Friday, September 25, 2009

Two Degrees of Separation

When our identical twins, Harry and Malcolm, were born, we decided that we were not going to treat them as a unit. Literally, from Day 1 we dressed them differently. We also very rarely refer to them as "the twins".

Harry (kissee) Malcolm (kisser)

As very young boys, Harry wore reds and Malcolm wore blues. Now they pick their own clothes out and sometimes still pick out their traditional reds and blues. Coincidence? There's yet another nature/nurture debate with identical twins WAITING to happen It's when Malcolm wears red and Harry wears blue that some of our friends get thrown do I!

We have two older "singleton" children (singleton is a term used by either medical people or parents of twins when comparing one child to twins....and never any other time as far as I can tell!). We thought our youngest boys deserved to develop their identity individually just like Lilly and Andy did and are doing. I did work toward and successfuly get them to take a nap at the same time when they were babies/toddlers, but that was mostly for sanity reasons.

When it was time for preschool, we were fortunate that the school we wanted had two classes at the same time. So, they were separated for the first hour of school and then the second, last hour, they were together. The preschool teachers recommended that we keep them separated for kindergarten which started this fall.

Well, the school that we wanted them to go to for half-day kindergarten has only one teacher. She has a morning class and an afternoon class. There are about four full-day classes at the school, but I'm a stay-at-home mom and my kids are only 5 years old. I want to spend more time with them and they need free time to play and rest! So full-day wasn't a choice for our family.

I talked to the principal last spring about this dilemma since the school was going to put them in the same class. The only solution would be that I would have to provide transportation for the morning child since our neighborhood would only be assigned bus service for the afternoon session. The principal discouraged me from splitting them and driving the morning guy, again, for sanity reasons.

We decided as a family to go ahead and try them in the same afternoon class. Andy had this teacher, she has tons of experience and we figured if anyone can handle them, she can.

Well, it lasted until this past Monday (Day 12 of the school year). I got a call from said teacher that we love and she asked if there was ANY way that we'd consider separating them after all. She said that they're holding each other back academically and that each child has so much potential that cannot be realized as a twosome in the same timeframe. I made an executive decision because Dave is away and I know he'd agree with what was best for our kids. He did.

It turns out I only have to drive to the school one time per day. I picked Harry to do the morning session since he is just slightly easier to wake up in the morning. So, Harry and Andy (a super 2nd grader) get on the bus together in the morning, I pick Harry up at 11:30a with Malcolm in tow, bring them both back for lunch and then put Malcolm on the bus at 12:15p. Then, he gets a turn to ride home at the end of the day with big bro Andy on the bus.

So far so good...I'm adjusting to the new schedule and the fact that I now need to get a part-time job that I can work at while one twin is home with me (for just an hour or so per day). Still looking for that one. I was just starting to hone in on jobs that I could do given that fact that I had a few hours everyday to myself...Poof! Everything changed!

Harry and Malcolm, I'm happy to report, are thriving individually and the teacher is ecstatic about their progress. There were no tears either! For me, it is wonderful to spend time one-on-one and I know each boy loves having Mommy to himself too.

Everything happens when Dave's away...more on that in my next post!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Third Day

So, we're three days into one of my husband's megatrips overseas. He's in the UK this week, will be going to Ireland over the weekend (a sidetrip since it's too far to come home in between) and to Russia next week.

He's been traveling about 25-50% of the time since our first child was born. So, I've developed some very good survival strategies, but it doesn't make me feel any less sick when he leaves, especially for such a long time. His trips range from 1 day to 12 like this one.

The sick feeling comes from looking ahead to the tears and heartbreak of my kids missing Daddy, early morning soccer practices that I have to pack all 4 kids to go to (the non-participants being reluctant and angry about it too), being the sole homework-helper and the one who has to get everyone out in the morning, etc. Then, there's the what if someone gets sick. I get sick or worse (like we all get sick?). There's probably not a scenario we haven't weathered while Dave has been away including ER visits, major illnesses and a failed and leaking water heater.

However, the trick is to not look at the whole 12 days, but just to take it one day at a time. It's really amazing when you think about how far away he is. The kids look at the globe and point to all of the countries and states that Daddy has been to. He also has brought back some beautiful things from the many countries that our family can treasure. Of course, you can buy Russian nesting dolls in an import store, but how cool is it to buy them at a store the same day you were standing on Red Square? What about a boomerang from Down Under?

He doesn't like leaving us either since we cherish our family time together. He also misses the absolutely, crack-up funny times like when Lilly told me last night that there is a boy in her class that has been "observing" her. Can you tell she loves science? She then asked this boy what he had noticed about her. He then reported that she has a bald spot on her head. She then explained that it was simply how her hair parted. I was in hysterics!

So, so far, one mandatory church meeting for Andy's First Communion coming up in May of 2010 (which was a great reminder to me that God is there and I need to remember that), one late karate night getting home shortly before the twins' bedtime with homework stil hanging over us and one Open House at Lilly's new school tomorrow. Thankfully, our wonderful babysitter Valerie will be helping me that night. As much as Lilly wants to show off her school to her brothers, it's just another late night that all the kids don't need and I don't need to bring them to.

Casualities? One missed bus and a pig-sty of a house that I've devoted today to cleaning from top to bottom. It's about time that I learned the value of staying home and not running everywhere, especially when I'm flying solo!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Summer's Last Hurrahs

Malcolm chilling on a bench at the amusement park.
Malcolm, David, Harry, Cristy and Lilly. Real hay, no Andy. He's not comfortable being outside on windy days. It must be the tornado watch trauma.
Below: Andy and Lilly on the Carousel.

Harry on our hike after our picnic in the park.

Here are some pictures of my family doing some last summer outings: an amusement park, a hayride courtesy of our friend, Kevin and his family's tractor and acreage and a picnic.

Welcome to Two New Followers!

Thank you, Tracy and Brenda! I was so excited to see both your names added recently! Tracy, thank you for your picture of your kitties too!

School Supplies

So, I had the luxury of taking only my two older ones shopping for school supplies last week. My daughter has gone into 4th grade and my older son has gone into 2nd grade. My twins have started kindergarten, but I had planned to pick out their backpacks myself and have them be thrilled and thankful afterward WITHOUT bringing them with me. Everything else we need for kindergarten is found at home already.

Lilly has been accepted into an academically advanced program. The only supplies list she had was from this program. We had to get 8 different color folders, two of each, plus one of "her choice". From the list, it was unclear whether or not this meant a color of her choice (therefore, two more folders) or one extra folder. We went with the latter hypothesis...and a puppy folder was chosen.

Next came discussions about whether or not a "goldenrod" color (I blame the crayon makers for kids learning this level of color precision) would actually be a yellow folder (required) or an orange folder (also required). I then present what looks like a perfect, pumpkin-orange folder (score one for Mom?....not so much). Lilly informs me that it's red and not orange, but not brick red like the other folders on the lower shelf.....OK, fine, so red is done, etc., etc....

Meanwhile, Andy does have a real list from his teacher. Considering Andy is a typical "guy" when it comes to shopping, I did NOT anticipate what happened next. In case you don't know how a "guy" typically shops, it involves a short list, getting into a store and then getting the heck out.

Andy's list consisted of a pencil box, a pack of pencils and some crayons and markers that he liked. The problem was that the store had preprinted lists of school supplies for each grade. Andy then picked one up (I was STILL thinking I was shopping with my guy here and I was about to be totally blindsided). This office supply store has a BRILLIANT marketing campaign here. They print out these lists and put them beautifully and separately by color-coded grades (again with the colors.....). For example, Andy's 2nd grade "list" was green. Consult Lilly for the exact shade of green. I'd go with green-yellow if it were up to me.

Well, I now saw another part of Andy that I am familiar with, but not in a store context. He loves details and directions. Heck if I was going to stop him before he got every last thing on that list! I did talk him out of some things that we had at home and convinced him that we do NOT need another PACK of highlighters. Yes, we could all share them. No, your twin brothers won't ruin them because they won't need them in kindergarten. No, really, they won't. No, you don't need to see their list. I did have my "responsible parent" hat on of course and wouldn't have let him buy all of that stuff if we didn't need it at home to use for school projects and homework, but it did take some convincing.

Well, we finally got out of there with a bill well into the TRIPLE digits. I felt buyer's remorse over this for days and couldn't bring myself to tell any of my friends what we'd spent on supplies. We got all of the folder hue situation solved for Lilly, I bought materials so I could set up two "homework stations" for Lilly and Andy so there would be less arguing at the kitchen table about breathing too loud (I kid you not) and the like and off we went.

That night, Andy put everything into his new backpack for school the next day....and came home with all but was on his ACTUAL list. Oh, and the twins love the backpacks I picked for them.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Emotional Rollercoaster

I am a pretty fearless person. I put my mind to something and I do it. I go into our poorly-lit garage to get things late at night, often when everyone is asleep. The closest ears are two stories up. No one could hear me scream.

During the day in the warm weather, we leave the garage doors open. We have a family of chipmunks that live in our stone wall right outside the garage. While I'm outside playing with the kids I see these some tiny, some not-so-tiny creatures run in and run out (oh, I'm talking about the chipmunks here, not my darling kids).

We've only had two chippies in 7 years make it all the way up into our house (and OUT again with the help of a coaxing but kind broom). If one gets trapped in there overnight, I don't fret too much. Also, some of these animals look better fed than my own family.

I just put my mind over matter and tell myself that I'm bigger than it is. If I hear something, save the shatter of a broken garage window, it's probably a chipmunk. Knowing me, I'd let it free too even though there are woods just a few feet away that are home to coyotes, foxes, etc. that could do much worse damage to me if they wanted to. On second thought, I'd better protect the little guy from predators.

I also used to walk home alone really late at night when I lived in the city. Looking back on this, it was a stupid thing to do, but I survived. Again, mind over matter "walking home, walking home, almost there...."

But....rollercoasters? Yikes! I have always had a fear of walking across long bridges (the taller the more scarier they are for me....and when there's water underneath....that's when I'm terrified). Somehow, falling 50 feet and hitting the grass would be better than hitting the water? I don't think so.... I just don't like being on them, especially in the middle. I'm OK driving over them, less OK when I'm stuck in traffic on one, but still fine.

I want to teach my kids not to live by their fear and also prove to myself how silly these fears are. So every summer, I try a rollercoaster with my kids. Lilly in particular is a daredevil and wants to ride the biggest, highest and fastest coasters. Thankfully, her dad is somewhat of a coaster enthusiast, well, he's not afraid anyway.

I went on a a tamer one to "warm up" and to show my only daughter how strong women (including her mother) could be. I screamed the whole time! She was humorously embarrassed and made me swear never to scream on a ride with her again. I couldn't promise that!

So, I've been thinking about it. I can breathe myself through the height and the horrible racket of the "click-click-click" of the cars going up the hill to meet the impending doom of going down the hill. I can ALMOST enjoy that part. It's different from the middle of a bridge because it's on the ground.

Then, aaaaaagghhhhhh comes the first drop where you feel like you're doing a nosedive straight into the hard earth at a steeper-than-90-degree angle...if you can get any steeper....but it sure FEELS like you can...and ARE!

Can you imagine how scared I'd be if the coaster went over water? This is the thrill of weightlessness that coaster-lovers live for, apparently.

I'm OK with the speed and the unpredictability of the rest of the coaster. After all, I'd rather NOT see what's coming, thank you!

So, is it true that if you go on them over and over again that you lose your fear of them? I'll have to get back to you on that next summer after I once again stand in those long lines with a pit in my stomach as I get closer to our turn and try it again. Seems as if I'm OK with coasters except for the weightlessness part. Maybe I should become an astronaut first? Maybe I should just tell my kids, "Sorry, Mommy's human and Mommy is afraid?" Nah.....

What are YOU afraid of?