Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's Facebook's fault, really

One of the reasons I haven't been writing much is because, whenever an idea ocurrs to me, I take the lazy way out and just quickly post a sentence or two on Facebook.

So today I will write a blog post the includes the posts I've made on Facebook lately, and/or the things I thought about posting on Facebook.

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We've been watching the "Sesame Street Old School" videos with the original 1970's shows. There is actual a warning/disclaimer before it begins saying, "These shows are intended for adult audiences. They may not meet the needs of today's preschooler." WTF?

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Last night Rachael didn't want to her dinner of "Eggplant Divine." I told her wouldn't get any dessert if she didn't finish it. She didn't care.
Then I told her she couldn't work on her dance routines that evening unless she finished it. She ate it right up!

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I got the mail this morning and couldn't understand why I was getting promotional materials for myself. It turned out to be a newsletter from a fundraiser I played for gratis half a year ago. Nice and big, and on the front, it said, "Need a piano player for your next event? Contact Jennifer ____. She supports _____." Wow! A couple hundred people must have received that in the mail! Playing for free sure paid off!

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Taking the girls to see "The Music Man" tonight.

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I'm tired from hosting the girls' "Splash Bash Party" today.

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I finally saw my first episode of "Glee." More, please.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A post about laundry! Could it GET any duller?

If there were any lingering doubt that my life (and this blog) was fairly boring and mundane, this pretty much cinches it:

I'm writing a blog post about laundry. Yup. It's come to that.

However, as boring and pathetic as that sounds, my recent "laundry plan of attack" really has made life smoother and easier, so it seemed worth sharing.

Until recently, I would continually do laundry, and it was a continual pain. Plus, it had a habit of remaining "half-done": for example, some of the clean clothes would remain in the laundry room because "I'll just bring it up tomorrow with the next load." So it seemed like I was always sorting, always washing, and always having both clean and dirty laundry in various parts of the house.

Well, here's what I do now:
1) On Thursday morning, as soon as my feet hit the floor, I strip the sheets off the bed. I put them in the wash either right before or after my shower, before I get dressed. (I don't want to risk getting a drop of bleach on my clothes, ever, as I had a childhood trauma regarding bleach, which you can read about here.)

2) Later that day on Thursday, I wash all the towels and put them back on the rack, and of course I also put the clean sheets back on.

3) On Thursday evening, usually when the kids are taking their baths, I haul the laundry basket of clothes downstairs. I sort everything (which I find oddly enjoyable) and start a load of jeans. (Jeans are quick and easy to do in the evening, because there's not much to it, and there's all the same.)

4) When the jeans are done (usually right before I go to bed), I fold them and dump in the load of darks and put it on "delay" so it will start washing at about 6 am.

5) On Friday morning, before I get dressed (the bleach thing again), I move the darks to the dryer and dump in the whites.

6) When these are done, the girls put away all the kids' clothes. They also sort and put away all underwear and socks. I put away remaining things. This is usually done by around lunchtime.

7) This leaves the delicates, which is usually a fairly small load, and mostly my stuff. I might squeeze that in on Friday as well, but otherwise I throw them in some other morning, and it's no big deal.

So, wow. That sounds like a lot. BUT it is a lot easier, to me, to do it all at once and not have to worry about it the other days.

One thing I like is that now, when I see the laundry piling up, it doesn't stress me out or piss me off. I just think, "Yup, that'll all get taken care of on Friday," and I go on with my life.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Letting go of the stuff

You won't be surprised to hear that I saw someone today who told me they "always read my blog." So, as usual, that inspired me to come back.

Why? I think it's because I don't feel like writing unless I believe someone cares. Otherwise, it just feels narcissistic and self-absorbed.

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We had a charity pick-up today. It was at least five bags of toys and clothes, plus a regular stroller, double stroller, potty seat, and more.

And that's not all: Last month I was able to pass some things along to other families in town. Mostly big things: the air hockey table, the indoor plastic slide, the dollhouse, the car garage, the leap pad cartridges. That was fun because I think the girls enjoyed actually seeing the kids who were inheriting their toys. (However, I did not trust Benjamin to feel the same way, and managed to do most of this without him seeing it.)

It felt great to be cleaning out. And, amazingly, our house feels far from empty. But it was also bittersweet.

This morning, as I hauled everything out, I thought of all the times I took the girls to the library or Target in the double stroller. I used that stroller a lot. But I have no one to put in it now. My two smallest kids are four and seven.

I remembered when my health was not so good, and how many afternoons I set up a three year old Rebecca on the floor next to my bed with the little toy barn while I lay in bed and hoped I could somehow gather the energy just to finish getting through the day.

I thought of the year we opened all the Christmas gifts in January because Rachael had been in the PICU for weeks.

And I saw some of the toys that people brought Rachael after she finally came home from the hospital, when she was on medication and had a PICC-line in her arm, and was basically house-bound for a few weeks.

I remembered how my kids never actually wanted to "play" Candy Land, but rather just wanted to me to read them the story on the box, then pretend that their pieces were running to Candy Land and eating all the candy.

I remembered how Rebecca came to me at about 3:00 am on Christmas morning -- a different Christmas -- and said, "Santa put a dollhouse next to the tree!" and then climbed in bed next to me and fell asleep.

So. It was good to let go. But it was hard to let go.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weddings -- the good, the bad, and the lovely

Someone had casually suggested that I write a book about my various piano jobs and adventures. While I'm flattered, I can't imagine there are many people who would want to read such a book.

But I figured it'd be worth posting a few things here.

Last night I played for my first wedding of 2010. It was in one of those huge Baptist churches, with tile flooring and a shiny baby grand piano up on a stage, and great acoustics.

I enjoy playing for wedding because:
1) Well, who wouldn't like it? You get to see fancy hair-dos and pretty dresses, and you feel the energy and excitement from everybody involved. I'm reminded of details from our wedding that I don't think of often -- like how we had a hard time getting that Unity candle lit, and the pastor made a little joke about it.

2) I really enjoy playing the 30 minute prelude music before the ceremony begins. This is the best of all worlds to me. People aren't sitting in silence staring at me, but they aren't as noisy and oblivious as they are at a restaurant or party, either. I can really sense that I'm setting a mood, and I like that.

I don't enjoy playing for weddings because:
1) Well, they make me a nervous wreck. I have no doubt it will become easier after I do it a few more times. (Don't tell anyone, but this is only my eighth wedding.) But you have to watch the door and the aisle out of the corner or your eye while playing, and expect to end a song or switch songs on about two seconds' notice.

Last night, for example, I was supposed to watch for the wedding coordinator to stand in a certain doorway to cue that I was ready to stop playing prelude music and begin the first ceremony piece. This supposed to happen at about two minutes til six.

At six o'clock, I still did not see her. I took the repeat again, and hoped I wasn't somehow doing something wrong.

After taking the repeat again, I realized I was going to have to play something else. I switched to another piece, still frantically keeping one eye on the door (which is a bit tricky to do).

Still nothing when that piece was over.

This continued until she suddenly appeared in the doorway at 6:10 pm!

It turned out that Someone Important was late, and they had to stall to wait for them.

Things like that are good, though. Assuming I pull it off well, it adds a point or two of Appreciation.

And after I get eight more weddings under my belt, I probably won't think a thing of it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why it's Cool to be a Piano Girl

Last weekend I played at a nice restaurant downtown. It was my first time there. I'm scheduled to go back again twice in late June. If you know me personally and live in town, ask me and I'll tell you when and where.

My non-musician friends (which is most everyone) sometimes ask me how I get these jobs. In this case, a booking agent saw one of my web listings and called me -- which is sort of interesting, if you think about it. He's never met me, never heard me play, and didn't have a referral. Just found me on the web, called me, and hired me. I guess he was first dazzled by my photo and then completely won over by my professional Phone Voice, ha ha!

And that's just fine with me.

Someone else asked me if I get nervous. Actually, I was nervous about finding the place, getting stuck in traffic, and figuring out how to get from the parking garage through the bridge walkway to the actual restaurant.

But nervous about playing? No. And the reason is simple: No one is really listening to me or looking at me. And that's just the way I like it. It's kinda like playing at home, but more fun, and I get paid.

Now here's what's so cool about being the Piano Girl at a restaurant:

It's kind of an alter ego thing. It's a Slightly Different Me when I go out to a job.

In my real life, we go out to eat at the IHOP five minutes from home, when kids eat free, and get an extra plate for sharing. I go to places like Publix and the library and the doctor. I wear casual (although hopefully attractive) clothes.

In my real life:

I do NOT go downtown.
I do NOT eat at nice restaurants.
I do NOT get free valet parking.
I do NOT wear floor-length dresses and high heels.
I do NOT use rest-rooms with lit candles, cloth towels, and hand lotion.
I do NOT have people in uniforms bring me bottles of water and offer me free food.
I do NOT have strangers slip me twenty dollar bills. (Well, that only happened once, actually.)

It's Different. And it's Cool.

The other thing that's cool (and this is kind of along the same lines) is that most people I know in my Real Life don't do this.

So they're impressed. [Sometimes.] They might ask: How did you get that job? What's it like at the Ritz? Did you get any tips? What songs do you play? What do you wear? Do you get nervous?

And that makes me feel Special. And Interesting.

And I like that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Obligatory "Homeschool Schedule" Post

I've noticed that most homeschoolers love to see other homeschoolers' daily schedules. So, at the risk of boring Everybody Else, I'll entertain my fellow homeschoolers (hopefully) with our schedule.

Here's what we usually did this past school year. If you don't already know, Rachael just turned nine, Rebecca just turned seven, and Benjamin will be four next week.

Community Bible Study homework. (15-20 minutes) The four of us are all in a weekly Bible Study, and this is the first year Rachael has homework. (Next year, Rebecca will have the same assignments as well.) We do it together at the kitchen table: I read the scripture, Rachael reads aloud the questions and we answer them together, and often Rebecca colors. Benjamin used to sit at the table with us with a toy, but then after a while he started announcing he was going in his room as soon as we began, which was just fine with me.

Math-U-See video lesson (4-7 minutes, once a week) This only happens when we start a new lesson, which is usually once a week. We usually all watch this on the couch. I know it sounds stupid to have to watch a video teaching how to add, but the video teacher is really likeable and funny, and believe it or not, he presents things in ways I've never heard of before.

Rachael one-on-one time (35-40 minutes) During this time, Rebecca would go play with Benjamin in his room. What I did with Rachael at this time has evolved over the months, but currently we do Writing With Ease (narration, copywork, and dictation), First Language Lessons (mostly grammar and poem memorization), All About Spelling, and a few minutes doing math together just to see if she has questions, and possibly to work on word problems together.

Rebecca one-on-one time (30 minutes) Rachael takes Benjamin down to the playroom. I've been very relaxed with Becca's schoolwork this year. We just started Writing With Ease, which she loves. She went through the Alpha Math-U-See book in about 4-5 months, so we casually do Beta and some supplementary stuff. She likes phonics games, which reminds me that I haven't done that with her lately. Today she read out loud to me. It just varies.

Rachael Alone Time (20-30 minutes) Technically, I would play with Benjamin, although often this was a struggle for me, and often I would spend a big part of this time moving laundry and checking my e-mails.
It's a little hard for me to play alone with him because he doesn't like to do things that I can handle, like coloring or doing a puzzle together -- instead, he wants to play with his cars, or some sort of game where I chase him or something, and frankly, I'm too old and grumpy for that. But often we played with various Discovery Toys, or Leap Pad, or sometimes I just read to him. Meanwhile, Rachael did her math and cursive writing practice (although right now she's doing Explode the Code Book 6 because I think she needs the spelling practice). Rebecca would either join me and Benjamin or, more likely, occupy herself somehow.

Snack/Five in a Row (45 minutes) This was my solution to kids wanting a snack, but me feeling like that was a big time-waster that made it hard for everyone to get back on track. We have the snack on the couch while we read a book from our current unit study, usually with Five in a Row. (Right now, however, we are studying the colonial times/Revolutionary War, and reading different biographies by Jean Fritz.) Benjamin will sit through most of the book until he's done eating. Then he soon gets wiggly, and either I send him to his room to go play or he dismisses himself. Usually, after the reading, we work on something for the girls' notebook. For example, after we read If You Lived in Colonial Times, they had to write down and illustrate four things they remembered from the book.

Around this time I start fixing lunch. Once we have lunch, it varies greatly, depending on what day it is, what else is going on, what mood we're in, and what the weather is like.

In mid-afternoon, when I read to Benjamin at his nap time, the girls are each supposed to go have silent reading. Rachael recently finished Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg and Cam Jansen and the Chocolate Fudge Mystery. Rebecca really enjoys the "Rookie Reader" series and reads them over and over again.

And that's what we do. In August things will change considerably, but I'll save that for another post.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Wizard of Oz!

One of the neat things about doing musical theatre is how much my kids get out of it.

Last week I was in three performances of "The Wizard of Oz" at a local high school. I played the piano, along with 8-9 other musicians in a mini-orchestra.

Rebecca simply demanded to come to the last rehearsal. (I think it was because she was missing me a lot.) It was a four-hour rehearsal (with a half hour pizza break), but she sat through the whole thing and had a wonderful time.


Danielle, the lovely young woman who played Glinda the Good Witch, gave Rebecca a tour backstage, let her wear the crown and carry the wand and carry the wand, put makeup on her, and even let her sing into the mic for a moment. Rebecca was absolutely in heaven.


Rebecca also made a "Flying Monkey Friend" who she liked a lot.



Rachael made about six cards for me to bring to the lead actors for the opening night show, wishing them luck. Even was a little different and related to the character they played.

The show was very good, despite a lot of outside factors working against it, which shows how amazing the people involved were. The kids were masters art the art of ad libbing; for example when a piece of scenery crashed over during one performance, and when the Tin Man's pants tore in another performance.



Also, the costumes and sets were amazing. They actually had a house that rocked and spun during the tornado sequence (not that I could see it, since I was playing and had my back to the stage.)



Now I have a total of three musicals for my resume -- Annie Jr, Godspell, and The Wizard of Oz.
And hopefully there will be many more in the future!