Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween hauntings

When Halloween falls on a Saturday you'd expect a full day of trick-or-treating fun. We made plans with the girls' friends for a split day. They would start the afternoon in our neighborhood so all our neighbors could see the girls in costume. They would move to Erin's house after a pizza break.

Of course the weather didn't cooperate. It started raining the night before and drizzled on and off all morning. About an hour before everyone was supposed to arrive one mom checked in to see if the girls were still going. I said, "Of course. Send her with rain boots and an umbrella."

Daddy and Holly set off with all 8 girls when it was a drizzle. The girls ran from house to house to house collecting their treats. About 1/2 hour after they left the drizzle turned into a steady rain. I tried willing the rain to go back to a drizzle, but it didn't work.

Long before I expected them back Daddy called. Some of the girls had enough of the rain. They wanted to come back. He asked me to watch for them. When the girls arrived they ran upstairs to change into dry clothes and blow dry their hair. I put their costumes into the dryer. 

You'd think a rainy, chilly Halloween would damped spirits, but it didn't. The girls laughed and told stories and made plans to trick or treat some more. They sat around our dining room table drinking hot chocolate and giggling. By the time our girls and Erin arrived, the first group was warm and dry and relaxed. 

Brynn and Torri joined the party just before pizza came out of the oven. She walked in and made this announcement, "I'm sorry if I smell. My dog got skunked last night and our whole house stinks." I felt badly for her parents as she talked about how much work they were doing to try to get the smell out of their house. 

The girls moved to Erin's just as the rain stopped. They were barely in the house when Erin started calling for her Dad to take them out again. These girls were on a mission.

I arrived to bring our girls home in the middle of the candy trading session. The girls dumped their candy on the floor to trade this one for that one. Sometimes it was practical. The blond twin can't eat sticky candy with her braces. Erin is allergic to peanuts. Other times it was sweet. The girls put together a big candy bag for their friend Ella, whose Mom died earlier in the week. Her Mom's funeral was Halloween morning. Knowing that Ella wouldn't be trick or treating, the girls made sure she had some candy.

When our girls came home we immediately sorted candy into "eat now" and "eat later" piles. The "eat later" candy was frozen to get it out of the kitchen. The "eat now" candy went into a bowl on the breakfast bar. It's the "eat now" candy that's causing problems at this point. I keep telling the girls it's not a race to find the bottom of the bowl. They don't have to eat it all this week. They remind me that Christmas is coming and soon we'll be overloaded with those treats. 

It was so much easier when they were little and didn't try to figure out a way around everything I said. On the one hand you have to admire the logic. On the other hand, "outwit Momma" is an exhausting game, even when they have a point.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Anytime, anywhere

We were at Grammie's when the blond twin started texting. I told her I wanted to look at her device. One of the rules we established when they opened their birthday presents was that we could look at their phones anytime, anywhere.

The blond twin balked. She didn't want to show me her phone. There wasn't a time when I thought she was really doing anything wrong. I just wanted to establish that I meant that we might look at their devices when we wanted. 

The blond twin fought me for about 10 minutes before giving me her device. I waited while she entered her password to unlock her screen. I swiped her screen, read her text messages, asked a few questions and handed her the device. She glared at me and put it in her pocket.

As we drove to piano lessons, the blond twin played with her mobile device. I asked her if she learned her lesson about handing me her device upon request. She didn't say anything. I asked if she would fight with me about it next time.

She smiled and said, "Probably." I laughed because I knew the answer before I asked the question. She's a strong-willed child, but I'm still her Momma. She'll fight me just to prove the point that she's not happy about letting me go through her device. In the end she'll give it to me, but she won't be happy about it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

From bad to worse

I knew this was going to be a rough work day. I looked at my schedule and decided today was a day for comfort clothes. Some people have comfort food. I have comfort clothes. 

It's one of the best parts of working at home. Unless I'm planning to go out, no one really sees what I wear when I work or walk Holly. Today's comfort clothes included my Chicago Blackhawks fleece pants and a Coldplay t-shirt. As expected, it was a rough day. I thought the worst was over when I finished a high profile town hall.

I was walking Holly when a friend called. Did I hear that Lisa died? Her daughter received a text message from Ella, Lisa's daughter. She was wondering if I heard any news. I told her I hadn't heard, but I'd call someone else for confirmation. No one was surprised that Lisa died. She had been very sick with brain, bone and liver cancer. It was her second bout since declaring victory over stage IV breast cancer a few years ago. We knew it was coming. It didn't make it any better.

As soon as the girls walked in from after-school band practice they started crying, They told me Ella's mom died. Between their tears they said they heard about it in band class. Ella texted someone who shared it with the class. They cried during class. They cried in other classes when friends asked if it was true. They cried after school back in the band room

Ella has been to our house and hung out with our girls for years. I think their tears were a sign of their fears as well as for Ella's loss. The girls knew Lisa's cancer returned. They talked to Ella about it from time to time. No matter how mature they seem, our girls are still little girls afraid that something will happen to Momma or Daddy. It's one thing for a parent's death to be a vague fear. It's another thing for a friend's parent to die. It's going to be a hard life lesson for the whole school as they grieve for Lisa, face their fears and learn to go back to being sixth graders. There aren't any comfort clothes that can make it easier. We'll all have to work through it together. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

The upside of twerking

When I picked up the girls from the Fall Mixer, they ran up and started whispering in my ears. I didn't understand them at first because they were speaking at the same time. It was like bees buzzing rather than words I understood.

I left the building with the girls and their friends. Once outside they told me some 8th grade girls were twerking and some boys were paying the girls to twerk. All four girls were horrified.

On the one hand I was angry that none of the adults chaperoning the mixer stopped the inappropriate dancing. On the other hand I was happy all four girls were horrified by the behavior. If nothing else, they do absorb the lessons we share about appropriate behavior. I couldn't wait to tell Daddy that they were listening when we talked about appropriate behavior and how we wanted them to act. It's always good to know that they internalize the right messages and live them when we're not around.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Using my detective skills

Overheard at our house...

Brunette Twin:  "Mom, are you getting me a young architect's book for Christmas?"

Mom:  "I'm not even thinking about Christmas yet."

Brunette Twin:  "Really, because there's an email on your device about my Christmas presents."

Mom:  "Why are you on my device?"
Brunette Twin:  "You didn't password protect it. I'm just using my detective skills to see what might be under the Christmas tree."

Mom:  "Stay off my device or you won't get anything for Christmas."

And, note to self -- password protect your device.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The height disadvantage

The girls' band teacher asked for parents to help measure the kids for their band uniforms. I volunteered to go and asked Grammie to join me. The teacher needed teams of two so one person would measure and the other would write the information.

I told the girls I asked Grammie because she has such nice handwriting. I thought they'd crack a joke about my messy handwriting. Instead, they said, "Plus, Grammie is too short to measure the kids. They are all taller than her."

Poor Grammie. Even when I'm trying to compliment her, there is a short joke waiting.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Too much organization

If there is one thing we've learned not to do, it is open the brunette twin's closet or dresser drawers. Bad things happen when I go into her room and peak "under the covers" so to speak. From the surface it looks like any other tween girl's room with a little mess here and there.

When you open the closet, though, it's like something from a television sitcom. There are floor piles and empty hangers and overloaded shelves. The empty hangers remind me that she has a lot of clothes, just not in her closet. Neither Daddy nor I go into her closet without sending a warning. 

In one now-famous moment, the brunette twin cleaned her dresser. She showed it off with pride. I looked towards her closet. She smiled, put her hand on my chin to turn my face back to her dresser. She smiled and said something like, "Let's focus on the positive shall we?"

Since she started middle school, I can see how much the brunette twin struggles with the daily responsibilities of changing classes, managing honors classes and the homework, and just finding her place. Sometimes she cries because she's so overwhelmed.

I read a magazine article once in which a psychologist responded to a reader's letter. The woman was frustrated that her teenage son's room was always a mess. She said it drove her crazy that it was so disorganized at home, while being such a steller student. The psychologist noted that she worried about kids who were too organized at home and school. She said that kids needed a place to let down their "perfect" shield and just be kids. She told the mother to back-off if the mess wasn't affecting his schoolwork or social life.

I've tried to keep that in mind as the brunette twin figures out how to navigate middle school. As long as she maintains some semblance of order on the surface, I don't open her closets nor to I look in her dresser drawers. Eventually I will enforce some order, but for now her room is her sanctuary.