Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Journey of 1,000 Cranes

I got to see Chicago for the first time a few weeks back.  It was a beautiful city - full of old trees and old buildings.  Right up my alley.

It was a journey of almost 1,000 miles.  Nine hundred, actually.  From Texas to Illinois.  We drove. We survived.  Wanna know our secret?  (I know you do!)

Prior to our spring trip to Iowa (800 miles), Aquaman had a stroke of genius.  He went to the bank and withdrew $60.00 in $1.00 bills.  He divided them up among three little bank envelopes.  Twenty dollars in each envelope.  One for the Redhead, one for Thing 1 and one for Thing 2.  As we settled into the car, he announced:

"Look at this, boys!"  He whipped out the money and dragged it across his face and chest.  He fanned it out for effect.  "See all this?"  Three sets of eyes were riveted.  "This...is yours."  Three sets of jaws dropped.    

"What?" they all shrieked.  "Give it to us!"

Aquaman held fast to the money.  "Now here's the deal," he explained.  "You each get $20.00 now, at the start of the trip, but I will hold it.  Every time there is an argument, a fight, a 'Shut up!' or a 'Stop touching me!' you lose one dollar." He pulled one crisp dollar  dramatically out of the fanned deck.  "No fights?  No money lost.  You decide if you end up with $20.00 at the end of the trip.  Or with nothing.  Fair enough?"

"Awesome!" Thing 1 screamed.  "Can I hold it?" Thing 2 asked.

"You're not even going to know I'm here," the Redhead declared.  He meant it.

It worked like a charm.  There were no conflicts all the way there.  Eight hundred miles.

So Aquaman again prepared this bribe (ahem!) reward for our three well-behaved sons as we embarked on this trip to Chicago.

I am happy to report that it worked again.  I think we're on to something.  Of course, it might also be the fact that we leave in the evening and drive all night long, so the boys eventually pass out and sleep most of the way.  And the iPad.  And the iPod touch.  And the iPhone.  But really, even when we had all of those things, they still fought.  Hard, cold cash is what motivates our crew.

What would make us drive 900 miles?

A wedding.

Not just any wedding, Aquaman's little brother's wedding.

Uncle is pretty much the boys' most favorite uncle in the world ever.  He is brave.  He was our nanny in Alaska the summer after he graduated from college.  He lived with us and took care of the boys - all of whom were still in diapers.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 greeted him on his first day on the job (I was working, Aquaman was commercial fishing) by removing said diapers and smearing the contents all over the walls, then holding out both arms wide for hugs from their respective cribs.

I told you he was brave.

So it was without hesitation that we made this journey.  We were thrilled when he announced his engagement and tickled to be part of the long-distance planning.  The man he married is now officially the boys' second favorite uncle.  He is a kind and charming soul that adds something wonderful to our extended family dynamic.  What can I say?  Favorite Uncle has good taste. 

I am not sure how it transpired, but somewhere in the planning Thing 2 was enlisted for his origami expertise.  Favorite Uncle must have seen one of his creations.  Words were exchanged between the menfolk.  Next thing I knew, packages of beautiful origami paper were arriving in the mail for Thing 2.  And he was busy folding. 

The plan was to manufacture 1,000 cranes to be displayed at the wedding reception.  In Japanese culture, the crane is a mystical creature and said to live for 1,000 years.  It is believed that anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes will be granted one wish by a crane.  Other legend says that it guarantees long life and happiness for the giver and receiver.   

So Thing 2 folded.  He folded while he watched TV.  He folded and listened to music.  He folded in church.  He spent most of the summer folding.  As the countdown to the wedding approached, he calculated that he needed to make 30 cranes per day to get them all done.  Then he missed a few days.  He needed to make 60 per day to catch up. 

My bed became an origami sweatshop of one.  He would hunker down in front of the TV and fold.  When a buddy from school called to invite him over for a sleepover he explained, "I'm making cranes for my Uncle's wedding in Chicago.  I've got 30 more to go for the day.  I can come when I'm done." 

Wow.  Such dedication. 

When he completed 100, they were mailed off to Favorite Uncle.  With one month of summer left, 400 more were tucked into a box and mailed.  The rest we hand delivered. 

Truth be told, Aquaman and Thing 2 were still folding in the back seat of the car on the drive to Chicago. 

Then the real work began.  All those folded cranes had to be fluffed.  And hung from the ceiling of the reception area.  This is how we spent the morning of the wedding:


If that's not a group effort, I don't know what is. 

Actually, I think all couples should have an activity like this that brings together the guests so that they know each other a little better before the ceremony.  By the time the wedding and reception rolled around that night, we all felt like old friends. 

And that was another great thing about Favorite Uncle and Second Favorite Uncle's wedding:  all of their friends and family from so many different parts of their lives came together and they fit.  Like a jigsaw puzzle.  We all got along.  We were all brimming over with happiness for them.  No one argued.  No drama.  Just fun.  And love.  There was lots of love. 

And cranes. Lots and lots of cranes.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

And the beat goes on...and on and on

The twins are finally in middle school and can join band for the first time.  One of them tried out for percussion.

He made it.  

I am on the fence about this.  On the one hand, I am super excited for him.  On the other, what in the hell was I thinking giving Thing 1 license to POUND ON THINGS????

I was also expecting that it would be an affordable choice because the school provides all those snare drums and cymbals and bass drums, you know.  How expensive could a few drumsticks be?  A frugal choice.  Pat on the back, you smart mom!  

Wrong.  (or as my boys would say, "Fail!")  

The band director sent out a list - including a price estimate - of items beginner percussion students would need a week or so before school started.  This was not a small list, nor was the total (around $350.00).  I hemmed and hawed.  I rationalized that he wouldn't need all of the items right away.  I looked into used versions of the equipment and renting possibilities.  Nope.  Used and renting not an option.  You see, as the band director explained, those practice drum pads are getting hit, over and over again.  Wear patterns develop quickly.  Used is not recommended.  

Still, I hesitated.  The first week of school well underway, my boy asked when we'd be getting his stuff.  They hadn't actually started playing in class yet, so I told him we had a few weeks.  I started looking at other music stores in the area and they didn't have the very specific items listed on the band director's estimate sheet.  The boy grew more nervous at the end of each day of school.  "I'll be the only one in my class without my drum set!" 

No. You. Won't. 

I figured out where this specialty, percussion-only music shop was and set out to drive there.  I think my coolness factor increased just walking into the place.  It also transported me back to my childhood spent listening to my older brother play the drums on his drumset.  And every single other object he possibly could - driving my mother s-l-o-w-l-y insane. 

He seriously drummed with a butter knife on the counter while he waited for his toast to pop up.  He drummed with his fingers on the edge of the dining table.  He'd drum on my head if I really annoyed him.   

But I digress. 

Aquaman and I browsed the store while the good folks at Lone Star Percussion got our beginner percussionist's required items together.  They even had the same brand of drum set my brother used to have: (I think still has - in his garage.) TAMA.  I could recall that name emblazoned in all black capital letters from memory with no prompting.  I listened to it played often enough.  I and my sisters often served as tambourine girls for my brothers' band.  My oldest brother played the guitar, his high school buddy the bass, and my next oldest brother the drums.  I have vivid memories of this - listening to my bedroom door rattle on its hinges as they practiced into the night, after my bedtime.  I idolized them - the rock stars.  They introduced me to Rush and Journey, Kansas and The Police, Steve Miller Band and Boston.  I knew this shop was the real deal when I spied the framed photograph of Neil Peart on the wall - hell, I impressed myself recognizing the famous drummer from Rush.  My brothers would be proud. 

Or maybe not.  When I reminisced about the "band" with my oldest brother on a visit a year ago, his response was, "Bah.  We didn't have a band!  What are you talking about?" 

To which I responded like an 8-year-old-kid-sister, "Well, you practiced.  A lot.  And you played together.  And didn't you even record a song?"

"Well, yeah...but that's not a band," he insisted. 

While this was a reality check for me as to how two people in the same family can remember the same event in two very different ways, I haven't let it color my memory of my brothers as rock stars. 

And I'll hope that Thing 1, as he embarks on his percussion experience, might inherit some of his uncle's talent when it comes to drumming.  Who knows?  Maybe he'll even start a band with his brothers - the Redhead is tackling bass clarinet and Thing 2 the saxophone. 

It might have to be a jazz band. 

Thing 1 dutifully carts his percussion set off to the bus stop every morning, and home to practice every evening.  I think he looks like a flight attendant making his way through the airport.

So far, I still have my sanity.  We figured out how to use the metronome last night so he could keep tempo while he practiced his rhythms.  He hasn't done much with the bell set yet, besides bang around on it a bit. 
I have hopes of him eventually doing something like this:
Because playing Super Trouper on the bells?  That's just awesome.