Friday, January 31, 2014

five on friday: what i am not doing right now

5 Things I Should Be Doing Right Now:

1. Practicing. I have some difficult spots to work out on the music for grad auditions next weekend.

2. Folding laundry. Always.

3. Writing to my reps in the state legislature about Special Needs Vouchers and why they are a terrible idea and bad for public education in Wisconsin.

4. Making dinner, because while my family is eating it I will be in a rehearsal, so it has to get done way ahead of time.

5. Scrubbing the toilets, because you know. Toilets need scrubbing from time to time.

5 Things I Would Rather Be Doing Right Now:

1. Planning a vacation somewhere warm and sunny.

2. On vacation somewhere warm and sunny.

3. Having tea with another grown-up person and chatting about something other than who's sick and what housework needs to be done.

4. Knitting.

5. Yoga.

5 Things I Actually Got Done Today:

1. WALKED BOTH KIDS TO SCHOOL. This hasn't happened in over 2 weeks.

2. Ran four miles. It's been 11 days, so it hurt a little bit, but it hurt gooooood.

3. Laundry. I just haven't folded it (see above).

4. Thought about practicing.

5. Thought about scrubbing toilets.

It's not nothing, right?

Monday, January 27, 2014

hot lunch

My kids love school lunch. When did that happen, I ask you?

I remember school lunch from my youth. It was awful. Tater tot casserole with mushy beans, anyone?At least one a week we had hexagonal pizza and corn and it made my stomach hurt. Everyone complained about school lunch. And the lunch ladies were so mean. I have a strong memory from 4th grade of an African-American kid named Stephen who started whistling in the cafeteria and the meanest lunch lady of all started screaming at him while 100 kids stared in silence and horror-struck awe as she verbally abused him before sending him to the principal.

Fast forward to now, when my kids are in elementary school. I look at the brightly colored menu that comes home every month and cringe at what's being offered, while also acknowledging that it's better than what was served at my school. Is ketchup still a vegetable, according to the U.S. Congress? I'm not even sure, but Madison schools are at least a step above that policy. Still, the nutritional content and source of all the meat they serve is questionable according to my standards.

You know what, though? My standards don't matter a whole lot. Because I gave up about halfway through Daniel's kindergarten year, or maybe it was early in first grade, when he was suddenly willing to try all kinds of new foods thanks to the wonderfully diverse school lunch menu and I figured what the hell, more than half the kids who attend public school in this city eat this food every single day because they have no choice (free/reduced lunch) and they are better off for it.

You choose your battles, you know? It's hard enough getting my kids to try new things. It would be so easy to be a total control freak about what they eat, and that is not a path I want to go down. Plus there's the whole thing where I don't want to be such an elitist, such a food snob, that what is apparently good enough for more than 10,000 kids isn't good enough for mine.

So it's a combination of white liberal guilt and the desire not to be a control freak that steered me toward the decision to let my kids have school lunch whenever they want it. Plus, it's so much more convenient than adding the chore of packing lunches to the craziness of our morning routine. (Really, I'm just lazy.)

What does it say, though, when they like what they had at school so much that they request it at home? Today's menu featured "build your own pepperoni pizza," which means they give you a bun (whole-grain!) with tomato sauce, pepperoni and cheese, but don't bother to heat it up or anything - AND MY KIDS LOVE IT. Anya just asked me if we could have it for supper sometime please please please and then spent ten minutes explaining to me just exactly how to make it in case I fall short of the school district's standards in my replication at home.

You can't win everything, huh?

Friday, January 24, 2014

five on friday: random

1. It's so cold here this winter that we celebrate when the thermometer hits double digits. Even when the wind is gusting 30mph. It could get cold enough next week that they'll have to cancel school again.

2. Canceling school here is mind-blowing. They don't do it unless we have an overnight blizzard that dumps a foot or more of snow, or if the windchill is -35F or colder.

3. As far as I'm concerned, they might as well cancel school because Daniel has the flu and doesn't look to be getting better any time soon.

4. So what am I going to do about the six (6!) rehearsals I scheduled here over the weekend? I have no fucking idea. I am decently prepared, actually, thanks to relegating sick people to the basement to watch TV so I can cram-practice. I just don't know how I can invite all these people to come into my pigsty of a house with germs EVERYWHERE and say, "Yes! Let's make some music together!!"

5. It's been a long week.

(Yeah, being a SAHM is such a luxury.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Last night in a fit of insomnia I was online and stumbled across an article about one of those charts that appears every so often when someone sticks his head up his ass (or hers, but probably not) and tries to assign a monetary value to the job of being a SAHM. This particular one figured on a salary of $113K for the average SAHM, and this was based on the professional equivalent of the various tasks performed throughout the day, things like "CEO of the household" (presumably because the SAHM tells everyone what to do?), "chef," "chauffeur," "nurse," and so forth. It even included "psychologist," I suppose based on the assumption that a SAHM provides emotional support to her children. Stay-at-home-dads were not part of this chart because apparently they aren't relevant? Don't really exist? Or something.

These charts are at best well-intended and at worst patronizing.

(I'm not providing a link here, by the way, because I think the whole thing was up as a cheap shot just to get more traffic on this particular site and I don't want to encourage more of that. I found the comment thread particularly upsetting. Ever since Justin Bieber got that DUI it's old news anyway!)

The writer of the article in question, which was responding to the chart, argued that the comparisons are in no way fair because the professional counterpart to most of those things requires years of training, and in some cases, advanced degrees. I'm not going to argue with that. I cook dinner every night, but there is no way that makes me the same as a professional chef. I can put on a band-aid and give my kids Tylenol, but that is a far cry from being a certified nurse; if I tried to draw blood from anyone I would probably faint dead away before getting too far. And as for psychologist? If my kid needed actual psychological help, you can bet I'll be taking him or her to an actual psychologist with actual qualifications, not just sitting down on the couch with some hot cocoa and saying, "There, there. Tell me all about it."

It's not that I disagreed entirely with what the author wrote about drawing unfair comparisons with the day-to-day job of parenting and highly skilled professions. But I still felt totally shitty after reading it. I think this is because both the chart and the author's reaction to it totally missed the point.

Parenting is a helluva lot of work and totally draining, both physically and emotionally. It pays nothing. Everyone (parents and non-parents alike) seems to have an judgement opinion on the right and wrong way to do it. And those chores that anyone who isn't a slob or doesn't have maid service has to take care of, like laundry and cooking and cleaning and calling the plumber when the water heater kicks the bucket are all magnified by about 100 when you add children to the household.

Here is my point: All of this is true whether you spend some hours of the week in a wage-earning job or not. 

So let's stop baiting people in these polarizing arguments, shall we? Most of us parents are doing our best, whether we work for wages or not. A good many of us are somewhere in between, entering/leaving the workforce as it becomes appropriate in our lives as parents, or working part time to try and earn some grocery money while we manage all that chef-ing and chauffeuring that has to happen, whether we're professionally trained to do so or not.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Any musician will tell you that the worst thing you can do for your reputation is be a no-show. The second worst thing you can do is show up unprepared.

The only time ever I spaced on a rehearsal and just didn't show up without telling anyone was when I had just learned I was going to have a miscarriage. I wasn't about to tell the conductor what was wrong,  so I'm sure he just assumed I was a flake.

I haven't been unprepared very many times, but believe you me, it's not something I ever care to repeat.

The problem, though, with being a freelance musician with a family, at least a young family, is that everything goes to hell when your schedule, which is precarious to begin with, falls apart because school is canceled or someone gets sick. This has been one of those weeks that I have spent most of my time taking care of people instead of preparing music for various auditions and performances that are coming up alarmingly soon. A particularly tenacious virus is making the rounds in my house, so the past week I've been doing what needs to be done around here instead of what I need to do and my patience is wearing very, very thin.

I caught the bug, too, though not as bad as my husband and son (still waiting for Anya to succumb…) but did I get to lie in bed and on the couch and watch TV for hours on end? Did anyone fetch me water and snacks and Tylenol? Did I  get paid sick time for the hours and hours of work I missed? No indeed, I did not. Not for one minute.

The other problem with my particular line of work is that it's so time-sensitive. If I have to take a few days off to care for my family, it's not like I can push back an editing deadline or delay updating an Etsy shop for a few days. No, I have been hired to play for specific events, including graduate auditions, and there are real people's potential futures on the line here. I can not afford to be unprepared, I just simply can not. Not only that, but practicing piano is not exactly work I can do after everyone has gone to bed, not in my small house.

So I'm feeling a little put-upon at the moment, and it's not really anyone's fault except maybe mine for trying to work in the first place.

Some things are just unfair.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

but it feels like monday

This has not been a banner day of parenting, folks. Just so you know. My husband has been bed-ridden with some kind of flu/plague/awfulness since Friday afternoon, so all weekend I've been flying solo with the kids and bringing him water and pills and whatever else he needs in an attempt to quarantine him and his cooties from the rest of us. That in and of itself I can handle, but on top of it I've just agreed to learn a pile of music in a short time for various auditions in the coming weeks, and I've been set back a bit, so I'm feeling stressed. If any of the rest of us catches this bug, my whole week is shot. Fingers crossed.

I'm long on housework and short on patience. I have not been at my best, is what I'm saying. I'm fortunate that Stuart isn't the type to get all whiny and pathetic when he's sick, unlike most of the rest of us. But we are on day three of this thing with no end in sight, and this morning when the kids were fighting and wrestling and stomping around the house in their underpants and acting all entitled and snotty when I told them to deal with their dirty socks in the middle of the living room I kind of blew up and yelled and I was not a bit proud of it.

I took a few deep breaths and apologized and then we went ice skating at Vilas Park until none of our ankles could take it anymore. And then I came home and made dinner for my sick spouse whose germs I want as far from the kitchen as possible before taking my kids to the house of a friend who very kindly had invited us for a dinner party. Most of the food was Korean (and totally delicious, I might add). Daniel even made a valiant, though inelegant, attempt with his chopsticks. Predictably, he and Anya happily ate the meat and picked around the vegetables, then left the table to rough-house, knocking over and nearly destroying a hand-carved wooden statuette made by the late father of the hostess, just before dessert.

Tell me these days don't just happen to me. Tomorrow will be better. Right??

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

hit the ground running

It seems the weather gods have it out for runners in Madison these days. A few years ago I discovered that running in the winter here is possible if one is dressed for it. But even with fleece running tights and a balaclava and all the necessary layers, the last few weeks have really tested my resolve. First it was so cold they canceled school for two days, and believe me it takes a lot to cancel school around here. The POLAR VORTEX!! and subsequent -35 windchill was sufficient, apparently, and it was enough to keep me inside, too. Then it warmed up enough for some snow to melt all over the streets and sidewalks, then it snowed again, thawed briefly and got really cold and snowed a bit more, so we've got this treacherous combination of a thick layer of solid ice covered with drifted snow and wind chills back down to zero and I JUST CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE I TELL YOU. I AM  THROUGH WITH YOU, WINTER, DO YOU HEAR ME??? THROUGH!!

It's not even like I am an athlete of any kind here. I've never even run a race. I just need to get out there and move or I get a little cranky.

Fortunately, I've had an influx of work of late. It's a lot of last minute requests for graduate auditions and kids playing for solo/ensemble, which means I've got more than 100 pages of music to learn by the middle of next month, but it's a lot better than no work at all, which is what I had when the New Year rolled around, so I'm not really complaining. I also agreed to read through a Beethoven trio with a friend of mine as a favor to help her prepare for a performance, so I've got to at least be able to hack through that by next week. Quantity over quality is what it feels like these days.

I admit there are times when I long for a more regular, reliable schedule. Clock in, clock out, come home, family time, bed. Enough with each day a disorganized rush of getting kids to school, cramming in practice time with breaks for laundry and dishwashing and maybe a trip to the grocery store or, if I'm very lucky and the sidewalks aren't a sheet of solid ice, a run before school's out, all in dirty yoga pants and hair that hasn't been brushed since Sunday or cut since September and calling that my professional life.

I know that I'm lucky even to have this as a choice. I'm very lucky to be getting work now, especially after such a slow start this fall. Of course, it's entirely possible that after the rush of the next few weeks, there will be another dry spell, but I hope not. This is the reality of freelancing, especially when the artist in question is balancing parenting, housework and volunteer obligations, which often loom larger than the stuff that pays.

Thank goodness the days are finally getting a little longer or I'd truly be going nuts.