Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The new reality is everyone needs multiple emergency plans

This originally appeared on The Chicago Moms.

Remember when talking about your emergency plan meant everyone knew how to get out of the house in a fire? If you were traveling it meant having an emergency kit in your car trunk? At school you went into the hall and covered your head during the tornado drill?

In today’s world, it’s important for everyone to have numerous emergency plans. In our house we’ve been talking a lot about the different kinds of emergencies we might encounter and how we can manage them. Don’t get me wrong. We know we won’t be in control when the next crisis hits, but there is something comforting about planning that helps us all.

We have ongoing, casual conversations with our girls about how the school will keep them safe. We talk about why all the interior doors are locked all the time. We talk about why the school is replacing all the exterior windows with bullet proof glass. We talk about what they should do if there is an emergency and what we will do. We know our daughters’ school district is prepared for a crisis. The district has done a good job of communicating its plans to parents and children. Our girls have regular emergency drills encompassing everything from a tornado to an intruder.

Last week all the planning went into action when the school district went on lockdown because an armed robbery took place at a bank within a mile of two schools. At home all our phones started ringing. There were emails and Facebook updates. We knew the district was on lockdown. As parents we were confused because we didn’t know the pick-up procedure. Do we wait for a call? Go to the school at the normal time? It’s one thing to know there is a plan. It’s another thing to implement the lockdown plan. The children weren’t confused at all. Our girls described in detail what everyone had to do and how the teachers handled the situation. It was all quite fine with them, but I held back tears. Who ever thought we’d live in a world where schoolchildren describe a lockdown with the same emotion as they do a science project?

After the Boston Marathon bombing we talked about what Daddy will do if there is ever an emergency downtown. (Really at this point isn’t it when, not if?) We sat at the dinner table and decided Daddy will get on the closest train and take it out of downtown. He won’t try to get to his usual train at Union Station. We figured odds are good that trying to get to Union Station will put him in the middle of the crisis. He’ll take the first train out of town and take it as far south as he can. Wherever he is, we’ll get him back home as soon as we can.

We also have fire and tornado plans for home, but those seem so simple now. As we recently discovered, we’re more likely to use the school lockdown plan than a tornado plan. It’s a sad reality of today’s world that every family has multiple emergency plans covering so many situations. Perhaps what makes me the most sad is knowing that the eventual emergency we face won’t be one we’ve planned for yet. It will be something so heinous that when it happens we’ll say, “I just never thought….”

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A new version of hat hair

You know how you get hat hair when you wear a winter hat or baseball hat or bike helmet? For some reason this came to mind Friday night as the woman explained how to make my helmet fit my head by turning the knob in the back.

I was standing in the saddle shop wondering if I had lost my mind. I was buying a horseback riding helmet. A week ago I was in the same shop with our girls. They love to ride and take lessons regularly now. You can rent a helmet each lesson for just $1, but you have to sign the waiver that says if you end up with lice the stable is not responsible.

I'll admit that for the first few lessons, I just put a deep conditioner in the girls' hair and rented a helmet. Every time we went home I washed their hair with lice killing shampoo in an effort to prevent any problems. All this and I didn't even know if there was lice present. Just the thought of it made my skin crawl.

When it became clear that the girls would continue to take lessons, we invested in riding helmets. The best part for me is the helmets should fit them for a couple of years. I don't know the last time we bought anything I thought would fit for more than six months.

The girls begged me to take lessons with them. I went horseback riding a while ago and like it, so I agreed. The stable near our house doesn't allow people on trail ride unless they've taken lessons.

This was how I ended up buying a horseback riding helmet. Today was our lesson and I survived. In fact, it was even fun. I'm not sure I'm ready to do much besides walk around the pen yet, though. A new helmet doesn't give me that much confidence.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A reminder that they are really just nine years old

The girls have spent months in an after school music club. They learned different percussion instruments, trained in how to lead the group and performed in a drum circle. Every week they bounced out of school bubbling about how much fun they had and tell me what they learned. They talked about it endlessly at dinner.

Tonight was their end-of-year performance. They took it very seriously. They talked about every detail. They put on their black shirts and blue jeans as if they were dressing for an opening night performance. They were full of excitement.

We had fun watching them because they were having fun. To be honest I wasn't sure what all the hand gestures meant so it took a while to get the rhythm of the event. Our girls were in the last group. By the time they picked up their instruments we had a pretty good idea of what was happening.

They were still excited when the show was over. They posed for photos with Gramma and Aunt Bonnie. They hugged their friends. It was great fun.

We were home about ten minutes when the blond twin started crying. It was a full scale, overtired meltdown. She kept saying, "I'm so tired. I just need to lie down. I'm so tired."

We sent her up to her bedroom to stretch out for a couple of minutes. When we went upstairs the blond twin started whining and crying. She came down off the bunk bed in a full blown meltdown. She couldn't stop crying when she brushed her teeth or washed her face or brushed her hair.

It was sweet, even as her crying started to wear on us. It was a reminder that they might want to be big girls, but they are still only nine years old. They are growing up, but still our little girls.

Monday, April 22, 2013

We are fancy girls

The girls are increasingly aware that Mommy and Daddy go to a lot of events and dinners without them. They are also increasingly aware that these are the kinds of fun, fancy activities where children aren't really encouraged to attend.

I don't think it really bothers them that we are going to dinner at a restaurant where they won't like the food. It does bother them that we get dressed up and go out without them. They feel like they should be included because they are big girls now. When we leave them at home, even with a babysitter they adore, they feel like little girls.

As if to prove they can be fancy, the blond twin wore a fancy black dress with black patent shows when we went out for pizza recently. I suggested she was a bit too fancy for pizza. She replied, "You and Daddy get fancy for dinner. I can too."

Now the girls try to be fancy every time we go out. The blond twin insisted on wearing a dress to the Chicago Wolves game last Saturday. It was cute and not fancy, so I let it go. They are on a mission to prove that they should be included in our fancy activities.

We are going to add them to some of our fancy things just because they are old enough to join us once in a while. We're going out for our 15th anniversary this week. The girls are coming to dinner with us at a local restaurant which is a bit fancier than where we usually take them. They are already planning their fancy dresses and sparkly hair accessories.

We won't include them in everything because the message we want to send is that Mommy and Daddy have a life that doesn't revolve around them. We want them to know that they are important, but we still go on dates because it's important for us to spend time alone. It's probably not a message they completely understand yet, but we hope that it's a message which will resonate as they get older.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A good scout is always prepared

So, we're on the school bus heading towards the Adler Planetarium for the third grade field trip. I'm chaperoning the blond twin's class. She's happily sandwiched on a seat with her two best friends -- Paula and Amira.

The girls are laughing and singing and playing with their cameras. We're bumping down the expressway when Paula says, "I don't feel good."

Her mom, sitting across the aisle, says, "What's wrong?"

Paula says, "I think I'm going to throw up."

The chaperones all start talking to Paula to try to distract her when her mom says, "I don't have a bag or anything."

In my one shining moment, I reach into my coat pocket and pull out a plastic bag. Paula's mom shows her how to use it in case, well, you know.

The other moms start laughing that I actually had a plastic bag in my coat pocket. What they don't realize is we all have plastic bags in all our pockets. It's the mark of a dog owner, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Showers are boring

I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden the blond twin is complaining that everything is boring. Recently she looked at me, rolled her eyes and said, "Showers are boring. Why do I have to take a shower?"

I shot back, "Life is boring, Go take a shower."

Dinner is boring. Grocery shopping is boring. School is boring. Homework is boring. Everything is boring unless it's exactly what she wants to do at that very moment.

A friend said, "Oh, yeah. You have a tween."

It's not like we didn't know it was coming. It's just that we foolishly hoped to have a bit more time before everything became boring.

The brunette twin hasn't said it yet, but that's because her sister gets into trouble everytime she says it. I'm sure the brunette twin thinks everything is boring too. She's just not going to follow her sister and get in trouble as well.

The beauty of boring is it is an good learning moment. Now whenever they talk about wanting to be older I point out that lots of things are boring when you are older. Taking care of your house? Boring. Work? Boring. Paying bills? Boring.

I always tell them not to grow up too fast. They yearn to be older, but whenever I point out that lots of things adults do are just plain boring they seem a bit happier to be kids.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Resetting family time

After four months running our local school district's referendum campaign, I can finally come up for air. We lost the vote, but we can walk away knowing we did everything we could. One of our volunteers is gong on vacation next week. She said, "It's time to reset our family so we get our priorities back on track."

Our families sacrificed a lot during the campaign. The core group was always on the phone or computer, planning for a meeting or at a meeting, or running to get this or that. We spent a lot of time promising our spouses and children it would be better after the election.

Now that the election is over it's time to reset.

I was offered to two tickets to see a dance performance called FlySpace. This is taking place on the Pritzker Pavilion main stage. During the colder weather there is a glass wall that creates an intimate performance space. I talked to Daddy and we came up with a plan to each take one girl out on a date.

I'm taking the blond twin, who is thrilled to be able to wear a fancy dress. We'll go to dinner and then go to see the show. I know she's not really old enough to appreciate a long dance performance, so we've been talking a lot about how cool it will be to sit on the Pritzker Pavilion stage to see the show.

Daddy and the brunette twin are going miniature golfing. I think there might be an ice cream stop before or after dinner. She's thrilled to have some Daddy time since the blond twin claims him as her own most of the time.

It's good to have an opportunity to reset family time after the chaotic campaign. We've talked for a while about doing parent/daughter dates. Now's the time to set that plan into motion more often.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My big blue kitty

You know the movie Monsters Inc? Mike Sullivan (aka Sully) is a big blue and purple monster who takes in the human child when she enters the monster world. (Ok, the movie has been out for years. I'm sorry if you didn't know that.)

Boo as the little girl is nicknamed in the movie calls Sully "Kitty." It's her name for him throughout the movie.

We were at the movie theater after Monsters Inc was re-released a few months ago when the blond twin looked at her Daddy and said, "Kitty." She was loud and strong when she said it. At first we didn't react, which annoyed her. She said it again and started stroking her Daddy's arm. I didn't understand why she said, "Kitty" and hugged her Daddy. Then I realized he was wearing his big, blue winter coat.

Granted, he's not as furry as Sully and he doesn't have purple spots. He is really tall with a bright blue coat about the same shade as Sully's fur. Since that movie the blond twin has called her Daddy "Kitty." Often she does it as she's launching herself into his arms -- sometimes without warning.It's really cute when she calls him "Kitty." She gets so excited when he answers her.

He's a good sport about it. He responds when the blond twin calls him Kitty and doesn't even stop her when she does it in public. He would prefer that she didn't stroke his arm like he's really a cat, but she seems to think that's part of the game. In fact, he's such a good sport that he agreed that I should write about it. I wasn't sure he'd want the world to know his daughter calls him Kitty, but he didn't hesitate when I asked about writing a post. It's just one more reason he's such a great Dad.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Illinois politics are driving people out of the state

Originally posted on The Chicago Moms

Another friend told me her family is moving out of Illinois. They are just tired of the train wreck our state has become. She can’t stand turning on the news to see the corruption that permeates every level of our elected governments. She’s sick of hearing about how this innocent child’s murder will be the turning point in the war on gangs. She can’t even imagine what the Springfield politicians are going to have to do to our taxes to fix the state’s fiscal crisis.

She wants to live in a state where elected officials actually perform public service, rather than think of the elected office as a stepping stone for personal gain. She wants to live in a state where people mean what they say and do what they promise. She wants to live in a state where a public official getting indicted creates outrage rather than yawns. She knows that state will never be Illinois. A for sale sign will be in front of their house soon.

The sad part for me is she’s not the only one I know moving or thinking about it. In the past two years five families we know have left Illinois. These are the educate, hard-working middle class families politicians claim to support. Two moved over the border to Indiana because they could still commute to their Chicago jobs. The others moved to Tennessee and North Carolina. They really wanted to get away from the train wreck we call the great State of Illinois.

Can you blame them? I don’t.

I’ve thought a lot about moving. Every single time I watch another child’s funeral or another politician go to jail I wonder why I live here. Whenever I read the articles about the state budget crisis I wonder how much our daughters’ futures will be damaged by our spineless elected officials. They refuse to get take action so our daughters will suffer for it.

Believe me when I say I have done some virtual house hunting in other areas. I think about how much more our money would buy in a really good school district in a target state. We aren’t going anywhere though. I’d like to say it’s because I’m committed to working to helping make our state great again, but that’s not true. The reality is our lives are here. Our families are here. Our jobs are here. It takes a lot more than boxing up some stuff to move and we’re just not able to do it cleanly. We’re feeling more and more stuck every day.

I told my friend I was jealous that she could pick up and go. It’s the same thing I’ve told everyone who has moved. Given the current climate in Illinois, if you’re able to move cleanly and are not thinking about it, I’d be shocked. As more and more neighbors and friends talk about moving I hope politicians will take notice. I hope they will realize their inability to take action on our many pressing issues is literally driving people from our state.

As our friends and neighbors drive their moving vans away, no one looks back. They simply leave the stench that is Illinois politics behind as they drive to their new lives. In the two years I’ve watched this happen not one family has regretted leaving. I’d say this is sad, but I’m happy for them. Life is short. Why spend it in Illinois is you can go elsewhere?