Friday, February 28, 2014

From Tuesday

This week is an amazingly busy week: quartet coaching Monday, chorus rehearsal Tuesday, quartet coaching Wednesday, The Wife's quartet on Thursday, my chorus retreat on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then I start training for my new position at work (a promotion of responsibility, if not of salary) on Monday morning. So, of course, this is the perfect time for the congestion / throat cold that's been going around the house to hit me.

I made it through Monday and Tuesday without too much effort - only gargling with salt water (and, on one memorable and accidental occasion, pepper water), drinking gallons of hot herbal tea, and drugging myself within reason. Tonight will be a little harder, as I'm having some trouble speaking right now. I'll make it - singing is actual easier on the voice than speaking, if you're doing it correctly - but it's not as enjoyable as it otherwise would be. The good news is, it'll buy me a little sympathy from the coach and let her beat on one of the other guys in the quartet.

Yeah, right. As if. That's what I get for bringing a friend to coach.

Last year, I was sick during retreat, also. I think it's the stress of the approaching weekend: it's SO important, and I really, really want to make a good impression on our coach. Making things even more challenging: The Wife is singing with the chorus this year for contest, and I really want to impress her, as well. She doesn't see me direct from the performer's perspective often, and I want to make her proud. Or, at least, to embarrass her less than I usually do.

The retreat is a few hours on Friday night, about 8-10 hours on Saturday, and 3 more hours on Sunday morning of intensive work on our two contest pieces. We're bring in a coach from Colorado for the third straight year, and she's dynamic: a music educator by profession, and the exact sort of warm, bubbly, touchy-feely, hugable person that my chorus loves. Frankly, that's the sort that I love nowadays, too. It's held in a local Catholic school / center southeast of town, and we'll stay overnight for the weekend. There's a nice party and social event on Saturday night, which is pretty awesome. The ladies do a funny sketch - last year, because we'd been working on the Ode To Joy from Sister Act II, they dressed like nuns and cavorted around.

My chorus is really, really fun and really, really cute. I'm a lucky director.


Little Bear was up and down for quite some time last night with congestion and coughing. I have a feeling that he's going to be our asthmatic kid; The Boy has, thusfar, blissfully avoided any of my breathing issues. (Good thing; he's had enough on his plate.) The poor Little Bear is prone to coughing and wheezing on occasion, and we have an albuterol inhaler around the house for him.


The Baby's response to "What did you dream about last night?" upon first awakening: "Elephants and Batman." I guess he's having normal little boy dreams - animals and playing and flying and super heroes and stuff - but it's really funny how he's responded to the morning ritual. Elephants and Batman, indeed.


The last two mornings, The Boy has woken up with me. I slept a bit later - I'm still having some forearm issues, so I'm running in the mornings instead of lifting - so he likes to come downstairs and watch cartoons while I exercise. It's been nice, because then we have breakfast together; the other two children sleep later. I don't get a lot of one-on-one time with any of the kids, so having some time for a nice, leisurely breakfast conversation is worth its weight in gold. We don't talk about anything worldshaking or of any more importance than the normal days that we've had.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Scarlet Letter

Monday night, when I got home from my front row rehearsal (the dancing part of the chorus), the older boys were awake. I tagged out Mom and finished her story, then did my usual chatting and snuggling with the boys. I did what I usually do: what was the best thing that happened to you today, who did you play with, that sort of thing. Little Bear stood up. "Daddy, I've got to get you something. I have something for you." The Wife intercepted him, he explained urgently that he needed to go downstairs to get something, and she followed him downstairs. A few minutes later, they came back up. "Daddy, I have a red 'S' for you [for Superman]," he said, and The Wife said, "Give it to him in the morning." So, they went (eventually) to sleep.

The next morning went as per usual: I got up and exercised, had breakfast, and went upstairs. Most of the family was still asleep, and Little Bear woke up as I finished my shower. He said, "Wait, Daddy! Don't go yet!" He ran downstairs and came back up with a set of alphabet stickers. True enough, they were red. He took off one of the "S" stickers and put it on my chest. "S is for Superdaddy. You get super powers when the 'S' is there. It'll keep you safe!"

I kept the S on my shirt all day, and - true enough - it kept me safe.


Three times over the past week, The Baby has been in his own bed at 5:15AM when I head downstairs. Once, I've been able to intercept him waking up, shuttling him to snuggles with Mommy. I will note that, on two of those three occasions, the only child in our bed was my oldest son. One glorious, glorious night, there were no children in our bed at all. That was a nice, refreshing change, although the bed was not quite as warm as when tiny little people are snuggled up.

I am really, authentically okay with The Boy jumping in bed with us. He needs extra snuggles. I know that he'll eventually grow out of it, and I don't really look forward to those days. I enjoy snuggles.


At school on Monday, they were making "necklaces" of 100 Fruit Loops. The kids were encouraged to make a pattern and repeat it until they got to 100. He was trying to figure out, at one point, how many fruit loops he had on the line. He determined that there were 6 fruit loops in the pattern; then he counted the number of patterns, counted by six that many times, and came up with the answer of 30. Not bad, for a kindergartener, to figure out how to multiply by 6.

One of The Boy's friends was asked who the smartest kid in school was - he responded, "The Boy!" That was nice to hear. The genetic stock ain't bad, so he should have a few brains in his head, you know?

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Busy Weekend

Friday night, The Wife was singing at temple, so I picked up the kids at Grandma's house. We got home and practised violin without complaining; they let me eat my dinner without being bothered too much. This fulfilled their end of the bargain, so we loaded everybody in the car to go to get some frozen yogurt. Once the normal histrionics subsided (there is always resistance to our policy of Go Potty Before Leaving Home For Someplace Fun), the kids got loaded into the car, just as The Wife pulled up from services. She jumped from one car to the other and we went out.

We like the frozen yogurt places around town - the self-service places. I wind up getting a little bit for myself, mostly because I know I'll be eating a chunk of the boys' yogurts. We let them pull it themselves (with supervision), but they always take just a BIT too much for them to eat. That's fine - part of being a kid, I suppose.

Saturday morning, we had Mispacha Music at Rodef Shalom. That was, as has been par for the course this winter, interrupted by a wonderful snow storm. So, we sang through the songs and played the games ourselves, which was a lot of fun. All three boys were participating. That's such a neat event - Mispacha Music is a song-lead prayer service meant for the littlest of people - and The Wife has been doing a great job with it. A pity that three of the last four months have coincided with multiple inches of snowfall.

(Yet another assurance that I know what I'm talking about: The Wife is now, with reasonable fluency, playing guitar and singing by herself for these little kid things. She told me a couple of years ago that there was no way she could ever play guitar - it was just beyond her. Too much double bass player. I told her that she had spent a grand total of 20 minutes playing guitar, which makes it a bit premature to make that proclamation. I love being right.)

The big highlight of Saturday: we then went west of town to see Stage 62's production of Dora's Pirate Adventure. Dora the Explorer, LIVE!!! It was awesome. We saw this same show from the same group of people two years ago, when it came through town last - actually, technically, this was the third time The Boy and I had seen it, because it was at the Children's Museum a few months before it was at Stage 62. We took all three boys and had been pumping it up for several weeks. It was an awful lot of fun - the show is cute and kind of interactive, and the actors and actresses really seemed to be having fun on stage. We gave each kid a choice at the beginning: either a small souvenir or a candy treat. Little Bear and The Baby picked an inflatable pirate sword, and The Boy picked a ring pop. All were reasonably happy with their choices.

Afterwards, they have a meet-n-greet with the cast for an additional $10, which lets you take pictures with the cast in costume. They also have some fun little crafts and games for kids to play. We got our pictures taken with almost everybody, although The Baby was a little afraid of Swiper. We did that one, as well, two years ago. Same actors who played Dora and Diego, which was a nice thing.

Saturday night, Grandma and Grandpa graciously hosted a pizza and movie party for the boys and allowed us to have a nice Valentine's Day dinner. We tested a sushi place we had never seen before, which was perfectly ordinary. We watched a little bit of television, and I finished most of our tax returns. Romantic evening, no?

Sunday, we had multiple parties happening, all from Little Bear classmates. At 10 was the party for one of the younger classmates. It was held at a community center, with some tables for crafts and a yummy treat table and a pinata - mostly a run around and play party, which was perfect. They had a wonderful face painter, and both of the older boys chose to get their faces painted. We had offered The Boy the opportunity to go sledding instead of going to the birthday party, figuring (correctly) that he'd be the biggest kid there by a couple of years. He chose the party. shrug - up to him.

Little Bear and I went to "Bounce U" for the second party, which is always an awesome occurrence. It's a big warehouse, with a couple of rooms, which has a selection of climbing, sliding, and bouncing inflatable toys. The kids have an amazing time, and since they spend a couple of hours sprinting around and climbing at a frantic pace, they're usually unconscious by the time they leave the parking lot. The climbing stuff ranges from very easy to quite difficult - I'm strong and in good shape, and I have a hard time with a couple of them. I'm proud that he accomplished the hardest climb, once with my help, once by himself, and once with the help of one of the party assistants. It's a great party place - has to be a small number of kids, and you don't bring anything with you. They provide cake, pizza, drinks, and entertainment. I'm sure it's not cheap, but having a party that doesn't require your clean-up is a good thing.

Sunday night, my quartet sang the National Anthem at the Pittsburgh Roller Derby, which was an awful lot of fun. The Wife and boys came, and T brought his wife and son. A good time was had by all, and the audience was receptive and appreciative. Also, I had never seen roller derby live before, and it was neat. I'm glad we had the opportunity, and I hope we get to go back next year.

Sunday morning, we slept late and went to breakfast as a family. Since it was president's day, I had no work; I brought The Boy to school late and decided to stick around because it was 100 Day (the 100th day of school for the kindergarteners). This needs a post of its own, which I'm percolating in my brain.

In short, a busy and most assuredly non-restful weekend. I'm looking forward to the rhythm of the work week to calm me down a bit...

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

In The Snow

So, the nice thing about being busy in life is that, by the time I notice I haven't written in a while, several weeks have passed. The ultra-nice thing? Things have, in general, been quite positive in our lives so far in 2014.

Work has been interesting for me. I'll be moving departments at some time in the next month or so - hopefully sooner than later, considering that I've been training my replacement for the past couple of weeks (and my cubicle is not quite big enough to share). It's a mostly horizontal move, going from one team with neat, friendly people to another team with neat, friendly people, except that the new team has a whole bunch of new skills that I will need to have in order to move up the ladder. My new team specifically requested me to move, and it is certainly nice to be wanted.

Chorus has been kind of stagnant this month because of the weather. We missed two weeks' worth of rehearsals, which will mean some additional rehearsals scheduled over the next several months - contest is in May, you know, and it's coming a lot quicker than anyone wants to see. We have a half-dozen new choruses in our region this year, so we want to make a great impression on them. Biggest thing I was proud of from the last contest: when the choruses came off stage after they performed, my ladies were the first ones who greeted them, with cheers and hugs and pats on the back. It didn't matter if it was the chorus who would win the Region to go to International, or the chorus that finished in last place: we were there to root them on and encourage something greater. Music is NOT a zero-sum event - our success doesn't mean others must fail. We're going to work our tails off, but we will also appreciate the other chorus' efforts. If we win, then I want every other chorus to have performed their best!

The Boy had his gifted testing last week. The tester said to him, "Since you're in kindergarten, we'll skip the multiplication." The Boy said, "You mean, like 1 times 8 and 2 times 4?" They pursued that section. Another neat bit: Grandma made sure to tell the tester about the cancer and the hearing aids. Ms. B's answer: "You don't get extra credit." I'm fairly certain that he'll be an easy entrant into the gifted program. I'm not sure it means anything - the gifted programs are not that inspiring - but anything to break up the day for him. His mindset during class time is great - he has never, apparently, said, "Why are we doing this? My two-year old brother is doing this at home." I'd like that to last by giving him SOME kind of an outlet.

(Side note, politics warning and sarcasm alert: I know - let's take away music and art and physical education for more math and reading classes. Because, you know, the high achievers want nothing more than MORE time in class with the slower kids. Because that will SURELY encourage them to higher test scores.)

(Second political note: the kids have a silly program called "ST Math," which is a set of math problems with a cute penguin in Flash game form. The teachers are, apparently, graded by how much their students play the game. Because, you know, I'm certain that most of those kids 1) have computers at home, 2) can reliably remember the 10-picture password to get into ST math, 3) have reliable, working technology at home (because Flash isn't on iPads, natch), and 4) have parents who are going to make sure they're playing the games and understand how to use the mouse well enough. This is why education is going down the sh*tter, folks: these are the factors that determine whether or not a teacher has a job each year.)

Little Bear is still wearing Superman shirts every day. I bought the first three episodes of the Superman Adventures television show for him - it's a three-part story that tells the origin of Superman. He kind of understands Superman from the Justice League cartoon and Superfriends, but I'd love for him to get a real FEEL for the character. The neat thing about Superman: because he's basically invulnerable, when he's written well, he'll usually try to solve a problem by talking about it before he punches through a building. Plus, he's obsessive about putting others' needs first. I'd love Little Bear to get those lessons instilled at a young age.

The Baby is starting, just a bit, to turn the corner on the whole potty training thing. He's almost entirely pee-trained; he will poop on the potty more often than he used to do. When I took him to Sesame Street Live, I didn't even bring the diaper bag; yes, it was an oversight, but he did great! He's probably the best eater in the house right now in terms of his willingness to try new things and eat a wider variety of foods. The others are good eaters, too, but The Baby might be the widest.

The boys and I and Grandpa played in the snow today, building a snowman and throwing snowballs and such. It was pretty awesome. We hit it at exactly the right time: it was warm enough to have slightly melty snow, which sticks well; ad we were outside just long enough to have a great time without worrying about getting too cold.

Tomorrow afternoon, we have a family portrait scheduled at Rodef for the new congregation directory. Not gonna lie: kind of excited about that.