Saturday, February 18, 2017

Universal day two

After exploring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, we ventured outside to the other attractions. We were at Universal Studios, having taken the Hogwarts Express from one park to the other.

What was really impressive at the attractions at both locations was the attention to detail. When we went to the Simpsons attraction, we heard the correct character voices throughout the ride. It wasn't as if the on-screen production was a cut and paste job pulled out of different episodes. These were unique stories with the real actors.

We were a little disappointed in Universal Studios. There were not that many attractions to keep the girls busy. When we were at Islands of Adventure, we had something to do at every turn. If there was a unifying theme to the attractions, it was the use of simulation screens. Most of the rides were a mix of motion and simulated screens. At first this was a little disorienting. By the time we went on the rides for a second time (and we did manage to go on most rides a second time) we were used to the format.

It was strange how watching a screen could make you feel like you were falling dozens of stories towards a certain crash. The graphics were really that good. Most of the rides had some kind of spin or jolt along the way to keep you from getting too comfortable in your seat.

The best rides, though, were the traditional roller coasters. We rode the Wizarding World of Harry Potter roller coasters over and over again. This ride took us upside down, through cork screws and on steep drops. We finished one ride and immediately went back into line to do it again. There were two tracks. We rode them both until we couldn't do it any more. The girls went crazy for The Hulk. They also rode the 'Rockin Roller Coaster, although the blond twin was happier with that ride than her twin.

We ended day two tired and happy, which is the best way to end a fun day at an amusement park.

Friday, February 17, 2017

It lived up to the hype

We decided to take the girls to visit Universal Orlando's Harry Potter World a few weeks ago. We had been talking about taking them there for a while. The stars aligned and we had the opportunity to take them for President's Day weekend.

Every time I talked to anyone who had already been there, they raved about the experience. They talked about how authentic it felt and how much fun it was to be among so many other Harry Potter fan. They raved about the activities, especially the magic wand.

We arrived in Orlando about 5:00 p.m., ate dinner and went to bed early. As part of our Harry Potter package, we received park admission one hour before it opened to the general public. We were going to be there as soon as possible.

As we walked into the park, the crowd started moving more quickly. The Harry Potter activities were located at the far end of the park. Everyone did a funny race walk as everyone wanted to move quickly, but not so quickly as to take a fall. It was entertaining to watch everyone race walk through the park. Every area had a different path floor. Some were pretty slick with morning dew. I'm not sure anyone really looked around at the attractions as they race walked to Hogwarts. I certainly did not look around as we move to the main event.

When we arrived at the Hogwarts arch, the Hogwarts express engine was smoking. A conductor welcomed us to Hogwarts. The brunette twin, our resident Harry Potter fanatic, gasped when she walked through the arch. She said, "I can't believe I'm here."

We rode the rides, purchased a wand and had breakfast at Leaky Cauldron. The streets were full of young wizards and witches in full Hogwarts attire. Wands were flying. Guests were pointing and staring and gaping. Everyone was so happy to be part of the experience.

Even before we made it to Diagon Alley in the other park, the Harry Potter attractions lived up to the hype. It was as magical as we hoped. The girls were enchanted and so were we.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The root of the problem

Just before the girls went back to school after Winter Break, they went for haircuts. I talked to our stylist and left them in her hands. When I came back, both girls were beaming. The brunette twin chopped off about 6 inches of the hombre she had done when school first started. The blond twin's hair stopped me cold. It wasn't highlighted as we discussed. It was blond, think white blond.

I just stared while I clenched my teeth. I always told the girls that I didn't care what they did to their hair as long as it was a natural color when they started applying for jobs. The brunette twin has had purple hair, blond hombre designs and general highlights. The blond twin hasn't really done anything crazy until she showed up as a white blond.

The kids at school started calling her Elsa, like Frozen's lead character. I referred to her as Drako, as in the Harry Potter character. We settled on Elsa as it seemed more fitting.

The problem with her hair wasn't that she had it dyed white blond. It was the ongoing maintenance required to either keep it blond or let it grow out in some natural way. Friday night we had an exciting time coloring her roots. The dark growth was driving me crazy because it was starting to bleed through all over her head. The blond twin asked why it started growing out so quickly. I walked into the house with a hair color kit and we fixed the problem.

We're in this for the long haul at this point. Her long, blond hair is destined to remain blond, even if it becomes an ongoing project.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

And then we marched

We hadn't planned to join the women's march in Chicago today. I had been following the march's development on the official Facebook page and through news reports. I thought about going, but things were so chaotic that I never really gave it much thought.

A few days ago we made plans to meet Aunt Linda at the Chicago History Museum. The weather forecast looked great. As luck would have it, we had a Groupon certificate about to expire.

As we drove down, we talked about the women's march. I told the girls that some day their children would read about it in their history books. The girls asked, "Why aren't we going to it?" I paused with all kinds of thoughts and then said, "I didn't think you'd be interested." They both protested. I reminded them that we had plans with Aunt Linda. We'd go to the next march or rally, I promised. Given the Trump administration's position on so many issues, I was sure there would be another rally or march.

When we arrived at the Chicago History Museum, the girls told Aunt Linda that they saw the marchers gathering. They told her about the snowplows blocking streets and the barricades. She told them she thought about going as she had so many friends marching. They looked at us and said, "Can we go?" A few minutes later we were all in the car. Daddy drove us as close as he could to the march. He dropped us and went back to park the car near the Chicago History Museum.

From the moment we left the car we saw people moving towards the march with protest signs, funny t-shirts and pink hats. It was a party atmosphere everywhere we went. We joined the march on Jackson and State Streets, already in progress, a few blocks from where we thought the rally was going to take place.

Aunt Linda and I looked at each other as we passed the block where we thought we'd turn to go to the rally. Instead we kept walking and chanting and clapping. The crowd was loud and rowdy. Parents walked with kids. Friends walked together. People stood on the sidewalks holding signs. It was amazing and inspiring.

As we turned onto LaSalle Street, we saw a sea of people in front of and behind us. We had no idea where we were going and we didn't care. We were having so much fun that we just kept marching, chanting and clapping. As we crossed intersections, we could see that the marchers were doubling-back on Dearborn, so we knew that we'd turn again soon. We just couldn't figure out where the marcher were going so we just kept following along.

At LaSalle and Lake Streets, we stopped to talk to a security person. She said the march was so much larger than they expected that the route kept changing. She said they expected 50,000 people and the last time she heard anything they thought they had 75,000 people. She didn't even know where it was ending anymore.

We decided to get a cab and meet Daddy back at the Chicago History Museum. When we got into the cab, the news reports said there were 150,000 people. The girls couldn't stop talking about the experience as we ate lunch. They had story after story after story to tell Daddy. Aunt Linda sent the girls some images so they could post them on social media.

By the time we headed home, the number had grown to 250,000 people. The march was so big that the organizers and the city officials decided to hold a rally rather than a full-scale march. They had a massive rally from Michigan Avenue to Lake Short Drive. The images were simply amazing.

We watched news reports of the event. Happily the coverage was positive as there were no reported problems. The girls marveled that they were a part of the historic marches. My feelings were a bit more mixed. As more than one sign noted, "I can't believe I still have to march for this."

Even though we were not planning to march, I was so happy that we did. It was an amazing experience for all of us. Next time I won't hesitate to plan to attend and bring friends. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ask the little girls

We were at the Chicago Blackhawks game last night with the girls and their friends. The tight seating meant we could overhear the people behinds us. The group of friends sitting there was a mix of hockey fans and new-to-the-game people.

One young man sat next to his girlfriend, patiently answering all her questions. At one point he sounded a little frustrated and said something like, "That's such an easy question. I bet the little girls right there could answer it."

I snickered when he described them as "little girls." I'd be he meant young girls, since I'm pretty sure the brunette twin was at least as tall as the young man speaking.

Actually, I'd bet our girls could answer all her hockey questions. He assumed because they were young girls that they didn't know much. I only wish she had actually asked them her question.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Laundry house rules

A while back the girls started doing their own laundry, which we thought would teach them to take better care of their clothes. Sure we thought they'd learn a valuable life skill and perhaps some responsibility too.

Lately we've all been really busy. Daddy has pretty much taken over the laundry at this point. He spends the most time lugging laundry baskets up and down to the washer and dryer. This has created some interesting new laundry rules. The first one is that we don't turn their clothes "right side out" any more. If the laundry goes into the basket "inside out" then it stays that way. If the girls want to wear their clothes "inside out," so be it.

The other one is that the girls have to wear some things more than once. This is especially true for items like the dresses they wear to church or to a party. It's an ongoing battle, though. The girls are so used to taking off the clothes they wore to school and tossing the items into the basket that they don't think before taking off a sweater and tossing it into the basket.

This drives me batty. I keep trying to explain to them that just because something was on their bodies does not mean that they cannot wear it again. Daddy does a lot of laundry that isn't really dirty. Mostly the girls are too lazy to hang up their clothes again.

Of course, once in a while Daddy does a load of laundry filled with wrinkled clothes the brunette twin found smooshed in her dresser. Rather than just hang up her clothes or put them away neatly in her dresser the brunette twin has a habit of just opening a drawer and shoving everything into the same space. It isn't until we force her to find a specific item that she goes through the mess. This is a child-specific rule since the blond twin's room is the most organized space in the house.

If they don't start working with the laundry house rules, we're going to go back to having them do their own laundry. I'd bet that if they have to go back to doing their own laundry we wouldn't need these rules.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

You cannot be sick

The girls started winter break with colds. Unfortunately for them, this means that their winter break has been a series of early bed times and lots of medicine. I keep saying, "You cannot be sick."

Some day they will understand why I've been so nutty about them getting over their illnesses. We have family members with significant health issues on both sides of the family. It would be very bad for them to end up with colds or the flu. I do realize that they can pick-up those germs anywhere, but I don't want to be the one to spread it during a family Christmas party.

So for now, I'm constantly handing them their cold medicine and sending them to bed much earlier than they'd like to go during their school break. With any luck they will be in great health just in time to go back to school.