The 10 phases of attending a school band concert


So, your child plays in the band?  Guess what?  Time for spring concerts!  In case this is your first time, let me guide you through what to expect at a typical band concert.

Phase I:  Excitement and anticipation.
Whether you child plays woodwinds, brass, or percussion (like mine), you will be excited to attend this important event, potentially the performance of a lifetime.  All year your child has been waking up early twice a week to get to band practice, instrument in tow.  Finally you get to hear the fruits of his labor!  You mark your calendar, rearrange appointments, and shuffle any competing extracurricular activities so that the whole family is available to be in attendance.  How often are you treated to a night of FREE musical entertainment, after all?

Phase 2:  Preparation.
You rearrange your work schedule to make sure you won’t be late at the office that day.  You make sure to have a cup of coffee around 4 pm to get you through the evening’s excitement.  Getting home a little early, you have dinner on the table by  5 pm.  Can’t let your micro-sized musician go to his big concert with a rumbly tummy!   There is no time to linger over dinner, but you manage to get the dishes in the dishwasher and everyone has their homework done.  Your mini-Mozart has his instrument and band binder by the door ready to go.  A quick check reveals that everyone is wearing pants.  You are winning!  It’s  almost go time!

Phase 3:  Enter into the first concentric circle of hell.
You remind baby Bach that the band teacher wants all the boys to wear a shirt, tie, and dress pants, and all the girls to wear a dress or a skirt.  What?  A TIE?  I HAVE TO WEAR A TIE?  I HATE TIES AND I’M NOT DRESSING UP AND I AM NOT GOING AND I HATE BAND ANYWAY AND WHY DOES MY BAND TEACHER CARE WHAT I WEAR THIS IS SO STUPID I’M NOT GOING.   As you are putting out the fire in Ringo’s dressing room, sister shows up, after being asked to go brush her hair, in a beautiful off-white formal dress with a tulle skirt and sequined bodice.  You explain to sister that she should go put her jeans back on because a school concert does not require formal dress, while simultaneously trying to get your musician into a shirt and tie.  The incongruity is not lost on you, or your children for that matter.  It looks like it is all falling apart, but really, there is a simple explanation for this: You have entered the gate of hell.  “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” (translation, in case your Italian is rusty–“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”).

Phase 4:  Arrival and seating.
You and your family are now varying degrees of sweaty, angry, stressed, and resentful.  This means you are ready to go!  You pile into the family-mobile and drive in frustrated silence punctuated only by a mom-lecture from the front seat.  You get there early enough to get some choice seats–4th row!!  You see that the program you picked up on the way in mandates no flash photography, and requests that the audience express their appreciation with applause only, and not with “hooting and hollering”.  You make a mental note to contain your enthusiasm.

Phase 5:  Begin to unexpectedly enjoy yourself.
About mid-way through the first song, you realize, “hey, these kids are good.  Like, REALLY good!  I can’t believe these kids are in elementary and middle school!”  The music selections range from classical, to “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, to a jaunty Lady Gaga medley.  This is pretty awesome!

Phase 6:  Experience shock, awe and pride.
Then, all of a sudden, it’s the big moment. The 5th grade band takes the stage.  The conductor raises her wand and they begin to play as one, in perfect harmony.  You burst with pride.  Even though you can’t see your 4’11” percussionist in the very back behind the tubas because of the tall guy in front of you and all the flutes and clarinets in the way, you can hear all kinds of drumming and maraca shaking in the back and you just know–that percussion section is KILLING IT.

Phase 7:  Start to feel the fatigue of your day setting in.
You are enjoying yourself, you really are.  But after the adrenaline wears off from the pre-show circus at your house and the 5th grade band exits the stage after their third number, and the 4 pm coffee wears off, you realize that you are just plain tired.  You start to fantasize about your pajamas, and how good it will feel to take off your bra.

Phase 8:  Start to hate everything and everyone and SWEET MOTHER OF MARY how much longer is this concert get me out of here because I need to go to bed.
You look down and, to your dismay, you are only one-third of the way through the evening’s program.  You start to practice your deep breathing, just like your yoga teacher taught you.  As the moments go on, you start to hate people, all people, especially all the people around you who look like they are having fun, even though you were having fun a minute ago too, but now you changed your mind and you are no longer having fun.  You are tired and you want to go take off your pants and lie down in your bed, but you know that before you can do that you will have to sit in a long car line on the way out of the parking lot with all of these happy-looking people who apparently have much better coping skills than you and can stay up past 8 pm without needing a mental health arrest.  Screw them.

Phase 9:  Rush home to put everyone to bed.
You made it to the end.  Now, only 8 hours until you have to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to get yourself and your kids up and out the door for school and work!  You sit in the stupid car line out of the parking lot, then speed home.  You order everyone upstairs to perform their nightly dental hygiene practices and get into their pajamas.  But, no.  NO. THEY CAN’T DO THAT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THEY ARE HUNGRY.  They need a “snack”, because heaven forbid they go more than 2 hours without some kind of carbohydrate-laden concoction filled with red #40 to stick in their little music-makers.  You say, “No, go to bed!  You’re tired, not hungry!”,  but your spouse “doesn’t think it’s right” to send kids to bed hungry, so he gives them yogurt while you haul your weary carcass up the stairs.  You brush your own teeth and get your own pajamas on and try to figure out why your children are so resistant to bedtime, which is the best time of the day, in your opinion.

Phase 10:  Recovery.
At this point, assume the recovery position.  Lie on you side in the fetal position.  Stare catatonically at the wall.  Feel proud of your child’s accomplishments.  Feel proud of yourself for being a super awesome good enough parent.  You may close your eyes and allow sleep to overtake you at this point.   Dream of your child, all grown up and performing in the symphony.

***The sequence of events in this blog entry and all characters appearing in it may or may not be entirely accurate and not at all fictitious depending on who is asking and whether or not you are going to tell my son that I blogged about that part with the tie.

Adventures in beauty 

My daughter has been obsessed with getting a curling iron.  That’s right, even though we have two girls in our house, we have not, to this point, owned a curling iron.  Ever since I grew out my two-layered, carefully sculpted/teased/sprayed to perfection “mall bangs” in the early 90’s, I have neither owned nor used a curling iron. Kind of like I did a barn-door in the opposite direction. I used to get teased by friends and family when I was a teenager about how much time I spent on my hair.  Now I just blow it dry and that’s the end of it.

Because here’s the thing that I have now realized:  I am really bad at doing hair.  I am all thumbs when it comes to french braiding, no matter how many times I practice.  When I do two piggy tails on my daughter, it turns out acceptable, but there is always one that is higher than the other, and the part in the back is all skewed, giving the impression that I forgot to put my contacts in before I did her hair.  I was never able to do any of those super-cute little girl hairstyles on her.  In fact, when she was a toddler, I kept her hair cut short in a cute little bob so that it was easy to care for, with minimal tangles and no need to do fancy stuff with it.  I can do a basic ponytail. I can also do the very popular ponytail-half-bun variation in which you don’t pull the tail of the pony all the way through so as to give the impression of a messy bun, but really it’s just a ponytail that gave up right before the finish line.

Leah has more money in her bank account than me, because it turns out that if you save your $7.00 of allowance per week for almost your entire childhood because all you can think of to buy with it is candy, but your parents won’t let you buy candy, you end up being Bill Gates.  So she decided that she wanted to use some of her money to buy a curling iron, in an effort to attain the coveted “beachy waves” that all the cool girls are wearing now.  I couldn’t argue with that, so we headed over to Walgreens the other day to buy a curling iron.  The previous weekend, she had been visiting family, and Aunt Jen had curled her hair beautifully, so she was set on getting the same kind of curling iron that Aunt Jen had used.  Never mind that Aunt Jen has some supermodel qualities that I will never have.  Leah had so much confidence that I was up to this task, I kind of felt sorry for her.

So this curling iron.  I’m looking at it, and it doesn’t have one of those push-lever things, like in the 80’s.  You’re just supposed to wrap your hair around it by hand and, um, not burn yourself.  What?  Oh, but it comes with a 3-fingered glove to use on your “wrapping” hand, so that’s helpful for the clumsy gals like me.  I tried to convince her to get the push-lever kind, but she wouldn’t have it.  I also thought an iron with a nice wide barrel would be good for those coveted waves, but no.  Aunt Jen used THIS one, we must get THIS one.  Thirty bucks later we are back at home, and that lever-less, narrow-barreled thing is warming up on the counter.  I think I heard it laugh an evil laugh at me.  Maybe that was my imagination.

I tried so hard you guys.  My supermodel sister-in-law even sent me a tutorial video with a drop-dead gorgeous twenty-something beauty blogger, which I watched dutifully.  I did everything she told me to do, I swear.  Here is the inspiration, and the outcome:

Expectation….

Versus reality. So, so close…

 

Then I tried to do myself, just in case.  And it turns out that when I use a curling iron, my hair ends up looking almost exactly like it did in Haiti, when exposed to 100% humidity.  Also a lot like Monica Gellar on Friends, when she went to the Bahamas.

Beachy waves?

“Haiti hair”

Monica can’t help it. “IT’S THE HUMIDITY!!”


 

I give up, man.  I just can’t do it.  I will never be a beauty blogger.  I will never have beachy waves.  My child will have to learn to do her own hair.

 

Parenting exercises


There’s always a lot of talk around the water cooler, on social media, and among friends about what kind of exercise programs we are all “doing”.  My Facebook newsfeed is typically peppered with an array of cut biceps, flat abs, Beachbody ads, post-workout selfies, and inspiring weight-loss transformations.  When someone is doing something and getting great results, it makes the rest of us want to try it too, right?

But our bodies are not the only things that need exercising.  In fact, if you want to be really good at anything, you need to practice it.  In order to get good results, you have to work for them!  I do not have flat abs or cut biceps.  And my “after” picture looks suspiciously unchanged from my “before” picture, so I am unlikely to be an inspiration to you in the physical arena.  However, I am really invested in being the best mom possible.  I know that these kids o’ mine are a gift entrusted to me, and I have a huge responsibility in raising them.  To that end, I have developed some parenting exercises that really work for me.  Just like there are different categories of physical exercises–strength, cardio, flexibility, agility, and speed, there are several distinct types of parenting exercises.  I will share some very effective examples in each category, but would love to hear what others are doing as well!   If I can help or inspire just one person, it will all be worth it.  My methods are not yet patented, but I am considering it for the future.

Exercises in futility:

-Try to clean the house while your children are at home.  Go ahead, try it.  It’s about as effective as brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.  For those of you looking for an advanced version of this exercise, make sure your child is playing with or has full access to one or more of the following: Play-Doh, Moon-Sand, a Lego set containing a million tiny pieces, non-washable markers or paints, or glitter.

-Channel your inner June Cleaver and make homemade applesauce on a crisp fall day.  This is an exercise that can fill a whole day with futile activity if you wish, starting with a trip to the orchard to pick the apples, continuing with preparing the luscious, comforting applesauce in your kitchen and savoring the fragrance that fills your home, and ending with your children declaring that they don’t like this applesauce.  Can they have that kind that comes from the store instead?  You know mom, like in those little pouches?  For a less time-consuming variation on this exercise, try making homemade chicken fingers or macaroni and cheese, so the kids can tell you they like the stuff from a box better.

-Read a parenting book!  We all have something to learn when it comes to guiding our precious ones through the ups-and-downs of childhood.  There are a ton of resources out there, whether you want to become a more consistent and effective disciplinarian, help your child to self-regulate their emotions, or learn how to get your child to sleep through the night.  All you have to do is read the book, take careful notes, and spend the next few months carefully and consistently implementing all of the suggestions with the support of your partner.  Then, leave a review on Amazon telling everyone about how THAT BOOK WAS CRAP because your kids still don’t eat their vegetables/sleep through the night/do their homework without whining/play nice with their siblings, etc.  Just read a good novel next time.  At least you won’t feel like a failure after you’re done.

You don’t have to devote a ton a time or be an expert to do these  kinds of exercises.  Personally I find it quite easy to fit in my exercises in futility throughout my day, whether it is asking my kids to pick up their socks, trying to read a book undisturbed, or attacking the never-ending laundry pile.  Basically, anything you do over and over with no hope of meaningful or lasting change counts in this category. 

Exercises in humility:

-Attend your child’s parent-teacher conference.  This exercise is particularly fruitful with your firstborn’s first-ever parent-teacher conference, in which you naively assume that the teacher will spend the whole time talking about how sweet and perfect and smart and wonderful your little cherub is.  Like most first time exercises, you will be sore the next day.  The good news:  it gets easier every time you do it.

-Invite some old friends over for dinner. Make a nice dinner and wear actual pants in an effort to make a good impression.  Watch helplessly as your children slowly and systematically embarrass you in front of your company by repeatedly engaging in inordinate amounts of potty humor, partial nudity, horrible table manners, and tantrums.  In other words, they act like themselves, and you decide that you will no longer host dinner parties.

Exercises in frustration:

-Go do the grocery shopping.  Discover to your dismay that the grocery store moved the coffee aisle again in order to accommodate the Valentine’s day display, which was put up one whole day after Christmas.  Wander aimlessly about trying to track down everything on your list, taking 1.5 hours instead of your usual 1 hour secondary to the new floor plan.  Get home and realize you forgot the milk.  Repeat weekly.  Forget a different item on your list each time, to keep things interesting.

-Eat dinner with your family every night.  Prod you child repeatedly to eat her food, despite her insistence that she is not hungry.  Warn her there will be no dessert and no snacks after dinner if she does not eat, and listen to her comply willingly.  Then, sit back and wait for her to start whining 5 minutes after dinner that she is soooooo huuuuuungry, plllleeeease can I have a yogurt?

Exercises in anger management:

-start planning for your children’s summer break in March.  Plan a variety of camps throughout the summer, peppered with a few carefully placed weeks for down-time and family vacation.  Spend several hundred to several thousand dollars on this exercise, depending on your budget.  Then stifle your hysteria like a pro as your child comes home in September with their essay about their summer break, which reads, “My summer was pretty boring.  I didn’t do very much.  It was soooo boring.  I’m so glad school started so I don’t have to be bored anymore.”

-Plan family time!  It doesn’t matter whether you want to stay home with board games, movies and popcorn, or go out and explore all of the fun things your community has to offer.  I am sure that if you put enough time into it, you can plan something that will cause at least one member of your family to pout, whine, complain, or declare extreme boredom or their desire to go home.  What better way to practice shoving your anger deep, deep down?

The beauty of these exercises is that you get to do them all the time whether you want to or not!!  You don’t even need an accountability group.  Your exercises will be available to you all day, and often at random frustrating intervals throughout the night.  All for free.  No need to wait for motivation to strike, since opportunity is always knocking!  Now, let’s see some before and after pictures of THAT!

My epic fail, turned “Ulta”-mate win

The dawning of a New Year often brings with it a sudden need to GET ORGANIZED.  This urge struck me last Friday at work as I pawed through the never-ending abyss that is my purse, where whatever I need to find is always at the bottom.  When the digging and pawing become futile, I start taking things out, one by one.  The object that I am trying to find is always, ALWAYS, the last thing I pull out.  I just needed to find a hair elastic, for Pete’s sake, without emptying my purse all over my office.  I decided at that moment that this was the day I would clean out my purse, and I was going to do it on my lunch break before I got distracted or lost motivation.

So off I went at lunch, in search of some purse accessories.  I landed at Ulta, and found a cute set of 3 cosmetic pouches in varying sizes.  The two smaller ones were just the right size to organize some makeup and medicines I carry with me, and I had one left over which I figured would be handy for travel.  In the parking lot outside of Ulta, I proceeded to purge my purse of old receipts, expired coupons, used-up gift cards, garbage, and all the other randomness that got there somehow.  It felt really good.  I was heading into the New Year with an organized purse, fully knowing where to find my hair elastics, chapstick, and Dick’s Sporting Goods store rewards card.  I was completely in control of my life.  I gathered up all the trash and discarded items and put them in the bright pink Ulta bag, which I then threw away in my office trash can as I headed in to start my afternoon.

The next day was New Year’s Eve.  Am I the only one that hates New Year’s Eve?  I am inherently resentful of any “holiday” that demands that I must stay up past my bedtime in order to partake in its festivities.  Inevitably, my kids wake up at the same time as usual on New Year’s Day because they “can’t sleep in”, and they’re whiny, and I’m tired so I can’t handle their whining, and then the whole day is a big whiny, weepy disaster.  Anyhow, New Year’s Eve day was a Saturday, and we had things to do.  I had one kid sick with a fever, and the other had just gotten a prescription for eyeglasses, which we hadn’t yet had a chance to shop for due to the holidays.  I left the feverish one at home with daddy and set out to the optical store.

We picked out some frames, and then met with the optician who asked me for the prescription, which I had carefully stowed in a zip pouch in my purse that I use to store coupons, gift cards, and the like.  I reached in to retrieve it, but found it wasn’t where I left it. I started going through all my new pouches, my anxiety mounting with each zip and unzip.  I knew I had that yesterday! Where did I put it?  Also missing–a money order that my parents had given me as a Christmas gift.  A feeling of dread washed over me.  I must have thrown them in the trash when I cleaned out my purse yesterday!

My anxiety turned to full on panic.  I’m sure I looked like a crazy woman as I hastily shoved the frames we had chosen back on the display and ran out of the store bumbling my self-depreciating stream of consciousness, dragging Leah behind me, who was now crying because now she wasn’t getting her glasses as anticipated.  I raced home to drop her off and then drove the 25-minute commute, sans rush-hour traffic, to my office.  I cursed myself the whole way.  How could I be so stupid?  Seriously, does this stuff happen to other people?  I try to get organized and end up shooting myself in the foot.  Also, there goes my productive morning–I’m driving to work on a Saturday in my sweats to try to retrieve something from a trash can.  What has happened to me??

What were the chances that the cleaning crew didn’t empty my trash can last night?  It was a holiday weekend, maybe they didn’t come at the usual time?  Maybe they didn’t empty the trash can in my office where I remember throwing everything out, that happened sometimes.  A little seed of hope sprouted up in me as I let myself in the back door of the building.  My hope quickly deflated, though, as I rushed through the back hallways and observed the pristine condition of the office.  The floors were neatly vacuumed, and all the trash cans had new liners in them.  I got to my office and hung my head.  The garbage can was empty.  Empty!  OK, maybe he emptied the trash into that big yellow roll-y can I see him pushing around.  I wonder where he keeps that?  Do we have a cleaning closet here?  I’ve been working here almost 4 years–why don’t I know that?  I circled around the maze of hallways, searching for clues.  There was one room where I know we keep the paper shredding stuff, but it was locked.  Could it be in there?  It would make sense to have garbage and paper shredding in the same room.  I grabbed a paperclip and tried to jimmy the lock.  This did not work the way it does in the movies, in that it did not work at all.  I couldn’t think of anywhere else to look.  Except….the dumpster.

I had never noticed whether our office had a dumpster or not (because I never needed to notice), but with an office this size, there must be one close by.  I rushed outside and scanned the parking lot.  There it was, tucked in the back, unassumingly bricked in behind a little wall.  It would make sense for the cleaning crew to take the trash right out the the dumpster.  It was my last hope.

I swung open the steel door that hid the dumpster from the parking lot, and climbed up.  There were about 4 bags in there, and some random loose trash littering the bottom.  I had already committed to this when I drove down here.  I wasn’t about to give up now.  I am a lot of things, but I am no quitter.

I hung my head and arms into the dumpster, perching my waist on the edge, grabbed the bag closest to me, and ripped it open like a racoon.  I looked for signs of familiarity, but found only generic-looking medical office cast-offs.  Nothing gross, but nothing familiar either.  I grabbed the second bag.  This one looked more promising.  There was a ton of crumpled up Christmas gift wrap, which looked like it could have been from our office decorating contest.  A few lunch remains, and some coffee filters.  But it looked like our coffee.  The hope rose up again as I grabbed the third bag and ripped it open.

I saw a box from Leo’s bakery.  Wait–we had donuts from there yesterday!!  Some stale cookies leftover from that cookie exchange day!  I recognize those!  And then, then—I saw it.  The bright pink Ulta bag.  I grabbed it, trembling, and peeked inside.  There, admidst the old receipts and customer loyalty cards that I never used, was the money order from my parents and the eyeglass prescription.  I cheered–take that 2016!!  I am going out victorious!!

Let me pause here for a moment to address a few questions I know you may be asking yourself.  “Tracy, why didn’t you just call your parents and have them stop payment on that money order, and then call the doctor and have them write you a new eyeglass prescription?  Wouldn’t that have been much easier than digging through a dumpster?”  Those are excellent questions, and indeed I pondered doing just that, but decided against it for the following reasons:

a) Leah had already waited more than a week for us to find a time when the optical store hours overlapped with my “free time”, and if I had to wait until the doctor’s office opened after the holiday, it would have pushed the whole affair into the following weekend, during which time she is still unable to see and this task continued to languish on my never-ending to-do list.

b) I wasn’t sure if it was as easy to stop payment on a money order as it is on a check, but I felt it was potentially more dangerous if that item in particular fell into the wrong hands.

c)  If it was possible, and I did go the route of asking my parents to cancel that money order, I would have had to call my dad and tell him that I literally threw money in the garbage.  No thank you.  Tony has been accusing me of throwing money away, figuratively, my whole life.  I would never live that down.

d)  I can’t sleep at night thinking there was money in the garbage and it was my fault.

e)  I’m and adult, and I solve my own problems, dammit.  Sometimes I do so in the least glamorous way, because I’m me.

By the way, Jeff just asked me, “what are you blogging about today?”  I told him, “My epic fail”.  He says, “Which one?”  Perhaps this should be the start of a special series, in which I tell you of all my epic fails.  That could take a while.

 

I look like crap in this picture. But this is the makeup-less, un-showered face of a WINNER.

Things I would rather do than help with my 3rd-grader’s homework

I have this recurring thought on weeknights, as I sit (or try to look busy to avoid having to sit) at the kitchen table after dinner.  That thought is this:

“WHY is elementary school so much work for ME?  Didn’t I already go to elementary school?”

This thought is futile of course.  The fruit of my loins (FOML) are both in elementary school, so of course, “we” have homework every night.  Some of us are more independent with it than others.  Some of us know how to read instructions.  Some of us don’t.  Some of us rush through as fast as possible in order to go play or partake in the ever-coveted “screen time”.  Some of us argue until we are blue in the face that 6 x 3 absolutely does equal 14, or that the sentence that was written in the essay is just perfect, thank you very much, even though anyone (except the writer of the sentence, apparently) can clearly see that said sentence is a fragment containing only a subject and missing a predicate.   Some of us cry at the kitchen table.  Sometimes the kids cry too.

My all-time favorite part of homework is beholding the whine/moan/cry-while-simultaneously-sliding-spinelessly-down-in-the chair-until-the-FOML-fall-on-the-floor maneuver.

Seriously, I am fully aware that being involved in my kid’s education significantly impacts their ability to succeed at school.  So no need for any of you to lecture me about the importance of parental involvement.  But just because I know that I have to do something doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

I am not alone, I am certain of it.  Because today at work I took an informal survey, and there are lots of other parents who hate homework time too.  Together, we came up with a (non-exhaustive) list of things we would rather do than help our kids with their homework:

-stub your toe in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom with a full bladder

-get all of the hairs on your head pulled out one-by-one

-eat mushy cheerios with curdled milk and a rusty spoon

-have a “man-cold”

-take care of a man with a “man-cold” while cooking and hosting Thanksgiving dinner for your extended family

-step on a Lego

-pull out your own teeth with rusty pliers and no Novocaine

-do 10 loads of laundry.  At the laundromat.  With quarters.

-have a wart frozen off

-get a PAP smear

-play a whole game of Monopoly with your kids until the very end

-listen to my child play Hot Cross Buns with their first band instrument

-eat glass with no teeth

-get my eyeballs pecked out by crows

Special thanks to Patty, Jessica, and Abby for commiserating with me and adding your thoughts to our list.  I agree with everything except the Monopoly game.  Homework time must be REALLY BAD at Patty’s house–let’s pray for her.

So, what would YOU rather do than help your kid with homework??

img_1385