Thursday, April 30, 2015

The force is strong

We were eating breakfast when the girls pulled a Star Wars poster out of the cereal box. This started a lengthy conversation about Star Wars, encompassing everything from the original movies to the new release coming out this summer.
Daddy mentioned that he had a poster like the cereal box prize when he was a child. It hung on his bedroom wall. The girls immediately said, “You can hang this one in your bedroom.”

Daddy looked very serious as he said, “Mommy won’t let me.” I sighed. He laughed. The girls stared at me like I was ruining Daddy’s day.
A few hours later I went upstairs and saw the poster hanging in the office. You can see it as soon as you turn from the stairs into the second floor hallway. I laughed as the girls hung it with painter’s tape.

Daddy laughed when I told him. He hadn’t seen it yet.
The girls were quite proud of their handiwork. They managed to get Daddy’s poster hung up without harming the walls. They made sure Mommy’s reluctance to hang the poster didn’t interfere with Daddy’s childhood memories. It was clever and cute, just like them.

Monday, April 27, 2015

No logic in hockey

The Chicago Blackhawks played the Nashville Predators in a Game 6 playoff game Saturday night. If we won, we’d move on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If we lost, we’d have to go to Game 7 in Nashville. I really dislike going to Game 7. It’s basically a one game, winner takes all, pressure cooker. If your team is having a bad day or the puck takes a bad bounce, you’re done. And, Blackhawks fans will never forget how our season ended last year during a Game 7 bad bounce.

As we moved into the third period, the Chicago Blackhawks had an amazing opportunity. The Nashville Predators pulled their goalie so they could put another offensive player on the ice. The game was tied at that point. The Preds really wanted to take the lead.
With an empty net, the Hawks kept shooting and shooting, yet they never scored. The puck took crazy bounces and went wide more than once. I was about out of my mind. I kept talking to the team about their inability to score with an empty net.  Not surprisingly, no one on the television screen responded to my rants.

Daddy looked at me and kept offering logical reasons why the Hawks weren’t scoring. He pointed out that while there wasn’t a goalie, other players blocked the net. He noted that at least one shot was not set-up properly and was just a bad shot. He was right, but at that moment when I’m so wound up that I’m offering coaching advice to the team, I’m not in a place to be that logical.
The Blackhawks did win the game. The final shot went nearly from the blue line by four or five players, across the goalie into the net. It was much harder than a simple shot into an empty net, but we’ll take the win however we can get it.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

For a good time call

We celebrated our 17th anniversary today in a way that fits perfectly with our history. We started the chilly, rainy day by cleaning out the pantry and kitchen cabinets. Since the weather made it impossible to go outside, we decided to check off a lot of indoor projects.

After we reorganized the pantry and cabinets, we moved on to a dining room project. We inherited a beautiful, antique dining room table that has been in Daddy’s family for more than a century. We finally had time to swap out the old dining room table with this “new” table. This involved moving tables and chairs from the basement to the dining room and rearranging the basement.
Since we put the old dining room table in the basement, and cleaned out some more stuff, our girls are just a sleeper sofa away from a nice studio apartment. They have a TV, table and chairs, video games and more already. If we added a sleeper sofa, we might never see them above ground again.

This might not sound like the best way to celebrate our wedding anniversary, but it does continue a trend we started many years ago when we spent Sweetest Day stapling insulation to the underside of our family room floor.
We did find time to fit a delicious, celebratory dinner at Gibson’s Steak House into our productive schedule. By the time we finished our dinner we were relaxed and refreshed and ready to start our next 17 years together.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

No favorites here

We always talk about how competitive my father was whenever he watched a sporting event. It didn’t matter if it was a Little League baseball game or a professional hockey game, Dad always wanted his team to win. There was no “it’s just a game” with Dad. He only wanted to win. He wasn’t a “scream at the field” kind of spectator. He was always trying to figure out how to make the next game better.
During the girls’ first softball game last Saturday, we learned Grammie shared Grampa’s desire to win at all costs. The girls were on the field in the fourth inning when Grammie turned to me and said, “That third basemen can’t stay there. She doesn’t have the arm to throw it to first base.”
I looked at her and said, “You know that’s your granddaughter on third base.”
She looked at third base, saw the blond twin and replied, “Ok, you're right. And, if they want to win, she can’t go back to third base. She needs to be shortstop or second base because she can’t throw from third to first.”
Dad’s competitive streak was legendary. Mom’s seems to be coming out more now that Dad isn’t available to lead the charge. Happily the girls won 8 – 2. It was a good start to their season, even with their third base problems.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Her broken horse heart

The brunette twin walked in from horseback riding lessons last night and collapsed in my arms. She sobbed as she told me that Penny was sold.

Penny was her favorite lesson horse. The brunette twin loved Penny like she was her own horse. I couldn’t do anything but hold her while she cried. It broke my heart to see her so sad.

One thing we know about the brunette twin is that she’s a very intense child. She feels things deeply, so her tears weren’t a complete surprise. It was her first broken heart related to horses she loved, but it won’t be her last. Sadly, I’m sure there are more tears in her future as horses are bought and sold all the time. With time it will become routine, but last night it just hurt.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Memphis stays true to its roots

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms.

When we started planning our Spring Break trip to Memphis, we realized we could go in so many directions — music, civil rights, nature, sports. Everything was available to us, but with just a few days to explore we had to plan carefully to get everything on the schedule. The beauty of Memphis is that everything was easily accessible so we were able to do it all.

On our first day we started at the Memphis Rock N’ Soul museum. I am always telling our girls about the music Grammie and Grampa played when I was growing up. The Memphis Rock N’ Soul museum showcased a lot of familiar entertainers and told interesting stories through the interactive iPod tour. Two years ago we spent Spring Break in Nashville. Our girls were able to connect our Grand Old Opry visit to the Memphis Rock N’ Soul exhibits. It’s fun to watch our girls start to put all the pieces together to create a larger story.

From the Memphis Rock N’ Soul museum we walked to the National Civil Rights Museum. This museum was built around and in the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. As we arrived at the entrance, a huge red wreath hung from the second floor balcony. It marked the spot where Dr. King was assassinated, but also served as a reminder that there is still work to do. The museum itself is beautifully designed. The story of civil rights in America is laid out as an interactive history lesson that reminds us of how much work is still left to complete.

We wandered Beale Street after the National Civil Rights Museum, stopping at Dyer’s Burgers for lunch. We found Dyers on the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives website, where we find most of our fun travel dining spots. The place lived up to its great burger billing, but the real treat was the staff. Everyone who walked through the door received the same homey greeting and attentive service.

After lunch we walked a bit more before deciding to head to Sun Records. We’ve seen Million Dollar Quartet a few times so the stories the tour guide told felt familiar — in a good way. Perhaps the most interesting part of the tour was when we stood in the studio itself. The tour guide talked about how everything was the same as when Sam Philips owned the studio. She noted that this happened because the building itself sat empty for decades. It was just luck that no one else bought the studio to modernize it.

We visited another Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives restaurant for dinner. Tom’s Bar-B-Que took us out of downtown and into a industrial area where we had another fun dining experience. Our food was as good as we expected and the staff was charming. It was a slow Monday evening so they had some time to chat with us.

The next day we put Graceland on the schedule. We made reservations, which turned out to be a very good idea. Graceland itself was everything we had hoped, from the homey stories to the multi-media features on the interactive iPad tour. Growing up my parents were huge Elvis fans, so we watched every special and every interview. I felt like I knew so much about Graceland, but there was still so much to see. After touring the house, we toured his vehicle collection. It was fun to see the vehicles up close and read the stories. One thing about Graceland that surprised us was how long it took to get to and from the house itself. There was a long line to get on a bus (think 12 person tour bus, not big, yellow school bus) to go to the house. We waited an hour to get on a bus each way and the staff kept telling us it wasn’t a very busy day. When you tour the house you understand why only a few people were allowed in at a time. It’s a large, lovely home, but it’s not as big as you’d expect for a place called the Mansion. In general, homes weren’t on steroids when Elvis Presley bought Graceland. It was a large, lovely home on a beautiful piece of property when he bought it. With all the precautions needed to keep the contents safe and people from overstepping, only a few people can fit in any room at a time. It was worth the time, but it’s important to keep the wait time in mind if you are travelling with children.

We kept our music theme in place as we headed to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. I’ll admit I had not heard of Stax Records before the tour, but I certainly knew their music. At one point after the introductory video I made the others on our tour laugh when I told our girls to let me know if they needed me to sing any of the songs. I knew all the words to every song, so I was happy to sing to them. Of course everyone laughed because our daughters (quite appropriately) reacted with horror. As I told another Mom, what’s the point of having tweens if I can’t embarrass them once in a while? I never did sing to them, but we danced through the entire museum.

We made it back to the Peabody Hotel to see the ducks walk up to their rooftop home. Yes, it was as silly as it sounded when we were planning, but it was also good fun. The people watching the duck ceremony enjoyed the stories as much as the duck parade. It was a fun way to visit the Peabody. After watching the ducks we wandered Beale Street enjoying the music when a man came up and started asking everyone how much they would give him to do flips down the street. We hadn’t heard of the Beale Street Flippers, but everyone else seemed to know them. A man standing near us told stories about Beale Street Flippers while we waited for the show. We waited and watched and clapped. We’re now Beale Street Flippers fans.

The last part of our trip centered on Shelby Farms. This huge park had everything from beautiful walking trails to golf Frisbee courses to a large children’s play area. We took advantage of the warm Spring weather to drive the grounds so we could see everything. We scheduled a trail ride, which took us through some lovely fields around a large pond. We also walked some of the trails to enjoy the warm weather. We were amazed at how many people were at the park on a weekday. It was clear that Shelby Farms was always busy with people taking advantage of the beautiful space.

We ran out of time before we could get to everything on our list. We didn’t get to visit Mud Island, the Cotton Museum, Victorian Village or the Gibson Guitar Factory. We wanted to spend more time listening to live music on Beale Street. A new riverside park is opening soon that looks like fun. We have a few more restaurants on our list as well. It’s not a question of whether or not we’ll be back in Memphis. There is so much family fun to be had that it’s only a matter of when.


Shari writes about life with twins at
Two Times the Fun. National Civil Rights Museum image courtesy of Brand USA. Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum image courtesy of Phillip Parker / Copyright © Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011 All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced without written consent from the author.

Disclosure: I received free admission to certain attractions. We paid for our hotels, meals and other tickets ourselves. My words and opinions are my own.

Friday, April 10, 2015

You’re going to learn some new words

Our Spring Break trip was bookended with two St. Louis stops. The first was Easter Brunch. The second was the Chicago Blackhawks/St. Louis Blues game. We’ve been talking about going to road games for a while. This time it all worked and we were able to buy 100-level tickets, just a few rows off the ice for less than we would have paid for 300-level seats at the United Center.

As we walked into the Scottrade Center there were Blackhawks jerseys everywhere. Hawks fans have been going to St. Louis games for a long time. It’s an easy train ride from Chicago to St. Louis, with the Scottrade Center located just steps from the train station.

When we found our seats we were thrilled. I’m pretty sure we won’t ever sit that close to the ice at the United Center. I became worried when the guys behind us, all Blues season ticket holders, started talking trash. It was clear they hated the Blackhawks and their fans. At one point the guy right behind me wondered how drunk, loud and obnoxious he had to be to get thrown out.
At the same time, I doubted they would harass us. We were sitting with the girls and I figured they weren’t going to be the kind of jerks who harass children. Happily I was right on that point. The guys next to us in the Blackhawks sweaters didn’t have the same experience.
One thing the Blues fans didn’t censor was their language. After one really, really off-color rant, I whispered to the brunette twin, “I think you’re going to learn some new words.”
She smiled and responded, “I already know them mom.”

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter brunch with the family

Every year we spend Easter with my side of our family. It’s one of the advantages to living near my parents and brothers. Usually there’s an Easter egg hunt followed by too much food.

This year we were on the road for Easter, which happened to fall during the girls’ Spring break. We planned to spend Easter with Aunt Mary and Uncle Terry. As luck would have it, Aunt Linda, Mikki and Jim were also able to join us.
We had a lovely Easter brunch at Aunt Mary’s house in St. Louis. Aunt Mary, Aunt Linda and Uncle Terry filled the table with lots of good food. Mikki and Jim made tasty sides. We brought dessert, although being on the road what we really did was buy dessert.
Everyone sat around the table eating and talking. It was hard to leave because it was such a fun and relaxing afternoon. The girls had a lot of fun spending Easter with Daddy’s family, but there was more fun planned once we reached Memphis. First, though, we had to get there.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter fun for parents

We always have an Easter egg hunt – usually indoors since the weather rarely cooperates to allow an outdoor egg hunt. This year, the girls put together a treasure hunt for us. They created clues that were hidden all around our second floor.

Each clue had two parts. First there was the riddle we had to solve. Second there was one word to aid our hunt or an inspirational message.

Your next clue is where the one direction bag sat/Splash

You’ll find our next clue somewhere there are pics of places/You are awesome

Your next clue is under a 1st place…/Glob!

Next clue will be somewhere on a wall/Why are you guys so epic?

You’ll find this clue somewhere with a l_dd_r/You’re the best!

The next clue is in a bank/Hey! You are awesome.

They were so excited every time we figured out the next hiding spot. We hesitated on a few, but they quickly jumped in to help us. There were about a dozen clues, leading us from place to place until we found our Easter surprises. The girls made us lovely cards and created an Easter basket with treats.

It was so adorable and thoughtful. They were justifiably proud of their Easter surprise. I do wonder how long they were planning the surprise. It was so well thought-out and detailed that they must have been planning it for a while. I didn't ask though. It was their Easter present to us and they pulled off the surprise beautifully.