Monday, July 27, 2009


Sister buddies' latest project.

"I have a boy and a girl," my dental hygenist sighed last week, taking a break from cleaning my teeth. "I wanted another girl so my daughter could have a sister too, but it didn't happen. Everyone should have a sister."

Indeed. Everyone should have a sister and the best kind of sister is a sister buddy.

I am lucky, I have a sister and we are close but I am a little sad to say that we were not that close as children. We just couldn't have been because we are 8 years apart. By the time I even have any memories of her she was leaving home for college. She has memories of me but they are more about how she helped take care of me. We weren't really sister buddies.

I know what a sister buddy looks like though because I have two who live with me. Lilly(11) and Grace (14) have always been close. At one point they slept together so often we just pushed both beds into one bedroom that they shared for years. This ended when Grace hit puberty (as it should) and I worried a bit that their tight friendship would come undone. Lilly, always one to notice and speak aloud what is going on told me frequently, "Grace is no fun now that she's a teenager. She just wants to do teenaged stuff and she never plays horsie anymore."

But over the past year or so they have compromised and adjusted and found a new sisterly way to be. In this way, Grace keeps one foot in childhood while Lilly dips a toe into teen-hood.

For example,they have a standing Friday night nail date in which they choose a movie on DVR-- usually a Disney tweener flick (this is a compromise in itself because Grace would rather watch a chick flick and Lilly would rather watch a dog movie so they split the difference) and spread out the forty or fifty bottles of nail polish that Grace has collected. While Grace carefully does her own fingernails, Lilly, out of solidarity, haphazardly does her own toenails. Then Grace bakes cupcakes for them both. It's an evening that has something for everyone.

Last week while Jeff and I went to the AWESOME Billy Joel and Elton John concert, the girls stayed home. "What did you girls do last night?" I asked Lilly the next morning.

"Grace put on a fashion show for me for two hours. She tried on every thing in her closet."

"Really?" I know this is not Lilly's idea of fun.

"Yes. She told me if I played fashion show last night, she'd come with me to the bunny shelter tonight."

Ahhh. Another wise compromise.

Like all couples they have their roles. Grace is the mommy: she cooks and bakes for Lilly and generally cares for her (Lilly accidentally calls her mom fairly frequently). Lilly is the entertainer: she comes up with elaborate plans and tells jokes and sings silly songs for Grace (her specialty is meowing opera songs and spot on accents). Together they like to devise and execute elaborate home improvement plans.

Yesterday I found a list on the table with the following words: Herbal Garden, Butter Nut Wood, Lilac Rose. "Grace, what does this mean?" I asked.

"Those are the paint colors we need to paint a mural in Lilly's room. We looked them up online. But first we're going to repaint the walls."

And off they marched. Under Grace's direction they gathered up the painting supplies and some leftover paint and turned Lilly's room from pink to blue. They assumed their roles: Grace directed the project and did most of the painting (she's no stranger to painter's tape) and Lilly entertained her while she sort of painted. At one point I walked past the room and heard Lilly doing her ghetto-talk. "Yo, G! You my dawg. This room is da schizzle."

While Jeff and Atticus and I went to stroll around the Glenview Art Fair, the girls finished up their paint job and cleaned the rollers. We found them on the couch relaxing after their hard day over an episode of "i-Carly"

Today we'll all go to Home Depot and buy more paint so they can complete the mural Grace has designed. It will be, as Lilly explains, "A mural of a meadow so Suzy Q. (our rabbit) can feel like she's outdoors."

I will not be asked to help (except to buy the paint) and that is okay, because this is a sister-buddies-only project.

Everyone should have a sister.


This is Jeff performing the song he wrote for me for our anniversary. I got him a nice card.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Maybe we do have a problem.
(I borrowed this photo from this blog, alas, it is not my own work)

Yesterday I noticed a thoughtful post on Facebook by my friend Amy B. who is looking for software that would limit the time her children spend on the computer. Now that's a great idea, I thought, having failed miserably at prying my teenaged son away from his virtual life so I went to the website someone suggested and checked out some software. It sounded great and even gave this suggestion for how it might limit the time: "For example you might want to set up a schedule like this --Monday–Friday 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, with 15 minutes allowed for their favorite game, 15 minutes to chat and 90 minutes for homework."

After a half hour or so when I could stop laughing doubled over I went downstairs to the computer to find my son to read that line to him. We weren't sure which was funnier--the notion that he could limit his game time to 15 minutes or the pie-in-the-sky dream that he would ever spend 90 minutes on his homework (with or without the computer). He was so amused he even lifted his hands off the keyboard and made eye contact with me. "Fifteen minutes on my game? What the fuh?" and then we started laughing again.

I am reminded of the time I bought new carpeting for the family room when the kids were 5, 4, and 1. "Now," the salesman cautioned me, "You know you should vacuum once per week for every person in the household." I set the baby down, separated the two toddlers, wiped vomit off my shoulder, handed the baby a cracker, and then said to the 5-year-old. "Quick, you do the math, how many times a week would I be vacuuming?" He's a smart kid (or was before all the computer time) so he answered quickly, "Five times, Mommy."

I wasn't trying to be rude when I laughed at the carpet salesman. He looked slightly offended when we all roared at the notion of mommy vacuuming five times a week. Even the one-year-old chortled as she ground her cracker into the floor-room sample of our future carpet.

So allow me to laugh when I read the suggested computer limits for my son. Because really, if there is one thing I've failed at as a parent, (no wait there are many, many things I've failed at including getting my kids to eat fruits and vegetables as anything more than a condiment, and having them make their beds ever, and well, now I'm starting to depress myself) it is in the area of limiting screen time.

Make no mistake, I tried and I tried. And then I failed. But when I was still trying and we used to do that "TV Turn-off" week I was one of the few moms that actually included ALL screens. We went to the library. We played games, we rode bikes to the park all that week. Fat lot of good that did.

And I did move the computer into the kitchen as the experts suggest. That's helpful. I now can see the back of my kid's head at all times and view the ridiculous medieval war graphics on the game he's playing. I suppose this is a little like Mrs. Dahmer saying, "Well it's not that bad; I saw Jeffrey stacking up bodies in the back yard. What kind of mother do you think I am?"

When you learn about dog-training you learn that it is almost impossible to get a dog to stop a bad behavior unless you distract him with the job of a good behavior. Which is why you will see me, from time to time, tell my computer-addicted kid to come empty the dishwasher or take the trash out or help his sister with her math. He always does this cheerfully and willingly--most likely because he is aware that it is the price he pays for being on the computer for hours on end--and he would be right.

So for now that's where we are on this issue. I think I will pass on the monitoring software because 1) I would actually have to have him install it and 2) I would then set it on such ridiculous levels "No games after midnight or before 9 am" that it might automatically dial a family services line and report me.

As for Amy, I wish you nothing but the best and if you find some software that trains me to be a better parent too, just send me the link.