Thursday, February 19, 2009


I've been thinking for a while now about making some changes to this blog for lots of different reasons. For one thing, I've always felt like there would come a time when it would become inappropriate for me to write about the girls using their real names. That time isn't exactly now, since neither of them is even technically in school, but I think that cut-off was always around age five or so, in my head. Once they're in "real" school, I think they may deserve a little more anonymity as relates to time-outs, mishaps, and embarrassing moments. Just today, I filled out Annie's registration paperwork for next year, so that time is mere months away.

Pushing the deadline forward is the fact that Jason's practice is about to launch a fancy new website in the next month or so, and the last thing I want is for a potential patient to Google his name and inadvertently find my blog (and lots of details about the most recent neighborhood party, vacation, or date night). Plus, I'm spending a little more time and energy submitting query letters to get new freelance work. If any of those pan out, and I am ever actually published (I should be so lucky!), I'd like to be able to reference my blog without giving away too many real-life details for security purposes.

So! I'm taking the weekend off to be up north with the family, and when I return, look for the launch of something new and improved to record all our daily details. I'll avoid using our last name at all, and I'll also probably just reference the girls by their first initial. I'm planning to add new links to all the blogs I currently read regularly (both people I know and people I don't) and possibly links to some of the writing I've done other places. The blog doesn't have a name yet; while I do have a few ideas, I'm open to your thoughts, so either comment here or send them to me via e-mail.

If you are a faithful reader and want to keep reading at the new site, send me an e-mail at and I'll give you a heads-up when I get it all together. (There won't be any references here to the new name.) RIP, Daily Doublesteins! It's been a lovely adventure.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Annie hasn't had school this week, so we've been blessed and cursed by the lack of a schedule. Yesterday, we hung out in jammies and had a morning "picnic" with all the dolls, then teamed up for a whirlwind Target trip, where we bought this summer's sprinkler pool (version 1.2, as it is the same one we had in 2007), cousin birthday presents, True North almond clusters (yum!), and a new Belle figurine, since the original one's head has broken off and spends all her time "at the hospital," being waited on and feted by all the other princesses in their sparkly ball gowns. Fun stuff! The afternoon, though, was a Category Five disaster that culminated in my tearful phone call to Jason at 5:05 p.m. to tell him that no dinner would be forthcoming upon his arrival home from work due to my inability to do anything but carry a fussy two-year-old in my arms post-nap and give a Very Naughty Four-Year-Old time-outs (both in her room and STRAPPED INTO HER CARSEAT IN THE CAR I WON'T LIE) for the previous hour and a half. (NOT fun stuff!)

Add to this the fact that Jemma and I had simultaneous, mysterious fevers on Sunday and Monday, and we were cheered and relieved to feel better and get out of the house this morning. We headed to the gym, where, because of other people's schools being on Winter Break, there were a lot of kids and a lot going on. I checked the girls in and headed up to the treadmill, choosing one where I can look down on the kids playing in the gym and they can wave up at me. They were happy enough at first, gathered with Lucy and Ava and Lila and ten or so more little girls, all running around and giggling and then playing Duck, Duck, Goose. They waved, I waved, everyone was fine.

Then. Then! From the other side of the gym came the mascot for the Grand Rapids Griffins, who had been entertaining the many school-aged boys as they played broom hockey. I saw him ambling clumsily towards the little kids, and I thought, some poor little kid is going to freak out about this. I was right. It was Jemma.

I watched as, in response to his cheery wave, her little face crumpled, turned bright red, and she began crying hysterically. A kind woman scooped her up and hurried away, back into the non-gym area, presumably to distract her with some dolls or books or bubbles.

By the time I made my way back down to get her, she was just standing by the gate to get out, not crying, but wearing a sad little look on her cute little face. "Bird!" she said, when I scooped her out and waited for Annie to come. "Bird here," she pointed, and she started crying again. Only the promise of vanilla milk at the coffee shop calmed her down, and by the time we had washed hands and put coats on, she was better again.

Tonight, though, as I rocked her in her room and read her books, she kept hugging me tightly and asking about "bird." Over and over, I reassured her that the bird was just silly, was all gone, was at home now, that just Mommy and Daddy and Annie and Jemma were here together. Poor. Little. Thing. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, I'm going to have to break all my usual Sleep Rules and spend any amount of time in there, rocking my little Roo, reassuring her that the bird is All Gone.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Assigning the Blame

When I went in Annie's room after rest time on Thursday afternoon, something smelled like Hershey's chocolate.

"Did you put on your M&M chapstick?" I asked.

"No," she said. Hmmmm.

Then, we went to the pool. When we got home from the pool, I went into Annie's room again to stop her from jumping on the bed (a daily battle). It still smelled like chocolate.

"Annie, are you wearing chapstick?" I asked again. We keep said chapstick in a drawer in the kitchen, and I wanted to make sure she hadn't squirreled it away to her bedroom where it might possibly be found (and abused) by Jemma.

"NOOO, Mom!"

"Well, then why does it smell like your M&M chapstick in here?" I said.

Annie looked sheepish. "I broke my pink basket that my books are in during rest time and it needed glue but I didn't know where the glue was so I thought chapstick would work so I got it and put it on the basket but it didn't work."

I looked at the basket, and, sure enough, a corner of the pink wicker had broken and was dangling off, covered in a light brown slime that smelled like chocolate.

I tried not to, but I smiled.

"Where is the chapstick now?" I asked.

"I put it back in the drawer after rest time was over."

Let us assign the blame for this silly little episode:

30% - to Annie, for standing on her wicker book basket, breaking it, and then deciding to fix it with chapstick

30% - to me, for keeping the chapstick in an accessible place in the house

30% - to me, for wasting time upstairs on facebook during rest time, so as not to hear my child rummaging around in the kitchen for chapstick

10% - to Connie, for providing the M&M chapstick to my child as part of a Thanksgiving goody bag

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Behavior Modification

A few months back, at the height of my despair over Annie's increasingly difficult behavior, I bought and read the book Parenting with Love and Logic. I didn't buy into it 100%, but I did appreciate the perspective, and it's given me a couple great new tools for dealing with dramatic discipline situations. One thing the book really points out is that, as parents, we can't actually control certain behaviors (tantrums, language, whining, etc.) but we can control where they occur. For example, if Annie were following me around the kitchen whining about something, instead of saying to her, "Annie, stop whining" (which is unenforceable), I'd say, "Annie, you may either stay in the kitchen with me nicely or go whine by yourself in your bedroom." If she were refusing to go to her room for a time-out, instead of repeatedly telling her to go, I'd ask, "Would you like to go by yourself or would you like me to take you?" It's all about choices, both of which you would find acceptable.

Maybe it's the consistency we've shown over the last six months or so, maybe it's the fact that Annie is almost closer to five than four now (!), but in any case, her behavior has really improved. For her part, Annie has not only responded well to the "choice" scenarios, but she is now beginning to use them on me. A few interesting "choices" she presented me today:

This morning, at breakfast, when she had repeatedly asked, and repeatedly been denied, watching Curious George before dance class and told the issue was closed for discussion, she calmly set her fork down, stopped eating her waffle, and said, "Mom, would you like to let me watch Curious George or would you like me and Jemma to go jump on my bed?" Smile. (Cue Jason cracking up from the kitchen.)

This afternoon, when I told her that the living room was not a good place for her to be doing any type of gymnastics, she said, "Mom, I can either do a handstand in the living room or I can tip over the TV. Which do you choose?"

Can't blame a girl for trying, I guess. I have a feeling I'll be getting the opportunity to make more "choices" in the days ahead. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Because I am Two Years Old.

Sarah and I took Annie and Lucy to the ballet on Sunday afternoon. I discovered this sweet dance company in town that puts on three performances a year specifically geared to young kids and families. They're an hour long and they're all based on stories that kids know. Annie and I had gone to Twas the Night Before Christmas back in December, and this time we invited some girlfriends to see Peter and the Wolf. This is not a story I knew, but I figured: children's ballet, fairy tale, what's not to like?

So we're sitting there in our lovely fifth-row seats before the piece begins, and announcer-voice behind the curtain begins explaining how, in Peter and the Wolf, each character is represented by an instrument. There's the duck, who gets horns; and the bird, who is the flute . . . and the HUNTERS WITH RIFLES, who are drums. "Oh boy," mutters Sarah. The lights go down and all is well with the bird and Peter prancing around the meadow until the wolf comes out. I glance to my right and see Annie glaring at the wolf with her meanest look while Lucy is covering her eyes with her hands and peeking through her fingers. Sarah and I were cracking up but also secretly hoping that there was some sort of non-violent, happy ending coming our way. (There was: the hunters help Peter bring the wolf back to the zoo, while the duck miraculously survives being eaten, is magically regurgitated, and shakes hands with the wolf. Ha!)

Afterwards, I had two main thoughts. One, perhaps I should be doing a bit more research before carting my children off to performances I have never seen before; two, I was giving ten-to-one odds that Annie would be waking up in the middle of the night, crying, claiming that there was a wolf in her room.

Surprisingly, she didn't. But guess what? If she had, I probably wouldn't have heard her. That's because I've started sleeping with a sound machine next to the bed. That's right. The little $20 machine I bought last-minute at Bed Bath and Beyond to bring to Florida has found a new home in my room, and the "rain" sound has given me the most consecutive nights of good sleep in my own bed with my husband since summer 2004. And sometimes I worry that the girls might wake up and cry out for me and I might not hear them, now that I'm actually ASLEEP. And then I think, hey, it's been FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS since I could count on a good night's sleep, so I guess if something is that wrong, they can come and get me, or, in Jemma's case, yell good and loud until Jason wakes up.

While I'm admitting to being a toddler with my needs-sound-machine-to-sleep, let me just also say that I've been eating a lot of PB&J's on white bread, lately, that I'm on the hunt for some cute rainboots for spring, and that I'm starting to get excited about next winter's possible trip to Disney. The truth is out: I'm not thirty-one, I'm two, or three, or four. And I love to sleep during the rainstorm.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How Was Florida?

I've been asked this question at least five times since we returned a mere twenty-four hours ago. My answer, in one word, would be: Cold. Florida was cold, as in, record-low temperatures, scrape windshields off, 25-30 mph winds, wear every layer you brought and the same brown sweater every day kind of cold. So.

In more than one word, though, my answer would be different. Maybe it wasn't exactly the vacation we'd hoped for, but it wasn't a total loss, either. For one, the girls did spectacularly well on the travel days, which involved three hours in the car plus three hours in the air punctuated by an hour or two here and there of just waiting around. They were amazing (and the old people all around us on the airplane let us know it), and we wouldn't hesitate to fly with them again.

Despite the chilly weather, Annie was in heaven the whole time. It's the magic of Florida, I guess. She practically skipped her way through every day, happy to be gathering shells on the beach, playing at the park we frequented, watching a movie in the early morning, eating ice cream, doing a puzzle with Grandma, dangling her feet in the hot tub, or swimming in the pool. You know, because even though it was freezing outside, it was still sunny, and the pool was still heated, so in it Annie went every day with her purple swimmies and a big smile. (Getting out was a sad, cold event.) Gone was the whiny, tantrummy little girl of January; in her place, an agreeable, curious, affectionate person. I think she was just hungry for some sunshine and some grandparent love. She got plenty of both.

Jemma, on the other hand, might not be the traveler in the family. She never threw up again (praise Jesus! Hands raised above head, swaying from side to side with organ music in background, etc.), but she seemed a little shell-shocked and confused for the first few days. Every time we were all in the minivan together, she'd point from her position in the back row and say, "Different grandma. Other grandma. Both grandmas!" like she couldn't understand why both sets of them were here together. She pooped once the whole time we were there. At night when I'd tuck her in, she'd say heartbreaking little things like, "Rocking chair?" or "Own crib" and "Own house." (Also at night once, we read a paperback copy of Goodnight Moon I'd brought along that has a black-and-white picture of illustrator Clement C. Hurd on the back cover. Jemma saw him - an older, balding white man - and started saying something I couldn't understand. "What?" I asked, over and over. I finally understood her: "Barack Obama." "Barack Obama??" I asked. She nodded and pointed at the picture. "What about him?" "On TV." Ooooohkaaaay.)

We learned the hard way that the girls still can't share a bedroom, even with a crib and a noise machine, so after one night of two hours sleep and playing musical beds, we let Annie fall asleep in our bed at night and then moved her to the pull-out couch when we went to bed. Jemma, in her PLG rental crib, hogged the entire other bedroom with two empty twin beds.

We ate dinner at The Mucky Duck on Captiva Island as a group, and Jason and I escaped for a dinner out at Mezzaluna one night, too. We watched the sun rise in the morning and had mojitos and strawberry daquiris in the afternoon for happy hour. We sat in the hot tub a lot. We played cards and read books and magazines and did crossword puzzles. We tried to enjoy (but probably still took for granted) the fact that we were there with both sets of our parents and both our children. We build sandcastles and collected shells to bring home. We reminded ourselves how great it was not to struggle with boots, snowpants, and mittens every time we went outside.

I won't lie, I feel a little bit cheated out of my long-awaited winter getaway. I wanted to be warm; I wanted to be HOT. I wanted the girls to swim and swim and splash and run and roll in the sand and sit in the waves. Still, I know we're lucky to have gone at all, I know we'll always have these specific memories of our first true family vacation, and I know we'll have lots more chances to be together someplace warm and sunny.

Jemma in Florida