Sunday, September 21, 2014

The second month

So, September has kicked all of our butts.

Today, Greg finished the final Fringe Festival performance of his new project, Theorem, which was an epic undertaking.  He wrote the show, built the props, and rehearsed the cast in an intensive 6-week time period.  It involved lots of late nights, lots of brand-new challenges, and lots of moments of frustration and self-doubt.  But the show was well-reviewed, and he got the photo and video footage he needed - so it is the launch he needed to move forwards post-Cirque.

While he was doing that, Baz, Ayla, and Isa were getting adjusted to their new schools - and we've all been adjusting to their new schedules.  I get up and ready at 5:40am, so that I can wake Ayla up around 6:10, to be walking out the door with Dad at 7:00.  They walk to the train station; she catches the train, then a bus, to be at her school by 8:00.  While Dad's taking her, I get Isa and Baz ready - Baz walks by himself to school at about 7:40.  Greg comes home, and he and I take Isa to school at 8:10.  I stay with her until 8:30, and then I walk to work.  By the time I arrive at 9:00am, it already feels like a long day.

The round of pickups is also complex - Isa has to be picked up at 3:00, Baz walks home by himself and arrives at 3:15, and Ayla arrives back at the train station at 4:00.  If I make the rounds alone, without a car, I'm out from 2:30pm-4:15pm.  Greg can do it a bit faster, if he's available.

During the days, Baz is doing all kinds of interesting things at school.  He takes Spanish classes, and has a funny science teacher, and Quaker meetings once a week, and "Choice" time.  He goes to Tech Club once a week, and an activity called Outdoor Games 2 or 3 times a week.  I regularly get emails from his teachers and administrators, filling me in on the week's activities and saying things like "I ate lunch with Baz today!  We're so happy to have him at GSFS!" With the small class sizes, I also get the sense that his academic work is stimulating and well-targeted to his abilities.

Ayla's first two weeks have been a gradual orientation to the rigors of Masterman.  They spend a lot of time teaching the 5th graders to be organized and manage their time effectively, so it's all about agendas and schedules and task lists and letters home that need to be signed.  The evening homework load has, so far, been light, but I have been assured this is temporary.  Ayla has seven classes a day including Science every day, Health once a week, and Math Enrichment once a week.  She has a locker that she shares with another girl.

Isa is her bubbly self every day after school.  She's always delighted to tell me about her special class that day, which was either Music, Art, Computer, or Phys Ed.  (she loves all of them).  Academically, she hasn't told me anything impressive about her 2nd grade class - they seem to spend a lot of time talking about Rules and Discipline and Good Behavior.  According to Isa, there are a lot of noisy rule-breakers in her class, and so there is a whole system of stickers and rewards and punishments.  The teacher (who is new, her first year as an elementary school teacher) is trying hard to motivate good behavior with the promise of a classroom party once a jar of "good behavior" marbles is filled, so we'll see how that goes.  In the meantime I've talked to the teacher about giving Isa more-challenging reading and writing assignments, which she says she is happy to do.  I am going to be joining the Henry School PTA next month as Recording Secretary - of the 3 schools I think this is the one that needs the most parental involvement (and I do need to choose).

As for me, I have been thoroughly sucked into the vortex of PSCA; I am here for some part of the day, 7 days a week, and working most evenings at home.  Two months in, I feel like I can truly manage the place now - I can make decisions, give advice, move projects forwards.  While there are still areas of the school's operations that are not entirely familiar to me, whenever I come across one (like the storage areas, or the cleaning systems, or the work-study program, or the parkour equipment, or the infinite complexity of our scheduling software) - I dive in.  I have learned enough now to know when things are being taken care of, and when they're not.  I can take a long-running problem (like the dumpster, or the birthday party teacher training, or a deadbeat staff member) and get it under control.  For the problems that are not easily solved by sheer decisiveness (such as private-lesson management, MindBodyOnline booking problems, and staff interpersonal dynamics), at the very least I can commiserate with everyone and try to pitch in.

My favorite times are on the studio floor.  When I observe classes, or take some time to warm up and stretch, or substitute-teach - I really feel the life of the school, and the joy of it.  I remember why we're all here.  And then I nudge myself back up to the office, sit back on the yoga ball at my desk and get back to work.

We are not sleeping enough, or eating well enough, or taking time to spend together as a family, or as a couple - but we made it through these first difficult weeks of September, and we're now ready for the next stage… what a friend of mine calls "Steady State" … finding a new equilibrium, now that our basic framework is established.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ayla, age 10

Ten years ago today I had a newborn in the Birth Center.












Today I have a smart and beautiful middle-schooler who takes the train by herself, does trapeze, speaks French, and has a deep and abiding love of animals.  We spent her birthday at the Philadelphia Zoo, and came home in the evening to spend a couple of hours curled up on the couch watching Planet Earth.

Double-digits!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wardrobe decisions

Yesterday's work-wardrobe theme:  try to keep your shoes on, and dress like an Executive Director.
(this proved difficult)

Today's theme: since you can't find time to actually work out, wear gym clothes, and take any possible opportunity to stretch, climb, or walk during the day.  (This is the "pull-ups on the way to the bathroom" mentality that Kitsie and my various Managing Directors have phased in and out over the years.)  Today should be more fun!

Monday, September 8, 2014

3 Kids, 3 Schools

We did it.  We made it to, and through, the first days of school for all 3 kids.

Baz is at Greene Street Friends School, a beautiful nurturing place 10 minutes' walk from our house, in a classroom with 13 other kids.  This photo is not actually of Baz at school, but it's Baz with the other great event of his recent weeks - he saved up enough money to purchase (1/2 of) an iPod touch.  He is in seventh heaven. (though he's not allowed to bring it to school)

At school he is particularly loving his quirky Science teacher and his Phys Ed class.  After school he is taking classes at the circus school - Parkour on Tuesdays, and Juggling / Unicycling on Wednesdays.  All of the kids have a Quebecois French tutor who's coming to the house on Thursdays.

Ayla had her first day today at Masterman School.  She was, to be honest, utterly petrified, especially because she has to take a train and a bus into the city and home again.  I went with her on the first day, but starting tomorrow she'll go on her own, with all of the other Masterman kids.  It's not a simple trip - it involves train passes, examining schedules, a mad rush for the bus, and generally keeping to a quick pace so as not to be late - but all of the other kids do it, and I'm confident that she can too.  She was smiling by the end of the day; she said "at the beginning of the day I didn't know any of the kids in my class - by the end I felt like I had known them all for years!"  Her 6th grade friends are helping to keep an eye on her.  I am not sure of the exact # of kids in Ayla's class but it is around 30.

Ayla's only after-school activity so far is a Kids Aerials class at the circus school on Tuesdays (and French on Thursdays).  I was surprised that she didn't want to take advantage of Masterman's instrument-learning program… but they don't offer recorder, and that's the only instrument she is interested in right now.

And my little Isa is finally a public-school student, in the 2nd grade at CW Henry School.  (in her school uniform)  Dad took her to and from the first day.  She had a very happy day - she likes her teacher, Ms. Rascher, and she had friends to play with at recess.  She did social studies today and math, and she had her first homework assignments.  She said she's scared of the Art Teacher (who apparently only barked rules at them today, there was no actual Art) - so I'll have to find out what that's about.  But overall she did amazingly well.  She has 27 kids in her class.

Isa is in the same Kids Aerials class as Ayla on Tuesdays, and is also, of course, in the French lesson.

I still haven't gotten my head around these three schools, and how I'm going to be involved with three different PTAs, Back to School Nights, early-dismissal schedules, etc. - it feels like a marathon just trying to get lunches packed and the 3 of them out the door (at 3 different times, in 3 different directions) each morning.  Hopefully this will become a comfortable routine.

I'm excited to watch my kids grow into these new communities - we have all been anticipating this change for so long.  We can all take a deep breath now, and move forwards.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Artist residences

So, this is a bit of a strange experience.  I've just arrived in Montreal, where I'm attending the American Circus Educators Conference.  I'm staying at the Cirque artist residences, where Greg lived for several months, 5 years ago.  It's my first time here.

These residences were built to house artists during show-creation time, and that is still their priority.  We happen to be here at a good time, when no show is in active creation, and Cirque opened the residences up to conference attendees.  It's dormitory-style, but there is a kitchenette and a small bathroom.

I wonder which acrobats, jugglers, musicians, etc lived in this room before me….

Saturday, August 23, 2014

PSCA at night

A few times this past month, I've been able to stay late at the circus school, being the last one to mop up and lock up.  I treasure these moments alone here.  The place is so still.  I can hear the hum of the lift on its charger, or sometimes the barely-audible buzz of the lights.  I reflect on all of the excitement and joy that took place during the day, and feel proud of the work that I'm doing.

It reminds me exactly of the feeling I get when I check on my kids sleeping at night.  (as PSCA does often feel like my most-complicated child).  The dark, peaceful beauty; all problems and worries forgotten.

I have to force myself to leave work every evening.  I know that the rest of my life and sanity will fall apart if I don't go home, and switch gears.  But I love being here.  I love working with students and teachers and administrators, making decisions and resolving conflicts constantly, with the overwhelming sense that what I'm doing here matters.

Tonight's party at the school was a wedding reception for two of my staff members.  They met at PSCA.  They continue to work and train here, finding challenge and fulfillment.  They give deeply of themselves, and they have become part of this large and loving community.  Being able to host the event was incredibly gratifying.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A month at home


We've been home now for one full month.  It has been an exhausting month, but in so many good ways.  Everything we do here, though it may eventually seem ordinary, right now feels special!  Like hanging pictures, sweeping the back porch, having lunch with an old friend.  I've never appreciated the little things so much.

The kids are doing much better too.  I think they're starting to see that, while they may not have extremely-close friends right now, they have an awful lot of kids they can hang out with.  There are kids on our street, and old friends in Mt. Airy, and all of the kids at the circus school.  They have their cousins, and the other friends-of-the-family like Zachary & Naomi, Maya and Sammy, Jerry, Lyla.  They made friends at Penn Charter Camp, and they've made friends at Circus Camp.  None of us know if these friendships will come to anything - a lot will change in September, when we see who they have school and activities with - but hopefully they are seeing that the pool of potential friends is just way bigger.

In the meantime I am cherishing my day-to-day.  I feel like I'm becoming a meaningful part of life at the circus school again, by gradually re-taking over responsibilities.  (and sharing daily moments of love, pride, frustration and stress with all of my staff!)  For my desks at home and work I got an exercise ball and an ergonomic chair.  I dusted off an old business suit for a work event a few days ago.

Not everything has been easy for me to adjust to.
    I can't find time or space to exercise.  With strenuous effort I've been able to get out for a few short runs a week, but it doesn't feel like nearly enough to maintain my mental & physical health - and I've traded it for much longer hours of desk work.
    Not driving here sucks.  Though my basic needs are taken care of - I can get to work, and I think the kids will be OK getting to school, for now - I hate not being able to take myself out to lunch, or for a trip to the co-op, or to be able to help transport other people and gear.  I can't stand not being able to do the grocery shopping by myself.  Every time I hit one of these moments, though, I have to try and take a deep breath, and think about the trade-offs.  I visualize my car accidents, and picture my kids in the backseat, and I feel the adrenaline / stress that always takes me over when I drive in a hurry - and I let the car keys sit untouched.  Nothing is so important that I need to put me and the kids in danger.  I do hope I can adjust, over time, to these inconveniences.
    And finally, I miss the free time I had on tour.  No surprise here.  There are no hours in the day left for reading, for blogging, for daydreaming and planning.  (yoga is totally out of the question).  Once school starts, there will be hardly any time left for talking or hanging out with my kids.  When the joy of being home has worn off, I don't know how I'll cope with this.

The kids performed in their first PSCA Circus Camp show today, all 3 together for the first time.  It was  marvelous.  And so the song of the day is "Everything is Awesome", which was the opening act of their show.