Tuesday, December 30, 2008

we're home

....after a 5 hour saga that ought to have just been a quick 3 hour drive home. Yuck! Suffice it to say, there were miles of bumper to bumper traffic, a detour, getting "lost" and driving 40 mph through fog on 2 lane roads. But we made it, and yesterday spent all day in the house, cleaning and UNdecorating. Feels good to get the house in some kind of decent shape before the school/therapy/band/singers/choir grind starts up again.

Inspired by my brilliant blogging friend Molly, I was thinking of writing my own version of a Christmas letter. Molly points out what is very true for so many of us about those letters......they make you want to cry and vomit at the same time. I even started writing one to share with you, and that was before I got home and found several stellar examples of the oh-so-perfect family letters in our mailbox. But I decided that my letter was just too long, too rambling, too depressing to even post here, so I guess it'll languish forever in the land of Blogger drafts that are never posted. Instead I'll do this.......

My List of Previously Unfathomable Things That Happened in 2008:

1. You've gotta put this one first.....Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. (grinning from ear to ear, of course--is there an emoticon for that?)

2. We chose to put little E on stimulant medications for his ADHD. The ADHD dx wasn't the unfathomable part, as we've assumed that for a while. But the meds....never in a million years thought I'd be doing that for my child.

3. I'm teaching Chorus. Yes, I love to sing. Yes, I'm in choir at church and have even joined a community chorus this year, but still......I'm a BAND person, but increasingly I feel more like a singer than an instrumentalist. *sigh*

4. We're considering moving. Just across town, to be closer to schools, etc, but it's still a big leap. When we finally got this house built, and K moved us in practically single-handedly, he swore we'd never move out of here. But it just doesn't make sense here anymore, and I've chop off my left arm to have some more space; we're pretty cramped around here. So YIPPEE, we're taking baby steps toward maybe going on the market soon! I know, I know, timing couldn't be worse, but it is what it is, right?

5. A precious, dear friend died suddenly, of a heart attack. I miss him--he was so incredibly kind, insightful, unselfish, giving, talented.......what a loss to the music community around here, as well as a personal loss of a unique friend. :(

So what will 2009 bring? Can I make some requests? Hmmm, let's see......

--a new house, in the right part of town, that's bigger than what we have now

--changes at school in my teaching responsibilities, for the better

--a year of progress and success for my boys, and a happy school year for them as well as a positive start to Kindergarten for E.

If I can have these, or maybe even just some of them, maybe I'll have a reason to write one of those Christmas letters after all. A girl can dream, right?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

random observations of Christmas 2008

Hope everyone has had a happy, peaceful and blessed day, surrounded by loved ones and filled with good food and good company. I definitely have.....staying at the in-laws' house with K's 2 brothers, one sister-in-law and my niece and nephew, aged 8 1/2. Thank God that the kids didn't wake up and bring us in to see Santa's leavings until 7:10 am, which has GOT to be a modern day record for latest awakening on Christmas morning. Kids reveled in what Santa brought for about 30 minutes, then we did the present opening (gifts that were exchanged among us all). My boys got entirely too many presents, as is typical, but hey, you're only young once, right?

Anyway, I can't seem to organize my thoughts into a coherently structured blog post tonight, as I am about to drift into a macaroni and cheese coma. So instead, I thought I'd just list some random things for you...give you the flavor of what our Christmas 2008 was like. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays to you all!!!!!

1. I'm currently looking at a plant in the living room, a hanging plant in a macrame basket. Kind of a blast from the past kind of thing.....look it up if you don't know what macrame is. Anyway, there's a tiny Santa figurine (maybe 3 inches tall) peeking out of the top of the flowerpot part. It's just so absurd, it makes me laugh. Maybe that's the cheese overload talking, I'm not sure.

2. I saw A act so incredibly "typical" today, in so many situations. Blows my mind when I take time to think about it. Playing new games and toys with his cousins, hanging out watching movies, playing outside, etc. We are truly blessed, I know that. But every time I get too complacent, he does something.....like meltdown in the kitchen this morning because someone touched his head. Not quite a full fledged MELTDOWN, but there was shouting and near-collapsing onto the floor. *sigh*

3. The Focalin that E is taking flat-out works. I mean WORKS. Did I say works? I meant W O R K S! We actually didn't give him any until about 11:30 this morning, because it wasn't until then that we began to see the "manic" stuff as I'm starting to call it. But within 30 minutes, calm was restored. I'm wishing he could have another dose right now, but it's probably not a good idea at 8 pm.

4. My SIL makes me sick, in a sweet/I love her kind of way. She is so incredibly skinny, looks great, and I don't know how she does it. Guess I've got to drown my sorrows in a piece of pecan pie. Or maybe pound cake. Or pumpkin roll.

5. K's dad has a tradition of putting a certain item in everyone's stocking each Christmas. All of us have stockings, adults included, and each year we get a gigantic bag of peanut M & Ms. Like I need that. Don't want to hurt his feelings, but could we somehow nicely say "just give them to the kids next time" or something.

Well, I guess I'll be limiting my random list to 5 things. E is getting more manic, and believe it or not, reading to him seems to promote calm. I think it's my turn, as K has been on duty while I write.

One more Christmas dinner to go........wish us luck. I might just explode if I eat even one more bite of turkey, or dressing. Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

over the river and through the woods

...to Grandmother's house we go. Or should I say, we went.......and we're still there. K and I are from the same town originally, so it works out well when it's time to go visit all of the grandparents at Christmastime, etc. Takes a grand total of 7 minutes to drive between my mom's and the in-laws.

Got here on Sunday, staying until Saturday 12/27. Hoping to see bunches of family and old friends during this week, but I know we'll be more than ready to go home by Saturday. We have Christmas dinners and present-opening 3 days in a row--24th, 25th, 26th! Don't even want to think about the potential for weight gain. *sigh*

Last night, we had the continuation of a really cool tradition. K and some high school friends (all brass players) decided in the 11th grade to go around and play Christmas carols for their families, friends' families, etc. This was 1987, mind you. They did it again the next year, and the next, and the next. It got bigger each time, more brass players were invited, girlfriends came along to hold the music, etc. Several of them went to the same college, so college friends soon joined in and this was when I got involved (circa 1990). Pretty soon, it began to include wives, and just kept on growing. Before you knew it, there were babies coming along, then toddlers, now elementary-schoolers. We call this "Brass Caroling" or just plain "Caroling". It happens some time during the week before Christmas, and the 2008 version was last night. Year number 22, which makes us all feel incredibly old, but I digress.

Over time, it has evolved into a combination of fun and seeing old friends and playing music + doing something charitable and sharing our Christmas cheer with those less fortunate, etc. We play at a homeless shelter near here every year; they schedule us in so that the people are gathered in a big common area to hear us, etc. Last night it was particularly tough, simply because of the number of people in the audience. This is one time that you want your audience to be small.......but it was a packed house last night, and the staff said they had people lined up outside on "stand by" hoping to get in if a spot opened up. It was in the 20s last night, wind chill in the teens.

I look at them and wonder what they think about us. Not in an egotistical way, but more like "do they think we're pretentious? Do they think we're pathetic in our feeble attempts to do something for them? Do they really enjoy this, does it really help in some small way?" It feels so insignificant, you know? These people have no home, are probably hungry much of the time, might have mental illnesses, addiction problems, or lost their job, etc. Their lives might be extremely unhappy, might feel hopeless, lost, frustrated.......but damn it, they got to sing Jingle Bells with a bunch of college-educated preppy white people who think they're doing a good deed for the less fortunate at Christmastime. How nice.

Sorry. That's the pessimist in me coming out. It IS nice to play there, is more meaningful than playing at the local mall food court which is what we used to do. And I hope it does some kind of good for someone, maybe takes their mind off of the situation for a few moments, etc. Definitely makes me hug my kids a bit tighter, giving thanks for the many blessings we have. Snuggling up in that hotel bed last night, I prayed for those people, and thanked God for our health, our safety and for how fortunate we really are. I forget that a lot, looking at the relative UNprosperity of my family compared to so many we know and associate with. But in the scheme of things, we've got it really, really good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

earthquake, and other bumps in the road

Well, there was an earthquake in our area this morning. I didn't feel it, but people not too far from here did. 3.6, they're saying on the news. Centered supposedly VERY near A's school, but there are no reports of damage, so I'm guessing all is well over there. Downtown Charleston had "the big one" back in 1886, and people keep speculating about whether we're due for another. Hurricanes, earthquakes.....this is a lovely place we live, huh?

A college friend passed away last night. I swear, we're not supposed to be old enough for this to happen. She was only 34, recently diagnosed with kidney cancer, and just went so fast....it's really scary. Had 3 kids, aged 4 and under. What a sad thing to happen, especially at Christmas. She'd been in Band and Orchestra with K and I, and I'd lost touch with her until just the last few months......found her on Facebook. I read the posts on her blog daily, and was so sad to see the update this morning saying she was gone. But I"m so amazed and touched by the people that are commenting--so many people from all around the world that her story has touched, even people that don't know her at all were following the story and praying for her, etc. They all have such wonderful things to say about her, and they all demonstrate such amazing faith in how they are dealing with the loss. Even her own husband's post to announce her passing starts with the words "God is good!" I can't help but think that my own faith is not equal to his and that I'm not sure I could react this same way if I were in his shoes. Bless him, for being able to rejoice in the fact that she's out of pain and has gone to Heaven.

Back in the mundane world around here....E's teacher at the new preschool is on vacation this week. So guess what? He had his very first "bad day" yesterday, complete with hitting and being sent up to the director's desk for time out. *sigh* *big big sigh* What it shows us, I suppose, is that the regular teacher has a LOT to do with his recent success in the new preschool. Thank God for the assistant director, who spoke to me privately yesterday to point out that the younger teachers who are subbing for Ms. S this week are not always able to manage E as well as Ms. S does, so consequently we shouldn't be too hard on him or be too surprised if this week's behavior is not as good as usual. Yeah, but.......he's just building friendships with these kids, etc, and now he gets to ruin it all by hitting them and getting THAT reputation as a kid who gets in trouble and can't behave, etc. *sigh*

Lastly, tonight's THE night, for A's dramatic debut as the King in the holiday show. Please wish us luck, as I'm petrified he'll have some kind of meltdown, forget his lines, refuse to put on the costume, etc. If things go well, hopefully I"ll have some pics to post later. Keep us in your thoughts tonight!

Monday, December 8, 2008

random stuff in the world of stress

OMG, the last week of my life could be the model for the phrase "week from hell". Concerts galore to organize and conduct, preparing for the end of the semester, church preparations for Christmas events....basically, just way too much to do and WAY too little time. It felt like I was crawling verrrrrry slowly through a tunnel or a cave. A dark cave, very narrow, just pushing my way through and working toward that light at the other end. Keeping my head down and my movements forward until I make it through.

And now, all of a sudden, I'm out. Sun is shining, I can breathe, the weight is off of my shoulders (for now) and I can re-emerge into the real world of the holiday season as a Mom, wife, etc. Because last week, I was basically nothing but a teacher, and a frantically stressed one at that.

So now, I'm reflecting and trying to think back to enjoy some of the random wonderful moments that have occurred recently........but I was too swamped with everything else to even really appreciate them. Thought I'd share them with you too. :)

Little E just amazes me sometimes with his philosophical comments and observations. Out of the mouths of babes, right? Like last night, after I read his nighttime books and we were turning off the light and saying a prayer. He said he wanted to say a "forgive us" prayer, so I said that was great and he could go first. So he said "God, I know you want to forgive us, from our sins, but I just don't know how you do it." My jaw dropped, and I almost even laughed (but didn't) just out of shock and amazement. How profound, and I presume that this statement is something that many, many people can agree with.

His new fav Christmas special this season is Frosty. The original, of course.....accept no substitutes. :) So we've watched it over, and over, and over. That poor VHS tape is about to give up the ghost, but hopefully it'll last another couple of weeks. During one watching, I was joking with him about how Frosty's first words are "Happy Birthday". I said something like "why does he say that? That's so silly". My mini-philosopher's response? "He says it because Christmas is Jesus' birthday!" Duh, Mom, why couldn't you figure that out yourself? Seriously, I never thought of it that way, but it makes perfect sense and it sure did seem logical and matter-of-fact to him.

Ok, one more..........A finally found out on Friday about something I've known for weeks and very painfully kept secret: He's getting the lead role of King Wenceslas in the school K-2 holiday show. His teacher called me mid-day to let him tell me on the phone, because he was so overwhelmed, touched and excited by this that he couldn't stand to wait for telling me. The teachers said they were crying too, seeing him so surprised and happy and crying. Said it was like he'd won an Academy Award or something. I even was greeted that afternoon at the door of his school by a teacher saying "Aren't you the mother of the King?" :) :) :) My only regret is that I couldn't be there to see it when he was told. He loves that school so much, loves performing, takes it all so seriously and works so hard on preparing his songs, etc......I'm biased, but no one deserves this honor more. And he will be a fabulous King, I have no doubt.

17 days until Christmas......keep your eyes out for posts and pics more in keeping with the season---our tree, the kids decorating gingerbread men, shopping tales, etc. No more bitching (for now) about stupid school-related stuff. I'm getting my priorities back in order, starting now.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'm quitting

Is that ok? Just to get in the car and start driving, keep going until the gas runs out? Forget school, forget obligations, forget trying to do the jobs of 2 or 3 people and failing miserably?

2 straws have broken the proverbial "camel's back" this morning. First, I find out that I"m going to be running a dress rehearsal with 40 students after school on Thursday BY MYSELF! No piano accompanist, no help of any kind, just me. The groups sound like crap too, for the most part. No one practices, no one seems to put much time or effort into any of it, but yet they expect miraculous things to happen just by freaking osmosis?!?!?!?!? Right, sure.

And then there's this......K and I are supposed to both attend an ALL DAY Band event in January, on a Saturday. We've done it every January for the last 15 years, as long as we've taught Band. When the kids came along, it got harder to manage, but somehow we've always done it. It's an audition day for students, and if a school has students involved then the director must serve as a judge. The audition site is nearly 2 hours away, and we're there from (I'm not kidding) 7:30 am until at least 5 pm, usually later.

In years past, I've driven cross-state to get my mother and bring her down here (she won't/can't drive here herself) so that she can stay at my house and be the all day babysitter. Then, the next day, I drive her back home. That means a total of 12 hours of driving, not to mention the 4 we drive to and from the audition. But with my increased teaching schedule this year, I really don't see a way to do this (drive to get Mom), so we're in quite a pickle. K emailed the very-single-uber-Band-nerd-jock supervisor of this audition, to ask respectfully if I could be excused from judging this year. Rules say that if you don't judge, your kids don't play.

The response? "I can't excuse anyone for personal reasons." WTF? What kind of reasons DO you excuse people for? Seems like personal reasons are the ONLY ones that would merit an excuse. I have a grand total of 2 (TWO) students auditioning.





Get the point? He's going to make us find a babysitter (nearly impossible) and then pay them some exorbitant amount for a 12 hour day just so I can come up there and listen to a day full of incorrectly played scales just because I have 2 students involved in this event. This man is such an idiot, so out of touch with real life. No kids of his own, never married, lives and breathes Band and has no concept of anything else, including tact (I know this from past dealings with him).

Guess what, dude? Life does not revolve around Band. It just doesn't. There is more to life, and sometimes grownups (i.e. me and K) have other responsibilities, other priorities beyond stupid Band competitions. If you had a life, you might realize that and have some compassion or flexibility when real life intersects with the all-powerful rules of the band director's association. Please, give me a freaking break. This just makes me want to yank my 2 students out and say "screw you". Then what would you do for a judge? Oh yeah, you'd make do with the people you have, many of which come to that audition every year and sit on their butt all day because they're your cronies. So couldn't you just do that anyway? Oh, but that would mean showing something resembling a heart, and I've yet to be convinced that you have one.

Oh, and did I mention that I already go (as a volunteer) to help at a second Band audition every year? It's not required, but they ask me and I enjoy it. And I go because K can keep the kids, and it works out well. K reminded the supervisor of this, my going "above and beyond", and wondered if this could somehow be counted for my obligation. You can guess the answer for yourself. Jerk. What an absolute jerk. Hope you never need anyone to make an exception for you, to show understanding of a difficult situation. If you do need that, don't come looking to me for it.