A new week and it’s back to the grind for us.  We’ve had two weeks of company, friends and family both coming in over holiday vacations, and so our daily routine has been anything but routine.  It’s so hard to get back into the swing of things once you’ve been taken out of it, but you just have to force yourself sometimes.  I’ve been a ‘stay at home’ dad for a few years now.  I work, but my job affords me the opportunity to work from home (it also affords me the opportunity to build my photography business, which has been rewarding to say the least), and so I’ve been able to be a part of my kids lives on the daily practically since birth.  This is great, and I wouldn’t trade it, but since my wife went back to work a few months ago, it’s become a touch more…stressful.  My week consists of that awkward blend of homeschool, meal preparations, house cleaning, activity planning and trying to get work done, all the while attending to whatever it is my kids decide they need at that exact moment.  I don’t tend to sit down for more than five minutes at a time, which can lead to moments throughout the day where I feel like I’m having a nervous breakdown.

I’m sure all of you parents know exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s hard because I feel the desire to constantly keep my kids entertained, and this has developed in them this need to constantly be entertained.  This means that in those moments when they’ve finished their schoolwork for the day and chores are done and I finally have a chance to sit down and get something done for myself, they are standing at my desk asking when we are going to go somewhere or if I can go pick up their friends or if we can play a game or if I can take them to the park, and I love them and I want to do all those things for them…but I just need them to leave me alone for ten minutes!

But I digress; those eyes are hard to say, “No,” to.  And the reality of it is that I feel bad because as much as I spend practically every waking moment with my kids, I also spend most of those moments in activities that aren’t necessarily ‘fun’.  Sure, I’m cooking for them or cleaning up after them or helping them with their school work, but they need more than that, but it’s so often the ‘play time’ that gets shelved because the other things (feeding, schooling) take priority and thus all the time.  That’s why weeks like this were needed, because it gave me a chance to play while we schooled, and it was a nice way to break back into the daily grind.

When in Rome

Yes, this week had a fun sort of theme to it, as the kids wrote and performed their own play.  They’ve written movies (the majority of which winds up being adlibbed) but this was a school assignment and so they couldn’t just wing it.  They’ve been learning about Ancient Rome (the two girls…the boy has been learning about the letter M) and so their play was to incorporate facts they found interesting and was to be performed in the fashion of Roman Theatre, complete with their own masks and costumes.

This year they’ve been learning about history that intrigues me because it’s the kind of stuff I was fascinated with as a kid, and there was that time in my teenage years where the ‘swords and sandals’ epics were my favorite kinds of movies.  Learning about the Olympic Games and Gladiators and Mythology and the great battles like that of the 300 Spartans and the Trojan Horse has been such a fun time, and to see how interesting they find it all is so rewarding as a parent.  Getting them involved creatively certainly helps.  My eldest spearheaded the actual writing process of their play, coming up with a real Roman Tragedy, but her sister added a lot of spirit to the process.  She’s so excitable and was constantly coming in to my office to act out the scenes they’d just penned.

I love how they always include the boy.  It’s not his assignment, but he’s always a part of what they’re doing, and he was so thrilled to know his part and to come in to tell me all about it (and he was doubly excited that we share a role, since I was to play ‘the voice of adult son’ in the play’s voice over…until he decided he’d rather do that himself).

Once their play was written, it was time to design and create their masks.  Crafting is one thing I always feel bad that they don’t do enough of.  They have friends who are ALWAYS creating something, so artistic, and we just never seem to plan things like that for the kids.  Maybe ‘planning’ is the problem…maybe we should be more spontaneous.  Anyways, this project was good because it forced us to actually do it (you can’t put on a Roman play without the Roman masks), and once the plan was in motion it all kind of fell into place.  The suggestion for their assignment was to make their masks out of paper plates, but I’ve been eying these white masks from Hobby Lobby for a while now, and this was the perfect excuse to snatch them up and get some photo ops in with them.

I loved watching their masks transform from this white, empty canvases, into something truly unique and special.  Sure, they were inspired by their characters, but they also felt a part of their person.

My son is pure ham.  He’s also currently obsessed with The Joker (Batman’s arch-nemesis), and so his mask was clearly a reflection of this.  He insisted on yellow and a big smile (“My face has to be happy!”) and then he just went a little crazy, splotches of every color he could find embellishing the rest of his mask.  My youngest daughter wanted something soft and delicate.  When she pre-sketched her idea the day before, she had these giant soft pink cheeks, but when it came time to paint them she thought to outline them in red and loved the idea of creating an almost upside down heart effect.  My eldest, well…she’s a bit dramatic.  Taking inspiration from the fact that the actual Roman Theatre masks were meant to be bold and convey actual emotion, she created a very notably sad soul (her character, the lead no less, suffers great tragedy from beginning to end of her play, and so her face is overtaken by large tears).

Friday was their grand performance.  Their friends came over (because they each had multiple parts and freshly painted masks to don as well) and they practiced all morning until they were ready to perform.  Unfortunately I was the only audience member, and so I had the responsibility to video record their play.  I’m no good at that kind of stuff.  I can use my camera for photographic purposes, but videography is another story, and without the proper equipment (I have no external sound equipment), it just wouldn’t work right.  So, alas, I resorted to recording their performance on my phone, and so the sound still isn’t great, but it works.  They’ll have to perform an encore for the rest of the families.

I did, of course, snap plenty of pictures during rehearsals, and a few in-between scenes…

A Real Roman Tragedy

So, this video performance is…not the greatest, but I really wanted to share with you the play because I feel like there’s all this build up and then no reward at the end if you don’t get to at least see what they did.  I was thoroughly impressed with how the kids took the facts they found interesting and strung them together to create a fluid and exciting play.  Facts like how soldiers were paid in salt or how the wealthy would often eat strange foods to impress others and how the Romans would actually kidnap people from other lands in order to raise their own population.  With these points they wrote a play that is really well composed, honestly (complete with some narration), and made this dad pretty proud.

I’d recommend turning the volume up, and don’t mind my shoddy camera work.

So, for those of you that couldn’t understand any of that, here’s the basic premise of her story:

Hera and her husband Cornelius live comfortably in Rome until Cornelius confesses to being bankrupt and joining the army in order to provide for his family.  When he arrives he discovers that he’s being paid in salt and is forbidden to leave the military for 25 years.  In an act of heroism (despite clearly dreading war) he saves the life of his fellow soldier, Maximus, and is slain in battle.  This news brings sadness to Hera and her children, Cornelia and Julius, but also brings a new reality to the family.  Hera is forced to become a slave for a wealthy couple (who can obviously afford Disney merchandise) and one evening they ask her to entertain them with a story.  She proceeds to tell them the story of her life; how she was kidnapped in her youth in order for the Romans to bolster their population and how her life was good, until her husband went to war.

My son tries to tell you what’s going on, but he mumbled most of his lines and those masks certainly didn’t make it easy to understand what was being said.

But they had a blast doing this, and quite frankly that’s all that matters!

Windy Weekends with Mom

So, I’ve already mentioned that my wife has gone back to work.  It wasn’t an easy decision, but a necessary one, and while it’s been difficult for all of us, it’s really been hardest on her.  For the majority of our marriage, and for the entirety of our children’s lives thus far, she’s been a stay-at-home mom, so working full time has been a serious adjustment for her.  It’s especially hard when she’s had some extra time off, whether it be because of the holidays or because of company, and so going back to work last week after two weeks of holiday hours and company in town was not fun.  So, when she asked for a quieter weekend and some beach time, we did our best to comply.

I had some work out in Port Charlotte, on the way to Boca Grande, and so we decided to make Saturday an afternoon at Boca.  It was not your typical beach day, despite the fact that the weather report in the morning claimed sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s.  Instead we were presented with seriously overcast and storm-like conditions with the temperature in the mid-40s and the wind relatively high.  We were not dressed for that kind of day, and our eldest was not having it (she’s at that age where she isn’t having a lot of things), but when all was said and done, I quite enjoyed our afternoon at the beach.  I love how every beach day is different and brings new things to be drawn to or inspired by.  The waves crashing against the shore and the rocky pier; my families hair filling the cloudy skies…it was all so beautiful.

That’s what I want my kids to remember.  Not that they were freezing or that they stepped on sharp shells and hobbled down the beach (well, the eldest hobbled) or that their feet went numb after running to the car.  I want them to remember that they laughed with their mom as their hair whipped in their faces and as the waves sprayed them unexpectedly.  I want them to remember that we were together and that we tried and that if they focus on the beauty around them they can forget about the things that aren’t perfect.

Remembering that is the quickest way to happy.

Song of the Week: Everybody’s Coming To My House

This week I was so sure I was going to feature Jade Bird’s latest, Lottery, as my Song of the Week, and then I heard the return of David Byrne and my mind was instantly changed.  Jade Bird is incredible and one of my favorite new acts (she ranked rather high on my Top 100 from last year), but David Byrne is not only an icon, a legend, he’s still so clearly ON IT, and Everybody’s Coming To My House is major proof of that.  It bounces along perfectly, with those horns adding such a brilliant layer to the whole exercise.  Byrne’s latest plays out like a trippy 80’s B-movie about your crazy, eccentric uncle; but would we want our Byrne any other way?  I can’t wait for this album!

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