Monthly Archives: May 2014

viola

The Concert

My dog did not eat my son’s homework; instead she ate his tie for the concert.  Being a natural girl, she preferred the silky, designer, light blue accessory to a white, wrinkled piece of paper with the scribbles that you would need a magnifying glass and strong decoding skills to read.   Who can blame her?  She was home by herself with the bright toy positioned on the dinning chair right in front of her face.   It looked too delicious to be ignored.  She attacked it with the vengeance, so that by the time my husband came home only the half of it was left.

A few weeks before the concert my son’s conscience usually starts telling him that maybe it’s the time to start practicing.   He knows that it is the right, but very hard thing to do.   He had a very busy schedule, especially during the week, but pledged to spend a half hour Friday to Sunday working on these “fast notes” he was having trouble with.

He is also being eaten by guilt that we spent money on buying the viola based on his intention of practicing on the regular basis; but 8 months into the school year it is still gathering dust under the table in his room.    He practiced only once in this period of time, but it was enough to establish that he did not like how this viola sounded; the quality of the instrument was poor; he could not sustain his plans for practicing and, therefore, without further a due, the viola should be returned, so that at least part of the money could be recouped.   I debated that if he started practicing, the money would become well spent; plus considering that he wanted to continue the orchestra next year it made no sense to return it…  Finally, I agreed to ask about a trade-off while visiting Sam-Ash to replace the A string he broke during his only practice.   After staying in line for longer that his the one and the only practice lasted, and paying $7.50 for the new string (the work was covered by a warranty we purchased anticipating a lot of broken strings due to heavy use of an instrument) we were promised half the price if returned at the end of school year.  My son is thinking about it.

Now that we were clear on the viola situation and the practicing schedule, we could move on to the wardrobe.  The music teacher wanted to stay with the black pants and shoes, but to go “springy” on the top.   She never did it before, and in her own words “was using this year’s orchestra as the guinea pigs” to test how “the rainbow” musicians would look on stage.   The visit to the mall became unavoidable.

Looking for the shirt I asked neatly –dressed, ready-to-help salesmen to measure my son’s neck.     Panicking, realizing that he had nowhere to run, he gave me a killer look, virtually asking me if I was nuts.   Never shopping for the formal clothes before, he did not know that the shirt sizes go by the neck size and the sleeves length, that to look sharp the clothes should be fitted, and kept on the hanger in the closet, that the shoes should be polished, and the belt should match the shoes.  It also would not hurt to shave and to comb the hair.  Can I also throw in ironing and tying a tie, or am I asking for too much? There are certain situations, in which looking like a shmuck is not appropriate, and the concert is one of them.

Settling on the lavender shirt, picking the “right” tie was proven to be particularly difficult.  It was supposed to be plain, in a nice, bright color, and to match the shirt.   Plain meaning plain.  Even if there is some tiny line hardly detectable by a powerful microscope it is not plain.  All the final choices came with the price that even after a discount was still too high.  I don’t know why the ties cost more than a shirt or a pair of pants; what makes them so valuable. And they are way too expensive if consumed as a gourmet dog food.

While I was dropping my son off at school an hour before the concert the school called to inform us that there was a power outage and the concert might be canceled.  They would call a half hour before the concert to let us know.    Nobody called.  We went to the concert.  It was cancelled.  Rescheduled to the next day.  That was how the concert tie ended up on the dining chair.  What was the point to put it in the closet to be taken out again the next day?

The concert was a success in my opinion, sucked in my son’s.   I especially liked “The Sweet Child O’Mine” (Guns N’Roses) performed by combined 9th and 12th grade orchestras at the end.  He said that some people in the audience did not even realize what song was being played.   He did not play some of the fast notes altogether, trying to minimize the damage to the overall performance done by his horrible playing.  However, the pieces they did were way more difficult than last year’s, therefore, comparing to last year he improved drastically.  Mazel Tov.

Umbrellas by Kathryn Trotter

“Trotter’s style would be considered to be an impressionistic, “impasto” style of painting.  She claims that after experimenting with many different styles over the years and enduring the artistic struggle to figure out what expresses her truest self, she has settled into her love for the palette knife.  The layering effect of thick paint coupled with the intentional pairing of colors that compliment brings excitement and energy to her work. ”  from www.kathryntrotterart.com

kathryn morris.resizeKathryn Morris Trotter - American Impressionist Knife painter - Dancing in the Rain - Tutt'Art@ (36)Kathryn Morris Trotter - American Impressionist Knife painter - Dancing in the Rain - Tutt'Art@ (6)

Sleep

My son is finally asleep.  Turned to the wall with his nose dipped in the pillow, he is half covered.     I feel a sudden urge to wrap his naked back and green boxers in the blanket, to smell his hair, to kiss his soft cheek, but I am afraid of waking him up.

The road to sleep is long and thorny.   It has always been like that.  In any age.   When my older son was little, he wanted me to stay in the room until he fell asleep.   When his eyes were at long last closed for a while and he started to snore, I knew it was time to make a move.  Trying not to breath, I would carefully close my book, and slowly get up from the chair.  I prayed that the carpet would not screech when I step on it.   It took some planning to tiptoe out of the room without making a single noise, not touching anything, not making a chair squeak.  But the minute I finally got to the door, silently high-fiving myself in my mind, I would hear: “Where are you going?  I am not sleeping yet.”   Then there were two options – to leave the room and let him scream for another hour or more, or to come back to the original position and attempt another escape in 5-10 minutes.  Quite a few times I fell asleep and woke up in the middle of the night, just to get undressed and go back to bed.  I made sure all of the essential tasks were done before his bedtime in case I fall asleep or get too relaxed to move on.   I knew it was wrong and counterproductive.  You suppose to tack your child in, say good night and leave the room to come back in the morning. I knew I was sending my kid the wrong message, spoiling him and causing potential long-term psychological problems.  He is supposed to learn to self-sooth and not be dependent on his parent.  But I also liked to relax at the end of the day, didn’t like to hear him screaming for an hour, and simply wanted to be near him for a bit longer.

Knowing that I should do housework and/or spent time with my husband after my child goes to bed rather than “wasting” my time sitting idly in the kid’s room raising a cry-baby, I wanted to change this dynamic.  I tried different approaches as advised by various experts in the field:  crying out, leaving the room for a few minutes with a promise to come back, bribing, motivational speeches, bed-time stories.   None of it worked as promised.   The crying would not stop till after midnight, nor would it become shorter in the upcoming days; fairy tales would be read until I lose my voice, bribes would never be worth the effort.  Overall, the falling asleep would last even longer than before, except now I was much more tired and aggravated, getting an alarming thoughts of hitting my head against the wall with my bright-red blood splashing all over, blaming God for failing me at the time of need, killing a random stranger for no apparent reason, or hitting my husband, because he was the only one nearby.   My toddler clearly had much more perseverance and determination than I did.  Somehow I gave birth to a super human, who was never tired or sleepy.  The problem went away when we stopped trying.  Luckily, in spite of my selfish parenting, he can sleep on his own for the past 11 years, and is a self-sufficient and a self-reliant person.

Last summer my 8-year-old saw something on the U-tube and was scared to sleep by himself in his room.  This time I was determined not to give in.  But I did.  He was terrified, even though there was nothing scary in the clip that he watched.  He was hysterical, shaking in fear, begging not to leave him alone.  My heart was breaking; what kind of mother I was to let my child suffer like that, to abandon him when he needed me so desperately.  I set in his room reading an iPad until he fell asleep, wondering if I was falling into the same trap all over again.

Again I referred to an experts’ advice.  They suggested to move out of the room slowly, and gradually to move out of his sight.  That way the child would feel secure, while learning to sleep on his own.  The next day we agreed that I would sit in the hallway, but he would still see me.  Over the next few months I kept moving further and further away from his room.  I sat on the carpeted floor with a pillow behind my back to make me more comfortable, reading my book, sometimes sipping my tea or snacking on the fruit, wondering if I went completely insane.  Other normal parents would not even think of doing something like that. They are getting stressed and over-worked, and then complain about how hard their lives are and write books about it.  So, they tack their “good sleepers” in, say good night and ran to do all of the gazillion things that need to be done after the children are in bed.   And here I am- a mother with a full-time job, a house, two kids, no help from anybody, sitting in the hallway waiting for the fourth grader to fall asleep.    I am either lazy or insane, or both at the same time.

When at last I came out of his sight, he kept asking me every minute or two if I was still in “my spot”.  I would say:”Yes.  Stop asking me!”, only to be asked again the moments later.  I finally moved to the arm-chair in the living room.    It was comfy and soft, and I could watch TV from it. 

Then there was a relapse, and we went back to square one.  Once, after I came back from work, I found him on the iPad in his bed.  Carefully removing the earphones, I laid next to him.  We snuggled and started to joke around about everything.  He asked me to tell him the story about how I was little.  I told him about the movie I watched about “the invisible man” when I was his age, and how scared I was to go to sleep.  How my parents left me to babysit my sister and I was paralyzed with fear waiting for him to break into my apartment, even though technically I could not see him, because he was invisible.  My parents were not around, and I had to find the way to calm myself down.  My older son screamed and demanded dinner, but we were too deep into the conversation.  Finally he gave up and joined in, telling us about his scares and how he fought them.

My fourth-grader confessed that he was afraid of a criminal getting into his room in the middle of the night and attacking him.  We discussed the probability of this happening.  His room was on the second floor, so the criminal would need to get through the door (which beeps due to the alarm), go up the stairs, and pass a few rooms without being noticed.  This is impossible.  But maybe he could use the ladder and come through the window.   My son tried to open the windows, but could not because they were locked.   Plus there was a light in the backyard, which had a motion sensor.  So as soon as somebody walks in the backyard, the light turns on.  It works of the solar panel, making it impossible to be turned off by a person.  Therefore, we established without a reasonable doubt that, number one nobody could get to the backyard unnoticed, number two getting to his room that way was nearly impossible.  But he was still not convinced.   Even though one part of his brain was proving that his fears were baseless, the other part told him otherwise.  The other part was making his heart race, and his body shake in panic.  The other part was winning the fight.  I got back to spending my evenings on the floor in the hallway, scratching my head what to do next.

He was not allowed to watch anything on the internet, or play any even remotely violent video games; he had been reading before bed; we practiced breathing techniques and counting to relax and fall asleep faster.  Should I take him to the therapist?  I consider it a last resort, because, in my opinion, in dealing with the children “the wrong” therapist could do more harm than good.  What works for one child may be detrimental for the other.  But my son being dependent on my presence to fall asleep was not a solution either.

As usual the solution came out of the blue.  One day my son declared that he would feel safer if Maya (our dog) slept in his room.  She is very protective of her family, and if the stranger approaches our house starts barking uncontrollably.   She would make him feel secure and keep him company.  She could scare any criminal and make the intruder drop his hypothetical weapon and run for his life.  We moved Maya’s bed to my son’s room.   The going-to-bed routine has been expanded to him announcing “Maya sleep”, after which she proudly marches behind him to his room with her tail and ears up.   She proceeds to her bed, lies down and watches him while he reads.  If she tries to get up or barks, “the commander-in-chief” stops it instantly.

He still wants someone to sit in the chair in the living room, aka “the designated spot” once he announces that he is done with the reading and ready to go to sleep.   He would tell everyone good night and “are you in the spot” about 25 times.   But the overwhelming fear is gone, and he falls asleep in no time.  I pick in the room and see my two babies peacefully snoring.   Life is so simple when they are asleep.

The Storm

An excerpt from “Memories of my Melancholy Whores” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (my latest obsession)

At dusk I faced the rainstorm, whose hurricane-force winds threatened to blow down the house.  I suffered an attack of sneezing, my skull hurt, and I had a fever, but I felt possessed by a strength and determination I’d never had at any age or for any reason.  I put pots on the floor under the leaks and realized that new ones had appeared since the previous winter.  The largest had begun to flood the right side of the library.  I hurried to rescue the Greek and Latin authors who lived there, but when I removed the books I discovered a stream spurting at high pressure from a broken pipe along the bottom of the wall.  I did what I could to pack it with rags to give me time to save the books.  The deafening noise of the rain and the howling of the wind intensified in the park.  Then a phantasmal flash of lightning and a simultaneous clap of thunder saturated the air with a strong sulfur odor, the wind destroyed the balcony’s window panes, and the awful sea squall broke the locks and came inside the house.  And yet, in less than ten minutes, the sky cleared all at once.  A splendid sun dried the streets filled with stranded trash, and the heat returned.

When the storm had passed I still had the felling I was not alone in the house.  My only explanation is that just as real events are forgotten, some that never were can be in our memories as if they had happened.  For if I evoked the emergency of the rainstorm, I did not see myself alone in the house but always accompanied by Delgadina.  I had felt her so close during the night that I detected the sound of her breath in the bedroom and the throbbing of her cheek on my pillow.  It was the only way I could understand how we could have done so much in so short a time.  I remembered standing on the library footstool and I remembered her awake in her little flowered dress taking the books from me to put them in a safe place.  I saw her running from one end of the house to the other battling the storm, drenched with the rain and in water up to her ankles.  I remembered how the next day she prepared a breakfast that never was and set the table while I dried the floors and imposed order on the shipwreck of the house.  I never forgot her somber look as we were eating:  Why were you so old when we met?  I answered with the truth:  Age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel.

Rain

By Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

 I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can’t do a handstand–
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said–
I’m just not the same since there’s rain in my head