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.