the homework to give the kids the unstructured play that will definitely fill their brains.

What's your homework policy?  How do you inspire a love of learning in your children?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

We got a new girl in the family today

Today, T2 got to spend the gift certificate she got for her birthday (thanks super generous JL and M).  She took a class this past summer reading books from the American Girl series.  She fell in love with those stories of those plucky historically-themed heroines.  She started asking for an American Girl doll soon after this.  DG and I knew that this desire was probably tied to the reading (which is her real first love) and that playing with dolls is something she just doesn't really do.  Barbies sit untouched in a drawer and last year's Christmas staple Liv dolls enjoyed a short-lived affinity in her life.  We said, "no American Girl doll."  She just doesn't play with dolls enough.

This has always bothered me a little.  I LOVE dolls.  As a kid, I played with every kind of doll I could get my hands on.  I had a 18" doll, American Girl doll size, that I named Karen.  My grandmother made all kinds of clothes for her.  My sister and I played Barbies non stop with our neighborhood friends all summer.  We even had Chrissy and Velvet dolls in the 70's.  These were dolls whose hair could go longer or shorter with a turn of a knob on their backs. 

Don't they have super groovy 70's outfits?

This doll is still in its case in my garage today.  But T2 did not get the doll-playing bug the way I did.

Until now.  Something shifted this year.  She started playing with the Bitty Baby that was given to her by the very same JL mentioned above pretty much every day.  She started asking to take the doll everywhere we went.  She changed the doll into pajamas and read to her at night before bed.  My heart was singing. 

Last week, when she received the gift card for the American Girl store from JL, I teared up a little.  I almost think I wanted the doll more than she did.  And today, when we were at the fabulous American Girl store in Los Angeles, we shared a love of these beautifully crafted dolls that made us both giddy.  She chose the Rebecca Rubin doll--a Jewish girl living in New York in 1914.  She took the doll out of the box and immediately started creating an imaginary world in which Rebecca plays the main role.  T2's stories rivaled the ones in the books.  I can't wait to see how T2 and Rebecca's adventures play out.

We won't be able to visit the American Girl store very often.  I'd go broke!  But for today, it was magical to share this with my daughter. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Keeping Black Friday Black

I think Black Friday gets a bad rap. I read an article today that focused on how people will mow over anyone to get the deal. I don't see it that way.

Even talking to my friends and family members, I get the rolled eyes and the, "Oh God! I would never do that. I mean, it's so indulgent." And, "We just don't do that many gifts."

I think the media paints the whole experience in a negative light focusing on the most outrageous of shoppers rather than those who see gift giving as an act of love and who see shopping on Black Friday as a way to cash in on savings that are, in some cases, better than any other time of the year.

My brother-in-law, in the market for a new washer and dryer, saved 50%. The store sold out of this deal in 2 hours. There's a sense of accomplishment in saving money. It feels good.

My experience was the opposite of the frenetic, intense knock down drag out fight for getting mine. I see Black Friday as a shared exercise in zen. You have to wait. You have to take time to park. You need to look out for your fellow shoppers and the store clerks who are doing their best in the face of the chaos. I take a deep breath. I think. I listen.

I'm staying positive this holiday season and while I'm not spending extravagantly, I am doing what I can for the economy staying calm all the while.

What's your thought on it?

Friday, November 26, 2010

What to do with that leftover turkey? Turkey Cookies

Mmmmmm, turkey.  Boy, that leftover turkey has always been a staple of the sandwich, maybe a turkey hash and the occasional shepherd's pie, but leave it to DG to get extra creative with the turkey. 

Turkey Cookies.

I gotta admit, when DG said he was going to make cookies from the leftover turkey, we all mocked him.  "Yeah, right. That sounds gross.  C'mon, Dad, don't do that."  I was envisioning sugar mingling with the turkey meat, and my stomach turned.  But that's not what he had in mind.  Here's DG to tell you all about it.

Those fried turkey "donuts," I gotta admit, were really good.  He processed turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and Brussels Sprouts and made a patty that he fried in olive oil.  I know.  You're welcome.

What are you doing with your leftovers?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I am grateful.  I am so grateful for the wonderful life that I get to have. 

A job I love.

A beautiful home.

Super sweet pets to cuddle.

And a family I love more than I can say.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Grateful Twin Mom

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"The supermarket is NOT a playground!" and other brilliantly obvious quotes

Once upon a time, a nice mommy had to get some groceries for a Thanksgiving dinner for 10.  She set out, armed with her list, a large, empty cart, and two hangers on lovely children.  She knew that there was a bit of a risk attempting this arduous task with two children; after all, they had already spent 3 1/2 hours at work with mommy, playing video games, reading, and being basically sedentary.  She was determined, though.  "This could be fun," she thought.  They might enjoy being a part of this uniquely American holiday of togetherness.  Families come together at Thanksgiving, and what better way to celebrate that than to share in every aspect of bringing the holiday to fruition?  So what, they're only 8.  They can handle it.

So they begin in the produce section.  Quickly, the togetherness begins to deteriorate into determined shopper versus wild, giddy banshees in a battle of who can wreak the most havoc near hot house tomatoes.  (The banshees win.)  Large Granny Smith apples become cheek decorations, held closely to faces with a squeal of glee that is outrageously funny to children.  Not so much for the mommy.  "Stop that.  That noise is too loud!  Are we outside right now?"  The apples drop into the bag, destined for home and later to be chopped into a pie.  Wait, drop is not quite the right word--more like chucked into the bag.  "Stop that," the mommy hisses.  "They'll get bruised.  Can you go get me some bananas now?"  Off the mischief makers go to terrorize the bananas.

The still determined mommy finally steers the children out of the produce section only to be waylaid by the fresh, whole Dungeness crab on ice in the seafood section.  The children see immediate opportunities for puppetry.  The mommy sees salmonella.  "Don't touch that.  It's got bacteria!" 

Onward to the meat counter to get the pre-ordered turkey.  The mommy gives the order to the butcher.  The children see this break in the action as a signal to create some more mayhem.  All of a sudden, the aisle beside the ground beef and pork chops becomes a ring for a World Wrestling Federation championship.  One child has the other in a headlock.  Both topple to the ground again in loud peals of laughter that would have the world around them think this smackdown was the most fun they'd had in days.  "What are you doing?" the mortified mommy questions.  As if an answer to this question is what she really wants or even remotely believes she's going to get.  Shoppers go by and give the mommy looks of questionable emotions.  Sympathy in one face that says, "Oh yes, I feel you, sister.  That's why I'm here by myself."  Disgust in another, "Can't you keep those monkeys under control? What are you thinking allowing them to play in a supermarket the day before Thanksgiving?" 

"The supermarket is NOT a playground!" the mommy points out.  The children stare blankly back at her, pause for a second, and then burst into guffaws before trying to take each other down, karate-chop-style again.  Knowing that she's got to do something to intervene, the mommy quickly makes a small list for each of the children.  Go get this... the list says.  Well now she's done it.  The children bolt off in different directions in search of the "scavenger hunt" items.  Their frenzy in trying to get the yogurt/orange juice/aluminum foil/cider vinegar indicates to the mommy that this is not a helpful gesture.  It's become a race, and as with any race, there will be a loser.  And a sore loser is fodder for more dirty looks from passing shoppers trying desperately to get their own cranberry sauce, and it has tremendous potential for being the straw that breaks the camel's back in the fragile balance between being silly and snapping into a tantrum.  The children return with the items.  They ask for more tasks.  They want to work together this time.  The mommy is pleased.  She watches them as they go back again and again trying to find the exact right type of sea salt.

Finally, our little troupe of shoppers arrives at the check out counter.  Various tempting candies call like sirens to the children.  They are drawn to them, "Can we have one pleeeeeaaaassseeee?"  "No," says the mommy, matter-of-factly, hoping that a non-response will help the desire blow over.  The children become helpful, taking items out of the cart and onto the check stand conveyor belt.  " the glass...." cautions the mommy with a hovering hand as the 3 lb. bottle of apple juice finally makes it to the hands of the checker. "Wow, Mom, we're going to go over $300!  This is a record!" one child bellows as he watches the tick, tick, tick of the register tape.  The mommy slowly swipes the credit card, trying to resist the urge to hush the child.  "We don't talk about money in public places, honey," she mutters under her breath.

"Would you like some help out?" asks the bagger.  "Oh if only you could," thinks the mommy.  "No," she says, "I think we've got it." she says.  And the children hop on to the sides of the already loaded down cart.  They make their way to the parking lot and the mommy spies another mom with kids entering the store.  "Now stay right next to me and don't get into trouble," the mommy hears the new mom say.  She passes the sympathetic look and smiles.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving is a time for ..... illness?

I took T1 and T2 shopping with my for the Thanksgiving groceries. It was a crazy and funny time that I had all blogged out in my mind, but I sat down to write....T1 projectile vomited all over his bed.  Lovely.  We're hoping he's not sick, of course.  (He does have a pretty easy gag and vomit reflex--it could just be allergies)  No, no, kids can't get sick!  I've got too much to do.  But he's back in bed now with a bucket next to his head. 

What do you do if you've got a house full of people for the holiday, and your kid gets sick?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Almost There

Wow.  I can't believe it.  I've got one more week and one day before the end of National Blog Posting Month. I can't believe I've made it this far, posting everyday.  Meanwhile, I'm not getting ANY sleep, but hey, that's what coffee's for.  And my office looks like this.

Can you see DG buried there?

Damn, no wonder I lost my USB drive with ALL my work on it.

Oh, yeah, and there's this: last month's camping gear, a letterpress print and some knitting.

This is what it's come to, but I'm almost there.  And you know that innane saying?  "Dull women have immaculate homes."  I must be freakin' fascinating.....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Little Boys Are Made Of What?

What's that they say?  Something about worms, and snails, and puppy dog tails?  Whatever.  What I found out today is that little boys are made of an energy source that if harnessed could power all of Los Angeles.  We had T1's Phenomenal Pokemon Party today with 15 boys and about a thousand Pokemon cards.  Throw in a little sugar and it makes for a banner birthday celebration and an exhausting day for parents.


1. Boys can find fun in dirt.

2. Wrestling each other is a mandatory activity

3. Boys can learn the most intricate details of a Pokemon card within 1 minute of being exposed to one.

4. Trading said Pokemon cards is pretty much what they live for.

5. If they are so lucky as to trade Pokemon through an electronic device, all the better.

This pretty much sums it up.  T1 had a great time, and who know that all his friends would be so into this renaissance that Pokemon is having.  Well, I guess he did. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Discipline and Teamwork Rewarded

We signed up T1 for karate lessons after he spent a summer in a class and found he loved it.  He even said he wanted to skip the summer camp field trip to the circus so he could go to karate class. Fast forward 4 months.  Today, he took the test for the next belt--orange in this case.  He did it. He accomplished the techniques and punches and blocks necessary for moving up to the next level.  I watched him do it and I was so proud.  I love that this squirmy kid, who's often in trouble in class for talking or fooling around, could practice the discipline of karate with a dignity and grace that I knew he had in him all along.  Part of my motive for having him take karate was to teach him the discipline of having to remember much information, pay attention to what is being said (to learn techniques) and to react to what is being done (to counter attacks).  Martial arts are steeped in discipline and focus--and T1's applying some.

Just look at that orange belt!

The day of awards kept on going as we went to the end of the season party for T2's soccer team.  This was a team of girls between 6 and 8 whose skills were a force to be reckoned with on the field.  I'm totally NOT a soccer mom, and I normally find the parents who are screaming at their kids from the sidelines to be annoying at best and abrasive at worst.  But something happened with this team.  I saw this group of girls, who didn't know each other at all 3 months ago, come together as a team to play with each other instead of against each other.  I got caught up, as all the parents did, in the amazing season they had.  Today, as trophies were handed out, the coach said if he could find a way to keep this team together and take them through their childhood, he would.  T2's desire was commensurate with the coach's enthusiasm.  She grew as someone who could get along with others and work together for the goal, not always being the one who needed the glory--a major step for her.

T2 with coach

T2 showed some more maturity today as she had to leave the soccer party early to perform with her hula group.  It's a hard concept for a just 8-year-old to fathom that she had to sacrifice one thing in order to do another.  She wanted to do both.  She honored both commitments and proved to me how committed she is in pretty much everything she does.

Dancing with stones like castanets

 We topped off today's birthday celebration with a dinner trip to a super kitchsy, Polynesian restaurant with oodles of fish tanks and syrupy, sweet flaming drinks that come in  giant bowl with 2-foot straws.
Bahooka, the ship-wreck restaurant
Loving the giant-bowl drinks

Birthday kids with lollipops.  Fish look hungry
Today was a good day.  It's the kind of day I became a parent to have.  I relished spending the day with my family, kids doing what they love to do, and DG and I beaming with pride from the sidelines.  So sweet.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Birthday Week continued

Tonight, I'm working on the details for T1's birthday extravaganza.  Last Sunday's baking party was a huge success, so we hope this Sunday's Pokemon battle will be equally as good.

I'm going to make Pokeball's out of styrofoam balls for the boys to catch their "Pokemon" in.  If you don't have a 7- or 8-year-old boy, you might not know that a Pokeball looks like this:

I've got red spray paint and black electrical tape that I'll paint and wrap around the styrofoam.  This is a project for tomorrow night because tomorrow's day is insane. 

Tomorrow's birthday day looks like this:

T1's schedule:  Leave home for karate studio at 10:30.  Test for orange belt from 11 to 12:15.  Travel to T2's end of the season soccer party to switch into Dad's car to go to his soccer game.  Finish soccer game and go to DesignerCon at the Pasadena Convention Center where our friend is selling his toy line, Sketchbot.  See a movie and go to dinner.  Sleep 'cause 8-year-olds need their rest.

T2's schedule:  Leave home for last soccer game at 10:30.  After game, go to end-of-the-season soccer party at yogurt place.  Arrive at Hula Performance at 1 pm.  Dance for an appreciative audience, and return home to go to DesignerCon to get a Sketchbot.  See a movie; go out to dinner.  Crash into bed after a hard playin' day.

Mom's schedule:  Drive around to all this crap and keep cool, no matter what!

The coincidence that all of our kids' extracurricular activities having major events on the same day near the same time means that DG and I will need to split up.  I won't see T2's last game.  DG won't see T1's karate belt test.  But I guess that's what video tapes are for. 

So while I'm running around and trying to get ready for the party, I hope that we can stay sane.  Thank God birthday week will be over soon.  What's that you say?  Hanukkah is right after that?  Then Christmas after that?  Better get used to this.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

8 is going to be great

We got a glorious gift at the end of 2002.

And on Saturday, they will be 8.  Time flies when babies are growing up.  Happy birthday to my babies from your Grateful Twin Mom.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Little Boy Liar--and Bully to boot?

T1's been lying to me.  A lot.  He never takes responsibility for his actions and is constantly trying to either pass the buck to someone else (most often, T2) or he rationalizes behavior with a disclaimer, "I didn't mean to..."  I'm aware that little kids lie, and punishing them for lying, seems to me, is an invitation for more lying.  I mean, he's already scared to tell me the truth if he's lying, so if I come back with a, "Don't you lie to me...." threat, he's going to shut down and tell me nothing.  I suspect, if he's afraid to tell me anything he's done that can be misconstrued as outside my expectations for good behavior, this will become his pattern for sharing information with me at all as he grows up--avoiding it.

So how do I deal with this?  I want to raise children who have integrity, who feel responsible for how their actions might affect other people.  At what point am I making a big deal out of a small infraction, and at what point do I have to intervene?

This week, it was brought to my attention that T1 has been harassing an older boy at school.  When I asked him why he did it, he completely denied it.  (I know he did it because I have confirmation from 2 other people, and like I said, he's been lying to me.)  It took a full day before he admitted to being involved in the situation, and even then, he made light of it, and instead of saying he was sorry or having any remorse, he blew it off and changed the subject.  I am disturbed by this on so many levels.  First, he doesn't seem to have any understanding of the other boy's feelings.  Second, he doesn't appear to understand that when he lies to me, my trust in him is totally compromised.  Third, and this is my own neurosis, I worry that he's on the road to being an inconsiderate jerk who, without any consequences for misbehavior, will grow into a sociopath.

DG and I talked about how to deal with this situation.  After consulting with our trusted parenting advisor, we concluded that our job is not to threaten him with consequences for lying, bullying or misbehavior, because they will build a wall between us that will grow taller and taller over time.  I mean, what's the recidivism rate among criminals released from prison?  Do they respect authority? Rather, we need to redouble our efforts in teaching him right from wrong so that it becomes his idea to do the right thing on his own, and while I thought he already knew this, each new developmental level presents a new opportunity for a moments to teach him our values.  Respect, kindness, compassion, hard work, and self-respect.

I'm willing to relate to him in a completely different way that will teach him that what I do, and not the empty threats that I want to say, is how grown ups behave. 

Still, parenting conventions indicate that I need to

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Finding the Working Mom Blogs

I'm on the search for more blogs written by moms who work outside the home.  I have found some cool ones written by moms whose job is to write the working mom blogs, (like Working Moms Blog and Working Moms Against Guilt) but not many when the mom has another, completely different job, but still wants to write her own personal blog.

This got me thinking.  Why is it that there are so many fewer "working mom" blogs than "SAHM blogs?"  It's not that SAHMs have more time.  I know they clearly don't.  In fact, when you're working at a job, (for the most part) you really actually have more time to concentrate on yourself and to work at a pace that seems infinitely slower than what happens at home (well, at least it does for me).  No, it can't be the time.  Is it that SAHMs have more to say? It's true, that most of the working mom blogs that I've seen have short posts and longer time between regular postings.  No, that can't be it either.

I suppose at the end of the day, it doesn't matter.  SAHMs and working moms have much in common.  They both have to get kids fed, get baths, homework, papers signed and with backpacks, and the list goes on and on.  And as far as blogs go, I find that I want to read those that provide me with a little bit of diversion from regular routine of my life.  When I read them, I am reminded that we're all trying to float in the same boat--raising kids in a world that has spectacular demands on your time and energy.  And that is why I find the time to read: Aging Mommy, Organic Motherhood with Coolwhip, Clueless but Hopeful Mama, Mommywords, Life in a Tiny Town and Swistle among many others.

Trying to balance between work and family is hard enough without any sense of knowing that you're not alone in this endeavor.  I'm so grateful for my friends and family who read my boring musings, and I'm grateful for mom bloggers--SAHM, WAHM or work outside the home mom--who show me how they do it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mmmmmm--Brussels Sprouts

One of the best parts about living in near Hollywood, is the Hollywood Farmer's Market on Sundays.  DG goes every week and brings home the most amazing produce--strawberries, green beans, and sometimes jujubes.  So since I am only getting to cook about twice a week right now, I'm excited when we get something good from the Farmer's Market.  This week, it was Brussels sprouts. 

I HATED Brussels sprouts for most of my life. Beyond bitter, the smelly, little cabbages were never a first choice in my culinary side dish repertoire. So you can imagine what the kids think of them.  I've only recently learned how to cook them so that I like them. I used two ingredients that cut the bitterness and made them palatable.  Sugar and vinegar.  I sauteed the Brussels sprouts with some zucchini, added about a teaspoon of sugar, and when they were all cooked, I drizzled some super fancy aged balsamic vinegar over the top.

And this is what I heard after tonight's dinner:

Me to kids:  How'd you like the chicken tonight?

T1: The chicken was okay, but those Brussels sprouts were the BEST.

What weird 7-year-old boy says that?  DG suggested I write this post. "Tell people how to get their kids to eat vegetables."  Well, I'm sure I don't know that, but I do know that this recipe definitely works on these two:

Looks like they enjoyed the zucchini the most!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And then it got LOUD

Whoever said that girls are sugar and spice and everything nice, never hosted a baking party for 15 little girls.  There was plenty of sweetness, and I'm not just talkin' about the cupcake icing, sprinkles, and caramel apple cider.  But I had no idea how spicy these diminutive, spritely angels could be. 

First order of business?  Strom the hallway to see if they could mess up T1's room, which he had guarded with this:
You can't see it, but the sign says, "Keep Out! Boys Only!  
A sea of screams leapt up and down the hall as they tried to crush the only semblance of a Y chromosome left in the house. 

Their enthusiasm in creating salt dough ornaments was beyond intense.  They were ninja warriors, wielding balls of kneaded dough like nunchucks  The concept of "less is more" was completely lost on their "more, more, more" little girly-ness.  The disks of dough were etched, poked, impaled, and razed so much that some girls needed to start over just to get one on the cookie sheet.

The decibel level really started to rise when the cupcake decorating began.  All of a sudden, when sugar was involved, voices got more shrill, like squawking crows.  "I want chocolate! I need pink frosting! Pass the cherries! I NEED CHOCOLATE!!" Decorating icing, sanding sugar, and sprinkles were pooled all over the table, and not so much on the cupcake.  Ultimately, the girls took to rolling their 2nd and 3rd frosted creations in the dregs of the abandoned sugar not worthy to find its way to the original, more decoration-savvy first cupcake.

And one by one, as they started to leave at the end of the day, the house got quieter and quieter.  DG came home after taking T1 on a playdate away from all the girls, and he said, "Why is the music on so loud?"  "Because it's an 8-year-old's birthday party, and it got LOUD."  That, or it's 1965 and I'm trying to hear it above the screaming for John, Paul, George and Ringo.

But above all, T2 had the time of her life.  She was Queen Bee, with all the drones buzzing around her.  This is her element.  It was all for her--not shared with her twin--not compromised to accommodate other friends or people's feelings.  She could take it all in.  And that's what birthday parties are for. 

I hope she remembers this party when she grows up.  I still remember the cake at my 6th birthday, and I marvel now at how my mom was able to know exactly what I needed to feel special.  T2 was special today, and now, as my ears are still ringing and I can almost feel how good the beckoning bed will feel, I am happy to have made her feel so.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Twin Birthdays Take a Whole Week

Hey all, in case you didn't know, T1 and T2's 8th birthday is next Saturday.  And this means birthday parties.  That's right, I said "parties."  We used to do the twins' birthday party as one large event.  They had the same preschool friends; we invited both their classes to their parties; and, we invited many of their friends who are family friends we've had since they were babies.

I tried to talk them out of the birthday party this year.  "Don't you just want to go to Disneyland or something?" I tried to bribe.  "Seriously," they said.  "We go to Disneyland all the time.  I want to do something special."  What's more special than Disneyland?  Quality problems, I tell them.  But they're growing up, and they have completely different interests now.  I finally sucked it up and decided to give them each their own birthday party on different days.

Sunday proved to be the best day, so one party is tomorrow, and one is next week.  Now, I know that parents with two kids always have to plan two birthday parties--they just get to do it at completely different times of the year.  There could be advantages to doing them back to back.  I'm thinking whatever I screw up at the first one, I can fix at the second one.  I can serve any left over cheese from the first one at the second one.  Of course, the baking party for girls will be completely different from the Pokemon party for boys, but I'm thinking bulk paper goods.  Smart and Final, here I come.

So we're ready for the baking party.  I made 30 some odd cupcakes tonight that the girls will decorate tomorrow.  They're in the shape of an ice cream cone, so they can fashion the frosting to look like ice cream.

even upside down, those are looking pretty good

We're also going to make salt-dough ornaments and decorate those.  T2 better like this party.  'Cause, while nothing makes me happier than to see little girls with flour smudges on their faces and chocolate smears near their mouths, I'm exhausted. 

More photos tomorrow of the cupcake masterpieces.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mom's Work is Never Done

Do you ever have one of those days when you wonder how you're going to get it all done?  Seems to me, that's the mother's constant dilemma.  At work, I teach my classes, and at the end of the semester, it's done--over.  There's a finite end to what I do, and I get to reinvent myself at the beginning of every semester.  But at home, there's always another:

1. pile of laundry to fold

2. dish to wash

3. meal to prepare

4. school paper to sign

5. bill to pay

6. repair person to call

7. room to pick up

8. cabinet to clear out

9. toy to cull out of the hordes of toys not played with

10. bathroom to clean

11. birthday present to buy

12. lunch to pack

13. phone call to return

14. email to sort

15. sibling rivalry to manage

16. pet poop to pick up

17. library book to find and return before the due date

18. crust of pizza to pick up from behind the couch

19. floor to wash

20. playdate to schedule

21. child that needs something

And while the twins are old enough to do most things by themselves, it's the mom's job, MY job to make sure that everything that needs to get done (at home and at work) is in my massively cluttered brain, compartmentalized in easily recalled pockets.

And you tell me the holidays are coming?  Wait, now there's another:

1. gift to buy

2. photo to pick for the holiday card

3. holiday card to send

4. present to wrap

5. party to plan

Like I said, it's never-ending.  What's on your "always another" list?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What I Love About Volunteering

Even though I have a full time job outside the home, I definitely feel compelled to be involved in my children's school as much as possible.  I am currently the Membership Chair on the PTA board in charge of signing up families to help the state and national PTA advocate for school children across the country.  I feel good about being a member of an organization that does so much for children, but it's basically a paperwork job that I do after my kids are in bed or while they're in school.  It's great for lots of kids, but mine directly?  Not so much.

I do, however, find the time, because I think it's important, to be involved in activities for the school that directly help my children learn something.  This year, I'm working on the holiday craft fair, an afternoon in December where children can make art projects for gift giving for family members.  This year, we're teaching them quilling and pointillism a la Georges Seurat.  

I will get to be an integral part of my kids' education in a hands-on activity.  What I love most about this kind volunteering, though, is working with the amazing other moms whose artistic minds and inexhaustible creative energy inspire me.  Today, we got together, 3 of us, with all six of our kids, and while the kids played, we created crafts and art projects as samples for the craft fair.  Imagine Grandma's pride when she receives something like this made by her own 9-year-old grandson.

I made this sample by attaching ribbon strips to a stryfoam ring with straight pins

Getting to volunteer to do something that I love, that benefits my children, with women who I admire and enjoy--that's a dream come true.  This is what volunteering should be about.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 10

With this post, I am 1/3 of the way through National Blog Posting Month. Blogging every day is harder than I thought it would be. Those who do this professionally have a big job. I do find that writing every day is a good exercise, but coming up with clever topics and snarky commentary on current topics in working mom-ville is a huge challenge.

I looked back over the last 9 entries, and some are so.....*snore* oh, sorry I must have dozed off from the boredom. I think there's a reason why I haven't blogged regularly before now. Turns out writing every day is good practice; posting every day is not.

My posts are so journalistic. Academic observations with a lack of emotion (ok--except for that shopping post...). Look out, folks. Tomorrow's my take on homework in elementary school. Links to Duke University and everything.

I wish I were a funny blogger or a provocative blogger, but I am, if nothing else, sincere. I blog because it makes me happy. I get to share my feelings in a medium I love, and if it strikes a cord for someone, then bonus for me.

I'm determined to finish NaBloPoMo no matter what, so clever or not, you'll find me here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is Family Dinner a Thing of my Past?

I'm remembering when the twins were babies and we had family dinner every night. DG and I would sit down with the kids in the high chairs, we'd eat the same thing at the same time, talk about our day and watch the kids bang on their trays.

This practice continued when the kids were toddlers. Then, the only meal-time problems were getting them to stay in the chairs. It was a great way to end the day.

Fast forward to 2nd grade and activities 4 times a week, and family dinner is an anomaly, something treasured mostly in memory. Now, when we do eat together, it's a rush through meal to get to the homework or reading or getting ready for bed. It's not the lesiurely French family I fantasize about with long conversation, wonderful drinks and gourmet food.

Researchers say that families who eat dinner together have a better chance of having well-behaved, intelligent, and beautiful children who grow up to be rocket scientists and fashion models. It's the panacea for all that ails families. But is it out of my reach?

I'm wondering this as I am writing on my Droid, at T1's karate lesson, while I'm about to go get 3 different meals for 3 members of my family. (DG be damned tonight -- he's on his own.)

Do you have family dinner at your house? What do you like about it? What about it is difficult or frustrating? I await your wisdom...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bloggy Math

Here's some bloggy math for this tired poster on this busy Monday morning.

Daylight Savings Time X  2 kids  =  up at dawn yesterday.  (Result is mommy crashing into bed at 9 pm).

6 potentially lengthy blog posts  -  time to percolate them in my head  =  short post today.

Today's work stack      

Textbook reviews  +  quizzes to be graded  +  journals to be read  -  long morning hours  X  desire to exercise  =  Time To Get Going.

See you all tomorrow!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why I Should Not Go to the Mall

The other day, I had to give a presentation to the college's Board of Trustees and several school superintendents during a 7:30 am (!) breakfast meeting promoting the partnership between local high schools and the college where I teach.  This could only mean one thing:  I had to get a pair of pantyhose.

Since I have a super amount of autonomy in my job, no one says anything about how I dress for my job everyday.  No one cares when I wear faded jeans to class because I have  to shoot out of there right after to pick up my kids because it's an early dismissal day and we're going straight to soccer practice.  Business dress in academia is a much different animal than in the corporate world.  However, the "power breakfast" with people who actually do make decisions about education that affect lots of families kinda does require that I dress up a little.

So I head to the mall in the 30 minutes that I have between getting off work and picking up the kids.  I know that I need just the one thing, but something happens when I get in the mall.  Oooh.  It's shiny!  Music lures me into stores!  Fashion beckons!  I'm a sucker for a wildly stylish store window!  I try to put on my blinders and go straight to the hosiery section in Nordstrom, but I can't help it start thinking about the other things I need that I could squeeze out of this trip.  Concealer.  Lip stick.  Hair product.  (These things seem to run out at the most inopportune times, right?) 

On this trip, I actually get out of the mall unscathed, pantyhose in hand, concealer and hair products in a little bag for good measure.

But yesterday was another story.

I was at Starbucks with T2 while T1 was at karate.  I saw a woman wearing this:

This is the Interlock Asymmetrical Dress from American Apparel.  American Apparel is a place where I don't usually shop because the clothes are for tiny, small-busted adolescents and I am DECIDEDLY, not that.  I'm a middle-aged woman  who is as stocky as a football player and taller than pretty much ever woman I know.  One-shoulder dresses are something that I NEVER wear.  If I can't wear a bra, it doesn't make it into my closet.

The woman at Starbucks, however, was pretty much the same size as me.  She was rocking the dress with a pair of leggings and ballet flats, and it looked really cute.  All of a sudden, I had to have this dress.  I plotted a trip to the mall to get it.  Cars on the road were not driving fast enough.  I almost crashed into someone pulling out of a parking place in my haste to get. in. there.  I hustled through the department store with the massive make-up event that had homecoming-going teenagers lined up for free makeovers so I could get the dress that I NEEDED.  I did get the dress, and it looked as flattering on me as I had hoped.  Sometimes, when you see something, you just know.  That's how it was.

But then I needed more.  Spanx!  Stylist's tape to hold the dress up!  Wait!  There's some cute jeans.  Oohh, shiny things again.  Stop. Stop. Stop.  I calmly went to the counter, bought the dress, and quickly got out of the mall.  Once home, I found I had everything I needed to wear with it.  I wore it scrunched up as a top over a straight skirt (again, middle-aged women should not wear mini-skirts) to a wedding we went to last night.  I felt confident and comfortable among the super-skinnies at the wedding. 

Shopping season is coming, and I know I'll probably find myself in the mall again in the next 6 weeks.  I need to remember a mantra like, "buying gifts, buying gifts, buying gifts."  Distractions aside, I think I'll make it.  I just hope no other super-stylish must-have clothing item makes it way into my mind's eye between now and then.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Business Trip--the Stay-At-Home Version

DG went to Santa Barbara on a business trip yesterday, and while he's only going to be gone overnight (he'll be back today to go to a wedding), I'm reminded of all the reasons why I like a business trip when I go.  The best benefits (working moms, tell me that this is not better than a spa weekend) are staying in a hotel room by yourself, ordering room service so you don't have to actually talk to anyone or have anyone talk to you, catching up on horrible reality TV (last time I was gone, I watched Jerseylicious. I mean, the name alone, right?), and the QUIET--seriously, the quiet to read and write is truly the best part.

But this time, I was the stay-at-home parent.  Seriously, one day is no big deal at all, but there are definitely some pros and cons of being at home as the only parent (of course, single parents do this all the time, and I whole heartedly admire them and their ability to balance).

PRO: I get the whole bed to myself to spread out my books, magazines--maybe a tray with tea.

CON: It's a little disconcerting to turn out the lights at the end of the night knowing I'm the only adult in the house.  Leads me to some irrational fears.  You know, the kind like Michael Myers from Halloween with the hockey mask is lurking at my window?  What?  You don't do that?  See what I mean?  My wild imagination is definitely a con.

PRO: When it's morning, we all get up at the same time.  DG's a late-sleeper.  Seriously, he'd sleep until noon every day if he could.  Okay, maybe 11, but no earlier if he could help it.

CON: The day seems loooooonnnggg when you're you're up early and you're the only adult in the house.  And LOUD.  Did I mention I like it quiet?

PRO: I don't really need to cook.  Somehow, having the whole family home makes me feel more responsible for putting a healthy meal on the table.  Not that I have the time to do it more than about 3 days a week, but when it's just me and the kids, popcorn and a fruit smoothie is a perfectly suitable dinner.

CON: Too much sugar makes that day even longer.

PRO: There's one less person to get out the door.  'nuf said.

CON: I miss having DG here.  We see so little of each other during the week as it is, having him gone over the weekend makes me miss him even more. 

Again, I have no reason to whine when it's only one day.  The pros far out weigh the cons over one day.  Still, I'll be glad when he gets home.  And the kids will too.

Friday, November 5, 2010

International Multiple Birth Awareness Week

I've just discovered that November 1 to 7, 2010 is International Multiple Birth Awareness Week.  This awareness campaign is sponsored by an organization called ICOMBO (International Council of Multiple Birth Organizations).  ICOMBO's mission is to "allow individuals and multiple-birth organizations to share and develop resources, promoting and conducting projects and research regarding multiple birth development, care, and education, disseminating information and results of ICOMBO research projects and recruiting multiple-birth organizations worldwide" ( package).  Some of the organizations associated with the organization include the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC) and Mothers of Super Twins (MOST).

The purpose of the awareness week is to promote a newly revised document by the organization that includes a Statement of Rights and Declaration of Need for twins and higher order multiples.  There are 7 declarations of right and 10 statements of need meant to bring attention to the issues surrounding multiple births. "These statements [in the document] identify such issues as culturally sanctioned banishment and/or infanticide of twins, lack of proper prenatal care for mothers and their fetuses, a need for breastfeeding support, the importance of placing multiples together in adoptive environments, addressing the multiple bond when making classroom placement decisions, the balancing of individuality within the co-multiple relationship, and ongoing myths and practices that endanger the lives of twins and higher order multiples" ( package).

This document is very thorough, addressing every aspect of multiples from conception to parenting.  I just want to take a look at a couple declarations from the document and pose my self-educated (and therefore decidedly non-scientific), twin-mom take as a springboard for discussion.

Item #1 says that families of multiples (as well as all individuals) have a right to freedom from discrimination of any kind. The document mentions that in some cultures, there is superstition about the origin of multiples which can lead to the "culturally sanctioned banishment and/or infanticide" mentioned above. 

I didn't know this even existed.  I discovered that this was a practice in parts of Africa, but research as far back as 2000 indicates that this practice has diminished and twins are now revered in these cultures.  Perhaps this is similar to the judgment that families whose multiples are the result of infertility treatments have endured since the practice began.  Years ago, when my twins were babies, there was much talk among mothers of twins about how in vitro twins were not "real" twins.  I can't tell you how much backlash to these comments I read about in twins magazines.  I felt it myself even.  The blatant question, "did you use fertility treatments?" or even the more subtle, "do twins run in your family?" I received more often than not as a thinly veiled digging on the part of the ask-er as to the legitimacy of my twins.  Like having twins naturally (especially identical twins) was some kind of badge of honor, and that twins like mine, conceived with assistance, were the lucky result of a sometimes speculative practice (among unscrupulous doctors, i.e. Octomom...).  But that mentality has changed, I think, as the numbers of multiples overall are more commonly from fertility interventions than not.  (Googled statistics I found show that 1 in 38 fertility births are twins, and 1 in 90 are naturally occurring).  Still, that tone of voice when those questions are asked is harsh.

Item #2 says people in fertility situations have a right to information about the risks of multiple pregnancies and the risks associated with multiple pregnancies as a result of treatment. 

I was 39 when I got pregnant with the twins.  I was so focused on getting pregnant at all as we had tried for a long time with no pregnancies, that it didn't even occur to me that twins were a possibility.  I don't remember having any consultation as to the probability of twins.  I remember the day we had the insemination (we conceived with IUI) and the doctor said, "There are four follicles."  I didn't even wrap my head around the fact that had they all been fertilized, we would be living a much different life right now.  It wasn't until after we heard those two little heartbeats that I started researching how very different my pregnancy would be compared to my friends who were pregnant with singletons.  I was going to be the exception to the all too common bed rest and prematurity and C-section.  But, of course, I wasn't.

Item #6 is about how the bond of co-multiples is essential to their development and that keeping multiples together in foster care, adoption, custody, and education settings is a right.

T1 and T2 absolutely share a bond that is strong.  I share a similar bond to my own sister and we're not twins, so I know that this is not exclusively a twin thing, but a deep investment in the well-being of the other definitely seems to be the case among the twins that I know.  Controversy as to the placement of twins in educational settings has resulted in legislation in some states.  Some school districts have historically insisted that twins be separated to foster their individuation, but more recently, parental voices are having more of a say in this decision.  I always thought that I would separate the twins in class because they were so different, and I was right in the case of T1 who really came into his own when out of the shadow of his sister.  But now, I am so glad to have the right to decide if I should put them together in class.  As an educator, I see a huge value in collaborative learning that we could do if they were practicing the same curriculum in their homework.  I have another twin mom friend who, after a couple years of having her twins separated, decided to put them together.  It was a much easier and more comfortable environment for her very shy girl when she had the support of her much more self assured brother in the same class.  DG and I, too, are considering putting our kids in the same class for the upper grades of elementary school.  The risk, of course, is that they'll be compared by the teacher or treated as a unit, but this is a risk of any child in any class, I presume.  We'll see.  Jury's still out on this one.  And speaking of individuation,

Item #7 says that twins have a right to be treated as individuals as any human being does.

This was always a no brainer for us as T1 and T2 are extraordinarily different, and they're different genders, also an easy way to differentiate individuals.  I'm not so sure this is the case for multiples of the same gender and more so for identical twins.  It's been my experience, though, that as one gets to know people, one is more inclined to notice the nuances that create individuals.  That's certainly been the case for my kids in their comings and goings in the world, and I hope it continues.  I'd be interested to hear the take of this from parents of identical twins.

With the prevalence of multiples in society today, I suspect that the anomaly of twinship that I grew up with will be diminished as my children grow up and interact in the world.  I am happy, however, to recognize International Multiple Birth Awareness Week and practice these rights and provide for these needs for my little multiples in honor of their inclusion in a special group that is (as of now) still kind of a cool thing for them.  And, as you all know, I am extraordinarily grateful for them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Boredom, a Boy, and a Roll of Foil

Yesterday I went to pick up the kids for another marathon afternoon of soccer, karate, PTA functions, etc. When I arrived, I hustled T2 to change into soccer clothes, and T1 started in with the whining.  "Where's my DS? I want to play DS?  Why, Mommy? Why can't I play DS  Whhhhaaaaaaa."  This is a battle we have every week when T2 has soccer practice.  T1 rushes through his homework (that he does sitting on the bleachers) and then begs to play with some screen--the DS, his "Pokewalker," my Droid.  We're in a park, for God's sake!  Short of having two broken legs, he should be playing.  PLAYING.  Isn't that what little boys are supposed to do in the park?

Last week, he started in with the "I'm bored..." bull-sh*^%.  Oh no you didn't.  You did NOT just tell me you were bored?!  Boy, you don't know what bored is.  I showed him the perfectly climbable tree right. next. to. him.  I wanted to start with the, "When I was a kid, we found our own fun in mud pies and sticks. Blah, blah, blah," but I caught myself.  Didn't want to let on how OLD I am.  He did end up climbing that tree, and he had fun.  Lo and behold--no longer bored.

Yesterday, once he realized that I wasn't going to go back on my original command about staring at a video game in the park, he knew he had to come up with something else.  Enter this:

 This is a foil ball that T1 made in art class with some leftover foil.  Notice the little indentations for a face?  Eyes, nose, mouth?  It's a guy screaming for a body.  I suggested that we go to the store and buy some more foil.  He could make body parts and put them together.  Toothpicks become the "bones."  He said, "you can glue it for me," to which I replied, "Yeah, and the glue can be like the joints, muscle, and skin."

Then, Foil Guy together.  

T1 decided the foil man needed a "toy" and he started constructing this: 

Cut to home.  Here I am singeing my fingers with a hot glue gun to get the "muscles and joints" on the foil guy. Fortunately, the toothpicks are providing excellent structural integrity.

And then, it was done. 

 This little project is a wonderful testament to what kids can do with a little imagination.  T1 is so proud of his creation.  I can tell because at 10 pm and he came out from bed to ask me if it was finished.  He played with it for a minute, making it totter awkwardly across the kitchen counter.  The smile on his face said it all.  He made it--from nothing more than $3 worth of household products.  And he wasn't bored.

I don't want to sound like I never let him play video games or watch TV.  That's just not me.  God knows the TV has a sacred place in our house.  Like everything else, I am in charge of creating the balance.  There's a time and place for video games: when Mom's getting her hair done, at the bank during the signing of house loan documents, or when I'm engrossed in Real Housewives of New Jersey (okay, just kidding on that last one).  The park is not one of those places.  And I can't help but think that he's silently thanking me somewhere in his subconscious for this little respite from the technological age. Long live Foil Guy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A blog post a day keeps the cobwebs away

This year, I've decided to join NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) which traditionally takes place in November.  The idea is simple--you post something every day for 30 days.  What?!?! you say.  Has she lost her job?  No, more like I might have lost a part of my mind, but actually, that's not it at all.

I'm a writing teacher (academic writing, you know, like compositions and stuff--not so creative).  I tell my students daily that the best way to be a better writer is to write often.  NaBloPoMo is exactly this kind of exercise--an exercise in perseverance that one hopes will lead to better writing. 

So I'm going to write. a lot. November is one of the most exciting months in our house as the twins birthday falls in November, Thanksgiving always leads to lots of interesting family drama that could be fun to read (I mean, who doesn't have drama surrounding Thanksgiving?), and Hanukkah falls early this year.  Yay.  Hopefully this means I'll have lots to say.

NaBloPoMo is a way for me to keep up with the practice.  If you get this blog through your email, feel free to just delete them as they come through every day, or browse and discard.  Whatever works, but don't feel obligated read all of my innane musings mostly stemming from the crap I think about while driving around all day.  It's shaping up to be a rocky month...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Have an Obligation to Vote

Today is election day.  Last night, I talked about the ballot measures with DG, read some blogs with various picks on the candidates and issues, marked my ballot, and placed it in a place in my work bag that I know will make it out the door.  Ever since I was 18 years old, I have voted in every national primary and general election.  I feel I have an obligation to vote--as a citizen, a woman, an educator, and a mother.

Don't worry. I'm not going to get all political on you.  I would describe myself as not very political at all.  I'm not that person at a party who starts a conversation with, "Can you believe what those yahoos are doing in congress?"  I quietly have my beliefs and try to stay out of the conversation. Except for those ubiquitous bashing political ads.  Hate them.  Kinda makes my stomach turn, and even more detrimental, makes me shut down and become mistrusting.  Political rally-er, I am not.

But if you really think about it, most people practice things in their lives that can be construed as a little political.  As moms, we make decisions about what we're going to feed our children--to breastfeed or not--organic or not.  We make decisions about education--public or private school.  To others around us, these decisions can be seen as a progression of our political agenda. It's based on our values, the way we want our children to have the best lives they can--often better than the lives we've had.  I mean, even as a member of the PTA, I am a part of an organization that lobbies for children and good education practices.  As moms, we are our children's best proponents.

As a college professor, I try to let my students know that voting is one of the most important things they can do to advance their own beliefs.  So many of my students in the suburban community college where I work feel like voting is something they don't feel qualified to do.  They're just 18.  They don't understand the propositions or the smear campaigns of the candidates (well, let's face it--who does?).  And I tell them that is precisely the point of college.  To learn about their world and to have a say in its future.  They say, "But no matter what I say, politicians are going to do whatever they want, so voting or not--it doesn't matter."  Arrggghh, I sigh.  Apathy.  No, no, no.  Imagine what leaders might do if you did not have a voice.  Voting assures that differing opinions are brought to everyone.  Your voice matters.

I read a quote by Thomas Paine that says, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it."  Fatigue means work.  The suffragists were tireless in their efforts.  As a woman, I feel I owe it to them to learn about a campaign and vote.  I have a responsibility to support my freedom and the right that they fought so hard to gain.

So today, when I pick up my kids, we'll march over to the polling booths, place the ballot in the little hole-puncher-thingy (I know, I think that's the official name for it), and fulfill my obligation.  Whatever the outcome of the election, I feel good knowing that I am modeling good citizenship for my children.  Who knows, I might even hand over that little "I Voted" sticker to them.