Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Learning the hard truth about being a Chicago sports fan

Last night we were flipping channels when we landed on the Chicago Blackhawks game. The announcer said something about the referee talking to Coach Q about Patrick Kane. We watched for a few minutes, but the announcers never said anything else about Kaner. Someone from the Florida Panthers was in the penalty box; we didn’t know why. I called my Mom to see what happened. As luck would have it, this was the game she wasn’t watching live. She had no idea what happened. At the intermission we finally saw the cross-check to the back and Kaner’s crash into the boards. You could tell when he got up that it was bad.
This morning we found out that Patrick would be off the ice with a broken collarbone. I just sighed. It’s not that I don’t feel badly about his injury. It’s just that this is the way so many Chicago sports stories end up.
There is a strange mentality to being a Chicago sports fan. We want success, but we don’t expect it. We know there are so many crazy ways for things to go wrong. This feeling is ingrained in us because we’ve lived it.
Oh there have been moments when we broke the spell. The Chicago Bears and Chicago White Sox each won a championship. The Chicago Bulls won six titles. The Chicago Blackhawks won two. Still, Chicago fans never really expect our teams to win.
To some extent you have to sell the idea that we might win it all. Chicago sports fans always have one foot off the bandwagon when a team achieves success. We want to commit, but don't want to get hurt when the big win doesn't come.
After the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in dramatic fashion against the Philadelphia Flyers, Patrick Kane said something about he had to “sell it.” I thought that pretty much summed up the Chicago sports mentality. He scored the winning goal. The refs didn’t call it right away because they didn’t see the goal clearly. Rather than celebrate with Patrick, the team – and fans – waited for official confirmation. Kaner was celebrating on the ice all by himself. Eventually his teammates joined him. It wasn’t that fans didn’t believe he knew he scored the winning goal. It was that we were sure something was going to go wrong and the refs would call back the goal. It’s the Chicago way when it comes to sports.
This morning I told our girls that the Hawks won, but Kane broke his collarbone. Grammie just broke her collarbone, so they knew exactly what it meant that Kaner broke his collarbone. The girls looked at each other and tears started rolling down their cheeks. They started asking a lot of questions about his future hockey skills, which I couldn’t answer.
They were upset that I wasn’t more upset. I didn’t want to tell them that I’ve had my hoped dashed so many times that these things didn’t even surprise me anymore. There will be plenty of time for them to learn that lesson later. For now, it’s better for them to keep the faith for as long as possible. Once it’s gone, it doesn’t come back.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Driving by our family history

Our niece Samantha recently passed her occupational therapy licensing exam. To celebrate, the girls and I arranged to meet her after school last week. As I was driving to our destination, I took a short detour down a street I had travelled thousands of times before.
Gramma and Grampa Latimer lived a few minutes away from us when we were growing up. My Grampa and his extended family built their three bedroom, one bathroom Cape Cod house. It was tiny but today’s standards, but it was their castle. Grampa came from a family with 13 children. Several lived within shouting distance. At one point we could run out the back gate to see Aunt Mary and Aunt Delores. Their families built houses close to Gramma and Grampa.
When we were younger, Gramma and Grampa’s house was the place we celebrated holidays, visited with family and made wonderful memories. It has been a long time since Gramma and Grampa lived there, but I still smile when I drive by.
Our girls were amazed when they saw the house. Given that Gramma had four brothers and sisters, they thought the house would be larger. I explained that Gramma, Aunt Dar and Aunt Bonnie shared a single, small bedroom. The girls were amazed that there was one bathroom in the house – and they all had to share it.  
For the rest of the trip we talked about my memories and how different it was “way back then” as the brunette twin said. Someday our girls will drive their children by our home. I hope they have as many happy memories as I did when we drove by my Gramma’s house.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Maybe it’s us

Our nephew Jake has played hockey since he could walk on skates. He spends an enormous amount of time at the rink practicing and playing games. This year his team made it to his league’s championship game. The league, made up of teams from the all across northern Illinois down to Central Illinois, played for months to end up in the Chicago Wolves Cup championship games. It was a tough battle, ending when the other team scored in overtime. Jake went home with a second place trophy.
Our car was barely out of the rink parking lot when the blond twin said, “Mom, I think it’s us. We’re the reason Jake lost.”
She went out to detail all the times we’ve gone to games and the team we cheered for lost. We went to the Illini basketball game and the team lost. We went to Josh’s football game and they lost. We went to several Chicago Wolves games and the team lost. She made a compelling case for her statement.
I thought about her theory. I’ve been in the stands to watch the Illini football team play two Rose Bowls and one Sugar Bowl. We lost all three games. I do remember going to Chicago Bulls games when the team won. I remember fireworks at the end of Chicago White Sox games. The team only does that when they win, so we didn’t seem to bring them bad luck. I know the Blackhawks lost the last game we attended, but I don’t remember the scores for earlier games.
She might have something though, so maybe we need to rethink our strategy. Instead of cheering for our family member, we’ll sit with the “other” team and cheer for them. If we’re going to bring a team  back luck, we should use it wisely.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Time for a trip

We were preparing breakfast when we realized we were out of "mommy's jam." The girls and Daddy like their grape jelly. I always try to bring home some local jam when we travel. We've tried some interesting flavors and combinations from items we picked up in local markets.

We scoured our pantry and kitchen shelves. We couldn't find anything from any of our trips. The blond twin said, "You know what that means? It's time to go on a trip."

I laughed that she associates Mommy's jam with our travels. I always bring home local foods and treats. We make it a point to find something interesting to bring home so we can extend our vacation flavors a bit longer than our trips last.

Of course, she's lobbying to go back to Lexington so they can spend more time at the Kentucky Horse Park. We're making other plans, which is fine with the girls. They don't really care where we go as long as we go somewhere.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Four eyes no more

The brunette twin has been asking for contacts for a couple of years now. We've been deflecting the question to our eye doctor. We know a lot of things about a lot of topics, but when the brunette twin should get contacts was out of our range.

The last time we had their eyes checked, we brought up contacts. For the first time our eye doctor said, "If she thinks she's ready, she can try it."

The brunette twin was thrilled. She sat with the office assistant listening intently to all her contacts instructions. She tried and tried to get the contact in without success. Another person went to help the brunette twin. I was worried, but the office staff told me that everyone has a different technique. Sometimes you just needed a different person to make it happen.

Eventually the brunette twin got her contacts into her eyes. She was so proud of herself. We took home daily, disposable contacts for her to try.

She was able to put her contact in by herself one day. The next day she gave up. In tears and defeated, she told me she didn't think she was ready for contacts.

We talked to Daddy when he came home. I told him I thought the problem wasn't the brunette twin's technique. I thought the problem was her twin stood a few inches away from the brunette twin's face while she was trying to put in her contacts. I know when I wore contacts I couldn't put in my contacts if anyone was near me. The brunette twin said her twin didn't bother her, but I really thought it was a contributing factor in her problems.

Daddy helped the brunette twin put in her contacts a few days later. He coached her so her confidence replenished. She put in her contacts and was ready to go.

Since then she has worn her contacts regularly. We switched from daily contacts to 14-day wear contacts. She now has the hang of it -- from putting in her contacts to cleaning them nightly. She loves her new lenses and the responsibility that come with them.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Racing towards the finish line

The girls are having their Valentine's Day ice cream social in school this afternoon. It's another time we said, "This is your last...." It seems like we say that a lot lately.

They are completely ready to be out of elementary school and in Junior High. They alternate between "we're so excited" and "we're so nervous" depending upon the hour. What they consistently talk about is what Junior High will be like. Will there be a lot of homework? Will the kids from the other school be nice? (Two local elementary schools combine in our Junior High.) Will they keep their same friends? Will they make new friends?

It's an interesting time for the girls. Every event at their elementary school is bittersweet. They are looking forward to their ice cream social today and processing the fact that it's their last one. In between, they are enjoying their last few elementary school days as they count down to Junior High School.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Risk management tween style

We were driving home from piano lessons when I decided to stop to get some gas. It was a bit warmer than normal, so I decided it would be a good idea to get a car wash as well. I told the girls that we’d take a small detour on the way home.
The brunette twin became really nervous. She said, “I don’t like car washes. They scare me.”
I sighed and asked her why. She went on about the sound and noise. I told her I would get the car washed another time.

At dinner I told Daddy the story. She looked at him and started explaining all the things that could go wrong. The brushes could crash through a window. The water could flood the car. The roof might fall in when the brushes go over it. The car might get stuck and we’d never get out.

I looked at Daddy and said, “Risk management for a car wash.” He smiled while the brunette twin went on and on and on about the noise.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Someone will be mad at you

The blond twin walked by herself after school. Her sister was in front of her. Ayanna and Erin walked behind her. No one looked happy. I knew the problem, but wasn’t happy that it still existed.

The school Spring Battle of the Books teams were being formed last week. The blond twin was sitting between two factions. On the one side was her twin. She formed a team with the brunette twin and three other students. On the other side were her friends. The blond twin told them she would join their team after the last Battle of the Books. She was so excited about the team she formed with her sister that she forgot her promise to her friends.
She was so excited that she was going to be on her twin’s team for their last Battle of the Books. They talked about their team, planned their strategy and organized a team meeting.
Her problem was her friends wanted her on their team. Of course, she had told them that she’d be on their next team, so it was only natural that they thought she’d join them. At lunch today her friends wanted to talk about the Battle of the Books. The blond twin told them she was on her twin’s team, but left the door open that she might switch to their team.
The blond twin didn’t want to disappoint anyone. In the process, she was creating friction in both teams.
After listening to her waffle for a while, I told her that she had to make a decision and inform the other team. It was wrong to go back and forth because she was being mean to both teams. She said that she didn’t want anyone to get upset. I said, “Baby, someone is going to be mad at you. No need to drag it out. Just make a decision, inform the teams and move on.”
She had tears in her eyes as she tried to change the subject. I would not let it go. I talked about why she had to make a decision and how much worse she was making it by trying to keep everyone happy.
She decided to stay on her sister’s team. She was dreading her conversation with her friends, but seemed to understand that she needed to do it quickly. Of course, this conversation happened on Friday so – for better or worse -- she has all weekend to figure out what she is going to say.

Crushing their dreams one activity at a time

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms.

Our girls are nearing middle school, which means their extracurricular activities selection will explode. As if to get ready for this, they have been asking to research more and more local classes. Recently they spent a lot of time looking at different activities. It didn’t take long for them to come up with a list including:
  • Basketball class at the park district so they can join the Jr. high basketball team.
  • Dance and poms classes so they can join the Jr. high pep squad.
  • Lego robotics club at the library so they can be part of the Jr. high robotics club.
  • Drama class so they can be part of the Jr. high theater club.
Of course, this is in addition to all the things they already do. They don’t want to swap out activities. They just want to add and add and add. I realize that as their mom, it’s my job to help them find their passions in life. We want to support their interests, but lately all we’ve done is “crush their dreams” as one daughter keeps saying. It’s not that we don’t want them to try all the things. We’d love to be able to enroll them in every class that catches their eye. The reality is we, like most families, have limited resources. We have to decide how to use those resources wisely. Of course when we talk about resources, our girls immediately think about money, an important resource. Even if we had unlimited funds, we don’t have unlimited time.

Time is the resource we treasure as most precious. I see their classmates running from activity to activity after school. I’m exhausted listening to those schedules. We’ve worked hard to create white space on our calendars. We try not to schedule more than one thing after school very often. It doesn’t always work out, but we try. Sometimes a one-time activity collides with a regularly scheduled program. We aren’t ogres. We realize that sometimes you have your fun when it’s offered, especially when it comes to school events and friend parties.

When all else fails, we try not to overschedule our weekends. If one day is really busy, then we try to keep the other relatively unscheduled. We need that time to reset and recharge for the next week. We learned early on the well-rested twins make our house much happier. Even though our girls are older, that theory still applies. We find that too many activities and late nights make us all grumpy.

It’s hard to explain to 11-year-old girls why we schedule our family the way we do. They see time as an opportunity for them to try everything they can think of as soon as they think of it. We see time as a precious commodity that is racing on a track that will take the from Jr high to high school to college faster than we can handle. Somewhere in the middle is where we all meet with a schedule that gives them a chance to have fun, but also provides much-needed down time.

I do worry that one of our girls will miss finding her passion because we didn’t sign up for this lesson or that class. Of course, if it’s really her passion, she’ll be able to pursue it as an adult. Maybe our girls won’t end up in the WNBA, but they can always join a recreational basketball league as adults. At least, that’s what I tell myself as I “crush their dreams” one more time.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A snowstorm trumps the big game

We view the Super Bowl as a good reason to eat snack food and watch too much TV. The game itself rarely lives up to the hype, so we always have a back-up movie or show or project. This year we were planning our menu  when we started talking about  the weather forecast.

We don’t often pay attention to the weather forecast when it’s more than a day or two out. This one, though, was different. This forecast called for a lot of snow. Given how little snow had fallen so far this winter, we just ignored the “sky is falling” noise.
The snow started Saturday night. By the time we crawled out of bed on Sunday we already had 10 inches of snow on the ground. It was the wet, heavy snow that causes heart attacks and back aches.  Once the first layer was cleared, we went back out every few hours to clear the next two or three inches. When it was done we had more than 20 inches in the books.

The weather was so bad that pizza parlors closed on one of their busiest days. Parties were cancelled. People were told to stay off the roads. Plows couldn’t get through to clear streets. Blizzard warnings became blizzard winds. It was cold and snowy and miserable.
The snow built up around our satellite dish, causing a complete signal loss. Throughout the day we’d turn on the TV to see if we had a signal, but we never did. The day went on and we kept busy with different projects. At game time we made our football food and ate as planned. What we didn’t do was set-up in front of the TV. Eventually we turned on the radio at the end of the fourth quarter. It turned out to be the best few minutes of football we’d “seen” all season.

It wasn’t the Super Bowl party we had planned, but it was fun anyway. We’ll have a good story to tell as soon as we thaw out from shoveling all the snow.