My online journal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ending the school year with a bang (and a drill or two)

Last day of school! Last day of school!

Today was the kids' last day. I think St. Paul is the only school district in the country that hasn't been out since last week. I think it's nice to end in the middle of the week -- makes a Tuesday seem like a Friday.

It's been an emotional and exciting week for all of us here in Gronauland. Lucy had her Kindergarten graduation last Friday. Many tears were shed as her cohort of 15 said goodbye to the teacher most of them had had for two years.

Golly, we love Ms. Kristie! She gave a lovely tear-jerking little talk about the class, and then as they got their "diplomas," Kristie announced what each child said he or she wanted to be when they grew up. Lucy said "a teacher." We watched a little slide show of the year, followed by cookies and juice. It was small and simple and touching and perfect.

Lucy's graduation dress (yay Valu Thrift!)

She REALLY wanted to wear my hat, but chickened out.

Our big brand-new first grader!

And here are a couple pics from her piano recital the weekend before:

Ms. Mary, a sweet and patient woman.

I did 2 duets with Lucy, and she played one piece on her own. Piano has been a struggle this year -- Lucy hasn't really enjoyed it, and it's been really hard making time to practice. But she enjoyed performing (surprise, surprise) and has been working much harder and more diligently on it the last couple of weeks, and we're all (by which I mean "I am") starting to get more disciplined about her practicing.

Also, we've been assembling a playset:
This is the kind of project that would take one full weekend if you had 2-4 grownups working all daylight hours. We, unfortunately, do not have that kind of free time, but we spent large chunks of 2 weekends putting this thing together. The picture above shows maybe 20% completion. It's now probably 90% completed (even the monster slide is fully assembled but just needs its bolts tightened and the whole thing needs to be attached to the fort) but finishing that last 10% is going to be tricky. The kids already are enjoying the swings and I'm excited to have people over when it's less of a safety hazard.

Oh golly there's so much more! But I have to go get the kids from the bus. I hope to find time in the next couple of days to let y'all know about roller derby tryouts. In the meantime, bon soir!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Wednesday night

Stink! I SWORE I was going to write more as tryouts approached. Well, I'm a bit of a failure because tryouts are in 4 days. I suppose now is as good a time as any to do some processing. But first: what the devil have we been up to around here?

Lucy had her first piano recital last Saturday. Her teacher, Miss Mary, is an incredibly sweet and patient woman with an adorable South African accent. Lucy likes her but has not enjoyed piano for most of the school year. It's hard to find time to practice (and Mary only asks for 10-15 minutes per day)... and Lucy ALWAYS has something she'd rather be doing... and I'm not always home in the evening to sit with her... and Lucy has had other rehearsals stealing her time... anyway, it has been a struggle.

But just days before the recital, I finally happened to be at a lesson with Lucy and during a natural break in the action, I mentioned to Mary about the difficulty we'd been having, and Mary gently-but-firmly encouraged practicing immediately after school, before any other distractions could jump in. And I realized that our normal after-school routine had been extremely wishy-washy: all snick-snacking and shoe-tossing and backpack-unloading and completely unstructured. So, I thought, we could try some structure. I set a timer when the kids got home and let them know that they should grab something to eat right away, because snacktime was OVER when the buzzer buzzed. And I let Lucy know that at the buzzer, she'd start practicing piano. And you know what? Not a single complaint. They ate, they finished, and she practiced -- at least 15 minutes and sometimes more.

Now, it's only been a week (and we've had to mix it up a bit this week because I've been teaching at the kids' school... more on that later)... but today Lucy even had the forethought to practice BEFORE SCHOOL because she was having a playdate after school. What a kid! She played beautifully (I mean, for a 6-year-old who has been taking piano for only 9 months) at her recital on Saturday, and I'm just so proud of her. She's matured so much in the last few months, and while I mourn the loss of her babyhood, she is truly growing into a lovely young girl.

Eddie had a rough evening tonight. I'm guessing he had a nice morning with Grandpa Books (those two are like peas and carrots), and I think his school day was OK (albeit a little off-kilter; there was an assembly (more on that later)), but Lucy had a playdate after (that Ed wasn't invited to) and then we had to drop Grandpa off at the airport (Eddie says "I miss him already. He's my biggest fan."), then I dragged him to a roller derby store to get my wiggly plate looked at (the housing for my toestop has come unglued -- not a dealbreaker, but will need to be fixed soon). Then we had a loooong drive to McDonald's, then I took him to the Roseville Oval so I could skate a few laps, and he had no playmates and was booooooooored. And, I suspect, quite tired after an exciting week. We've had some unbearable heat here (today was lovely, but the last 2 days have been 100+ degrees) and I think Ed got a bit too hot Monday and is still recovering a bit. Anyway, he calmed down by bedtime and, I might add, passed out almost immediately.

For the last 5 school days I've been teaching a "High School Musical" camp at the kids' school. Every three years, Nokomis does an "Artist in Residence" program for their 4th, 5th, and 6th-graders. The students get to choose between 5 or 6 art programs and then spend 5 days participating in them. Ashland Productions arranged it for me (with only a bit of prodding from me) and I was honored and excited to get to teach at my kids' school.

The kids learned a 10-minute song-and-dance medley, and we played some theatre/acting games to break it up a bit. It was intense. For one, some of the kids didn't follow instructions and accidentally put the HSM camp down as their first choice. Ooops. And... remember that 100+ degree heat I mentioned? Yep, and I was in an upstairs, west-facing classroom with 25 kids and noooo air conditioning. It was brutal.

We made the best of it (and occasionally escaped to the much-cooler gym). And, as always happens, the show totally came together at the end. Over half the kids chose to sing solos, and with the wonder of modern sound amplification, you could actually hear them. At least six different teachers stopped me afterward and said they had been crying the whole performance -- evidently my group had a large number of children with various behavior and/or emotional problems. Some of the kids had NEVER gotten up to speak in front of their classes before... but they did a solo. Some of these kids aren't having much success in math... reading... any of the traditional school subjects... but they shone while performing. Some of the kids came in wanting nothing to do with singing and dancing, but I totally caught them having a good time and actually trying up there. It was a beautiful experience. Nokomis had to cut their music teacher a few years ago, and a bunch of the teachers said this experience was a perfect example of why music is absolutely necessary in school. I was astounded and humbled by the whole thing. It sure wasn't easy -- I came home completely wiped out those first 4 days. But I am so dang proud of those kids. I am so blessed to get to do what I do.

OK right, so I'm trying out for the Minnesota Rollergirls on Sunday. Tryouts start at 2pm and I ought to know by 6 or 6:30 whether I've been selected to attend this summer's boot camp. If I make it to boot camp, then we practice 3 days a week until the draft on August 11. I would be feeling pretty darn confident about the whole thing... except I think there are only 6 spots available. Aaaaannnd there are a couple of the girls on my Debs team with whom I cannot keep up. Aaaaand you never know what kind of transfers or other super-amazing girls might stroll in off the street. Aaaaaaand in some ways it's like a theatre audition -- they might be looking to draft only taller, larger girls (in dance, I am definitely taller and larger. Not so in derby). Or girls under age 30. Or -- God forbid! -- redheads. Anything is possible.

But I'm so grateful for how roller derby has impacted my life already. I am in better shape than ever. I get really sweaty on a regular basis, which makes me so happy (ask Joel). And when I really push myself and dig deep and try something new or hard (or new AND hard), I've had an amazing group of women standing right there, cheering me on until it's time for us to trade places. I've never experienced such support, such positivity, such great motivational mojo. And I've been in wonderful groups of people before. I've had life-changing experiences with awesome people when I was in West Side Story and Joseph. I've loved my softball and volleyball teams, and I'm grateful and fond of the relationships formed during those experiences. But to have 80 women working together encouraging each other, without a single stinker in the bunch... there's nothing like that power.

So, I'm going to rest and hydrate and hope for the best on Sunday. And I'll be honored if I make it, but still delighted just to continue with the Debs for another year if I don't. And I'll let you know, either way!