Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Back in the water

We were talking to the blond twin about her swim club's new plan to start practices again. She's ready to get back in the pool, especially since the girls high school swim season starts in about 10 weeks. 

The club has access to an outdoor pool from 7:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are breaking up the teams so there are fewer swimmers in the water at any time. Each swimmer can spend one hour in the pool. Swimmers will practice two nights a week.

When the official email came across, we told the blond twin that her practice time was from 9:00 until 10:30. She looked at us and said, "9:00? Why?" She did not seem happy and we stared at her for a minute.

I looked at her and said, "9:00 p.m. You don't have to get up early."

She smiled and said, "Night practice. Good."


Monday, June 1, 2020

Out and about

When Covid-19 destroyed the girls' summer plans, we spent some time trying to figure out how to keep them busy. On their own they would sit on their devices and watch videos all day. We knew that they needed some downtime during the summer, but 24/7 was too much downtime.

The brunette twin was able to find some normalcy in her world pretty quickly. Horseback riding is a good way to maintain physical distance from others. She was able to start lessons again almost as soon as her school year ended.

Recently golf courses opened up. She's been golfing with her Dad once a week and hitting the range often.

Both girls are taking an SAT prep class, which will help them during Junior year.

The blond twin is retaking pert of her Chemistry class. She didn't do as well as she wanted first semester, especially if she wants to apply to nursing school.

We've given up on finding summer jobs. So businesses are still completely or partially closed. We realize they will hire back their former employees before they hire new ones. Also, Covid-19 is still lingering. We're not sure it's worth the risk to have the girls working.

Now, if only the blond twin could get back in the pool, we'd be set.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What's in my bowl?

It's hard to find something that everyone can agree on when it comes to meals. The blond twin only eats certain things on her self-created fitness plan. The brunette twin is a vegetarian who doesn't like most fruits and vegetables. 

Now Holly has decided not to eat her dog food. She's gotten spoiled since everyone is home all the time. Holly has been eating lots of table scraps with her breakfast for weeks now. Recently we served regular dog food, a brand she ate with gusty a few weeks ago. She sniffed it and walked away.

This has gone on for days now. We decided she no longer gets anything but her dog food. When she gets hungry enough, she eventually eats what's in her bowl.

We have enough trouble trying to feed the human children. We're not going to allow our dog to become our next picky eater.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Pandemic hair cut

We've all seen the funny videos of celebrities getting hair cuts during our COVID-19 shelter at home mandate. No matter how casual everyone feels right now since we're mostly staying at home, we all eventually need to do a little grooming.

The brunette twin decided a few weeks ago to change her hair color. Six boxes of purple hair die later, she had brown hair with a purple glaze. It was really pretty, especially in the sun. 

The ends of her hair turned a pale purple/grey color. She decided that she wanted to cut it down since the ends were also really dry, so it was hard to brush her hair.

She asked me to cut her hair. Let's say it's not perfect, but it's not bad for an amateur like me. She took some pictures to document the event. As she said, "It's good enough." I think that's our new motto as we all go through these days.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Drive-by party

The pandemic has brought a lot of what we used to consider "normal" life to a halt. While we're waiting to get through the pandemic, lots of new traditions have sprung up. Today we were part of what might be my favorite new celebration.

Aunt Reenie was planning a low-key celebration for her birthday today. We don't normally celebrate birthdays for adults as a family. This is not a normal time, though.

We gathered at a park near Uncle Steve and Aunt Reenie's house. There were about 20 vehicle, including a fire department ladder truck. Aunt Reenie's dad was a Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chief, so the local fire department was happy to be part of the party. We decorated the cars with balloons and signs. 

The weather was sunny with a brisk breeze. Still, lots of people were outside working in their yards. Our parade set off to the delight of the neighbors. Everyone stopped to watch us go by.

Aunt Reenie was standing in the garage talking to Uncle Steve. By the time our car went by, she was wiping tears from her face. We went back around the block for a second pass by the house.

A few cars stopped, yelled greetings and went home. We might have to stay apart for our health, but that doesn't mean we can't all be together. Our first drive-by surprise party was a success that brought us all together for a some fun and laughter.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Pandemic dress up

Overheard at our house...

Mom:  "I put on jeans and a sweater today. I feel fancy."

Mom's friend:  "I'm going with the hoodie and jeans look today."

Mom:  "So, semi-formal today?"

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

It's your teacher

A big conversation among parents has been how to keep kids motivated to complete assignments. It gets harder as the shelter at home days drag on. Lots of people have shared stories about how their students were on the verge of getting an incomplete grade because they had not completed enough assignments.

When my device rang, it said, "Private number." I hesitated, then answered.

The voice said, "Hi. Is blonde twin there? It's her teacher." 

I said, "One minute please." And then I promptly hung up on her. I didn't mean to hang up. I tried to mute my device so I could tell the blonde twin who was on the phone.

The teacher called back immediately. I apologized, muted the phone, told the blonde twin her teacher was on the phone. I said, "You are doing your work, right?"

The blonde twin seemed shocked that her teacher was calling. When she hung up the phone, she was beaming. She said, "My teacher just called to tell me what a great job I was doing. She said I was one of the few students actually completing all my work."

We were so proud of her. We knew the girls were logging on every day and seemed to be doing their work. We never actually checked, though. The blonde twin had an "I told you so" attitude all evening. She earned it.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Closing the sweat shop for now

It's hard to fight an invisible enemy. Covid-19 was easily spread in crowded places and someone could be spreading it without even knowing it. The number of people officially diagnosed with Covid-19 was growing quickly. We knew that even more people had it who were not tested. The death rate was rising. Every day we tried to mix school work and fun, but it was getting hard to keep up our spirits.

After days of debate, we were told that everyone should be wearing masks whenever they were outside. Just like that, I had a mission.

If there's something I can do to help other people, it's sew. I have a lot of fabric and thread, and a sewing machine. I found mask pattern that seemed pretty easy to put together. And then, I told the girls to ask their friends if they needed masks. 

In my head we were going to make about 50 masks for family and friends. Once we were done totaling all the masks, we were closer to 75. 

I pulled out a lot of fabric, washed it, ironed it and started planning. The first person pulled into the project was Daddy. He offered to cut all the fabric. The brunette twin recently said she wanted to make some clothes. I suggested she start sewing masks as a learning tool. The blond twin was going to turn the masks inside out and pin on the ties. I was sewing the masks pieces into a final product.

Our mask total kept growing. We said yes to everyone who needed a mask. We had all the raw materials and the team to create them. 

At one point, I referred to our project as a sweat shop. We had more than one hundred masks in progress. The news kept saying it was important to wear masks, so I felt pressure to get them done immediately. We wanted our family and friends to be safe. 

When we had enough masks, the girls drove to our local family's homes and dropped masks on front porches. To maintain our social distancing, the girls texted everyone to let them know that there was a bag on their porch. 

A few days later, we dropped almost 20 envelopes in the mail, sending masks from Portland to London. The U.S. Postal clerk seemed shocked to see all the envelopes. 

The girls drove to deliver masks to area friends. By the time they arrived back home, there were already pictures of their friends in their masks on social media.

The sweat shop is closed now, but it could reopen at any time. While the rest of the workforce is done making masks, I cannot say no to anyone who asks for a mask. We have a pretty good supply now, but could run out if the quarantine continues. If this happens, we'll reopen the sweat shop. There's no reason for anyone to go without a mask until I'm out of fabric.

Monday, March 30, 2020

We are not all in this together

For all the news stories about how we are all in this extended quarantine together, there are still parents planning family gatherings and letting their kids hang out with friends.

The girls see social media images of their friends hanging out at each other's homes, having sleepovers and parties. They are mad that we won't let them make plans.

What's great about their closest friends is that their parents won't let them go out either. The old saying that there is strength in numbers is true. 

Even if they did get together, there was no place to go. All the restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters, etc. were closed. 


A friend said some people were not taking it seriously because they didn't know anyone who was sick or died yet. I'd like to think that once they knew someone, those families would change their behavior and work to keep us all safer. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. I guess we'll see as time goes on.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Let's not repeat this Spring Break

We decided to do some early Spring cleaning during Spring Break. We told the girls that we'd like to get it done now since we couldn't really go anywhere. 

It was a crummy Spring Break. Really, just terrible.

Even though we let them sleep in and tried to give them extra free time, Spring cleaning was not anyone's idea of a fun Spring Break. It kept everyone busy, which was the point. It created a sense of accomplishment when it was done. It wasn't Amelia Island, though. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Spring Break delayed

The first week of eLearning actually went pretty well. The girls were disciplined about doing their homework every day. There was some confusion about grading, which worked itself out by Friday.  Teachers could count grades that helped the students, but not grades that brought down a student's grade. This meant that the lowest grade a student could end up with was the one in the grade book on March 13.

The girls' teachers ended the week by letting the classes know that students who did all their work would receive extra credit. It was a thank you for all the students who completed assignments.

After the first week, the girls were on Spring Break. We had planned to go to Amelia Island, Florida. We watched as cities and states essentially closed down. We cancelled our plans due to Covid-19. 

We had a big surprised planned for the girls. At the end of Spring Break, Daddy was not going back to his retirement job. He was going to stay home for the summer and find something else to do when the girls went back to school. We told them right after he came home from his last day at work. They were very excited. After a long, crazy week, Daddy deciding to stay home with his family was welcome news.

Friday, March 13, 2020

What comes next?

There were warning signs everywhere, so no one was really surprised when Governor Pritzker closed all the schools this afternoon. The girls spent the school day practicing for eLearning. Luckily our school district planned for eLearning days earlier in the school year. 

We had been watching what was happening in China, Italy, the U.K. and other places. We saw the devastation Coronavirus was causing in other places. We knew it was serious and needed to be taken seriously.

In the days since the NBA suspended its season, the country starting shutting down. The NHL suspended its season. Live theaters suspended productions. Movie theaters closed. St. Patrick's Day celebrations were cancelled. Park districts, museums and zoos cancelled all programs. Suddenly the shelter in place edict was easier because there was no place to go.

As we talked about the shelter in place order, it was very unsettling. Everything was changing so quickly. We read as much as we could about keeping a schedule, focusing on different activities, staying connected, and allowing everyone to move through different emotional stages as reality started to set in. 

Daddy and I talked about the girls' schedule. What was important? We wanted them to go outside every day for fresh air and exercise. We wanted them to get enough sleep. We talked to them about doing something creative every day. It all sounded so practical when we sat at the dinner table.

Later all I could think was "What comes next?" It was the big question we'd have to answer together during the next few weeks.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Before and after

We were watching the Hawks hockey game first intermission program when the personalities started talking about how two NBA basketball teams were pulled off the floor just before their game started. The referees then evacuated the stadium. We heard that an NBA player tested positive for Covid-19. 

We weren't sure exactly what that meant for the NBA or other leagues. It was a chilling announcement, though. 

By the second intermission, the NBA had suspended the season. There was a great video of Dallas Maverick's owner Mark Cuban learning the news during a game. His shocked reaction went viral.

Something big was happening and we were living it in real time. We didn't know exactly what it meant, but we knew that things were about to change quickly. It was a moment we'd always remember as the end of what we knew as normal times.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Youth and Government

Shortly after school started, the brunette twin came home and announced she was going to join Youth and Government. She was very excited about the program. 

There were several planning meetings. She was required to wear business clothes. She enjoyed working on her topic. She found other students working on similar topics, so they all collaborated. 

She decided she wouldn't do it again next year while she was packing. She decided that she wanted to try Model U.N. We told her to try and have fun any way. She got on the bus at 6:30 a.m.

The next time we saw her was Sunday night. She arrived home with a huge smile on her face. The brunette twin had story after story after story after story about the weekend. She had so much fun. We were so very happy. 

Now she wants to do it again as a junior. She's already making plans with her roommates to room together again. There's nothing better than watching your child find something that makes her so happy. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Licensed to drive

The first time the brunette twin went to get her license, the facility was closed due to a state holiday. No one else was celebrating this holiday, but the State of Illinois closed all its offices.

We looked at the calendar and decided that the best option was to pull her out of school a little early one day. She skipped her last class. Daddy met her in front of the school with all the necessary paperwork.

They arrived at the driver's facility to find a long line. This is why we took her out of school. It didn't matter what day or time you arrived. There was always a long, long line. 

I was getting worried. I was afraid that they had stood in line the whole time and ran out of time. The driver's facility staff clocks out when their day ends. They don't stay around so everyone signed in can complete their task.

The blond twin walked in with a big smile. She passed her test and was now a licensed driver.  She was very excited and so were we.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Zoom zoom zoom

We have been promising the girls that we'd buy a third car for months now. We searched dozens of options online. We couldn't come to agreement on what to buy. Sometimes the girls would agree on a car and we'd veto it. Sometimes we'd find a car and they wouldn't like it. Most of the time one parent and one girl would agree, but the other two wouldn't.

Saturday the three of them came to agreement on a vehicle. I was at a Girl Scout meeting, so I heard about it when I called to check in. The girls were very, very excited.

The winning vehicle was a four door red FIAT with a sun roof. It had all the toys you would want from a heated steering wheel to a terrific sound system.

We went back tonight to sign the papers. Daddy went first with the girls to get the process started. By the time I arrived after work, the girls were no longer excited. They were bored -- really, really bored. It turned out that the actual paperwork involved with buying a car was not as exciting as the process of choosing a car.

When we finally drove their car off the lot, they were excited again. They had a safe, fun vehicle. They couldn't wait to show it off to their friends.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Rider down

The brunette twin was taking one last riding lesson before her final IEA competition. At the end of the lesson, her horse decided to he was done. Her instructor moved towards the horse. He did not like the way she was moving towards him and went a little wild.

The brunette twin ended up on the ground.

It wasn't that he bucked her, as she could have stayed on if that was the case. He did a strange shimmy and seemed to leave the ground all four legs at once.

He caught her off guard. She was standing, waiting for her instructor to com over. She was relaxed. She was on the ground before she realized what was happening.

The brunette twin hurt her knee, which meant that she was not going to participate in her final IEA competition. 

Her season didn't end the way she wanted, but it was still a good first season. As we drove home, she was already planning her second season.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Girl out of water

After her high school swim season ended, the blond twin joined a local swim club so she could keep her hard-earned swim skills. She worked really hard during her high school swim season. She wanted to be able to practice during the off season.

The swim club had practice five nights a week. She didn't make every practice, but she made most of them. She worked hard and smelled like chlorine nearly all the time. 

Her last swim club practice was last Friday. As we drove away after the last practice, we realized that it would be the last time we drove the blond twin. The next time club swim started, she'd be able to drive herself.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Memories and tears

At Alyssa's memorial, I remembered her this way. I still cannot believe this is real.

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From the time Alyssa was small, I called her Dolly. She always looked like a doll who came to life. When I hugged her for the last time as we left Thanksgiving dinner, I said, "It's so good to have you home Dolly. Love you." It's the last thing I said to her. 

When I think about my Dolly, I think about all the times I went out with her and my friend Karen. Karen's daughter Phoebe is Alyssa's age. We went all kinds of places together. Alyssa was also a frequent partner in crime when I was out with Sami and Jenny. She was always happy to go anywhere and do anything.

As she grew, our outings became less frequent. Tom and I were busy trying to start our family and she was busier at school. When we found out we were having twins, we started putting together first and middle names. We had a matrix of possible names. I remember standing in our backyard when Alyssa said, "I have always wanted a cousin named Allison." We started thinking about Abigail and Allison as our name combination. I used to remind Alyssa that she named Ally. If you ask Allison how she ended up with her name, she'll tell you that Alyssa named her.

The past few years were rough for Alyssa, Steve, Jake and Zack. She ended up on a bad path and it ultimately killed her. I could tell that every day of that path hurt Steve, Jake and Zack. It turned out that love and support were not enough to turn her to a better path.

We can dwell on the past few years, but who here wants to be remembered simply for their worst decisions? I choose to remember Alyssa as my Dolly. I choose to remember the sweet, smart funny girl who was my adventure partner so many wonderful times.

When Zack called on Christmas, I think he said, "Alyssa's gone." I remember thinking, "Gone where?" I think I said it out loud. At this point, it's all a blur. Even after I realized what he meant by "gone," I couldn't believe it was true. It was inconceivable that my Dolly wasn't going to turn her life towards a better path. It's inconceivable now that she's never going to have a chance to fulfill her potential.

I am so glad that I told her I loved her the last time I saw her. If you haven't done so today, take a minute to tell someone you love them. You never know when it will be your last opportunity to do so.