Saturday, April 22, 2017


I was going to volunteer for the March for Science until I saw that a friend and her daughter were marching. I talked to the girls and they decided they wanted to march with Karen and Phoebe.

We drove down early on Earth Day to meet Karen and Phoebe. There were a lot of people milling around in lab coats. We saw "brain hats," which were crocheted hats that resembled brains. People had clever signs. Karen had a double-sided sign that said, "No Bees = No Beer" on one side and "Grab 'em by the data" on the other. Phoebe's sign said, "There is no Planet B" on one side and "I like big brains and I cannot lie" on the other. 

We sort of listened to several speakers. We were pretty far from the main stage. The loudspeaker closest to us was a bit scratchy. While we waited to march, we read other clever signs, admired different costumes and talked to people around us. Even though we couldn't hear the speakers very well, we were entertained by the Jazz band and stilt walkers performing near us.

The march itself was pretty short. We went from Buckingham Fountain to the Museum Campus. It was the quietest, most well-behaved march you could imagine. As several signs said, "It's so bad even the introverts are here."

At the museum campus, we walked through the expo, chatting with people, reading signs and admiring costumes still. Several people asked Karen and Phoebe for pictures with their signs. We stopped at the Shedd Aquarium to watch a chalk artist create beautiful designs on the museum plaza. The artist drew attention to the #SheddTheStraw Earth Day campaign. The girls picked up some chalk and drew their own masterpieces.

We left the bustling museum campus to go to lunch. In keeping with our Earth Day celebration, we ate a tasty vegetarian restaurant. It was the perfect way to end the March for Science.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Delivering the Silver

Now that the girls completed their Silver Award projects, we're starting the really fun part of the process. We're delivering the items to different organizations.

Since the girls all had Good Friday and Easter Monday off school, I set-up some appointments to deliver projects. On Good Friday we visited two animal shelters to drop off the dog and cat toys. We were able to spend quite a bit of time touring PAWS, a no-kill animal shelter. The tour was supposed to take about 1/2 hour. We left the building about 90 minutes after we entered. The volunteers were wonderful with the girls. They talked to them about their Silver Award projects. They talked to them about the importance of volunteering. They took us on an extensive tour of their facility. The girls were happy to talk to the volunteers about shelter programs.

Today the brunette twin and her friend, Brynn, went to deliver comfort dolls to a local police department. The police chief asked a lot of questions about the comfort dolls. We talked to him for a bit when he heard his officers in the hallway. He brought them into his office to tell them about the comfort dolls. The girls and the officers took photos. The chief told them how wonderful it was that the troop created the comfort dolls. As we left, the brunette twin said, "That was so cool."

It's what I hoped would happen as we delivered the projects. I took the whole troop to the animal shelters as they are all interested in helping animals. When we went to the police department, I only took two girls as I thought it would be a quick, "in and out" kind of visit. The extra attention really helped the girls understand the ways their community service would help others.

We have a couple of other deliveries to schedule. This is the best part of the Silver Award process. As they worked on their projects, I stressed that they were really making a difference. Now that they hear it from others, they understand what I meant.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A different kind of Easter shoes

When the girls were little I couldn't wait to dress them for Easter. They always wore cute dresses and shoes. Sometimes they wore hats, but usually they just carried them. Now that they are teenagers, the cute Easter dresses are just a memory.

We were supposed to host Easter brunch for my side of the family. It was our turn so we sat down to write out our menu last week. The girls made plans to set the table, as it the tradition when we have anyone here for a meal. The girls create the tablescape. I am hardly even involved in that process.

I was driving to get my allergy shots when my brother Steve phoned. I'm always surprised when the phone rings in our new car. The sound of a phone ringing via the car speakers still startles me. Steve asked if we started buying food for Easter yet. I reminded him that we were making brunch, so it wasn't like we needed to do a lot of advance shopping. He said, "Ok, good. This is going to sound crazy, but what do you think about going bowling on Easter?" He explained that his family was at a local bowling alley and saw posters advertising their Easter brunch. It sounded like fun, so I said, "We're in."

We met at the restaurant attached to the bowling alley at 3:00 p.m. Easter. The food was very good. We sat and ate and talked for a while. When we were done, we walked next door to get ready to bowl.

It was so much fun. The girls bowled with their cousins on two lanes. The adults bowled on another lane. Grammie sat in the middle, in the front seat, watching it all. We laughed and bowled and trash talked.

When our time was up, I said, "Same time next year?" We all agreed that it was a great way to celebrate Easter. It was a bit nontraditional in that we were not sitting at a dining room table, but we were all together making fun memories. I hope it's our new Easter tradition.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

What cousins are for

The girls giggled as they sat at the dinner table taking about the nights when their cousins babysat. They spilled their deepest secrets as they watched our reactions.

They used to go to bed as we pulled into the driveway. They pretended to be asleep when we checked on them.

They didn't eat their fruit or their vegetables. Their cousins used to eat them instead.

They ate too much candy and drank too much pop.

They watched TV shows we wouldn't normally let them watch.

They laughed and laughed and laughed as they told stories about different things they did with their cousins. They waited for us to get mad about what they did with their older cousins.

We just smiled. The girls forget that we were once the older cousins letting our younger cousins get away with everything. It's a rite of passage that they won't understand as they will always be the youngest cousins on both sides. Soon enough, though, their older cousins will start having babies. Once that starts happening, I'd bet they will be happy to spoil those kids by letting them stay up late and eat too much candy. If they don't continue the tradition, who will teach those children how to spoil the next generation?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Metal mouths

The dentist brought me back after the semi-annual cleaning to talk about the brunette twin's front teeth. She noted that the teeth pointed down and in, as if pointing towards her bottom gum. She also showed how the brunette twin's teeth didn't quite line up properly so her bite was off slightly.

We had previously talked another dentist about the brunette twin's teeth. She didn't think that the brunette twin really needed braces. This dentist agreed that the brunette twin might be fine without braces, but she suggested that we have an orthodontic consultation talk about whether or not the bite was a concern.

The orthodontist said we could wait and see what happens because her jaw might shift until she finishes growing. At 5' 8", we were rather hoping that she was about done growing. We talked about what might happen if we didn't get the braces from clicking teeth to adult jaw pain. We decided to get the braces as a preventative measure.

Today the brunette twin joined her sister in the middle school braces club. She is happy and nervous at the same time. She is gloating because she will only need braces for about a year, while the blond twin has at least a three year stint. They sat discussing how to take care of their braces and whether or not they can eat popcorn. For the record, we said no popcorn. We're not only the mean parents, we're also the people paying for their braces, so we make the final decisions.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tough horse love

Overheard at the barn...

Momma:  "What did I miss?"

Brunette Twin:  "Hampton tried to throw me. He keeps trying to buck me off."

Momma:  "You didn't let him throw you, did you?"

Brunette Twin:  "No, I stayed on. He tried to run me into the wall."

Momma: "You need to take control of that horse. We did not pay for years and years of lessons to have you bucked off. Stay in the saddle."

Brunette Twin: "I'm trying Momma."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Silver achievement

The highest award a Cadette Girl Scout can earn is the Silver Award. It's a community service project designed to create a sustainable outcome. The girls have to finish it before they move from Cadette to Senior scouts. They can work as individuals or small groups.

Our seventh grade girls were just beginning to talk about Silver Award projects. We had interest in creating toys for shelter dogs and cats. Two girls were still thinking about what they wanted to do when I attended a Girl Scout troop leaders' meeting.

The meeting was nearly complete when the Service Unit manager announced that a local Kiwanis chapter was looking to partner with a troop for a community service project making comfort dolls. These soft dolls are given out to children in emergency situations.

I brought the idea to the next troop meeting. The girls liked the idea, and it brought the Silver Award projects together. The only problem was the Kiwanis chapter wanted to complete the dolls before we had time. We talked about it as a troop and decided to move forward.

The girls worked hard to get ready for their Silver Award projects. They gathered donated items. The dogs toys required piles of denim strips. The cat toys required hundreds of yarn pieces. The comfort dolls required the forms be cut and sewed. There were many work sessions at our house and others. They worked and laughed and worked and laughed.

Today we held a Silver Award community service day at a local community center. We had two table for each project. The girls created instructions for each project that they shared with volunteers. They were gracious hostesses and patient teachers. They closed their four hour event with hundreds of completed projects.

The hard part is done and now the real fun begins. We get to deliver the donations to local police departments and animal shelters. It's really the part I'm most excited to share with the girls. I want them to see that with some creative effort they can make a big difference in a lot of human and animal lives for not much money. If they can learn that lesson, then earning their Silver Award will be a bonus.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Words describing the brunette twin

The girls had class assignment to write something nice about each student, which resulted in some interesting word choices and discussions. How many times could they say students in their class were smart or funny or nice?

We didn't know that they girls would bring home the words their fellow students used to describe them. They casually tossed the papers on the dining room table. I picked up the pages before Daddy came home and just beamed. I know the assignment was to say something nice, and the words their classmates used made me so proud.

These are the single words students used to describe the brunette twin. If there is an asterisk near the word, it means that more than one student used it.

Chill (calm)

Some students had trouble describing her in one word. The phrases include:

Good at basketball*
Nice to everyone
Great horseback rider
Kind always
Pretty hair
Harry Potter expert
You always make me laugh

The papers are hanging on the refrigerator, so we get to see them every time we are in the kitchen. It's a good reminder that we are raising wonderful girls.

One word describing the blond twin

The girls had a class assignment to write something nice about each student. The girls sat at the dining room table, laughing all the time. They discussed some words to make sure they were really nice and didn't have some negative connotations.

When they brought their pages home, we were very proud of the words other students submitted for the girls. These are the single words students used to describe the blond twin. If there is an asterisk near the word, it means that more than one student used it to describe the blond twin.


Some students had trouble describing her in one word. The phrases include:

Amazing at track & field and cross country
Always smiling
Awesome at piano & trombone
Fun to talk to*
Math is fun with you
Nice to everyone
Easy to talk to
Love your hair
Bright personality

The papers are hanging on the refrigerator, so we get to see them every time we are in the kitchen. It's a good reminder that we are raising wonderful girls.

Monday, March 6, 2017

See you Friday

Daddy and I stood in the kitchen last night talking about our week. We went through what was going on each day. We walked through who was going to be where and how everyone was going to get there. We threw out ideas for another week of stellar dinners designed to be eaten quickly and provide some nutritional value.

When we felt like we had a plan, he looked at me and said, "So, I'll see you Friday, right?"

It's not quite that bad, but it's close. It's another busy week with everyone coming and going. It will all get done, even though there won't be much time to relax and connect. These are the fun times, though. In a few more years, we'll be home and the girls will be driving themselves everywhere. We'll have plenty of time to relax and connect then.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Keeping your mother entertained

On the way down to Orlando, I sat near a young mother and her toddler. I had so much fun keeping her busy while her mom took a break. They were travelling from San Francisco to Orlando, so it was a very, very long day for the young mother. The toddler looked so much like the brunette twin was she was the same age. At one point the little girl crawled into the brunette twin's lap so she could look out the window. She really did look just like the brunette twin.

One the way back to Chicago, I sat next to an eight-year old girl travelling with her family. They were separated with the girl sitting across the aisle from her father. She told me it was only the second time she was on a plane, so I talked to her about flying. She talked about her adventures at Disney World. It was her first trip to the Magic Kingdom and she was enchanted.

The girls had a good time talking about how I talked to the little girl for most of the trip. I was sitting next to Daddy, so they thought I ignored him. Daddy, though, had a different take. He thought it was great that the little girl kept me busy. He had a nice, quiet flight.

The girls understood what Daddy was saying. For future trips they will probably start looking at people who might fill in the third seat not as interlopers, but as people who can keep Mommy busy during the flight. It's a funny twist to my extrovert personality that makes for a great story.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Universal day three

We started our last day at Universal Studios the same way we did the first two days. We were at the gate early so we'd be in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter right at 8:00 a.m. We went directly to  the Hogwarts Castle ride. The first time I went on it, I walked out a little unstable. The second time was a lot more fun. We all enjoyed it again.

Since we had already spent two days going through the parks, our last day was a list of repeats. We went on our favorite rides one last time. We walked by a few attractions that had long wait times the previous days. It was strange when we would find a ride with a long wait time. For the most part we had short wait times at most attractions. There were a few, though, that always had long wait times. We just looked at the number posted and kept walking.

The one exception was Gringott's Vault. No matter when we went by the attraction there was at least a 60 minute wait. As we rode the Hogwart's Express we decided that we had to just get in line and wait to go into the vault. It was the last day. We had no other choice.

When we arrived there was a 90 minute wait. We found out that we could cut the wait in half by going into the single riders line. We did that, but I found myself wondering what we were missing. In each Wizarding World attraction you had the ride and you had the set-up. As you wandered through the lines (even when you were moving quickly because it was a short line), there were distractions. These were everything from story-related items to screens with the movie actors. The distractions often gave some background for the attraction. They were pretty interesting. We didn't see any of the distractions in the single rider line. It was more like a tunnel than the other attraction lines.

The prediction that the single rider line was half the time of the main line was right on target. Forty-five minutes after we entered the line, we were seated. I had fun on the ride. We finally saw Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort. It was a clever story with unexpected twists and turns.

I was surprised when I met up with Daddy and the girls. The brunette twin said, "We waited a long time for a boring ride." She was annoyed with the wait time. She was not happy that she had to sit with strangers. She pulled out her wand and started doing her magic spells at the Diagon Alley shops.

We ended our Universal Studios weekend as a split family. The brunette twin wanted to go on a ride at Islands of Adventure. The blond twin wanted to go on a ride at Universal Studio. I took the brunette twin while Daddy went with the blond twin.

As we exited the Spiderman attraction, the brunette twin asked if she could walk through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter again. It was even more magical in the dark. The lights made it glow like we were on a movie set. We took the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley where we walked the cobblestone streets one more time. The brunette twin was content as we walked out for the last time.

Our final event was an evening concert by X Ambassadors. Despite the large crowd we did manage to find Daddy and the blond twin. The girls stood by themselves during the concert, enjoying their teenage moments as they giggled and sang and danced. Daddy and I stood away from the main concert watching to scene. After they heard their favorite song, the girls decided it was time to go. They ended their long weekend walking hand-in-hand with us as we made our way towards the exit. We were all tired and happy with our adventure. It was time to go home.

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.