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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Crockpot

Everyone says use the crockpot. The crockpot is the key to breaking open the problem of supper and supper prep.

I must be special kind of incompetent.

It is 11 o'clock. No school has been started. The toddler is not dressed. The bed is not made. The laundry has not been started. I did eat breakfast. Hurrah. I don't know if the children have.

But I have prepped the crockpot.

How is it that obliterating my entire morning is going to help the rest of my day? Please tell me it will be worth it later.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lunch: The Daily Battle, Part One?

I've had this tab open for a few days to answer bearing's question about lunch, never quite starting because I know I can't finish. Maybe I'll break it up. A series! Quick and dirty posts, right?

The problem with lunch is breakfast. The problem with breakfast is getting everyone fed at a reasonable hour.

I think it is reasonably well known that I am neither skilled in the kitchen nor a morning person so having to get up and immediately face the kitchen is a double whammy. The solution to this problem is encouraging the children to feed themselves as much as possible. Getting the children to be reasonably independent in the kitchen for easy, grazing meals has been a process.

Back when I was working and my husband was home, he had a system that worked well for him. When he decided it was breakfast time, he would get up, make multiple different version of breakfast, whatever each child preferred, all including servings of fruit, set the table, pour the drinks, and serve breakfast. No one ate until everyone was sitting and the blessing said. Then you may begin eating. No one gets up until permission is asked and the child dismissed.

Lunch time worked the same way. He would get up, make multiple lunches, but this time in courses to make sure the children ate the proper things before the more desired things. Finish your sandwich, which might be pb&j on bread or turkey & cheese on a wrap or whatever else, then you may have some applesauce.  Finish your applesauce and then you may have some pretzels. Again nobody ate until all the food was assembled and everyone sitting down and the blessing said.  Then he was popping up and down, constantly, serving the different courses.

This was the expectation the children had of me when I arrived on the scene a little over a year ago. While this system works well for my husband, and is indeed what he still does when he does breakfast or lunch, it made my head explode. The synchronized nature of all the ingredients and all the plates and all the children in the perfect order and time, well, I could not deal.

Thus began the long and tedious process of moving away from competent service towards a free-for-all approach that walks the fine line between manageable chaos and just plain chaos.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

One Credit Hour

Darwin hosted a lengthy discussion on Facebook about the state of the arts and why conservative leaning Christians are so thin on the ground. His thoughts that grew out of that discussion are here. I chimed in with my own thoughts, but this isn't about that. This is about remembering how it used to be. Y'all know (or maybe you don't) I majored in music. Here is a little taste of what earns one credit hour in music.

If you are a music major, the most important class you take is your private lesson instruction. This is what makes or breaks you as a candidate for a music degree. The requirements for this class are thus: an hour a week in a private lesson, an hour a week in a group lesson, an hour a week in convocation (this is a mini-concert during the day), attendance at an evening concert of varying lengths about once a week, personal practice time of about an hour a day (7 hours a week), and a jury in front of entire faculty at the end of the semester so they can decide if you get to continue to major in music. That is around 10 or 11 hours a week. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

The second most important class you take is your major ensemble. The requirements for this class are thus: attendance at all rehearsals (only death is an excused absence; hospitalization might depend on the reason), attendance at any sectional your section leader desires to call, your personal practice time to work up your part because rehearsal is not for practicing, and attendance at however many dress rehearsals and concerts the ensemble performs. Rehearsals are generally two hours long, three days a week. That's six hours of class time plus whatever it takes outside rehearsal. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

Of course, you do not want to be a slacker. Nobody takes only one ensemble. Most take two. Some take three.

Now comes the piano classes. This is a sneaky one. Piano isn't actually in the degree catalog. What is in the catalog is that you must pass a piano proficiency before taking upper level classes. The piano proficiency is an ungraded exam given by the notoriously fickle piano professor. Until you have passed, you have to take a piano class every semester until you do. Piano class meets for 75 minutes twice a week (2 and a half hours). You, theoretically, should practice 30 minutes a day to gain mastery. You probably don't. Most students have to take four semesters of piano. Some, cough, take five. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

A vital part of a music degree is ear-training and sight-singing. This is as bad as it sounds. You are given music on paper, given the starting tone, and then you are supposed to sing accurately what is on the page without ever having heard it before. Or alternatively, you have a blank staff, are told the starting note, and have to notate whatever melody is played. This class was the weeder. If you could survive this class, with its sarcastic, no nonsense professor who wouldn't hesitate to tell you that you were out to lunch, maybe you could cut it as a music major. You have four semesters of this class, meeting twice a week for 75 minute classes. You definitely practice because it is the single most embarrassing class on the schedule. For all of this, you earn one credit hour. 

Then there are your instrument classes. These classes exist to familiarize you with all the other instruments that are not your own. You will take six of these classes: one for your major instrument family, one for strings, one for percussion, one for voice, and two for your opposite instrument family. (Yes, I had to play a tuba. Yes, we were about the same size.)

Your class meets twice a week for an hour and a half. You definitely will be practicing whatever instrument you are assigned for 30 minutes a day because these classes kick your rear. This is 3 hours of class plus at least three hours of practice time, plus delightful written exams. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

After that is the capstone instrument class, affectionately known as Boobie Band, where you are assigned an instrument that is not yours and the class has to function as an ensemble. This is another two and a half hours a week plus practice time. And you will practice because a master of this new, strange instrument, you are not. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

Then there are the various electives you might decide to take if you decide graduating on time is not for you. Electives include improv, recording, deeper study into other instruments, minor ensembles. All of these are one credit hour.

We did have classes that were more standardized, three hour classes like Music Theory or Music History. I think Conducting was two hours, maybe? But a three hour class was an exception, not the rule, and usually took less bandwidth rather than more. My schedule generally consisted of two or three three hour classes and six or eight one hour classes to make up a full time schedule.

The way they got away with this is that most of our classes were classified as Labs. You remember when you took your three hour chemistry class and it had an attached one hour lab that met for three hours once a week? Like that, except a whole degree's worth of them and no attached lecture classes. Just time consuming lab after lab after lab. Don't you wish you were a music major too?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Blogging Resolutions

Jamie at Light and Momentary has declared we should attempt to blog like it's 2005. Of course I didn't have a blog in 2005. I didn't even comment on blogs in 2005. I did read them though.

I remember all the combox debates and tenuously entering them myself and the thrill of hitting refresh to see if there were new replies. Then I remember the traffic and conversations dwindling to a trickle. I wondered where everyone went. Eventually I figured it out. At the end of 2012, I bravely started hitting 'friend' to virtual Internet strangers who I hoped did not think me a weirdo.

Now it's almost all on Facebook. I miss the old comboxes, but it seems like to be seen, you have to be there. And where do you comment? If on the actual post, it seems to lanquish. If on the link, conversation seems to flow. Comment in both places, maybe?

As it is, I contribute to the sad landscape of the blogosphere. I still leave comments, but not as many as I used to and not as many as I intend. This blog began in the waning hours of my working days. I had (way too much) free time to think and develop posts. I could post on a regular basis.  Now? Well.

One of the biggest adjustments for me in coming home has been the lack of free space in my head. I feel like I have been robbed of my concentration. I waste a lot of time, for sure, but I waste it doing things I can drop instantly. I have greatly struggled completing tasks that require my concentration. I grab it in drips and drops when the children are gone or asleep, but requirements come before wants. The bills get paid. The lessons get planned. The clutter does not get sorted. The post does not get written.

It's why, in many ways, my house is still a mess. I do not seem capable of applying the 20 minute rule to jobs. It takes me 20 minutes to clear my mind to even begin thinking about it and then a child is calling my name. Progress is slow. I wish I could have a stretch of days where someone would take the children and I could work, but that does not seem to be in the cards.

What's that got to do with blogging?

I need to develop habits around how my life actually is instead of how I wish it would be.

I wish the house was already clean, but it's not. It's better, but there are still many multi-day projects to finish. I'm not going to get multi-days anytime soon so I need to maintain the progress I have and then make strides when I have the opportunity to do more. I need to accept those opportunities are going to be rare.

I wish I had time to write 1000 words posts two or three times a week, but I don't. I need to shift how I conceive of posts. They don't need to be long-winded tomes of philosophy or observations with *very* *deep* *meaning.* I just need to post. When I have the opportunity to spew many words, I'll take it, but for now, quick and dirty is really all I can manage.

Am I making a resolution to blog like it's 2005? Not really. But I am going to make the effort to post more. We shall see. What will I talk about?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nativity

As I was riding down the street the other day, I saw yet another Nativity scene in the neighborhood and I had a flash of a connection. American society treats childbirth and Christmas in exactly the same way. There is a lot of excitement in the preparation, but when the baby actually comes, no one sticks around for long.

I explained my theory to my husband and he found it a little overwrought. Perhaps it is. I do think there is a connection, though. We put a lot of emphasis on hype and rarely linger in celebration. I spent some time trying to think of anything where we spend more time in the event than we did preparing for it. Thanksgiving, maybe?

The real question is why would a Nativity scene lead me to think about postpartum America. I am not exactly postpartum. My "baby" is three and a half years old. I think I might have some postpartum trauma. A nativity scene shouldn't be triggering.

I've touched on this topic in the past: the utter abandonment I felt with Grace, the trauma of Olivia not taking a bottle, the crushing return to work after Marian. Sam was fine, as best as I remember. In a lot of ways, I feel like in spite of having four children, I have put in a lot of infant work while rarely reaping the infant reward. I love babies, but my time whiled away enjoying them has been short indeed. Time has always been pressing in. Is that the normal way of things?

And what to do about it?

At what point do you say that the choices you made are what they are and you just missed out. I didn't know I'd feel robbed, but I do and that's life. Grow up and move on, right?

Or do you get on the roller coaster again? Do you take the chance of misery and heartbreak to grasp those fleeting moments, to rock a baby with confidence and competence, without a clock unceasingly ticking? Even if you know you probably wouldn't punch that ticket if you had gotten the chance to do it even once before. Is it even reasonable to think it would make a difference?

What's the line between selfishness, unrealistic dreams, and fear?

I've built up in my mind what the non-working, postpartum months should look like. I'm likely wrong. Is it worth finding out? 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sins of Omission

Indulge me a little in a little bit of vague blogging. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the people I reference might read this and, still, they have their own sides, and all I can tell you is how I see things. You all know all of this.

How do you forgive sins of omission? How do you forgive sins of omission when you are the one being omitted against, not out of malice but because your need is apparently invisible to them. And it isn't invisible because you haven't told or shown them, but because they do not hear or see.

What does it mean to forgive when the need is ongoing and every struggle with it is intertwined with the knowledge that people you thought would help you through it are choosing not to. Again not out of malice, but for some other unknown reason: busyness, scheduling, lack of urgency, misunderstanding.

Can you call it forgiveness when you can't tell the difference between sorrow at what should be and expectant rage at what isn't?

I have been given the wise advice that the first step in forgiveness is to stop asking, stop expecting, and accept I have to find another way. The need still exists. I just need to find a way to fulfill it that is different than I thought it would be. I need to let them off the hook.

This is much easier said than done. I can stop asking. I can find another way, I hope. I don't know if I can stop being shocked at my apparent invisibility. It's hard not to take it personally. The resentment is hard to swallow. Once I find another way, is it really forgiveness or just the thorn being removed from my side? Is it enough to say I loved you enough to stop asking? How do you stop being angry? And then what?

As a ponder these questions, another thought bubbles up to the surface. Is there an obvious need in my purview of responsibilities that I refuse to see? I hope not. Let me have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I've Not Forgotten

This is a sad, forsaken blog, but not forsaken from my thoughts. I have several post stubs with a sentence or two, but that's all I can seem to manage. I have things to say and no time in which to say them.

My husband essentially works 7 days a week or, really, his time off is never known far enough in advance to actually plan around. It might be Tuesday this week and Thursday next week and Wednesday the week after that. Even on his days off and into the evenings, the phone never quits. It is just the nature of the job.

The reality here is that I am on-duty almost all the time.

Some people can write while the world collapses around them or, at least while the three year old shrieks, but I am not one of them. Some people can write a sentence or two at a time and create coherence over many days, but I am not one of them.

The bits of off-duty time I do get are spent in household management, cooking and washing dishes, school planning, grocery shopping, and the like. I also like to shower periodically. It's the little things.

We have been at this new experiment for a little over a year. It's not harder than I thought it would be, but I didn't think it would be easy. And sure enough, it is not easy. It's all the things I struggle with, day in and day out.

We have been at it long enough that we need to shift out of crisis mode. Our schedule has been very fly by the seat of our pants all year long. This is starting to take its toll on both of us. We have decided to begin to be intentional about both of us getting some off-duty down time. This is harder than it sounds.

So hopefully soon, I'll have some space to post again more frequently than once a quarter. But until then, know that I've not forgotten.