Sunday, August 31, 2014

The big reveal

We arrived at Aunt Linda's with pop and pizza. We all chatted about random things while we waited for Brooke, Alex (aka Ally), Clark and Kayleigh to arrive. Aunt Linda made a nice vegetable salad and a peach/raspberry salad to go with the pizza. We started eating dinner before the others arrived.  I wanted to make sure the girls ate before they went to the concert. The girls chatted as they ate their pizza and salads.

When Brooke, Alex, Clark and Kayleigh arrive it was about 5:20 p.m. The girls finished eating, which was perfect because we were starting to run out of time -- even though they didn't know it yet. We were chatting about shopping when I asked Brooke if she had any plans. She said no. I handed her an envelop that said Merry Christmas. I handed the girls an envelop that said Happy Birthday. Both opened their envelopes.

Brooke and Alex were so excited. Both had huge smiles on their faces. Our girls just looked at the print-outs. Rather than the screams I expected, they looked confused. The blond twin said something about not knowing what was on the paper. Brooke read it to her. Both girls started to understand, but neither really got it yet. We chatted about some details and sped off with a flurry of hugs and kisses. We left Aunt Linda with a big mess of dishes and empty containers.

We drove to the concert, but traffic was a mess. About a mile from Soldier Field, the four girls and I got out of the car in the middle of Columbus Drive. We made our way over to the lakefront, leaving Daddy to get out of traffic and park the car.

As we walked over, the girls still weren't sure about the tickets. The blond twin asked if they really had seats. The brunette twin told me that it would be really mean if we were just walking Brooke and Alex to the concert and they didn't get to go too. I explained that they were really going. They smiled, but didn't commit to being excited.

I left them in front of the Field Museum. There was a stream of girls and their family/friends heading towards the concert. I walked back to meet Daddy at Buckingham Fountain. I couldn't stop smiling as I walked back. I hoped the girls started smiling when they realized they were actually going to the concert.

Daddy and I wandered the South Loop. We stopped by Chicago Summer Dance to watch people dancing to various country songs. People had picnics set-up; parents danced with children; couples danced together. We marveled that this free event took place right on Michigan Avenue. We walked through a couple of hotel lobbies just to see what was going on. We ended up at a trendy diner, just sitting outside having desert. The waiter said the place was filled with girls the past two nights. He couldn't believe that One Direction could sell out two 65,000 seat shows.

We were close enough that we could have heard the crowd roar when One Direction took the stage. We heard the roar at the end of the 5 Seconds of Summer opening act performance. We waited and waited, but never heard the roar. We decided to walk over to Soldier Field and see what was going on.

I knew there would be action near Soldier Field, but never imagined how crowded it would be. The Field Museum's north steps were the parent waiting room. Hundreds of people sat on the steps waiting for their children (ok, their daughters). We walked up the hill to find another parent staging area. As we found a spot on the grass, we heard the roar and then saw the fireworks. There were lots of fireworks throughout the show.

After a while we left the grassy hill and wandered down towards Lake Michigan. We saw hundreds of limousines staged for departure. We saw dozens of bike "cabs" waiting for the show to end. There were police officers trying to keep everything running smoothly. We wandered towards a souvenir stand and started talking to three women buying stuff. They said they just met that evening. Two were from West Virginia. One was from southern Indiana. They decided to hang out together while their girls were at the concert. They did a little lakefront sightseeing together.

We settled on the Field Museum steps for the last eight songs. We started seeing families with young girls coming out early. A woman behind us said, "There's no way our girls would leave early." I thought the same thing, but our girls were older than these little girls. We saw the fireworks signaling the show's end and started heading towards our meeting place.

Alex wore a dress she referred to as "construction cone orange." It was that bright and noticeable. We were just starting to move from the Field Museum steps when I saw her dress. I said, "There go the girls" and we were off. A block later we were all together. Alex laughed when I told her that I spotted her dress.

Our girls were wide-eyed. They had so many fun stories as we walked to the car. They kept saying thank you and telling us it was the best birthday present ever. They wore the t-shirts Grammie bought them. Brooke and Alex were smiling and chatting about the concert. They all had a great time.

We dropped off Brooke and Alex before heading home. The girls fell asleep in the car before we made it home at 1:00 a.m. We're sure to hear more stories tomorrow and for days to come.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Anatomy of a surprise

November 2013
An email arrives with an advance purchase code for a concert. I almost delete it until I read the group name. I double-check to make sure I'm reading it correctly. No matter how I look at it, the group is still One Direction. I put the information on my work calendar and block the 1/2 hour after tickets go on sale to make sure I don't have any meetings at that time.

December 2013
I log in to Ticketmaster and wait for the magic moment when I can try to buy One Direction tickets. I think about how crazy it is that I'm buying ticket for a concert taking place Labor Day 2014. My first ticket options come up. I refresh the screen thinking that there's no way I'll pay that much money to sit in the 400 level at Soldier Field. The second option isn't much better. I refresh again. Third time is the charm as I end up with four pretty good seats. I purchase the tickets, trying not to look at the total cost.

January 2014
I start to think about who will be #4. I figure I'm taking the girls and one other person. I talk to Aunt Mary about Maddie joining us. She lets me know that Uncle Terry (or Grampa as Maddie calls him) bought Maddie One Direction tickets for Christmas.

May 2014
I happen to log on to Facebook a few minutes after Brooke posts a picture with the caption "Wine Direction." I ask if she likes One Direction. She says she loves them. Unsure if she's sarcastic or not (sometimes I miss that in Facebook posts), I email Aunt Debbie who let me know she really does have One Direction posters in her room. I email Brooke about the tickets. The next day I email her again to let her know I have four tickets so if she wants to bring a friend, she can. A few days later we're set. The girls are going to see One Direction with Brooke and her friend.

August 2014
I wake up realizing that the concert is two weeks away and I haven't finalized plans with Brooke. After a bit of back and forth, we decide to meet at a pizza parlor near Aunt Linda's apartment. We decide to take the four girls to and from the concert.

Daddy starts asking the girls about One Dimension (as he calls them). They roll their eyes like he's some annoying boy at school. When we find out that 5 Seconds of Summer is the opening act, we ask them if they like the band. It turns out 5 Seconds of Summer sings a song the brunette twin can't stop singing. All is well.

After I check the tickets, we realize we cannot meet at the pizza parlor. The concert is earlier than I remembered. If there is a long wait at the pizza parlor, the girls will be late for the concert. We ask Aunt Linda if we can bring pizza to her house. She agrees to host everyone. It will be a quick visit as we're invading for an hour and then rushing off.

One week to go and I'm antsy every day. I can't believe we're so close to pulling off the surprise. We tell the girls we're meeting Brooke and Clark for pizza. I put a bag on the spare bed in the office. As I think of things I put them in the bag.

I call Grammie to see if she wants to buy the girls concert t-shirts for their birthdays. She likes the idea. The next day she shows up with birthday cards with the concert cash inside. Those immediately go into the bag.

I start watching the weather obsessively. It seems to rain every day lately. Of course there is rain in the Saturday forecast. I start looking for some disposable rain ponchos. We have had these things around the house for about a decade. Of course, now that I want them I can only find one. At 11:00 p.m., I leave Daddy a message asking if he knows where the rain ponchos are hiding. The next day he comes home from work to find the missing three rain ponchos. He puts them in the bag.

We wait until two days before the concert to print the tickets. I put them in two envelopes -- Happy Birthday for the girls and Merry Christmas for Brooke. I put those in the bag. The next day I print the tickets again and put them in my purse. Why print back-up tickets? In my head I envision the girls getting so excited when they open the envelop that they rip the tickets. I consider printing back-up tickets my way of getting a good night's sleep.

We see the concert on the news. The girls are fast asleep, but I make sure to check the newspaper before they wake up. There is not a story about the concert, so I leave it on the breakfast bar.

We're headed to Aunt Linda's with everything in the car. Now all we have to do is give them their tickets and get them to the show.

It's time to let the shrieking begin.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The long road home

The girls only have one-half day of school today. I told them I had a conference call that I expected to end right before they got out of school. I said I'd probably drive up to get them because I wouldn't have time to walk.

The blond twin said, "We could walk home ourselves."

I said, "Yes you could."

The brunette twin hesitated and started asking questions. Was I going to be home if they walked home? What if it rained? Would I leave the front door open? When all her questions were answered, she said, "Ok, we can walk home."

This has been an ongoing conversation this year. Our neighborhood is full of kids walking with their parents, kids walking by themselves, kids walking with older siblings. Before and after school is a busy time on our neighborhood streets.

The blond twin is ready to walk to and from school without me. She has been talking about this since the first school day. The brunette twin doesn't want to go to or from school without me. I told the girls I'd walk them to school in the morning as Holly expects to walk at that time anyway. We walk Holly at the same time each morning. It doesn't matter if its a weekend, holiday or snowstorm. Holly gets a walk every day.

The afternoon walks are a bit more flexible. Holly doesn't really care about the time for her afternoon walk. Sometimes I don't think she'd care if we skipped it.

If this goes well, we might change our pattern a bit. The blond twin is already talking about walking home from school every day without me. The brunette twin isn't committing to her sister's plan until she gets through today's experiment.

I have to admit I was kind of happy that the girls wanted to walk home from school by themselves today. It makes my morning a lot easier. If they start walking home most days by themselves, I'll still walk Holly every afternoon, but I will have more flexibility.

All this is getting ahead of today. We'll see what happens when the girls get home in a few hours. Until then, it's all just day dreaming.

Monday, August 18, 2014

My Monday morning apology

We had a bar-b-que with the girls’ Junior troop yesterday. Before we all had fun, we had a badge ceremony. At the ceremony I made a mental note to find the missing Daisy and Brownies badges.

For a long time now we were unable to locate one Daisy vest and one Brownie sash. We found the other two hanging on the blond twin’s side of the room. We stripped the brunette twin’s room down to nothing searching for these things. We went through the basement and the living room.
While we were searching for the missing pieces I kept the badges in plastic baggies. We had a group from Daisies and a group from Brownies. With the Juniors ceremony, I now had three baggies. It was time to find the missing vestments.

We went through the brunette twin’s room again before I told the girls they would have to find these things tomorrow. There would be no fun until these things were found. They went to bed, but I kept searching. Daddy and I sat down to watch TV. I sorted all the badges on the credenza and organized the project. Now I really needed the missing pieces. I kept getting up to look here or there. I knew these things were in our house. It was driving me crazy that I couldn’t find them. I finally gave up about 11:00 p.m. I went to bed thinking about the vest and sash.
In the middle of the night I sat up in bed with a startling realization. We weren’t looking for the brunette twin’s vest and sash. We were looking for the blond twin’s vest and sash. The blond twin wouldn’t leave her vest and sash hanging on a hook underneath other things. Hers would be put away neatly in a drawer or on a shelf.

I went into their room and turned on her closet light. Quietly I opened her closet door and reached on her shelf. There, folded neatly, were her vest and sash. I took them downstairs, put them with the rest of the project and went to bed.

The first thing I did when the girls woke up Monday morning was apologize to the brunette twin. I was so annoyed that she couldn’t find her vest and sash. She was so relieved that we found the missing pieces. She was so tired of searching for the items. She also felt vindicated that these were in her sister’s room. She kept saying she didn’t have them and she was right.
Why didn’t we find these earlier? I think there were a couple of things I did wrong. First, I thought I was looking for the brunette twin’s items. I was in the wrong place all the time. Second, even when we looked in the blond twin’s closet, we didn’t do a thorough search. Daddy hangs his “out of season” shirts in the blond twin’s closet. We have two bars so his hang on top and her stuff is on the bottom where she can reach it every day. We never moved Daddy’s shirts to see what was on the shelf.  Third, let’s be honest here, I wasn’t very focused on putting the badges on the vest/sashes. I’d think about it, forget about it, see a badge, and think about it again. If I had really spent some time on this then the badges would be in their proper places.

Now that we have everything, I’ve been busy sewing these things on and reminiscing. The girls have had a lot of fun so far with Girl Scouts. They are in their final years when Girl Scouts is more about community service and earning their Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. It’s fun to look back at what they did as Daisies and Brownies and wonder what kind of impact they can make and Juniors and Cadettes.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Breaking up the band

The girls started fifth grade yesterday with some trepidation. After a days of texting and calling, they discovered their core friends group wasn't with them in class. In fact, the girls weren't even in class together. The girls were happy to be separated from each other. They were not happy to be separated from their friends.

I told them that their principal "broke up the band" as the saying goes. Throughout fourth grade I heard regular stories about how their class was in trouble for this problem or that problem. Most of the time the problem was that they wouldn't stop talking to each other. They had trouble getting out of the building when the fire drill started. In fact, they were the last class out of the building, despite being pretty close to the exit. After the active shooter drill, the principal came into their fourth grade class to explain why it's important to be quiet during the drill. Every time I told them their class was going to get into real trouble for not cooperating with whatever was going on. Sure enough, their group was separated among the seven different fifth grade classes.

When the girls found out they were not with their friends, they were very unhappy. They lamented the separation, even though I kept reminding them that they caused this situation. If they had been cooperative and worked with the school, their group might have stayed intact. Of course, some of them would have been in different classes anyway. A few of them might have stayed together.

We're two days into fifth grade and the girls discovered that they liked their new teachers. They realized they would still see their core friends group at lunch and recess. They had more to talk about since they had stories from each class. Somehow, they all survived the trauma of being separated.

Now that we've survived this dismantling, maybe they can start paying attention to what is going on in class.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer comes to an end

Today is the last day of summer for our girls. It's not the official end of summer, but since school starts tomorrow it's functionally the end of summer. The snow days we accumulated during last winter meant it was a shorter summer than we had planned. The girls got out of school a full week later than planned.

Still, they managed to have quite a bit of fun. They went to Girl Scout camp and horseback riding camp. They took Greek Mythology and Creative Writing camps. They split up for Leadership and Math in Architecture. They took golf lessons and golfed with Daddy. In between there were sleepovers and swimming with friends.  

We have more warm weather ahead, although it's hard to believe that given today's 68 degree high. The unusually cool weather today makes it feel like Fall has come. I always associate the cool, crisp weather with school starting. Even though I know more warm weather is on the way, there's something symbolic about cool weather on the last day of summer.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Privacy sort of

While we were in Wisconsin, the brunette twin struggled with her mixed tween feelings. On the one hand, she wanted to be a little girl. On the other hand she was seeking more privacy. It's a tightrope she has walked as she becomes more and more aware of her changing body. We all stayed in one room, so the only place to find any privacy was in the bathroom.

I was in the bathroom when she decided to change into her bathing suit. I told her she would have to wait a minute. She said, "I'll just change in the room." A few minutes later I came out to see her in her bathing suit. I thought it was strange that she changed there since Daddy was in the room watching TV while he waited.

On our final day the girls were getting ready to hit the pool one last time. Daddy said, "You don't have to change in the closet this time. I'm going to the lobby for a bit."

After Daddy left I said, "You changed in the closet?" She said, "I decided I didn't want to change in front of Daddy. I didn't want to wait for you to get out of the bathroom. I changed in the closet."

It was such a sweet moment that it almost passed without note. Our little girl found a creative way to address her immediate needs. She also found a way to address her growing privacy needs. Daddy recognized her privacy needs and made it easy for her. Without a long, detailed conversation, Daddy and his girl came to agreement about how to live in the same room while we're on vacation.

A few minutes later Daddy came back with some coffee and took his girls to the pool. Everything was normal, even if normal looked a little different. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Put it on that thing

We spent a few whirlwind days in Wisconsin to get away before school starts. We were sitting in Mia's restaurant in Waukesha when I looked up at the records nailed on the wall and said, "Do you girls know what these are?"

The blond twin said, "You put it on one of those things and put that thing on it and the hear the music." She moved her hands as if to show what she meant.

I looked at Daddy and said, "You know, you put it on that thing and put that thing on it and the music plays." I rolled my eyes and sighed as I said it. He laughed.

He went on to explain that the thing was a record player. He described how it worked. The girls looked shocked to hear that we had some records in the house still.

The next night we were back in Waukesha for a music festival. Every summer Friday evening Waukesha closed its Main Street and filled it with street music. There were different performers every couple of blocks. The girls and I were browsing an antique store when they spotted a typewriter. They stared at it and tried to figure out how it worked.

I explained each piece and told them how it worked. I blew their minds when I told them that I wrote my college papers on a typewriter. The girls begged to see it. I promised to get it from Grammie's house.

A few minutes later we all went back outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and live music. I went into the next antique store by myself. Two history lessons in two nights was enough.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Movin on up

The girls spent last night at a friend's, which was probably the best thing they could have done. Today was their horseback riding test to see if they moved from beginner to intermediate. It was all they could talk about yesterday. It took their minds off the big test when they spent the night at Juliana's.

They were do nervous as we arrived at the stable. They checked which horses they were riding and only the brunette twin smiled. The blond twin thought America was a beginner horse. The brunette twin had Snoop, an intermediate horse.

The lesson began like all the others. It wasn't until the last 15 minutes that we started to see signs that they were being tested. The instructor asked them to do things that were harder than the other students. They had to show command and control of the horses at all times.

At the end she walked over to each girl, high-fived her and whispered, "You're moving up." We knew by their smiles that they were happy, but didn't know why. A grandparent watching her granddaughters was telling me how natural the blond twin looked on America. She said, "That horse fits her." It was such an nice compliment, but her timing was bad. She said it as Miss Maggie started talking. Mommy actually missed the big class announcement that the girls were moving up.

Miss Maggie made the announcement again. Daddy took pictures of the girls on their horses. They called Grammie to share the news. We celebrated with Plush Horse ice cream. The girls were so excited they could hardly stop smiling.

Now they move from mastering basic horse control skills to barrels and poles and other things that will make me cringe and them smile. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Golf girls

The girls went golfing with Daddy yesterday. We try to take them to a local nine-hole course so they can practice putting everything they learned in lessons together. They came home beaming. Daddy said, "They golf really well." They couldn't wait to tell me about their success.

The nine-hole course was a par 30. The blond twin shot 50. The brunette twin 51. It won't get them on to the LPGA tour, but it was their best scores to date.

Daddy said it was like all their lessons kicked-in. The blond twin hit some long shots across the fairway, which was something she struggled with before. The brunette twin was able to control her putting and get the ball in the cup more easily.

The girls were thrilled. Every once in a while during the day they would tell me a story about their day on the course with Daddy. They liked being out with Daddy. They like golfing well.

They came home ready to golf some more, but we'll wait a while on that. They can bask in their best scores for a while.