Ben’s Break

Ben had a week and a half off between regular school and summer school. It happened while the other three kids were in school, so we were free to putz around doing things Ben enjoys most.

And what does Ben enjoy most? Art and food.

In regards to art, we tried to approach it at all angles. We checked out the Art Institute one day, which currently has an amazing exhibition of Cezanne. We also did the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit. Finally, we did a Street Art Tour.

Van Gogh Self Portrait
Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit
Street Art Tour with Brian

Ben was really jazzed after spending time at the Art Institute. From Cezanne, he observed how much layering goes into painting a really good piece. He also noticed how Monet painted the light in a painting, so even if you couldn’t see the sun, you knew where it was positioned in the sky based on the paint strokes and color. Seeing Van Gogh’s self portrait, Ben had an aha moment. We talked about how miserable Van Gogh looked in the painting. As soon as Ben got home, he wanted to try to paint emotion.

Self Portrait of Anger

Besides seeing art, Ben spend many hours creating art.

Painting and Clay Sculptures have taking over the Dining Table

Most days food followed art, maybe a new lunch place or an old favorite, maybe a special treat for the day.

SweetGreens Salad, My Favorite Lunch
Soul and Smoke’s Ribs and Grits at Time Out Market
Dove’s Lunchette for Brisket and Hash
Voges Chocolate Truffle Latte
Insomnia Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

Ben also played soccerfest this past weekend. His team won one game and lost one game, and he had the full fan base there to see it all.

Ben at Soccer Fast

I hope he had an enjoyable break. Because he has so few days off of school, I try extra hard to make every day count.

Stencil Street Art by Poetry By Boots

Tomorrow he starts summer session. Also tomorrow, my other three kids start their summer break.

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Soccerfest 2022

The twins and Ben participated in soccerfest this weekend. Teams play multiple games with different teams. The games are only 30 minutes long. In the twin’s league, after three games the top teams play each other for medals.

We have been to this weekend many times before. This is Adam’s 4th year of coaching (twice for the twins and twice for Jack). For Jack’s teams, they finished 1st and 3rd. The first year Adam coached the twins, the season ended early due to Covid. Which means this is their first soccerfest.

Before we got the information on soccerfest, the twins received an invitation for a good friend’s birthday party. We assumed they would choose soccerfest. After all, their father is the coach and they constitute 1/5th of the team. Soon the RSVPs started coming in and it turns out all the other kids in the class chose the party over soccerfest.

After school one day I mentioned how many of the other kids chose the party over soccerfest. Aaron immediately piped in, mentioning how you can’t let you team down and we must do soccerfest. Sam was silent. So I asked him, “Sam, if you had a choice would you choose to go to the party?”

Sam replied, “Yeah, kind of.”

I asked him if he wanted me to talk to Adam about it. He said no. So, of course, I talked to Adam about it.

I wasn’t sure how Adam would handle it, and I didn’t give him any advice. I just told him that whatever he decided, it would be the right choice.

Left unspoken was the fact that the two games Sam missed the team was scored on 6 times, more than the entire season combined. We needed Sam on defense.

Adam seemed disappointed but said he would talk to Sam. That evening, when he brought it up, Sam told him stoically, “I would prefer to go to the party but I will go to soccerfest, I can’t let me team down.”

I’m not sure I would have had the maturity or self control that Sam has at this age, but I was so proud of him at this moment.

We promised to do something special with the birthday boy to make up for the missed party.

Our first game was quite a slug, but the twin’s team pulled off a 4-2 win, giving them 6 (out of a possible 7) points for the first game.

The second game was a shut out, the twin’s team won 3-0, giving them 7 points.

Aaron (number 10) scores a goal and celebrates with his Dad/Coach

We started Sunday morning with the most points for any team in the league, with 13 points. Only one other team had managed to amass as many points as we had.

But we were slotted to play the team we lost to last weekend. And it was also the other team with 13 points.

We also only had 7 of our 10 players, so no one could get hurt or not show up or we’d be short.

It was a really intense game, but in the end we tied 1-1.

Which means we were both still in first place. So guess who we played in the playoff? The SAME TEAM AGAIN!

While we were waiting around for the final game, I was chatting to the organizers in the main tent. I learned that, unlike previous soccerfests, they were only handing out medals for the first place winner. (When Jack played, first through fourth got medals.) I brought this information back to Coach Adam, which he quickly used as motivation for the final game.

Pregame Pep Talk

Before the game Adam told them it was the last game of the season so to leave it all out there on the field. And to have fun!

Aaron Playing with Full Determination
Sam Controlled the Defense

In the end we scored once, the other team nil.

First Place

It was an amazing season, we were very lucky to have such a great team of players, not only good players but good boys. Oh, and the head coach was kind of hot.

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Mango Season

As many South Floridians (and almost no Chicagoans) know, we are in mango season. As a South Floridian, during this time of year you have spent months watching little green orbs sprout from trees all over yards in South Florida. If you are lucky enough to own one, every few days you go outside and see how much they have grown and discuss when the optimal time to pick the first one would be. Pretty soon they are dropping quicker than you can eat them. You start to refrigerate them to make them last longer. You give a precious few to your friends. At some point you realize you are eating the last one, they are gone again for another year.

Before we had our own mango tree, mango season was a nerve wracking month for me. My mother would drive me by trees she had seen in the neighborhood that had ripe mangos. She would stop the car and ask me to get out and pick some mangos while she stayed in the car, motor running, ready for a quick get away.

Often we got away with it, or maybe chased away by the home owner after an embarrassing interchange. I remember one night I climbed into a tree that my mother had staked out and the owner came out to shoo my mother away. She drove off, leaving me unseen in the tree. When she thought the coast was clear, mom returned for me. I was still frozen in the tree but quickly jumped down and hopped in the car. We had quite a giggle in the car ride home that night!

Finally my mother planted her own mango tree to replace the lychee tree that hadn’t fruited for some years. This mango tree was not just any mango tree. She planted a special variety known to Jamaicans as the Bombay Mango. I used to enjoy this variety on my trips to Jamaica with my mother. The Bombay Mango is stringless. It is so smooth that you cut it across the middle and twist it open, then use a spoon to scoop up the sticky, sweet filling like custard. On my trips to Jamaica I would eat so many that I didn’t have room for any other food, except maybe some ackee and saltfish. And patties and coco bread. And rice and peas with jerk chicken and plantains. Okay, I admit it, I was an absolute pig in Jamaica!

Mom’s Bombay Mango Tree

But nothing was exciting as the mangoes. I would scoop out the insides, then suck the seed dry, not caring about the sticky juice dripping down my arms. When Mom finally decided to grow these delicate sweets in our own back yard, mango season went from nerve wracking to delectable.

After my mother died, I was cleaning out some of her drawers and I found a list of names and with numbers next to it. The title was, “2019, Mangoes”. The first date was May 27th. My mother died April 21st. At the time all the kids were remote learning due to the pandemic so we were able to stay in Florida until we felt we had done enough with her estate to leave. Adam and I were planning on leaving mid May, but after seeing the list I wanted to stay to pick some mangoes before we drove back.

Mom’s Mango tree stands behind us

Perhaps I was channelling my inner mischievous Winnie (my mother’s name), but I shameless told Adam, “I really think it would help my grieving process to stay and pick the mangoes.”

He graciously rearranged everything so we could return in the beginning of June.

Picking Mangoes before our return to Chicago

That year we brought home two large boxes of mangoes. When they ripened I opened them up and ate them all. Perhaps we picked them too early, but by the time they ripened they didn’t have the super sweetness they usually have when my mother brings them up to me. Or perhaps it was grief making them lose their vibrant flavor.

When she was still alive, every year she would schedule her visits to coincide with the ripening mangoes. When she arrived, we would unpack an entire suitcase of them and start squeezing for ripeness. Then my mother would watch as I sliced the first mango of the year around the middle, twisted it open and scooped out my first taste. She would watch with her eyes wide, a playful smile on her lips, enjoying every moment of my mmming and slurping, the pleasure of watching me eat it was as strong for her as the pleasure I had eating it.

So this year, when mango season came around again I wondered how it would go.

My father offered to help pick them and send them to us. I text some of my mother’s friends who were on the “2019, Mangoes” list. They met one Saturday morning, and I received text all the way around saying how much they liked each other.

Last year my father continued to ship mangoes to me, but many ended up burst and ruined in transit.

This was frustrating for my father but like the good engineer he is, he dutifully noted the problems with the shipments and adjusted. I’m happy to say that this year, with new packing techniques, almost all the mangoes arrived intact.

I’m also pleased to report that the mangoes this year taste as sweet and ripe as I remember them when my mother used to bring them up herself.

Mangoes my Dad sent this year

By the time the third box came, I felt I had enough to share with others, namely my two Bombay mango lovers, Sam and Ben. This time I am the wide eyed one with a playful smile, watching Ben and Sam mmm and slurp. Mom would be proud.

The Bombay Mango


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