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.

Tween-dom 

I will admit it.  I let my guard down.  I used to be pretty attentive, always looking around the corner, anticipating the next set of issues and problems, reading up so that I would be prepared when the time came.  I started out when I was pregnant and on bed rest, reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  This led naturally into What to Expect the Toddler Years and a motherlode (pun intended) of mommy blogs and message boards.  I’m not sure when or why I stopped doing this, though it was most likely a gentle slide, a slow erosion of my hyper-vigilance.  You know how it is when every day starts to feel like groundhog day, like a variation on a theme, and you just settle in and coast for a while.

I wouldn’t say that the change took place overnight, necessarily.  But it was a significant transformation, one that continues to surprise me as it evolves and plays out in the day-to-day.  Coasting is no longer an option.  There is no predictable pattern or even much of a warning when it’s time to batten down the hatches.  All I know is that this change is just the beginning, a small taste of things to come, and I do not feel prepared for it.

I’m talking about this new person that lives in my house.  This one who used to think I was awesome and fun, who called me “mommy”, who saw me as an ally rather than an obstacle.  This new guy is called a “tween”, I am told.  When I look at him, I still see his baby face in there somewhere, hiding under the hood that is always cinched up around his face.  (are you cold?  is it breezy in here?  what gives?).  When he hugs me, he no longer grabs my thigh or my waist, or reaches up his hands for me to pull him up.  His arms circle all the way around my back, his head can now rest comfortably on my shoulder, and he makes gains on me every day.  Soon this one I carried in a sling and pushed in a stroller, who cried when I left the room, who threw broccoli on the floor, will overtake me.  He will literally look down at me, and I will have to tip my chin up when I tell him to go clean up his room or do his homework.

He is aware that he is on the precipice of physical enormity, and he is practicing for it by doing things like rolling his eyes and greeting simple requests with poorly executed sarcasm.  He obviously doesn’t know that I won the regional award for eye-rolling back in my day.  There is no “What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Teenager” on my bookshelf currently, so I’m still figuring out how best to nip all this in the bud without making it worse.  Because it’s a really delicate balance, you know?  Too authoritative and the tween is likely to retreat back under the perceived safety of the hoodie and shut you out entirely.  Not authoritative enough and you’ve got a hoodlum on your hands.  (see what I did there?  “hood”lum!)  It’s a little like approaching a wild animal on a National Geographic special.  Very precarious.

And what of the fact that my tween has so many NEEDS and FEELINGS right now?  So many feelings, none of which can be easily identified, because they are all wrapped up in this little ball that is generously coated with a layer of anger and finished with a fine dusting of resentment.  Am I to be the one to unravel that ticking time bomb?  Do I cut the black wire or the red one?  Which chapter addresses these sorts of emergencies?  Also, nothing like reliving middle school through the eyes of your child to dredge up all of your own emotional baggage.

I used to be really good at this.  I could tell by the look in that kid’s eyes when he was hungry, or overstimulated, or if he needed a nap.  I could anticipate what kind of scenarios were likely to be overwhelming or frustrating, and do some work on the front end to avoid  doing damage control on the back end.  Now, I don’t know anything, and I have a 10-year-old to tell me that I don’t know anything.  Also, in case you’re wondering, I’m lame.  And embarrassing.  And I’m not funny.  Not even a little bit.

I love this poem by Adair Lara, who really sums up the tween through teen stage nicely:

                                                         WHEN CHILDREN TURN INTO CATS

Have you ever realized that children are like dogs? Loyal and affectionate, but teenagers are like cats…
It’s so easy to be a dog owner.
You feed it, train it, boss it around. And yet it still puts its head on your knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt painting and bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call it.
Then around age 13, your adoring little puppy turns into a cat. When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who died and made you emperor.
Instead of dogging your every step, it disappears. You won’t see it again until it gets hungry. Then it pauses on its sprint through the kitchen long enough to turn its nose up at whatever you’re serving.
When you reach out to ruffle its head, in that old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you, then gives you a blank stare, as if trying to remember where it has seen you before. You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat, think something must be desperately wrong.
It seems so antisocial, so distant.
It won’t go on family outings.
Since you’re the one who raised it, taught it to fetch and stay and sit on command, you assume that you did something wrong.
Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave.
Only now you’re dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now produces the opposite of the desired result.
Call it, and it runs away. Tell it to sit, and it jumps on the counter.
The more you go toward it, with open arms, the more it moves away.
Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you should learn to behave like a cat owner.
Put a dish of food near the door, and let it come to you.
Sit still, and it will come, seeking that warm, comforting lap it has not entirely forgotten.
Be there to open the door for it.
And just remember…
One day your grown-up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big kiss and say,  “You’ve been on your feet all day. Let me get those dishes for you.”
Then you’ll realize your cat is now a dog again!

I love this kid, this dog-turned-cat, this shape-shifting boy-man, who has come to teach me of the messy side love in all its forms.


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.

 

Going back to Haiti in 2017!

Hello friends, both near and far!  I am so excited to give you some updates about some things up ahead for me in 2017.  Those of you who have been following my blog likely remember my trip to Haiti last year.  I am very excited to let you know that I will be going back again this year!  And I need your help!

After my trip last year, I was given the opportunity to join the Advisory Board of Directors for the International Mission Foundation.  IMF currently partners with ministries in five countries, including Haiti, to provide support and resources to various ministries already active in those countries.  Though the Foundation itself is relatively new, the people involved with IMF have worked for years building partnerships and alliances with various ministries in each of the countries.

I am on the medical advisory board committee, and one of our goals this year is to set up a school-based primary health care program for the children in Chambon.  IMF has a long relationship with this community and has worked with them in the past on other community development projects.

Over the course of time, the community of Chambon has expressed an interest in having medical services more accessible to their village.  It is a very rural community, without easy access to a health care facility.  Our goal would be to help this village develop a community-based health program.

For the first phase of the program, we are going to start with the children enrolled in the Valley of Hope School.  Many of these children receive educational sponsorship through IMF, and we hope to have more sponsored in 2017.  (If you are interested in sponsoring one of the children, you can learn more here.)  Our team will set up shop for a few days at the school and offer well-child checks, preventative health teaching, and treatment of simple health problems (like minor infections, anemia, de-worming medication, etc.).  If we identify any complicated health problems or chronic illnesses, we hope to help families get referred or make connections locally for ongoing care.

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Valley of Hope School

There are several underlying principles that are guiding us as we undertake this project.  First, we believe that the community of Chambon is its own expert on its needs and local culture.  As such, we think it is very important to co-create a sustainable project with them, rather than administer health services to them.  We believe it is vital that the community be involved with each step of the process.  It is easy at the outset to think that we have so much we can teach them and do for them.  But we really want to approach this carefully, knowing that we also have much to learn from our Haitian friends.  Second, we are committed to handing this project back over to the community.  We are starting with the children, but we hope to expand the program in the future to include adults.  We hope to make some good connections with some Haitian health care providers who can partner with us to take care of the needs of this community in a culturally sensitive manner.  This community has expressed a desire to eventually have a free-standing health care facility of its own.  This is a big dream that fills my mind with lots of questions about logistics!  But we will take it one step at a time, with God at the wheel.

So, how can you help??  If you are interested, there are so many ways you can get involved!

  1. Travel with us!  We especially need pediatric nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians.   Since this phase of the program involves working with children, pediatric or family medicine experience is required.  If you are interested, or know someone else who would be interested, please let me know!  Our trip will take place July 1-7, 2017.
  2. Sponsor a child at the Valley of Hope School.  A sponsorship of $47/month covers the cost of educating a child, including tuition, uniform, shoes, school supplies, teacher training/salary, and a daily meal.
  3. Stay tuned!  We are in the process of applying for some grants that will hopefully help us to collect the medical supplies and medications we hope to take with us.  There will definitely be opportunities as the trip gets closer to donate either supplies or money to put toward supplies.
  4. Last but not least, pray for us, and for Chambon.  There is a lot of work to do, and July will be here before we know it!

 

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!