Friday, February 25, 2011

Study: Cellphone Radiation Affects Your Brain

A new study says cellphone use affects your brain. Like they needed a study to discover this? Anyone who's ever driven behind someone using a cellphone in their car, or watched this viral YouTube video, of the girl who texted her way into a fountain, already knows this important fact. Walking and Texting: FAIL

What the study does provide is an excuse. An explanation for why otherwise normal individuals become complete idiots when talking on their phones. According to an article in the USA Today, Cellphone Use Affects Brain Activity, scientists used positron emission tomography (I just wanted to use "positron emission tomography" in a sentence) to measure brain glucose metabolism (ditto) to learn that radiation from the phone increases activity in two parts of the brain: the orbitofrontal cortex (ditto again) and the temporal area (not so much).

The temporal area is widely considered to be associated with language and memory.  This could explain why some people talk so loudly on their cellphones. The radiation from the antenna is interfering with their ability to remember to use their inside voices!

The orbitofrontal cortex is associated with smell and eating, which could explain why so many people like to use their cellphones in restaurants. The cellphone radiation is triggering their orbitofrontal cortex and therefore, when they feel the need to pull out their phones in order to feel important and/or look cool, they don't realize how much they stink. Emotion and aggression are two other areas the orbitofrontal cortex is believed to control. I think this goes a long way toward explaining all the people who manage to get into arguments with their girlfriends/boyfriends/mothers/brothers, etc., when they happen to be on their cellphones while sitting directly behind me on the CTA.

A neurosurgeon quoted in the article expressed some concern on the affects of this radiation on kids. According to the USA Today, the chairman of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA, Keith Black, says their less developed skulls and brains are more susceptible to it. I think I may trot this argument out the next time my daughter goes over her monthly minutes limit.  "It's not about the money, dear. It's about good brain health!"

Unfortunately, all this information about cellphones and radiation is just one more thing for us moms to worry about. I'm afraid if I think about it too much, it'll make my brain's blood glucose over-metabolize. (My joke about positronic emissions wasn't suitable for this publication.) Perhaps one solution would be to simply turn on my cellphone, hold it to my ear and let the radiation zap it from my memory, which is controlled by the orbitofrontal cortex, you know.



Chicago Election 2011

Today I did my civic duty and voted. I voted for a new Mayor and a new Alderman and a few other candidates running unopposed. And then I went home and did what every good citymom tells her children to do: I washed my hands with soap and water.
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I mean honestly, this is the best we can do? We've got a candidate from the North Shore whose time spent inside the city limits doesn't meet this Chicagoan's standard of residency and I wonder if his children have ever even set foot in a Chicago Public School. We have another candidate that worked for the Chicago Board of Education, when, at the time, CPS had a high drop out rate. And even though I've never been strung-out on crack, I seem to remember another candidate getting into some pretty tight spots concerning her use of campaign money.

For the first time since I was eighteen, I debated not even bothering to vote. But I didn't want to send that kind of message to my kids. So I voted, but that doesn't mean I had to like it. 

Chicago has plenty of smart, honest people with plenty of integrity. We're in the Midwest, for crying out loud! But I guess all those people are smart enough to not run for mayor. They probably sense what I do: the departure of Mayor Daley, and so many Alderman all at once feels very much like rats fleeing a sinking ship.

I hope whomever ends up in office they will be able to turn around the fiscal mess this city is in. And not with new taxes.

I wish our new mayor and city council all the best. They will need it. Now, sit up straight.



Funny Family Photos: The Un-Contest

I think that I shall never see...a soccer ball stuck in a tree.
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acitymom is inviting all parents out there to participate in my blog by sending in a photo of something crazy, funny or just plain odd that you thought you would never see, or should never see or maybe wish you'd never seen, all because you have kids doing crazy things around your house.  Email them to me at: kim(@)kimstrickland.com, with a description/explanation/excuse and I will post them here. I'm betting someone out there can do better than waking up to see a soccer ball in their tree!


License to be a Dork

As the State of Illinois debates selling advertising on license plates (Seriously, they are. Like, "The Land of Lincoln, Lincoln, Better Carpeting for Less.") I would like to establish a campaign of my own. A campaign against drivers advertising they're dorks via their license plates. You've seen them. The vanity plates you love to hate. Some are funny. Others simply display how an innocent attempt at cool can go terribly wrong.
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The ones I love to hate the most are the ones about flying. Here's a photo my husband sent me the other day. It ranks right up there with the license plate holder that says, "I'd Rather Be Flying" or the bumper sticker that says "My Other Car is an Airplane."  Nothing screams "loser" much louder. Do these people really think anyone out there cares they're really a pilot, but today they're just disguised as a Camry driver, slumming it up on the Kennedy with the rest of us lowly earthbound folks? These are the dorks that give the rest of us flying dorks a bad name. I'll bet they still actually use those flight instrument coasters. (Okay, self-disclosure. Yes, I have them, too. But they were a gift. I haven't used them in 20 years. And I gave that Cessna piston ashtray to my brother-in-law.)
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The Altimeter has gone missing after twenty-nine years.

I'm reminded of a Captain who got vanity plates for his wife. They said, "CZI." And she never knew what hit her. That, I thought, is funny. Funny and cool. Cool, because only a real pilot would get it and for anyone else who saw the license plate, a pretty benign message. "Perhaps they're her initials?"  an observer might think. To explain to the non-pilots out there, navigation aids called VOR's are given three letter identifiers. For example, "ORD" is the identifier for the VOR at O'Hare, "AVE "is the identifier of the Avenal VOR, over Avenal, California and CZI is the identifier for a VOR in Wyoming called, "Crazy Woman."

So if you want to advertise you're a flying dork, put "IFLYDUU" on your license plate and whip out your runway beach towel at Oak Street this summer. The rest of us will try hard not to roll our eyes too obviously, the way everyone in surrounding states like Wisconsin and Iowa surely will if they see us driving through with our Illinois Peace license plates advertising Dove soap.


No Talking Dogs Allowed

My children have recently become enamored with a YouTube video I'm trying desperately to hide from my dog. If she happens to watch, and then gets any ideas, I'm doomed. Talking Dogs

When I walk in the door to my house after a trip, I get the "Mamas?" All three of my kids clamoring for my attention. "Mama? What's for dinner?" "Mama? You need to sign my permission slip." "Mama? I need three vats of glue and some Argentinean Alpaca wool for my Social Studies diorama...due tomorrow."

I imagine I should be happy with the "Mama's?" It means my children are happy to see me. And with two teenagers and one twelve-year-old who acts like one, that ought to mean something.

My favorite Mama? is "What's for dinner?" I've been gone for three days. I have no idea what's even left in the fridge (usually, not much) after three days, much less what's for dinner, which means dinner is usually, at that particular moment in time, a frozen brick in the bottom of the freezer.

Once I worked with a Captain who said all his family members were prohibited from talking to him for 24 hours after he returned from an international trip, unless he decided for some reason, to lift the imposed embargo himself. And his family abided by this rule. Really. I had to laugh. Only a man could get away with that. As a mom, and therefore chief controller and central dispatch coordinator of the household, if I were to try to instill this policy, all Home Base operations would shut-down within 36 hours of my arrival. No field trips. No birthday presents for friends. And certainly no Argentinean Alpaca wool by tomorrow. Besides, I'd have about as much luck getting this no-talking policy invoked as I've had trying to lose these last five pounds by eating acai berries.

What really puts me over the edge is when my babysitter starts in, giving me the update on everything that's gone wrong since my departure. After a ten hour flight? On two hours of sleep? Good times. At one point, I did try to follow the aforementioned Captain's lead to a degree, by instilling the policy that no one could complain to me, or tell me any bad news, for one entire hour after I got home. The good news is, it worked. The bad news is, it only lasted about three weeks.

So these days when I return home from a trip, I find myself approaching my door with a mixture of joy and trepidation. Joy, that I'm home and will soon be embraced into the bosom of my family with a chorus of the "Mamas?" plus a dog who will greet me with a happy tail wagging. Trepidation that those Mamas?, if they trend too negative, could end up grating on my nerves like, well like an earful of complaints on two hours of sleep. The only thing that could possibly make it worse, would be a dog that chimes in, having learned some new tricks from a certain YouTube video.

The Binny's Factor: Does TomTom need a Knucklehead app?

Whenever I ask my husband what time he'll be home from work, he'll give me the ETA based on his iPhone's TomTom app. Unfortunately for me, the TomTom app does not include the Binny's factor: the delay that will inevitably ensue if it takes him down an "alternate route" that passes by a Binny's Beverage Depot. This usually happens, coincidentally and more often than not, on Fridays. Extra time to destination? Twenty minutes. Minimum.

But who can blame the guy? He's worked hard all week. He wants a little reward for the weekend and if you've ever been to a Binny's, well, then, you understand why a person as in love with specialty beers as my husband can't just walk in and grab a six pack of Miller Light. In fact, I'm on dangerous ground just mentioning my husband and Miller Light in the same sentence.

We like to eat dinner together as a family because we've read all the studies and we don't want to destroy our childrens' futures anymore than we already have. His estimation of his arrival time at home has long been a bone of contention for us. I've been telling him for years he needs to do a better job of setting my expectations. If he realistically thinks he'll be home at 7:30, then he shouldn't tell me, optimistically, that he'll be home at 7:15. This will make me mad. Mad because when he arrives at 7:30, dinner will either be cold or burnt. He should tell me he'll arrive at 7:45, even 8:00, and this way, when he walks in the door early, I'll be so happy. Granted, this would be weird. A happy Kim greeting him. Perhaps he's aware of the undue toll this shock this would take on his system and so chooses to avoid it at all costs.

He used to take the El to work and his expectation setting was much more accurate then, within plus or minus five minutes based on when he got on the train. Now that he drives, even with all the technology, his guesses at his arrival times are all over the map. And of course, all bets are off when someone happens to walk into his office right before he leaves. Perhaps, I should just choose to do a better job of setting my own expectations.

I have an idea. Maybe I could suggest an app update to the folks at TomTom--the Expectation Setter! For any man married to a woman who wonders what time he'll be home, it will add a marital buffer. A fifteen to twenty-minute pad of time that will thrill her if you beat it or, at the very least, not have her so pissed off at your thirty-minute late arrival that she throws a burnt pork chop at you. I think this would be a great boost to the overall happiness of married couples everywhere. Perhaps they could even work in a Knucklehead App. You know, one that would navigate him to a florist on your anniversary.

Yesterday, dinner was dangerously close to being complete and my husband had, once again, exceeded his ETA.  Binny's, I though angrily.  But then, no. My husband walked through the door with roses. Historically we don't even exchange cards on Valentine's day; the ignoring of this totally commercial holiday normally our only gift to each other. And yet, there he was, twenty minutes late with a bouquet of red roses. Aww.

Maybe those folks at TomTom are way ahead of me.

Melancholy? You're soaking in it. When a good manicure goes bad.

My manicurist is depressing. Melancholy: He's soaking in it. This is not a good trait to have if you're in the business of trying to make women feel good, because after all, what woman goes to get her nails done because she wants to feel bad?

About once a month or so I try to scrape together the time to go to the nail salon and I've been going to the same place for over five years now. I continue to go back because it's close and cheap and they do a great job and I rarely have to wait. However, there's this one guy who works there. When I see him, I cringe. Oh no, please not him.  

When he does my manicure, he'll start-in talking about work. His work. My work. Doesn't matter; he'll be complaining. I get plenty of complaining at home. I didn't come here for complaining. Or he'll ask questions about my day job. "Why are airfares so high?"  Or be accusing: "Your airline lost my bag in 1996!" I'll get right on that. "Why do so many pilots drink too much?" I don't know but this one could use a little something right now. He talks about the bad news that's playing on the TV. He talks about terrorism and war and anti-American sentiment and the recession and crime and oh, God, why couldn't he just talk about the weather, or flowers, the new polish shades for spring? Or even the Cubs? 

I guess when you get right down to it, a man in a nail salon is still hard for me to take, as much as I like to consider myself open-minded to this type of thing. As much as I would like to send all three of my men to one to get their talons hewn. And for some reason I still feel uncomfortable having a straight man do my nails. I believe this would be the case even if he didn't depress the hell out of me with his Eeyore banter.

This place I go to has these really cool massage chairs and one time a man was sitting next to me and even though I thought, Okay. I'm cool with this, I found out I really wasn't as soon as the massage chair went to high vibrate and sent my girls a flying. You see, a salon should be a respite from fear of ogling. A bastion of femininity. A place where the girls can jiggle in a massage chair without fear of impunity!

I suppose I shouldn't be so sexist. I've been known to take my sons to the barbershop, the proverbial bastion of masculinity. And I love the barbershop. It's quiet there. [Al's Barbershop -acitymom 2006]

My talons are in need of hewing and I probably should just do them myself, but I'm cautiously optimistic I might be able to carve out an hour this afternoon to get over to the salon for a dose of pampering and, if that guy is there, a dose of melancholy as well. Indeed, the price of beauty can be painful.


City of Chicago Alley Plowing is "Not Policy"

It seems a lot of city folk are concerned about whether or not the city will plow the alleys. The answer, apparently, is "No."  It's not the city's policy to clear the alleys. We received the following in an email from our Alderman yesterday, Snow Plowing Update. And yet, as I wrote yesterday (Blizzard 2011-Groundhog Day Edition) the city will give tickets to private plows. My neighbor said the guy she talked to with the plow on the front of his truck showed her his ticket or she wouldn't have believed it herself. He even showed her his order to appear in court.

Our block and the people on the block behind us banded together and were able to clear about half of our alley, enabling about half of our respective cars to get out to the side streets. Let's just hope the city ticketers don't come after the guy next door who was using his snow blower!

I get it that sometimes plowing an alley can cause more trouble in terms of blocking people in, but with such a large amount of snow and so few places to put it, it seems like it really couldn't hurt. I'm hesitant to suggest making alley plowing a policy, however. Just got the 1st Installment tax bill yesterday, too. Wish we'd piled all that alley snow on the front porch.

Best of luck out there!

The Chicago Blizzard of 2011--Groundhog Day Edition

Snow Day! I don't now who's more excited about no school today, me or my kids...

Okay, I thought YESTERDAY was Groundhog Day. Yes, today is another snow day, and frankly, I'm still happy about it. I don't have to go to work this week because my Wednesday trip cancelled (Woot!) and I loved that we all slept in and don't have much to do because there's not much we can do, except maybe ruminate on the Great Blizzard of 2011.
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Tanya is close, but IMHO using bushes to reach the garage roof is cheating.

The third biggest blizzard? Big whoop. I still can't stand on the snow and lean on my garage roof, so, yawn. (Can I be the first to say I told you so?"We'll See")

Favorite Blizzard Prep: The guy leaving Costco Tuesday morning pushing a cart with nothing in it except two large jugs of whiskey.

My husband, daughter and son Kyle decided to go for "a walk" on Tuesday night during the storm. You know, for the memories. My other son Ethan and I (the smart ones) felt we already had plenty of memories and didn't need to add any like this one. The three of them were gone a long time and I started to worry--but later found out they'd helped push two cars out of the alley. I just hope the folks they pushed out didn't go on to take Lake Shore Drive.

When I let my dog out yesterday morning, she wouldn't just "go" in the back yard. In a most selfless act of sacrifice, she leapt headlong into a four foot snow drift and promptly disappeared. Forcing me to leap headlong---Okay. No I didn't. But I did get close enough to said snowdrift to find her head poking up on the other side as she did her duty in the dog run. Good dog.

Good Karma. We were able to lend a couple of gallons of gas to the guy two doors down who always takes his snowblower up and down the whole street and does everybody's sidewalk.

In our alley, everyone had dug out in front of their garage, but with two feet of snow down the center of the alley...
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As Kyle put it when he watched people digging out their cars on our impassable side street, "What's your destination?"  In an unprecedented act of community, everyone pitched in with shovels and snowblowers and cleared the alley all the way to the street.  There were about twenty people out there at one point. (An aside to the City of Chicago: My next door neighbor saw a truck with a plow on the front and offered to pay him to clear the alley. He said he'd love to, but Chicago considers the alley City Property and he'd just received a court date and a $250 fine for plowing someone else's alley. I'm a card-carrying union member, too, and I'm guessing this has something to do with the Streets and San union, but doesn't this strike you as a little ridiculous?)

I think my favorite memory will be the sense of community Blizzard 2011 created. I talked to neighbors I'd never met before. My daughter played outside with a large group all day, the parents taking turns chaperoning, either at the parking lot on the corner (good sledding!) in backyards or in houses. At one point I had four young girls in my kitchen eating and drinking hot chocolate. And eating. And eating.

The day reminded me of all the times we now romanticize about when I was growing up. When you went out to play and there were tons of kids around and parents didn't worry because they knew someone was looking out.
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"What's your destination?"
So, thanks fellow City Moms and City Dads and Neighbors and Friends. For looking out for each other.


The Chicago Blizzard of 2011--Snow Day!

Snow day! I don't know who's more excited about no school today, me or my kids. I think me.  After spending two days running around doing blizzard prep (making sure we had enough food on hand to feed two teenage boys and one twelve-year-old girl who eats like one) today I am looking forward to, well, nothing.
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just a swingin'

Trying to get kids out of the house these days is not like I remember it when I was a kid, when your mom said go outside and play and you innocently did, only to hear the door lock click behind you, then the sliding of the deadbolts and the unmistakable slam of the two-by-four landing in its metal bracket. Actually, I think my generation tends to romanticize our memories of playing outside all day. I seem to remember my mom frequently having to forcibly peel me away from Gilligan's Island reruns to get me into the back yard.
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Go outside and ride your bike.

It's the same way with my kids, but only in the summer and with my boys much more so than my daughter. They hate playing outside when it's warm out.  "There are bugs out there." In the winter, different story. I can't keep them inside. They look at me with bright red cheeks and blue lips and swear they're not cold. I have to coax them in with tales of hot cocoa and cookies, which can only keep them in the house long enough for their snow pants to de-slushify in the dryer.

Yesterday, my daughter and her friend wanted to play outside around four p.m., you know, when the snow wasn't coming down as much as it was blowing by us horizontally. I did hesitate, but then decided No. I didn't think it would be any fun. It was too bitter cold and getting dark and I didn't want to have to explain to the friend's mother how I lost "Kaylie" under a snowdrift in the back yard.

Today, first thing (well, maybe after pancakes), all three of them will be out there.  Maybe I'll even  throw on my big girl snow pants and join them.  After all, when was the last time I got to play on a snow day?

The Chicago Blizzard of 2011--We'll See...

"We haven't had a blizzard since we've been living in this house." My husband said this on Saturday. Out loud. Days before Snowmaggedon was a glimmer in Tommy Skilling's eye. Therefore, I lay the blame for our impending snowstorm squarely on his shoulders.
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Cheryl. Blizzard of '79

He was heading out to the garage to try to get the snowblower started. I'd tried for the first time this winter a couple of weeks ago when we had those few inches of the light fluffy stuff. Yeah. I'm that wimpy. I couldn't get it going no matter how many times I pulled that damn rope. I thought maybe it didn't have any gas, so I found a container of what I thought was the snowblower special cocktail (gasoline mixed with motor oil)(No olive) and dumped it in.

If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck. Right? Well, apparently you're not supposed to put the gas you drain from your motorcycle into your snowblower, because it makes it belch out large puffs of black smoke and honk, not like a duck, but a congested goose. We learned this Saturday when my husband did finally get it started. The day I tried, and failed, I had to fall back on my favorite form of snow removal: Kyle and Ethan.

I told one of my pilot co-workers the story and he showed me a picture of his snowblower. (I know. Most of the guys have pictures of their boats or small planes or girlfriends. Sometimes the wife. But he's also a professional photographer on the side, so we'll forgive him.) Granted he lives on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, but this thing was tricked-out. With a dashboard that rivaled something Boeing manufactures, it had a bunch of speeds and gears and a headlight and I think even XM radio. The only thing missing was the mudflap with that impossibly shaped chrome Barbie chick. You know, if snowblowers needed mudflaps.

As I was doing my blizzard prep at the Jewel yesterday ("Bread! We need fourteen loaves of bread!" I heard one panicked shopper cry as she filled her cart. Not really. But the bread aisle did look frighteningly like the bread aisle of a southern grocery store when the forecast calls for a snowflake. It was picked clean over.) the cashier and bagger got into a squabble about blizzards, each of them trying to get me to side with them on which one was the worst.
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Kim and Tammy the dog. Blizzard of '79

Now I remember, vaguely,the blizzard of '67. I was four. My dad was late getting home and mom was worried. I do remember the blizzard of '79. We went sledding. And it became the gold-standard for me in terms of snow depth measurement. I mean if you can't lean against the garage roof while holding your best friend's dog, then it just shouldn't count as a blizzard. This is why the blizzard of '99, the only one my sons have been through, pales for me in comparison. For my daughter, every winter in Khabarovsk was one constant blizzard, so she is derisive of our impending light dusting of snow.

We'll see how the blizzard of 2011 stacks up. We're fully prepped. Fifteen loaves of bread (can't be too careful), four D-cell batters, a gallon of milk, and a functioning snowblower that has caused all overflying geese to turn their V-formation around and descend upon our garage roof. I only hope I don't someday end up in another argument at the Jewel with a cashier and a bagger about how none of their blizzards could stack up to the blizzard of 2011.

14 Karat PMS

Shortly after my wedding I bent a prong on my wedding ring while I was at work. I totally freaked out thinking I might lose something as sentimental as the diamond my husband used to propose to me. The very next day I went to Venture (Remember Venture stores?) and bought myself a plain gold band for about seventy-five dollars. It didn't take too long before the plain gold band was all scratched up, so I brought it to a jeweler to have them etch a cross-hatch pattern into it to make it look like it was supposed to be all scratched up. I wanted a wedding band I didn't have to worry about.
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I don't wear it all the time, but my plain band comes in handy. Not only do I use it for work, but I also wear it when I go for a run, or need to paint the front porch. I think I'd had it for several years before I'd noticed there was some sort of small inscription inside.

It says, "PMS 14K."

I laughed out loud for a full minute. Just imagine some poor guy in a gold wedding ring factory somewhere, inscribing women's rings with the abbreviation "PMS." I don't know if this was someone's idea of a joke or the initials of the manufacturer or some clue about the quality of the gold. One friend, when I told him about it, asked me if the ring ever glowed orange when I put it on, as some form of monthly warning to those around me.

"No. It doesn't," came my indignant reply.

But what a great feature that would be. This way my husband and kids, even the dog, could run from the room before I lost my mind and started a Fourteen Carat hormonal tirade about the dirty laundry left on the dining room floor. (That was Monday. Hormones or not, I was rightly mad. I mean, how far out of your way do you have to go to leave dirty laundry on the floor of the dining room?) It would be even better if I could turn on the feature myself, make the ring glow orange to send my family scattering when I want some alone time. Maybe it could even beam me back to a mothership.

My PMS band is pretty wide (I wanted the message, "I am married," to be loud and clear) and I don't like to sleep with it on. This means when I'm on the road it stays out on the dresser instead of in a jewelry box like at home. This week, I panicked when I though I'd lost it. Apparently my utilitarian, no-worry wedding band has become, almost, as sentimental as the diamond ring I got married in. (I found it under my socks. I get to keep laundry on the dresser.)

It makes sense. This band has been a part of my work life and running life for the past twenty years. It even has a built in joke. It's irreplaceable. Now, if I could only find a way to make it glow orange.

Who's the Winner Now?

My son Ethan placed at his school's science fair and therefore he has the honor of competing at the city level. Just when I thought the science fair process had become completely painless for me, it of course, becomes not painless.

He and his science fair partner did do all of the work themselves. Although there was the one day when Ethan said he needed to cut up two brand new pairs of running shoes in order to complete the experiment. (The project is about which running shoes have better cushioning for distance running. I'd tell you the winner, but only if Nike promises to send me an enormous check.) My son wears men's size 13 running shoes and as anyone who owns any men's size 13 running shoes knows, the purchase of said shoes requires a home equity line of credit.  

"No," I told him. "No shoe surgery." 
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I mean honestly. I'm in favor of money for education, but I think I already spend enough in taxes and no one should have to spend that kind of money on a science fair project. Thankfully a less costly compromise was reached with their Science teacher and no dissecting of shoes was required. Unfortunately, Kyle is my aspiring scientist. Kyle's science fair project did not place. He does not get to go to the city competition and while he appeared to take his brother's success well, I could tell he wasn't particularly thrilled with it. 

Competition among siblings is to be expected. Competition among identical twins, I suppose, can be expected to be fierce. I've done what I can over the years to prevent it from escalating into something awful. I've often said, "Don't compete," but if we're completely honest, then we all know that's not realistic. They do need to understand that they will go back and forth, with one of them then the other getting a better grade/running faster/you fill in the blank here. I tell them a little competition can be good, in that it forces you to try harder, to push yourself. But you can't let it get away from you. You can't let it take over and run your life and that the most important person you'll ever compete with is yourself. If you feel you gave your best effort, that you are doing better than the last time, which won't be every time, then you've won. This is all wonderful advice coming from someone who is one of the most competitive women alive. The irony of this is not lost on my children.

We encourage the use of humor to soften the blows whenever we can. Hopefully the gentle teasings between the two of them blows off enough energy to prevent it from becoming real teasing or more seriously, real jealousy or anger.

The citywide science fair is Friday and Ethan gets to go. He gets to spend all day there. And he gets to miss a full day...off. At home. Because there's no school on Friday. And he's not particularly thrilled with that. As we were discussing the logistics of getting him there and back and how annoyed I was (because it just wouldn't be January in Chicago if I weren't annoyed by the Science Fair,  A City Mom, Science Fair 2007) that we'd heard nothing from his school or teacher about where and when he needed to be and for how long. Even Ethan showed a certain lack of enthusiasm for spending an entire day off at a school related activity and it was here that Kyle won. First place. With a perfectly timed and perfectly pitched quip: "Who's the winner now?"