Monday, June 30, 2014

Holly sitting volunteer

Holly is a girl used to having someone around all the time. Since I work from home she's alone a few hours here and there, but not very often. We always made plans for someone to take care of Holly whenever we went out for more than a few hours.

Before school ended Daddy had a great idea. He asked the girls' crossing guard if she would consider Holly-sitting. She jumped at the idea.

Laurie had a big, white dog who died about a year ago. She often talks about how much she missed her dog, but wasn't quite ready to get another. Whenever she saw Holly, she played with her and talked about what a doll Holly was. Holly always tried to pull me to Laurie whenever we dropped off the girls at school.

So far we've asked Laurie to Holly-sit twice. Both times Laurie and Holly were excited to see each other. Laurie's husband and son were happy to see Holly too. Both times Holly came home exhausted from all the attention.

We're so happy because Holly is well-cared for while we're gone. Laurie and her family are happy because they get to have a sweet, lovable dog again, without the commitment of every day. Holly is happy because she has more attention that she knows what to do with from everyone. It's such an ideal situation for everyone.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

At least it's a good story

We spent a beautiful summer day downtown yesterday. First we visited the Adler Planetarium to see the new sky show. We walked from the Adler to Millennium Park, where we met friends to hear a concert.

We try to meet friends at Millennium Park at least once a summer. It's a great central meeting place for everyone and there's nothing better than sitting under the stars with Chicago's skyline to the west while you listen to fabulous music.

We always arrive early so the kids can play in the Crown Fountain. We were settling in for a lovely summer evening when the clouds started rolling in. Since we're in the technology age, Daddy and a friend pulled out their mobile devices and checks various weather sites.

When it became clear the lightening was getting closer and closer, we started talking about gathering our stuff and heading indoors. Millennium Park has underground bathrooms so we could take shelter in the hallway until the storm passed. Yes, I know it sounds strange to take shelter in a hall leading to a bathroom, but this corridor is blocks long, wide, well-lit and air conditioned.

We gathered up our stuff and started taking it down. Just as the last items was heading underground, we saw the fountain group coming back. We all made it underground.

For a bit we were underground with just a few others. Several people set-up their chairs, opened their picnic baskets and had dinner. We just stood with our stuff. Ten people have too much stuff to set-up over and over again. Besides, it was a fast moving storm according to all reports. If it was going to rain, it was going to start and end quickly.

We were just starting to wonder if we made the right choice when the rain started. We heard a crack of thunder that sounded like the end of the world. From our viewpoint, looking up the stairs, we saw darkness and rain -- lots of rain.

People started running into the shelter with all their stuff. Suddenly the several blocks long, wide, air conditioned corridor was crowded, warm and wet. Everyone stood around laughing at the situation. Really, what else was there to do?

After some time passed, we were all getting hot and tired. The kids were sitting on the ground, behaving well, but clearly ready to get back outside. The blond twin and I looked at each other. She gave me that half-smile that says "I know we're all in this together, but it isn't fun." I gave her the same half-smile and said, "Baby, at least it's a good story to tell your friends."

Luckily it wasn't the end of the story. We did get back outside. We set-up camp again using a plastic table cloth to protect the blankets from the wet ground. Everyone ate too much food. The kids took off to the back where they could play. Other kids joined them. We heard good music, chatted with friends and left with a good story. It was a good night.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Let's talk about it in the car


Whenever the girls ask something we can’t discuss wherever we are at that moment, we’ll say, “Let’s talk about it in the car.” Sometimes I say it. Sometimes the girls say it.

Last night the blond twin and I were at The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I had seen the show before and it seemed like something the girls would enjoy. When I received two tickets, we set parent/daughter dates. Daddy and the brunette twin played miniature golf, had dinner and then came home to watch movies. The blond twin and I went to dinner and then to the show.

We were about at the first act’s conclusion when one character started talking about another contestant’s sister. He went on and on about how cute she was, even waving at the audience as if she was in a seat. I won’t give away the show by saying that he develops a condition that distracts him from his word. He misspells the word and is out of the contest.

The show alludes to his condition, but doesn’t say it out loud. It’s very, very funny, but not quite appropriate for a ten-year-old. The blond twin leaned over and said, “He peed in his pants, didn’t he?” I smiled and said, “Something like that.”

When the second act starts, the actor comes out singing a song about how his erection caused him to misspell the word. The audience roared it was so funny. The blond twin leaned over and said, “Let’s talk about this in the car.”

And, this is how we ended up talking about erections on the way home from the show. As a general concept, I tend to answer the questions they ask about sex or reproduction without giving all the details. The blond twin asked what the song was about and I gave a simple answer. She asked a couple other questions and then turned on the radio.

She loved the show. She laughed and laughed and laughed. She told her sister all about the different characters and their quirks. So far she hasn’t mentioned our drive home conversation again and I won’t bring up the topic. I’m sure that at some point when they are snuggled in bed our drive home conversation will the discussed. I’ve decided that the next time either one wants to discuss the topic, I’ll send them to Daddy. It’s his turn to have these embarrassing conversations.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer camp overnight causes separation anxiety

You know those kids who scream when their parent is out of site? Our girls never went through that stage. When they were very young they would get upset when we left, but mostly because we weren't taking them with us.

The first year the girls went to Girl Scout camp, they were not able to spend the night due to their age. The next year they wanted to make sure they'd be able to sleep out with the big girls. When I dropped off the girls that morning they hesitated a bit as they unloaded their stuff. They hugged me a bit longer and made me promise we'd be near a phone just in case they needed to talk to us. They didn't call, but we were ready. The next day they came home tired, bug-bitten and happy.

This year the girls packed their stuff by themselves. They showed me what was in their bags, but it was more of a courtesy than an inspection. When we got to camp, they jumped out with their stuff and didn't even look back.

The camp counselor laughed as I waved and said, "By girls. Be careful. I'll miss you." They didn't even turn around. I told the counselor that I was glad they were so excited, but it would have been nice if they had waved back. I laughed and got into the car.

I realize we're lucky that the girls don't have separation anxiety. They are strong, independent girls with a built-in safety net. As long as they are together, they feel they can conquer the world.

Still, I am having a hard time tonight. It's the parenting paradox. On the one hand we want to raise independent, self-sufficient children. On the other hand, we're not ready when we realize they are on their way.

Tomorrow we'll pick-up the girls, hear their stories and marvel at how much they've changed since last year's camp sleepover. They will talk about how much they can't wait until next year's sleepover. Me? I'll be listening, encouraging them to tell more stories and hoping that next year doesn't come too soon. I need to adjust to this new maturity before they take another leap.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The first softball injury

Daddy came home with a pink baseball bat yesterday. The blond twin was thrilled. She shrieked and hugged the bat like it was solid gold. She ran to get her ball and started practicing.

A while later, she managed to convince her sister to play softball too. The girls went next door to play in our neighbor's huge yard. The couple treats our girls like their grandchildren. The girls love to play in their huge side yard.

Daddy and I were on the patio when we heard a pained scream. I looked over, but couldn't see the girls behind our forsythia bushes. A few seconds later the girls came running to the patio. The brunette twin was crying and holding her face.

The blond twin threw the ball. The brunette twin didn't react quickly enough. The ball hit the brunette twin in the face, pushing her glasses into her face. To make matters worse, the brunette twin then hit herself in the head with the bat -- the metal bat.

The brunette twin cried and cried. She was really injured, but she also felt pretty silly for hitting herself with the bat. She had a really big red mark on her right cheek and a headache.

The brunette twin didn't want to play on the softball league and this injury cemented that decision. Unfortunately for the blond twin, it will be a while before she will be able to convince her sister to practice with her again.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lost and Found

The blond twin lost her iPod a while back. The girls had back to back sleepovers when it went missing. When she realized it was missing she tore apart her bedroom and the spare bedroom looking for it. She couldn’t find it.

We called their friends to see if it ended up in someone’s stuff by accident. No one had the iPod, but every parent had a story about their children losing their devices. I spent a lot of time laughing at these stories, but we didn’t find the iPod.
The blond twin kept asking for a new iPod. We told her she’d have to save her own money for it. She had a tablet she could use in the meantime. She wasn’t happy, but we stuck to our statement.

Today I heard a squealing scream coming from the basement. At first I didn’t know which girl was screaming. By the time I identified the blond twin as the source, I asked what was wrong.
As soon as I saw her I knew she was happy, not sad or scared. At first I didn’t know why she was so happy. It wasn’t until she did a happy dance with her hands in the air that I saw the shiny thing she clutched tightly.

She found her iPod.
It turns out the iPod was in the basement. The blond twin must have opened the radio cabinet, put the black iPod on the dark wood shelf and forgotten about it. What makes me laugh is that they play in the basement regularly with the radio blasting. I don’t understand how she didn’t find it before, but at least she has it now. I’m certain she’ll keep track of it more closely this time.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gardening injuries don’t make for good stories

I hurt my knee recently. It hurt enough that I limped a bit for a few days. The first few days I wore one of those elastic knee braces to support it.

People kept asking what I did, so I told the story, which is:
I was at our church’s garden work day when I lost my balance while trying to dig a hole. I lost my balance, hitting my left knee on the hard ground.
It’s not a gory story with blood or broken bones. I don’t have a big, bulky brace or crutches. I don’t even have a bruise. I’m glad I didn’t need to visit the emergency room or walk with crutches. It’s not really a complaint as much as an observation.
Injuring your knee gardening isn’t the kind of story that evokes sympathy, no matter how much it hurts.

Friday, June 6, 2014

You can't go strawberry picking

We were standing in the kitchen talking about everything going on during the next few days when I mentioned that Daddy and Mommy were going strawberry picking Saturday. The girls are camping with their Girl Scout Troop this weekend. It seemed like a good idea for Daddy and Mommy to go strawberry picking. The timing was right and we had some free time.

The blond twin immediately protested. She said, "You can't go strawberry picking without us."

Actually, what she meant was Mommy doesn't go strawberry picking. It's something Daddy and his girls do every year.

The reality is Daddy picks 75% of the strawberries. The girls spend most of the time playing in the field and complaining about picking strawberries. In their minds, though, strawberry picking is a Daddy/daughter activity. Mommy can join them, but strawberry picking cannot be done without them.

This morning Daddy and his girls piled into the car to go strawberry picking. Daddy took a vacation day, so he was ready to go. As they left, the girls kept saying they were so sorry I had to stay home and work. I think, though, that they were happy to be alone with Daddy. Strawberry picking is their activity for now. Sooner than we'd like they'll be busy with jobs and sports tournaments and strawberry picking will be a fond memory. For now, though, they all  have one more year in the fields together.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Team player

The blond twin has been asking to join a team sport for a while now. Every time she receives a handout for any team, the blond twin starts begging to join the team.

It's not that she has any real interest in the different sports. It's just that she really want to be on a team. She likes the idea of being on a team -- any team.

Last week she struck gold when we found out a friend participates in a recreational softball league. It is run through a local park district. There are eight games, with one or two practices a week.

It's perfect. The blond twin receives a jersey with her name on it. She gets to participate in a team sport. We only have to commit to eight weeks.

My problem with team sports is that they are a lengthy commitment. I don't know any team sport that doesn't become a second job. Between the games, the practices and the politics, it's all-consuming.

I hope she enjoys the recreational softball league. An eight-game league is something we can commit to every summer.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fourth grade finale

Today was the girls' final school day. Their fourth grade class spent the day signing yearbooks, promising to make plans and wondering who they would have as fifth grade teachers.

Several spotty showers ruined their picnic. Instead of eating lunch on the playground with all their friends, the school took turns having lunch in the All Purpose Room. It was more like any other day, except today they had unlimited hot dogs, juice, chips and cookies. Each class brought something to add to the feast. .

We laughed when the brunette twin told us that she ate some strawberries with her three hot dogs, two chips bags and juice boxes. No one was surprised that she wasn't hungry at dinner.

The blond twin walked home so excited to be done with fourth grade. She already made plans with several friends. She made plans to keep herself busy for days and days.

Their report cards were full of other papers from a reading award to their physical education test results. Their fifth grade supply list made me sigh. They weren't even home from their last day of fourth grade before the school wanted them to start getting ready for fifth grade.

It's so hard to believe that the girls are fifth graders. It doesn't seem possible that they are old enough to be in fifth grade, but here we are. The backpacks are empty and summer plans are set. Summer break us underway.