Thursday, January 31, 2013

11 Questions

Sharon Marie over at Finding Vanilla Octopus was kind enough to include me in her Liebster Award list.  It seems to work kind of like a chain letter that connects bloggers and brings awareness to smaller blogs.  To qualify your blog must have fewer than 200 followers, and if nominated by someone (tag! I'm it!) you are supposed to reveal 11 things about yourself, answer 11 questions, and nominate 11 more bloggers (not including the one who nominated you) and pose 11 new questions to them.

I'm game!  I love answering new questions.  I don't have a list of 11 bloggers to nominate since too many of the blogs I follow appear to have large readerships, but I'll do my best.

So here are 11 somewhat random things about myself that some of you know and some of you don't:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Things Mona Makes

I love my Mona.  She's an interesting little artist, that girl.
Mona's recently started using wire on the interior of her paper creations.  I discovered her unwittingly destroying a perfectly good pair of scissors while cutting lengths of some floral wire she came across, so I gave her some needle nose pliers with a wire cutter to better do the job.  She now starts her creations with a wire skeleton of sorts, then molds paper around that, then completes it with a skin of colored duct tape.

Unfortunately, my photographs don't do her work justice.  When you can hold them in your hands and turn them they are really remarkable.  In pictures they just look sort of distorted and flat, but at least you can get an idea of what her work is like.  She just dashes these things off like it's nothing.  I wish I could salvage more of them to save for posterity, but she makes them to be used as toys and they end up getting pretty battered.  I still regret not saving her lobster from a couple of years ago because all I have of it now are the pictures.  This photo is from two years ago when she just started working in duct tape, but is that not an impressive lobster for a seven-year-old?

Anyway, lately Mona's been into dinosaurs and birds.  Here is her recent collection dinosaurs:

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Matter of Size

It's hard to explain to anyone who hasn't struggled with his or her weight how difficult it can be.  I'm a pretty determined person and able to accomplish most things I set my mind to.  But getting down to a weight where I want to be and staying there?  I'm starting to think it's impossible.  Which is frustrating.

I try not to beat myself up too much about it.  I'm doing better at incorporating regular exercise into my schedule (I swim a mile in the morning about five or six days a week), and I'm trying to make better choices about what I eat.  But life gets stressful and I betray myself with decisions I know are bad but seem irresistible in the moment.  When I start to question my sanity and lack of will I think about how if Oprah with her infinite resources and all the incentive in the world to keep her weight down still struggles, then there is probably more to it than I realize and shouldn't feel like such a failure.

But does anyone who cares about me really love me less when my jeans are getting tight again?  Do I care less about anyone based on his or her size?  No.  So why do I obsess?  Why do I dislike myself so much over it?  I'm not sure, but I don't seem able to escape it.

Back toward the beginning of the school year I went through all my kids' clothes to figure out what fit them and what didn't, what should be handed down, and what should be given away.  We seldom have to shop for Mona since she is delighted to inherit whatever clothes no longer fit her sister, but each time Aden grows we end up walking down the street to Target and stocking up on some new shirts and leggings and skirts.  Easy enough.

But Aden has finally reached the limit of what the girls section at Target has to offer.  She's tall, like I am, and the biggest size girl clothes are 14/16, which are getting too short on her.  We looked around at things she liked, but realized anything we bought would likely not last the whole year.  So we had to move over to the older girl/women's area of the store.  And it wasn't good.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Hero Who Walked

I find the coincidence of MLK Day and the celebration of the second inauguration of Barack Obama falling on the same date to be greatly moving.  I'm impressed by how much change can happen during one's lifetime.  It's one of those moments where I wish we had a way to tell important figures of the past what happens after they're gone.  Did Dr King envision a first family like the one we have living in the White House by now, or not for another century?  It's sooner than I expected it to happen and it makes me very proud as an American.

When I was in high school there was no official recognition yet of MLK Day.  We went to school as usual and there was nothing to mark the day as different from any other.  One year I remember our vice principal, who was African-American, standing at the entrance of the school telling just the African-American students they could go home.  This caused a bit of a stir, and even at the time it seemed like an ill-considered tribute that did a disservice to the black students by having them miss school while others went, but looking back I understand a little better the vice principal's frustration.

Now, of course, things are different.  My children have the day off (as do the students at my old high school) and they are taught the significance of Dr King to our history as part of a generally accepted curriculum.  He is rightly recognized as a hero, and as such his image and name are held up by people on both sides of issues to bolster their points, even when it has little connection.  (I'm flabbergasted that gun enthusiasts would say our nation's most famous promoter of non-violence and a victim of assassination by gun that Dr King would have championed their causes as well, but I'll take it as a positive sign of progress that they even want to make such an attempt at an association.)

Whenever I think of Dr King, though, I think of a conversation I had with Aden when she was five.  (Mona was three, Quinn was two months, and Ian was in Iraq on his first deployment.)  I didn't have a blog back then, but I wrote mass emails frequently to be more connected to the world outside my house where I felt somewhat trapped.  This was the message I wrote half a dozen years ago:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Memorable Music

It's been an exhausting couple of weeks with Ian away doing Army things, but he should be home tonight.  (And then I will hug him and kiss him and smile and then run away to where nobody wants anything from me for an hour or more).

For the most part it's all been pretty good.  I like being in charge of the house and spending so much time with my kids and picking them up from school, etc.  This past week we also have had two extra kids sleeping over to help out a friend in the National Guard who had her own assignment out of town.

I've learned that five kids is more than three kids.  It's like leading around a field trip all the time.  And the amount of food five kids consume is impressive.  I'm feeling stretched pretty thin between all the responsibilities at work and with the dog plus managing five kids' worth of meals and activities and homework and just general mood control.  I mentioned Ian's coming home, right?  I've paced myself well, but wonder again how I did single parenting alone for a couple of years.  Even when everything goes without a hitch it's not easy.

Despite the busy schedule, though, I got to squeeze in something wonderful.  I found out right after Ian left that Itzhak Perlman was going to do a single performance with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.  My memories of Itzhak Perlman go back to Sesame Street.  I have heard him play on television and in recordings numerous times, but never live, and he was going to be performing the glorious Beethoven Violin Concerto in D.  In the first half of the program the orchestra was going to be playing Beethoven's 5th Symphony.  If there was ever a perfect concert to take a young violinist to, this was it, and all I could think was how wonderful it would be to go with Aden.  She's eleven, and is somewhere in the middle of Suzuki Violin Book 2.  I couldn't think of anyone else in the world better to go with.

Friday, January 11, 2013

When Dad's Away the Musicals Play

Ian's off doing military classes out of state for a couple of weeks.

The downside of this is all the juggling I have to do.  When you design your life around two parents in the picture and you pluck one of them away (the stay-at-home one, no less) you have to rely on babysitters and people to cover you at work during school pickups and the like.  I'm suddenly doing all the laundry and all the cooking and all the cleaning and (nearly) all of the dog walking, etc.  But it's not bad.

The main thing I struggle with when we have these mini-deployment flashbacks is my stress level.  I get impatient with the kids when I have to do everything alone all the time, and I'm more prone to yell.  A few hours after I took Ian to the airport I snapped at Aden because she only has one chore--to empty the dishwasher--and she never remembers to do it.  Then I apologized because I'm supposed to be the grownup and yelling makes me feel stupid.  I resolved that damn it, I could make it two weeks without yelling, and I told Aden if she would try harder I would try harder, and so far so good.  What I've been doing is leaving her a note on her breakfast plate in the morning so she'll remember to empty the dishwasher before she eats (which she really needs to do because Mona's chore is to fill up the dishwasher again after meals).  The most recent note read:  "Knock knock.  Who's there?  The dishwasher.  The dishwasher who?  EMPTY ME!" So it makes her smile and I don't have to yell and life is better.  My hope is that she'll get into a habit of looking forward to finding the note, which may turn into a habit of simply remembering to empty the damn dishwasher.

That's been the height of the drama around here and that is nothing so I can't complain.  I like having more time at home, I'm getting things organized, and the kids are helpful but they miss Ian.  I miss Ian.  I have trouble sleeping when he's not home.

But there is an actual upside to Ian's absence when we must do without him.  We watch movies he would never be able to sit through.  Namely musicals.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Real Music

I got to do something last night that should not be as rare as it is.  I got to play real music.

"But you're a musician!" my astute readers are thinking.  "You play music every day!"

Why yes, yes I do.  But life gets busy with three kids and a dog and a business to run, and when you are a trained musician with little time to spare it's hard to find time to play simply for the joy of it.  There are concerts to prepare for that require practice deadlines for pieces you don't choose.  There are paid gigs using music you could play in your sleep (and sometimes do).  Being paid to play is not a bad thing by any means, but it's different.  It's wrapped up in responsibility and preparation and scheduling and occasionally uncomfortable shoes.  It's work.  Enjoyable work most of the time, but work.

Moments of real music, where I remember why I play to begin with, don't happen for me often enough.

Friday, January 4, 2013


We had guests in our house from Christmas Eve to the day after New Year's.  It was great.

It's been quiet here during the past few holiday seasons since we moved into our new house, but this was the first year on this side of the street where Christmas felt like it should.  The table was set for 16 for my brother's birthday dinner and my mom cooked up a storm.  Children decked out in butterfly wings pranced about the house, people laughed and talked and shared stories, we played a little music, and cranked up the record player and danced to the light of the mirror ball in living room at every opportunity.  It just doesn't get much better than that.

We spent part of New Year's Eve cutting snowflakes.

I'll get to that in a moment, but first you have to see something funny.  In the last few hours of 2012 we played our own family version of Pictionary with my parents, brother, and his fiancee.  We were in two teams, and each team wrote up a list of clues for the other team to draw, so we can personalize the game to our family.  It's always fun, and I laughed until I cried.

(Here's my brother holding the white board still as Quinn draws a pretty good plate of spaghetti.)