Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You'll never catch me I'm the gingerbread....slave?

"I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once"
Jennifer Unlimited

It is the end of the year and we are heading to summer vacation. So my weeks have been pretty full with meetings and planning. I have to get things set for next year AND at the same time figure out what I am going to do with the herd for twelve weeks this summer. Twelve very long weeks. Eighty four days. Two thousand and sixteen hours. As you can see, I have been dreading giving it quite a bit of thought. But, I try and pace myself. I figure that I'll think of something when the time comes. But for now, I'm just busy trying to do all the things that the end of the school year requires me to do. One of those things is seeing my kids perform in various school plays.

Musical performances at my children's school are a wonder to behold-and I don't mean that in a good way. (If you are new to my blog, I have written about my children's music teacher here and here. ) Last Thursday, Oscar was performing in the third grade dirge production. I'm not quite sure what the title was, but it had to do with paintings and..well..slavery. I don't know, but those two topics just don't scream "Musical!" to me..But hey, I can be jaded and cynical..I know that..So I cast aside my doubts and went with an open mind.

I did have some scheduling conflicts on that particular day. I don't know if it was self preservation or choosing the lesser of two evils-but I had scheduled a two and a half hour dental appointment for that morning. Totally forgetting about Oscar's concert. Thankfully,(or not) I was done with the dentist in just enough time to make it to Oscar's performance. This was the first time he had ever asked me to be there. "Mama! Will you come see me on stage?" "Mama!!!! This is the first time I'll be on stage!" "Mama!! I get to wear a cape!" "Mama!!! Will you be there?" How could I miss it?

As I walked in to the multi-purpose room (feeling as though the right side of my face was six feet long and draped upon my shoulder) Oscar called out to me-from the stage. He is still young enough to not be embarrassed by me. "Mama!..You're here!!!" I waved..he hopped....and kept hopping for a good ten minutes. I hope he is always as thrilled to see me-even when he is older and is too cool to outwardly acknowledge it. I stayed in the back of the room. I have trouble sitting still and always feel more comfortable standing. It also gives me the option of escaping leaving quietly if the need should arise. I had Zoe with me, and she doesn't like crowds. (Although she did dress for the occasion in a purple boa and sunglasses.) So I thought it best that I stand by the door.

Before I go on...I have to explain something. I had just come from the dentist-a place that gives me horrendous anxiety. My anxiety is so palpable that the dentist prescribed Valium for me. So when I arrived at the performance...the Valium was in full effect. Thank god.

Because I was standing in the back, I did not have a program for the show. I did not know the titles of any of the vignettes being performed. So I'll just give you a brief synopsis of what went on. The first scene featured a group of children with white pillowcases miming picking cotton while everyone sang "Swing Low Sweet Chariot". Far be it from me to criticise..but does anyone else see the sheer weirdness of this? White children (there were only two kids of mixed ethnicity in the entire show-one was Oscar) re-enacting slavery? Yes, teaching about that sad chapter in our nations history is important-but this..this was bizarre. Oh and it only got worse..The next vignette featured children posing like(I think) the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware. Each child (it felt as though there were thousands) stepped up to a microphone and in crystal clear monotone mumbled.. something-couldn't begin to tell you what-only that it went on for what seemed like an eternity. I for one, was ready to start collecting social security by the end of it...Next was the Native American story..or what I fondly call "Riot at the Thorazine Clinic "in which one boy whispered about being happy and joyful (again in monotone) while a bunch of kids shuffle"dance" around him. Oh what a time we had. I could just imagine the N.Y. Times review "Exhausting!" writes Leonard Malton "A treat for the comatose!" It was truly that awful. I didn't think it could get any worse..until we got to the story of the runaway slave. Once again we have a child (wearing overalls with the prerequisite one strap hanging off) skulking about the stage attempting to get to the underground railroad. This would have been fine until they brought out the "captured slaves". Yes, while our hero is hiding, he watches people march by with two captured "slaves" between them. Only they weren't people..(yes, I understand that they weren't going to tie some kids up) instead, they were what appeared to be giant life sized gingerbread men with ropes around their necks. Only without the icing. At this point, I had had it. Gingerbread men!!! I was shaking trying to contain my laughter..tears were leaking out my eyes..and what was worse was that I was the only one reacting this way. Was it the Valium? Or was it just me? I did notice though, that when the lights came up, people seemed overly eager to get out of there.
When Oscar came home later, he asked if I had seen him. I said " Uhh.. you waved at me remember?" "Oh that's right.." "So Oscar, you have done a lot of work learning about slavery.." "Slavery?" "Yeah bud..isn't that what your show was mainly about?" "Oh....did you see the gingerbread men?" it wasn't just me. Sigh... Only three weeks till the next "concert" Sammy will be performing in his last concert at this school. On to middle school for him. And hopefully a different music teacher. I'm just wondering if I can somehow manage a dental appointment that morning?

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Village of the Damned" the musical...

"I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific"
                                                                    Lily Tomlin

  Oscar was home sick last week. When he's sick nothing makes him feel better than comfort and reassurance..he heads straight to the open arms and radiant glow... of the television ...sigh..that is where Oscar feels most relaxed. I look at it this way-If he is calm, he is resting. His body will have some time to recover. Normally, I don't pay too much attention. As long as he has his cartoons and snacks, he is a happy boy. But today.. today was different. Instead of the usual variety of shows, Oscar for some unknown reason chose to watch "Barney". You know, the giant purple dinosaur who is always so damn happy. Not only is HE happy, he is surrounded by strange hyper animated children who are happy as well. It is a surreal world where they sing about the alphabet, going to the doctor, or being a fireman. Think "Village of the damned" set to music with costumes.

  Normally, I would be able to ignore Barney and his fiends friends..The problem with this is...Oscar kept rewinding over and over I am hearing THAT know the one.."I love love me..we're a great big family.." He did it so many times that I had no choice but to run- escape into that special place in my head..(if you are a stay at home parent, you know what I'm talking about) It was either that, or lose it completely...standing in front of the television...tears streaming down my face...shaking my fists, gnashing my teeth..yelling shrilly "You don't love me!! You don't even know who I am!!" And then collapsing in a quivering heap.

  It's not like I have anything against costumed characters. Really I don't! I myself made a living being one. Once as a giant turkey for a Thanksgiving promotion at a mall, and another time as a giant rose. The giant rose was my favorite. I was promoting a flower shop on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. I would run up and down the block handing out fliers while dressed in a green spandex unitard with a GIGANTIC rose head piece. Oh, I had so much fun....I would follow people into their buildings..down the street..Sometimes I would pose in the window of the store...not moving..letting people come and stare...and then BOO! I would jump out at them...or I would subtly wink at someone...make them question whether or not I was real or if they were imagining things. Alright..maybe the last part wasn't so nice. But hey-I never once sang that I loved anyone..nor did I gather a posse of strange children to sing along with me. I loved it. It was the perfect job for a hyperactive girl.

  Oscar is much better and back in school this week. He also seems to be over his fascination with Barney. He is a funny boy my Oscar. He loves words and phrases..loves to repeat certain things...and asks me to repeat them as well. We have our old favorites like "farmers nipples", "Binga Binga has grass on his hands", "grey stuffed animals nose"and oh so many more. I never quite know what word or phrase is going to catch his attention or even why some of them do. Thankfully,(really thankfully) he didn't care to repeat any of what Barney said..well except for "I love you" but he's always said that...and that one is straight from Oscar.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Can Will Does..

"Veni, Vidi, Vici"

Julius Caesar

I didn't know just how determined he was. I should have suspected something seeing as how he was fully dressed when I came downstairs this morning. Sammy is a slow starter in the morning-a really slow starter. Frozen molasses runs faster than he does. So I should have noticed that he was up, dressed and ready to go...or at least commented on it. But, I had things to do. Sammy had a basketball game, and getting everyone dressed, fed, and out the door takes monumental effort-and at least two cups of coffee. Sometimes more..o.k. actually most times more.

Sammy plays on one of his school basketball teams. It is actually a nice set up. There are about six co-ed teams of third through fifth graders. The focus is primarily on teaching the game rather than on competition. They practice once a week and every Saturday there is a game. Today was the last game of the season. So I was pretty happy...alright, I admit it..I was thrilled. Monday through Friday I rush every morning to get them out the door and onto the bus. Do they have hats, jackets, snow pants, lunch, backpacks, clean faces...'s always rush rush rush...So the idea of getting back one of the mornings where I don't have to do anything..'s thrilling.

This is Sammy's third year of playing for a team. Sadly, it will probably be his last. Next year, in sixth grade they hold try-outs...and I don't think he'll make a team. He has some large motor skills issues. Although he is a speed demon on his bicycle..running and dribbling a ball is very challenging to him. He doesn't life his feet off the ground when he runs..add a basketball and the results are..well, he struggles. Don't get me wrong-he has improved immensely since third grade. The first year he played, if he saw one of is friends on the opposing team, he would stop to hug them. The second year, anytime he got the ball, he would break down laughing in the middle of the court. This year though... this year he was different. He was focused. He concentrated on defending his basket, and in passing the ball. In fact the minute he got the ball, he would pass it- immediately. My Sammy is tough, but he isn't aggressive. For him, I think it was more about just playing and being part of a team, rather than scoring. Until today that is.

Today he was a dog with a bone. Come hell or high water, he was going to score. And nothing was going to get in his way. First quarter-Sammy gets the ball..there is no room to move..he is so focused, so set on shooting..he bounces the ball with both hands and walks three feet to the basket..and shoots! and misses..He looks at me-I give him a thumbs up. Second quarter, he gets the ball..he shoots! he rebounds off the backboard, he grabs the ball he shoots! he misses..He looks at me, I give him a thumbs up. Third quarter..he's fouled, goes to the line..he shoots! he misses...he gets fouled again he shoots! he misses..he gets passed the ball..he shoots! he misses..he gets passed the ball again..he shoots! he misses..My boy must have attempted to score at least twenty times..and every time, he looks at me, and every time I give him a thumbs now everyone has noticed..and is rooting for him...his team mates..the opposite team..the audience..everyone wants him to score. His determination is contagious..The tension was palpable..(I was a wreck) I don't think that there was a person there that wasn't captivated. They can see how badly he wants this. How hard he is trying.. it is no longer about watching the game....or about disability...or the fact that my boy is is about Sammy. It is about my boy wanting to make a basket. In the fourth quarter, with thirty seconds left in the game...his team mate gets the ball..he could have scored easily..gotten the glory..instead.. he passes it to Sammy..I hear him say in a matter of fact way.."You CAN do this Sammy" if it is no big if it is just a common every day if he expects no less. Sammy takes the ball..and what felt like slow motion .. it goes up..up..and then ...Swish...nothing but net. Everyone cheers in excitement...and relief! My boy looks at me..he is shining.. I give him a thumbs up-(even though I wanted to rush down and grab him and hug him.-but a mother doesn't do that to an eleven year old boy, especially in public) he runs to finish the game with the rest of his team.

The cynical and jaded part of me could say "oh, how nice..yet another "autistic kid makes a basket..the crowd erupts" story. But that wasn't it at all. Sammy has been at this school since he was seven years old. He is an accepted part of his class. Those kids didn't pass him the ball because of his disabilities..but because he was part of the team. Sigh... Sometimes, I need to remove my sarcastic self from the picture. Because sometimes a game is just a game..and a kid is just a kid. Today my kid was determined. He came, he saw, he conquered because he can..he will and he does. How's that for awareness?