Cats in the Cradle

Keeping your kids from feeling the heat.

Can I let you guys in on a little secret: Being a band wife can really suck sometimes. I may be getting a little salty again but I just found out that The Husband will be out of town the same weekend as The Daughters ballet recital, this recital is always poorly timed with The Husbands band schedule. Last year he made it there by the skin of his teeth, the night before the band left to go up north to play a marathon that started way earlier than anyone sane would get out of bed for a smoke and a pancake, let alone a run. Apparently, you need entertainment when you run also, so they make the entertainer get up even earlier. He got home just in time to shower and meet us at the auditorium to watch The Daughter dance. Unfortunately, this was our first pony show and we hadn’t realized it was a two-hour phantasmagoria full of uncoordinated tumbles and plie’s, The husband slept through all of it. I nudged him awake long enough to see the two minutes The daughter was actually on stage, then he was back to snoring. We even sat in the balcony seats alone, so he wasn’t being a disturbance; I have learned from previous encounters with the sleeping beast (sitting front and center at our early Saturday morning marriage class was a terrible idea, older and wiser now).

I have a million stories like this, our first wedding anniversary, the first time our son went over night to aunties, was celebrated at a porch party… where he had to play all night. Our third was spent in the cockroach motel for two nights attached to the bar he played at for those two nights (it was ‘all inclusive’ in a small up north town, population: 103). He’s missed parties, weddings, sports events, the list goes on and on. Cats in the Cradle makes him cry now. But I can’t complain, I won’t complain (I know, I know, I just did).  I get the security of knowing he will come home safe, that it’s his choice and we have the security of knowing and trusting he would choose not to plan on big event nights. This isn’t their graduation and he was there for their births and baptisms. There are a lot of spouses out there that don’t have these luxuries or choices. Also, I know at the end of every day he is dedicated to his family, we at least get a phone call or text, and I know he is able to do what he loves, and do it not only for himself but for us.

We broke the news to The Daughter over pizza, to soften the blow. She went into a “Oh, sure, you want to go to your band more than you want to see your only daughter in ballet” then we all sang that dreaded song together, silver spoons and such, then had a good laugh. No, seriously, that actually happened. You see, I know that it isn’t perfect and The Husband can’t be there for everything, the kids don’t like it, I don’t like it, and he doesn’t like it, but we make it work. I lay in bed writing and I can hear the giggles coming from the living room, our babies wrestling with Dad. I know that yes, it is hard when he is gone but when he is here, he is fully here and such a huge part of our lives. I have learned to make it work and there are things we do to keep the kids, and our, attitudes positive.

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Though he doesn’t make it to all their events, he makes it to most. He has never missed a Daddy/Daughter dance. This picture, though…  

No matter how frustrated I get I never let even a grumble slip from my lips (in front of the kids, at least). I support The Husband with or without the children. When I talk positive, I feel positive. When our children hear me praising their father, not complaining about his absenteeism, they will grow up knowing that even though their father wasn’t always physically there, he was always with us. We take the kids to shows. I have an “outside” rule, the kids can come to the outside shows: fairs and festivals (all ages obviously). I did take them to an indoor venue once but it was so loud and dark and I can be a nervous mom, it didn’t go well. When they can see what we do they can take pride in their parents, they know how much work Dad puts into this and they can look up to him. When we can’t get to a show, I always try to give them something to look forward to even if it is a ‘sister/cousin’ sleep over or they get to share my bed and Netflix with me all night. Obviously we instill our love for music in our children also, so they can understand what Dad is doing is really cool. Luckily we have an amazing support system with grandparents, aunts and uncles who all live close by also. They all love what we are doing and help out when needed. All these things we do and the help and support we get keep us well rounded and grounded, makes our marriage stronger, and gives our children a healthy and happy childhood.

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The kids supporting Dad, this would be the only indoor event they attended. They were excited but by the end there were tears, “I want to go, its too loud”s and I was a nervous wreck worrying about their safety. We will stick to the outdoor events in daylight. 

Isn’t She Lovely

Random thoughts on genetics

I am at our daughters Honors Choir rehearsals where in the five hours she is here today (a forty-minute drive from home) I promised myself I would get this blog done (mainly because it is the only time I am going to get alone where I can write). I have pulled out, and put away my lap top about ten times already and they are half way through. I cannot think of anything to write about except the overwhelming feeling of joy watching my girl sing her heart out. So here I sit now, in a dark auditorium balcony typing vigorously, with the background music of one hundred-plus beautifully talented third and fourth graders making memories and learning, learning, learning. Our daughter got a lot from her father, her beautiful olive skin tone, dark eyes and hair to match, her stubborn, take no crap attitude, and her incredible sponge like memory for music and beautiful voice. I really hit the jack pot when picking a mate to breed with. One of the biggest blessing of paring with a musician is the chance of having your children inherit their amazing musical talent. The Husband inherited his from his parents who were in a band while he was growing up. Me on the other hand, I did inherit my grandmother’s turnip nose and opaque Irish skin, but definitely not my grandfather’s musical talent. I like to sing, but really don’t have much of a quality talent for it. My voice is much better written and I have no patience for picking up an instrument. You can tell that with our love for music and the husbands talent it sure has rubbed off.

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My beautiful ballerina

Things that I love about my kids is that they have completely different tastes in music already, our son likes it heavy like his dad, and as for the daughter, she likes to dance, like her mother. For Christmas, this year their grandma got them headphones, so we bought them SD cards to download music on (and you could slip them right in the headphones, technology is so cool, but I am tech illiterate so these things still amaze me). They love them and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them become their own, they have surprised me by how different their music taste has evolved. They took different paths to get their music. The Son went straight to Dad, and surprisingly his three top favorite songs aren’t as heavy as I expected (I know because he doesn’t think he is singing them over top the blaring headphones for everyone to hear) his favorites are: Stacy’s Mom by Fountains of Wayne, 1985 by Bowling for Soup, and Calling You by Blue October. The Daughter got into Grandpa’s stash, full of smooth classic hits, she is a big fan of The Carpenters now. They truly are opposites.

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Just a boy and his hero.

None the less I see them both enjoy music in their own ways. The Daughter involves herself in music and dance, much like her mother did through childhood. She loves being part of a group, learning it always. She is my choir bug, but isn’t as musical at home but loves her structured ballet and choir concerts. The Son, like his cool rebel father, loves absorbing pop culture, figuring out bands, and learning different genres, he is all willy-nilly with his music, loves singing and listening by himself and an unstructured way of learning. It surprises me because when it comes to anything else in their life, this is opposite. The Son needs neat structure in school, his room is always more tidied and organized; and The Daughter is all over the place, messy room, and loud clothing. Genetics and development are so weird, but so cool. Obviously, we are not living unless we have music in our souls and there are different types of ways we absorb it but it is amazing to watch our babies grow with music surrounding them.

Broad-Shouldered Beasts

When support becomes a make or break in a marriage.

The other night while lying in bed The Husband and I were talking band business and I told him I was his biggest fan. He rebutted that statement, there is another guy that fills that spot. I said that I was, indeed, not the bands biggest fan (though I may be a runner up) but I was his biggest fan. I am sure like most spouses (band or not) you are going to be their biggest supporter, you should be their biggest supporter. This is one of the most important parts of a marriage to keep it strong. Yet, with a stifling divorce rate and an even higher one for couples in the entertainment business, you start to ask how one keeps a union rich when most of the time you feel like two ships passing in the night. I am no expert, but after fifteen years together I can tell you how we have made it work so far.

Of course, that is support. Supporting your spouse goes a little further than just a pat on the back, it’s a start but it might not be enough glue to keep it together. There was a point in our lives when I wasn’t his number one fan, a few bands ago.  It started when I was pregnant with our first and they had pretty good traction throughout our children’s toddler years. I wasn’t necessarily unsupportive, I didn’t discourage it, but I honestly could care less about the band. I had a hard-enough time caring about how he was doing in the band. Harsh, I know, but we were raising two toddlers, I was worn out, and had no time for myself, let alone my husband’s hobby. I look back and remember that weak pat on the back, and the fake smile while mumbling “That’s cool, Babe”. I don’t know if it started with me distancing myself from him or he from me, but somewhere along the lines we started to neglect each other.

My husband is not conceded nor egotistical enough to be bothered by the fact that I couldn’t give him the support he deserved, but I can look back and know now that it wore on our relationship. Some of his greatest achievements were being unnoticed by the most important person in his life. We went through some very hard years during and after that, faced with unemployment, financial struggles, and family tragedy, it was all a breeding ground for resentment. It wasn’t all because we stopped supporting each other but we almost weren’t strong enough to get through those hardest of times together because we had years of neglect that had weakened our bond. Then the point hit where we needed to make changes or loose each other for good.

That is when I learned that being a musician is not just a hobby, it is their life, it is a deep passion that comes from within. It is the reason they can be so damn appealing, and is the reason they can be so damn difficult. It took me a long time to realize this. To realize that music is not something they can leave on the road, or in the band room. It is something they want to share with you, and as a spouse why would you not want to be proud of everything they are doing? And, of course, it goes both ways, if it weren’t for The Husband I wouldn’t be writing out loud, we both push each other and celebrate together. After years of repair we have found ourselves at our best, which has put our marriage at its best. That is how we found each other again, once I started celebrating The Husband, and he did me, we became better people which made us see what we saw all those years back when we first fell in love. The best part of a marriage is that you don’t have to go alone, you have a lifelong fan, someone to relish with and someone to pick you up when you feel a little less than. I no longer worry when he is away, find myself questioning our future, or feel lonely and unsure. We now find time to talk every day and we genuinely get excited for each other’s accomplishments. I am the first to share his glories and Facebook posts, he is the first to read my blogs (and promise to give his honest opinion every week). I am sure this can be relatable for all relationships but my experience as a band wife supporting each other has brought us closer and taken us farther than we could have ever done alone.

Excuse the Mess

We are Creating Happiness Here.

It is no secret my house is a disaster. No, disaster is too soft of a word, it is a calamitous tragedy around here. Yes, my house is just tragic, and with two preteens, two dogs, and a musician it is a struggle to just keep the smells at bay. I like to call my cleaning methods “riot control” if it is not sticky or stinky, ain’t nobody got time for that. I like to think that it is because The Husband and I are both very creative people, and creative people are messy (but, in reality, it is just because I am lazy and would rather be writing, reading, or Netflixing). On top of that I want my children to be creative so they create all over the house, and like their parents, they don’t pick it up until the mess has created an all-out high anxiety situation where we are all yelling and crying and cleaning. So, it’s best we keep busy and just ignore all the messes around us, a little like life itself.

Musicians tend to make the biggest messes, because their toys take up a lot of space. At one point, we moved our Princess PoopyPants’ bedroom upstairs to make room for The Husbands’ “beat lab”, as he so affectionately called it (which was supposed to be our office but, as usual, was taken over by the music that runs our lives). Luckily that room had a door on it so I could hide all the speakers, stacks of papers on the floor, and all the cords. I was never so thrilled when they started practicing at The In-laws (which happens to conveniently be right next door) before this happened there was so much music clutter. Now there is only a little music clutter. Everyone has that ‘junk basket’, their catch all they throw all those little gadgets in they don’t know what to do with. Ours is always filled with tuners, EBows, picks, old guitar strings, and all the cords. Our corners are piled high with merch boxes, speakers, acoustics, and… well, all the cords. There are so many cords in the music business, random cords hanging from walls, wrapped up in baskets, tangled in the pile of blankets sitting on my couch. I think there should be an initiation process before one becomes a band wife where we hide cords all over their house and if they can find all of them, wrap them up, and find a convenient place to store them all before losing their minds (and if they don’t lose their shit quite then, we will sneak in and redo the mess all over again, maybe this time throwing a bunch of clear guitar picks every wear too, and repeat until they are finally driven to the point somewhere between bat shit crazy and Mariah Carey breakdown). We will only know then they will be ready for this lifestyle.

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I pulled this picture of our tragic house from my Facebook archives. This was a couple of years back, when we had “the beat lab” at our house. Excuse the mess.

 

It seems like I am complaining, but really, I love the mess and chaos (if you didn’t know this about me by now). The reason for this blog is because this morning after dropping my kids off at school and having that one ‘ah’ moment when I am finally alone with my coffee and thoughts, I looked around and saw the mess. My initial reaction wasn’t frustration and anger but an overwhelming sense of gratefulness. I remember back when I first started dating The Husband and I told a mutual friend about our first date and how well it went. She exclaimed, “You guys are going to have the most creative kids!” I remember imagining our lives in some bohemian utopia (we were only eighteen at the time and I didn’t have real good grasp on reality yet) where we sang songs and wrote beautiful poetry for our children every night, where our children would flourish and we would all have intellectual conversations and create magic together. Really that isn’t too far off, if you count quoting Futurama and Tenacious D lyrics as intellectual conversations. I never imagined the mess that goes along with life, but I have embraced it. As I am picking up everyone’s mess while grumbling about it, I find sketches and lyrics written out on a food stained paper by my Little Babybubbaloo or a story Princess PoopyPants insisted on using my laptop to write (usually about bunnies). I will take the mess to have such an amazing family that I know will be filled with creating their own happiness for years to come, and that fills me with enough happiness to get me through all the crazy, messy days.

 

 

Tips of the Trade

How to survive your first local music show.

A few weeks ago, I invited my family out to a battle of the bands. The winners of these competitions are usually based off of ticket sales and crowed response, so I corralled the biggest mouths I know: My big, fat Irish family! They are so cool, I got my own mother and most of my siblings to come out and support my husband. This local band business is not their conventional scene. The dark, dirty bars are not where they usually flock, so you can imagine how out of their elements they were (let alone the time it took them to recover from the loud, late night out). I thought it would be fun to get their help for this week’s blog, and I asked them to compile a list of things they wish they would have known going in or what they learned from their first local rock show experience.

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One of the coolest group of dudes I know, only about half of my big, fat Irish family. Photo credit goes to my awesome mom.  

The first tip comes from my sister in law: remember gum because you are going to be drunk face talking all night. It is so loud at these shows and with the drinks flowing and good vibes with loved ones you have so much to say, you have to yell your heavy, beer breath right in their faces to be heard. Sure, you try to turn your head to the ear so you aren’t being too violating but it doesn’t always work, a stick of gum or two will conveniently fit in your back pocket and save you loads of offensiveness.

 

 

Speaking of slipping things in your back pockets: our second tip, do not take what you cannot fit in your pockets. I take my phone, ID, and cash, that is all.  Do you really want to carry around a purse all night? It gets annoying, these places aren’t sit at a table all night places, you will be up and around. Do yourself a favor and pack light.

 

Our third tip goes right along with packing light: The last show was on a brisk Michigan winter evening, I mean wind chills in the negatives. Errbody was wearing a coat and these venues are usually right under the level of class that would have a coat check. Being the friendly merch bitch I was I let everyone load and unload their coats behind my table. Never again! By the end of the night I had about thirty coats stuffed under my feet, digging through them to get to the merch. Nope! If you are not brave enough to bear the cold, carry your own coat all night (ok, I might be a little lenient on this one, but only for my favorite people).

 

Next topic: foot wear. I see so many girls hiking up flights of stairs, and down city blocks in their stilettos and dresses. They all look good, but dang, we got rockin’ to get to, and there ain’t no time for that. Maybe when I was younger I would have been able to work it but now there is more important business to attend to.

 

Then there is the matter of Cashola rolla: bring your dollar bills. There will be shirts and CD’s and hats and all kinds of goodies you will want to purchase from your favorite bands you see that night. I know there is a lot of new technology that helps us use our cards everywhere but it is simpler and there are no processing fees. Also, do you really want to trust the bar to keep your tab?

 

There was some other tips thrown out there, ear plugs, throat lozenges for screaming all night… maybe some Geritol, just in case, but that is only for the old, lame people. In all seriousness, though, I couldn’t ask for a more cooperative and fun family. They all had a blast and I think I may have created a few new followers (until I talk them into going to back to back shows with me). So when you go to a show, make sure you are prepared for  an amazing time, get ready for some rockin’ and enjoy yourselves because that is the greatest expectation of any show you attend.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Is this all worth is, part 2

The guys won the battle of bands last night (woo, rock on)! After a very long night at the bar and an early morning at The Son’s basketball game, I am on a couch date with the family. After the spin cycle of this weekend I finally have time to reflect on the question I left off with on the last blog. Is this all worth it? You see, my daily life is filled to the brim, I get up (most) Sunday mornings and go to church and I take The Children to catechism, and I leave feeling inspired and fulfilled.  I am an early childhood educator, a provider to babies and toddlers. I love it, I get all dressed up in my Jessica Day flats and my smart embroidered polo and I get to give out free hugs and sing fantastic songs all day. I come home at the end of the day and sit with my children and help them with their homework (with little as possible screaming and pulling my hair out), drive them around to their basketball and ballet practices. Come home to make dinner, and kiss my husband when he comes in the door all while keeping up on laundry and dishes. It’s heavenly. Underneath my smart embroidered polo I wear nine to five, you wouldn’t know my back is covered in tattoos. When I am getting kids to early weekend games or going to church Sunday mornings you wouldn’t know I was running on no sleep after a show the night before. I feel like I am living a double life.

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That’s me (or at least the back of me) getting out of my head and into the music.

I grew up in a very small rural town, I still live there to this day, love it, my little comforting, safe, bubble. Surrounded by green pastures and smelly cows. In true farm girl fashion my usual days are spent walking bare foot through those lush green pastures of rural Mid-Michigan. “Earthing” I think they call it, the cool wet grass between every toe. My feet are permanently green by the end of summer (a nice thought on these bitter cold February days). I love being barefoot, I really do, but when my rock boots hit the pavement, my heart skips a beat. I love hearing all the fray in the bars as I walk by, it’s thrilling when I am stalking through the city on a mission to rock. Something about the rush of a big city and a loud show gets my blood pumping. I love the electric surge when standing in a crowd of hundreds listening to the fusion of hard, loud instruments. Loosing myself in the music. I feel important yet obsolete in a sea of so many. I am no longer sweet, small town Mallory, but I become something different entirely. I will drink plenty, listen to music too loud, and forget about my life for a while, it is sensational. I will head home late, and when I finally hit my bed, I will crash hard, sleep not long enough, and dream of far off loud chaotic places.

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The next morning with my little basketball star (and baby girl), tired but ready to go. Go blue!

Then I will wake up remembering that I do have kids, and a job, and tons of responsibilities… and now guilt. Are you there, God? It’s me, Mallory. As much control as I appear to have, I do not. It is hard getting it all done in a day, but in my exhausted state Saturday morning while watching The Son play I can still smile remembering the release of last night, and I cheer for The Son just as loudly as I had for The Husband. I do embrace every loop of this crazy ass ride. I would like to put the blame on The Husband (he has never asked nor expected any of this from me), or complain about all I do for The Children (of course as a mother I will always provide); but honestly, these are all done in selfishness, because in doing it all for everyone else, I am doing it for me. As I was rushing around last night before running out the door to go support the Husband, I asked myself a question. The answer is, yes, it is always worth it, because in the moments when the music is most loud, I can find myself within losing it all.

My Life On Spin Cycle

Is this all worth it, part 1

Battle of the Bands, these are incredibly important, they can get real competitive, and there are copious amounts of work that go into them. They are also on my mind right now because The Husband has one tonight. I don’t get to make it to all the shows, I must be choosey when to turn in my babysitter card, so I have to make sure they are the good ones. I seem to always choose poorly, I end up at the one that nobody showed for, then all night I get to hear “I don’t know what’s going on with tonight, last night’s show was packed!” Not tonight, though, it’s a battle of the bands and I am certain that it is going kick butt, I am so pumped… and so exhausted. I wonder sometimes if it is even worth it.

To shed a little light on the days leading up to a big show, let’s start when The Husband finds out about it, a couple months in advance. It’s on a Friday night, being that I work the late shift on a Friday I request the morning shift that day, pencil it in on the calendar, and start searching for a babysitter. Unfortunately, this is such a big show everyone I trust to watch my babies is going. Except for Grandpa, God bless his soul! Whew! Now that that is all planned we can fast forward to a week before, double check on the sitter and work. The blog needs to be started earlier because my Friday morning blog and coffee time is nonexistent. I need to also plan my hair washings so they align with the show (no joke, I gotta look good). I try to get to sleep early Thursday night, because Friday is going to be a doozy, but who are we kidding? This will not happen. So then it’s the day of, I wake up at my normal time, four thirty AM. Get to work by six, bust my butt for a good eight hours and rush home around two. On my drive home I will call the Husband: “What do you need, I am out of work now?”

“Grab the merch bag, charge the cameras, and make sure you are ready when I get there if you are going with me.”

Ok, then it’s two thirty when I get home, I have half an hour before the kids get off the bus. I want to nap so hard, but I cannot. Instead I brew a big pot of afternoon coffee and make sure The Husband’s requests are met. By then the kids are getting off the bus, I hand out all the hugs and kisses and “how were your days?” sit them down and start them on their homework, while I prepare a big early dinner. After they are done with their homework and dinner has been served I jump in a soothing, hot shower, shaving, finally washing my hair, taking time to let the conditioner soak in while I have imaginary conversations with everyone that will be there tonight, forgetting about all space and time. Time? Shit, what time is it?! I frantically jump out of the shower, yell at the kids to go pack a bag for Grandpas tonight. By then The Husband is home and getting in the shower while I am applying minimal makeup because now I have no time to look as fabulous as previously planned. I throw on my clothes, my amazing blow out ends up being a messy bun. Luckily, I have big shiny earrings to distract from the rest of the hot mess showing up tonight. I am still screaming at my precious angels (that should be old enough to take care of themselves) to quit screwing around, pack their bags and get ready to go.  I try on three different pairs of shoes before I say screw it and go with the first ugly pair, pout for exactly thirty seconds about how I never have anything nice to wear or time to look good for these things. I push the kids out the door and tell them to go wait for me in the car. I have exactly thirty seconds to assess and double check if I have everything, make sure the dogs are put away and fed, lights are off, and doors are locked, load the car up with merch, cameras, The Husband needs nine-volts now, search for those forever, where the ef are the nine-volt batteries?! Oh, they are right here in the merch bag. At the last-minute jump in the car and go drop the kids off, give them a quick kiss goodbye and get in to go.

I then get exactly twenty minutes of The Husband all to myself before I share him again with a mass of fans, band mates, and the schwoozers and schmoozers. Is it really worth all that? I mean is this really all worth the chaos, the missed parent times, the late nights? Even The Husband has a hard time keeping up, and while the frenzy of texting plans, I could see that.

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I do ask myself this during these rushed times, when I am watching life spiral around me like someone turned on the spin cycle. Is this all worth it?