Friday, March 25, 2011

Overbooked, Overscheduled, Oh!

Dash's karate kick!
Months ago, back at the beginning of the school year, I made a personal decision. Now that I had two kids in public school, which comes complete with the shorter days that make a working parent's nerves twang, I had to make a concession. Either my kids would come home from school and watch TV until 6:30 when I arrived, then quickly shovel dinner in and finish homework before they dropped; OR, I would shorten my hours so that I could be home when they got home. I shortened my hours.

When I first envisioned the extra two whole hours balancing away in my work-life scenario, they seemed like golden, glittering minutes, full of promise. I could choose after-school activities for the kids. I could go to the gym. I could get all those to-do lists of home-chores done. We could gambol in the yard, go for hikes, schedule playdates! So, you smart people, you already know the reality, don't you?

What really happened at first is that when I got home earlier, the chores started immediately, dinner happened much sooner, and then TV and homework and collapsing. No gamboling, no walks, no hazy crisp fall afterschool playdates. Perhaps what was wrong here was a lack of structure, I thought. I started to schedule activities.

Rosie and Dash were already taking tap and ballet classes on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively. Last summer, we added Saturday karate for Dash, while Rosie did Japanese calligraphy. They were also taking afterschool soccer on half-day Mondays, but that ended at 2pm and Grandma S picked them up (thanks, mom!!). Of course, I have my modern dance class too, on Thursdays. This winter, we added art classes for both Rosie and me on Saturdays and Mondays; soccer had ended, Rosie dropped calligraphy and I took a break from dance just for home-life balance with the art class. For Dash, we added a language class on Wednesdays, Spanish, and for Rosie we added Junior Jazzercise on Thursdays, which just ended. The Winter-term art classes just ended, as well. Have you lost track yet?

Here's how things look at the moment:
  • Monday: nothing
  • Tuesday: nothing
  • Wednesday: Spanish, tap 
  • Thursday: modern dance
  • Friday: nothing
  • Saturday: karate, tap
  • Sunday: nothing
Only three days booked? My brain fired: must schedule MORE!!! What did I do? I signed the kids up for Gunston Soccer Club, a local competitive league. I sure had my rose-colored glasses on, because I thought that since some close friends who have kids (the same ages and genders as mine) were also registered, that all I had to do was request that we have the same teams for our kids and it would happen! I imagined carpooling and sideline flask-sipping with adult friends while our kids frolicked happily around the soccer fields.

Reality hit when I got their coach assignments and details about the league.  A gut-punch to the stomach: neither child was on our friends' team rosters. Carpooling? Out the window. I only recognized one parent's email address from either list. But the freak-out really happened when I saw the scheduling... Thursday practices for Rosie starting at 5:30 (with an optional Tuesday clinic), and game day Saturdays; Friday practices for Dash (at a different location) at 5:30, game day Saturdays—each child would have two games back-to-back, with times scheduled by luck of the draw. With two kids, you could potentially be at the soccer field for most of Saturday, worst case scenario.

What was I thinking? Dash already had two Saturday activities! And while Rosie likes soccer well enough, she wanted to continue with art or Jr. Jazzercise, which are scheduled on Saturday and Thursday, overlapping. This is a very popular soccer club! How do all the other parents do it?

In tears, I emailed Dash's coach and told him that I wished to withdraw Dash, sight unseen. He was very nice about it, even trying to offer scenarios for me to keep Dash in the club. I stuck to my message and said no, again and again. He finally got it and took Dash off the roster. Instead, I put Dash back into the Monday afterschool soccer, where there were no conflicts. Rosie will stay with Gunston for now—I'm curious to see how the club works and whether it's manageable for future seasons.

A quick recap of schedule to be (four days scheduled):

Monday: Dash, soccer
Tuesday: nothing
Wednesday: Dash, Spanish; Rosie, tap
Thursday: Rosie, soccer club practice; me, dance
Friday: nothing
Saturday: Rosie, soccer club games (starting 4/9); Dash, karate & ballet
Sunday: nothing

I've still got ideas bouncing around in my head. I want Dash to try the track team and Rosie to get back in art. I'm not sure this soccer thing is going to work, but if she likes it, that's what counts (I know Dash loves it). I'm here to give my kids opportunities to try different things and see what they're good at, learn to use their bodies and minds, practice and develop. I'm helping them become well-rounded little people.

But, y'know, I still need to be able to schedule a haircut for myself now and then. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

While the Fox Eats his Dinner, the Siren Tempts the Kraken

Rosie and I are both taking classes at The Art League for the first time this semester (okay, the second time for me, but the first for both of us). My silkscreen instructor told us a few classes ago that there would be a student show open to all current Art League students; we could each enter one piece, no charge. Heck, I thought, why not enter? It would be a mild ego boost for me and a big feather in Rosie's cap. Decision made, I filled out the forms and we each picked one piece from our class portfolios.

Rosie chose an oil pastel drawing she made of a reclining fox, ready to eat his dinner. We have at least one family of wild foxes in our neighborhood and Fantastic Mr. Fox is a favorite movie, so she is familiar with her vulpine subject.

Mine was the second design I made for the term, a five-edition print of a kraken and a siren, completed in three passes with four ink colors. The design was transferred to the screen using a photo-emulsion technique that I'll need to experiment with more at home. The underwater scene is composed from antique renderings of a giant squid, Edmund Dulac's 1911 illustration of the mermaid from Hans Christian Anderson's A Little Mermaid (a favorite book illustration from my youth), and my own drawings of fish and coral/sea plants.

Monkeyrotica and I made plans to meet BFFs Kelly and Mike at the Art League gallery to see the student show along with all the kids after having a wonderful lunch at Atlantis. So consistently tasty, is Atlantis! After we arrived at the Torpedo Factory Art Center and while I was waiting on everyone to finish taking potty breaks, I got a call from the gallery (just one floor below us). My Kraken piece had sold!! I was elated! Luckily for us, the buyer had agreed to let the gallery keep the piece until the show closed and we could still visit it. Monkeyrotica wanted to take a photo of me with my artwork and the kids insisted that they be a part of this moment:
I had gifted an edition of The Kraken to Kelly, who told me later "You should have seen Thea's (pictured far right) face when she realized that the piece hanging in the gallery was also hanging in our house. So impressed in her own 7-year-old-way." 

This whole experience has left me wondering why I never followed this route professionally or even as a hobby. The last time I entered a gallery show was in my senior year of college, too many years ago to count. Okay, honestly, I've never thought I could make a living as a fine artist, and I'm still not sure I have the marketing stamina to make a go of not working for the man. Having artwork in a gallery—and selling it too—has been a great experience!

P.S. The "We will miss the bees" t-shirt I'm wearing was created by Tina Seamonster
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