Friday, May 27, 2011

Find a Friend Friday!

One of my favorite bloggers is Steph over at Diapers and Divinity.  I'm pretty sure she is spying on my life with her posts most days.  With every post I find myself nodding, smiling, laughing, and being inspired by the topics she tackles.  She has a feature on Fridays where she spotlights a blogger, and today, it's me! 

Ta da!

So head on over to read my interview and learn more about me than you ever really wanted to know.  And stop and hang out there for awhile.  You'll love it, I promise.

And if you're visiting today for the first time, thanks for coming!  Pull up a chair and stay awhile.  You might have to throw some laundry on the floor to make room to sit down, but the Diet Coke is cold, the treats are plentiful, the company is good, and the kids are free to run wild.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is it worth it?

A few months back, I got this comment on my second ever blog post:

I know this is an old post but I just found your blog searching for Suzuki violin mom blogs. I was reading this post and heard all the same questions I constantly ask myself about how much to do for my 8yo talented violinist. It is really difficult balancing all the kids' activities, time, and resources. Just wondering, now, a couple years later, what your thoughts are?

This question has been bouncing around in my brain ever since. 

When I wrote that original post, Abby was mid-way through Suzuki Violin Book 3, we had just moved, started with a brand new teacher, and I had one tiny medically needy baby.  Now, two and a half years later, Abby is a lesson away from starting Suzuki Violin Book 6, a member of her teacher's advanced performing group, Rocky Mountain Strings, and we have a nearly eight year old, a crazy toddler and a baby.  In short, things have only gotten more intense.

This has been a huge year for Abby.  I don't think either of us realized the time and energy committment that RMS would require.  Along with all of her regular scales, excercises, etudes and Suzuki pieces, she learned, polished and memorized 12 or so pieces for RMS, as well as another 8 or so for her teacher's Book 3-5 group. 

We were in Salt Lake for lessons and group rehearsals at least six times a month, each trip a minimum three hour committment, often much longer.  Because Max is two, and way too energetic to sit through an hour long lesson without destroying our teacher's studio, and Ashlynn is too cool for anything relating to violin, each trip to Salt Lake meant a babysitter.  I traded discounts on violin lessons for my students for babysitting on lesson and group days, which helped, but the lessons, driving, babysitting, instrument maintenance, music, and the inevitable meals out after a late rehearsal took an enormous toll on our budget. 

It's been an up and down year as far as practicing has gone too.  Abby's nine.  She's good at it.   She's full of pre-teen emotions, mood swings and unpredictability.  I feel for her, I really do.  I remember being that age vividly, crying at the drop of a hat for no reason, feeling like the whole world was against me, and no one was asking me to play incredibly advanced violin music!  There were mornings that things went really well and we made a lot of progress, and there were mornings that weren't so great.  To be perfectly honest, there were lots of mornings when I would stand on our middle floor, listening to Abby practicing scales upstairs and Ashlynn practicing piano downstairs, and think "I don't even like music.  Why are we doing this?"

A lot of mornings we struggled to work together.  Really, our story isn't unique.  Abby likes the violin, but hates practicing every day, especially when there are so many more things she could be doing that are more interesting.  She wants me to practice with her, and does much better when I can sit with her while she practices, but our busy household doesn't always allow for that.  And then when I do sit with her, she gets annoyed with every suggestion I make, and then I get annoyed that she's not grateful that I'm there helping her.  None of this is helped by the fact that practicing is supposed to start at 7 am and last for an hour and a half at which time she has to leave for school!

Much of the RMS music this year was incredibly difficult.  Her teacher handed us a "West Side Story" medley that was composed specifically for her group, and I was incredulous.  There was no way Abby was going to be able to learn that.  Then her teacher said we had a month, and I thought her teacher was crazy.  Turns out, we can do incredible things under pressure.  In March, her teacher handed Abby the 1st violin part to another crazy hard piece.  I looked at it and realized that I wouldn't have been able to play it without some diligent practicing.  That time, we had three weeks to get it learned and memorized, and it nearly killed all of us.

There have been lots of tears this year, hers and mine.  Lots of times where I asked myself if it was worth it.  There were a few times where my husband and I wondered if we really should throw in the towel and let her quit.  And I'd be lying if I said there weren't times when I resented it.  Resented the time, the travel, the energy, the obscene amount of money, and all the times the entire family had to be rearranged to accomodate a rehearsal, a lesson, or a performance.  Resented that we were making all these financial and time sacrifices and she didn't even seem to appreciate them.  (In retrospect, she's nine years old!  What did I expect her to do?  Fall at my feet crying with gratitude?)

So why have we done it?  Why have we gone to such great lengths?  Is it worth it?

Yes.  Despite the tears, the struggles, the fights, the yelling, and the wondering if she's ever going to hold her bow correctly.

I've watched Abby grow so much this year.  She's turning into a sensitive, capapble musician.  She's an incredible note reader, a great leader, and very confident in her skills.  She's learned so much about taking a huge project and breaking it down into managable chunks.  She has gained so much confidence.

And she loves RMS.  Loves it.  There's something so special for her about being a part of a group and making music together.  She's one of the youngest kids in there, and idolizes the older girls and has a "secret" crush on one or two of the older boys.  She has made fast friends with three of the other girls that are all with the same teacher and around the same level, and it's so fun to see the four of them giggling together.

Abby with her friends E, N, and A.  These four are inseperable!

  Abby was really in her element during the overnight concert tour a few weeks ago- it reminded me of all the fun memories I made touring with my music groups in High School. 

Her final RMS concert of the year was last week.  She was glowing, beaming with excitement.  Along with Tom, Ashlynn, Ian and I, (we left Max with a babysitter because, well, if an hour lesson is torture, an hour and a half concert would be suicide!) my parents, one of their friends, and my brother were all there cheering her on.  She loved it, the audience all loved it, and I bawled.  Through almost the whole thing.  I knew every note of every one of Abby's parts, but hearing her play as part of the group, and seeing her smiles of satisfaction was so fulfilling.   

So yes, it's worth it.  The endless driving, the fast food, the late nights, the practice struggles, the money.  It's damn hard.  But it's worth it to see my little girl turn from someone who takes violin lessons into a musician.  To see her have a place where she can fit in and belong.  To watch her find true joy in performing.   It's worth it.  Even at 7 am. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Learn something new every day

I planned a profound, educational, wisdom-filled post for today.  Honest.

Unfortunately, today kicked my butt.

By 11:00 am, I had already practiced with two kids of my own, taught four violin lessons, (two of them to four year olds!) and made lunch.  Still on the agenda?  Well child check ups for the boys, Abby's school talent show, and three more violin lessons.

I'm exhausted.  I should be in bed.
But right now, at 10:25 pm, I'm basking in my very first "me-time" of the entire day.  You know, the first time where I'm actually sitting by myself, with no little people (or husbands!) clinging to me, talking to me, pooping on me, or needing something from me. 

And I'm enjoying it very much.

But despite its busy-ness, today was actually very educational.  For example, I learned that:

~Seven violin lessons in one day is far too many.  Especially if three of those seven are four year old violin students.

~You might need a violin if you're planning to play it in the school talent show.  Go figure, right?

~And duh, it's always Mom's job to take care of things like that.

~There are at least two coats, and probably many more, that belong to us in the school's lost and found.

~My Baby Ian weighs in at 18 lbs 2 oz at the ripe old age of six months.  I always get unreasonably proud when I look at his chubby thighs, because I did that.  I created and nourished every bit of that.

~My boys have impeccable timing.  Ian pooped all over everything right before we entered the doctor's office.  Yes, I'm the good mom that brought the kid to the pediatrician with the exploding diaper.  And then Ian barfed on the pediatrician right before Max proceeded to fill his diaper.  All in a day's work.

~And possibly most importantly, I learned that if I ignore and neglect the overflowing basket of dirty laundry long enough, my husband will haul it all downstairs and start a load for me, without being asked.   Don't try this at home.  Your mileage may vary.

There.  Now that I've quite literally aired my dirty laundry, don't you feel better about the state of your life.  You're welcome.  Consider it my public service for the night.  I'll be back with something intelligent tomorrow.  I promise.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I could probably find the kitchen sink if I looked hard enough

So I lost my wallet.

Not my purse, just my wallet.  And I turned my house upside down looking for it.  Here's the funny thing- my house was actually clean from top to bottom, so it wasn't hiding under piles of shoes, backpacks, dirty clothes or anything else that piles up at my house.

And unlike the other day when my nine year old thought it would be funny to hide the car keys, throwing me into a tearful panic, and leaving me no option except to call the school in desperation, hoping against hope that she had seen the keys when she cleaned the basement, (Do you have any idea what an inept mom I felt like calling the elementary school to talk to my third grader to ask if she'd seen my keys?  Yeah, it was a special motherhood moment.  Except then she had seen them, and had HID THEM, and I felt all kinds of vindicated!) neither one of my girls had seen my wallet.

And then I found it.  Want to hear the bad part?  It was in my purse.  Right where it belongs. 

Want to know why I couldn't find it?

Because it was buried amongst:

~Approximately 40 coupons.  (Someday, I'm determined I'm going to save real, live money using coupons.  It would probably help if I actually removed them from of my purse...)

~3 diapers.  (Yes, they were clean.)

~Two grocery store receipts.

~One brand new pair of toddler socks.  (I don't think I even remember buying those, let alone stashing them in my purse...)

~One small, plastic, inflatable ball.  (Don't knock it.  It was given to Max once when we had Ian in the clinic to be suctioned.  That little ball has entertained all of us at many a doctor visit.)

~Three McDonald's Happy Meal toys.  (I have no idea how those got in there.  Honest.)

~An unactivated Gymboree frequent customer card.

~One matchbox car

~4 Jolly Ranchers.  (How long have those been in there?)

~One of Max's t-shirts.  (If I looked long enough, I probably could have found the rest of his wardrobe!)

and here's the kicker:

~A cord and sensor to a pulse-ox machine. 

There's actually a story behind that one.  Last time we were at the hospital with Max, the very nice Respiratory Therapist, (who I now know by name and who recognized us when we saw her around town last weekend,) offered to let us keep the pulse-ox cord and the attatched sensor.  I looked at her strangely until she mentioned that they would just have to throw it away if we didn't take it with us, and if we brought it with us the next time we were in the hospital, it would save us about $60 or so. 

That's right, folks, all of our hospitalizations from now on will be BYOPOE: Bring Your Own Pulse Ox  Equpment  They might get away with charging us obscene amounts of money just for breathing air in the ER, they might bill our insurance $5 for every pediatric dose of Advil, but we're one step ahead of them.  We're bring our own disposable medical supplies! That's us.  Beating the system every way we can. 

(And how ridiculous is it that I'm actually saving it, because knowing us, it will probably end up saving us money in the not-too-distant future! I can't wait to see the look on the Doctor's face when he or she starts to hook up whichever child is in crisis, and I make them wait while I rummage through my magic purse and produce my own cord.  It will be very funny.  Or at least it is in my head.)

I bet you're jealous that you don't have any major medical equipment in your purse.

And I bet you're thinking I should clean out my purse.  You're probably right.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What a difference four kids makes

Kid #1: You dutifully wait until six months on the dot.  You buy a box of rice cereal, mix it with some breastmilk, sit the baby in the brand new highchair, put on the bib that matches her outfit, and feed her a few spoonfuls of rice cereal, documenting the glorius milestone with 329 pictures.

Kid #4: You decide, when your baby is almost six months, that you are way too embarrased to admit that your baby's first solid food may or may not have been a french fry stolen from you, or a taste of ice cream that he face planted into when he wanted to know what was so yummy.  You plop him down in the highchair, (by now covered with the fossilzed remains of three other children,) grab a ripe banana from the counter, and feed him a few mushy spoonfuls, remembering only at the very end to capture his "Mom, are you trying to kill me?" looks with your phone's camera. 
Not so sure about this.

Nope, not gonna do it. 

Just give me the french fries and ice cream instead!

Monday, May 9, 2011

To my kids, in honor of Mother's Day

Dear Abby~

You made me a mom for the first time.  You taught me what unconditional love meant as I held you, nursed you, rocked you and paced the floor for hours on end.  You taught me to slow down- that afternoons spent nursing, rocking, reading, and napping were more important than anything else.  You taught me to parent with my gut, because you had no intention of following a schedule, a routine, or some child raising manual that you had never seen.  You've put up with me as we've stumbled through this first-time parenting/first child gig together.  I've watched you grow as a musician, friend, sibling, and I'm so proud of how much you want to do what's right and how you work to please everyone.  You have so much love and happiness in your heart, and I'm so proud of the person you're becoming.

Dear Ashylnn~

From the suprise positive pregnancy test, to your surpise entrance into this world on the side of the freeway, you've always kept us on our toes.  When you were a baby, you helped teach me how to manage with less sleep, energy and patience than I thought I could.  You help us to laugh, and see how beautiful the little thigns are. You're quick to throw your arms around us when we're sad or frustrated, and you're so full of love.  One of my favorite parts of being a mom are the love notes, cards and drawings that you leave in unexpected places.  Just this morning, you told me how much you love surprising people and making them happy, and I see that everyday.  You are so talented and will make many people happy in your life. 

Dear Max~

You are my miracle son, in so many ways.  Just when I thought that I was done having children and my life was complete, you came along and taught me how much I was missing.  I was terrified to have a son, worried that I would damage you for life, but now I spend my days tripping over balls of all shapes, sizes and varieties, and wondering what I was so afraid of.  Because of you, I can speak medical-ease with the best of them, and have had more than one doctor question if I have a medical background. Putting you through two extensive surgeries was the hardest thing I've ever done as a parent, and I still get teary-eyed thinking about it, but I look at you and know that we made the right choice.  You make us laugh everyday; you've taught me not to take myself or any one situation too seriously.  You are charming, observant, loving.  We can't wait to see the man that you grow up to become.  

Dear Ian~

Oh my sweet baby, you have taught me that sometimes the sweetest blessings come at the most unexected times.  We had no idea how much our family needed you until you were here, and now we are whole; complete.  You are the easiest baby that I've ever known, and your grins and giggle melt the hearts of everyone around you.  I love the way your face lights up and your whole body wiggles when you see me- it never fails to make me smile, no matter how difficult the night has been.  I love curling up to your little body at night.  I love nourishing you with my milk, and the special time we are able to share together.  I promised myself I would cherish your babyhood, and it's all going by much too fast.  Can you stay little?  Just for a while?

My dear children, I am so blessed to be your mother.  Even when I'm elbow deep in poopy diapers.  Even when I yell.  Even when I trip over two of you trying to cook dinner in our tiny kitchen.  Thanks for teaching me, for changing me.  For making me a mother. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

And for more fun...

Guess who else has strep? 

The five month old baby.


I think I'm going to go crawl under a rock and hide for the next few weeks.

That, and start a savings account for when Ian needs his tonsils out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

There must be opposition in all things

Remember how Sunday was my birthday?  And it was wonderful and peaceful and relaxing and everything I needed it to be?

Well, what I didn't tell you is that Max had been brewing a fever since Friday afternoon. 

So Sunday night, when his fever spiked somewhere between Death Valley in August and African desert, I decided that it was time for a trip to our pediatrician.

He slept in until 9 am Monday morning.  That right there was enough to tell me how sick he really was, because never in my whole parenting career have any of my children slept until 9 am.  And then he woke up. 

And then the whole neighborhood could tell that he was awake because he started to s.c.r.e.a.m.  And scream.  And scream.  And he didn't stop screaming until about 5 minutes before we got to the doctor's office.

I have to confess to being more than a little worried.  I had wrapped him in a blanket and he was visibly shaking, his face was grayish, and then he started screaming again.  Turns out, there was a positive side to all the screaming.  Even if your doctor's office calls when you're on the way to tell you they're double booked, they tend to get you right in when your child is making enough noise to wake the dead.

So despite having ear tubes, the doctor discovered that Max has an ear infection.  The sweet pediatrician was ready to wrap her diagnosis into a neat and tidy bow when I asked her to swab Max's throat for strep.  "You know," she replied, "Kids this young don't usually get strep." 

That's when I told her that the baby had gotten strep when he was the ripe old age of two months.  And when she swabbed Max's throat, it was an unmistakable positive for strep.  Then I mentioned that he hadn't had a wet diaper in almost 12 hours, and that got us a do-not-pass-go pass to the Park City Hospital for IV hydration. 

It also forced me to make yet another series of my favorite phone calls ever.  First to my husband: "Hi honey, can you meet me in the ER so I don't have to hold two screaming babies at once?"  and then to a series of violin students: "Hi (insert name of violin student here), my son is headed to the ER, can we reschedule your lesson?"

I told Max we were headed to the hospital to help him feel better.  His response?  "No hopistal today."  If he hadn't been so sad, the mispronunciation would have been cute.

We got to the hospital, and I started  checking Max in, and he started begging Tom for water.  Tom got him a water bottle and he promptly guzzled half of it.  They got us back to a room, assesed his vitals, and watched him drink some more water and down a pedialyte popscicle like it was the best thing ever.  We raised our eyebrows at each other and asked the nurse if we could avoid turning the two year old into a human pincushion (last time we went down this road it took them 7 sticks with a needle to finally get the IV inserted.) as long as he kept drinking.  She agreed, gave us 20 minutes to have him produce a wet diaper, and turned on Elmo's world for Max.

Twenty minutes and one wet diaper later, we were very gratefully on our way home.

I thought we were done.  A few doses of antibiotics, a little bottle of ear drops and we'd be good as new, right?

Ha!  Did I forget who I was dealing with?

I went to give him his second dose of medicine tonight to find a rash all over his little body.  Of course it was 5 minutes after his pediatricians closed for the night, so I got to speak with the very nice pediatrician on call, who was neither our pediatrician nor the one we saw yesterday, (and what does it say about us that I have the on-call number for our pediatricians programmed into my phone?) and she told me that it was probably an allergic reaction to the antibiotics and that I should bring him in tomorrow to be checked and to get him a new prescription.  Joy.

Did I mention that my husband is out of town again today?  At least this time, Max had the courtesy to land himself in the ER while my husband was in the same state.

So tonight, Max got a dose of ibuprofen.  Ian, who cut his first tooth today, got a dose of tylenol.  I consumed massive amounts of chocolate.   Here's hoping we get at least a little bit of sleep.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's my party

And I'll sleep if I want to.

Or stay in my pajamas all day and eat chocolate.

Or make my husband do all the cooking and my kids all the cleanup.

You know how when you're a grown up, birthdays never seem as exciting as they did when you were a kid? 

Well, since I spent the weekend hauling all over Utah in a bus with 40 violinists and my baby, the above mentioned activities sound like a grand old time to me.   It was a great weekend- I enjoyed myself more than I thought I would- but I'm thinking Baby Ian has the right idea by insisting on sleeping the day away.

But anything beats my birthday two years ago, when Max was going in for his first, and ultimately unsuccessful cranio surgery.

So today, I'm relishing in my pajamas, my (multiple) naps,my novel, my chocolate, and the presents that are waiting for me.  Besides, I think I might be getting too old to handle much excitement anyway.
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