Thank you for the music

I heard earlier this week (thanks to the facebook grapevine) that my beloved elementary school music teacher, Mrs. Hoch, died earlier this month. I happen to hear this news on the same day as Zach’s orchestra concert and just a few days after Zach’s big moment singing the national anthem at the JCU Relay For Life event. I felt like the universe was telling me I had to write about Mrs. Hoch and how she impacted my life. So hear goes…

Mrs. Hoch was my music (choir) teacher at Heim Elementary (grades 1-5) in Buffalo, NY during the mid to late seventies (yes I’m old!). As a little girl I always loved music and singing and Mrs. Hoch was a big part of helping set that foundation for me for the rest of my life. The highlight of my memories with Mrs. Hoch was the Rip Van Winkle musical in which I had a lead part in 5th grade. I played “Dame Van Winkle”, Rip’s wife, and I still remember having to yell, “RIP!! RRRIIIIIPPPPPPP!!! RIP VAN WINKLE!!” at the top of my lungs yelling about the cabin being such a mess and how much I have to work (I haven’t changed much in 30 years!!). I also remembered having to wash my hair a few times after each show because of all the baby powder that we used to make my hair look gray! I had a few solo songs that I probably could still remember all the words to (we have the show on VHS tape somewhere!) and I remember getting a bouquet of flowers from my leading man (hmm…what was his name? My sister probably remembers) at the end of one of the shows. But beyond remembering all of the details about that show, I remember how I felt. I remember feeling important, special and that I was good at something. During those days I began to think that my singing voice might be better than the average bear and that felt really good. This feeling of being good at singing is something that I would cling to in darker days of high school when I wasn’t sure that there was anything else I could do well. Mrs. Hoch instilled that feeling in me through her teaching, love, creativity and generosity.

My hope is that kids can always have music. My hope is that schools can continue to offer wonderful music programs (bands and choirs) so that kids can discover those gifts inside them and be able to express themselves through music. I’m thankful that Zach has a great music program in Hudson and I’m thankful that he seems to have that little ember in him that is stirred by music. My wish and hope is that even as a boy Zach can still find a way to be okay with loving to sing. I have already heard him say things like, “I don’t like choirs…I just like to sing”. It saddens me that our society seems to have a stigma on boys who have the ability and who like to sing. Maybe Zach will have a Mrs. Hoch in his life someday. I sure hope so.

Thank you for the music, Mrs. Hoch. Now you can help direct the choirs of angels. May you rest in peace. Until we meet again…

Are we bored with board games?

Chutes and Ladders, Careers, Pay Day and of course the ever popular Monopoly. These are the games that we played as kids growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s. I have many fond memories of playing these games with my sister and friends on a rainy day. But these days I wonder if the board game has run its course. What is the shelf life of the good old board game with the actual board, game pieces (inevitably with one missing), maybe play money and a smattering of used score sheets? I ask you, when is the last time you played an actual board game??

I submit to you, Exhibit A: the new Monopoly. My son received this new modern version of Monopoly for his birthday. There is no actual money in this game. That’s right – no money. There is a credit card machine and every player gets to swipe their “credit card” to get paid and pay their bills. Seriously. I tried to keep an open mind with this newfangled game, but I have to admit the novelty of the little machine wore off after the first few swipes. It actually became annoying and lots of work for the banker. Plus we are teaching our kids that credit cards are fun – that is kinda dangerous. Not to mention the fact that gone is the opportunity for kids to practice math with actual (okay, fake) money. But the machine money is more fake than the fake paper money. Did you follow that??!! Well, the game was not played to the end (hey, it was Monopoly after all), but my point is that even the board games that try to be technical and mod seem to fall short these days.

I submit to you, Exhibit B: the sleepover. My son had a friend spend the night last night and I bet you cannot guess what they spent most of their time doing? You guessed it, video games!! Yep, they either had the computer fired up or the Xbox fired up the entire time, pretty much. They did watch a movie in there somewhere and played outside for like a total of 10 minutes. But, alas no board games. And it is not like we don’t have any actual games. We have a closet full of them. There are even some cool more modern ones in there, like the mod Monopoly, mostly because Santa keeps giving them for Christmas every year. I guess he is fan of board games too.

What do you think? Should we ditch the playing cards in favor of an electronic Solitaire game? Throw out the old battleship game in favor an on-line version? Something to ponder. Oh, please excuse me. I need to see if it is my turn to play Scrabble on Facebook. Shhhhh!!!!!

Leading with Heart

Fri, March 9
Yoga at lunch

So it was meant to be that I went to yoga today. Not only was it a fantastic work out as always, but I learned that I was doing upward facing dog wrong for the past year! I was not lining up my elbows correctly with my shoulders and thereby risking injury to my shoulders and my lower back. After I tweaked my alignment I could immediately feel the difference! Leading with the heart is the key. Leading with the heart. Yep, that phrase definitely resonates with me for life off the mat too, actually! I hope I can always lead with compassion and a sense of social justice at the core of my decisions rather than being motivated my money or the bottom line.

I guess this is why I’m particularly proud of Zachary today. I showed him the KONY 2012 film last night and he was so motivated to take action that he created flyers (with Dad’s help) and brought them to hang up in school today (only with the teacher’s permission, of course). He came downstairs with a big “KONY 2012” written on his arm in pen – okay that I’m not too thrilled about – but I love the passion behind it. He was holding onto the flyers and exclaimed to me, “Mom, this could change the world!”. While albeit a bit naive, I love that Zach naturally has in him the caring, passion, initiative and even gumption to want to help make positive change in his world. He believes he can change the world and isn’t that where we all need to start? He is leading with heart and has already moved people in the process – even if it is just his ‘ol mom.

Why I deserve the “Mother of the Week” award

So this has truly been a rough week for me. Truly. Mike was out of town for most of it so I completely blame my incompetence on his absence and the fact that I had to use more brain power than normal. There were two bookend faux-pas involving school that I will not live down very soon. I probably should not admit these things on my blog, but maybe you need a laugh, just as much as I need to write about it. So, here’s the story…

Monday – I have in my Outlook calendar at the office that Zach does not have school on Monday. Throughout the whole weekend this fact is in my brain. It actually was going to work out great – the day after his birthday and the superbowl he could sleep in (well theoretically if he ever slept in) and that would be just great. So I go to work as usual, and leave the boys to their own devices. All is well until I get a chat from Mike at lunch that says,

“Are you sure Zach didn’t have school today?”

To which I reply, “Well, yeah, its in my calendar!” as if my calendar is the end all be all of events that transpire in and around the community.

He continued with his observation that while they were out for lunch and haircuts they didn’t see any other kids around which made me very suspicious. I began to doubt the ironclad perfectionism of my calendar as I pulled up the school website and yep – totally had school today!!! Oh crap. So embarrassed. I admitted my faux pas to Mike and he said the school had just called to find out if Zach was okay and forgot to call in. Gulp. As I perused the calendar to see how I could have made this scheduling error I realized that it was next Monday that they were off for parent/teacher conferences – NEXT Monday. Oh…oops. The kicker of this whole thing is that I myself received a conference request for Zach’s teacher for next Monday. Duh. You would think I would have connected the dots. Nope. Faux pas one – check.

Cut to Friday – the next bookend event. Zach gets off the bus yesterday and I happily greet him with a great big motherly smile and a happy I-had-a-great-day-having-lunch-with-my-mom-and-going-shopping “how was your day, dear”? greeting to which Zach says the standard, “good and (wait for it…….)….we had a fun Valentine’s Day party.”

I first just blink like a deer in headlights for what felt like 10 minutes and then say, “No, was that today??”

“Yeah, I had no Valentines and no decorated Valentine’s box,” he says. I just stare at him in disbelief. How could I do this twice in one week??!! He was that kid and I was that Mom!!!

“But don’t worry, Mom. I still got Valentine’s and stuff”. Yet again for the 468 time I was thankful that Zach was a boy. I don’t think a girl would get over not having a decorated V-Day box this easily. Faux pas number two – check.

I apologized all over the place to Zach, but luckily he didn’t seem all that concerned. I should note in my defense that Valentine’s Day is not until this Tuesday AND Zach did not remind me of the party, nor did he show me a reminder note about it or anything. However, I made a mental note to go ahead and buy Valentine’s around Z’s birthday in early February from now on.

So I’m good for making my share of crazy Mom mistakes for awhile right? Or, wait, don’t they come in three’s???! Oh brother.

Christmas Joy

So I have been meaning to blog about my Christmas Carroll Eve experience this year for over a week, but when I received this picture as a gift from Angie, my grad assistant, I finally got the nudge to tell the story.

First a little background info – Christmas Carroll Eve is a neat traditional event at John Carroll that I have had the pleasure of coordinating for the past few years. It has been around for tons of years and involves choral music, caroling, a tree lighting, a mass and a late night feast. It is a really special event that students, staff and community members look forward to each year. Last year was the first year that I let Zach come with me to enjoy the evening. It is a very late night with the feast starting at midnight. He enjoyed it last year and wanted to come with me again this year.

Cut to the evening of Sat, Dec 10. The evening began with the concerts – first the choir and then the jazz band, with an intermission in between. Zach eyed the cello on stage when we got there so that meant that we HAD to sit in the second row so we could see it well. He re-met a student he remembered from last year who has a beautiful voice (EBJ) and was given the important task of taping her solo on her phone. He did a great job taping and was completely focused on the stage for the entire choir part. Not once did he tell me he was bored or ask me when it would be done (very unlike this kid). After intermission, chatting with some students and eating way too many cookies, we went back in for the jazz band. We we in for a treat! We were excited to see another student (O’Dell) that Zach knew from the summer playing the saxophone. Not even 2 minutes into the first piece, he leans over to me and informs me that he wants to play saxophone next year! He had to go backstage and talk to O’Dell which resulted in a picture, of course!

We continued our evening at the student center where the women’s accapella group was leading a Christmas carol sing-along. Since his new buddy EBJ was the leader of the group, Zach managed to insert himself in with all the students and sang with them to lead the singing. See pic – it is a little dark, but just look for the Santa hat in the center.

Too funny.

At the end of this event was the tree lighting. We drew names of students who entered a contest to light the tree this year. Zach drew the names of about 6 names of students, but none were still at the event. Eventually after a very unsuccessful drawing, one of the priests asked the crowd, “Who thinks we should let Zachary light the tree this year?!” At this point I think most of the room knew that Zachary was the kid with the Santa hat on so there was a thunderous applause of approval for Zach to light the tree. He runs up to me and tells me that he is going to say something before he plugs in the tree. Oh, this could be interesting, I thought. I told him that was probably not a good idea, all the while knowing that he most definitely was going to do it anyway. After the priest gave a short blessing, it was Zach’s big moment. I look over to where the outlet is and all I hear in Zach’s 9-year-old voice is , “fire in the hole!!!” before the tree lights up. Everyone in earshot cracks up including me!! This kid is not shy at all! I looked around, thankful that the university president was not in the room.

At the 11pm Mass my little comedian decides to take a snooze. I’m thinking he is totally out for the night and wondering how and if he will make it through the breakfast. During the last song, Joy to the World, however, he perks up and asks if it is time for food! This kid is the energizer bunny!

We went over to the feast and what to our wondering eyes did appear? A chocolate fountain with all the accoutrements – oh dear! We waited in a long line, but it was so worth it!! Zach enjoyed some chocolate covered pretzels, marshmallows and rice krispee treats! Of course this was after a plate of pancakes! We sat with Angie and some of her friends and enjoyed the food. All of a sudden Zach is smiling and tapping the chair next to him. “Sit here with us!” he tells EBJ who was walking by with a plate of chocolate covered wonderfulness. She sits down with us and we chat for awhile longer. Now, I don’t know if it was the chocolate, the late hour, or just Christmas fun, but Zach started regaling the group with stories about our dog, Henry and it was hilarious. We were all punchy and laughing so hard that we couldn’t catch our breath! He was also telling EBJ all about my website…”it is easy, just go to itsjustlisa.com and you can read all about stories of Henry!”. What is he, my PR man now, or what?!

The coup de gras for the night was when Zach exclaimed that he wasn’t going to play the saxophone next year – he was going to play the Zaxophone!! I died laughing right there – there were tears!! When there was a lull in the conversation, I overheard this coming from the next table over…”fire in the hole!”. OMG – the priest from the tree lighting was retelling the story to other people at his table…including the President!! We looked over, waived, and smiled and I took that as my cue to exit – stage right. Well, that, and it was 1:10am!!

In the car on the way home, with Zach fast asleep and me feeling like a terrible mom for keeping him out that late, I reflected on the evening with a smile on my face. What a wonderful time with my son. If I could bottle up the feeling I had watching him enjoy the music, singing with the students, lighting that tree and laughing his fool head off, I would. All I could think of to describe that night was JOY. I will never forget that special night of Christmas joy with my little dude.

Merry Christmas and may you experience some of your very own Christmas joy!!

Tick Tock Triathlon

Sat, Aug 13
8am

Well, today Zach did his first triathlon! It was in the Hudson Park Estates Development and was extremely well organized and implemented. Much to our surprise the Tick Tock Triathlon was actually in its 5th year this year and the mayor was even there to give the organizer a key to the city. Very cool! The event is a fundraiser for the American Heart Association which is also very cool. We found out about it by seeing it in the Hub. Zach said, “See, mom, I knew there were triathlons for kids!”

There were just about 200 kids participating (18 and under). Zach’s age group (9-10 year olds) swam 25 yards (in the pool), biked 1 mile and ran 1/2 mile. He did a great job and we were proud of him! He had a little bit of trouble in the transition area – almost had to put his shirt on over his helmet! But, he definitely excelled on the bike and passed some people. The times are not posted yet, so we don’t have his exact time yet. Next year we definitely know that he should streamline the amount of clothing in the transition area, but besides that it was a great race! It was a beautiful morning for it too which was nice.

Here are some pics of the race…

Getting ready

Swim

Transition

Bike

Run

Finish

Great time and great event! I’ll add Zach’s time when it is posted! Can’t wait for next year!!

Zach’s Food Revolution?

So, there we were having dinner out at Yours Truly the other night when I simply asked Mike if he had heard that Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution show was on again. We had watched it when he was in West Virginia and really enjoyed and were moved by it.

Out of the blue, Zachary (who brings a packed lunch to school daily) starts in. I will paraphrase his rant:

“Mommy, I want to make changes for the lunch program at school. The food is so unhealthy for you. They give you pancakes in a bag! They give you peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread in a bag! I mean how hard would it be for them to take two pieces of wheat bread, put peanut butter on it, with a variety of jelly available and there you go! Also, they need to have more fruit. They should make food that is healthy for you. My friend held up his slice of pizza and the grease drips off. It is disgusting! I want to go in and tell those cafeteria ladies that they need to start making stuff from scratch.”

I interrupted him at this point to tell him that the cafeteria ladies were just doing their jobs and that he would have to talk to someone higher up to suggest changes. To which he replied:

“Okay, well I’m going to talk to the principal tomorrow about the changes I want to make. I mean, Mommy, this could change people’s lives! Mommy, there is a girl in my class who is…well…bigger…and she eats in the cafeteria every day. This could change her life.” (tear)

He said this with such sincerity in his voice and eyes that I just had to give him a kiss and tell him I loved him right then.

We encouraged him to talk to the principal about his idea/suggestions and that he might have to make an appointment during his recess.

Sure enough he went to talk with the principal about this yesterday. He talked with the office staff about his suggestions and they reassured him that they would pass along his ideas to…wait for it……….the Hudson Nutrition Department. (wah, wah, wah, wah – said in the Charlie Brown teacher’s voice). For those who don’t understand the reference – see my previous blog post called “The Saga of the Hudson Nutrition Dept” from March 10, 2011.

Maybe the 38 cents my family owes them has caused them to feed our children pre-made food in plastic bags. Ha!

So, will Zach be a politician? A nutritionist? A negotiator/advocator? Hard to know, but it certainly is fun to watch him grow and develop with these traits and interests! I continue to be proud and crack up at the same time!

>GO BLACKHAWKS!

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GO BLACKHAWKS!

Mike and I have been yelling that phrase almost every weekend for the past 2 1/2 months. And today we wrap up Zach’s first football season as a Gremlin Blackhawk as Super bowl champs! Undefeated to boot! So great. The Super”snow” game as I like to call it was played in beautiful Chardon, OH where lake effect snow is a common occurence and today, Saturday, November 6, was no exception. We arrived to a field completely covered with about 3 inches of the white stuff – the first of the season. The boys and the families were prepared with layers of UnderArmour garments, hats, gloves, boots, blankets and of course, the ever popular hand and toe warmers!

The game was just great – with the first touchdown at the very end of the 2nd quarter and the second one with less than 1:30 left in the 4th quarter. So cool. The coaches speeches and the trophy ceremony afterwards was really moving too. I’m just so proud of the boys, the coaches and the parents for such a great family experience. Because you see this whole football thing is really a family commitment.

When we signed Zach up to play back in May, I don’t think I really understood the extent to which we were ALL were committing to this. I decided to figure out the stats just for fun…

Three (3) weeks of conditioning 5 days a week for two hours: 30 hours
Eleven (11) weeks of practice 3 days a week for two hours: 66 hours
Ten (10) games (season and play-offs) with 1 hour practice and 1 1/2 game: 25 hours

That comes to a grand total of 121 hours over a period of about 3 months! Now that is commitment!

But was it all worth it? Absolutely! And not just because they won the big game. That was very cool, yes, but I would say the intangible benefits of putting in all this time was the real win this year…such as…

…seeing my husband get so excited and committed to something that he was not quite familiar with. He helped out with many practices, ran the chains at many games, and even shoveled snow off the field!

…seeing Zach get excited about physical activity – wanting to run extra wolverines!

…having our family all cheer for the same thing…watching my husband spend literally hours on two different occasions designing and producing car art to cheer on the team!

…seeing the boys improve over the weeks of practice – achieving their own and their teams’ goals

…being inspired by excellent, disciplined, and caring coaches who took the time and patience to actually teach the boys without yelling and criticism

…watching Nick help out and teach his brother some football basics and then cheer him on at practices and at a game

Finally, the most impressive thing for me that I took away from this experience was seeing the boys go back to encourage and “run-in” the slower players during Wolverines.

Yes, the Hudson Blackhawks stand by their values of Faith, Family, Finish, and Focus. But I would add one more: First-Class.

>Game On!!

>I think I have officially become a football mom…again! Zach had his first practice with Hudson Hawks tonight and LOVED it. Granted tonight’s dress was only shorts, t-shirt and cleats, and not the full equipment and pads that they have to wear this Friday, but still it was really hot and they kept those boys hoppin’ for a full two hours. I was proud of how hard he worked, tried his best and had a blast! I was tickled when he came up to me during a break and announced, “this practice ROCKS!”

In the middle of practice I got a phone call from Nick asking about the details of Zach’s football practice schedule. He said he wanted to work out a day to get off of work and come to his practice!! That just warmed my heart. Especially since Zach has recently realized that Zach’s first game is on the same day as Nick’s move-in day to college at the end of the month. Z feels very conflicted about it, was in tears about it on Saturday, but I think has finally decided to stay and play the game and “play it for Nick”. Oh, my heart again!

Then, all of a sudden I felt a tap on my shoulder and realized that Mike had come up on his bike (the practice was just a stop along his 8 mile route for the night). Zach was happy to see his dad there too.

I felt so content right then. Sure, I was hot and sweaty…kinda hungry. I had been worried about how Zach would like this. I’m still worried how we will work out rides, dinners, schedules for the fall. But, those things will work themselves out. I’m just so thankful for my family to be involved with such healthy things. Playing hard is good and I’m just thrilled that it finally feels like everyone is in the game. Game on!

>Proud Mama

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Zach ran his first race yesterday and I’m just so proud I could burst! So, here is the blog entry to chronicle this momentous occasion.

Zach and I entered the race (to fight pancreatic cancer) because for one, it was in Hudson and also because he had been wanting to run one. They offered both the 5K and the 1 mile fun run – perfect. The Monday before the race I thought maybe I should “train” Zach – doing some walking/running intervals just so he’d feel comfortable and to help him run the whole thing since he hadn’t done it before. Well, the week got busy (and really hot) so we only did one day of “training”. I actually think this was a good thing after all, however. The night before the race Zach told me he was worried about the race because we only one day of training. That is when I told him that I was wrong and that he didn’t need to train, but just do his best and that would be enough. He is just a kid for crying out loud!

What actually prompted me to get into this whole training mindset is the email correspondence we received about the Hudson Hawk football program (Zach starts in August). Now, no offence to any of the organizers or people involved with the program (it seems very organized and well run), but the email strongly encouraged that the kids should be getting ready for their conditioning by doing callisthenics, working out, running, etc before practice starts in August. I immediately got into panic mode. Oh, man – gotta get Zach running, gotta get him doing exercises, etc. I don’t want him to not to be able to keep up with the other boys! Thankfully, reason prevailed and I realized, “HE IS JUST A KID!” And an active one at that! He doesn’t need to train for 3rd grade football practice – that is just crazy! He plays at the pool or at camp, rides his bike, goes for walks – he’ll be fine!! Sorry, I digress. We nixed the training, but the race was still on!

On race day we were ready. Of course it was one of the most (if not THE most) humid days of the year. Zach and I donned our purple shirts and headed downtown. Mike met us there on his bike (which we have now affectionately named “Mike’s Tight Trike”!) Zach’s race was first at 8:30am. I encouraged him to just do his best and if he needed to walk, listen to his body and walk, but just don’t stop. The bell rang and he was off! I nervously headed over to wait at the finish line. It was so hot, I didn’t want him to get too tired or fall, or…whatever! Pretty soon, the first boy ran across the finish line and then a girl followed him about 15 seconds later. Then I could see a group of about three young boys running towards the finish in a single file line. I strained my eyes and thought I saw Zach…I squinted and sure enough I did see him with his blond hair blowing up a bit and a determined/pained look on his face. I started cheering then, “Go Zach!” “You can do it!” I felt my eyes getting a little moist and a lump forming in my throat as his barrelled through the finish! I had counted and was surprised to realize that he was either the 5th of 6th person across! I went over to him and congratulated him and all he said in a shaky, borderline teary voice was, “Mommy, I need water – I just need water”. His time was 10 minutes and 42 seconds – awesome! We got him water, a banana and all three of us cheered on the rest of the runners coming in. He said the run was really hard and that he had to walk a few times – but he didn’t stop. He was really proud of that. We were too.

After my run, which was pretty uneventful…just very hot…but I did okay, Zach and I stayed for the raffles and awards. Even though he didn’t get first in his age group and was disappointed not to get a trophy, I think he was proud of what he did. I think it will become more real when we see our times posted in black and white on the website.

I am just so proud. Proud of Zach for doing his best and being persistent. Proud of Mike for coming out to support both of us. Proud of myself for pushing it on a hot day. But most of all, I’m proud of our family – choosing to run/bike for a good cause on a hot and humid Saturday morning…rather than just staying in bed!