Friday, May 29, 2015

Too many golf coaches

This year Daddy and the girls are taking golf lessons on the same day. The last lesson, Mr. Rick decided to work with all three of them at the same time. He took them to the putting green.

Daddy hadn't putted for dollars before, but our girls were experts. For years now Mr. Rick has spoiled them with a game that includes winning dollar bills for good putts. I don't know all the rules, but Mr. Rick and the girls seem to have a lot of fun putting for dollars. Sure, Mr. Rick ends up with fewer dollars in his pocket, but I always figured he started the game so he must enjoy it.

At some point during the lesson, the girls started offering Daddy putting advice. Apparently Daddy took the advice with good humor, which only seemed to encourage the girls.

As a parent it's always good to see that your children are developing a healthy confidence in their skills. The thing you don't want, though, is to have that confidence spill over to point where they feel comfortable enough to correct your errors. You know it's coming, but I'm sure Daddy didn't think that it would happen during a golf lesson with his tweens.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hockey as a STEM activity

As we watched the Blackhawks take on the Ducks Saturday night, the pucks seems to fly past the nets over and over again. We were happy when they didn't go into our net and frustrated when they didn't go into the Ducks' net. At some point during the first overtime period, the blond twin said, "You know, this is why they need math. If they knew geometry, they could figure out the angle they need to get the shot in the net." Her sister agreed and then they both went back to watching the game.

I said, "What?" The blond twin explained, "Geometry would help them understand how to shoot the puck so it goes into the net, not past it."

I thought about exploring that idea more, but lost the thought by something that happened in the game. The next day I admired her logic. Of course she was right about geometry being part of the equation, but I hadn't put the two together until she did it Saturday night.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Double overtime tension

Our niece, Brooke, flew in from a Los Angeles vacation last evening. Her plane landed just as the Blackhawks and Ducks started Game 4. Daddy and the brunette twin went to pick-up Brooke and drive her to meet Uncle Len.

I stayed home with the blond twin. We watched the first period with Grammie, who happily explained everything about hockey to the blond twin. When we made it home, the blond twin started asking me questions, making general comments and rambling about whatever thought floated to the top.

By the time Daddy and the brunette twin made it home, I was exhausted. I just couldn't talk about hockey any more. All I wanted to do was sit quietly and watch the game.

Daddy and the brunette twin settled into the family room with us. The blond twin and brunette twin started asking questions and making general comments. After a few minutes, I put up my hands and said, "Stop talking." I kept saying it every time the girls started talking.

After a few minutes of hearing "stop talking," Daddy said, "If you're going to keep doing that, you have to watch the game in the other room." I said, "Girls, talk to Daddy now."

It didn't take much of the nonstop questions and commenting before Daddy told the girls to be quiet. I didn't say anything. I just sat with a smirky, half-smile on my face. The girls didn't stop talking. They just started talking to each other rather than talking to us. Finally Daddy had enough. He told them that if they didn't stop talking they would have to go to bed.

As regulation time expired, we settled into a tense, mostly-quiet overtime. The girls broke the silence once in a while, but Daddy kept reminding them that they agreed to be quiet. At one point he seemed annoyed that they just wouldn't stop talking. I patted his knee and said, "You know this is going on the blog." Both girls laughed. Daddy just rolled his eyes with his own smirky, half-smile.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Captain is in the house

We took the girls to see The Avengers. Shortly after the movie started Iron Man used a single swear word. Captain America said, "Language."

I leaned over and looked at the blond twin. She smiled.

Whenever I say something not meant for little ears, the blond twin says, "Language Mom." It's her trademark comment whenever she feels the need to let me know she doesn't approve of my word choice.

From the time we left the movie theater, Captain has been her new nickname. She requested it be shortened to Cap. It seemed like a reasonable request, so Cap it is.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

An offer she can refuse

I was at the girls' school yesterday for a special event. At the end, I asked the blond twin's teacher is she would miss anything if I took her home early. The teacher looked at me and said, "I turned in their grades yesterday. We're done for the year."

Today as I walked Holly I hatched a plan. The past few weeks have been really, really crazy. Daddy and I have been talking about how nice this three-day weekend would be. We don't have any real plans other than to work in the garden and relax. When I came home, I talked to Daddy about my plan. He didn't have any objections, so we decided to discuss it with the girls when they came home.

When the girls arrived at home, I was sitting on the patio. I said, "We're thinking about letting you stay home from school tomorrow. You could spend the day in your pajamas, do some chores, get ready for camp and relax a bit."

The brunette twin jumped right on the idea. She wanted to stay home. The blond twin didn't even react. She started babbling about not knowing what she wanted to do. She didn't want to disappoint her twin, but she wanted to go to school to see her friends. She liked that they didn't have any schoolwork planned. She wanted to go to school and play all day.

The blond twin went back and forth about what she should do for a while. The brunette twin argued her side. I eventually told them they were going to school and walked into the house. After a while the blond twin decided she would stay home, then she changed her mind again. The brunette twin was so mad at her sister that she wouldn't talk to her. At that point I decided they were going to school.

When I was walking Holly, I thought the girls would be excited to have a stay-at-home day. It thought they'd enjoy staying in their pajamas all day. Instead I ended up with a sisterly fight and a headache. If nothing else, I learned that there are offers the blond twin can refuse.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The morning after triple overtime

When the Blackhawks were on their way to their first Stanley Cup in my lifetime in 2010, I stayed up for every playoff game. I figured I might not have another chance to enjoy such a deep playoff run, so I better go on the entire ride. When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, I was thrilled as we were able to watch the final game with my Dad, who taught us to love hockey.

From that season, my dedication to playoff games has shifted due to the amazing playoff success the Hawks have amassed this decade. Now I'm more likely to take the time and my next day schedule into account when deciding whether or not to watch a game to the end. This is especially true when the game goes into overtime. This playoff season the Hawks have gone to overtime during several games. I haven't stayed up for those. My new rule is that I'm not losing sleep until we're in the Western Conference Championship or the Stanley Cup Finals.

Last night, though, tested my hockey stamina. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Anaheim Ducks in a triple overtime game. It was the longest playoff game in Chicago Blackhawk's history. It ended just after 1:00 a.m.

There were a couple of times I looked at the clock and thought I really should go to sleep. It was a weekday after all. I had to get up at a reasonable hour to get the girls to school, walk Holly and log on to work. It wasn't as if I could sleep in after a long night listening to the hockey game.

Still, I hung in there with the team, knowing that this was an historic game. Our goalie, Corey Crawford, stopped a record number of shots on goal. The team broke a franchise record for the longest game. This was the kind of game people will talk about for decades.

This morning it was tough to get out of bed. I admit to being a bit slower than normal, even with all the extra caffeine in my system. What gets me through the sleepiness is remembering that we won. There's not much that a thrilling victory won't cure.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Light at the end of the school year

The girls finished their last standardized testing cycle last week. It marked the unofficial end of the school year, even though there are two weeks left on the calendar.

As soon as the testing was over, the girls came home talking about how they were watching movies in class, “earning” extra recess and playing board games. Suddenly there wasn’t anything in their take home folders we needed to read. We stopped getting notices and announcements. They haven’t had any homework since before the last tests.

You can feel us all relaxing as it becomes clear that the end of school is here. We’re not rushing to get assignments completed. We’re not making lists of things that need to go to school the next day. We’re not driving to the store in the evening to get this or that because one of the girls needed it for school the next day.

I think it’s more noticeable this year because our girls are moving to middle school. It’s more than just the end of a school year. The girls are done with elementary school in a few days. They are easing their way out of their comfortable school and getting both excited and nervous about going to middle school. In elementary school they are the oldest children. In middle school they will be the youngsters again.

It’s freeing to be at the end of the school year. We’re making summer plans and scheduling activities. The excitement about going to middle school will brew all summer while they swim, bike and hang out. We have plenty of time to enjoy the relaxed attitude that has settled on all of us before picking up the school routine again.

Monday, May 18, 2015

It almost made me cry

Our girls had their piano recital yesterday. Both girls played beautifully, but it was the blond twin who stole the show. Her performance earned her high praise from her piano teacher’s piano teacher.

We’ve always known that Miss Anna still takes lessons, but it was a surprise to Grammie. She thought that once you started teaching piano you wouldn’t have to take lessons anymore. When the gentleman in the suit complimented the blond twin’s performance, Grammie and Daddy beamed.  Grammie asked who the man was and I explained that it was Miss Anna’s piano teacher.

Grammie complimented both girls, saying that she couldn’t believe how much both girls had grown as pianists since their last recital. She noted the song’s complexities and wondered how much it took for the girls to learn each piece.

She paid special attention to the blond twin’s performance. From the moment she sat at the piano bench, the blond twin sparkled. She commanded those songs with a huge smile on her face. She performed beautifully and she knew it as she took her bow.

Grammie said, “It almost made me cry to listen to her play.”  It was a beautiful way to summarize the blond twin’s growth as a pianist.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Changing keys

The brunette twin has struggled this year to play both piano and flute. As she settled into her fifth grade band practices, it became clear that she wanted to spend more time playing flute with her friends.

While she enjoyed piano, the brunette twin did not enjoy being in the spotlight for recitals and other performances. She was happy to be part of the band where she could play her flute as part of the group. She enjoyed the ability to hide among the group.

The brunette twin worried about telling Miss Anna that she wanted to stop piano lessons for a while. We decided to take the summer off so she could concentrate on her flute practice. We arranged for the girls to take private lessons this summer. They came home from their last band practice with a packet of songs they needed to learn before the first day of sixth grade. The summer music instruction will focus on those songs so they are ready to start when the sixth grade band meets for the first time.

Miss Anna understood. As I explained to the brunette twin, Miss Anna was a middle school student. She understood the pressures of playing multiple instruments. At the recital, Miss Anna wished the brunette twin well with her flute lessons. It was gracious and kind.

I have often said that the brunette twin is not a child who handles change well. Even if it’s change she initiates, she frets as if it’s the end of the world. The brunette twin knows she can always go back to piano lessons, but that hasn’t minimized her distress. When we walked in from her final piano lesson, the brunette twin started crying. She said, “I don’t want to leave Miss Anna.”

We agreed to focus on flute for the summer, while she kept practicing her piano songs. She’ll come to a middle ground where she feel comfortable with her decision, but as with all decisions, it will be a long, winding path.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The competitive musician awakens

The blond twin was debating whether or not to be in band next year. Middle school offers so many clubs and activities. She wants to do them all. She has been leaning towards not joining because she doesn’t want to miss out on the newer opportunities.

Last night we were sitting in the bleachers watching their last fifth grade band performance. After they completed their performance, the sixth grade band started playing. The sixth grade performances were a mix of the entire band, soloists and duets.

The blond twin started paying attention when the band director started talking about a sixth grade girl who earned a perfect score at a recent competition. As they moved the piano forward, the blond twin learned to see it.
When the sixth grade girl started playing, Daddy and I both started pointing at her. She smiled and whispered to her friend. From the other side of the band, the brunette twin pointed at her sister. We were all thinking the same thing. The blond twin could totally perform that award-winning song.

The girls ran into the bleachers after the performance. The blond twin was barely up to us when she said, “I could play that song better than she did.”
She’s a competitive girl, that blond twin. Now that she knows there’s a sixth grade girl who plays piano beautifully, the blond twin decided she’s going to be in band. It’s not that she has a great desire to be part of the band, but she certainly isn’t going to let someone else hold a title she knows she can earn.