Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Follow the paper trail

As the girls get older, it seems like every activity has more and more paperwork. Lately I've had the girls sit at the table to fill out as much as they can. Whenever they complain, I remind them that it's not my job to put pen to paper to fill in the details they already know. 

They know their names, birth date, address, phone number and emergency contact information. They can answer basic questions about their health. They know their pediatrician's phone number. There is no reason they can't be responsible for some of their paperwork.

I tell them that if they are going to be more responsible for their lives, they need to understand how much behind-the-scenes work going into their activities. They are pretty good about it, especially when they point out that the people reading the paperwork will probably be happier that their neat handwriting is on the forms. I would have protested, but they are correct. My handwriting is terrible. If that's what it takes to get them to do the work, I'll take it.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Can't the men stay home?

I was driving the blond twin and Erin home from track camp when Erin started talking about her Mom's career change. She explained that her Mom was studying math for hours on end. She paused before saying that her Mom wished that she hadn't quit working when Erin and her sister were born. Or at least she wished that she had gone back to work sooner. 

We were talking about how hard it is to have just one income these days. Whether or not one person has a good income, jobs are not as stable as they once were. People end up changing jobs for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance.

We talked about how important it was for the girls to think about what they wanted to do since they needed to plan to work for their whole lives. I said that they might take time off when they have a baby, but they should plan to go back to work. 

The blond twin said, "Why can't the men stay home?"

I smiled and said, "You are right. The men can stay home too. There's no rule that says the woman has to stay home." We then talked about a friend whose Father stays home with her while her Mom worked. Both her parents worked when she was little and then her Father was downsized out of his job. They made a family decision that he would stay home for a while. Now that their friend is a little older, Dad has gone back to work. He was talking about going back to school to change his career.

The girls talked about all the things they wanted to do with their careers. They talked about how they would stay home with their babies for a while and their husbands could stay home for a while. It was so enlightening to realize that they live in a world where their futures are limited only by their imaginations. I'm not naive about anything. I know it's not as easy as just deciding and making it happen. There will always be obstacles in any plan. The first step, though, is to believe it can happen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Random acts of fish kindness

We were sitting at the Sting/Peter Gabriel concert when the blond twin texted me. She said, "I was wondering if I could win a fish and buy a starter tank and I will buy the food and real tank and everything it needs with my allowance money please mom."

I thought for a moment and texted back, "Sure." 

It's not that I really thought we needed fish, but these are carnival gold fish. If they lived a year that would be a long time. She really seemed to want the gold fish, so why not?

After the concert we picked up the girls at a friend's house. They arrived at Caroline's house not long before we did. The blond twin was giddy about her new fish. She bounced into the car with two gold fish in plastic bags, a plastic "starter" fish tank and a small container of fish food. 

We washed the fish tank and put the two fish into the clean water. She promised to take care of the fish and made plans as she went to bed. She woke up with even more plans.

Later she told us about a girl at the festival who won a fish, promptly opened the bag so the fish fell to the ground and them stepped on the fish. The blond twin was horrified that the girl killed the fish. She said, "I rescued Thor and Loki so no one would be able to kill them."

She even put "rescued Thor and Loki" on her Random Acts of Kindness chart. She takes her actions very seriously. 

When she gets on my nerves (oh, and today has been one of those days) I want to remember that sweet, compassionate girl who wanted to save two gold fish. It's that part of her personality that makes us proud of the young adult she's becoming.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The best $40 we ever spent

Our town has a yearly festival. For $40 you can purchase a mega-band, which allows the wearer to go from ride to ride to ride for the full four days the festival is in town. 

Last year we thought about purchasing a mega-band, but never got around to it. This year we purchased them for both girls. The plan was for them to go to with friends by themselves. It was a step towards independence that they were anxious to take. As we planned the outings, the parents sorted the four nights so someone would be on-site. Of course we weren't allowed to be seen with the girls, but someone would be there. 

We hosted two sleepovers, so the girls could continue the fun after the festival. There were girls and blankets and things everywhere. The first night I shut down the party early. Two girls were falling asleep as they told me how much they wanted to stay up all night. The next morning the girls woke up ready to have some fun. 

The second night I woke up about midnight to a barking dog. The girls decided to watch Life of Pi. Every time Holly saw an animal, she barked. 

The girls spent four nights hanging out with friends at the festival. They had a great time going on rides and eating junk food. They reveled in their new independence. Next year we'll drop-off and pick-up without a formal schedule. The girls are already making plans.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

More than just a cover

I walked into the brunette twin's room to find her jumping on her bed. At this point we're waiting for her new mattress to be delivered, so her "bed" was just a mattress on the floor. As soon as I saw her, I stopped and stared.

On her bed was the "baby" quilt I made her. I never made a traditional baby quilt. I collected t-shirts from the time they were born until about second grade. I cute the most interesting designs and created a twin sized quilt mapping their baby days to early elementary school. Watching her jumping on it nearly stopped my heart. I actually couldn't speak other than to yell at her to stop jumping. When she stopped I left the room.

A while later when I recovered, I went back to her room. I told both girls that when I made their quilts, I wasn't creating a blanket. I was creating a memory book for them to share with their children. One day I hoped that they would wrap their babies in the quilts and tell them stories about each t-shirt. 

The brunette twin seemed sad that she jumped on the quilt, but I'm not sure she really understood my story. She seemed mostly upset that I was upset. Some day I hope they will look at the quilts and realize how much love went into making them. For now I'll settle for keeping the girls from jumping on them. It's a small victory that I hope will preserve the quilts for future generations.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Late nights and lots of laughter

It was 2:30 a.m. when I dragged myself down the stairs into the basement. I found the girls and their friends playing "Beat the Parents" with the music blasting around them. They were laughing so hard they snorted and cried. It was wonderful.

We promised them that they could have lots of sleepovers this summer. They started asking nearly as soon as we came back from Spring Break. It was nearly top of their summer activity list. 

They have been busy with other activities, so sleepovers just rose to the top of the list. The girls and their friends camp out in the basement with their sleeping bags and stuff. They come upstairs when they are hungry or need a bathroom. Otherwise they stay in the basement doing whatever middle school girls do. 

All we know is there is plenty of laughter floating through the vents. It seems that their sleepover plans are as much fun as they had hoped.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Great Backyard Camp Out

I was looking for summer activities when I found the Great American Backyard Camp Out. This program encourages people to spend the night outside. Our Girl Scout troop loved the idea. The girls wanted to go tent camping, but I vetoed the idea. It wasn't that I didn't want to do it. The reality was I didn't have time to complete all the extra training required to take the girls into the local forest preserves for a night. A backyard, though? We were in.  

Between us we had everything we needed. One girl had a tent. Another had a screen house. We brought the bean bag game and s'mores ingredients. Each family brought some food, lots of bug spray and glow-in-the-dark stuff. 

Jhanae's father laughed at the idea that the girls thought they were camping in his backyard. He said as long as they had access to indoor plumbing it wasn't really camping. He trained with the British military, though, so his standards were a big higher than the rest of us. Jhanae's mother had a full activity schedule which culminated with a midnight movie.

By the time the girls arrived they were bubbling with excitement. The build-up to sleeping outside rivaled any championship game. They started by putting up the tent and screen house. We watched them work together before we left them for the evening.

The forecast called for a possible shower and sure enough we heard the rain start just before sunrise. It poured off and on for about an hour. 

When we the girls finally called about 11:00 a.m. for their pick-up, we found out that they hadn't slept much. Of course, we didn't expect them to sleep. I arrived to hear them in the backyard giggling. Other parents were there already. The girls were an energetic group for girls who hadn't slept much. They told stories of night swimming, a midnight movie that lasted until 2:30 a.m., waking up early when the rain started and playing games all night long. They had so much fun they couldn't stop talking over each other. 

It might not have been deep woods camping, but it was a great experience for all six girls. They already asked if they could do it again next year. We agreed, as long as Jhanae's parents agreed to host. None of us want to try to live up to their high standards.