Tuesday, December 30, 2014

And that's how we ended up painting on Christmas Eve

When Daddy woke up about 6:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve, I thought about trying to go back to sleep. We didn't have anything pressing on Christmas Eve until the afternoon. We did have one project we needed to finish, though, so I got out of bed just as he said, "So, are we going to go downstairs and finishing painting?" I said, "Yep. Let's just get it over with." By 6:15 a.m. we were downstairs with our coffee and tea in one hand and paint brushes in the other hand. It's not that we really wanted to paint the basement walls. It was really one of those things that happened because we knew what was going to be under Grammie's Christmas tree.

Grammie bought Mommy and Daddy an Xbox 360. We knew that the girls would want to put together the new system as soon as we brought it home. How does this connect with painting the basement? Well, the girls wanted to repaint their basement playroom to make it brighter. Our basement isn't finished, but we previously painted the concrete walls, sealed the basement floor and put down a rug remnant. They have all their Legos, Barbie's and other stuff down there. They set-up games and leave them for the next day.

The decision to paint came when I was talking to Uncle Dave. We decided to buy Grammie a new, really big, television for Christmas. She was having trouble seeing the bottom scroll on her current television She didn't want us to rearrange her family room so the television would be closer. The only other option was to buy her a new television. I told Uncle Dave that I'd like the old television for the basement. And, a project was born.

Once we knew a television and Xbox were coming to our house Christmas evening, we knew we needed to paint. Once all the new toys were in the house, there would be no way to stop the "when are we connecting the Xbox" questions without actually connecting the Xbox. We also knew that the basement needed a good cleaning if we wanted to make space so the girls could play Xbox.

So, for a couple of weekends we got rid of stuff. We took a car filled with stuff to Goodwill and put other stuff on Craigslist. We threw out broken toys, games with missing pieces and random items. We managed to create a lot of space.

We started painting the week before Christmas. I realized we could have put off the painting until after Christmas, but why? We didn't want to paint once the TV was down there. The space was pretty empty and ready to paint. We figured we might as well just get it done. The girls and I put on the first coat. Christmas Eve Daddy and I finished the project. The final coat did make a big difference. The space is bright and light now.

By 8:00 a.m. we were done. It wasn't how we usually spent Christmas Eve. Our normal Christmas Eve traditions involve delivering cookies to the neighbors, going to church, eating pizza on china and opening gifts. We won't add painting to the list, even though we were glad it was done when we woke up on December 26.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Eve mystery in the making

We were talking about what needed to be done today when Daddy looked at me and said, "Do you remember whose packages are wrapped in which paper?" I said, "Nope."

Since the girls have been old enough to read, we haven't put labels on their packages. We put all their packages into one wrapping paper so we know all those packages belong to one child. We put all the packages under the tree and it drives them crazy.

This year we used a couple of rolls to wrap their presents. It wasn't by choice. Daddy was wrapping when he ran out of paper. He used two different designs for each girl, never mixing so each girl's presents were easily identified. He told me which packages belonged to which girl. I admired his wrapping work as his packages are always so neatly wrapped.

Several weeks have gone by and now we're staring at the tree. Do the purple packages with diamonds belong to the blond twin and the purple packages with the circles belong to the brunette twin? Which girl gets the packages that have red paper with white circles?

In the end we decided not to worry about it. Once they start opening, we'll adjust as needed. It's not the same Christmas magic as before the big reveal, but it does add a touch of mystery to our Christmas anticipation. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Junior chefs in the making

A while back our girls informed me that they want to start cooking. It was a "we're 11 now so we want to learn to cook" statement. Since then we've let them help, calling them our sous chefs, when we cooked or baked.

The other day we talked about making risotto. The blond twin said, "I will make it." We talked about the steps, got out all the ingredients and started cooking. The blond twin did a pretty good job. She asked a lot of questions, paid attention to the details and kept the risotto cooking. I thought she'd get bored, but she didn't.

Her only real problem was what I'll call the "messy" factor. She stirred the risotto with all her might. Broth flew around the stove, often hitting the floor. At one point she turned to talk to me with the spoon in her hand. The risotto that was on her spoon managed to make it across the kitchen to the opposite wall. On the one hand, you can say our kitchen is not very big, so it didn't take a lot of effort to hit the opposite wall. On the other hand, it would have been better if she had put the spoon down before twirling around to talk to me.

In the end her risotto was very good. We learned that she likes a lot of garlic with her vegetables. We took some to Grammie, who gave it a rave review.

The brunette twin decided she was going to make dinner as well. She decided to make bar-b-que chicken and tater tots. She had been talking about tater tots for a while. She made a point of buying a bag when she went grocery shopping with Daddy last weekend.

We talked about the steps she needed to take before she started. The first step was to take the cast iron pans I store in the top oven out, put them on the stove top and let the oven warm to 400. I was in the basement when I started smelling smoke. I came upstairs to check on the brunette twin's progress when I hit a smoke cloud. The first thing we did was open some windows. We had to be just a few minutes from having the smoke detectors go off.

As soon as I walked into the kitchen, I knew why smoke filled our house. The brunette twin forgot to take the cast iron pans out of the top oven. The last thing I cooked in the cast iron pans was bacon, so it was warmed up and smoking. Once we cleared the smoke, the brunette twin finished making our tasty dinner.

Some day the girls will be very good cooks. They are interested in how ingredients go together and adventurous with their ideas. It's what keeps me going as I'm cleaning risotto off the wall or turning on fans to clear smoke. I remind myself that the learning process is messy, but the end result is delicious.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The big reveal

Last night at dinner the girls relentlessly sprayed us with questions about Santa. The brunette twin just kept asking questions in a rapid fire style. We couldn't even answer them because she was moving so quickly. She went on and on and on. The blond twin threw in her own questions whenever her sister gave her a chance. The questions made it clear the girls discussed their questions and possible answers before dinner.

This had been building for some time now. The brunette twin has been pushing us to tell them the truth about Santa. The girls attend a school that resembles the United Nations. Their non-Christian classmates were happy to tell them that Santa wasn't real. We avoided a direct answer because we didn't think the girls were ready. Tonight we answered their questions. Within a few minutes, it was clear the girls had questions, but they didn't like our answers.

It's not like we were going to let them go much longer without talking about Santa. Daddy and I just talked about this last night. I told him I would talk to the girls when we took down the Christmas decorations. We recognized how lucky we were to keep the magic alive this long.

The blond twin was heartbroken. She cried and cried as she sat at the table. I asked her if she wanted to sit on the couch and talk. She said she wanted to be alone at the table to talk. She didn't want to sit in my arms and talk. The blond twin went from topic to topic asking questions she didn't really want answered. Tears streamed down her face as she kept saying that she didn't want to believe it.

The brunette twin sat quietly. She knew, but didn't want to know. She said, "I wanted you to tell me I was wrong." She asked a few questions and then we talked about what comes next. Would we still make cookies? Would we still decorate? Would we still have a big Christmas morning celebration? She wanted to know how this grown-up knowledge might change our family traditions.

We explained to them that nothing changed for our family. They still needed to write letters to Santa if they wanted presents. They still had to make cookies to deliver to the neighbors. We would still decorate like we lived at the North Pole. They actually had a new Christmas responsibillity. They were Santa's elves. It was their responsibility to keep the Christmas magic alive for the younger kids.

I knew it was coming, but the whole thing felt like someone died. I thought I'd feel a sense of relief that we didn't have to avoid the questions any more. Instead it feels like their childhood is over and that makes me sad, especially during the happiest time of the year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

You can move the Elf

We were driving home from seeing Mary Poppins when the brunette twin started asking about the Elf on the Shelf. We've had an elf for a couple of years now.

This year the girls saw it for sale at Target. They started asking about it, but I deflected the questions. I just didn't feel like dealing with it at that moment. Luckily the girls were easily distracted that day. At least I thought they were. The brunette twin just put away her questions for another time.

As we drove home, she explained that she knew the elf didn't really go back to the North Pole to report to Santa. She told me that she wouldn't tell the blond twin since her Sissy really enjoyed searching for the elf every day.

Now that she knows, the brunette twin is relentlessly focused on the elf. Every day she bounces down the stairs to ensure that the elf moved during the night. Whenever the elf forgets to find a new location, she is happy to remind me. She likes to tease me about the elf's location. She loves being in on the secret.

The other day she was just harassing me about the elf when I turned around and said, "You know, you could move the elf." She smiled and reminded me, "You know that's not true Mom. If a kid touches the elf, he loses his magic. Didn't you read the book?" Then she laughed and walked away.

She's in on the secret, but she's not going to be responsible for the elf. She's happy to leave that to me so she can remind me when I don't do my job. She has the best of both worlds as she keeps the secret for a few more days.



Monday, December 15, 2014

Someone needs to drive the car

My Mom broke her shoulder about six weeks ago. She was standing on her front porch talking to my brother Steve when she lost her balance. Luckily he was there to scoop her up and take her to the emergency room.

Since then it has been a blur. We've all pitched in to help Mom, who is really unable to do much for herself. You don't think about how many things you do each day that require two arms until you don't have one to use. When you add the medication to the mix, Mom was pretty much incapacitated for the first month.

I was talking to my brother Dave when I blurted out, "We need to start driving Mom's car." It wasn't the conversation topic, but it suddenly popped into my head and out of my mouth. I reminded Dave about last winter when we were in the midst of the polar vortex. We didn't want Mom driving on the snowy, icy streets so we drove her everywhere. This meant her car sat in the garage for months.

At one point she wanted to go somewhere and her car wouldn't start. Steve came out and changed her battery. It turns out that batteries die if you don't use them. Who knew? Certainly not me.

I remembered this while talking to Dave because we were going through a list of things we needed to remember to handle. Neither of us could remember the last time Mom's car left the garage. We talked to Steve and now someone drives the car every week or so.

Mom has a lovely, light blue Acura. It's about eight years old with not even 12,000 miles on the odometer. The inside is pristine. From the moment I got into it, I was nervous about somehow scuffing the interior or scratching the exterior.

I drove the car to take the girls to see the Wizard of Oz. We took it on the expressway for a solid 45 minutes each way. I swear that when I hit the accelerator I heard the car let out a sigh of relief. It was as if the car was saying, "Ah, that's what it feels like to hit the road again."

Friday, December 12, 2014

How old?

Overheard at Redmoon Theatre's Winter Pageant while the aerialists were twirling above our heads...

Mom:  "Those girls don't look old enough to be able to do that."

Brunette Twin:  "Right? They look about Sissy's age."

Mom: "How old do they look?"

Brunette Twin:  "About Sissy's age."

Mom:  "Baby, you're twins. If they are Sissy's age, they are your age too."

Brunette Twin:  "Oh, yeah. I guess you're right."

Friday, December 5, 2014

What's old is new again

The brunette twin mentioned that one of her teacher's went to the same high school I attended. He's considerably younger than me, so we didn't know each other then. She mentioned something about him wearing his high school jacket to show the kids. I said, "You can wear mine sometime. It's in the basement."

She lit up. She asked all about it. As soon as we were done with dinner, she wanted to see it. Of course, we started getting ready for school -- making lunches and checking homework. The jacket fell of the "must do" list.

This morning she made a beeline downstairs. She couldn't wait to find the jacket. She asked me about the jacket. I explained the zipper on the hood and why I received a varsity letter. The brunette twin asked a lot of questions about a simple jacket. She wore it to school, leaving the house with a huge smile.

We went to the Morton Arboretum tonight to see "Illumination" It was part art show, part light show and part garden walk. It was very interesting. The brunette twin wore my high school jacket. She was so happy to wear it.

I told her I'd get it dry cleaned if she was going to wear it very often. She gave me a strange look so I said that I'd wait until it was too cold for her to wear it. Even when I wore it there always came a time when winter required something longer and warmer. She smiled.

It's so cure to see her wear it. She's so happy to have it. As we walked out of Walgreen's tonight, she turned to me and said, "I just rock this coat, don't I Mom?" I smiled. It is certainly adorable on her. It's also fun to see my high school jacket on our daughter. I guess what's old is really new again -- at least for the brunette twin.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Yes you are going to be late

Getting the girls out the door in the morning is an Olympic sport. The brunette twin never wants to get out of bed. The blond twin takes at least 20 minutes to change into the clothes she picked out the night before. It's an exhausting way to start a day.

Earlier this semester I told them that they were now in charge of getting out the door. I wasn't going to yell at them to move faster, remind them of the time or move them along. They wanted to be more responsible and this was a good place to start. I told them I'd make sure they were up at the correct time; they had to take it from there. The experiment has gone pretty well. For the most part they move along with an occasional gentle nudge here and there.

This morning it all fell apart. The girls didn't get downstairs at their normal time. They were overtired and crabby for some reason I couldn't identify. They fought all through breakfast about nothing. They went upstairs to brush their teeth and hair. Twenty minutes later they came downstairs. As soon as she saw the clock, the blond twin started yelling at me. It was 8:10 a.m. We usually walked out the door about 8:00 a.m.

She said, "You didn't tell us what time it was. Now we're going to be late."

I said, "Yes, you are going to be late. Tomorrow maybe you'll watch the clock."

The girls begged me to drive them to school. I reminded them that we walk to school with Holly -- and she was expecting breakfast and a walk. Besides, it was a beautiful morning for a walk.

They were so mad at me. They started listing all the reasons their lateness was my fault. It started with "you're our Mom" and ended with "we're just little girls." They tried to walk really fast, but that's hard with you're walking with a dog who needs to relieve herself along the way.

Given how fast they were walking, I'm guessing they were just on time or barely late for school. I'd also guess that they will move more quickly tomorrow morning. I'm not sure they believed me when I told them I wasn't going to hustle them out of the house anymore -- until today.