Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The last note

The girls complained about their band uniforms for days before putting in on for their final band concert. You could not really blame them for not wanting to wear it. Their uniforms were basically black tuxedos with long sleeved, white shirts. They even had a bow tie. 

They performed beautifully. You could really see their musical growth. Their band performed with big smiles. It was their final middle school concert. Some of them signed up to perform in high school. Most decided to end their band career after this concert.

There was still one more band event. The annual band banquet was just a few days after the final concert. There were a lot of awards and stories. At one point the girls' band teacher gave the Lifesaver Award. It was for students who stepped up to help the band. She talked about how great it was that these students were so willing to step up and fill in so the band had good representation of different instruments.

From the microphone I heard her invite the twins to the stage for their awards. I was talking to someone and wondered about the twins. It wasn't until I saw our girls on stage that I realized who the twins were. 

Until the teacher started thanking them for changing instruments, I nearly forgot that they did make the change. Of course, they changed between sixth and seventh grades, but it was still nice to hear them acknowledged. They worked hard to learn their new instruments. It was unexpected and well-deserved.  

In just a few days, they followed a fun concert with some recognition for their teamwork and hard work. If it truly was the end to their band career, it was a great ending.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Confirmation weekend

The girls spent two years with their confirmation class. They went from strangers who were about the same age to friends who had learned so much about themselves and each other.

They had a two day celebration to end their confirmation journey. Saturday's celebration was an iConfirm service. Sunday was the formal service with Bishop Lee presiding.

The entire class dreaded Saturday's service. Each student was called up to teach the congregation. They spent months memorizing a psalm and considering why it was important to them. They waited nervously for their names to be called. 

Father Dave sensed their nervousness and used it to great comic effect. As one confirmand left the alter, he stood, smiled and looked at the congregation. He paused before calling the next teenager to the alter. The first few times he called a name, everyone who wasn't walking up the aisle let out a deep breath. They were relieved that they didn't hear their names. 


After the first few names, the confirmands started holding their breath. It was a mix of not wanting to hear their names and really wanting to get it over. The blond twin was one of the first students called. She recited her psalm and explained why it was important to her. She sat down with a big smile on her face.

The brunette twin was so nervous every time Father Dave stood up. Student after student after student walked to the alter while she waited for her name to be called. As more students went ahead of her, we all started laughing whenever her name was not called. Aunt Sue-Sue, Uncle Steve and Aunt Reenie sat in the pew ahead of us. As more and more students kept going before the brunette twin, we all started laughing behind our bulletins. 

The brunette twin was so relieved when Father Dave called her name. She walked up to the alter, taught her lesson and came back to the pew with a big smile. She looked at the remaining three confirmands with pity as they waited to hear their names. She settled into her pew to listen to their lessons, so happy that she completed her piece.

The next day was a formal service with Bishop Lee presiding. The confirmands spent time with the Bishop. He talked to them about being a bishop and how he viewed confirmation before answering questions. We could hear the teens laughing during their time with the bishop. 

The Sunday service had all the beautiful music, soaring words and memorable moments we expected from confirmation. Still, it will be the Saturday iConfirm service that we'll talk about when we reminisce about confirmation weekend. The teens really came into their own as they told their stories. We laughed and cried and smiled as they took their steps towards adulthood.




Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Principal's Breakfast at last

In the girls middle school students who received all A grade for a quarter were invited to the principal's breakfast. This event takes place in May, so you had to get all A's in one of the first three quarters.

The girls talked about the breakfast during sixth and seventh grades. They had lots of friends who attended one year or both. At the beginning of eight grade they decided that they wanted to go to the principal's breakfast.

The blond twin achieved all A's in the second quarter. The brunette twin achieved all A's in all three quarters. We received an invitation to attend the principal's breakfast.

It was a lovely event with a large buffet and a selfie background. The girls and their friends spent a lot of time documenting their fun. The principal gave a nice speech before introducing each student. Parents spent a lot of time photographing their children on the risers with the certificates held proudly in front of them. 

It was another sign that we were really racing towards graduation. The principal's breakfast was the last thing on their "must do before we graduate" list. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Twenty and counting

Every year on our anniversary I walk through the day remembering exactly where I was at that time on our wedding day. I spent the morning telling the girls what I was doing at that moment twenty years ago.

We officially celebrated our twentieth anniversary at Tidepools on Kauai. Sure, it was an early celebration, but how often can you celebrate your anniversary eating a world-class meal in a stunning, romantic location? 

We planned to take the girls to Wishbone. We had one of our first dates at Wishbone, so we wanted to take the girls there. Our plan fell through when we realized that between the girls' after-school activities and work, we really didn't have time to go downtown for dinner.

A new, local restaurant received good reviews so we took the girls there. We celebrated with Indian food and ice cream. We told stories and laughed and ate really good food. It was a great way to celebrate a momentous event.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bridging the gap

Overheard in our car...

Brunette Twin: "I want to take a year between high school and college."

Mom:  "You want to take a gap year? Why?"

Brunette Twin: "I want some time to make some money and travel. A break before I go to college."

Mom:  "You need a break before you go to college?"

Brunette Twin: "Yeah. It's stressful to be in school all the time. I want a break from school before college. After college I have to get a job and then I won't have any fun any more."

Mom:  "Well, that's true. Nothing fun happens after college. Look at us. We never go anywhere or do anything."


Monday, April 16, 2018

#MarchForOurLives brought democracy to life

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms

When people ask what it was like to attend the March for Our Lives, I always say that it was cold — really, really cold. Even with all our cold weather gear, we were cold. After we laughed about the weather, I told people what we saw as we walked to the rally with thousands of other people.
There were students of all ages holding signs and chanting. The adults admired the students’ creativity and commitment. Medical professionals in white lab coats stood together. Church groups took pictures in front of the crowds. People stood and clapped as the Majory Stoneman Douglas Chicago alumni walked by with a banner announcing their school pride. Street performers entertained the crowds headed towards Union Park.
It was an amazing mix of people who came together to share stories, support the student organizers and take a stand against gun violence. The rally before the march brought all these people together to hear students from across the Chicagoland area tell their stories.
The student speakers spoke of experiences unique to their generation. Trigger Warning, an award-winning poem, was performed by four Hinsdale Central students — Ellie Pena, Amani Mryan, Kai Foster and Ayana Otokiti. Caitlyn Smith, a 12-year-old Chicago Heights girl, spoke about her brother’s death outside her former Englewood home. Eduardo Medel, Jones College Prep and Young Urban Professionals representative, talked about how gun violence touched him when he was very young. Jalen Kobayashi, Whitney Young High School, read his poem about Chicago called, “The Zoo.”
Each speaker was a stark reminder that their school experience was dramatically different from my own. When I was in elementary school, we did regular tornado drills. We ran into the halls, kneeled on the floor, put our heads against the lockers and put our hands on our heads. We stayed there until a teacher came by to correct our posture so we’d be safer if a tornado hit. Our daughters have mastered very different drills.
Our girls were very young when Sandy Hook happened. We were discussing how to tell them when they came home from school. They already knew what happened. Some of the older students had mobile devices. Their parents contacted them to make sure they were safe. The kids followed up by reading news reports. Teachers at the school went into lockdown — or what passed for lockdown at that point.
Our children have never known a world in which students were not killed in mass shootings. These events became part of their world when they were young. Now they are well-versed in ways to keep a shooter out of their classroom. It’s a terrible skill to master.
I asked our daughters if they wanted to attend the #Chicago March for Our Lives. They immediately said they wanted to do it and they wanted to bring friends.
There’s a saying on a Chicago History Museum wall that stuck with me from the moment I read it. “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife” (John Dewey). I took the opportunity to talk about democracy as we planned our participation. We talked about the importance of listening. They didn’t have to agree with everything they heard and saw, but they did need to allow everyone to speak. They needed to consider both sides of an issue before making up their minds. They needed to allow for the possibility that new information might change their opinions. Mostly, we talked about the importance of participating in the democratic process. If we did not participate, then we allowed others to make decisions for us.
There were pro-gun advocates at the rally. They held signs, passed out materials and talked to rally participants. Most people walked by without acknowledging the counter-protestors. Others stopped to talk. It was a peaceful co-existence of differing opinions. It was exactly what democracy should be with two sides debating ideas in a public square.
There are many opportunities for families to get involved. There is a March for Science on April 14. The Chicago event, Speak Up For Science, happens at the Field Museum from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. This is the follow-up to last year’s March for Science, which we attended with a vet student friend. If science isn’t your passion, how about the Tax March? The national day of action is Sunday, April 15.  There are events happening from April 9 – 19. Chicago and Downers Grove events are on the calendar.
How will  your family renew democracy? It is important for parents to teach children how to renew democracy. Our children are on their way to being our leaders. Let’s make sure they know how to use the gifts democracy creates.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Blue Apron is teaching our daughters to cook

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms


Blue Apron sponsors two of my favorite podcasts, so it was just a matter of time before I subscribed. Since one of our daughters became a vegetarian, I often struggle with meal ideas. One of Blue Apron’s appeals was that they found the recipes, sent the instructions and proportioned the ingredients. What I didn’t expect was how much our daughters would like cooking the meals.
When the first box showed up, our daughters were excited. They choose the meals, so they knew what was in the package. They immediately decided that they were going to make dinner. I made them say it twice since they had never offered to make dinner before.
They chose a 30 minute meal and started sorting ingredients. It took them about 30 minutes to get organized, which was probably not what Blue Apron had in mind when created the instructions. The girls worked together to wash, chop, saute, dice and bake our dinner.
It was delicious.
For years we have been teaching our girls to cook. I always said that one day they were going to have to know how to cook. They mastered a few things like baking muffins and cookies. They took random ingredients to create terrific smoothies. Until we subscribed to Blue Apron, we could not get them to make dinner.
It might be the idea that they did not have to ask us for any help. Our girls are teenagers, so any time they asked for help, they treated it like a huge failing. It might be the idea that they have been talking more and more about going to college and living on their own. Maybe making Blue Apron meals in our kitchen made them feel like they were testing their independence.
Whatever it was that drew them to Blue Apron meals, we’re happy about it. The last time we were in a grocery store, our daughters recognized some of the Blue Apron ingredients. They bragged to their friends about making a roasted fennel pasta. Even though we’ve served fennel before, I doubt they recognized it when they were chopping it. Now that they have used it in a meal, they talk about fennel like it was an old friend.
We don’t have a weekly subscription because our lives are just too busy some weeks to even think about cooking dinner from scratch. Those are the weeks that we make a bunch of food Sunday afternoon and reheat all week.
When we do have time to cook, we simply turn over the kitchen to our daughters. Watching them develop their culinary skills has been a wonderful bonus from our Blue Apron subscription.