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.