Whoa Mama

Saturday, November 23, 2013

many hands make light work

We are in the middle of a kitchen renovation. This is only plural because we all live here. Scott is doing all of the work. Except when he has a job for a boy, then they fall over each other to be the one who successfully wins the bid. This morning, Scott called out, "who wants to help?". He was snapping a line. The tacit permission to cross over the forbidden boundary brought him a team of roadies. And a few observations and questions:

-don't let that fall.
-do you need tape or glue?
-you poke a lot of holes in the walls.
-what's under there?
-can I go under there?
-I always imagine what would happen if the ceiling fell
-do you ever pull the string out all the way
  why not?
  because I've never needed to.
  but can you.?
  but why haven't you?

-what are you trying to do?
-that doesn't sound good
-do you need that screw?
  can I collect it?

- I know I cannot but if I could cut that, how hard would it me for me?

while measuring, calculating, cutting, hoisting and drilling,my husband patiently, kindly and loving answered all of these questions and took in the comments. in return, his adoring fans confirmed (as if there was ever a doubt) that he holds the trophy.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ode to the 6th Grade Band

Sitting through the Middle School Concert tonight, I was unexpectedly enveloped in nostalgia. As a former band geek, the band tugged my heart strings with fond memories. I smiled often while thinking back on the "Tour" to Cedar Point, the annual competition for first chair in piccolo and joy of hanging up the feathered coffee can hats at the end of each marching band season when I could settle into my seat as the lone bassoonist. Moreover, I was reminded how truly grateful I am for the depth of experience and enduring connections borne from making music together.

In my wistfulness, a few observations came to mind:

1. Brass players, especially trumpeters, tap with unfettered determination.
2. Dissonant pieces featuring mythical creatures hide a great deal of questionable fingering.
3. No pop song is beyond the reach of band music. I submit into evidence the LHS rendition of Only the Young and tonight's Beach Boys tune during which those cheeky bastards all popped on sunglasses.
4. Syncopation is like eyeshadow. You can follow the instructions, but you've got to grow up to really get it right.
5. Starter percussionists do go "boom chink boom chink boom chink chink", just like the elementary school band teacher used to call out to keep them on track. (name please? anyone?)
6. There is a very short menu of middle school jazz pieces to choose from.
7. All band/orchestra instructors unbutton their performance vest to be more hip when the jazz band plays. It never works.
8. The kid with long hair, the purple electric guitar, bandanna on his head and leather jacket over the requisite band t-shirt clearly doesn't like the choice of music but knows he's got to learn the fundamentals. Kudos. You'll do fine, kid. In Lackawanna, circa 1988, we had him too except it was drums and he sported the full marching band attire with a long, bitchin mullet . RIP Kevin.
9. And finally, it is my fondest hope that the 11 y.o. bassoonist is fierce and unapologetic for bucking the allure of the violin, flute and clarinet. Well, that and that she gets to play "The Blue and the Grey" someday. It really is a fabulous piece for the instrument.

I've got a lot of years of middle and high school concerts in front of me. I hope at each one I'll remember what the music is giving back to the kids as I'm treated to "In the Mood", Gershwin Medleys, Madonna as sheet music and Sleigh Ride.

Monday, November 11, 2013

the platitudes of gratitude

In a not-so-creative nod to the day of over indulgence, many of us have taken the challenge to express daily gratitude on Facebook. Now before I get to dismissive, I do live with a healthy, sincere, active sense of gratitude.There isn't a day when I don't thank God for the blessings of my life, including the strength to conquer the tough stuff.  I do largely enjoy the opportunity to publicly express some reflection but it doesn't stop an irreverent shout out to caffeine. It does seem that a catalog of one liners falls short of what I really feel blessed by.

So last week when I named *teachers* as the winners of the thankful lottery, it demanded more.

I have been reflecting all day on people who have had life changing effects on me and my family as their role as teachers.

There was the band teacher who suggested that I pick up the bassoon, which paved the way for serious character development through the awkward junior high school years. Mrs Hadrovik and Mrs Sufflita and John Smokowski who nurtured creativity through literature, art and drama. Madame Haenlin who told me I couldn't go to France with my minimal language skills. Screwing up determination, I worked harder and pushed hard to break through the barrier between me and le passé composé and other tense mysteries to spend an amazing 5 months in Paris and Provence. It was a once in a lifetime experience and came away with one of my very best friends.

While my own positive relationship with education and those who facilitate it has decades of fodder to inspire my gratitude (and the student loans to show for it), it is the teachers who have impacted my children that moved me to give more than a Facebook thanks.

As the mother of three young children, there were more than a few days when I dropped Sam at his few hours at the Buffalo JCC in tears from exhaustion. A few years later, I would almost gleefully get a wild pair of twins Happy Times after putting Sammy on the school bus and think, "Good Luck teachers. They've had syrup!!"

We have bright kids. Period. They are smart. Whether that is the luck of the genetic draw, my vicious, unrelentingly militant limits on screen time, Scott's extra 'challenges' or just that we didn't let them eat paint chips, they are academic liabilities. You read that right.  All three learn quickly, like doing well but will not challenge themselves for the achievement. They need not just to be pushed but to be balanced. I don't think it is luck, but the nature of teachers, that these boys love school and have so far done very well. That is all teacher.

Every teacher in every school has developed a connection to school and community. Every teacher we have ever had has bridged a relationship between the child and learning. We have been so privileged to literally hit the lottery at EVCS, with the boys in classes of 25 and at least 2 teachers in each class. From the first week, when the class took a walking field trip through their urban neighborhood to tour city hall, I knew we were in the right place. Then when Mrs. Sullivan spoke to Sam about challenging himself to learn different things than what he already knew, we were thrilled. She was also the teacher who had the vision to see that A&N could read a mature book on Harriet Tubman and facilitated a self-directed project. They did a 'moving poster' showing Harriet escaping her master after a vicious beating. They were 6.

There was Mrs. Ebony who gently and firmly insisted that kindergartners learn the value effective communication and Mrs. Gainey who wouldn't let a day pass without having 'stumped' Aidan and Noah on something. Mrs. Smith sets the bar high, works tirelessly to help all kids achieve that bar and demands their best. Mrs. MacDonald and Mrs. Leswing, who from Day One would not let Sam do anything but his very best while giving all fifth graders the respect and challenge to rise up to be 'middle schoolers'. The humor, honesty, creativity and energy that they brought every day kept my kid not at par, but challenged and engaged in a year when he could have gotten lost.

So my gratitude for teachers is a well-formed, deep, and unabiding. Each one of these remarkable people start each day giving their heart and soul to the future of children. Each one goes home every day to their own children and lives having made a difference in the fabric of the community.

Thank you.

ps -  I am posting this on Veterans Day and I'm not a good enough writer to tackle that, apart from saying that all of this, to you, 100 fold. Except if it is a room of 2nd graders then you might be on an even playing field with teachers. Gratitude abounds.