Life with little ones right now

img_1652I started tracking my time continuously in April of 2015. That means I am coming up on 18 months of knowing where the time really goes. Since I use half-hour blocked spreadsheets, the process is relatively painless. Broad blocks, however, lose some of their detail. So, in part to help me remember, here are a few of the ongoing story lines about life with little ones, and how they played out in the last 24 hours.

My husband came home for dinner last night — a 60 minute window, roughly, before he had to get to the airport to be on a flight to Europe. He’ll be home this evening. This is how we travel around here! We had make-your-own pizzas, which the kids really love. They also like their fruit wheel. G (nanny) puts about 6 kinds of cut-up fruit on a plate in the center of the table. The kids are supposed to take at least 3 kinds, but it’s colorful and appealing, and they often do full rainbows. Variety!

My 9-year-old is playing the viola. I am not quite sure how this happened. Fourth graders at his school can do band/orchestra during school hours, with a weekly group music lesson. I thought everyone did it, but it turned out it was optional. Since getting him to do extra credit homework assignments is somewhat like pulling teeth (more on teeth below!), I am kind of happy that he thought it would be fun. He had told me he wanted to play the flute, but they did some sort of assessment and decided he would be better suited for the viola. At least it wasn’t the cello! I rented from one of the companies that delivers the instrument to the school, and now he’s learning to play the thing. Last night we talked through which strings were which, and I helped him read the music staff, which is apparently different from the piano staff. Having never played a string instrument myself, I did not know this (is this true?), but at least 10 years of studying piano helped me figure out a fourth grade music book. We just worked on plucking. I confess that the bow technique is outside my expertise.

He started working through his next book club book last night. This has been great to have a slightly higher-brow reason to get together with friends regularly. They often talk about the book for an entire half hour before hitting the pizza and juice or someone’s backyard swings, which is probably longer than most adult book clubs go before devolving into gossip and wine.

The 7-year-old is deep into Pokemon. I suspect school is largely the backdrop for his Pokemon card trading, but he came home with flash cards of sight words last night, which I dutifully cut out, and he read through them. I turned them upside down as a challenge and he read through them like that too, so I guess I will just view the fact that he has time to develop his negotiation skills as an OK thing.

He is a bit rough and tumble. At the Cub Scout camping trip over the weekend, he kept wrestling with this much-larger 3rd grader. The other boy took him down every time. Did not seem to both my kid.

What does bother me: he and my daughter (age 5) head butted last night. They were fighting with each other about something, and got up in each other’s faces, and next thing I know they are both holding their mouths. The 7-year-old came out unscathed, but I later saw that she had chipped her front tooth. It was a small chip, and a baby tooth that will likely come out within the year, but it was rough against her lip and starting to tear it. So, at 8:00 this morning, I called our dentist’s office to see if they could fit her in.

Let me just sing the praises of our dentist here. I was so not happy about having to deal with the ramifications of my children’s stupid violence. (I’m already taking time off this afternoon to take the toddler to a doctor appointment). But the receptionist asked if I could come in right then, so I got the 5-year-old dressed and we zipped over. It turns out that the office was officially closed for today and tomorrow with the holiday, but our dentist had agreed to do a procedure for someone else, who was then not there (!) so he saw us. He filed off the rough edge. We were in and out in 15 minutes, and he didn’t even charge us. I got my daughter to school on time.

The 5-year-old and I had an epic thank you note writing session last night. She got a lot of presents for her birthday, so there was a lot of thanking to do. We started out with me writing most of the notes, and her just signing her name, but then she started wanting to write her friends’ names, and sometimes notes and pictures, and by the end our process had slowed considerably. Here we see the contrast between efficiency and effectiveness. I sat there at the kitchen table repeating the mantra to myself that people are a good use of time — both time with my daughter, and her learning the social niceties of sending handwritten notes. I will admit, however, that this was painful at times.

Since I was on solo duty pre-8 a.m. this morning, in anticipation of another 4:45 a.m. wake-up with the toddler, I went to bed at 9:30 p.m. last night. Seriously. I shut my big boys in their room and made it clear that there would be serious consequences for noise or leaving their room (they often fall asleep later than that). Well, 4:45 came and went, but the toddler didn’t get up. Having gone to bed at 9:30, though, I woke up on my own around 5. I guess the upside is that I got a shower in before he woke up at 5:45.

Photo: Getting to be quite a big boy now!


8 thoughts on “Life with little ones right now

  1. Aw, I started viola in 4th grade, too! I took a weird sort of pride in being able to read alto clef as well as treble and bass (from prior piano lessons) when most of my friends could only read one. It’s only viola that gets the alto clef, so prior string experience yourself wouldn’t necessarily have gotten you there. (Cellists do eventually get to music written in tenor clef – which is a C clef like the alto clef, just with the clef sign centered on a different line of the staff — but that’s not until playing in higher positions which usually comes later than elementary school. I think. I didn’t take up cello until my late 20s.)

  2. Another viola player here! I loved learning alto clef too. I remember crying while trying to learn keyboard/piano and suffering through practicing, but for some reason I loved viola and being in the school orchestra much more.

  3. Viola players for the win! I also started in 4th grade, and I played all the way through grad school. At which point I took up Irish fiddle, and played until my first daughter was born. I keep trying to get back to music, and other things keep seeming more important. That is probably a mistake. Music helped keep me grounded through college, grad school, and the ups and downs of my early career. It would probably help me now!

    1. @Cloud- who knew there were all these viola players reading! Music is fun and relaxing once you’re good at it. I have a keyboard in my office, but don’t play much because, as you note, other things always seem more important. But when I do it, I’m happy I did.

  4. Laura, did you know I played a violin for a few years? I think I loved it because my string teacher was a very glamorous woman from California no less! When she left and when we moved to a town where there was no orchestra program, I lost interest. I think the alto clef is confusing but your son is clever and can adjust I am sure!

  5. Viola – how fun! I did not play the viola (piano and trumpet). My 6yo really wants to play the French horn and the piano when he’s old enough to start music lessons, though. Add me to the list of those who want to make more time for music, but always end up shuffling it aside. I also am very happy whenever I do play, as long as I can keep my kids from pounding on the piano at the same time (I probably need to just use a version of your note-writing mantra!). And what a great dentist!

    1. @Meghan – hmm, maybe I should challenge myself to start playing for 15 minutes a few times per week. I would probably quite enjoy it. I wonder why, with my keyboard sitting right here by me, I so rarely do. Something to ponder.

  6. My 10-year-old is also playing the viola in his middle school orchestra. He has already taken violin for a few years, so rather than be bored in orchestra class, he decided to try viola and learn a new clef. His violin teacher tells us that viola players are always in demand, so someone who knows alto clef can audition for groups that they wouldn’t necessarily be competitive for as a violin player. I’m just happy he chose music as his elective – I think it’s a great thing to be involved in in middle and high school.

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