Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The last note

The girls complained about their band uniforms for days before putting in on for their final band concert. You could not really blame them for not wanting to wear it. Their uniforms were basically black tuxedos with long sleeved, white shirts. They even had a bow tie. 

They performed beautifully. You could really see their musical growth. Their band performed with big smiles. It was their final middle school concert. Some of them signed up to perform in high school. Most decided to end their band career after this concert.

There was still one more band event. The annual band banquet was just a few days after the final concert. There were a lot of awards and stories. At one point the girls' band teacher gave the Lifesaver Award. It was for students who stepped up to help the band. She talked about how great it was that these students were so willing to step up and fill in so the band had good representation of different instruments.

From the microphone I heard her invite the twins to the stage for their awards. I was talking to someone and wondered about the twins. It wasn't until I saw our girls on stage that I realized who the twins were. 

Until the teacher started thanking them for changing instruments, I nearly forgot that they did make the change. Of course, they changed between sixth and seventh grades, but it was still nice to hear them acknowledged. They worked hard to learn their new instruments. It was unexpected and well-deserved.  

In just a few days, they followed a fun concert with some recognition for their teamwork and hard work. If it truly was the end to their band career, it was a great ending.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Confirmation weekend

The girls spent two years with their confirmation class. They went from strangers who were about the same age to friends who had learned so much about themselves and each other.

They had a two day celebration to end their confirmation journey. Saturday's celebration was an iConfirm service. Sunday was the formal service with Bishop Lee presiding.

The entire class dreaded Saturday's service. Each student was called up to teach the congregation. They spent months memorizing a psalm and considering why it was important to them. They waited nervously for their names to be called. 

Father Dave sensed their nervousness and used it to great comic effect. As one confirmand left the alter, he stood, smiled and looked at the congregation. He paused before calling the next teenager to the alter. The first few times he called a name, everyone who wasn't walking up the aisle let out a deep breath. They were relieved that they didn't hear their names. 

After the first few names, the confirmands started holding their breath. It was a mix of not wanting to hear their names and really wanting to get it over. The blond twin was one of the first students called. She recited her psalm and explained why it was important to her. She sat down with a big smile on her face.

The brunette twin was so nervous every time Father Dave stood up. Student after student after student walked to the alter while she waited for her name to be called. As more students went ahead of her, we all started laughing whenever her name was not called. Aunt Sue-Sue, Uncle Steve and Aunt Reenie sat in the pew ahead of us. As more and more students kept going before the brunette twin, we all started laughing behind our bulletins. 

The brunette twin was so relieved when Father Dave called her name. She walked up to the alter, taught her lesson and came back to the pew with a big smile. She looked at the remaining three confirmands with pity as they waited to hear their names. She settled into her pew to listen to their lessons, so happy that she completed her piece.

The next day was a formal service with Bishop Lee presiding. The confirmands spent time with the Bishop. He talked to them about being a bishop and how he viewed confirmation before answering questions. We could hear the teens laughing during their time with the bishop. 

The Sunday service had all the beautiful music, soaring words and memorable moments we expected from confirmation. Still, it will be the Saturday iConfirm service that we'll talk about when we reminisce about confirmation weekend. The teens really came into their own as they told their stories. We laughed and cried and smiled as they took their steps towards adulthood.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Principal's Breakfast at last

In the girls middle school students who received all A grade for a quarter were invited to the principal's breakfast. This event takes place in May, so you had to get all A's in one of the first three quarters.

The girls talked about the breakfast during sixth and seventh grades. They had lots of friends who attended one year or both. At the beginning of eight grade they decided that they wanted to go to the principal's breakfast.

The blond twin achieved all A's in the second quarter. The brunette twin achieved all A's in all three quarters. We received an invitation to attend the principal's breakfast.

It was a lovely event with a large buffet and a selfie background. The girls and their friends spent a lot of time documenting their fun. The principal gave a nice speech before introducing each student. Parents spent a lot of time photographing their children on the risers with the certificates held proudly in front of them. 

It was another sign that we were really racing towards graduation. The principal's breakfast was the last thing on their "must do before we graduate" list. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Twenty and counting

Every year on our anniversary I walk through the day remembering exactly where I was at that time on our wedding day. I spent the morning telling the girls what I was doing at that moment twenty years ago.

We officially celebrated our twentieth anniversary at Tidepools on Kauai. Sure, it was an early celebration, but how often can you celebrate your anniversary eating a world-class meal in a stunning, romantic location? 

We planned to take the girls to Wishbone. We had one of our first dates at Wishbone, so we wanted to take the girls there. Our plan fell through when we realized that between the girls' after-school activities and work, we really didn't have time to go downtown for dinner.

A new, local restaurant received good reviews so we took the girls there. We celebrated with Indian food and ice cream. We told stories and laughed and ate really good food. It was a great way to celebrate a momentous event.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bridging the gap

Overheard in our car...

Brunette Twin: "I want to take a year between high school and college."

Mom:  "You want to take a gap year? Why?"

Brunette Twin: "I want some time to make some money and travel. A break before I go to college."

Mom:  "You need a break before you go to college?"

Brunette Twin: "Yeah. It's stressful to be in school all the time. I want a break from school before college. After college I have to get a job and then I won't have any fun any more."

Mom:  "Well, that's true. Nothing fun happens after college. Look at us. We never go anywhere or do anything."

Monday, April 16, 2018

#MarchForOurLives brought democracy to life

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms

When people ask what it was like to attend the March for Our Lives, I always say that it was cold — really, really cold. Even with all our cold weather gear, we were cold. After we laughed about the weather, I told people what we saw as we walked to the rally with thousands of other people.
There were students of all ages holding signs and chanting. The adults admired the students’ creativity and commitment. Medical professionals in white lab coats stood together. Church groups took pictures in front of the crowds. People stood and clapped as the Majory Stoneman Douglas Chicago alumni walked by with a banner announcing their school pride. Street performers entertained the crowds headed towards Union Park.
It was an amazing mix of people who came together to share stories, support the student organizers and take a stand against gun violence. The rally before the march brought all these people together to hear students from across the Chicagoland area tell their stories.
The student speakers spoke of experiences unique to their generation. Trigger Warning, an award-winning poem, was performed by four Hinsdale Central students — Ellie Pena, Amani Mryan, Kai Foster and Ayana Otokiti. Caitlyn Smith, a 12-year-old Chicago Heights girl, spoke about her brother’s death outside her former Englewood home. Eduardo Medel, Jones College Prep and Young Urban Professionals representative, talked about how gun violence touched him when he was very young. Jalen Kobayashi, Whitney Young High School, read his poem about Chicago called, “The Zoo.”
Each speaker was a stark reminder that their school experience was dramatically different from my own. When I was in elementary school, we did regular tornado drills. We ran into the halls, kneeled on the floor, put our heads against the lockers and put our hands on our heads. We stayed there until a teacher came by to correct our posture so we’d be safer if a tornado hit. Our daughters have mastered very different drills.
Our girls were very young when Sandy Hook happened. We were discussing how to tell them when they came home from school. They already knew what happened. Some of the older students had mobile devices. Their parents contacted them to make sure they were safe. The kids followed up by reading news reports. Teachers at the school went into lockdown — or what passed for lockdown at that point.
Our children have never known a world in which students were not killed in mass shootings. These events became part of their world when they were young. Now they are well-versed in ways to keep a shooter out of their classroom. It’s a terrible skill to master.
I asked our daughters if they wanted to attend the #Chicago March for Our Lives. They immediately said they wanted to do it and they wanted to bring friends.
There’s a saying on a Chicago History Museum wall that stuck with me from the moment I read it. “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife” (John Dewey). I took the opportunity to talk about democracy as we planned our participation. We talked about the importance of listening. They didn’t have to agree with everything they heard and saw, but they did need to allow everyone to speak. They needed to consider both sides of an issue before making up their minds. They needed to allow for the possibility that new information might change their opinions. Mostly, we talked about the importance of participating in the democratic process. If we did not participate, then we allowed others to make decisions for us.
There were pro-gun advocates at the rally. They held signs, passed out materials and talked to rally participants. Most people walked by without acknowledging the counter-protestors. Others stopped to talk. It was a peaceful co-existence of differing opinions. It was exactly what democracy should be with two sides debating ideas in a public square.
There are many opportunities for families to get involved. There is a March for Science on April 14. The Chicago event, Speak Up For Science, happens at the Field Museum from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. This is the follow-up to last year’s March for Science, which we attended with a vet student friend. If science isn’t your passion, how about the Tax March? The national day of action is Sunday, April 15.  There are events happening from April 9 – 19. Chicago and Downers Grove events are on the calendar.
How will  your family renew democracy? It is important for parents to teach children how to renew democracy. Our children are on their way to being our leaders. Let’s make sure they know how to use the gifts democracy creates.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Blue Apron is teaching our daughters to cook

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms

Blue Apron sponsors two of my favorite podcasts, so it was just a matter of time before I subscribed. Since one of our daughters became a vegetarian, I often struggle with meal ideas. One of Blue Apron’s appeals was that they found the recipes, sent the instructions and proportioned the ingredients. What I didn’t expect was how much our daughters would like cooking the meals.
When the first box showed up, our daughters were excited. They choose the meals, so they knew what was in the package. They immediately decided that they were going to make dinner. I made them say it twice since they had never offered to make dinner before.
They chose a 30 minute meal and started sorting ingredients. It took them about 30 minutes to get organized, which was probably not what Blue Apron had in mind when created the instructions. The girls worked together to wash, chop, saute, dice and bake our dinner.
It was delicious.
For years we have been teaching our girls to cook. I always said that one day they were going to have to know how to cook. They mastered a few things like baking muffins and cookies. They took random ingredients to create terrific smoothies. Until we subscribed to Blue Apron, we could not get them to make dinner.
It might be the idea that they did not have to ask us for any help. Our girls are teenagers, so any time they asked for help, they treated it like a huge failing. It might be the idea that they have been talking more and more about going to college and living on their own. Maybe making Blue Apron meals in our kitchen made them feel like they were testing their independence.
Whatever it was that drew them to Blue Apron meals, we’re happy about it. The last time we were in a grocery store, our daughters recognized some of the Blue Apron ingredients. They bragged to their friends about making a roasted fennel pasta. Even though we’ve served fennel before, I doubt they recognized it when they were chopping it. Now that they have used it in a meal, they talk about fennel like it was an old friend.
We don’t have a weekly subscription because our lives are just too busy some weeks to even think about cooking dinner from scratch. Those are the weeks that we make a bunch of food Sunday afternoon and reheat all week.
When we do have time to cook, we simply turn over the kitchen to our daughters. Watching them develop their culinary skills has been a wonderful bonus from our Blue Apron subscription.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Downs she goes

The blond twin has been so excited about her eighth grade track season. She attended track camp at the local high school, ran cross country in the fall and practiced at the health club. 

We sat in the bleachers, ready to cheer on the blond twin. She started her first race, hurdles, quickly. She was in first place when her toe clipped a hurdle. It went down and so did she. You could hear the crowd gasp. It was a hard fall. It looked bad.

I ran down to the field where she sat on a bench. The blood running down her leg was frightening. There was a lot of it streaming from different cuts. I could see that she skinned her knee from top to bottom. There was blood down her shin where she skinned it. It was hard to see if there was any bruising under the blood.

The school's athletic training cleaned the wound and bandaged it. She clenched her teeth and tried not to cry. The bench was directly across from the spectator bleachers. Everyone who watched her fall was now watching her receive care. 

Other girls kept coming over to check on the blond twin. She was embarrassed by the attention. She was mad that she fell. She talked to everyone, but not willingly. 

We wanted to leave after her knee was taped up. The weather switched from bright and sunny to cold and dreary. A few rain drops fell. We really wanted to find some warmth. The blond twin wanted to stay. She didn't want to leave her team, even if she was not running the races.

The blond twin alternated between being happy for her teammates, mad that she fell and jealous at their results. Her relay team placed first. She was happy that they did so well, and mad that she wasn't part of the victory. 

We finally made it home, where she spent her time texting with friends about her injury. Word of the bloody mess that passed for her knee traveled quickly among her friends. They wanted to know all the details. Before the trainer cleaned the wound, I suggested that she take a picture. The blond twin glared at the time, not interested in documenting her fall. It would have been a great way to explain what happened. I'm not sure any words can adequately explain how gory her leg looked right after the fall. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Grown up problems

The blond twin has a friend whose parents are getting a divorce. She came back from their house today in tears. It seems that her friend told the blond twin some terrible stories about what is happening between her parents. The blond twin came home with plans to help and concern for her friend.

On the one hand, I was proud of the blond twin. She saw a problem and came up with a way she could help. On the other hand, I was angry.

I understand the girls are teenagers now. I realize that we cannot protect them from things like their friends' parents getting divorced. I really do not think, though, that there was any reason for the blond twin needed to know every detail of her friend's parents divorce.

I have always lived by the belief that children do not need to carry the weight of grown-up problems. Today was a reminder that the girls are getting older, but they are still not old enough to deal with adult issues.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Who is in the driveway?

We were making breakfast this morning when the brunette twin looked out the window. She was looking for Daddy as the biscuits were about to come out of the oven. She came back and said, "Why is there a truck and a trailer in the driveway?"

I brushed off her question with some vague comment about how the truck probably belonged to one of the contractors working on the two new houses across the street. We've had trucks turning around in the driveway for months now. The two houses were having the yards leveled and black dirt put down.

A few minutes later, we heard Holly barking. The brunette twin said, "Daddy's talking to the guys." We were putting breakfast on the table when Daddy came in and said, "The siding guys are starting work today."

I said, "What?"

Don't get me wrong. We contracted to have our house resided a few weeks ago. The weather had been crummy ever since then. We didn't expect any work to start for a least another week.

The contractor said that he looked at the forecast and decided to take advantage of the good weather when he found it. The old siding started coming down just a few minutes later. We don't know when the new siding will go up, given the weather forecast, but we're ready when the weather is ready to cooperate.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter brunch and bowling

Last year we changed our family Easter from dinner at Mom's to brunch and bowling. It was so much fun that we decided to do it again.

What's funny about bowling and brunch is the reaction we get when we tell people. Everyone we tell says, "That sounds like so much fun." And, they are right.

When the nieces and nephews were little, Easter was about egg hunts and treat baskets. As they grew up, the older nieces and nephews kept the traditions for our girls. All those things fell by the wayside once our girls outgrew Easter egg hunts.

Now we eat, bowl and laugh a lot. Easter evolved as the children became adults. The memories continue to be made, just in a new place.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Daddy's little helpers

The Ikea delivery truck showed up a little early. We wrangled Holly away from the front door so the delivery team could bring in the boxes. They took the boxes downstairs and left.

Daddy and I went downstairs to stair at the boxes. Somehow our L-shaped couch with the pull-up mattress was stuffed into four boxes. Sure, they were big boxes, but there were just four boxes.

Daddy spent the morning sorting through all the pieces and figuring out the steps. One thing we really liked about the couch was that it had slipcovers. When we pulled everything out of the boxes, I realized we had to iron all those slipcovers. At that moment, I wasn't so happy about that design element. 

When the girls came home, they went downstairs to help Daddy. It didn't take long before Daddy suggested that the girls go upstairs to do their homework. It turned out that their "help" consisted of a bit of work, a bit of bickering and a bit of confusion. 

They did help Daddy here and there during the couch construction. Sometimes they pushed pieces together so Daddy could screw together the two parts. Sometimes they stuffed pillows and put on the slipcovers. It took longer when they helped, but it was fun for them, despite the complaining.

Now when they take friends downstairs, they tell stories about putting the coach together. You would think they built a house given the way they talk about how hard it was and how many hours it took. 

I smiled every time I saw the couch for a few days after it was finished. I also smiled because I realized that we were never going to move that couch. When we sell the house, the couch is going to be part of the deal.

Friday, March 16, 2018

From hospital rooms to the National Junior Honor Society

What a day...

Mom went into the hospital on Wednesday. Her back pain became unbearable. She needed more help than she could get as an outpatient. The doctor proposed a procedure to help relieve her pain. On day three, the procedure was scheduled for 4:00 p.m.

At 3:00 p.m., I arrived at the hospital for the procedure prep. At 4:00 p.m., we were still waiting. At 4:30 p.m., I walked to the nurse's station to as when Mom would be going down to the operating room. 5:00 p.m. came and went. The orderly came by at 5:45 p.m. to transport Mom down for operating prep.

We talked to the surgical nurse, the surgeon, other doctors and other nurses while waiting for Mom to be wheeled into the operating theater. At 6:30 p.m., Mom looked at me and said, "You have to go or you'll be late."

The girls were being inducted into the National Junior Honor Society at 7:00 p.m. I kissed Mom goodbye, made Steve promise to text me immediately with any news and walked quickly to the car.

I made it to the ceremony with a few minutes to spare. I walked into the room and realized Daddy wasn't there. I forgot that he was waiting at home for me so we could drive together. In this case, it worked out that he hadn't let home yet.

When I arrived I saw lots and lots of flowers. It turned out that parents were bringing flowers to their daughters who were being inducted. When I called Daddy to tell him that I was already at school, I asked him to bring flowers.

Daddy arrived with flowers just as the students walked into the room. I sat with my mobile device in my hand. We really tried to put away our devices for school events. In this case, though I just couldn't do it. Mom was in surgery and I was too worried to put away my device.

The text message that Mom's surgery was successful and she was resting came just the girls walked off the stage. The evening ended with good news all around. It was a great way to end a stressful day.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Life in pieces

Now that the basement is about done, we started planning how the room would work. We already had a television and stand, as well as a table and chairs in the basement. What we needed was a couch.

The stairs down to the basement have a very narrow turn at the bottom. We measured a few ways we might get a couch into the basement. We looked a a lot of options from slipper chairs to bean bag chairs to a sleeper coach. The girls really wanted a couch, so we started trying to figure out how to make it work.

The answer, of course, was that the couch had to come in pieces. This meant that we were headed to Ikea. 

One Saturday night, the brunette twin joined us for a couch hunting trip. Armed with room dimensions and a measuring tape, we looked at multiple options. Did we want two love seats? A regular coach? An L-shaped couch? We measured and discussed and analyzed each option. 

Eventually we found a couch that can turn into a double bed. It was pale pink, which met one of the brunette twin's requirements. She wanted a "fun color" couch. It wasn't the bright yellow coach she really wanted, but it wasn't brown, black or grey.

We not only measured the total coach size, we asked about each box. It was one thing to know that the final product would fit. It was another thing to wonder if the boxes themselves would fit down the stairs. 

We left excited about our choice. The brunette twin couldn't wait to tell her sister about our adventure. One more piece was done. Now we just had to wait for the delivery.

Friday, March 9, 2018

One more music contest

Overheard at our house...

Mommy:  "Should we go to the music competition this weekend?"

Daddy:  "Well, since we flew to Orlando to watch them perform, I suppose we should go to the one in the neighborhood."

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Babies in ball gowns

When we decided to create a basement room, we started cleaning out stuff. We dropped off as much as possible at the local Goodwill store. We recycled as much as possible. We threw out what decided we did not need. 

This left stuff we needed to move out of the way. Some of it ended up in the living room, especially items we didn't want to get dusty. This meant the ballgowns that hung idly off the I-beam ended up in the living room draped over a chair. 

Recently I brought some dresses back from Mom's. The girls decided to have a fashion show.

There was something surreal about watching the girls try on my ballgowns. In my mind they are still my babies, but babies definitely don't look like they are about to head off to a charity ball. They are growing up too fast.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Strike up the band

The girls Orlando weekend included trips to Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios and Magic Kingdom. We spent the weekend in Orlando as well, although the only time we saw them was when we made plans to meet at Magic Kingdom.

They were tired and giddy at the same time. They had so much fun. They told us stories about their flight, the amusement parks and their hotel room sleepovers. Every moment seemed to be as much fun as they had hoped. 

They ended their trip by performing at Disney Springs. Aunt Linda, Uncle Bill and Aunt MaryAnn came to visit. Aunt Linda's granddaughter, Brynn, joined the adventure. For nearly an hour the band performed in a large band shell. They sounded great for a bunch of kids who barely slept for four nights.

The girls went to Epcot after their performance. They closed a fun weekend with a late flight home. The bus rolled into the middle school parking lot just about Midnight. The girls were so tired that they could hardly make sentences. The next few days they would tell stories and laugh. When they walked into the house, though, all they wanted to do was go to bed.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Meet us at 3:00 a.m. in the parking lot

For more than a year, the girls' middle school band has been fundraising for their big trip. Since they have been in band, they have traveled to St. Louis and Louisville with the band. These weekend trips have been fun experiences for them. 

The big trip to Walt Disney World was in another category. Instead of a bus to a nearby city, the band would fly to Orlando. They would perform at Walt Disney World. It was a tremendous opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

After all, as I said whenever we were fundraising, "Our girls are talented, but I don't see any other way they will perform at Disney." It always made the other parents laugh.

The night before the trip we made sure the girls were completely packed. They only needed to roll out of bed, brush their teeth and get into the car. 

We drove into the middle school parking lot at 3:00 a.m. The parking lot was filled with parents and students and luggage and musical instruments. The kids were very excited. One of the girls' friends had never been on a plane before. She looked at her mom and said, "I cannot believe it's really here."

They took a 5:00 a.m. flight down to Orlando. I kept thinking about the poor businessperson who booked an early flight. This person probably thought he/she was going to have a quiet flight. The sight of 75 middle school students and chaperones getting onto the flight probably woke up the sleepy adults who were not with the band. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


We participated in a family Super Bowl pool, just as we had for years and years and years. This year when the game ended, Daddy said, "We won."

I, of course, didn't believe him. We had been part of the pool for a long time. We never won anything. As I was questioning whether or not Daddy was messing with us, the phone rang. Grammie said, "How does it feel to win?" After talking to Uncle Steve I said to Daddy, "Well, that will pay for the dresses."

We had to order the dresses very quickly. The bridal store created this crazy deadline that was only a few days after Samantha was able to ask all her bridesmaids to be in the wedding. 

The girls had an early dismissal day, so we went to the bridal store. The girls tried on the dress, glowing the entire time. I stared as they twirled the gown. It seemed as if they grew up while we blinked. They were so excited, but I was a both excited and sad. My babies were going to be bridesmaids. How long would it be before we were trying on their bridal gowns?

Sunday, February 4, 2018

80 and counting

It was not the party we had planned. Mom's back problems turned out to be much worse that just a muscle ache. After several doctor's appointments and tests, it turned out that Mom had spinal compression fractures. 

We cancelled the party once we realized there was not a quick fix for Mom's back problems. We ended up with a multi-day snowfall this weekend, with 16+ inches of snow, so cancelling worked out for the best. 

Everyone came to Mom's with food, flowers and presents. We laughed, told stories and sang Happy Birthday. 

The girls had their own celebration when Samantha asked them to be bridesmaids. They were so excited. They could hardly believe that she asked them. The girls and Sami spent the rest of the afternoon talking about the bridesmaid dress, hair styles and make-up ideas. 

It was much more low-key than we initially planned, but it was still a fun party. Mom enjoyed her day, which was what really mattered.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The best laid plans get waylaid

Somehow Mom must have known that today was the RSVP date for her surprise party. She called to tell me that she hurt her back. She decided to try to carry a case of pop from the garage to the kitchen.

Ever the supportive daughter, I said, "What were you thinking? You couldn't carry a case of pop twenty years ago. It's not like you are getting stronger."

Yeah, not my finest moment. I followed up with a lengthy conversation about how to treat her injured back. She promised to put a heating pad on her back and take some pain killers. 

I said a silent prayer that her back healed quickly so she'd be able to enjoy her surprise party. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


For weeks now Grammie has been telling everyone that she doesn't want a party for her 80th birthday. We keep telling her that we are not planning a party.

We, of course, are planning a surprise party.

It's her 80th birthday. The invitations went into the mail today.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sorry I keep stealing your sports

The brunette twin decided she wanted to take dance lessons again. Last September we found a small, local dance studio where she could take lessons. It turned out that it was not that easy to find a dance studio with lessons for a teenage girl who hasn't taken lessons since she was in third grade.

The brunette twin has been having fun in her lessons. She learned some new dance steps and met some new friends. It has been really good for her.

Recently the blond twin decided she wanted to take dance lessons too. The brunette twin was not amused. She said, "Dance is my thing." The blond twin quietly said, "I'm sorry I keep stealing your sports."

People have long told us that the blond twin overshadowed her twin. They believed that because the blond twin was more gregarious than her sister, she was the leader. In some cases, I agreed. In most cases, though, I would have said that the brunette twin is the quiet leader.

The brunette twin was the first to take horseback riding lessons and play basketball. The blond twin decided after her sister talked and talked and talked about both horseback riding and basketball that she wanted to do these things too. When the blond twin ran cross country, she tried to get her sister to participate. The brunette twin ran cross country for one season and quit. She really didn't like running. The blond twin tried her best, but couldn't get the brunette twin to join track.

Now the blond twin wanted to join the one activity the brunette twin was doing by herself. The brunette twin tried to talk her out of taking dance lessons, but the blond twin really wanted to join her sister. In the end, the brunette twin decided it was fine for her twin to join the dance class.

Both girls seemed to understand a shift in their personal dynamics. Even as they worked to develop their own interests, somehow they always came back together.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

When do we leave?

We were near our Hawaiian adventure's end when we started talking about getting ready to go home. We kept talking about going home January 7. We had Sunday, January 7 stuck in our brains.

On Saturday, January 6, we packed our stuff and started talking about getting to the airport. Daddy went downstairs to talk to the front desk. When he came back up, he said, "We don't leave until January 7."

It dawned on us that we were not going to be home on January 7, we were going to leave to go home on January 7. We didn't arrive until Monday, January 8. Our brains were so relaxed that we forgot that we would be travelling overnight.

The girls were not amused with our mistake. They were happy to have an extra day in paradise, but not so happy that we woke them up early to make sure we made out flight, especially when they realized they were going to wake up early again the next day.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Kauai adventures

We had so many cool experiences on Kauai. We went horseback riding to a waterfall. We hiked to the waterfall pool where we swam before hiking back up. At the top of the waterfall, we walked across the waterfall to a rock wall. We used a chain to climb the rock wall before riding back to the stable. It was amazing.

We went snorkeling to see green sea turtles and amazing fish. The boat, which had a fiberglass hull and inflatable sides, was its own adventure. As we motored out to the first snorkeling location, we rode directly over some really rough waves. It was like being on a roller coaster at times. We were on our way back when someone saw a whale breeching. The captain turned the boat and headed towards the whale. As we got closer, we all saw additional whales breeching. We had fun snorkeling, but seeing the whales really made the outing great.

One morning we drove to the National Tropical Botanical Garden. After touring the gorgeous gardens, we walked across the street to the Spouting Horn. A natural lava tube hole releases a water spout when the Poipu surf rushes in. There's a hiss and a roar that causes visitors to gasp and laugh.

The Plantation House dinner before the luau was an elegant look at plantation life. We had a wonderful meal before heading to the show. For us, the highlight came when one of the dancers grabbed the blond twin to join him. She managed to avoid the first effort to get her on the floor. The second dancer had better luck. The brunette twin helpfully created a video for her sister to remember the moment.

Every day we spent some time on the patio furniture near the beach. We spent as much time as possible watching the ocean waves and listening to the waves crashing. No matter how many times we saw the sun rise or set over the water, we always marveled at nature's beauty.

Actually, we could say that about everything we did on Kauai. Mother Nature created a garden paradise when she imaged the island. It was so much more than we imaged.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Riptides and boogie boards

We spent our Kauai bonus day at the beach. When we checked into our hotel, we were very excited that there was a hotel beach. We were less excited when we heard that we could not swim at the beach.

It turned out that Kauai was not a good place too swim or surf. The island waves crashed violently into the beaches. Riptides surrounded the island. It really was not safe to swim.There were a few beaches with lifeguards. Daddy found Hanalei Beach, which was near a really cute town.

The girls rented boogie boards on Oahu and really had fun. We rented boogie board and sand chairs from a local shop. We walked to the beach, ready for our fun afternoon.

We were not there long when we saw a lifeguard run from the watch tower into the water. He paddled his surfboard quickly to a person standing in the water. The lifeguard pulled the person onto his surfboard and came back to the beach.

During our Hanalei Beach afternoon, we saw the lifeguards complete many rescues. We were awed by their ability to recognize people stuck in a riptide and their ability to pull swimmers out safely. Several times the lifeguards used a PA system to announce something like, "Man swimming with the blue baseball cap. You are standing in a riptide. Please move towards the pier to get out of the riptide." Sometimes people moved. Sometimes they did not seem to hear the announcement.

It was impressive. They continually showed how well-trained they were. They really worked hard to keep everyone safe. We kept a close eye on the girls, even though we felt very safe with these young men on duty.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Garden Island surprises with unexpected wildlife

We were very excited to go to Kauai. We read the guidebooks, made reservations and couldn't wait to get started. Even though we were up late on New Year's Eve, we landed on Kauai in the early afternoon.

We first noticed the chickens at the rental car company. The clerk said we should expect to see wild chickens on the island. What she didn't say was that we'd see the chickens everywhere. There were chickens and roosters and chicks every place we turned. We saw chickens by the hotel pool. A chicken and some chicks walked across the beach outside the hotel as our class held child's pose. Roosters walked across the street as we drove. Really, they were everywhere.

No one had a good explanation for all the wild chickens until we took a Waimea Canyon tour. The guide told us that about 25 years ago there was a category 4 hurricane, which destroyed the island. Residents had roosters and chickens in their yards. After the hurricane, the fowl ran wild until there were so many that no one could contain the birds.

The chickens looked like birds we had at home. The roosters, though, were something completely different. Those birds were really pretty with bright orange, teal, red, blue or purple feathers. Souvenir shops sold t-shirts featuring the roosters. I brought one home.

In addition to the feral poultry, there were lots of feral cats. Interestingly, the cats and birds seemed to get along well. We never got used to the sounds of roosters screaming "cock a doodle do" all day, but we did start to accept the charm of it.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Fireworks on the beach ring in 2018

When we started planning our Hawaii adventure, we started talking about what to do on New Year's Eve. Typically the girls spend the night with Grammie. The first thing the blond twin said when we told the girls that we were going to Hawaii was, "We have to spend New Year's Eve with Grammie." I loved that reaction. It meant a lot to me that she really wanted to continue that tradition.

We discovered that Oahu set off fireworks on the beach just off Waikiki. We walked to a food hall for dinner and then wandered Waikiki for a bit. The city was full of street performers, tourists and NYE celebrations. 

We went back to the hotel for a bit while we decided what to do next. Daddy and I sat on the balcony while the girls relaxed in the room. We walked in to find the brunette twin asleep and the blond twin pretty drowsy. We told them to go to sleep for a bit. We promised to wake them before the fireworks.

I crawled into bed for a few minutes. I tried to adjust to Hawaii time, but my body was still on Chicago time. Daddy sat on the balcony soaking up the warm weather and street views.

We left the hotel about 11:30 p.m. to find a good beach location. The beach was already full of people celebrating. It was so festive that we spent the time until the fireworks people watching. Shortly before midnight, a young man walked into the ocean, unzipped his pants and relieved himself. The girls giggled. We laughed at their reactions. It was the story they would tell when we returned home. Sure the fireworks were great, but a young man peeing in the ocean? It was the evening's highlight.