Monday, August 30, 2010

Back from mini-vaca, new column

Ahhhhh. I just returned from a lovely weekend away. Perfect weather, good kids, and I even slept until 8:00 yesterday! Amazing.

Here is my family column from last weekend. Abby's iPod needed a charge on the way home today, and I didn't have my computer. She took the sudden lack of technology rather well, I must say.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Taking a breath

August is always hectic around here. We have three family birthdays and the parties that go along with them. Then there's Earl's and my anniversary, which we usually celebrate quietly. Abby had church choir camp, but all three kiddos have been home with me for the past two weeks. I'm gearing up for a new year of piano and voice teaching. My sister and I gave a recital, and had family visiting during that time. And on top of all that, I applied for, interviewed for, and got a new job.

My head is spinning even more than it usually does this month. It feels good to sit down and take a breather.

I documented Abby's birthday party in earlier posts. The weekend of the recital (last weekend but it seems like a year ago!) we also had a family party for Abby's and Timmy's birthdays. Mom and Dad were visiting for that, and my brother and his family also came for a few days. It was great to have everyone here for the recital and the party, and a little visit afterwards, too.

Yesterday was Timmy's birthday, and we had a friend party for him. Since the guest list was rather short (so many of his friends couldn't make it because of vacation plans) we decided to just go to the movies. We took our three kids and two friends to see Cats vs. Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. I have to say, it was almost universally panned by the critics, but I didn't think it was that bad. I mean, yes, it was predictable, but it was a kid's version of a James Bond movie, and don't tell me Bond flicks aren't predictable! Anyway, the kids enjoyed it, and I didn't hate it, either.

Then we all came back home for pizza and cake. A nice, little, low-key party. And the best part is that was the LAST of the birthday parties until June!

Of course, our anniversary was also yesterday. Since Timmy was born, we have focused more on his birthday rather than our anniversary on the 21st. We do get each other cards, of course, and had a nice, kid-free conversation after they all went to bed. We'll go out to dinner on another day. In some ways, it seems like we've been together forever, but in others, the 17 years have gone so quickly.

Aside from the anniversary, Timmy's birthday and my birthday this week, the other big news is that I'll be returning to the classroom in the fall, for the first time since 1996. I'll be teaching at a Catholic school right in my town, and I'm really excited about it. It's a roughly .5 position, teaching general music for grades 1-8. I'll also be responsible for preparing two concerts.

I had a chance to see the music room this week, and it's lovely. It's in the former convent, right next to the school, and it feels more like a sitting room than a classroom. I need to get into the room this week to tidy up, and clean a bit. Then I can start arranging things how I want them.

I spent most of this past week being nervous about the job, but I'm feeling much calmer today. My mom found some of my old music teaching books at her house and is going to send them to me. I really have next to nothing in terms of teaching materials -- the former music teacher must have used a lot of his own resources. So I'll be very glad to get my hands on some books, music, etc. that I can use to plan.

I also have a few music teacher colleagues who have been very helpful and generous, sending me ideas and resources they use. I know it will be fine, and once I have the room set up and get a bit more organized, I'll be very excited to start.

When I left classroom music teaching 14 years ago, I never thought I would return. The way this opportunity came about, however, has left me with no doubt that this is what I am supposed to do right now. That, in and of itself, is very reassuring.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A lovely birthday

Today was my birthday, and it was a great day. There wasn't anything extraordinary about it, (well, besides extra-good kids, some lovely gifts and a delish dinner and cake, made and bought my my husband, respectively. So, on second thought, I guess there were several extraordinary things about it!)
Side note about the cake: Earl said the bakery called it the Chocolate Nightmare. I said I didn't think it was nightmarish at all, and asked Abby what she thought a better name might be. Her response: "Chocolate Daymare!" After the laughter subsided, she tried again, with more poetic results: "Chocolate Dream Come True!")
I guess I mean the day wasn't wildly extraordinary. I didn't go anywhere I don't usually go; I didn't do anything I don't usually do. Some time at the gym, a couple of errands, some work, some hooping. I'm fairly preoccupied with some things going on professionally, so that took a lot of brain energy and time, too.

But -- the awesome gift I received from the kids was a pair of organ-playing shoes. I am dying to learn to play the organ, and the shoes are a nice incentive to go practice. Once the kids go back to school, that is. No time now!

When my birthday rolls around, I know we're getting to the end of summer, and it makes me both happy and wistful. Happy for the cooler days of fall and the busy-ness of a regular schedule; wistful about the end of the relaxed pace and the cold days that come after the cooler days. It's a mixed bag, and sometimes I wish I could hold on to these last few days of August, with the chatter of the late-summer bugs after sunset and the barest hint of a chill in the air.

The Chocolate Dream Come True (along with the birthday-toast glass of Pinot Grigio) is making me mellow and sleepy. I wonder if Bill Clinton had as happy of a birthday as I did.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Last weekend's family column

My column for GateHouse never made it online last weekend. Here it is.

League of Maternal Justice

I had just finished getting the kids a snack when my four-year-old coyly asked, “Mom, do you know what kind of ice cream I have in my cup?”

Having just put the carton away, it wasn’t much of a challenge. “Chocolate chip?”

His eyes widened, clearly impressed. “Mom! Do you have x-ray vision?”

Little did he realize that, over the past nine years, I’ve developed a number of superpowers that are common to all mothers. X-ray vision is one of them, useful not only for identifying mystery ice cream flavors, but also for spotting contraband candy in pockets, as well as books secreted away under pillows for clandestine reading after lights-out.

While my near-distance vision isn’t what it used to be – zoom is now a favorite feature on my laptop – I’ve developed the amazing power of micro-vision. This power spots germs on unwashed hands, insufficiently crumpled tissues and shared toys with amazing accuracy, much to the little germ-monsters’ chagrin. When they ask me how I can see the germs, I smile knowingly, choosing to keep this superhuman ability a secret, for now, and tell them to go wash their hands.

Maternal superpowers aren’t confined to vision, however. When my firstborn learned to walk, the sudden ability of my arms to reach her at the very moment she was going to fall, or pull something down onto her head, was uncanny. As the kids have gotten older, this arm elasticity has increased, to cope with new threats posed by bicycles, baseball bats and poorly-tethered Christmas trees. It will be put to the ultimate test in a few years, when the little darlings want the car keys. I foresee some prophylactic key-snatching on my part.

While these powers constitute a formidable arsenal against the forces of evil encountered during childrearing, there are a few other abilities that would be useful, too. Take flying, for example. A little Superman-style cruising would really cut down on the time spent getting to a vacation destination. Parking hassles would be a dim memory, and those college campus visits in a few years would be a breeze.

I’d also like a pair of Wonder Woman bracelets. If they’re strong enough to repel bullets, I could certainly put them to good use deflecting criticism of my parenting skills or pleas to help out with the latest PTO project. And rude gestures and honking from that impatient driver behind me as I’m waiting to turn into the school parking lot? Talk to the bracelet, buddy.

My children don’t see the powers I don’t have, however. They’re in awe (although sometimes in denial) of my ability to foil their mischievous plans and keep them out of harm’s way.

It’s been said that with great power comes great responsibility. Thank goodness that for mothers, with great responsibility comes great power. We’ll keep on saving the day, just as our mother and grandmothers did before us. Ready, ladies? Up, up, and away!

Copyright 2010 GateHouse Media, Inc.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy talk

This is the last advertisement for my recital with my sister this evening. I promise! (7:30 p.m. at First Parish in Milton -- click here for more details.)

We had a great rehearsal yesterday. Tim Steele is such a wonderful pianist and accompanist, and even though it was our only rehearsal with him -- and with each other -- we're all feeling excited about tonight's performance. There's such a great variety of music, show characters and situations. It's going to be a lot of fun.

The weather has been cool, so no one will swelter in the church (can I get an amen?) My mom and dad are here, as are my brother and his whole family. I have a number of friends, students and their families who are planning to attend (but I want to see you there, too!) I just have to get the program copied this morning, and we truly will be all set.

Other good stuff going on, too, making for a happy recital day: Brian lost his first tooth last night and was thrilled with the tooth fairy's reward this morning. The kids and Earl had a great time at Old Sturbridge Village yesterday with my in-laws. It's sunny again, and did I mention it's cool? I've lost 16 pounds. We had the best roasted turkey and sweet corn-on-the-cob dinner last night. My sister sounds great, and I'm feeling good, too.

Happy talk makes for happy singing tonight. So come.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recital story

The word is out! Here is a story on Milton Patch about this weekend's recital with my sister. There's also a notice in the Milton Times today.

It's going to be a beautiful weekend. Make it even lovelier by coming to hear us sing some American songbook classics, 7:30 on Saturday night. More details in the Patch article and here. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Abby's 9th birthday party

My girl turns 9 tomorrow, and we had her "friend" birthday party today. Abby loves dogs, so that was our theme (decided two days ago, seriously.) Our invitation with a closeup of a dog's nose (see image from Evite, left) but we didn't decide on actual party activities until Thursday. How does August always sneak up on me like this?

Abby invited six friends, five of whom could come. I decided on Thursday to do a puppy adoption theme, and was on the hunt yesterday for inexpensive stuffed dogs to use. I found tiny ones at the craft store and bought a variety of colors. Next, I decided what breed they looked like (labs, spaniels, beagles) and printed up a breed information sheet, with (real dog) photo and information like temperament, size, space requirements, life expectancy, etc. I laminated them (LOVE my laminator) and set them up on the porch.

When the girls arrived this afternoon, I had a foam cut-out craft for them to do, purchased months ago when I saw it at Ocean State Job Lot -- magnetic photo frames shaped like paw prints and doghouses. They did that as they arrived, and then I served hot dogs (of course) and "puppy chow" (a mixture of Cheerios, Kix, Chex, pretzels and popcorn) for lunch.

We then adjourned to the porch, where much oohing and aahing was heard (love that sound at a birthday party!) The girls quickly decided on their puppies. I then filled out an adoption certificate for each of them and took their photo with their pooch. Then I sent them off to the vet's office for a checkup (Brian and Timmy, with their toy doctor kit) and then to the grooming salon (self-serve with Abby's pet grooming toys.)
Then it was time for the girls to make collars and leashes for their puppies. I had already measured, cut and knotted beading string, so I got out the beads for them and they quickly got to work making jeweled collars and leashes for their pets. When they were all done, I suggested they go outside to the "dog park" (just our back yard) for a while, which they did readily on this beautiful day. Meanwhile, I downloaded, cropped, cut out and laminated each girl's photo with her puppy and taped them onto the picture frames they'd made.

Then it was time for cake. I had been planning on doing a dog bone-shaped cake for Abby, but then decided on pawprint cupcakes. I made them with a peppermint patty candy and three upside-down chocolate chips. The girls loved them!

After that, it was presents and goodie bag time. I like to use the paper shopping-bag style goodie bags, and had found sparkly bone stickers, so I decorated the bags with those. Inside the bags I put the girls' breed fact sheets, the adoption certificates and a Ziploc bag of "puppy chow." I had wanted to stick their frames in there, too, but they'd used glitter glue on them, which wasn't dry yet, so I left them out on paper plates for them to take home. And, of course, the girls also took home their puppies, collars and leashes.

It was a great success, very easy, quite inexpensive and a lot of fun, as you can see by the smiles on the girls' faces, below.

Baseball dictionary

Today's Milton Musings column is a local guide to baseball jargon. Enjoy!

And remember: a week from tonight is my duo recital with my sister. Hope you can come!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Recital Preview: Fashion Edition

I should be writing a column, but I'm just so excited that I have to get this out of my system, first.

You know how I'm doing a recital with my sister next weekend, right? You might have gathered from my blog post on the subject that I was searching for something to wear. Chris will look fabulous -- she always does -- but since I basically dropped out of the public eye as I focused more on teaching and writing over the past several years, I haven't updated my wardrobe with "singer clothes" in quite a while. Plus there's the little issue of being a couple sizes bigger than I used to be. But I digress.

Anyway -- I was gearing up for a dreaded visit to South Shore Plaza for a new frock when I decided I'd better look in the one closet where I used to keep my singing gowns, just in case. And I found a gown I bought a few years ago, for when I sang my one and only Elijah with the Quincy Choral Society in 2006. (I have fond memories of practicing "Hear ye, Israel" while walking around the living room with 8-month-old Timmy in my arms.)

I took the gown off the hanger and lo and behold, it fit! There isn't room for much of anything else in there with me, but that's OK. It zips, it looks good, and it saved me from going shopping, which is the best part of all.

I've lost almost 15 pounds since April, and as I said to Earl last night, it's a good thing I started SparkPeople when I did. Otherwise I'd be searching for a parking place at the Plaza right now.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sisters in Song

What are you doing on the evening of Saturday, August 14?

No plans? Well, come for a song!

My sister and I are putting on a recital of show tunes. The fabulous Timothy Steele will play piano. Assuming I find something appropriate to wear, it should be a good time!

The details:

Sisters in Song
Chris Faulkner and Julie Fay, sopranos
Music of Sondheim, Gershwin, Porter and Rodgers & Hammerstein

Saturday, August 14
7:30 p.m.
First Parish in Milton
535 Canton Avenue
Milton, MA 02186

Free. Yes, of course we'll accept donations to help with expenses, but really, just come for the music. I haven't done a recital since I was pregnant with Abby...and since she's turning 9 on August 8, that means it's been a while. It's time. So come.

Hope to see you there.