Friday, May 31, 2013

The Missing Chicken

The chicken is gone.

Sometime this past winter while I was taking Lauren over to visit a friend of hers on the other side of town I noticed that one of the houses along the way was guarded by a giant metal chicken.

I am not sure what made the owners of this house decide that metal poultry would be the best security system for their property.  One imagines that not many burglars have experience in dealing with such things (“Hey!  We’re being stalked by a giant metal chicken!”  “Yeah, right.  Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.”  “No, really, there’s ... URK.”  “Uh, Bob?”) so there is always the sheer novelty of it to make it work.  Plus, chickens work for scraps, so the expense is fairly low.  You could just find an old Pontiac and let them forage for months off its carcass.  It's a pretty good system, now that I think about it.  Perhaps there should be a bigger market for this sort of thing.

But this week it appears that the house is now unguarded.  The chicken is no longer at its post.  Which of course begs a question:

Where did it go?

Is it roaming around Our Little Town, full of fowl dreams of vengeance and violence?  Is there a Frankenchicken clonking around the neighborhood and giving the local cats a taste of their own predatory medicine?

Or perhaps it has been shipped off to guard more sensitive installations in other parts of the country?  Does anyone know the security rating of a metal chicken?  I imagine they could do a fine job of guarding most things, though anything that involved radioactivity or excessive magnetism would probably be a bit hard for them.

Maybe it just found a mate somewhere and eloped.  That would be a nice way for this to end.  If you hear clanging in the night, think fondly of a chicken who has found love.

But watch for the eggs.  When they hatch, there will be shrapnel.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Nobody makes chocolate jimmies* like the Dutch.

They come in little boxes about the size of an American juice box, and the Dutch sprinkle them on buttered bread.  They actually taste like chocolate, as opposed to the vaguely brown flavor that most American jimmies have.  They are just the most amazing things in the world of tiny candies.

We discovered this over the weekend, when our friends Chris and Sjoerd came to visit and brought us some.

Back in high school I briefly found myself on the fringes of a social group composed mainly of people from neighboring high schools rather than my own.  In general that group was an interesting and largely failed experiment from my point of view and I wasn’t all that sorry to head off in other directions after a while, but there were a couple of people in that group that I genuinely liked and missed once I left.

One of those was Chris. 

About fifteen years later, through the magic of email, we managed to get back in touch with each other.  By then we were both a long way from who we were when we’d met, both figuratively and literally – she was living in Amsterdam, having moved to Europe almost immediately upon graduating college and lived in any number of places there, while I had headed the other direction and landed in Wisconsin.  It was really nice to catch up with her, and this time we stayed in contact.

This past weekend Chris and Sjoerd were visiting friends not too far away from us, by midwestern standards, so on Saturday they drove up to Our Little Town for a visit.

What do you say to a friend you haven’t actually seen in thirty years?

Pretty much anything, it turns out.  Chris and I settled in as if we’d never missed a beat.  Sjoerd turned out to be a great guy (which is not surprising, really), and we had a lovely time showing them such wonders of Wisconsin as can be accessed here – notably the local gardens and the river, since they are nature lovers and bird watchers (and serious enough about that to haul a camera lens the size of a bazooka across the Atlantic – teh Envy, I haz it), but also the soft-serve ice cream place because otherwise Lauren would have exploded.

The house always feels empty when friends leave.

I hope they come back soon.


*Here in the midwest they call those tiny little tube-shaped candies that you throw on ice cream “sprinkles.”  As an undergraduate I had a roommate from Boston who insisted on calling them “shots.”  However, I grew up in Philadelphia and I can tell you that both of those terms are incorrect.  They’re jimmies. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Day at the Track

Yesterday was the big City-Wide Track Meet here in Our Little Town.

Every year they gather up the 4th and 5th graders from all of the various elementary schools and bus them over to the central stadium where the high schools play football.  Like most high school football fields, it is surrounded by the track – I remember this from when I was running track in high school, which was unfortunately during the lacrosse season (a much bigger sport at my high school than football) which in turn meant that we runners had to be fairly adept at dodging the loose balls that went rocketing by on a semi-regular basis.

Here in Our Little City they divide up the 4th and 5th graders by grade, and further divide them by school – only about half the schools can show up at a given time – but even so, there are a lot of kids out there running around.  And since Lauren is now in 4th grade, she gets to be one of them.

I dropped her off at school early so she could ride the bus over, and then I went to the stadium to park.  You have to get there early, otherwise you might as well park in your own driveway and walk over.  It’s good that these events get supported by the community that way, even so.

Most of the events of the morning took place in a steady rain – the sort of weather that would add zip to a football game and cancel a baseball game, but which just left us a bit puzzled as to what to do about a track meet.  It didn’t affect the running events all that much, but some of the field events – notably the high jump, which requires a fairly solid plant just before you jump – were a bit tricky.

Not that this affected the kids much.  They poured into the stadium, resplendent in their matching t-shirts.  Each school gets its own color – red, orange, white, various shades of blue, and so on.  You can easily identify dear old Not Bad President Elementary by its vocal yellow shirts, which – on a grey rainy day – made them instantly recognizable.  The kids bounced into the stands, buzzing and fidgeting, and generally spent the day having a grand time as far as I could tell.

Lauren was in four events.

Her first, right off the bat, was the 50-yard dash.  This is one of her strengths, and she was ready for it.

After an initial qualifying heat, she ended up in the final and came in first place!

Her next event was the high jump, which she was notably less confident about but preferred to the hurdles, which is where she was originally scheduled to compete before switching out.  And I don’t blame her.  As my friend Tiz once said about the hurdles, “It’s bad enough they make you run all that way, but then they go and put things in your path!”  If you’re going to jump over things, you might as well get it over with all at once.

It turned out Lauren had no reason to worry about the jumping, and she came in second place.

The tricky part, she told us later, was that with all that rain the mats were just soaked.  It takes a certain focus to be able to jump in the head-first style that they train these kids to use in these meets knowing that you’re going to come down face first into a puddle.

Her next event was the long jump, and – upholding what is apparently a family tradition dating back to when Tabitha was in these meets – she scored a second place finish there too.

The fun part of watching for us was that it was clear that Lauren was having an immensely good time out there.  She’d be waiting for her turn and bouncing up and down, dancing and generally enjoying herself with her friends.  And really, that’s the whole point of this exercise.

The final event of the day is the 6x50 relay.  They gather up all of the various teams and space half of their members across the end zone of the football field and the other half at the 50-yard-line, and they run back and forth.  The result has all the organizational precision of a medieval battle and is thus an awful lot of fun to watch.

Lauren’s team won its qualifying heat, with Lauren running the anchor leg and just managing to hold off a hard charging boy from one of the other schools.

And in the final, she did it again.

I’d say that the combined margin of victory in both heats was something less than a yard, but there she was, in first place with her teammates.  This despite the fact that an earlier runner had actually dropped the baton – they were all just that fast and they made up the ground rapidly.

It was a grand and glorious (if rather damp) day here in Our Little Town.

Good work, Lauren – I’m proud of you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Photo of Two Random Friendly Strangers

I have no idea who these young ladies are.

When Kim and I started walking across the pedestrian bridge over the Hudson River this past weekend we discovered that we were not alone.  On the one hand, we didn’t figure the bridge would be abandoned – it’s a lovely view, after all, and they wouldn’t put a bridge there unless they expected it to carry some traffic.  On the other hand, well, we didn’t think we’d be quite that not alone.

Apparently Saturday was the annual Hudson Valley AIDS Walk.  There were several hundred people strolling by in bright red t-shirts, presumably having made prior arrangements for donations to the cause for this effort.  The bridge was festooned with hopeful signs describing the services of an AIDS activist group that had recently renamed itself and had therefore had to tape labels bearing its new acronym over top of the appropriate places on last year’s signs.  We let them pass by, since they seemed rather more determined than we were regarding their desire to get from Point A (being defined as here) to Point B (being defined as over there, on the other side of the river).

But there were stragglers, and we stopped these two to see if they would take our photo there on the bridge with the river in the background.  “Sure,” they said, almost in unison.  “But we want you to take our picture too!”

“But I have no way of getting you a copy,” I said.

“Doesn’t matter,” one replied.  “We just want our picture taken.”  So I did, and they were happy.

What is it that makes us want our photo taken?  Not everybody does, of course – I’m always happier behind the camera than in front of it, myself – but many people do.

I think there is a sense that photos capture a moment, that they freeze what would otherwise be ephemeral into something that is permanent, or at least something that lasts a little while longer than the moment itself.  It is a way of announcing to the world that you were here, that you walked on this earth and enjoyed its sunshine and loved some of your fellow creatures, and that this ought to be remembered.

It doesn’t even matter who remembers, really.  Just that someone does.

I don’t know the backstory behind these two women.  Perhaps they were just messing with the tourists (they certainly had a lot of fun taking our pictures).  Or perhaps the fact that they were marching in an AIDS Walk meant that they understood a bit more personally than they would have liked to understand at such a young age just how impermanent things really are in this world, and how important it is to remember and be remembered.

I hope they think to google themselves soon and find this photo, and know that they are remembered, as much as two friendly but nameless women on a bridge can be remembered.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Wedding In New York

I really hate traveling.  But I really love weddings.  There are times when this becomes a quandary, and when that happens there really is only one thing to do.

Wedding, here I come!

Just ignore me while the traveling part is still going on, that’s all.

My cousin Chris and his longtime partner Chris (yes, there were a lot of last names being used for clarity this weekend) got married in upstate New York on Saturday, at a beautiful old mansion overlooking the Hudson River.  We hemmed and hawed about it – it’s a long way, it’s finals week here, the girls are still in school, on and on – but really we knew we were going to go anyway.  It’s a wedding.  It’s family.  We’re there.  Grandma came down to take care of the girls, and Kim and I headed out early Friday morning.

This was my first experience with Southwest Airlines, which is the RyanAir of America except with a slightly less insane boarding procedure.  You check in online and get a number and then you board in numerical order, except that there are no assigned seats so if you are anywhere in the C group (as we were both in and out) the odds of you actually sitting next to the person you’re traveling with are fairly minimal.  And they serve peanuts, which in this day and age is just bizarre, although my outbound seatmate got only one peanut in his packet so perhaps they’re just slowly weaning themselves from that practice.

We arrived at LaGuardia safe and hungry (they were small packets of peanuts), so on the way out of town we made an unscheduled stop at a tiny little Jamaican restaurant – one of those neighborhood places where there’s more room on the sidewalk than the inside – and had jerk chicken that was just amazing.  That is the wonderful thing about places like that – great food at reasonable prices in wholly unreasonable quantities.  Plus the counter guy essentially adopted us as pets.  Two white tourists in his restaurant in the middle of Queens just tickled him somehow.

We found our way to Poughkeepsie and checked in to the hotel. 

That night there was a reception at a restaurant whose name, translated out of French, means “The Chained Duck,” which is something I prefer not to think about any further.  It was quite a trip up to it – about 45 minutes north from the hotel, along a series of small state highways all of which were Rt. 9 in some variation or another.  All of the highways around that area of upstate New York are 9.  There’s 9N, 9S, 9W, 9G, 9D, and probably a few more that we didn’t drive on.  You know, guys, there is an infinite number of numbers out there.  You could try some of the others, just for fun.

But the food was lovely and the company was even better.  You never really get much of a chance to talk to the stars of the show at weddings – they’re always frantically tying down loose ends – but we did get to see the Chrises a few times, and we spent most of the evening happily noshing and hanging out with family members.  And we even managed to find our way back to the hotel without ending up back in Queens, so: Win.

We had most of Saturday to ourselves.  Most of my family hung out at the hotel, but Kim is an adventurer so she and I spent the day doing some of the touristy things that were in the booklet Chris and Chris gave us.  We had a grand time.

There is an old railroad bridge over the Hudson that is now a pedestrian crossing, so we headed toward that first. You park at one end, climb up the stairs, and head west.  The Hudson River Valley is just a beautiful place, so we took our time there on the bridge, looking up and down the river.

Just up one of the Rt. 9s from there is Hyde Park and the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  For a man of such wealth and power it is a relatively restrained place – apparently his father wanted nothing to do with the extravagance of, say, the Vanderbilts, who were their neighbors to the north.  It’s also a cluttered place, as befits the style of the early 20th century.

There are all sorts of things to look at along the grounds as well.  There was a statue of FDR and Eleanor that we of course took photos with, because you are legally obligated to do that with such statues, for example.

Both Roosevelts (and their dogs) are buried on the grounds, and you can wander over to that as well.  My favorite bit on the grounds, though, was a statue dedicated to FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech and constructed out of bits of the Berlin Wall.  Apparently the sculptor was Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, which made a certain amount of sense.

And then it was time for the Main Event!

Chris and Chris had the foresight to rent buses to take us from the hotels up to the site of the wedding, which as near as we could tell was in southern Ontario, a straight shot up the various Rt. 9s.  It was a beautiful place – an old mansion overlooking the Hudson – and the sort of mild, slightly overcast (i.e. not dazzlingly bright) day that you hope for with events like this. 

We milled around for a while, oohing and aahing over the scenery until it was time for the ceremony.  And then there it was – what we all came to see.  It was a simple ceremony, heartfelt and lovely.

Weddings are wonderful things, because you have two people who love each other and are making a commitment to one another in front of the people who matter to them.  Everything else is extra. 

Such as the reception, because at that point the hard work is over and it is time to kick back and celebrate. 

Although, as Chris and Chris pointed out, these days it is not really an official marriage until you update your Facebook status (which they did right there on their phones, so it’s all proper now).  We ate, we drank, we talked, we even danced for certain values of dancing, and then the bus took us back. 

For me one of the best things about this was the chance to see my family.  We’re a scattered group these days and such events come all too infrequently, so when we get the chance we try to enjoy it as much as possible.

It’s easy to enjoy good things when you have good people to enjoy them with.

Chris and Chris have been together a long time.  We’ve long considered them married regardless of the state of the law.  On Saturday they reaffirmed that commitment openly and freely, before friends and family, and there is no lovelier thing in the world than that.

Congratulations, Chris and Chris.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


So where were you this past Saturday morning?

The correct answer, by the way, is “I was attending the 4H Drama Festival down at Home Campus, thank you!”  Because that’s where you should have been.

Every year the local 4H clubs have a Drama Festival.  Like most things involving 4H it is a fair amount of fun, a whole lot of work, and a genuine time-sink, but one that you end up doing again next year because it was worth it in retrospect.  Each club gets about half an hour total for their play, including set-up, performance, and strike, and it runs pretty much all day.

We’ve been rehearsing this for a couple of months, in between the snowstorms that always magically seemed to appear on Tuesdays this winter.  The kids put a lot of effort into it.

Mostly this is about teaching kids theater, since they have to do it all – how to write a play, how to act in a play, and in our case how to do tech.  We’re one of the few groups that does any real tech stuff for their play, which is probably a function of a) the fact that I’m one of the leaders of this outfit (below Kim and Jamie, who handle everything else) and b) I have the keys to the theater so we can actually get in there and do some tech stuff.  Tech doesn’t just happen on the day of the show – you have to prepare.

This year Tabitha once again was running the lighting board, which involved a number of cues where the lights flickered off and on as well as several “solo bump” cues where one lighting instrument comes up full and everything else cuts to black.  Her buddy Taryn handled the sound cues on her own keyboard, which we plugged into the system in the theater.

This year’s play (written by Addie, one of the kids in the troop) centered around the idea of a bunch of aliens invading the annual 4H Fair on “Detective Day,” when – naturally – the Scooby-Doo gang, Sherlock Holmes, and the Men In Black would be attending.  

That backdrop is actually tied to a bar that rises up into the flyspace above the stage – Tabitha, Taryn and I came in one Sunday night to tie it onto the bar.  Part of my job as the tech guy was to teach Tabitha, Taryn and Addie (who ended up being the one running that part of the tech, as the other two were in the rear of the house running sound and lights) how to work the ropes to bring it in and out.  It’s an interesting task, and one that I didn’t get to learn until much later in my theatrical career.

Back at the Fair, several items go missing (“Jinkies!”).

Getting those items to go up was a trick.  The same night we tied the backdrop up, we also rigged up a pulley system on another bar where each of the three items that disappears gets clipped to a fishing line that runs up, over, and down.  At the appropriate moment, Addie would haul on the correct line while Tabitha made the lights flicker and Taryn added eerie sounds.

The problem with getting a review of a performance from the tech guy is that you hear an awful lot about the tech.

With the missing items causing consternation among the 4H fairgoers, the various detectives jump in to try to solve the case (“Elementary, my dear Watson!”).  Lauren played Scooby-Doo, much to her eternal delight, and ended up with a number of speaking lines.

Eventually we discover that it was in fact the aliens who were making the items disappear – not Professor Moriarity, or even Old Man Jenkins.  Aliens say “beep,” by the way.

There is an interlude of crisis, as one would imagine there would be given the discovery that what you thought was a garden-variety theft has suddenly morphed into First Contact, which may or may not be an improvement from the “we’re having a crisis” standpoint.  (“Ruh-roh!  Raliens!”)

But it all works out in the end.  The aliens return the missing items and go home to set up their own fair, and the MIBs erase everyone’s memory (“Would you look right here, please…”).

They did a really nice job with the play.  Everyone remembered their lines and projected them to the back of the house.  The tech stuff went off without a hitch.  And the judges liked it.

Did I mention there were judges?

Because there were.

This is a competition.  Like most 4H events, there are categories of ribbons – blue category, red category, white category.  This is our third year doing this, and every year we have been in the blue ribbon category.  That’s where we like to be.

This year, however, the judges liked us so much that they awarded us the championship.  On the one hand, this is quite a nice honor.  The kids worked very hard on this, and it’s good to see them get recognized for it.  On the other hand, well, this means that they want us to do it at the State Fair in August.

For those of you who have not been to the Wisconsin State Fair, it is about what you would expect you would find when you put far too many residents of a state known for beer consumption together on a hot summer day and give them carnival rides and livestock.  It’s fun in a chaotic, “protect the weak and the slow” sort of way.  Putting on a 4H play in that environment is really not something we were hoping to achieve.  You know all that tech?  Part of that was there to inoculate us against such a possibility, since the stage at the State Fair has no flyspace and is open to the sun (which makes lighting cues sort of hard to do).

We’re still trying to figure out how that’s going to work.  I’ll keep you posted.

Tabitha and I had to leave the Drama Festival immediately after our play so I could take her to another social engagement about half an hour south of here, so I missed Lauren’s musical number.

The overall 4H organization had asked if anyone wanted to do short acts between the plays, and Lauren and a few of her buddies took them up on it.  They practiced a few songs in the weeks leading up to the show, and finally settled on Rhett and Link’s Nilla Wafer Top Hat Time.

Because it made sense at the time.

Well, actually, no.  It didn’t make any sense then either, and that was part of its charm.

It was a good day for theater.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

To Have and to Hold

Today is my parents’ fiftieth anniversary.

They’ve been together even longer than that, of course.  They were voted the Cutest Couple of their graduating high school class in 1958 – it says so, right in the yearbook.  It was a busy five years between that yearbook and their wedding – my mother graduated from the same university where I would go, in my time; my dad spent time in the Navy before entering into the workplace (and eventually getting a degree of his own).  They stayed together.  They got married.

Fifty years is a long time.  The world was a very different place on this date in 1963.  Jack Kennedy was still alive and President.  Doctor Who was months from being aired for the first time and the Beatles were one album removed from being a club band.  Computers had vacuum tubes.  Televisions were furniture, with solid wood cases, and the picture came in two colors (black and white).  The average American car weighed more than the average American home. 

Things change, though.  Cars are smaller and homes are larger.  Doctor Who remains popular while, sadly, I find I have to explain who the Beatles were to my students.  The whole idea of black and white images strikes modern Americans as quaint.  It’s a different world.

But my parents are still here, still married.  And that is important.

They have been my role models since before I knew what role models were.  I learned how to be a person from them – how to treat people and how to expect to be treated by them, how to stand on my own and how to care for others, how to think and question and answer.  I learned how to be part of a marriage from them – what it means to be part of someone’s world, day in and day out, to love them without being absorbed by them or taking them for granted.  I learned how to be a parent from them – how to pass on all these lessons to my children, and other lessons besides.

My parents are the sort of people that my friends would hang out with even when I wasn’t around.  My friends still do sometimes, even now.  Even as a teenager I could leave my parents alone with my girlfriends and know that they would care for them and make them feel not only welcome but truly at home.  So many people cannot say such things.  All I can say is how fortunate I am.  I always look forward to spending time with them, and it never happens often enough.

Next month we will gather in Philadelphia to celebrate, because that’s just how the timing worked out – lives are so busy these days, and people are so spread out.  Fortunately we have a Movable Feast tradition in my family – people are more important than deadlines, and holidays happen when you’ve got time for them to happen.

We will celebrate, because my parents are worth celebrating.   We will celebrate because finding someone to love and being able to make and keep that kind of commitment to them is a rare and wonderful thing.  We will celebrate because they are still my role models, even now.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Events, They Just Keep Coming

It’s been a frantically busy time here in Our Little Town, as the ends of semesters tend to be.  Between the grading, exam prep and class prep that are part of the academic lifestyle (along with being a political football, griping about how students aren’t as prepared as they were back when we were in school [what psychologists refer to as “amnesia”], and a general obsession with office supplies) on the one hand and all of the events, occasions, and “volunteer opportunities” on the other, things can get pretty blurred.

But you need to write things down, because otherwise they get forgotten.  And there are times when that is the main function of this blog.

I’m not going to get into the academic side, because that is still ongoing and – at this point of the semester – not really something I want to dwell on right now, in large part because I live there every waking minute and more than a few non-waking minutes – it’s a bad thing when your dreams revolve around grading essays.  Instead, there are events to report!  And those are more fun.

Every year Not Bad President Elementary hosts its Art Show, where the students have various projects mounted all over the school and the parents cruise the halls in search of the ones produced by their children.  We’ve been doing this for nine years now, and it is kind of odd to think that next year will be our last one. 

After nine years you learn a few things.  Notably, you learn not to get there right when it starts, because the phrase for that is “mob scene.”  The art isn’t going anywhere, and if you wait until about halfway through you can take the time to absorb your child’s craft without feeling like you’re at the Louvre and being carried away by the crowd before you even get your camera focused.

Lauren knew right where her art was, and it was lovely.

We’ve also been back at the 4H Cat Show.  Well, Tabitha and I were.  Lauren joined us late, and Kim mostly spent the day frantically trying to catch up on her new administrative post – a job that, at least until finals are in, she is doing on top of the other job she is doing.  She’s kind of Doppler-shifted these days.

So once more I spent a Friday night setting things up – getting the food booth ready, mostly.  We got there after the tables and chairs were up, which my back appreciated, but there’s always something to be done.

The next morning I got there way to early and once again tried to figure out how to make coffee.  Fortunately once again someone else stepped in, and thus nobody got mad.  I spent the rest of the day at the food booth, dishing out nachos and barbecue beef (sometimes combined, which is surprisingly tasty even though it provides negative nutritional value) until we ran out.  Kim dropped Tabitha and Midgie off a bit later before heading off to get Lauren from her friend’s house (another sleepover!) and taking her to Home Campus for a while.  Lauren spent her time on campus making a giant TARDIS for Kim’s office door.

That makes me astonishingly happy.

The results of this second cat show were largely the same as the results from the last one.  Midgie was put in a class with seven other cats.  Two were declared “blue ribbon” kitties, one of whom got the top prize of a trophy.  Four, including Midgie, were placed in the red ribbon category.  And the two who drew blood from the judge got white ribbons, which are the 4H’s way of saying, “Thanks for playing – better luck next time.”  It’s better than a year’s supply of Rice-A-Roni, I suppose, though a friend of mine did point out that perhaps a red ribbon would have been more appropriate for a cat who draws blood.

Tabitha did very well managing Midgie through this process.  All of the cats were grumpy because of the oncoming rainstorm, so it was not easy.

Finally for this post, there was the annual Music Recital.  Both girls take music lessons from a friend of ours, and every year she rents out one of the local halls (the same one where Kim and I had our wedding reception) for a recital.  It’s a friendly event with a supportive audience, and then there is food.

Lauren was the first up, which was not something she wanted to be.  But she did a good job with her piece – most importantly, when she made a mistake she figured out how to correct it and then soldiered on, which is a valuable lesson in life.  Then a friend of hers joined her up there and they did a duet.

Tabitha was the only violinist on the program, and she too did a nice job with her pieces.  It was a good change of pace, amid all those pianists. 

This was also when Lauren received her Gold Cup.  This recital is just for our friend's students (and, this year, a number of students from another teacher as well), but in February there is the official Music Festival.  That's quite an event.  Music students from all over the county come to be judged by professionals on two memorized pieces.  You get graded on a 5-point scale, and once you hit 15 points you get a Gold Cup.  So if you do the math, you realize that to get one of these things you have to be really good for three straight years, or mostly good for longer.

This was Lauren's third year.

There is a delay while they actually get the cups engraved, so you don't actually get it until May.  But it's good to know that it's coming.

And then there was food.  Because in Wisconsin, there is always food.  It's one of the things I like about Wisconsin.

Kim’s parents came down for the concert.  It’s a long drive, and the girls appreciate that kind of support.  Plus, it’s always nice to see them anyway.

I am proud of my girls.