Saturday, December 29, 2012

Let it snow

For the first time in nearly a year we had some snow fall yesterday. It wasn't much, but it was cold too so I went looking for my snow boots.

I couldn't find them.

I knew I owned snow boots. I remembered wearing them a lot two winters ago. Last winter was so mild I think I wore gym shoes every day. I'm not sure I put on any winter boots last winter.

This lead to me searching the house wondering where I stored my winter boots. I eventually found them, but then I was afraid to put my foot in one. I hadn't even thought about these boots for more than a year. Can you imagine all the icky things that could have been in my boots? I imagined lots of things, but nothing was in my boots.

I anticipate wearing these boots a lot this winter. We've decided not to go to Florida this January. The last time we didn't go to Florida in January we had a harsh winter which included a blizzard.

Now you are looking for your winter boots, aren't you?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tea party time

Every year after Christmas we have our girls' Girl Scout troop over. Right now we have 10 tween girls giggling and whispering in our house. It's loud, silly and fun.

Our girls set the table early this morning. They decided which china to use and carefully folded napkins. After lunch they set out cookies like they were creating an artistic masterpiece. By 12:30 p.m.they were pacing, despite the fact that the start time was 1:00 p.m. 

During the years we've been doing this we've gone from highly programmed parties to more relaxed games of telephone and freeze dance. I looked at a photo from the first tea party a few days ago. I was amazed at how young the girls seemed.

It's one of the joys of having the same group of girls around. We can look at the photos and see how much they have changed throughout the years. Some things stay the same. Our girls like to wear their Christmas dresses to every tea party. One friend always wears a dress with leggings underneath. She has worn something like that every year.

This year we have four kinds of cookies, two kinds of M&Ms, grapes and colby jack cheese sticks on the menu. We have chocolate milk, egg nog, white milk and water for our beverage selection. The games include telephone, freeze dance, hot potato played with a Rudolph stuffed animal and watching a One Direction concert.

The girls are just having so much fun. Right now they are laughing hysterically in the family room because they cannot get through one round of telephone without completely breaking down. They just decided to play Simon Says. I used to decide the schedule, but now I just provide supervision. Once I get them started they keep themselves busy.

The annual tea party is is one of my favorite holiday gatherings. It's fun, relaxed and festive. I can't wait until we do it again next year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Memories

6:30 a.m.
Blond twin: "Wake up! Wake up! It's Christmas morning. We're gonig to see if we've been naughty or nice."

Brunette twin:  "We've been nice! Santa left us one big box each."

6:45 a.m.
Brunette twin:  "So far I've been nice every year."

7:30 a.m.
Blond twin: "What do you want to play first? Let's Dance or Wipeout?
Brunette twin: "Let's Dance!"

8:15 a.m.
Mom and Dad are downloading the iTunes software so they can fill the girls' new iPod Touches.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Grammie is on the naughty list

The brunette twin screamed when she saw Cane (our elf on the shelf) sitting on the piano. She said, "Who moved Cane?"

We all denied touching Cane because we know you should never, ever, ever touch the elf on the shelf. I said, "Maybe Grammie did it. She didn't know any better. I be Cane will forgive her."
The brunette twin turned to me and said, "She did know Mom. I told her not to touch the elf and why. I read the book to her so she'd understand why she shouldn't touch Cane."

At this point I'm stuck. I have nothing left to say to defend Grammie. I said, "Talk to Cane. I'm sure he'll understand."

The brunette twin would not be pacified. She fretted about what would happen now that Grammie touched Cane. She wondered if Santa would be so angry he wouldn't bring any presents.

As for me, I'm just glad I'm not Grammie right now. The brunette twin is really angry. Of course it won't last long, but at this moment Grammie is number one of the brunette twin's naughty list.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Can we be Merry already?

Oh I cannot wait for the girls' Winter break to begin. This has been one seriously long and crazy week. Monday the girls didn't want to go to school. Even though we had a media blackout in our house, the girls were still talking about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims as we walked to school on Monday. A few days later we were driving when the brunette twin said, "You know what's so sad about those kindergartners who were killed Mom? They didn't get to live their lives." I cried softly as I drove because she was right and because I realized this was going to be on her mind for a long time.

Tuesday two bank robbers broke out of a federal prison in downtown Chicago by repelling down a 15 story building using a rope made of bedsheets. The last credible sighting of these two was in a suburb not all that far from us so our schools were on lock down.

Not to be outdone, a local crazy picked up for a DUI in the middle of Tuesday night made threats against a local school and the local police department. The officers who went to his home found weapons and ammunition. Both are safely in the police lock-up and the crazy drunk is in custody. Sooner or later they will have to release him and he'll just go out to buy more weapons and ammunition.

I feel like every day the girls come home with a letter from the school district office about a new problem, how to cope with the old problems or a possible future threat. This week it has been hard to remember that we live in a nice, typically safe neighborhood.

I'm tired of all this. I feel like every day there's a "crazier than the day before" news story with the ability to negatively affect our girls. I need a few days with all of us at home baking cookies and making hot chocolate. Tomorrow is the last day of school for two weeks. It can't come fast enough for me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

You're afraid of what?

We were walking to school when the blond twin said, "You know what I'm afraid of?" I replied, "No, what?" She said, "Bison."

After a few steps pondering this answer I said, "Ok, I'll ask. Why are you afraid of bison?"

It turns out she was reading a book about wolves and a pack of wolves attacked a bison. Before the wolves could feast another bison managed to spear a wolf and kill it. This is why the blond twin is afraid of bison.

Now, as fears go this one isn't so bad. Really, what are the chances of the blond twin encountering a bison any time soon?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Assuming the worst

We had Sunday night football on TV while we listened to the blond twin read a Christmas story when the news broke in to say that President Obama was going to speak at the Sandy Hook memorial service. We all sat and watched the President. The girls asked a few questions, but not many.

When they were getting ready for bed, the brunette twin said, "I don't want to get shot."

I immediately held my breath. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let her watch President Obama. She's such a worrier that maybe we should have kept the media blackout going.

The brunette twin was sitting in my lap so I said, "What do you mean baby?" She replied, "I know I have allergies, but I don't want to get shots. I don't think I need them."

We launched right into a conversation about her allergies, how we're tired of listening to her sniffle, how good shots will make her feel, etc. She wasn't buying any of it. She doesn't want to get allergy shots.

We promised her we wouldn't make any decisions right away. We'd take her back to the allergist and then talk about it again.

I walked out of the room grateful I misunderstood what she said. I might worry about her safety every day in school, but I don't need her to carry that burden.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shattered innocence and broken hearts

I didn't want to our girls to know about the mass shooting in Newtown, CT yesterday. Maybe something along the lines of "something bad happened really far away" if anything at all. Unfortunately, the girls' elementary school took it out of my hands.

The girls walked out of school excited about the weekend. I don't remember which girl said it first, but one of them whispered to me, "There was a shooting in a different school. There's a note in my backpack. Can we talk about it when we walk home?"

I told her we'd talk as much as she wanted.

When there's something difficult to discuss or potentially embarrassing to one of our girls or someone else, we always talk about it when we're alone. Sometimes one of them will ask if we can talk about something in the car. Sometimes they want to talk about it when we get home. Yesterday we talked about the it on the way home from school.

I heard words coming out of my mouth, but those were nearly out of body moments. They asked questions. I answered. I didn't provide more information than necessary, but I did answer all their questions. The girls had a lot of questions. I didn't have all the answers and I told them that when appropriate.

As soon as we got home Daddy called. Both girls wanted to talk to Daddy. They cried. I tried not to cry. We hugged a lot. They cried some more. I hugged them some more.

It's completely incomprehensible for adults to realize that one person was so sick that he walked into a school and killed 20 children. For two little girls who love school, it's terrifying. We don't have the words to make them feel better right now.

Neither girl wants to go back to school. The brunette twin doesn't want to go back ever. The blond twin doesn't want to go back next week. She wants to stay home until after Winter break. I don't want them to leave the house either, even as I recognize that this is a completely unhealthy long-term solution. Still, if they are in our house we can keep them safe.

At least that's what we tell ourselves. I realize we have to leave the house. We have to go out into the world. Monday we'll walk to school with Oreo, just like we do every school day. We'll pack lunches, make sure backpacks are ready and argue about whether or not to wear gloves. (Momma says yes. The girls always say, "It's not that cold.)

I only wish I felt good about that reality. I feel an overwhelming sadness and I'm far removed from the tragedy. Mostly, I wonder how it's ever going to be possible for the Sandy Hook Elementary School families to get out of bed each day. Believe me when I say that I recognize my fears are their realities. Nothing happening here is as bad as what is happening there.

Friday, December 14, 2012

This is why our girls do not watch the news

I'm sick to my stomach. All I want to do is go to our school and bring our girls home. I want them in my arms and safe in our house. It's not that easy though is it?

Mass shootings seem to happen more and more in the United States. Today's in Connecticut seems to be on track for the worst (or close to the worst) school shooting in history. It is on every channel. I've been watching it for a while now.

Our girls will not see it. We don't allow them to watch the news. Everyone in the family and all the babysitters know that the girls don't watch the news. We feel that they are nine-years-old and don't need to see all the violence and sadness in the world.

I'm strict about it. I don't turn on the TV when they are at home. If I decide to watch the news, I make sure they are upstairs or downstairs. I won't even turn on the news if they are on the same floor. I won't take the chance that they might overhear about some child beaten or some car accident or some mass shooting.

Yes, I'm limiting their knowledge of the world. I realize they will find out the harsh realities sooner or later. I want them to be mature enough that we can discuss the issues and feel like they understand those issues. I want them to have some world view so they understand that bad things happen, but that doesn't mean those bad things are going to happen in their neighborhood.

Mostly I keep hoping that some how, some way I'll be able to explain why these things happen in a way that makes sense. As I sit here right now I'm not sure there is ever going to be a moment when I can explain such violence in a way that makes sense. I do know that I can control their information flow until I can process it.

This won't last forever, but as long as I can make it happen I will. Childhood is so fleeting. There is no reason for our girls to learn about all the sadness when we can protect them from it for a while. They will grow up fast enough without us forcing them to process these kinds of adult problems when they are so young. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Elf on the Shelf is making Christmas shopping harder

We were walking to school when I reminded the girls that they needed to write a letter to Santa. The brunette twin said, "I'm not writing a letter this year. I told the elf what I wanted. He talks directly to Santa so I don't need to write a letter."


It's great that the elf is taking the information back to Santa, but it's a problem for those of us who still need to buy our girls Christmas presents.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

We have to buy them Christmas presents?

We were discussing Christmas presents when we came upon a shocking discovery. We hadn't bought a thing to put under the Christmas tree for our girls. Actually, to clarify, we hadn't bought anything that would come from us.

I feel like I've been Christmas shopping for the girls for a long time now. I bought all Gramma's gifts for the girls. We've discussed gift ideas with relatives on both sides. We've received ideas from the girls. What we haven't done is buy anything that will say "Love, Daddy and Mommy" on the gift tag.

In what is highly unusual for us, we're scrambling for gifts. We have ideas so we're not totally lost. We're just not where we usually are this close to Christmas. Luckily we figured out our situation before December 24. Now we're crossing our fingers that we're still in time for standard shipping and the stores are not sold out.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I'm not your friend

Overheard walking home from school

Blond Twin: "My friend at school said her mom is her best friend. Will you be my friend?"

Mom:  "Sorry baby. I'm your Momma, not your friend. You'll have lots of friends, but just one Momma."

Blond Twin: "You're more special than a friend."

Mom: "You too blondie."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Casual holidays

We're in an funny place with the girls and Christmas. The things they loved before like the Polar Express are too young for them now. They still want to see Santa and go downtown, but the "must do" list is shrinking.

In past years there were breakfasts with Santa, father/daughter dances, train rides and more. This year we had two things on the schedule as of Thanksgiving. Oh, I know more will pop up, but we aren't booked every weekend.

It's a nice development to a hectic holiday season. While before we were looking to make sure they had lots of fun memories now their participation in Brownies, church and after school activities means they have lots of holiday events. Whether it's a community service project with Brownies or a party at school, they have built-in holiday activities.

We have a few things planned like decorating Christmas cookies at the Fairmont Chicago and ice skating with friends. We have to shop for our adopt-a-family and wrap a lot of presents for family and friends. These will be great tween-age holiday memories even if they are bit more casual.

Monday, December 3, 2012

No more lifetime subscriptions

Last year the girls talked us into buying a lifetime subscription for an online game site they liked. The site was appropriate for children through age 12, so we thought it was a good deal since we'd get a few more years for the cost.

This year we cannot get the girls to go to that site. The blond twin said, "It's boring now."


We should have known better. The problem was two-fold. First, one part of the site had learning games through age 12. The girls are reading and doing math at or above that age level. They are bored with the games even though their ages mean they should still be challenged. Second -- and perhaps more importantly -- they are nine years old. Their tastes change quickly. For them a lifetime membership doesn't meant the same thing as is does to us.

We learned our lesson. We'll buy the ocassional monthly membership, but nothing more. I'd like to think we won't make the same mistake twice.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The NHL lockout is ruining my quilting

Now that I've finished creating my quilt from Dad's shirts I need the motivation to finish it. Part of my problem is the weather has been warmer than you might expect for November. I was not ready to snuggle under a quilt to I watch TV or read when I was still opening windows. Part of my problem is the NHL lockout means we haven't had any hockey on TV this season.

As I sewed the quilt top I imagined myself with the quilt on my lap watching the Chicago Blackhawks. Dad taught us to love hockey so it would be like he was there in spirit with me. Well, no hockey meant no motivation to finish.

The weather took a sharply winter turn this week, which is my new motivation to finish the quilt. Even if the NHL lockout lasts the entire season the cold weather is still coming. Like it or not I'll end up on the couch with a quilt on my lap. If I want it to be Dad's quilt, I need to get moving.