Monday, December 28, 2015

The Schmidt resemblance

The girls are always asking "Who do I look like?" The blond twin is clearly Daddy's child. From the time she was little, she looked just like Daddy -- without his beard and mustache of course. 

The brunette twin has always slid back and forth between Momma's family and Daddy's family. When she's with my side of the family I think she looks like Sami. When she's with Daddy's side of the family I think she looks like Jenny.

With their Schmidt Happens t-shirts on, Clark, Brooke, Jenny and the girls sat on the fireplace hearth for a group photo. When I looked at the photo, I saw clearly the Schmidt family resemblance. The five of them could have been siblings or cousins. If I didn't know that they were cousins, I would have believed that they were a family with five children ranging from mid-twenties to tweens. Looking at them all together you could see that they shared family features that bonded them as a group.

The girls were thrilled to see the family resemblance. Sometimes they don't know where they fit because they are so much younger than their cousins. The group photo put them firmly in the mix, much to their delight.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Schmidt happens

We were settling in for dessert when Aunt Debbie came in with an arm full of t-shirts. We all laughed when we saw the shirts. She had t-shirts made that said, "Schmidt Happens."

She handed them out, making sure that everyone tried on their shirts. At one point Brooke, Clark, Jenny and our girls took a picture with their Schmidt Happens shirts.

The blond twin said she wanted to wear the shirt to school. Daddy said it might not be such a good idea. She repeated that she wanted to wear it and asked why she would get in trouble.

Several people tried to explain that Schmidt Happens sounded like something else that people say. The blond twin stared blankly. It was clear she didn't understand. 

I looked at her and said, "Sh!t happens. Schmidt happens. Get it"

She still stared blankly. I repeated it so she would make the connection. When she understood, her eyes grew wide and she laughed nervously. Then she said, "Mom, don't say that."

I wish I could have captured the look on her face when it all clicked. She looked like someone who just realized she was being let in on a big secret, even if it was something everyone else understood without explanation.

We decided that she could wear the shirt most places, but definitely not school. Now that she's in on the word play, she'll wear it with family pride -- and a sly smirk.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Maybe next horse

A couple of weeks went by before I finally called about Shawnee. Her owner was looking for someone to share board. She was too busy to take care of her daughter's horse. Her daughter was in college, so she wasn't in town any more. Shawnee needed some attention.

Our girls have been begging us for a horse. We told them over and over again that we were not going to buy a horse. Share boarding was a definite possibility, though. When you share board a horse you pay a set amount to be responsible for the horse for one or more days. In our case we want to share board a horse for one day a week. The reality is we do not have time to do more than that. 

It all sounded good. The owner kept Shawnee in her backyard during the warm weather. When the weather turned colder, she moved Shawnee to the barn. 

We arrived at the barn early. Our girls were so excited they could hardly contain themselves. They were dressed to ride, with their helmets in hand. We met her owner and walked to her stall. Shawnee let the girls brush her and pick her hooves. She let the girls saddle her. They walked her into the arena.

Everything turned the minute we were in the arena. Shawnee wouldn't let the girls get into the saddle. She bucked when her owner tried to keep her still so the brunette twin could ride her. Shawnee wouldn't let her owner walk her around or try to lead her. 

The owner was clearly upset. She kept saying, "She doesn't normally act like this." She finally just gave up and put Shawnee back in her stall.

Daddy and I talked about our visit before deciding that Shawnee wasn't the right horse to share board. The girls were both sad and relieved. While they really wanted a horse, they were a bit afraid of Shawnee after her terrible arena behavior. It was hard to tell them that we were going to keep looking, but we are going to keep looking. The right horse is out there. We're willing to wait for the right fit.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas competition

We didn't see it coming, but somehow we ended up in a Wii bowling tournament Christmas afternoon. We all met at Grammie's for lunch, opened gifts and sat around talking. When Josh started writing names on pieces of paper he said, "Do you think Gramma will play?" We said no and kept chatting.

A few minutes later Grammie was pulling names for Josh's brackets. At this point we started paying attention. Josh said, "Ok, the brackets are set. Get ready to play Wii bowling."

The funny thing was that this wasn't the first time Josh organized a family tournament without actually asking us if we want to participate. We've watched him do this on both sides of his family. At his brother's high school graduation party several years ago Josh walked around asking people for five dollars. Everyone opened their wallets. At one point I said, "Why is Josh asking for $5." His twenty-something cousin said, "I don't know. He's probably organizing something." 

I laughed because Josh was in middle school at the time. He walked around asking for money and no one questioned whether they should give it to him or not. He used his personality to organize that tournament and get the whole family playing bean bags. He set-up brackets, pulled names to create teams and kept the tournament going.

He used these same skills to get us organized. It was laugh-out-loud fun for everyone. Some of us had never touched a Wii remote. At one point the blond twin played for Uncle Steve when he stepped out to take a phone call. When he came back he didn't want to take the remote back as she was doing quite well. 

Josh was out in the first round when Aunt Reenie beat him. The loss went down in family history as Josh bowls frequently. Aunt Reenie had never touched a Wii remote before the bowling tournament. When he pulled her name while creating the brackets, I'm sure he thought it was an easy route to the second round. 

Christmas has always been fun at Grammie's because there were always a lot of little kids running around with new toys. Now that all the grandchildren are a bit older, the fun morphed into family competitions. When Nick beat Jake to win the family title, you can bet Josh was working on next year's tournament game. Now, if only he'd give me some ideas so I can practice. I don't expect to win, but I'd rather not be at the bottom of the family bracket again.  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

You did what?

A couple hours after we admired the girls' gingerbread house, the brunette twin walked into the kitchen and said, "Where is the extra candy and frosting?"

Daddy replied, "We ate it."

She was horrified. The blond twin came running in saying, "We left that in case you wanted to add something to the back of the house. You ate it?"

The brunette twin chimed in with "We would have eaten it if we didn't want you to use it."

We told them the house was lovely just as designed. We told them that we thought they were done. They told us how they saved it so we could decorate the back of the house. They explained that we ruined their gingerbread house because now there wasn't anything on the back wall. They glared and told us to ask them next time before we eat the frosting and candies. It wasn't extra because they had plans for it.

We were both amused with their reaction. For just a moment we switched places. They were practicing their best "annoyed at you children" looks as they explained why we were wrong -- so very wrong.

To our credit, we waited until they were out of the room to laugh. It seemed like the best idea we had since eating the extra candies.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

We always do it with Daddy

We're navigating the tween world which means the girls alternately need our help and don't want us around. This morning the brunette twin decided today was the day the girls would work on our annual gingerbread house. We've had the kit sitting on the breakfast bar for probably two weeks now. We just haven't had time to put it together.

When they came home from church pageant practice, I told Daddy that the girls wanted to put together the gingerbread house with him. He thought they would want to do it be themselves since they were old enough to do that now. He was right, but when I said the same thing to the brunette twin, she said, "We always do it with Daddy."

The three of them sat at the breakfast bar to put the house together. They had to wait for a while to let the icing dry before they could decorate the house. During the time the icing dried, the girls decided to finish decorating it themselves while Daddy and I took care of some other chores. 

As the brunette twin said, "This way you'll be surprised when you see it."

The finished gingerbread house is lovely. They did a beautiful job putting icing and candy on the house, roof and lawn. It's their own creation, but Daddy helped them put it together. The tradition continues, which makes everyone happy.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Waiting for winter

The last two winters have been brutal, even by Chicago standards. The Polar Vortex pushed people to sell their houses and move some place that doesn't think -20 is a normal winter temperature. We were in Arches National Park last summer when we met two of those people. They were former Chicagoans who moved to Colorado. As the husband noted, he liked Chicago, but, oh, those winters.

I thought about this as I watched the local news a few nights ago. An annual religious pilgrimage to the local Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine was walked in 60 degree weather this year. Last year the same pilgrimage was held with a -6 degree temperature. It was nearly 70 degrees warmer this year.

Warmer than last year has become a common theme this year. Every day has been warmer than normal. We had one, brief accumulating snow. I do not know if we've gone below freezing yet.

I want to say how much I am enjoying this weather, but I have an uneasy feeling about it now. The weather forecasters keep talking about how El Nino will keep our winter warmer than normal. So far they have been right.

Maybe it's some kind of post-winter reaction from the past two brutal winters, but I'm starting to worry that we're being lulled into a false sense of security. I am starting to wonder when winter will show up and how bad it will be when it gets here. Surely we won't go all winter without the brutal cold of the last two years, will we? 

Tonight's weather forecast mentioned a lovely 50 degree temperature for Christmas. The forecaster said that it might be 45, but he really thought it would be warmer. If that's true, it's the best Christmas present Mother Nature has sent in years. We'll take it as her apology for the past few winters. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Prints on the mirror

The girls are obsessed with make-up all of a sudden. The brunette twin wants to wear eye shadow. The blond twin pretends she's not interested, but she's always asking questions.

Recently I found fingerprints on a bathroom mirror. It happens to cover a cabinet I use to store a few items, including some make-up. Underneath the mirror was some foundation that had dripped when one of the girls tried to use it. When I asked the girls, they both denied having been in the bathroom. I told them the foundation didn't drip on the floor by itself. They just stared at each other.

The funny thing is that they still haven't figured out that they need to clean-up their messes. If the girls hadn't left a trail of drips and finger prints, I wouldn't have known they were sneaking into our bathroom to play with my make-up.

I moved my foundation, which will annoy them - even though they will never, ever say anything. One of these days they will learn to cover their tracks. In the meantime, I'm enjoying their efforts to be grown-up girls. Their covert attempts make ensure I'll have plenty of stories to tell at their weddings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Always Mom

Our Girl Scouts troop is working on their Leadership in Action Award. The biggest step is to find a Brownie troop and work on their Journey with them. Luckily for us, one of our Cadettes has a younger sister in a Brownie troop. We were able to schedule time when we could help that troop. 

We were waiting for the Brownie meeting to start when I heard someone say something that could have been "Mrs. Schmidt." I was writing notes in a loud school all purpose room and not really paying attention. I heard someone say, "Mom" and immediately turned around.

Sarah was trying to get my attention. She laughed and said, "You're not my Mom." I said, "Nope, but it got my attention. It doesn't matter who says it. Once you have kids you always respond to Mom."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cause and effect

Overheard at our house...

Mom:  "How long have you had a hole in the heel of your left boot?"

Brunette Twin:  "There's a hole in my boot? No wonder my foot was wet and cold yesterday."

Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas decorating made easy

A couple of years ago we started letting the girls decorate the tree by themselves. Daddy put up the tree and the girls took over. They loved putting up the ornaments, often analyzing ornament placement like they were painters staring at a blank canvas.

Each year they take on more Christmas decorating. This year they did nearly all the work. My job was to take down the existing decorations to make room for the Christmas decor. Daddy put up the tree as usual. The girls took over from there.

They created a Santa brigade in the dining room. There is a nutcracker army in the family room. Every room has some holiday cheer. I was allowed to put bowls filled with ornaments in a few places and crystal figurines above the kitchen cabinets. Other than those few touches, the girls created our Winter wonderland.

They did a lovely job. They liked being in charge of decorating. They liked working together to decide what went where. Mostly they liked being trusted with the responsibility. They kept proving over and over again that our babies are growing up.

Now if I could only get them to be as excited about taking it down...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving planning requires a pencil not a pen

We're hosting Thanksgiving, as we have done the past few years. So far I know that my Mom and my Sister-in-Law Linda will be here. The rest of our guest list is a bit more fluid.

My brother Dave's youngest son is still playing high school football. He team has gone far in the playoffs. If they win one more game they will play in the state tournament Thanksgiving weekend. Winning means they will probably be eating with us. If they lose, then Dave and family are going away for a quick family vacation, as they have done for the past few years.

My brother Steve's middle child plays high school hockey. His team is in a Thanksgiving tournament. He won't know until Wednesday if he is joining us for Thanksgiving. The schedule is decided as each game is played. Winners play in one bracket. Losing teams play in another bracket.

How do we plan? We plan for everyone to show up. If they do we'll have a full house with lots of noise. If they don't then we'll have leftovers. Either way we're ready for a fun day. Now we just have to wait and see who comes to have fun with us.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rodeo secrets

A few years ago the girls started spending the weekend with Uncle Len and Aunt Debbie. They always come back with funny stories and great photos. Their favorite weekends involve the rodeo at Gordyville. Of course they love anything with horses, but they really like watching the rodeo performers.

This year when we took them down to the rodeo Daddy and I decided to spend the night in Champaign. We told the girls we were going to see a movie, but we had a different plan. We went power Christmas shopping.

I mean we were on a mission. We had a mental list and target stores. We shopped for our girls and others on our list. We had a few child-free hours and we meant to use them well.

When we were done we went back to the hotel room with a lot of bags. We had great success, finding most things on our list at great prices. During our adventure we managed to wander the University of Illinois (where we both went to college) campus, visit a local western shop and work our way through a mall. Our niece, Mikki, was quite surprised to see us at the mall. I can't imagine any scenario where she thought she's see us in the mall that Saturday night.

We carefully packed everything into our suitcase. A few items we left out because we didn't care if the girls saw them. Plus, they wouldn't fit in our suitcase even if it was empty. I was giddy. We managed to cross of nearly everything we needed to buy in one power shopping trip.

On the way home the girls talked about how much fun they had. When they asked what we did, we steered the conversation back to the rodeo. We told them we wandered campus and went to dinner. They thought it was boring, but we were quite happy, even if we couldn't share the joy.

Now they are a bit worried. The girls have asked a few times when we are going to start Christmas shopping. I keep telling them not to worry about it. The brunette twin asked why I always get such a big smile when I talk about Christmas shopping. She knows how much I dislike going to our local malls. What she doesn't know is I'm smiling because it's done.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Repairing past projects

Every winter I start a quilting project. Usually I start a new quilt with the idea that I will give it as a gift at some point. This year I'm going back to fix three of my personal quilts.

The first quilt is a summer coverlet. My Gramma Cartwright made many of the squares. Some of the seams were splitting. I went through and fixed those seams, and then added some additional quilting to support the older seams. The actual quilting comes in when you put the top and bottom layers together. Sometimes it's decorative; other times it's pretty straightforward. Either way the main purposes are to support the block seams and keep the top and bottom together.

The second quilt is one I made in college. I remember finishing it while I was on winter break during college. This quilt needs a new binding. The one I originally sewed started as white edging. It's some dirty-looking color now and is coming apart. It is long past time for a new binding.

The third quilt had a completely different problem. If there is such a thing as over-quilting, I did it on this project. The middle block is a large piece of red material with white dots. I did a lot of handwork on the block. As the years passed, the fabric simply wore away on the block. There are parts that simply don't exist anymore. I haven't decided exactly how to fix it, but I have a few ideas. I need to cover the worn parts while still showing some of the original hand quilting.

There's one quilt project I might take on after these three are done. It will be a huge project that I haven't quite been able to crystalize yet. I have the first quilt I made. It's more than 30 years old. I hand sewed everything from the blocks to the quilting. My youthful ignorance led me to put too much batting between the top and the bottom. I thought it would make it warmer. What happened is the seams started pulling and splitting as I washed it over and over again. It has been sitting in a closet for a while now. I want to get it out of the closet and back into regular use.

Fixing this quilt will require pulling apart the original quilt, fixing the seams and re-quilting the original top to a new backing. Part of the reason I haven't done it before is it seems overwhelming. I always had another project on deadline. I didn't want to start it unless I had time to finish it.

When the first three projects are done, I hope to have a final plan to fix my first quilt. If I can put it all together in my head, I'm sure it will come together nicely.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The dog bed

When we bought the girls their bunk beds we ordered a twin over a double. We decided it would be a good idea to have a bed big enough so the girl could sleep together. They have always liked to snuggle together, whispering secrets late at night. Holly changed the dynamics when she started sleeping in bed with the girls. Now whoever sleeps in the double bed gets to snuggle with the big furry dog.  

Since the bunk bed has been apart Holly goes back and forth between beds. The other night I woke up to some noise coming from their bedroom. I walked into their room to find Holly spread out on the twin bed. She had her head on the pillow and stretched nearly to the foot board. Did I mention she's a big dog?

The commotion I heard was the girls trying to convince Holly to get off the bed. The brunette twin explained that she got up to use the bathroom and found Holly spread out on the twin bed when she came back into the room. Holly wasn't interested in moving. She turned her head so she wouldn't see the girls trying to get her to move.

I told the brunette twin to sleep with her sister. On the one hand I didn't want to deal with Holly. It was late and I didn't want to fight with the dog. On the other hand I told the girls that once they let Holly sleep in their beds that they wouldn't be able to get her off the bed. Who knew Holly would eventually try to claim an entire bed for herself?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Back to beginner riding lessons

The girls and Erin share a birthday. This year the three girls plotted their perfect birthday. They wanted to take a horseback riding lesson together. This presented some challenges. Our girls are advanced riders. Erin is a beginner, having only taken a few lessons. Monday the stars aligned when I called the stable. They had three spots available in the beginner lesson. 

All three girls were so excited that it was hard to believe they made it through school. When they all got into our car they were electric. They all talked at the same time. Somehow they all understood what was going on in each conversation.

When they finally made it into the riding ring they all had huge smiles. I had forgotten what a beginner class looked like until I saw the riders struggling to keep control of their horses. Some horses just walked to the middle while the riders tried to keep them on the wall. Some horses decided to walk when they were supposed to be trotting. 

Our girls looked a little bored at times since they were used to the advance lessons. Before they went into the ring I told them to remember that they have already gone through the beginner lessons. Their instructor recognized the problem and offered to have them ride bareback. The blond twin had her horse's saddle off immediately. The brunette twin decided not to do it.

After the lesson all three girls smelled. It was so strong that I kept opening the car windows to get some fresh air. The girls decided they should bottle the barn smell. They were sure they would make a fortune selling the fragrance.

Sometimes I watch their lessons and forget out far they have come. I see where they are rather than remember what it was like when they first started riding. Tonight was a good reminder about how hard the girls worked to earn their advanced rider status. It was fun to go back, but they will be happy to be in their advanced class Friday evening.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween hauntings

When Halloween falls on a Saturday you'd expect a full day of trick-or-treating fun. We made plans with the girls' friends for a split day. They would start the afternoon in our neighborhood so all our neighbors could see the girls in costume. They would move to Erin's house after a pizza break.

Of course the weather didn't cooperate. It started raining the night before and drizzled on and off all morning. About an hour before everyone was supposed to arrive one mom checked in to see if the girls were still going. I said, "Of course. Send her with rain boots and an umbrella."

Daddy and Holly set off with all 8 girls when it was a drizzle. The girls ran from house to house to house collecting their treats. About 1/2 hour after they left the drizzle turned into a steady rain. I tried willing the rain to go back to a drizzle, but it didn't work.

Long before I expected them back Daddy called. Some of the girls had enough of the rain. They wanted to come back. He asked me to watch for them. When the girls arrived they ran upstairs to change into dry clothes and blow dry their hair. I put their costumes into the dryer. 

You'd think a rainy, chilly Halloween would damped spirits, but it didn't. The girls laughed and told stories and made plans to trick or treat some more. They sat around our dining room table drinking hot chocolate and giggling. By the time our girls and Erin arrived, the first group was warm and dry and relaxed. 

Brynn and Torri joined the party just before pizza came out of the oven. She walked in and made this announcement, "I'm sorry if I smell. My dog got skunked last night and our whole house stinks." I felt badly for her parents as she talked about how much work they were doing to try to get the smell out of their house. 

The girls moved to Erin's just as the rain stopped. They were barely in the house when Erin started calling for her Dad to take them out again. These girls were on a mission.

I arrived to bring our girls home in the middle of the candy trading session. The girls dumped their candy on the floor to trade this one for that one. Sometimes it was practical. The blond twin can't eat sticky candy with her braces. Erin is allergic to peanuts. Other times it was sweet. The girls put together a big candy bag for their friend Ella, whose Mom died earlier in the week. Her Mom's funeral was Halloween morning. Knowing that Ella wouldn't be trick or treating, the girls made sure she had some candy.

When our girls came home we immediately sorted candy into "eat now" and "eat later" piles. The "eat later" candy was frozen to get it out of the kitchen. The "eat now" candy went into a bowl on the breakfast bar. It's the "eat now" candy that's causing problems at this point. I keep telling the girls it's not a race to find the bottom of the bowl. They don't have to eat it all this week. They remind me that Christmas is coming and soon we'll be overloaded with those treats. 

It was so much easier when they were little and didn't try to figure out a way around everything I said. On the one hand you have to admire the logic. On the other hand, "outwit Momma" is an exhausting game, even when they have a point.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Anytime, anywhere

We were at Grammie's when the blond twin started texting. I told her I wanted to look at her device. One of the rules we established when they opened their birthday presents was that we could look at their phones anytime, anywhere.

The blond twin balked. She didn't want to show me her phone. There wasn't a time when I thought she was really doing anything wrong. I just wanted to establish that I meant that we might look at their devices when we wanted. 

The blond twin fought me for about 10 minutes before giving me her device. I waited while she entered her password to unlock her screen. I swiped her screen, read her text messages, asked a few questions and handed her the device. She glared at me and put it in her pocket.

As we drove to piano lessons, the blond twin played with her mobile device. I asked her if she learned her lesson about handing me her device upon request. She didn't say anything. I asked if she would fight with me about it next time.

She smiled and said, "Probably." I laughed because I knew the answer before I asked the question. She's a strong-willed child, but I'm still her Momma. She'll fight me just to prove the point that she's not happy about letting me go through her device. In the end she'll give it to me, but she won't be happy about it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

From bad to worse

I knew this was going to be a rough work day. I looked at my schedule and decided today was a day for comfort clothes. Some people have comfort food. I have comfort clothes. 

It's one of the best parts of working at home. Unless I'm planning to go out, no one really sees what I wear when I work or walk Holly. Today's comfort clothes included my Chicago Blackhawks fleece pants and a Coldplay t-shirt. As expected, it was a rough day. I thought the worst was over when I finished a high profile town hall.

I was walking Holly when a friend called. Did I hear that Lisa died? Her daughter received a text message from Ella, Lisa's daughter. She was wondering if I heard any news. I told her I hadn't heard, but I'd call someone else for confirmation. No one was surprised that Lisa died. She had been very sick with brain, bone and liver cancer. It was her second bout since declaring victory over stage IV breast cancer a few years ago. We knew it was coming. It didn't make it any better.

As soon as the girls walked in from after-school band practice they started crying, They told me Ella's mom died. Between their tears they said they heard about it in band class. Ella texted someone who shared it with the class. They cried during class. They cried in other classes when friends asked if it was true. They cried after school back in the band room

Ella has been to our house and hung out with our girls for years. I think their tears were a sign of their fears as well as for Ella's loss. The girls knew Lisa's cancer returned. They talked to Ella about it from time to time. No matter how mature they seem, our girls are still little girls afraid that something will happen to Momma or Daddy. It's one thing for a parent's death to be a vague fear. It's another thing for a friend's parent to die. It's going to be a hard life lesson for the whole school as they grieve for Lisa, face their fears and learn to go back to being sixth graders. There aren't any comfort clothes that can make it easier. We'll all have to work through it together. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

The upside of twerking

When I picked up the girls from the Fall Mixer, they ran up and started whispering in my ears. I didn't understand them at first because they were speaking at the same time. It was like bees buzzing rather than words I understood.

I left the building with the girls and their friends. Once outside they told me some 8th grade girls were twerking and some boys were paying the girls to twerk. All four girls were horrified.

On the one hand I was angry that none of the adults chaperoning the mixer stopped the inappropriate dancing. On the other hand I was happy all four girls were horrified by the behavior. If nothing else, they do absorb the lessons we share about appropriate behavior. I couldn't wait to tell Daddy that they were listening when we talked about appropriate behavior and how we wanted them to act. It's always good to know that they internalize the right messages and live them when we're not around.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Using my detective skills

Overheard at our house...

Brunette Twin:  "Mom, are you getting me a young architect's book for Christmas?"

Mom:  "I'm not even thinking about Christmas yet."

Brunette Twin:  "Really, because there's an email on your device about my Christmas presents."

Mom:  "Why are you on my device?"
Brunette Twin:  "You didn't password protect it. I'm just using my detective skills to see what might be under the Christmas tree."

Mom:  "Stay off my device or you won't get anything for Christmas."

And, note to self -- password protect your device.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The height disadvantage

The girls' band teacher asked for parents to help measure the kids for their band uniforms. I volunteered to go and asked Grammie to join me. The teacher needed teams of two so one person would measure and the other would write the information.

I told the girls I asked Grammie because she has such nice handwriting. I thought they'd crack a joke about my messy handwriting. Instead, they said, "Plus, Grammie is too short to measure the kids. They are all taller than her."

Poor Grammie. Even when I'm trying to compliment her, there is a short joke waiting.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Too much organization

If there is one thing we've learned not to do, it is open the brunette twin's closet or dresser drawers. Bad things happen when I go into her room and peak "under the covers" so to speak. From the surface it looks like any other tween girl's room with a little mess here and there.

When you open the closet, though, it's like something from a television sitcom. There are floor piles and empty hangers and overloaded shelves. The empty hangers remind me that she has a lot of clothes, just not in her closet. Neither Daddy nor I go into her closet without sending a warning. 

In one now-famous moment, the brunette twin cleaned her dresser. She showed it off with pride. I looked towards her closet. She smiled, put her hand on my chin to turn my face back to her dresser. She smiled and said something like, "Let's focus on the positive shall we?"

Since she started middle school, I can see how much the brunette twin struggles with the daily responsibilities of changing classes, managing honors classes and the homework, and just finding her place. Sometimes she cries because she's so overwhelmed.

I read a magazine article once in which a psychologist responded to a reader's letter. The woman was frustrated that her teenage son's room was always a mess. She said it drove her crazy that it was so disorganized at home, while being such a steller student. The psychologist noted that she worried about kids who were too organized at home and school. She said that kids needed a place to let down their "perfect" shield and just be kids. She told the mother to back-off if the mess wasn't affecting his schoolwork or social life.

I've tried to keep that in mind as the brunette twin figures out how to navigate middle school. As long as she maintains some semblance of order on the surface, I don't open her closets nor to I look in her dresser drawers. Eventually I will enforce some order, but for now her room is her sanctuary.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cross country girl ends the season

Today was the conference meet for the cross country team. The blond twin did well, probably matching her personal best. She came home glowing about her performance. 

If I was honest with myself, I'd admit how surprised I was that she loves cross country at the end of the season as much as she did at the beginning. I thought somewhere about the fourth week she'd start to fade, but she didn't. She came home from every practice and meet exhilarated. 

For the blond twin, there was nothing like being on a team. She loved being part of the group. She loved the camaraderie, the work and the competition. It was a wonderful way for her to find her Jr. High place.

After the meet we went to dinner with some friends. One of their daughter's was celebrating her birthday. We sat around a big table eating and laughing and singing. If there was a more perfect way for the cross country girl to end her season, I couldn't think of it.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stain remover everywhere

I was upstairs staring at yet another stained shirt when I decided it was time to keep a bottle of stain remover upstairs. Even if a few hours went by before we made it downstairs, the stain would dry and set.

The next time we went to the store we bought some stain remover. We've used it about every day since then. I haven't figured out why this is the year of stained clothes, but it is certainly shaping up that way.

Tonight at dinner I stared at the table cloth and napkins. I always thought that as the girls grew older things would get cleaner and we'd stop spending our time cleaning up so many messes. It has gotten better, although we haven't achieved the level of clean I hope for yet.

Rather than worry about it anymore, we simply bought one more bottle of stain remover. At this point we're never more than a few steps from the magic that keeps our clothes and linens looking good. I realize it's overkill, even as I wonder if we need a bigger bottle near the dining room.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bringing the game to the party

We decided to go bowling for the girls' twelfth birthday party. After the invitations went out the girls started talking about bowling and teams and party favors. They were so excited about bowling with their friends and cousins.

As everyone arrived at the bowling alley the girls stopped planning teams. Uncle Dave, Aunt Sue-Sue, Nick and Josh arrived with bowling balls and shoes in special cases. It turned out that bowling was serious business for those four. Somehow Sami missed the bowling bug, even though she was pretty good at trash talking the games.

While the rest of us tried to crack 100 points, Uncle Dave, Aunt Sue-Sue, Nick and Josh were making friendly wagers with every frame. They trash talked every frame like it was the final game of the Stanley Cup finals. Every There wasn't a moment when they weren't battling like there was a big, shiny trophy waiting. It was hysterical from the first frame to the last. Eventually Jake and Zack joined Uncle Dave's lanes. It really ramped up the volume when they arrived.

The girls and their friends laughed at their bowling and at what happened in the next lanes. They giggled as they slammed the ball down the lane. I'm not sure the ball really rolled as much as it bounced.

Everyone had fun bowling and eating cake and trash talking. It was a fun, entertaining afternoon filled with family and friends. It was a perfect way to start their 13th year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cupcakes for lunch

The girls share a birthday with their friend, Erin. Yesterday after school, our girls, Erin and her sister waited to be picked up in front of the school. Our girls told Erin they were waiting for me. When their Mom arrived, she told our girls that she was taking us home. Erin was confused, but that was part of the plan.

On the way home they pulled into a pizza parlor. Erin's Mom picked up a cheese pizza. It wasn't until they pulled into Erin's driveway that our girls told her they were going to hang out for a bit and celebrate their birthday. It was a fun surprise for Erin.

I dropped off an ice cream cake earlier that afternoon. Between the pizza and ice cream cake, our girls weren't hungry when they came home.

Daddy brought Mariano's cupcakes home. These beautifully decorated treats were huge. Daddy and I split one after dinner. The girls just took a bite and declared they were full.

When they were packing their lunches, they asked if they could take the cupcakes to school. I told them the cupcakes were so big that they didn't need sandwiches and the cupcakes. They could just take the cupcakes and some fruit for lunch. They stood in stunned silence. Cupcakes for lunch? The brunette twin asked twice because she couldn't believe I offered that option.

I figured that they only turn 12 one time. If cupcakes for lunch makes it extra-special, why not?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Birthday butterflies

The girls turned twelve today. They woke up early today because they were so excited. We snuggled for a while talking about the day they were born. I've told them the story dozens of times, but they still ask to hear it on their birthday.

The girls are lovely young ladies. The brunette twin is about 5'6" tall with a shy smile. The blond twin is about 5'4" with deep blue eyes. They are going through all the normal middle school growing pains and enjoying their new-found interests.

As I told them the story about the day they were born, I told them I remembered every detail of that day. I remembered calling Uncle Dave in a panic, asking him to put the baby seats in the car as we raced home from our downtown jobs. I remembered the first time we held each girl. I told them about calling everyone to announce their arrival. It all came back like it was yesterday.

Before we started our day, the brunette twin said, "Let's play butterflies." It's a game we played when they were very young. We went around and around telling our butterfly story. As the girls talked, I sensed their butterfly joy and their growth. The butterfly stories were a bit more sophisticated and detailed. It was one more sign that the girls were both our babies and sophisticated 12 year olds at the same time. It was a lovely way to anchor their past and present as we started their birthday celebrations.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cross country girl

When the blond twin said she wanted to run cross country, we said, "Ok, that's fine." Truth be told we were a little surprised. She never expressed any interest in running before. We encouraged the girls to try new things in middle school and this was the blond twin's choice.

She came home from every practice bubbling with stories. She met a teammate on the weekend to practice. She stretched every night.

Her first meet she came home exhilarated. She came in 47 out of nearly 500 middle school runners. She couldn't stop talking about every aspect of the meet from the bike rider marking the forest preserve path to the kids flopping to the ground as they crossed the finish line. She talked about the bus ride to and from the meet. She called Grammie to tell  her all the stories.

Her second meet, the day after the first meet, was a bit harder. We kept telling her that back-to-back meets were harder than she might have expected. It rained just before the meet, so we all kept waiting to find out if the meet was cancelled. When we learned that the meet was happening the brunette twin and I jumped in our car and drove to the meet.

The blond twin did well, but not as well as her first meet. She was as excited as she was after the first meet, though. We encouraged her to put it in perspective and get ready to practice the next day. She talked about how she was going to train for her next back-to-back meet.

The middle school cross country season is short. The blond twin is already looking forward to next year when she will take the lessons she learns this year and strengthen her skills. Given her competitive spirit, we're sure she'll continue to improve her skills and time. She's a girl who gives it her all when she really wants to do well.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The view from the back pew

There's a point in our church service when the acolytes stand behind our priest as he prepares communion. It's usually a funny moment as the acolytes tend to get fidgety while the priest performs the solemn ritual. Sometimes they yawn or sway or roll their eyes. As a parent, you cross your fingers that your child won't do that in front of the entire congregation.

Every time our girls are acolytes, we remind them that they cannot yawn or look bored. We tell them to pay attention and stay engaged. It's hard for them as the ritual just seems to go on and on as they stand quietly in the back. They are very good girls, but they are still just 11.

Sometimes I manage to make eye contact with the girls when they are acolytes. At first I'd smile at them and they'd smile back. For a while now I've upped that moment to make a funny face or blow them a kiss. I know they've seen me because they react with a smile or look at each other. Once in a while they laugh into their hands.

The reason I can do it is that we sit in the back pew. No one can see me blow them kisses or make a funny faces. It's a private moment between us that brings a smile to their faces and let's them know we are with them.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

My ghost writers

The girls were messing around in the kitchen, teasing each other about something. The blond twin said, "Don't worry. I'll make sure she doesn't mess up. I'm older after all. I'll take care of her."

The brunette twin replied, "You are older than me. Someday you'll be an old hag and I'll still be younger than you."

They both laughed as they walked into the dining room to clean off the table. The blond twin looked at her sister and said, "Is that going on the blog?"

The brunette twin replied, "Oh yeah, that's going on the blog."

I just laughed. Suddenly the girls are my co-editors, with strong opinions about what can go on the blog and what cannot. They don't realize they are basically ghost writing their own story.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Braces and food cravings

The blond twin had her braces put on Monday afternoon. She was so excited to finally have her braces. She was stoic in the dentist's chair. She sat with her mouth wide open, never even moving until they told her that they were done.

She glowed from the moment she looked in the mirror. She couldn't stop smiling to show off her braces. She ran to show Daddy her new hardware. The brunette twin squealed when she say her twin. They quickly talked to each other about the process, often talking over each other and answering each other at the same time.

We brought home numerous papers about how to take care of her braces. There were diagrams about flossing and brushing. There were instructions about how to handle small problems. There was a list of forbidden foods from popcorn to nuts to caramels.

As soon as we read the forbidden foods list, I immediately wanted some of those items. When the blond twin talked about how much she'd miss popcorn -- one of her favorite snacks -- I could smell movie theater popcorn. When she tried to figure out whether or not she could eat pizza if she wasn't supposed to eat the crust, I tasted cheese pizza with olives. (She can eat pizza, just not the crunchy crusts.) I know, I'm a terrible mom. I should have been supporting the blond twin, but every time she mentioned a forbidden food I wanted some.

Tuesday I grabbed a handful of nuts and ate a few potato chips. I managed to avoid making popcorn, even though it sounded like a good idea.

I realize my braces-related cravings will subside. Of course, I do not ever turn down movie popcorn, so maybe that craving isn't due to the forbidden foods list.

Monday, August 31, 2015

It should have been miserable

The calls started coming in early. Are we still going downtown? There's a chance of rain? I said we were going and I had a thunderstorms rain plan. What I didn't have was an off-and-on-drizzle-all-day-plan.

We planned our Girl Scout troop tour to coincide with the Chicago Dancing Festival. We would finish two badges with one day exploring Chicago. It wasn't raining when we left our house, but it was drizzling again when we walked out of the parking garage. We started our tour talking about Aqua before heading to the New East Side.

Throughout our adventure it would drizzle, stop, drizzle again and stop again. We managed to seek shelter when needed, but we kept going and going and going.

We toured the New East Side, talked about how Millennium Park was built over a train station and watched people enjoying the Bean. We went to an art exhibit at the Cultural Center, which the girls described as "PG-13 and we're only 11." The exhibit did include some racy images and one painting with the Confederate flag and a KKK hanging. We talked about all of it before heading down to see the Tiffany Dome.

We talked about not staying for the Chicago Dancing Festival, but the mobile device weather apps indicated the rain would pass before the dancing started. We met some friends who came down just for the Chicago Dancing Festival. The adults set-up the area while we sent the kids to play ball on the Great Lawn.

Luckily for us, Christina brought a huge tarp to place on the ground so the kids would stay dry. Of course, it drizzled as we set-up the space, but we were sure it would stop.

We ate our picnic dinner, chatted about the day and opened our umbrellas. The drizzle just didn't seem to want to end. When the show started the announcer said, "Welcome lovers of dancing in the rain." We all laughed. When the drizzle finally stopped, it was a lovely, foggy evening.

Our girls and their Girl Scout troop sat giggling with their friends Anna, Erin and Jahee. They giggled at the male ballet dancers costumes and decided one dance was "PG-13." I don't know how PG-13 became the go-to phrase for them, but they all laughed when they said it.

When the drizzle turned to light rain, the adults decided enough was enough. We were tired of the off and on drizzle. When we realized the Chicago Bears game was going to end about the same time as we'd be leaving the Chicago Dancing Festival, we knew we had to leave soon. No one wanted to sit in traffic after a long, drizzly day. We packed up to go over the girls' objections.

It was their protests when we left that made the day so fun. Their young spirits meant that they didn't care about the drizzle. They were together having fun and that was all that mattered. When they talk about the outing, they will talk about everything except the drizzle. The rain didn't dampen their spirits and it won't dampen their memories.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Keeping the birthday secret

Our girls desperately want mobile devices for their birthdays. They used to say they wanted a phone, so we gave them an old flip phone Daddy wasn't using anymore. It was still active, so they could call us if they needed. This, of course, was not what they had in mind.

Still, every time they leave the house I ask them if they have their phone. They carry it, but with the shame that comes from having an old flip phone. I, on the other hand, like my old flip phone. All I want to do is have a device so I can make calls and receive them.

My flip phone days came to an end recently when we decided to buy the girls mobile devices for their birthday. By the time you get the family plan, we might as well all be on it with new devices. I joined the mobile device world.

Now the goal is to keep it a secret for a bit longer. We're going to give them their birthday presents early, but not quite this early.

Yesterday I forgot that my new device was sitting on a cabinet next to my desk. The brunette twin walked right by it and I held my breath. I was sure she'd notice it. I waited for her to ask about the new device. Daddy suggested we tell the girls my flip phone broke and I got a new phone, so I had a back story. I just didn't want to use it.

She walked right by the device. She didn't even notice it. She kept talking as she walked into the kitchen. I quickly grabbed the device and put it under my computer stand. I followed her into the kitchen as if nothing happened.

The good news was that nothing happened in her world. She kept talking about speech class. I kept asking questions. The secret was safe for one more day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Living in the shed

I realized recently that someday our girls will describe their entire childhood with the words, "We never got the horses we wanted."

It's an ongoing battle in our house. Why won't we buy them a horse? Why can't we afford to buy a horse? Are we poor?

There are lots of reasons we won't get a horse from time to money. I always tell the girls that horses live a long time. I ask who will take care of their horses when they go to college? They respond with "We're taking our horses to college with us." Ah, the logic of tweens.

Recently we said, "When we're old you'll be glad that we saved for retirement instead of buying you horses. If we don't save for retirement, we'll end up living in your basements. We'll stay with one of you for a while and then move to the other house."

The girls laughed and started whispering. The brunette twin said, "You can live in my shed. I'm going to have a horse barn with a shed. You can live in the shed and take care of my horses."

I'll give that girl credit. She has a single-minded focus that will take her far some day. It won't convince us to buy her a horse, but it will serve her well as she achieves her life goals.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The first mixer

Last Spring I saw an event in the local park district brochure called "Music Mixer." It was a Friday evening activity for fifth through seventh graders. I immediately knew the girls would want to go.

They have been talking about school dances for years now. They want nothing more than to go to a mixer with kids from a bunch of schools. The Music Mixer wasn't a dress-up and dance event as much as a safe, fun place for kids their age to hang out.

Summer passed and I forgot about the Music Mixer. One day the girls came home so excited they were about to burst. They received a handout about the Music Mixer, which took place the next evening. Even better, they gave other friends the handouts since those girls didn't receive one in class.


I went online and found the information. I emailed their friends' parents information about the event. We made plans for the girls to go together. The girls were set.

For the next 24 hours, all they could talk about was the mixer. They discussed outfits, hair, shoes. They knew it wasn't fancy, but they spent as much time as they would have for a formal dance.

When I dropped off the girls I spent some time catching up with other parents. Our school district has two elementary schools feeding into one middle school. Some of the parents from the other elementary school hadn't seen our girls for several years. No one could believe how grown-up our girls looked. Even as all the kids get older, our girls seem just a bit older than their peers. Maybe it's because they are so tall or because they have such lovely, long hair. Whatever it is, we hear "they can't be 11 years old" often.

The girls were waiting when I arrived after the mixer. They all talked at once, which made me laugh. I hardly understood them until I said, "Ok, would you do it again?" They all said yes. The brunette twin summed up the event by saying, "After the initial awkwardness it was really fun." I smiled. A middle school mixer should be a sweet combination of awkward and fun.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The best school fee money ever spent

One reason we liked our house was that we could walk to the community center, library and elementary school. For the past four years we've walked to and from school most days.

This year the girls are taking the bus to and from middle school. Some parents debated about whether they should drive their kids to school every day or put them on the bus. It was a decision for many families because we all lived too close for free bus service. In our school district if you live 1.5 miles from school the bus is free. We live 1.2 miles from school, so it cost us $200 per girl.

It is only the second school day and I already love the bus. The girls' bus stop is four houses away from us. The girls practically ran there this morning they were so excited to go to school.

The bus, though, really makes my day easier. I heard over and over again that drop-offs and pick-ups at the middle school were time consuming activities. Some parents reported getting to the middle school about an hour before dismissal to get in line. All parents reported that it was a mess every day.

I know myself well enough to know that I couldn't do it every day with everything else going on. Maybe if I didn't work full-time I'd have the flexibility to schedule the school run every day. Maybe if Holly didn't need her walks I could spend mornings waiting to drop-off our girls. Plus, I really don't have the patience to deal with the daily mess.

As I paid for the bus service I started second-guessing myself. It was a lot of money for something that we didn't really need. Then I started thinking about the hassles involved with daily drop-off and pick-up. In the end it was easy to pay the fee. Given how much the girls like taking the bus already, it was the right decision for all of us.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sixth Grade

The day before the first day of middle school was a mix of nerves and excitement. We knew we were going to be on vacation the week before school started so we had nearly all the required school supplies in the house. From backpacks to shorts with an eight inch inseam to two-inch binders, everything was waiting to be packed.

The girls were so excited to start middle school that they could hardly sleep the night before the big day. Their backpacks were waiting by the front door. Their clothes were waiting on their dressers. They worried about everything from class schedules to friends to homework to lockers.

We waited at the bus stop with nervous anticipation. They worried about taking the bus, which they hadn't done in many school years. They worried about getting lost in the big, new school. They promised each other they would stick together.

As soon as they got on the bus, I made a wish that they would have a good first day. It was only a partial day as the school brings the sixth graders in to help them find their classrooms, learn how to use the lock, explain the rules and let them start to transition to middle school.

They nearly ran down the block after school. They were so excited that they started yelling the big news as they ran up the driveway. Their core friends were in all their classes with them. And, the girls were in all the same classes, except one. They hoped to be in one or two classes with their best friends, but it was so much better than they could have imagined.

After a few minutes I had to stop the conversation and told them that only one girl could talk at a time. They were so happy and excited. They kept opening and closing their locks just to prove they could do it. They went from topic to topic to topic so quickly that I could hardly keep up.

It was glorious. They went from frightened little girls to confident middle schoolers in just a few hours. All their fear was gone. They were confident that they would rock middle school.

It didn't take long before I was on the phone inviting the other girls over to our house. They all talked at once, sitting at the dining room table eating snacks and reading the school policies. They laughed at some rules and asked questions about others. They made plans to study together. They discussed what they were wearing to the first full school day. They were happy, happy girls.

Oh, I know that some of the glow will fade as the homework piles on. For now we'll enjoy the excitement. It's a great way to start the next chapter of their education.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Metal mouth glee

The blond twin needs braces. We had a consultation today with an orthodontist we really liked. After a lengthy discussion we decided to move forward and get the process started.

The blond twin couldn't help herself. She was so excited that she just bubbled over. When she came home she told Daddy all about her appointment from meeting the nurse to having impressions taken. She nearly bounced off the couch she was so happy.

Right now it looks like this will be nearly a three year process. I've never seen a kid so excited to have braces. I really hope she's as excited throughout the process as she was for the first visit. It will make the whole thing a lot easier on everyone.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The strangest trip ever

We went to Florida last week for a final summer trip. We decided to drive, which made this the longest driving trip to date.

We drove down to Macon, GA the first night. The GPS couldn't find the hotel, so we drove around for a bit thinking it must be "around here somewhere." When we called the hotel the clerk gave us a different address, which sent us into a remote area. We called again to ask if we were going the right way and she said, "Just follow the GPS."

Well, despite following the GPS, it took about an hour from the first address to us opening the hotel room door. The next morning we got back into the car for the final drive to Orlando.

The resort was quite nice. After two long days in a small vehicle, we couldn't wait to get into the pool. We woke up the next morning and headed to Epcot. It's not my favorite Disney park, but the brunette twin loves a ride called "Test Track." We had a fun time and everyone was tired when we made it back to the condo.

The same night the blond twin woke up violently ill. Florida is very hot and humid in August, as you'd imagine. We tried to stay hydrated through the day. When the blond twin became ill, we weren't certain we did a very good job. Let's just say it was a long night during which Momma and blondie spent a lot of time together.

The next day we planned to go to the Magic Kingdom. The blond twin felt so much better that we headed off as planned. She joined me for a couple of turns on Space Mountain. All was well until the evening's end when Momma didn't feel well. I took my turn being violently ill that night. Just like the blond twin, I felt fine the next day.

We had a quiet Thursday planned, which worked well for all of us after two fun days and two long nights. Aunt Linda, Julie, Sandy, Riley and Luke came by to join us in the pool. Later Thursday afternoon the girls took "mermaid lessons" at the resort. They put on a monofin and swam like mermaids. The brunette twin summed up the experience by saying, "Being a mermaid is hard. My arms are tired."

I thought we were done, but Thursday evening the brunette twin became ill. She had it worse than her twin or Momma as we were driving back towards home when she woke up Friday. She wasn't feeling great when she got into the car, although the more she slept, the better she felt.

We spent Saturday at Cumberland Falls in Corbin KY. It's a gorgeous state park with a beautiful waterfall. We hiked a bit, watched some boaters try to get close to the falls, saw bear tracks and admired a persistent fisherman. After a day exploring the town, we went back for dinner at the Riverview Restaurant. We walked by the falls again to see it at night. It was a beautiful way to spend a day.

addy woke up Sunday not feeling well. He spent the entire drive home feeling terrible. He spent all day today trying to recover. While we might blame the previous illnesses on the Florida heat or some kind of bug, his illness seems to be food poisoning.

Still, to a person we'd say we had a fun vacation, which seems strange to me. How could it have been so much fun when we were all sick at some point? I guess it is all in your point of view. Ours happens to lean towards the sunny side.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

All they need is a suitcase and a list

We've been travelling with our girls since they were infants. As they grew older, they asked to help. We'd tell them which clothes they needed and they'd get out stuff. Sometimes we'd put stuff back when they were sleeping and get out what they needed.

As they got older, we started giving them lists. We'd tell them how many outfits they needed and provide some direction about short or long sleeves and pants or shorts. They'd pull things together in outfits and we'd sort through things to make sure they fit/matched/etc.

Now we just give the girls lists and let them pack. We don't even look at what is going into the suitcase. We tell them to get their toiletries and they know what they need.

Once in a while we end up with a surprise, like the brunette twin's two pairs of jeans for our current Florida trip or the blond twin's never-ending supply of hair stuff. Most of the time, though, they do a great job with their clothes and stuff to keep them busy as we travel.

This was the plan, of course. We wanted them to be independent and responsible. There were times when they were younger that we didn't think we'd ever get here, but now that we are it makes vacations a whole lot easier.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It's best not to watch

This summer our girls are easing into greater independence. Sometimes it comes in the form of a request to walk here or there by themselves. Other times it comes when they announce they've done this or that in the house without being asked.

By far the hardest part of this new independence is teaching them to cook. It's not the constant worry that they are going to set our house on fire. I'm sure I'll worry about that long after they have their own houses. It's the mess they make while cooking and the mess they create when they clean-up.

Today the girls decided to make pancakes. As the blond twin poured the pancake mix from the box, she managed to hit the bowl, floor countertop and stovetop. I just stood there, wide-eyed at her ability to get pancake mix in so many places when she's standing an inch from the bowl. The brunette twin saw me staring and said, "Mom, maybe it's best not to watch."

She sent me outside with my laptop to work, telling me it was a beautiful day to work outside. They finished their pancakes, which made me wish I hadn't already eaten breakfast because the pancakes smelled so good. The blond twin came outside to tell me they were done and the kitchen was clean.

The brunette twin was right. It is a beautiful day to work outside. I'm going to stay here as long as possible so I don't go into the kitchen to see the pancake aftermath. Sometimes becoming independent person is a messy process and we'll all be better off if I allow them to earn their self-confidence in the kitchen without watching every step. I compare it to the old story about making sausage. The end result is tasty, but you don't want to watch the process.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Working out our problems

When the girls start bickering, it's like nails on a chalkboard to me. It can be a small quibble about something or a major league blow out. Either way I just want it to end as quickly as possible. Sometimes when they battle I intervene to make it end.

The other day the girls were fighting about something when I told them to go upstairs and put their clothes away. I thought putting them to work might make the bickering end. When they got upstairs I could hear them still arguing in hushed tones.

I couldn't stand it anymore so I went upstairs and knocked on their door. I opened the door and told them I didn't want to hear them arguing any more.

As calmly as ever, the brunette twin looked at me and said, "Mom, we're working out our problems. How are we going to learn to deal with our feelings if we can't work out our problems by ourselves?"

I admired her ability to counter-point my demand. I closed the door, went downstairs and went back to work. A while later they came out as happy as ever. I don't know what happened, but I was glad they were able to work out their problems. Now, if they can only learn to do it more quickly.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Who is a jerk

As soon as I hung up the phone, the blond twin raced to my desk.

She calmly said, "Who did you call a jerk? I told her I was talking about someone at work. She said, "I just wanted to make sure you weren't calling Daddy a jerk."

We talked about the fact that Mommy and Daddy don't talk to each other that way. I asked her if she ever heard us say anything mean to each other. She admitted she didn't think I would say that about her Daddy, but she wanted to be sure.

I was really proud of her. She defended her Daddy with complete conviction. She's a girl who is not afraid to step up when she thinks it's needed. It's one of the things I admire about her.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Life in the 1 percent

You know all the conversations about those living in the 1%, meaning the top earning families? Well, we found ourselves in the 1%, but not in the way we might have wanted.

Commonwealth Edison sends regular updates about our energy usage. These are supposed to inspire us to do a better job with our energy conservation. Every time I read these, though, I want to call Commonwealth Edison and let them know my reaction. Let's just say my reaction isn't to say, "Gee, we should do a better job conserving energy."

A really efficient home is a five star home. We're a one star home. This means we're among the least efficient homes when compared to other houses similar in size. Really? I spend my days working at home with a radio on. I supposed that could account for some extra electricity use. We do have a lot of laundry, so that increases our usage.

Other things I don't understand at all. We don't turn on our air conditioner until it's really hot and humid. We turn it off as soon as possible We spend a lot of time listening to air conditioners cooling every house around us. Still according to Commonwealth Edison, we use twice as much energy to cool our house as our neighbors. Our air conditioner isn't new, but it's not that old.

At the same time, our lighting uses five times as much electricity as the highly efficient home. I spend most of my day working at my computer with one desk light on. One small light. I walk around turning off lights all day. At night we just have two lamps on in the family room and one in the living room. It's not like we have every light in the house blazing, which is what I'd expect for the kind of highly inefficient life we lead.

Rather than inspire me, I've developed a "why bother" attitude. I still turn off all the lights, but that's about saving money instead of saving the world. On the one hand, Commonwealth Edison has set an impossible standard for energy-efficiency. On the other, we finally made it into the 1%. It's the bottom 1%, though, so maybe it's not worth celebrating.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fourth of July fun

We have some friends who live directly across from their local park district. Every year on July 3 we gather on their driveway to watch their town's Independence Day fireworks display. The fireworks are always fabulous. We ooohhhh and ahhhh and clap like crazy.

When I say it's close, I mean it's really close. When the wind is blowing our way, we can end up with embers floating above us. One year we felt the embers fall on us. The driveway looked like black snowflakes floated down.

Early on July 4 we headed to a local Independence Day parade. We arrived to find a Daisy troop looking for sister scouts. Our girls were Daisies once upon a time, but as I watched the Daisies in their blue tunics it seemed like a long time ago. Additional Girl Scouts showed up in uniform with bags and bags of candy. We found the Boy Scouts and started chatting as we waited for the parade to begin.

We always liked to watch this July 4 parade. It's a community-based parade, so you have everything from the local high school marching band to the local funeral home represented. My favorite "float" this year was an American taxi driving with kids throwing candy out the back window. The bagpipers played patriotic music as the crowd cheered.

The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts walked in the parade, throwing candy all the way. Our girls decided to throw candy at everyone wearing a Blackhawks shirt. After the parade they told me they saw someone in an LA Kings t-shirt and didn't throw him any candy. As they told the story, the local Jimmy John's franchise cars drove by blaring Chelsea Dagger, which is the song the Blackhawks play when they score a goal. The timing seemed both appropriate and strange.

Grammie joined us for the parade. Daddy found her a space in the shade where she could see everything and cheer for her girls. She added a cheer when the girls' softball league float went by. At the end of the parade, the girls said they had a lot of fun and wanted to do it again next year.

After the crazy summer we've had so far it was a fun, relaxing way to celebrate July 4. I imagine small towns across the United States held fun, community-based parades like ours. It was fun to think that we were now part of the tradition.