Thursday, September 15, 2016


The girls turned 13 today. I can hardly believe it, even as I type the 1 and the 3. The babies we worked so hard to have and wanted so desperately are teenagers. It seems surreal that we are here already.

The big party was held a few weeks ago. Uncle Steve hosted a pool party for the girls' friends and our family. We were a bit worried as it rained all morning. The forecast called for scattered showers throughout the evening. The weather held for the party. The girls invited ten friends for a bar-b-que and night swimming.

Uncle Steve has a resort-like backyard. His large, L-shaped pool has a diving board, slide and basketball net. The girls kept themselves busy, only interacting with us when they needed something grilled. Otherwise they all kept themselves busy doing this or that or the other thing. We sat on the deck watching the Cubs game, listening to music and talking. It was a wonderful party.

We started this morning with waffles to celebrate the big day. The girls went to school and cross country practice. They came home to a quick dinner followed by golf practice for the brunette twin. The blond twin stayed home to hang out with Erin, who shares their birthday. 

We ended the day at Grammie's having ice cream and cupcakes. Grammie was still recovering from her shoulder surgery so we brought the party to her. The girls had a few gifts to open before coming home to do homework. It might have been a landmark birthday, but it was still a school night.

One gift had a few pictures from our first night at the hospital. Daddy and I were smiling in every photo. We held a baby in every photo. It seemed like such a long time ago, even as it seemed like just yesterday. I cannot believe that our babies are 13. It has been a magical journey so far. I can't wait to see what the next years bring.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The answer to my breathing problems

For years now I have had a hard time breathing. Given the allergist's long list of things I should avoid, I wasn't surprised that it affected my breathing. Add to that the fact that I am a child of smoking's golden age, when all adults smoked all the time, who could be surprised that I had a hard time breathing.

Today I went to a new doctor. I decided it was time to see a new specialist shortly after I finished the antibiotics for yet another sinus infection. After a thorough exam, the ENT said, "How long have you had your deviated septum?" I replied, "Huh? My what?"

I knew nothing about a deviated septum other than the jokes about women having facial plastic surgery and claiming the bruises were from deviated septum surgery. I came home and immediately started researching. Sinus infections? Trouble breathing? Snoring? Nose bleeds? Facial pain? I have or have had it all. It was as if the Wikipedia entry was written just for me.

Now I know why these problems have followed me all these years. My problem has a name, which is just the first step. The second step is deciding what to do. I could just live with it. There's no long-term issue with a deviated septum. It doesn't get better; it doesn't get worse. I could have surgery to correct it. It's something I will research once I get over my excitement. Yes, I know it sounds strange, but there was a definite relief feeling when the ENT put a name to my ongoing sinus problems. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

A close encounter with a striped neighbor

I was walking Holly down the block with I saw the black fur with the white stripe. I thought, "How interesting. I rarely see a skunk."

Oh, we know they are in the neighborhood. Sometimes we get up in the middle of the night to close the windows because the smell permeates every room. Once in a while my eyes tear up when I open them due to whatever floats in the air after a skunk sprays. My eyes burn because it is so strong.

Yet, I kept walking towards the skunk. It dug around in an empty lot across the street from me. Holly kept smelling the grass, never even noticing the skunk. I stared at it like I was staring at a zoo exhibit.

It wasn't until we were directly across the street that I thought, "This is a really stupid idea." Yep, I made it until I was directly across from the skunk before I thought it was a bad idea to walk by the animal. Holly and I picked up speed as we walked away. Luckily for us the skunk didn't spray. It scurried into a drain pipe under an abandoned driveway. 

I was a few houses away when I changed our route back. It was raining lightly so I was going to walk back down the block as quickly as possible. Given how lucky we were that the skunk didn't spray the first time we walked by, I wasn't going to that chance twice. I might have been enchanted by the skunk the first time, but I'd like to think that I wasn't dumb enough to do the same thing again.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A good time at their first tailgate

Daddy and I both went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We still follow the team during football and basketball seasons. When the girls were little they had Illini cheerleader outfits, which doubled as Halloween costumes one year. 

It has been a long, long, long time since either of us attended a football game. We've never attended a home game together, despite our many trips to visit family in the area. We did travel to New Orleans and Pasadena to watch the Fighting Illini lose two bowl games, though. 

This year our team somehow, some way managed to hire Lovie Smith as our new coach. It was a shocking hire as the Fighting Illini don't normally reach that high when it comes to head coaches. We've had some good coaches, but a big-name coach? In Illini Orange? We couldn't believe it when the rumors came true.

A few months ago an email showed up offering $10 tickets for the first home game. We bought four tickets and started planning. Daddy's friends had a regular tailgating spot right near Aunt Debbie's family tailgate. We bought the girls Illini temporary tattoos and Illini t-shirts. We were set.

The girls were awed by the circus surrounding the football game. They attended the pre-game Marching Illini concert. They wandered between tailgate parties. They wore their Illini tattoos on their cheeks. We walked to the Armory to watch the Marching Illini parade into the stadium.

We spent a lot of time on our walk to and from the Armory talking about college. We passed dorms and class buildings. We walked by Greek houses. They saw students who looked like them and students in crazy clothes. They wanted to know about classes and roommates. We were walking back to the tailgate when they finalized their four-person dorm room plans.

The football game itself was exciting for them, even if they needed to have the rules and strategies explained. They were awed by the male cheerleaders doing push-ups every time the Illini scored, although they questioned why the female cheerleaders didn't do push-ups. They were so excited when the band performed the half-time show. They had more fun than they imagined.

After the game we went back to tailgate again. We asked the girls if they wanted to come back for another game. They said they wanted to come to the home opener again so they could do all the same stuff. We said, "Girls, they do this stuff every game." They were hooked. We told them that we'd come back to another game soon. 

Oh, and the Illini won -- and won big. I guess that breaks our streak of bringing bad luck to the team, so we'll be back.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The inmate diet

Since the girls refuse to eat cereal for breakfast, they tend to eat a lot of toast. Usually they have toast with peanut butter and juice or milk. This morning when I came down, the brunette twin looked lost. She held the peanut butter jar in her hand and said, "It's empty."

I asked if she looked in the pantry or downstairs for more. She said there wasn't any in the pantry and she didn't have time to go downstairs. Instead, she took a slice of bread from the package and put butter on it. She ate that while drinking a glass of water. Yes, she had bread, butter and water for breakfast.

Tonight I think we have to have a conversation about acceptable breakfast options. Given all the food in our house, there's no reason for them to eat like prison inmates.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Holly's first familly vacation

We had planned to go to Boston this summer, but then we decided we needed to do some house projects. We still wanted to get away for a few days so we started looking for some place within driving distance. We found a cute cabin in Lake Geneva at a reasonable price. We've spent quite a bit of time up there, so we booked it. After a few discussions, we decided to take Holly with us. It was the first time we tried to vacation with her, so no one knew quite how it would turn out.

The drive up to Lake Geneva went well. We stopped at an outlet mall so the girls could do some back to school shopping. About a dozen pairs of shoes later, we headed to Wind Point Lighthouse, perhaps my favorite place to relax. Holly enjoyed both stops. She was happy to be in the car, especially since Holly sat in her usually seat while the blond twin crammed herself into the tiny third row seat near all the luggage. 

When we arrived at the cabin, Holly was a little nervous. She's nervous by nature, so we expected her to be nervous in a new place. The owner's dog and Holly played in his backyard for a while before we took her to the cabin. 

Holly doesn't like to walk on hardwood floors. She has fur in between her paw pads courtesy of the Great Pyrenees part of her  DNA. She slips and slides a lot on hardwood floors. She stood on the entry throw rug until I threw a beach towel on the floor. She moved into the main room, sniffing all the way.

It wasn't long until the girls and Holly settled into their room to watch the Olympics. Holly stretched out on their bed like she owned the place. Since they let her take up most of the bed, it wasn't hard to understand why she thought it was her bed.

Traveling with Holly meant we had to adapt some of our normal routines. She came with us most places, even though this meant one person had to stand outside with her. When we ate at Gordy's, we sat across the street at the picnic tables with Holly. We left her at home to eat at Daddy's Maxwell's. We were four days into the trip when we went to breakfast without her. She wasn't happy, but she was settled enough that she didn't cause any problems.

We only had one problem, which came in the middle of our vacation. One of the most beautiful things to do in Lake Geneva is walk the lake shore path. All around Geneva Lake there is a public access path running in front of the beautiful summer homes. When we were at Gordy's, I decided to walk the lake shore path back to Williams Bay. The sign said it was about two miles. It was a beautiful night. Daddy was taking the girls to the beach. I said we'd meet them all there.

The problem was I forgot to ask Holly if she wanted to walk. Within a few minutes it was clear that Holly was not happy to be separated from Daddy and the girls. She kept trying to pull me up every set of stairs or walkway to get back to them. I kept pulling her back to the shore path, but she wasn't happy. The water lapping on the shore was soothing to me and terrifying to her. Holly spent the entire time with her ears back, jumping every time there was a strange sound. She didn't want to cross the bridges or walk on the path. 

She finally got her wish to go back to Daddy and the girls about a mile into our walk. As I looked down to step onto a bridge, she tried to go up the adjacent stairs. I fell, scraping my leg and bruising my forearm. I tried to continue walking, but a few blocks later I called Daddy to come get us. I was really angry. Holly was so happy to see Daddy.

For the rest of the trip she stayed as close to him as possible. She hardly let me hold her leash without getting very nervous. 

Overall I'd say our first trip was a success, despite my injuries. I don't know how much traveling Holly will do, though. The Dalmatian part of her personality is a bit too nervous to enjoy her time away from home.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Experience we don't want to use any more

The phone rang late one evening while we were watching tv. When I answered, the voice said, "Shari, it's Aunt Bonnie. We're at Walgreen's getting your Mom's medicine. We just came back from the hospital. She's going to be ok."

I reminded myself to breathe as I asked her what happened. She explained that Mom fell down Aunt Bonnie's garage stairs. They took Mom to the emergency room. Mom broke her right shoulder.

Immediately, I went back two years to the fall when Mom broke her left collarbone. Let's just say it wasn't so much fun that we wanted to repeat the experience, but we didn't get to vote. We knew exactly what needed to be done.

Within a few minutes I talked to Dave and Steve. We all had our tasks. We all knew what needed to be done. This time, though, it was going to be a bit harder as Mom broke her right hand, her dominate hand. When she broke her left collarbone she could still perform some tasks with her right hand. Now she was unable to do much with her left hand.

She'll adapt quickly, and so will we. I'm crossing my fingers that we're done using this experience, though. Two times is enough.