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.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

You know what would make Sissy feel better?

The blond twin is really working her sister's injury. As soon as we walked in the house Tuesday, the blond twin started every request with "You know what would make Sissy feel better?"

The list included everything from not doing summer math to unusually long time on the xBox to a larger than normal amount of junk treats.

It's both cute and annoying. The blond twin starts with such a big eyed, pouty face that it's hard to deny her request, especially since she walks up to the line where we'd automatically say no, but doesn't cross it. She asks for a bit more, but not so much more that she knows we'll turn down her request.

Someday this skill will serve her well in different areas of her life. Right now it's getting her all the things she really wants because, you know, it makes Sissy feel better.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Brunette twin down

We knew it was going to happen sooner or later, so it wasn't a complete surprise when I arrived at horseback riding camp yesterday to find that the brunette twin fell off her horse. She has been riding a difficult horse and she decide to try to ride with an English saddle.

From what she remembers, the fall happened when she was cantering. As she turned a corner, she lost her stirrup and started to slide. Since she was riding with an English saddle, she didn't have the horn to grab to right herself. She hit the ground hard. She remembers her eyes being a little blurry and her face being muddy. She also remembers Hank, her horse, loosing his footing and stepping on her.

The brunette twin ended up in the office with a bag of frozen peas on her thigh. She had the beginnings of several bruises, but thigh bruise was going to be huge. It was as if a cantaloupe smacked her on the thigh.

I talked to several staff members about her fall to make sure she didn't hit her head. No one seemed to think that was a problem, including the blond twin. The brunette twin was so stunned that she hardly remembered falling. We talked about what to look for and when I should be worried.

Actually, I was worried just because she fell. Once I realized she wasn't seriously hurt, I worried that she wouldn't want to get back on a horse. The brunette twin quickly dispelled that idea. She said she got back on Hank and walked him until the lesson was over.

When she told her friends about her fall, at least one said, "So, I guess no more horse camp this week." The brunette twin countered with, "I'm going back. I won't ride Hank with an English saddle until I can control him better."

Mommy and Daddy were happy to hear that. She might have gone down, but she wasn't going to stay down.