Saturday, December 27, 2008


I took the girls roller skating today. Steffi usually roller skates, while Jessica plays games. Stef is a very good skater, and I love watching her weave in between the bad skaters flopping around and the fast skaters using everyone else as an obstacle course. For the first time, I got skates for Jess and myself, images of the three of us gliding around the rink dancing (skating?) in my head.

I'm not sure why I thought roller skating was like riding a bicycle. After two minutes of wobbling like a poorly constructed Sean Hannity argument, I decided I'd be better off helping Jessica if I could stay upright. Jess was using the one foot rule for skating novices, meaning she fell at least once for every 12 inches she tried to move forward. She ditched the skates for skeeball. It took her about 8 minutes to spend $10, winning a few tickets that were quickly exchanged for a paper Chinese fan that broke when she opened it.

It dawned on me that maybe roller skating was a bad idea. I just spent $40 in 15 minutes, Jesse was bored, waving a broken Chinese fan and begging for more money, and I was frustrated that merely standing up on skates caused back spasms.

I decided to ask one of those questions that you know from parental experience has very little chance of succeeding. "Jess," I started, "why don't you put your skates on? Steffi really wants to skate with you." She replied, "Okay." You could have knocked me over with a feather, except I was no longer wearing the roller skates.

I was impressed with Jessica's determination. She grabbed the walls. She grabbed Steffi. She fell. Repeatedly. But she continued to make her way around the rink, each time a little bit better. When I asked if she wanted to leave she said no way. When it was announced that the roller rink was closing, she was the last skater on the floor, still using the walls to help her but moving a little faster. I was equally impressed with Steffi, who could have been angry that her little sister often slowed her down, constantly pulled her down, and generally kept her from skating like she normally does. But Steffi was a great help, and never once complained.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Better to Give Than Receive (at Least to Your Sister)

Sometimes the girls can be...a handful. Like when Jessica cried during an entire 45 minute car ride home yesterday, or when she screamed and cried for 20 minutes about wanting to go on the computer this morning, when I simply wanted her to wash her hands after going to the bathroom. But thankfully these moments are increasingly rare, or happen while I'm at work (I didn't really mean that last part, sort of).

Anyway, I'm much more likely to see the girls being nice to each other or to other people. Like helping a little boy in Funtime Junction find his father, or Steffi helping Jessica put her seat belt on, or getting out of the car to re-close Jessica's car door to make sure it's shut.

The latest thing they've been doing is wrapping presents that they've gotten each other for Christmas. They are both can't wait for the other one to open up the presents. Of course they're excited about getting gifts, but I've heard more about their upcoming gift exchange than anything else. It's very sweet, and has probably bought them an extra tantrum or two.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Food for Thought

A few times I've tried to explain to the girls that there are people in this country that don't have enough food to get through the day. I don't think the girls really understand it, but I'm a lot older than them and I don't understand it either. Anyway, there's this great new program put together by The Community Food Bank of New Jersey (CFBNJ) called, "We Can't Let This Bank Fail." Because of the current economy, the CFBNJ is in a bind - there's more people in need of food and services from the food bank, but there are less and less donations coming in.

This organization makes every dollar stretch, and the woman who runs it - Kathleen DiChiara - is an amazing person. Check out their Web site and donate a few dollars. It will make a huge difference.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Teach Your Children. Well?

Recently I read in the NY Times that the median family income rose 147% from 1982 to 2007. Wow, nice job everyone. Way to give 100% (or, more accurately, get 147%).

Unfortunately, the statistic that immediately preceded it said that the average cost of college tuition and fees increased 439% over that same time period. That's not a typo. Four Hundred and Thirty Nine Percent. I'm thinking maybe I can trade in our 529 for a 529,000 plan.

The study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education also found that compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. has slipped in terms of college preparation and graduation. My dad, who didn't go to college, always said that a parent should aim to make the lives of their children a little better than their own lives. To do that, I'm going to give it my best 500% effort.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Yule Light Up My Life

The Christmas season officially began in our household, as it always seems to, when I hung the lights outside the house over Thanksgiving weekend. I love getting into the spirit, as they say, but usually the light hanging leaves me as frustrated as the Simpson's episode when Homer tried repeatedly, and futilely, to build a dog house (if I remember correctly, he collected so much money from putting change in the swear jar that Marge bought him a dog house). Not so similarly yet equally understanding , my wife prescribed preventive medicine by offering to hold the ladder for me and finding the appropriate hooks and other instruments associated with the holiday light show. Frustration averted.

With lights lit and ladder loaded back in the garage, the Xmas festivities turned to when to get the tree and when to visit Santa. We plan to get the tree this Saturday. As for the Santa visit, to quote Steffi, "No thanks." I felt like I'd been punched in the gut by Burl Ives. No Santa visit?

I've been gamely trying to keep the Santa theory alive, but I think I might be the only one in the household that still believes. Steffi is definitely not a believer, and I have a suspicion that Jessica just doesn't want me to believe that I believe that she doesn't believe.

There's still a few weeks to try and rekindle Kris Kringle, but if in the process we spend a lot of time together as a family, have fun and share lots of laughs, then we will have received a gift better than any Santa real or imagined could bring.