Sunday, June 27, 2010

Freaky Friday

Since having kids it seems that any three day writing bursts are necessarily rewarded with a few days of what my undergraduate advisor explained life interceding. This is why I always require writing assignments every week from grad students but they can skip two because life always does intercede. Friday’s interruption came from the power outage and the tree on—not in—the house. For the record the fact that we’ve had four major power outages in six months seems like bad news to me and like cville ought to get its act together or we should all start making offering to weather gods no matter what our faith. No one slept well Thursday and Eli and Rebecca appeared ready to start the day at 6:30 am. We also had the predictable text that Eli’s camp was closed due to power. Luckily my genius husband had the foresight to make iced coffee Thursday night or it would have been really dire. Things got off to a rough start when I made egg in toast and managed to smoke up the kitchen. The smoke alarm runs on batteries but the mechanism to make it shut up is electrical which meant that about every 30 seconds the alarm blasted, the kids screamed, the dog panic, I cursed and Manuel explained to ADT that his wife’s bright idea of cooking spray for egg in toast was actually not that bright.
Much to our relief the kids artsy-fartsy camp had not cancelled and indeed the extravaganza featuring everything from African drumming to paper machete volcanoes could go on. The kids had been revved about this for days and it involved a picnic followed by two hours of performances. Before heading to the event, the first part of project tree removal involved having our dorky next door neighbor’s car towed out of his driveway to make room for the crane that would come later.

Luckily we made it to camp just in time for a picnic lunch with the kids and a tour of their artwork. We took three kids home and the entire back of the van was filled with their masterworks. My favorites were the three matching very large volcanos made in weird science and the lava lamps. Things got off to a good start. Jonathan was in the first group of African drumming performers and he has loved this. He drums all the time and explains it in great details. He had already acquired the slightly blank stare of a rock -band drummer with combined with tiny very white kid next to big African drum was quite adorable. I have to admit that 25 minutes into African drumming it began to seem less cute and less like we might actually make it home on time for the tree guy. Things moved along reasonably well until noise for thought. This is the class that Rebecca absolutely loved and cam home every day with some new bit of inspiration including the suggestion of a family performance of 4’33 and a sound meditation/collage. I think her next camp will be with Pauline Oliveros if she has her way. I did not let her turn our piano into a prepared piano but she has high hopes that I’ll relax that restriction soon. While the noise collage was playing all the kids stood still and looked cute except Jonathan who turned into an absolute brat, tugging on his sister, whacking his friend, making goofy faces. At a certain point I could no longer look but I’m pretty sure he was especially disruptive while Rebecca and her friend Elie read their Dadaist sound poem. I couldn’t decide if I should zip up to the performance area and yank him out or leave him alone and hope the camp staff beat him. This was perhaps Rebecca and Jonhathan’s finest public performance of good twin bad twin. It was especially mortifying as a musician whose kids heard only baroque and new music until they turned three and behaved through performances of Brandenburg concertos and Crumb’s Black Angels. In their Stony Brook sound world music stopped between 1730 and 1900.

We arrived home in time for the tree guy to come assess the situation go get a large crane and provide about 90 minutes of entertainment for the neighborhood. The crane was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure who enjoyed the tree removal more my husband or my three year old. But Manuel’s utter glee did suggest to me that he might have preferred to be the kind of tree guy that climbs trees and cuts them down rather than the kind that goes up in cherry pickers in Panama to do experiments on the tree canopy. He was totally stoked. His favorite part was when the tree guy hung off the crane and used his giant chain saw to chop off the top of the tree. I have to admit the whole thing was pretty stunning. But the really great news is that as of Friday at 6:30 pm the 200 plus year old sugar maple was no longer sitting on our house.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Silly Thursday

Last week while I was in New York City doing an archival errand Manuel and his bike took a little spill. I came home the next day to note that he had a rather swollen hand and some impressive bruises and scabs. My musicians’ pavlovian response to the hand thing involved panic but he pointed out that he’s not a viola player which apparently makes the hand less necessary. I was previously sworn to secrecy on the bike accident but let’s just say that for a guy whose bike is a collector’s item he forgot a crucial step of a repair process. He purchased this 1986 bike in 1992 and puts quite a lot of time into upkeep. But I digress……. Jump ahead a week to Rebecca’s exema, which prompted Manuel to take her to the pediatrician who found her rash unimpressive but to Manuel’s hand said “hmm you might want to get this x-rayed” The resident on call then assured Manuel that the quickest route to the x-ray was the ER It was already by this time Weds eve and neither Manuel nor I was anxious to have me skip yoga and working in a wine bar given that the injury was already a week old. So we woke up Thursday morning and headed to UVa. The ER did not run smoothly that day thanks to the 100 degree weather which led to dozens of people with heat stroke. After many hours of waiting and many discussions with many nurses and doctors we learned that he did indeed have a coupled of tiny fractures and probably a torn ligament. This would require a “little splint” we were told. By the time the resident had finished the little splint turned into a giant cast all the way up to his elbow that would preclude driving. Since we’re already a one driver family this seemed pretty dire. The resident did not care much about our mobility issues. So when we got home hungry and super cranky with Manuel driving one handed I decided to call the hand clinic and pull out all the stops. I explained in my sweetest I grew up in Virginia voice that we are a one driver family because I am legally blind and that we have three small children two of whom were preemies. (ok the preemies are 7 but whatever……) Remarkably the hand guy came into the office and Manuel came home with two little pieces of tape on the fingers. He can drive and type but supposedly should limit diaper changing and dishwashing. The doctor apparently told him he’d have to do his own calculus about hand damage v. marital unrest over the new prescription. This whole thing by the way, five hours in the ER, two hours with the head of the hand clinic, $365 of co-pay to the ER plus whatever else we are billed and another co-pay for the hand guy suggest a totally screwed up system. But we all know that.

This whole business finished up on time for the heavens to open for the second time in three weeks for what I was sure was a tornado and they now claim was a microburst—something I’d never heard of until recently..... Whatever it was it looked to Eli and I like some sort of apocalypse. At one point I said to Manuel “Honey I think they tree is going down,” to his logical question “which one” I responded, “the one that is on our deck…” Watching the giant tree fall goes down as one of the most surreal experiences ever. It seemed to happen in slow motion and for a second I had the idea that I could stop it. Meanwhile the big kids were driving home from swim team with Frankie, the babysitter, and I quickly went into a panic about them out in the downpour. (given the paper the next day I was correct to panic) Frankie luckily had the good sense not to answer the phone when I called because she was driving….Everyone made it home safely to no power. Eli was on auto repeat “the powa is out, the twee is on my woom, the powa is out, the twee is on my wooom, I hope fwakie’s house doesn’t knock down…..” Jonathan was worried about how they could do African Drumming at camp if the power didn’t come on. My explanation that African drumming as being an activity that often happened in places without electricity didn’t do much. Similarly Rebecca was sure she couldn’t practice piano without electricity—the argument that Mozart and Beethoven did their thing without power fell on deaf ears. Despite the power outage Manuel made pancakes and grilled cheese for dinner and we finished off the ice cream in the freezer. Eli slept with his siblings since there was a large sugar maple on the roof of his house. The tree guy said he’d come as soon as he could but that before he could handle trees “on” houses he had to handle trees “in” houses.

Friday was an even dumber day……

Monday, June 14, 2010

Swim Meet

Our first swim meet was officially a bust. Jonathan tantrumed for 90 minutes. Manuel took one for the team literally by taking him home. Jonathan was pissed because he didn’t want to do the meet but he wanted to swim and then he didn’t want to leave if Rebecca wasn’t leaving. At least four different families offered to drive Rebecca and I home suggesting that indeed the entire swim team was anxious to get rid of our kid. We lost two pair of shoes including Eli’s new Keen’s, the first pair of brand new shoes the kid has ever had. He loves them so much that when he goes in the pool or into his crib he asks a grown up to guard them. I was busted for drinking beer on the deck which resulted in a loudspeaker announcement about the potential $50 fine for such an infraction. Rebecca enjoyed her 30 seconds in the sun but as of now I’d say she does not have the killer instinct. The gun went off, the other kids dove into the water and started swimming, she looked around, dipped in the pool in a leisurely manner and paddled along finishing with much applause. At least I’m pretty sure that was her given that all our friends clapped and said her name. But the truth is that when they all have on the matching very expensive swim team bathing suits the 7-8 year old girls become relatively indistinguishable from one another.

I didn’t actually see Eli all night but I hear he swung with his friend Olin for much of it. He was mostly taking notes from his brother on tenacity of tantrum. His are at this point short sweet and studied. My favorite this weekend was yesterday on a hike when he attempted to walk along a 15 foot wall “all by himself” Manuel said no way and as soon as he saw Eli’s little face start to prep for scream said “here why don’t you let me hold your gatoraid while you tantrum” Eli handed it over, screamed and stomped for a while and then Manuel said “If you’re done tantruming do you want your gatoraid back” Eli paused, composed himself, took the drink and moved on. The high point of the hike really though was the drive back which somehow took three hours. My friend Jocelyn and I got turned around enough that the dudes got home in time to watch an entire world cup game before we came in. I’m pretty bad with directions but when we were driving into the mountains for the third time it seemed like bad news.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On Friday night all three kids curled up in our bed to read. One had an 800 page book on Greek Gods and Heros, one had In Style magazine, and one had a Star Wars book. The two newly minted first grade graduates were feeling quite pleased with themselves about their various first grade accomplishments. Rebecca won the peace keeping award for solving disputes between other children, breaking up fights, and telling the teacher the truth about what had happened. Her brother’s response was “she doesn’t exhibit those skills at home.” Jonathan meanwhile won the history award. Apparently when he went to the Woodrow Wilson museum with my father the tour guide discussed slaves and when the first grade went the tour guide discussed servants. Jonathan raised his had and said something on the order of “actually they were enslaved people.” Il piccolino also had a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the keshet class (the two year old room he’s been in for two years now. Manuel had already announced that if they didn’t promote him we were not paying tuition next year.) By the time this generation gets to high school graduation they may well be bored of the pomp and circumstance.

The keshet grad proclaimed yesterday an underwear day which involved putting on underwear at 9:30 and not peeing at all until 6:30 when we put pj’s on and a diaper. This is the kid who when I put on my bathing suit to go the pool yesterday looked at me and said “ooo la la…..” Last weekends line from him was “move it babi….” (with southern accent) which he then said to every woman at the pool. There’s nothing like having sons to burst one’s feminist bubble.

And apropos of nothing the lead story in the Daily Progress today is “UVa seeks crumbling columns fix.” This is not a metaphoric headline about addressing say the decomposition of the marine life or enrichment programs in local schools. Nor does it involve addressing sexism and racism that holds up the University. It really is a story about the Rotunda’s decorative Corinthian columns.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Dog and a Steady Beat

Last week Rebecca and Jonathan came home with their little writing journals. Each of them had to describe their greatest wish. Jonathan’s wished for a yellow Labrador and Rebecca wished for a metronome. As it turned out the thunderstorm from hell knocked down one of the teachers’ houses and her 10 year old yellow lab, Otter, needed a temporary home. This seemed like a good mitzvah to do and hopefully will take care of some of the pet envy in our house. My four roomates are desperate for a dog and I first of all don’t especially like animals and second of all feel that we already hover on the brink of disaster and the last thing we need is another dependent being who does not poop in the potty. So the one month doggie refugie seemed like a good plan. Otter now follows me everywhere. Meanwhile it seemed clear that if natural disaster landed us a temporary pet then a metronome had to be found. I was already feeling pretty terrible about the metronome thing since Rebecca has been asking for one for months and I failed to put a battery in mine. And it seems like if your Mom is a music professor who regularly plays two instruments a metronome shouldn’t be that hard to come by. Note also that other kids wished for things like a pony, a castle, world peace, a new baby. Thankfully the favorite auntie Jomama had two very fancy metronomes and she gave Rebecca one. Since she also helped Rebecca pick out her very expensive swim team speedo suit and is willing to read the book Dragonology she has now earned the status of coolest grown up lady in town.

Below I quote with indigenous spellings Rebecca’s journal entry about her greatest with and Jonathan’s author’s note.

“If I could wish for aney thing. I would wish for a metrnom. I would yose it when I play peano. I would have a steady baet.” (RLL)

“Born in Stonybrook hospital, Jonathan Lerdau has a very high interest in history. His hometown is longilsand N.Y. He started out living under C.V.S. Next he lived in a blue house on LongIsland Finally he moved to Charlottesville VA and began to settle down. A member of C.B.I. synagogue Jonathan Lerdau is a first grader at Burnley moran elembentry school and is seven yeard old.” (JGL)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Kid Theology

My kids have some strange religious ideas when it comes to water. I started thinking about this last weekend when Rebecca came in from a beach walk with Manuel and announced that she had done the mitzvah of saving a life. The life she saved turned out to be a mussel which inspired a long discourse about whether saving a mussel counts as saving a life if it’s going to end up on someone’s plate for dinner anyway. The next day while frolicking in the waves Jonathan announced that they really should take a moment to thank the god of the sea. He had already informed Manuel that we ought to keep a look out for Venus because “It is said that she appears rising up out of the foam”

Jump ahead to yesterday’s apocalyptic thunderstorm which literally blew me off the ground and took our power out for over 24 hours. I tried to get the big kids to sleep through the thunder in the very hot house by putting them in my bed and lying down with them. When this failed I brought them downstairs to the porch to watch the next big storm which is something my Mom used to do with Pam and I when we were little. The kids and I talked about how weird it feels to love something so scary. Somewhere in the middle of this they started to explain that rain storms like this come from God cutting his fingernails. When he cuts his fingernails he breaks through the cloud which causes rain. I took my usual tactic for those rare moments when they share some of their twin secrets and just kept quiet waiting for what would come next. We moved on to twin angels on clouds clapping their hands, and flashlights exploding lightening. We had a long hot night with Eli waking up every time there was a thunder crack and me thinking at one point that some sort of tornado had blown through. For some unknown reason both kids were up and dressed and knocking on my head at 6:30 talking about the God finger nails thing again. In a very groggy and cranky voice I tried a feminist tactic “how do you know God is a man” They just know. Upon further inquiry I learned that they had read it in a book and that he has a beard. I’ve been in Central Virginia long enough to get alarmed when my kids tell me they’ve seen pictures of God in a book so still half asleep I asked which “You know Mommy the one with the cows.” I had no clue what they were talking about. “It’s a book of cartoons with cows and a moon on the cover.” I still had no clue. Both kids lept out of bed and came running back with a book of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons where they very carefully showed me multiple pictures of God who was indeed a man with a beard. I’m not sure how Gary Larson would feel about this. Yesterday when they showed such early morning vigor I made one play the violin and the other clean her room but with no coffee and after such intense theology I didn’t have it in me today.

Other than the power loss which I’m sure trashed everything in our fridge it’s been a good week. After three years of trying every trick in the book to get the kids to do swim team they are doing it. I’m finally really doing my own work which I hope is a sign of good things to come. My friends and I have gotten back in the habit of a boot camp sort of situation which involves occupying tables at various coffee shops around town and pounding away at our laptops together. Somehow seeing other people producing feels motivating and it’s good after a long semester to remember that I actually really like my research.