Monday, January 26, 2009

Just a Couple of Quickies...

I thought I should probably come up with some very good reason for not posting in a while, but, um, I'm drawing a blank. Franky, I have just been on the lazy side of life. Oh well. It happens.


Driving back from lunch this past weekend, my husband and I were having a conversation about various errands we needed to run. The kids were in the back seat (not arguing with each other for once) and really, I thought that they both might take a quick snooze. But Sabrina (6), who always needs to be a part of our every conversation, piped in with, "Huh? What are ya'll talking about? What do you need to do to the car? Or is this one of those A B conversations and I need to C my way out?" My husband responded (with only a trace of aggravation I thought), "Nothing you need to worry about - just grown up stuff."

A good four seconds of silence.

"Mom? What does 'a**hole' mean?"


Remember that post I did about the ever-growing mountain of laundry at my house? No? Okay then - click here.

Well, last week the Town of Framingham confirmed my gripe about doing too much laundry. They actually sent me a very official letter saying that I needed to take a break, kick my feet up, and read a good book.


Actually they sent me a letter saying that our water consumption has sky rocketed these past few months and we should check for water leaks and running toilets. Oh, and to expect a much higher bill. No water leaks or cranky toilets here, so I can only assume it is the laundry. So, yeah, I'm parking my butt on the couch for a while. And just in case anyone complains about not having clean socks, I've placed that thoughtful letter from the Town right on top of the washing machine as a gentle reminder that we all need to do our part to conserve and preserve (my sanity, that is).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Piano Problems

This post is pure venting for me, because, see, I am in something of a dilemma. I am one of those people that absolutely hates to be the bad guy. And last night, I had to be the bad guy. I had to let Dalton’s piano teacher know that after the end of this month, we would not be continuing lessons with her. Ugh. It was terrible.

The Christmas night when Dalton was 4, he told me through deep, heavy sobs that Santa did not bring him the one thing he really wanted more than anything, more than chocolate, and more than a new bike – he had asked Santa for a piano. This was certainly news to me, and it sure would have been nice if Santa had shared Dalton’s secret wish with me – so that, you know, we could make room for something like a piano. I should say right here and now that I am not anywhere close to being musically inclined. In all my fantasies about who and what my children would grow up to be, a pianist was never in there. Rocket scientist – yes. Peace Corps volunteer – you betcha. Soap opera star – why not? But musical genius – nope, had not occurred to me.

Well, as luck would have it, my father had a piano gathering dust at his house and he gave it to us. The only string attached was that we put Dalton in lessons – the piano was not to be used as a toy. We quickly found out that it can be difficult to find a teacher willing to give lessons to a four year old. But finally, finally, finally we found an absolute angel of a teacher. She was kind, encouraging, compassionate, flexible, and perfect in every way. She told my son that his music was his special gift from God, and he believed her with every ounce of his being. It was a really wonderful three year relationship.

Here is Dalton at his recital last year (age 7). I realize he completely chokes towards the end. He told me later that he all the sudden remembered where he was and he got freaked out.

But then. We moved. To Massachusetts. In September. And there was this mad dash to find a school, find a piano teacher, find the grocery store, find my sanity (this one is still on the “to-do” list - maybe it’s packed in that small purple box that I shoved into the back corner of the attic). As soon as we got here, I typed in “Piano Framingham” into Google and started making phone calls.

Well, the teacher we ended up with seems sincere and dedicated to her craft. She has lots of experience. But after that first lesson? I walked into the studio and Dalton’s cheeks were flushed the color of ripe strawberries. His eyes were just on the brink of dripping. I stood there and listened while the teacher told me how terrible he was! That there was soooo much work to do. His finger position was lazy. The staccato notes needed more sharpness. He is too used to playing from memory instead of reading the music. On and on. I could tell that Dalton felt that his special gift from God had somehow abandoned him. He was devastated and in the car ride home, he quietly said he wanted to quit. But I talked him into giving it more time.

And so we have given it more time. And it did get better. The teacher started commenting on how much improvement she has seen in such a short time. But guys. He has gone from practicing every chance he finds, to practicing maybe two nights a week. And that is only with the promise of 10 M&Ms for every 30 minutes.

So last night, I told the teacher we had made the decision to retreat. My plan is to find music he enjoys playing (think Taylor Swift, the Eagles) and try to teach him here at home as best I can until we find another teacher. I just can’t stand watching his love for music fade away. But did I do the right thing? Should I make him tough it out? Should learning the form and function of music count more than the passion for it? I am so afraid that what I do here will be inadequate or just wrong. The teacher made her opinion clear – that I am doing the absolute wrong thing by pulling him out. And she is the professional – right?

It feels as though our family mantra has gone from “Live, Laugh, Love” to “Change is Hard” and there is something so defeating in that for me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Education is Everywhere

Do you remember sleep-overs? I used to love spending the night at a friend's house. For all of my middle-school years, I was at Christy's house at least one weekend night every single week (well, except for the weekends I went to see my father, and that in itself was a whole different kind of adventure). But I loved staying at Christy's house because 1) she had cable - including HBO, 2) she knew how to make macaroni and cheese all by herself and it was so much better than the crap at my house, and 3) we were allowed to stay up as late as we wanted, and then, we could sleep in as late as we wanted too. I believed all the way to my core that Christy had the coolest parents ever.

So Dalton (8) was invited to spend the night at a friend's house this past Friday. This was a big deal because it would be his first sleep-over since moving to Massachusetts. AND the first time I let him sleep over with a family that I just barely know. I packed his bag with pjs, snow clothes, and toiletries. I was under strict instructions by my husband to not pack Deeogee, the little stuffed dog Dalton has slept with every night since he was 9 months.

We picked Dalton up after lunch on Saturday and I could tell by the serious dark circles under his eyes that either he was up half the night or that he had eaten way too much dairy. I could not wait to get home to get the scoop on his night. But my husband said not to pry - boys need their secrets - but as soon as we got in the door, he started telling Sabrina (6) about the night. The conversation went something like this (very slightly edited so that I don't get nasty emails about using profanity in a family bog):

Dalton: And then he told his mom that his f**king game wouldn't charge up and then she told him to shut his f**king mouth.

Sabrina: (GASP!!)

Dalton: THEN, then he called his mom a, well, you know that word for a girl dog? That rhymes with itch? Well, he called his mom that word.

Sabrina: A witch? He called his mom a witch? Ooh - that's bad.

Dalton: No! You know that word I showed you in Old Yeller? (whispers) B**ch!

Sabrina: (DOUBLE-GASP!!) What did the mom say after that?

Dalton: Oh, well, she said that she was going to kick his f**king a** as soon as I went home.

At this point I could just no longer pretend to be busy in the kitchen and I had to join the conversation.

Me: Dalton, is all that stuff true or are you just trying out new words?

Dalton: I swear. It really happened. Just like I told Sabrina.

So then we had a brief conversation about how words are just words, it is the meaning behind the words that make them hurtful or taboo. I even said the words damn and Hell several times to show how the words themselves did not have power - but what you mean when you say them counts for a whole lot. I think about a million years ago I read about this approach to kids using bad words in some parenting book (or maybe it was Oprah - I just can't remember). I liked the idea of demystifying bad words, and I was sooo proud of myself for being able to recall this morsel of wisdom at just the right time. Oh - and then for good measure I threw in the lecture about how different houses have different rules. Who says this parenting thing is hard?

Of course, Sabrina had to have the last word on the whole business.

Sabrina: And at school and at home we can not point with our middle fingers.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Guilty Pleasure

"Hi honey. I'm home for a quick lunch."

"Cool - let he heat ya up some corn dogs."

"Um, sweetie? Why is there three coffee cups here in the sink? Did the neighbor lady come over for coffee?"

"Oh, uh, no - no one came over."

"So why is there three coffee cups? I see the ones we used this morning and then the chipped one with the silly ghost is in here too. No big deal, just wondering why there is an extra."

"Ok! Ok! You got me! As soon as the kids got on the bus this morning I came back and put two scoops of Friendly's French Vanilla ice cream in that cup. And then I poured chocolate syrup all over it and I even put some crunched up pecans on it and I almost put one of those sweet maraschino cherries on it too, but I resisted the urge. And then I sat on the couch and watched Ellen and ate my ice cream at nine in the freakin' morning. Are you happy now?"

"You ate ice cream at nine in the morning? And since when do you watch Ellen?"

"Yes and I'm sorry but we are all out of Grape-Nuts and I needed breakfast."

"But ice cream?"

"Yes. Please don't tell the kids."

"Oh, I'm gonna tell them and just so you know, you have officially lost your Good Mommy status and all related privileges. For the whole weekend."

Well, the above conversation didn't actually happen, but I did eat ice cream for breakfast, and then I imagined the above and I felt so guilty that I washed and dried and put away all the evidence . Don't tell!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

To my husband

Dear husband,

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the last mostly blissful 10 years of marriage. You have patiently tolerated my various obsessions (last count - 112 teapots) and my sometimes neurotic behavior (I don't know why our clothes need to be hung in the order of Newton's color circle, they just do. It makes sense to me, and admit it, so much easier to find a purple shirt when you need one.). Thank you for telling me I am beautiful when I wear my favorite sweats for the third time in a week. Thank you for making the coffee in the mornings and taking the dog out for her morning pee. You know I am not a morning person, and these small acts of kindness really make a difference for me.

Also, I would like to thank you for your willingness to "play along" as I have gone from being a staunch feminist to a (almost) traditional housewife. When we met I was determined to work as hard and earn as much as any man could. I was insistent that we split the housework down the middle and even kept a log of which of us of did what and how long it took to do it (and you don't know this, but I also kept a mental log of how often I had to re-do your chores in order to get it right - but I love you!). Somehow, with the birth of each of our children, it made more sense for me to take on more of the domestic responsibilities and for you to be the breadwinner (even though up until, like, four months ago I made more than you, but hey, that is OK. Really. It is. I am fine with it. No problems here at all.). And so now, I cook. I clean. I do the parent volunteer crap. I shop (with a vengeance I might add - I LOVE the mall here). And I do the laundry.

The laundry. See, this is what I would really like to talk to you about. I don't mind doing all the washing, drying, folding, etc.... In fact, as I mentioned before, I really prefer to be the one to put the clean clothes away so that each piece can be placed in the right spot. But here is the thing. When we discussed all the changes moving to New England would bring, Eric, a former Main-er (is that what you call people from Maine?) suggested that layering our clothes would be key to staying warm. And he was right - that is a helpful trick. But do you really, I mean, really have to wear four shirts a day?? Every day??? That is a lot of laundry. Not to mention, when you take off the four shirts at the end of your day, you have a habit of taking them off all in one piece. And since you don't wear, like four blue shirts on one day, but more like a white t-shirt, an orange long sleeve t-shirt, a blue sweatshirt, all under a brown sweater, separating all these colors for washing is, you know, a big deal for me.

Don't get me wrong. I know it is cold here. And I know that you are outside for like five minutes at a time because of your job. And I want you to stay warm. But maybe since two of the shirts that you wear each day don't actually come in contact with your skin or the outside elements, they can be recycled/reused the following day. Don't make that "eww-gross!" face. Think about it. Those two middle shirts are not dirty. They can be your middle shirts for at least one more day, maybe even two. Now I know this is going to require some extra work on your part - you will need to undress one shirt at a time at the end of the day and set your middle shirts to the side. But this will be good for you and the environment - not to mention our marriage.

I am willing to show my appreciation for your extra effort. If we can just try this out for say, three months, I will let you hang your clothes any way you want - color spectrum be damned! Oh, and also, I will make you your cookie of choice every single weekend. Even oatmeal cookies with no raisins.

All my love,
your wife