Wednesday, May 30, 2012

almost summer

We've had so many summer-like pleasures lately.  Just this weekend, we've had cook-outs, beach walks, ice-cream, a parade, back-yard kiddie pool splashing, sprinkler adventures, tree planting, grass mowing, eating breakfast and dinner on the deck, even eating the first few strawberries from our garden. 

After tomorrow, I'll have just one official teaching day left.  Quite a few organizing, planning projects to do as well, but the school year is disappearing quickly.  Tomorrow, I'll have my fifth graders for the last time.  Being an elementary-only music teacher has its sacrifices.  Saying good-bye is one of my least favorite.  Last week, those fifth graders shared some special solos and I had a few specific words of appreciation and affirmation for each of them.  There were tears and hugs and lots of loving words from the students.  Tomorrow might be even worse.  It's hard to say good-bye to students.

I grew accustomed to keeping them....from first grade, right on up to graduation day.  I was spoiled, but it was one of my favorite perks of being a multi-age music teacher.  I loved the longevity of my relationships.  That was hard to give up.  And it was very, very hard to say good-bye to those students.  Before I had my own daughters, they were 'my kids'...and I think I'll always feel a little of that protective love.

But summer is coming and my kids and I have some beautiful plans for our sunny mornings and days at the beach and time with cousins and friends.  My time with them is already speeding by.  That protective teacher love is so much fiercer now as mother love.   And that short-and-all-too-fast-window of "first grade--on up to graduation" is now my own reality.  Maya is an official first grader.  A graduate.  She reminds me of this several times a day, sometimes with teasing words about how fast she's growing up, sometimes with factual information about being DONE with kindergarten, sometimes when she just circles around me humming 'Pomp and Circumstance.' 

I'm not so sure I'm ready for the pace of the fall....and first grade!  I can hardly think about September now.  
But I am ready at least, to embrace June, July, and August!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Paris Journal: Day Three

This morning, I was anxious to get out of bed.  Tired, but eager to start the day.  Our plans included both the Musee D'Orsay and Versailles, both of which could take the better part of a day (or more).  I'd been planning my Paris wardrobe for weeks, so it was easy to get dressed...I was confident that we knew the city enough to get breakfast and take the metro.  I was up and ready to conquer the day.  Our two-day pass was ready to expire, and I had an agenda.  However, Ryan was (understandably) exhausted....and seemed (to me) to take forever to wake up and get ready.  I may have been a little panicky and nagged him just a bit.

Finally down the stairs and out into the street, we saved some euros (and time) buying our croissants and cafe cremes down in a little chain boulangerie in the metro station.  It seemed every bit as delicious and magical as the cafe variety....once we we arrived at our stop and walked through the Tuileries Garden to eat our breakfast.

We walked through the garden and over the bridge to the Musee D'Orsay.  Again, we were grateful for our Museum Pass which allowed us to skip a winding crowded line and go straight into the museum.  First, VanGogh, Seurat and the other neo-Impressionists...then off to the Impressionists.  These were the paintings I fell in love with as a child....poring over the little book of postcards of the Musee D'Orsay, given to me by my big brother Andrew and sister Lynn.   Some of the Renoirs....I had also seen as a teenager in a special exhibit in Chicago for a school trip.  To me they are almost sacred.

Degas sculptures and the paintings of Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir...breathtaking.  And the view of the city, from the top floor of the museum...looking out through the giant glass clock window.
A. Maz. ing.

When I first saw Monet's "Poppy Field" painting,  I tried to explain to Ryan that it was the print..a framed painting that hung in my bedroom as a little girl and all the way through college...another beloved gift from Andy and Lynn's trip to France.  As I realized how much it all meant to me, that painting, Andy and Lynn's formative roles in my life, so many of my now fulfilled dreams, being in this city, in this museum, in this room, with this painting, with the man I love...who has given all this to me...I started to cry a little.  Teary eyes, filled to overflowing with joy and the knowledge of being loved.

We also saw an interesting Finnish exhibit with rugged landscapes that reminded us both of the cabin.

Leaving the museum, we descended straight to the metro station below the Musee D'Orsay....which conveniently led us to the train bound for Versailles.  My exhaustion hit hard on the way and I fell in and out of sleep on Ryan's shoulder.  We were part of a mob-like crowd pouring out of the metro station, descending upon the ville of Versailles. It was after 12:00, so the crowd was hungry (including us).  We laughed about the strategically placed McDonalds and Starbucks, which, at first glance, appeared to be the only options for food.  But as we walked up the shady rue toward the Chateau, we were delighted to discover a quaint street packed with little cafes and bars and markets.  After walking up and down, we settled on the Aquarium, which was lovely and delicious and simple.  Our "trois fromage" sandwiches were made on one very long baguette, sliced open and cut in two, spread with green-leaf lettuce and layered with camembert, brie and fresh mozzarella, drizzled with light olive oil.  A perfect lunch.

The wait at Versailles was disappointing, especially after our "royal treatment" at the other museums with our passes.  The line snaked up and down the giant outer courtyard.  It was sunny and a bit hot, and fortunately, the line moved along.

Inside, the palace was beyond all descriptive terms such as elaborate, decadent, overwhelming, opulent, beautiful, ridiculous.   Enormous....stretching on and on, long corridors, giant rooms, grand staircases, it's own cathedral.  All covered, every square inch, with exquisite materials, precious stone, masterpiece paintings or carvings, grand sculptures.  Amazing to see.  Probably the only place of its kind and degree of grandeur in the world.  But the shoulder to shoulder crowds, covering every square inch of space was exhausting, suffocating, and also ridiculous.

By the end of the great Hall of Mirrors, (which of course, was impressive), we were feeling quite trapped, and more than ready to escape to the gardens, calling peacefully to us from the windows.  Since our pass excluded the gardens, but included the Trianon Palaces and Marie Antoinette's Estate (my most desired destination in Versailles), we were forced to decide: pay for the gardens (9 euros each) AND the tram tickets (7 euros each) to get to Marie's estate in just 15 pain-free minutes...OR take the 45 minute walk around the Palace, through the town, and around to the back of the estate all the way to Marie's cottage.

We walked.  And walked.

Our sore, blistered feet and aching calves might have caused regret...but it was truly one of the most beautiful walks we've ever taken.  I kept telling Ryan how dreamlike it was, how much it meant to me, how delighted I was with every view...the long straight dirt road, lined with perfectly symmetrical trees, along both sides, the rich green of the grassy pastures on both sides of the road, sheep on one sided, horses on the other.  It was like walking into a film I've always loved.

Eventually, the stone fairy-tale-esque cottages with quirky turrets and towers appeared through the trees.  We wandered through the paths, snapping as many photos as possible.  Every moment, I felt the struggle to keep taking it fight the anesthetizing effects of so. much. Beauty!!  As we walked back towards the Chateau, we found the Trianon palaces too AND...the tram back to Versailles.  For only 3.70 euros a piece, we got a full riding tour of those same gardens we'd skipped out on earlier, and...they dropped us off inside the gardens to wander as we pleased.  The bargain that we had just arranged felt delightfully "tricky" and smart and made the end of our Versailles day twice as fun.

Back in Paris, we crossed back over the bridge, through the Tuileries, and wandered to a French restaurant that looked pretty traditional.  A L'auberge.  The eager waiter convinced us by enthusiastically waving us in.  And the "Prix Fixe" menu looked about right for our budget.  I ordered escargot and Supremes de Volailes and Ryan had a tomato and mozzarella salade with Confits du Canard.  As is so often the case, Ryan got it right with the duck.  It was so tender and buttery/salty tasting.  My chicken was okay, a little dry, despite the delicious creamy sauce, I thought, but the snails were a delicious "first" for me.  The shells were filled with a pesto-like sauce and melted butter...and the snails themselves were delicious and tender and salty.  mmmm..

We hadn't talked to the girls yet all day (no wifi), so we headed to a cafe for some cafe creme (for me) and of course, a crepe for Ryan, and a tiny little cup of cafe (very bitter).  The waiter was the only one we experienced in all of France, the kind that everyone warns you about, the caricature of french "rudeness", who seemed annoyed with our American presence, expecting us to order more than just one dessert and cafe...and waiting impatiently on us, frustrated to be wasting his time on a table such as ours.  I tried hard not to feel the pressure, but it was hard for me to feel the disapproving Frenchman's smugness.  So, I ordered creme brulee too.  And it was delicious.  But he still didn't like me.

It started to rain.  It was warm under the heated canopy outside the cafe, but the wind and rain threatened to intensify.  The people passing on the sidewalks and on motorcycles were getting drenched.  So, we paid the grumpy waiter and huddled under our little umbrella, walking briskly back around the square to our hotel.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I know that life is about to get easier, more fun, and a little more organized.  I just know it.

I'm honestly not feeling defeated or hopeless.  At all.  I'm quite hopful and excited, really.  I'm just kind of sick.

And it seems lately that every day is full of long obligations and appointments and responsibilities.  And the pile of clean laundry downstairs will never be folded and put away.   And the scattered toys and (possibly important) papers will never be organized and under control.  And so many things are about to change.  And all is not right in the world, and it's very evident these days.

Today, I finally had an afternoon.  And I slept it all away.  Sick.  The girls and I took 3 hour naps.  After having slept in until 8 AM!  And now, before 9 pm, I'm ready to fall asleep again.  If I can breathe enough to sleep.  The rain and thunder are perfect.  As is the Nyquil.   Hopfully the Z-pack does its magic too, so that I can be full of energy and motivation tomorrow.

I miss my Love too.  He's in Georgia tonight, and my room is too quiet.  But he comes home tomorrow.

With my pounding head and aching muscles and sore throat, I feel very un-ready for tomorrow.  But hopeful for what tomorrow will bring.

Sheesh.  I sure am whiny.

In other news....

Can you hardly wait??

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Concert Week

I love this time of year.

Not just because I have (in my part-time teaching schedule) only EIGHT DAYS LEFT of school.

Okay.  That might be part of it.

But I really love concert time. It's so exciting and so stressful.  So many details to plan, information to communicate...tasks to accomplish, loose ends to 'tie,' students to motivate and empower.  But the end result (especially when it exceeds your hopes and expectations) is simply magical.  Watching the excitement and focus and pride reflected in your students eyes... Meeting parents and grandparents and hearing wonderful stories about the impact of music and music education.  Feeling the adrenaline rush as the students look at you full of nervous excitement, bows poised, fingers placed...

...and then that rush of relief and exhaustion when it's all over.

Final rehearsals are happening this week, and so far, all is going well. Maybe too well, actually.  And strangely, I'm not that nervous or stressed?  Maybe I should worry about that.  I probably should.

Anyways, if you'd like to see nearly 75 second graders playing Mozart on the violin on one stage....
Or just under 50 third graders performing together on violins, violas and cellos... will not want to miss this Thursday night (May 10) at the North Muskegon FLEX center.
6:00 PM Second Grade Violin Concert
7:00 PM Third Grade Strings Concert

And next week, the Fourth and Fifth Grade String Ensembles will perform some Blues, Beethoven, Irish Fiddle tunes, Dvorak melodies, music from Handel's "Royal Fireworks Music," and more.
Thursday, May 17 at 6:30 PM.

I love my job.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Paris Journal: Evening Two (Eiffel Tower)

Our first full day in Paris was like a dream.  We had crossed several things (major things) off of our list: the Louvre, the Tulleries Garden, La Musee de l'Orangerie, Berthillon glace, Shakespeare & Co., sun-filled walks over bridges and wanderings along the Seine.  One major list item remained.  And for Ryan, it was near the top of the list, the Eiffel Tower.

After a little rest and planning time at the hotel, we took the metro back to the Opera station.  We had only briefly glimpsed it as we entered the city on our first afternoon.  We figured we could get a better look at the Opera, and then wander our way towards the Eiffel Tower.   But before we could find the entrance to the Opera, I spotted something I knew Ryan would love...the Paris Mac store!  Since there was of course, free wifi there, we spent a long time inside, 'face-timing' with the girls.  On our way back down into the metro, we grabbed coffees (to go---the American sized version from Starbucks) and headed to the Eiffel Tower.
Author's side note: This is one of my only regrets of the trip.  Side-tracked by the Mac store and our hurry to see the tower that night, we never entered the in "Phantom of..."  If I weren't so utterly full from beautiful once-in-a-lifetime adventures, I would have cried as we drove away from it on our last day.  

After walking for two or three blocks from the metro stop, 'it' emerged... finally.... from behind the buildings and trees.  We could not have asked for a more beautiful evening for this magical moment.  The air was just slightly crisp, but the sky was filled with warm colors, yellows and pinks..and just a little hazy.

As we walked closer, we tried again and every angle to capture its magnificence.

There were play grounds and parks, gardens, and food stands along the way.  One little side-trip off the path led us to one of our favorite views of the night.   (Ryan's beautiful photography and editing)

We seriously considered going up.  But we knew in advance that one of the elevators was out of order...the line was hours long.  And one of us is not fond of heights at all.  We opted to take a River Cruise instead.  A different kind of city view.

The Eiffel tower sits on the edge of the river.  So we walked underneath the tower, toward the Seine.  We found a sunset cruise that included a light dinner and wine, a "snack cruise." So we bought our tickets and boarded the bateaux mouche.  Squeezed tightly among rows and rows of wooden folding chairs, we found two perfect seats on the upper deck.  Everyone there was happy, of course.  It was really like all the movie versions of a river cruise in Paris.  Kissing and smiling and laughing and contentedly breathing deeply...we glided through the water under exquisite bridges and watched the city slowly light up.

The tower was just beginning to light up when our boat returned.  We had just enough time to skip up the stairs to record the sparkling lights before they were gone.  Apparently, we aren't the only YouTube contributors to think that this event is pretty cool.  You can probably find better videos of this...but here is ours.  Including our delighted laughter.

While Ryan captured that on the ipad, I was capturing this with the camera.

It took us a little too long to find the nearest metro station that night.  Block after block of dark alleys made us both begin to feel a little uneasy in this strange city with its language and culture we did not understand.  But eventually we ducked down into the warmth and familiarity of the metro station and soon we were sitting and swaying on the train, people watching, on our way to our safe and cozy little room.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

I could say a lot....

...About this man....about his unnatural generosity and humility.  His never-ending love and faithfulness.  About his very abnormal ability to choose love and righteousness over bitterness or cynicism.  About his love for learning and his flexibility.  Though I'm certain that he is human (and allegedly flawed like the rest of us)...the typical human traits of self-promotion and self-defense and self-importance are strangely absent.  He cares about being liked....I think I get that from him.  But rather than try to convince you about his worth and greatness or his many areas of wisdom and experience and expertise, he'd usually rather stoop down on all fours to be your footstool for changing a lightbulb...if that's what you needed...

His name means a great deal to many people.  I grew up knowing that.  My last name was big in a small town.  And I carried it happily, gratefully.  Because without fail, wherever I went, I got to hear stories of how my father had blessed and enriched someone's life with his teaching or his kindness or his care.  I got to hear about his wisdom and his integrity.

I believed them...and I felt proud.  But to me, he was not important because of his ministry or because of his small-town fame... he was important because he was the one who packed my lunches and drew stick-figure pictures on the brown paper bag.  He made me omelettes for breakfast and read Proverbs to us every morning.  He helped me with my horrible geometry homework and listened when I was frustrated or excited or nervous. He told me long, running stories about Charlie Chipmunk every night.  He loved my friends and invested in them too.  He still does.  I could always find him in his office reading or praying early in the morning. And I knew that often, he was praying for me.  Still does.  He fixed just about anything of mine that was broken, and now he fixes things for my children...even cheap dollar store things that should probably just be thrown away.  It's impossible to buy him anything, because he never talks about things he wants.  At family gatherings, when all the adults in the room are tired and just want to sit for some adult conversation, he's usually outside playing with the kids.

As an adult, I still get to hear those gushing stories about my dad often (though sometimes now, I get to reveal my relationship to him in my own time and on my own terms, since I'm disguised by new Corbin name).

He isn't a saintly hero to everyone.  But to me he's the closest human to ever deserve that title.

Happy Birthday Dad.  I love you.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

maya grace

She is grace.  A gift.  Gentle and so thoughtful.  She loves deeply and compassionately.  She is protective and nurturing.  She's funny and smart.  And she loves to make people laugh.  She gets so excited about the little things, that it is always fun to watch her face fill with delight with any surprise.  Even if it is just a sandwich cut like a gingerbread man or a wave from teenager that she knows and loves.  She's the best gift-receiver that ever lived.  She 'ooh's' and 'ahs' over things that are beautiful.  And she makes sure you know that she feels grateful and SO lucky to have received your blessing.  
It's pretty fun to surprise her.  

When she's comfortable and confident in her surroundings, she's goofy and weird and utterly lacks self-awareness...she just dives into whatever play she sees or imagines, and never thinks about how others might perceive her pretend voice or wild chirping sounds or authoritative play directions. 
But sometimes, she's painfully shy, completely quiet, deeply sensitive and very attached.  
She loves affirmation and safety.  

She knows the power of words.  She had a pretty big vocabulary before most kids her age could talk. And at six years old, she really loves a great story.  In either role (listener or teller), Maya could live in a story all day long.  She knows how to use words. (This ability can be used for encouragement, persuasion, anger, manipulation, imagination, storytelling, expressions of love...)  

Mostly, she uses her power well. 

She's supposed to be in bed, but she came downstairs to use the restroom and wash her hands.  She stopped in front of me, stroked my hair away from my face, and kissed my forehead.  


I am so grateful. 

Happy Sixth Birthday, Maya.