Monday, October 24, 2011

Bedtime woes

Someone please explain to me how a perfectly pleasant and kid-centered evening with your children can turn wretched in a matter of minutes. At dinner we civilly discussed Little Women and the upcoming school board election and two of three kids ate their weight in broccoli. We concluded with the kids eating dessert in front of the classic kids show “wizards of waverly place” while I chit-chatted on the phone. (take that sugar lady. by the way I happily give my kids dessert on a regular basis). Later, long after the mythical ‘sugar rush’ should have occurred, all hell broke loose. I’m not sure what happened except that Eli was running around with a broom and a lite saber, Jonathan somehow thought both weapons actually belonged to him, everyone was screaming and crying, and someone hit someone with something. I’m not exaggerating when I say we switched from a Norman Rockwell painting to surrealist depiction of hell in about three seconds. In one of those moments of parental desperation I think sent Rebecca to read in my bed and forbade the boys from reading or being read to which resulted in more screaming and crying to the point where it seemed possible that we might have two pukers. In between screams they threatened to “smite me” “write mean things on my tombstone” and a few nominations for meanest mommy ever.

Finally after twenty minutes of serious noise everyone calmed down. I decided to process the evening’s event with Jonathan. I thought we could talk about resisting the temptation to smack the little brother. For some reason I decided to talk about Odysseus and the sirens. Why on earth in that weak moment did I go for the sirens? As a feminist musicologist who writes on early modern Europe I’ve been asked to write enough essays about sirens that I could have a whole third book project and I’ve never once taken the bite. First I was informed “he put wax in his ears and the sirens were beautiful women. My ears are already full of wax and Eli is not a beautiful women. He is a horrific creature from the underworld.” The led Rebecca to a long discourse about how maybe she would be a siren because she loves to sing. And “oh don’t forget about Pandora.” Then she invoked Artemis. Jonathan finished the story by saying “well what’s his name was tempted to look at her at her bathing and was turned into a stag. He was then torn apart by his hounds.” So in the grand tradition of cautionary tales I said “see what happens when you succumb to the temptation to hit your brother.”

And, by the way, Rebecca is having second thoughts about being Demeter for Halloween; a costume her grandmother labored over. She worries that she might come across a supporting Antiochus because he wanted people to pray to the Greek Gods. Manuel argued that dressing up as a Greek God did not mean supporting all the attendant theology. She was unconvinced. We may be in for sartorial trouble on that front.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ghost in the Machine

I am about one class period away from turning music 101 into a philosophical exploration of the ghost in the machine. There are many classes in which technology doesn’t add much or simply provides a bit of accent. But like most people who teach soap-box style lecture classes, I’ve become dependent on new-fangled technologies for music 101. Gone are the days of the mixed tape for class, the pile of CD’s heavy enough to break an LL Bean backpack, transparencies, and books passed around the classroom. The technology in our beloved classroom has been smiting me for every sentence I’ve every negative word I’ve ever written about technology. To start the week, Martha Jefferson’s musical commonplace book took us directly to Iran. This seems improbable until you recall that in order to turn on our thirty-six key keyboard, you need to push a special button on the computer control. (The technology folks spare no expense for Music 101) This time, instead of activating the slightly out of tune electronic keyboard, it activated a map of the Middle East which highlighted Iran. Yesterday’s highlight involved a computer that refused to read jump drives at all. I meant to show a 19th century illustration of a Turkish dance and play a clip of the Turkish march from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and ask the class to discuss it. After a few minutes of interpretive dancing by all, my TA hooked my laptop up to the projector which, among other tidbits, involved sharing emails from my sister about Halloween Costumes and my actual lecture notes complete with phrases like “blather on about exoticism for a bit” to the entire class. We read the work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction for my grad seminar, which seemed more than apt. We can be sure that whatever aura Beethoven, Monteverdi, the Tokens, or Paul Simon ever had was completely sucked up and spat out by technology.

I rushed home to run what turned out to be the Parkway afterschool program. Thanks to spending a lot of time at an afterschool program, I knew exactly how to handle them. I sat them down for snack, made them all do their homework, and then explained that the activity was cleaning Rebecca and Jonathan’s room. I announced that anyone who disobeyed would lose a privilege. After they finished the clean-up, the girls made cookies for a work dinner I was hosting that night, and the boys continued to excavate the construction site next door. (being a feminist mother sucks at least ten times a week) The dinner also featured asking guests to do Jonathan’s homework for him. For some reason the third grade unit on economics and capitalism ended up in a fair in which kids were told to “bring in something useless” and sell it. Jonathan and Marietta played violin for 15 cents. And Jonathan, who has a fine motor delay and hates arts and crafts decided to make beaded bracelets.

The first low point was when the neighborhood cat ran into our house and the two five year olds ran after the cat and down the stairs, falling down the bottom three and announcing that each had pushed the other down. Both screamed until I stuffed cookies made by their sisters into their mouths. The second low point is ongoing. As it turns out in joining the boys for a little construction site exploration I got something in my eye that I’m allergic to and the whole organ started a long process of swelling, exuding puss, and generally turning red. Said process landed us in the eye doctor for the afternoon; never a fun place to hang out.

Tomorrow is the first event in my Arts Mentoring program. It would be super-fabulous if I could open my eye and see completely by then. I’m pretty sure that the fabulous graduate student Lauren would be in her rights to kill me if I said “hey you go ahead and coordinate getting 12 UVa students and 12 children from underserved communities to an art gallery for a photography exhibit, pizza picnic, and concert.” Speaking of this event wish us both luck. It’s one of those events that could really go either way!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

oops i'm a tiger mom

Yesterday I had Chinese food for the first time since we got back from China. Needless to say Panda Garden had almost nothing in common with what we ate in China. I’m pretty sure the cheese wontons would have made anyone in the Menglun metropolitan area puke. But Panda Garden combined with the annual sukkah hysteria inspired me to return to the blogosphere. We knew sukkot in Charlottesville spelled trouble when during our first fall Rebecca and Jonathan announced that their whole class was coming over for snack under our Sukkah. We had no intentions of building one. Somehow this has become an annual ritual and while we do now look forward to a hoard of tiny Jews traipsing to our little hut it would be a good idea if the teachers actually checked the dates with us. We thought Eli was making it up when he said his class would appear this morning. Having failed to convince him that the civil war did not end in 1953 and George Washington did not fight in it, I gave up trying to convince him that his buddies were not on the way. It turns out he had worked out a date with the teachers. Luckily, the biblical rainstorm saved us at least until Monday. This all amounts to some sort of cosmic payback for the time I volunteered my mom to make Latkas for the entire first grade.

Meanwhile I have to confess that I had a tiger mom moment with my not yet five year old. Eli begged to take piano lessons and we said sure. I think he’s too young but he loves it and takes it very seriously. At least he takes it seriously in the lesson where he tells his teacher things like “oh yes I know all the notes” or “I only pway in mino keys.” Pwacticing, however, is not his thing and usually consists of ten minutes of setting up his music, stretching, and organizing things and maybe finding middle C once. The other day I casually mentioned to the big kids that we’d have desert after they practiced. Somehow I thought it was a good idea to tell this to Eli too who of course refused to practice. But by then I’d taken a stand and felt I had to see it through. I make fun of most Dads I know for the “going nuclear” approach to parenting where for example a kid fails to put their shoes on and the Dad says something like “put your shoes on or you will never have another playdate again….” This is impossible, the kid knows it, and continues not to put the shoe on. So once I said the desert thing I felt I had to follow through. Let’s just say it ended with Eli screaming from his bed “I’M HUNGWWWWWWY. I PWOMISE I WILL PWACTICE…..” He also proudly explained to the teacher that his mother took away his desert for no reason and that said mother didn’t understand that his piano has a Z on it. Suffice it to say his performance of “Old Mista Wabbit” was lackluster at best this afternoon. In the end it’s hard to know what to say about a day that starts with rumbling front loaders, moves through Berlioz’s witches’ Sabbath, Charles Burney, Sting’s racial politics, and ends with a rather whimpery Mista Wabbit.

As I posted this the page just told me my blog is boring and old fashioned and that I should update the format. I promptly clicked a few buttons and found myself unable to figure out how to post. I did take a quick glace at a few of my posts from China. I'm not sure I can sustain this back here in cville. It all seems a little mundane now. But it did inspire a small congratulatory moment. I did in fact meet the summer's goals set out by my grad school bff Kirstin. 1. Do not beat the children. 2. Do not divorce the husband who took you to China. 3. Do not contract any fatal diseases. (I think the continued presence of the boils doesn't count so much as fatal disease as it does as pure gross. Nope the lovely thing on my neck is not a viola hicky caused by a newfound interest in practicing rock licks. It's a BOIL!"