Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Couple of Recent Mal Developments

He woke up the other day complaining about having a bad dream. It seemed to have something to do with an elevator. Laura said he couldn't describe it to her at all...just that it made him feel awful.

He did try to describe it to me. But mostly he was just talking about her comforting him.

I haven't heard him display any awareness about dreams before.

Then he spent a lot of time over the past day or so trying to find his elevator. It's something you put your toy cars on, and it goes up and down. But he didn't know the words to describe it. And that made him really upset.

Actually, we ran into this a few times yesterday. Probably because I'm just not as good at guessing what he means as Laura.

His frustration about his awareness of his limited vocabulary (and he has a pretty amazing one...we don't hit these limits all that often) is also something new.

He finally found his "elevator" by the way. It's a reciprocating pump handle for sucking the air out of wine bottles. He fell asleep last night with it cradled in his arms.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fall Weekend Craziness

For the next few weeks, our calendar is a mess of activities and celebrations here and there, sometimes overlapping. This weekend was a super busy one, but lots of fun.

James still has a lot of appointments for phone screens, is doing homework for potential employers, etc. But a nice break on Thursday was the annual Jonestown community Thanksgiving meal. Mal and I smelled the turkeys grilling on our walk to the library for storytime. Lunch was, conveniently, right after storytime. James was off of a call in time to meet us. It was quite the spread, and we got to enjoy it with a couple of our kiddo friends, too.

He was pretty jazzed about the... icing.

Held at the fire station. We didn't linger because our seats were needed by others! Lots of neighbors.
Later that day, I received a big box set of music I'd ordered and paid for in January. Bonus: Mal is loving it, too! That makes two out of two of my kids who appreciate Weird Al.

Friday, we had a mostly quiet day, but ended it at the lake with a spectacular sunset, and got to see a pair of heron and a pair of geese in flight. It was amazing.

Saturday, Mal and I got up and drove into Austin for the annual Chuy's Christmas parade. It was one of those days with some missteps, but overall a great time. It started by Waze not remembering that there were road closures until it'd had me overshoot an exit, so I had to drive around for more than 15 minutes, even when I was within a mile of the garage where I was supposed to park. THEN I realized that the street where the entrance was located was closed several blocks in both directions, and I'd already paid for parking.

As I parked in a street lot where I usually park for the Driskell cookie exchange, I was able to call the company to get my money back. But then it turned out that one of the two pay machines was broken, and so we had to wait about 20 minutes in line to pay at the kiosk.

Since I'm a chronically early person, we got over to the parade route about 5 minutes before it started, and since this is Austin, there weren't a lot of people waiting. At first, Mal was intimidated by the noise, but later he got REALLY excited. Especially when the 501st Legion showed up.

After the parade, we walked over to the Four Seasons, to check out the gingerbread village, as usual. Only I forgot that the Christmas parade was a couple of weekends earlier than usual this year, so the cookies weren't out yet. However, we did have a serendipitous moment when we rounded the block to get there, in that all of the superheroes from the parade had gathered for a photo op.

Then we walked over (by the way, when I say "we walked" I mean I pushed Mal in a stroller; we covered over 3 street miles, and it's much easier that way!) to the new Central Library to check it out and to see the Brownies.

It's cool and beautiful and huge and all of that. I'm kind of glad we had Faulk a little smaller and a little closer by when we lived there. It was more accessible for daily use, in terms of being easily navigable and riding my bike down pretty quickly.

Next, we walked to Turf & Surf Po' Boy for lunch. It was SO loud, attached to a street bar where people were watching the UT/maybe West Virginia game. UT was winning, so there was much rejoicing. But that Hipster vegetable sandwich was banging. I had to use a new napkin with every bite.


After that, Mal and I went to Toy Joy (the Brownies had already been) and to Yummi Joy for some sweets. Then we walked back to the car and headed back home.

A few of thoughts from visiting downtown: 1) It was so much easier getting around down there when we could walk or ride bikes. Parking during a special event is a pain in the rear.

2) The Taco Cabana that was right beside our house is closed. So is the McDonald's across the street. That leaves Tiff's Treats, Cane's, Chick-fil-A, and Domino's right there within a few hundred feet, but I wonder what happened to those other two places. Would have been a bummer to live behind a vacant restaurant. Maybe. The process of whatever they make it into next might have been cool. Or it might have been awful.

3) There is a new Target store in the Dobie residential building on campus. We could see it from our window, though it is about a two- to three-block walk. That might have been dangerous to our budget.

4) I forget about homeless people sometimes, living out here. The first one I saw was walking around the parking lot, barefooted, asking for money. While we were waiting in line to pay, the guy in line in front of me asked him what size shoe he wore. He told him, and the guy said, "I have small feet, but I have an extra pair of work boots in my truck, if you want them." The homeless man said, "Oh, I have shoes." He pulled them out of his backpack. "I just broke my toe, and my foot won't fit in the shoes. I probably couldn't get them into boots at all. But it's getting better. I should be able to wear my shoes again soon." Oh, his toe did not look better. I don't have insurance, but at least if I break my toe, I have options. I can't imagine walking around town like that. I was glad it's getting cooler so the sidewalks won't be like stovetops. Plus, being barefoot in public is such a giveaway that something is amiss. And what a generous offer, and a good example for me to see.

Then as we were driving out of town, I saw a guy walking north toward 6th street on San Jacinto. He was waving around like he was swatting at flies or trying to hit someone, and he was yelling. It reminded me of the man who frequented the alley behind the Nuthaus. I considered calling the police because it seemed like this guy was in distress and, like many of the homeless people down there, he'd clearly been in a few fights. But half a block away, I saw a motorcycle officer and hoped he'd notice the dude and maybe he could get some help. It's so overwhelming.

5) Austin is weird, and it's pretty great. D and I once saw a guy at Chick-fil-A (which was only a drive-through and outdoor dining area) waiting for food with a tiny striped kitten on a lead sitting on his shoulder like a bird or lizard. Saturday, I saw this guy. They made me smile.

Okay, there were THOUSANDS of people lining Congress. My cats might have stayed on my shoulder for security, but there would have been claw injuries involved. This cat was just super chill. And so pretty. And look at that beautiful tail.

I'd thought that I might mow when we got home, but after all of the activity in the strong wind, I was done. It was great, though, because the morning started off hot, and you could tell that the gusts were getting cooler and then colder. So it was totally worth the sand in the eyes and the hurricane hair.

Sunday morning, Mal and I went to church, as usual. He had been super excited all week about the teacher's promise that she'd let him pick whether they played inside or outside, so opted to go into childcare the whole time, rather than staying with me in the sanctuary until after the children's message. So I got to sit with the congregation, like a real person, instead of at a table in the back, where Mal can eat his doughnut and run around like the crazy person he is.

After church, we quickly headed home because I had a big date!

Last year, we learned about the first annual Mac and Cheese festival too late. Tickets had sold out! So this time, I snatched a pair the hour they went on sale. Dad and Mom came down to stay with Mal, and were already home when I got here.

So, here's the deal: That junk was off the chain. That said, I don't want macaroni and cheese again until maybe next year. I told D about it, and so we might have a third wheel in 2019. Because there are so many pictures, I'm keeping them small. You can click if you really need the food porn.

I had to stop after the 13th booth, and I only ate a bite of the last two or three because I was stuffed. James stopped after 15, having eaten a couple of mine. We did actually bring that last ball and the lobster mac home because we were dying. We didn't hit probably 8 more booths! It was crazy. In fact, we didn't taste the one that ended up winning guests' choice at all!

When we got home from that, I was stuffed and all hopped up on carbs and PMS hormones, and it was 7 degrees cooler than the same time the day before, so it was the PERFECT opportunity to mow. Not the whole yard, but we had some persistent weeds. Hopefully, now I get a break of a couple of months.

However, I got a lot more done yesterday and this morning, as I tend to manically nest this time of the month. After I mowed, I swept the porch (700 square feet) and hosed it all down, as Mal has been playing with the fireplace ash. Then I hosed down the cars because they were embarrassingly dusty.

I came in and vacuumed the chairs and couch, oh, and I found a t-shirt wedged in between the couch back and bottom, which apparently James's brother left 7-ish years ago or more. Yeah, at that point, I'd put on gloves because I was scared of what I would find. I also found a little pillow Mal's grandma made him when he was a baby.

Today, I did my Monday chores (bathrooms and kitchen), plus my Tuesday vacuuming chore, plus a few bonus things like taking all of the magnets off of the fridge and wiping it down, tightening the toilet seats, picking up groceries... oh. And we got the limited-time Reuben from Subway. It tastes like a sub. The "rye" is so mild, you'd be hard-pressed to know it was rye bread. The corned beef... tastes like roast beef mostly. Even the sauerkraut doesn't have a vinegary bite. It's just... fine. But not a good Reuben at all. Now we want a deli Reuben. Where can we get that in this area? CAN we get that in this area?

So that was is. Mal is watching Cars 2 for the last time before our rental expires at 8. and that reminds me that I need to renew the movies he checked out from the library, because our rental period for DVDs is THREE DAYS. Nuts.


Finally, yesterday, I Googled, "Three meals to make Thanksgiving week," and the first return was this. So we're having pasta tonight, and I'm going to get started on that sauce now. Have a great week!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Well, That's Embarrassing

You're about to get a peek into how my brain works, so just allow me to apologize in advance for any permanent damage done to your own psyche. It's a stream-of-conscience thing, so if it doesn't connect thematically for you, don't worry about it.

1) The other day, I realized that I am the same age as a guy I dated when I was 25. Oh my gosh, I can't even. I have girlfriends in their 20s (some with kids the same age as my younger) and it strikes me as ridiculous every time I realize I'm literally old enough to be their mother. So *dating* someone two decades younger? "Be'er not."

2) One of the things this guy would say to me when he was frustrated was, "You're so immature!" To which I'd say, "I'm twenty years younger than you! What'd you expect?!"

3) In my early days working for Terra West Property Management, they rented out space at a restaurant/bar for us to have snacks and karaoke. For some reason, I thought it'd be really cool to sing "Hanky Panky" by Madonna. It'd be a very inappropriate song for all-ages karaoke, but it was just an adult thing, and this is one of the few female recordings with which I, an contralto, can actually sing. Anyway, I had sung it over and over during my commute (I guess I had the "I'm Breathless" CD? I don't remember that at all.) I was super excited, and on the drive over, this same guy was nervous about my enthusiasm. "Am I going to be embarrassed?"

4) He wasn't. I was awesome. And I should have broken up with him then and there because what a condescending killjoy. But I digress.

5) I've embarrassed pretty much everyone with whom I've been in a relationship. 

6) My ex-husband was constantly telling me I was talking too loud. My high energy about many things irritated him. And let's not get started on my 20th year high school reunion where I memorized a five-minute dance scene from Hairspray and recreated it while literally no one else danced. He wouldn't even look directly at me. Also, in this instance, my friend's husband said to my ex, "That's your wife up there. I'm glad it's not my wife." 

7) If I'd been married to James and he'd been there, he would have stood up on a table and hollered approvingly the whole time.

8) James has never been embarrassed by me.

9) That is incredibly freeing, and it's crazy how amazing it is to be able to be myself without worrying that someone is going to be ashamed to be affiliated with me.

This is where I should end this but, alas, something happened last night that changes things slightly.

We'd taken a late-night (not really, but it's getting dark so early now, it felt late) trip to HEB. I'd planned to go alone, but as I was walking out the door, Mal decided he needed to go, and so did his dad. After a crazy trip around the store gathering supplies for the week, we were finally done with check-out and Buddy Bucks and had made it back to the car. We were putting things in the trunk when James helpfully pulled my purse out of the cart. I yelled, "Stop! Thief!" and he glanced around to see if anyone were around to hear or take me seriously. I gasped, telling him that he'd ruined his perfect run.

But I still think it's pretty good.

I watched this video about 500 times in the 4 weeks leading up to the reunion. It's really hard to view it and not just be incredibly happy and optimistic. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Catching Up

It's been a hot minute since I blogged, I suppose. Heck, James wrote an entry about a week ago and I never saw it until just now.

Anyhoo, I was kind of waiting for a dramatic statement and the moment came and went, so it seemed like time to check in.

James lost his job the week before Mal's birthday. He had quite a lot of PTO, so I was thinking it'd be really cool if he got another job before that time elapsed, and we came out square, or even ahead. But we didn't. This time of year is a bugger for finding tech jobs. We're fully prepared to have to wait until after the new year. We'll be fine, we just have to dip into stuff that's supposed to be for our future... but I'm grateful that it's there to fall back on!

Incidentally, this round of job-hunting has been ridiculous. Tech jobs are a bear to acquire. There's typically a phone screen, then some technical test(s), then Skyping with people, and THEN an in-person interview, which might also have more tech stuff. Or variations on that model.

James has been applying mostly for remote jobs, but did have one live interview in Austin, about two blocks from where we used to live off-campus. It was a 3-hour interview, and he drove allll the way into town, and the guys who were supposed to interview him had apparently skived off early for ACL Fest. Another guy did interview him, but he was convinced that the "nice to have" portion of the job description (which James has never done and told them this before he ever went in) was actually mandatory. Then another guy in San Francisco did a video interview, but because it was two hours earlier than it was supposed to be (since he was supposed to finish up after the other couple of interviews), he hadn't actually looked over James's resume, and asked fluff questions that he wouldn't have had to ask if he'd been prepared.

Other than that, four different interviewers have canceled/postponed lengthy phone screens the day of, sometimes within half an hour of when they were supposed to start. In fact, one company who had scheduled James for a three-hour call first thing on a Monday contacted him early in the morning and said they'd decided not to hire until after the new year. Don't tell me that they didn't have that information before the weekend and just impulse-changed it at 7:45 on Monday. No. They could have told him earlier and saved him hours of preparation on Sunday night.

Also, there's the Mal factor. I've been getting him out of the house well before the calls are supposed to start, so James can have some mental prep space. And we get involved in something, then James messages me to say, "They're postponing until next week." Ugh.

That's a potential issue: We'd LOVE for James to work from home. One of the companies he's in process with right now (I think he's completed three of seven (!!!) steps, and had a second phone call postponed yesterday) says their guys only work 40 hours a week. If you are in tech or know anyone in tech, you know this is unheard of. It would be so cool for him both to be here AND to be able to turn it off after 8 hours per weekday!

However, Mal doesn't totally get the "I'm working" boundary yet. He gets it if James's blackout curtain is closed (yeah; the office doesn't have a door). But if James gets involved in something unexpectedly and doesn't shut himself in, Mal can't read body language and will go in there and start chatting, or playing guitar, or asking the name of an obscure Star Wars character.

So it falls to me to manage that.

Usually, if I'm involved in starting dinner or paying bills online or whatever, and Mal disappears into the back of the house, I don't have to stop what I'm doing to follow up. If James is working at home, I'll have to. It'll just take some getting used to.

With Mal and me getting out so much, we ARE eating out more often than usual, at a time when we are otherwise cutting back on spending. But I'm trying to be frugal about it, anyway.

Today, for instance, we went to Toys R Us first thing, with Mal understanding we weren't buying anything ("But I'm going to play with everything!" Great!). He played there about 45 minutes, then we left, and we did pick up a box of Cars fruit gummies for $2. Then we went to Chuck E. Cheese where we spent about 45 minutes and zero dollars. I had 33 credits left over on an old card, and Mal played enough to get a little rainbow lollipop and a few gummy Ring Pops. He was happy, and didn't mind leaving.

He DID want pizza, but now that he's 3, we'd have to pay for him to eat the buffet, and he doesn't eat $6.49 worth of pizza. However, I looked it up, and Cici's lets kids eat free until they're 4, so we drove over there and, even with my getting a soda, only spent about $8.60 for both of us to eat lunch.

We stopped at Target on the way home, for some lunch meat and household stuff I don't count as a "day o' fun" expense, plus Mal got to see more toys, so it was a bonus visit.

All told, we killed four hours at about $2.50 per hour, and came home really full. Not too bad.

Toys? Who needs toys. This Swiffer is my best friend!
So, that's what's going on around here. No cool stories about how we beat the system and made money doing it. But cool stories about, you know, it getting cool! Loving the weather and looking forward to Thanksgiving. And putting up the new tree for the first time. And Christmas. And a new job adventure for James.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Gratitude for my Family

It's that time of year again.

You know, that part where you get maudlin and actually remember to tell people that you care about them.

Oh, wait, am I the only person who does this?

Is this the first year that I've *ever* done this?

(It isn't. But it's still pretty rare. I tend to remain pretty self-involved).

I'm incredibly lucky when it comes to my family. I don't talk or write it enough. Especially when it comes to the people I never see.

Mal's the most obvious person here. He gets all the attention. I think that suits both him and D just fine.

They're both great kids. I'm incredibly lucky on both counts.

And then I also have a wonderful wife, who deserves more credit than I can ever give for what good adults both those kids are growing into.

I take a little bit of credit for good taste where she's concerned.

But, really, there's a much broader net involved here.

I spent most of my formative years with two people who were wonderful to me and gave me access to two big, wonderful families. I didn't have any idea how lucky I was in the genetic lottery until long after I'd grown up and gotten a chance to see just how bad most families suck.

My parents split up somewhere about the same time that I hit puberty. I wish they'd done it years earlier (after they'd had Khrys, of course), because they just were not happy together.

I mostly blame my dad for that one: I'm pretty sure Mom would have gone along and been happy if he could have. I guilted her into talking to and trying to forgive him as he was dying, and he told her that he felt like he'd never had a chance to be happy.

That sucks for him, and I wish he'd had a happier life.

It makes me appreciate mine all the more.

My parents both remarried. The step-families I acquired weren't the same as the ones I grew up in, but they're mostly good people.

Well, there are some really bad apples in the barrel. But I still stayed pretty lucky.

Then fast-forward a few years, and Laura was kind enough to join her family with mine.

I know she has a lot of family I haven't met yet.  I know she also has some bad apples in her barrel.

But the ones I have met are wonderful additions to my life.

You know who you are. Thank you, more than I can ever say, for sharing your wonderful daughter/sister/aunt/cousin/former-roommate/photography subject/partner-in-crime/pyramid brick/dance partner with me.

I kind of like her. Just a little bit.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Happy Birthday!

To have kids or not is a very personal reality, whether it's a decision or a life circumstance. I don't believe that either having or not having children is harder, better, morally superior, more fun, leads to a fuller life, etc. So that's not what this post is about. It's about the single biggest point which my having a child has driven home to me.

Donald Miller writes in "Blue Like Jazz" about how his life at one point was basically like a play in which he was the lead role. Any time anyone else came onto his "stage" with a request or need or just wanting to be present, Miller felt like his great story was being infringed upon. I think, if we're honest, that's how many of us live, whether we are aware of it or not. We simply *are* the stars of our own show, and often other people *do* get in the way of where we were going in a "scene."

Sixteen years ago today (almost half a day ago, at this point), I started upon a journey that would be a constant attempt to remind me that it's not all about me. Sure, I'd seen this in other relationships in my life. But since I have never lived with anyone else for all of sixteen years, I've never had to face the fact over and over again that I tend to make every single thing about me, on some level.

Kid sleeps through the night? Is quiet and well-behaved at restaurants? Is at ease with strangers? Is smart? Is talented? Is empathetic? Well, yeah, I'm proud of my child, in that case. But some of that pride spills over onto me. I'm a pretty good parent. I'm disciplined. I am fairly clever myself. I model good things.

And no matter how often I realize this and try to recalibrate, it still usually slips back as a default.

It works on the negative, too.

Kid has severe anxiety? Is super introverted? Has no apparent need for close relationships? Doesn't pick up on social signals? Can be accidentally (really really) rude when triggered? That's probably on me, too. What if I hadn't broken up the family of origin? What if I hadn't blanched so much at signs of neediness? What if I had better modeled self-control?

Anecdotally, I know that all parents struggle with blaming challenging things in their children on themselves. I have a friend whose child is about D's age and also has anxiety, and though their family is intact, she questions whether her being so depressed when pregnant caused this.

But there is also actual evidence that, aside from drinking and smoking, what parents do doesn't really affect their children, who mostly just remember whether the parents were kind or not.

(Incidentally, that link includes a statistic that people with children ARE actually measurably less happy than childless couples, if my friends who don't have kids ever want to stick that in someone's pipe and let them smoke it when they're serving garbage.)

The biggest crime around making my child's triumphs or struggles about me is that it renders me less capable of seeing them as their own fully-fledged human and either purely celebrating or altruistically helping them, as the situation demands.

And so I readjust. Often. Sometimes daily. Sometimes multiple times daily.

There were so many things I couldn't have foreseen when I first became a parent and was overwhelmed with the minutiae of having an infant: What do they want? Another diaper?! Why aren't they eating? Is that jaundice? Why aren't they sleeping? Why are they sleeping so much? What am I supposed to do about hiccups?!

The most uncomfortable challenge my elder child has presented to me has been a years-long look at my beliefs about God and the nature of the world. It started with simpler questions, which, over the years, simple answers no longer satisfied. As the questions, to which I responded with sincerity, but often using pat doctrinal scripts, intensified and I realized the answers were unsatisfactory, I had to really take a look at my own faith. Was is mature faith and I just needed to wait for this kid to catch up with me? Or were there depths I was missing?

Honestly, one of the tensions I face daily is the fact that I'm an open book and D covets privacy. So while I can't say anything too specific or share too much, I just want to note on this, the sixteenth anniversary of a life-altering birth, that I am grateful to be making this often-surprising life journey with my young adult and all-around amazing person. Happy birthday, D.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Magic of Music at Morrison Elementary

The other day, an old friend tagged a bunch of us "Morrison kids" in a Facebook post, and it got me to thinking about how special my elementary school was. I was kind of tempted to think it was just a product of its time (late 70s to early 80s), but having talked to several people, including my husband (who is my contemporary and with whom I went to high school, but we attended grade school in different towns), I realize maybe it was just a truly spectacular pocket of the educational universe that we had the privilege of walking through.

There were many things that made the school pretty different. For one, the classes were in an "open classroom" format, meaning that there were two "pods" in the building: One contained 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and a 1st/2nd split; all separated only by rolling bookshelves and cabinets, which were probably taller than the youngest kids, but not the older ones. The other space had 4th-6th grades. Kindergarten was its own giant room off to the side, with so many interesting stations and areas. Anyway, some years, I remember all four teachers in the 1st-3rd area had their desks together in the center of the space, and some years, they chose to put them against the far walls.

Except for my 5th grade teacher, I had educators who seemed not only to love teaching, but to love me specifically, and I feel like they probably made other kids feel that way, too. But it wasn't just the teachers. My friend Theresa Baker and I adored the janitor so much, we'd often purposefully tighten the lids on our Thermoses just so we could ask whoever had lunchroom duty if we could go get him to open them. Looking back, of course the teachers and the janitor were on to our little game. I hope he enjoyed the visits. He was extremely kind to us.

Then there were the field days, the fall festivals (oh, the cake walks!), science fairs, spelling bees, and the fun Santa's Workshop "store" where we kids could shop for our family members' Christmas presents without tipping Mom and Dad off to what they were getting.

But the one thing I remember as having made my elementary years the most enjoyable on a consistent basis were our music classes. First, please let me introduce you to one of the most fun adult women I had ever met up to that point (I'm sure when you only have to deal with kids for an hour at a time, you have the luxury of being a lot more fun than "regular" teachers!):

There. In the middle, between my sister and me (yeah; I know. It was 1986 and I was in my awkward phase. Whatever.). That's Becky Pickle. Her laugh... I can't even describe it. I just hope she enjoyed life as much as it seemed like she did.

Music class was, I believe, twice a week, and held in the big, wide-open multi-purpose room (that last time I drove by was being used as storage, sadly) where we could do things like play cage ball if the weather were too bad for recess. We didn't learn to play instruments, per se. I think we did do rhythm sticks and recorders, but things like orchestra and band were introduced in 5th grade and were separate animals. Also, she introduced us to notes and time signatures and all of those things, but it wasn't primarily a music theory class. Really, we did a bit of everything. Mostly, we sang. A lot.

We put on programs.

For Valentine's Day.

For Christmas.

For something having to do with the founding of America, maybe?

We learned such a rich variety of music, too. We sang a bunch of folk music. American, sure; but also Japanese ("Sakura"), Cuban ("Peanut Vendor"), Jewish (The Hanukkah Song), as well as some Caribbean stuff that I remember specifically.

Some of the songs were beautiful and I remember to this day. Also, I can see now that some were basically just variations on other scales set to words so we could be introduced to them and recognize them. And some were exercises in rhythm. We also learned to square dance. And we learned tinikling.

Even more importantly, I think, Ms. Pickle let us to choose things to sing, setting aside time in class for various students who wanted to to perform. I never listened to country music, but had Sylvia's "Nobody" memorized, having listened to my friend practice it over and over. I remember when a couple of girls sang the MASH theme song. I felt very in on something mature and maybe even wrong that we were listening to our classmates singing about suicide.

I think Ms. Pickle made music fun and accessible to everyone. We didn't have to try out to be in the programs; we were all automatically in. And we practiced a lot, but ultimately, it was just a great time.

If I could wish one thing for the education of everybody's kids, it would be that enrichment programs could stay around. These are some of my best memories from elementary school, and I feel so fortunate that I got to be one of Ms. Pickle's students.

More singing.

We did a lot of programs.

I'm fairly certain that this "Caribbean" night might be considered culturally insensitive today. But I remember feeling very festive.