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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Now THIS is a "Daddy"

Dad Catches Foul Ball at Phillies Game Only to Watch Daughter Throw it Back

PHILADELPHIA — A father made a nice grab on a foul ball at a Philadelphia Phillies game Tuesday night, only to watch his toddler daughter toss it back.

Steve Monforto attended the game against the Washington Nationals with his wife Kathleen and two little girls Emily and Cecilia. After Monforto caught the ball in the fifth inning, he gave it to 3-year-old Emily — who tossed it back in the direction of the field.

When she looked at her dad for his reaction, he just hugged her.

“When she first threw it over, I kind of laughed and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, there it goes,'" the Laurel Springs, N.J., father told "But then the look on [Emily's] face was like she might have done something wrong, so I just wanted to let her know that she didn’t do anything wrong."

The entire scene was caught on videotape.

Monforto called his catch "lucky" and said that later in the game, a Phillies representative brought him a new ball to take home.

Today in New York City


We were hoping for a snow day, but we got a delayed opening instead. The phone rang at 5:20AM, but I was already awake. I always am. The recorded message gave the quasi-good, but not-good-enough, news that there would be a 2 hour delay due to the snow.

Today was the day I had the privilege of chaperoning a trip for Eva's 7th grade "house" of 100 children. Shall I reiterate that? Let me just stop for a moment and let that information sink in: one hundred 12- & 13-year-olds, in the snow, in Manhattan.

I looked forward to it so much, and I am grateful to have been able to go. I had some crazy experiences, however, and the day left me feeling differently than I had anticipated.

We were supposed to go to the South Street Seaport to see the BODIES exhibit; but, we couldn't, because of our delayed arrival into Manhattan. [The bodies are cadavers that have been preserved in polymer. It allows observers to see inside the human body at its wonders, fostering understanding and respect for this most amazing of God's creations.]

The bus dropped us off at Columbus Circle, at the southwest corner of Central Park. We walked through Central Park, in the snow, across town to the east side. Mr. Gill pointed out landmarks and statues along the way. We saw the horse-drawn carriages that await the tourists, and we looked sadly at the Plaza Hotel - how desperately it needs a face-lift! From there, we walked down Fifth Avenue past Bergdorf Goodman, Bvlgari, Sax Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick's cathedral, etc., on the way to Rockefeller Center. We watched the ice skaters for a while and snapped pictures.

[My pants kept (practically) falling off of me, and I had no belt. The only pants that fit me anymore are the ones I wore yesterday, so I was a mess - pants dragging the ground, sloshing in the snow. And, I ruined my favorite boots! Darn it!]

We hit Times Square for lunch and fed 100 hungry teens on barbecued chicken, ribs, french fries, coleslaw, cornbread, and ice cream sandwiches. That was quite an undertaking, but it flowed smoothly. The most notable event that occurred during lunch was the adults around me watching me struggle with cutting the meat from the ribs with a steak knife. (Sloppy, bone-sucking, finger-licking dining and ME? Uh, not so much.)

As I was leaving the Powder Room, an obviously confused, elderly gentleman entered the women's lounge area. I slowly and quietly approached him. (My father has Alzheimer's, so I know a bit about approaching people with dementia.) I put my arm around him to direct him back to the lobby. He was compliant, and walked easily with me. Just as we reached the door, he, um, grabbed, um, well, he grabbed me. I wriggled away and moved his hand, and so he used his other hand to find one of my other girly parts a little higher up. I returned him to his son, who was beyond embarrassed. I briefly explained that I understood, because of my own father's illness, and the son apologized profusely. He also told me I was "stunning" - haven't been called that for a while - and asked for my number, but that's a different story. ha ha (WAIT? Do you think the dad was his "wing man?" ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Of course, I'm joking.)

We then walked over to the Imperial Theatre to see the 2 pm matinee of the Broadway show, "Billy Elliot." (Yes, that's the correct spelling - I know, right? Threw me off a bit, too.)

It is the story of a boy who wants to be a dancer, yet his father wants him to be a boxer. His mother is dead, but she "visits" him periodically to encourage him, and to help him to "be himself."

Billy Elliot shares an old letter with his dance instructor that his mother wrote to him before she died. After the reading, the dance teacher responds with, "...she must have been a special woman." Billy replies, ", she was just me mum."

I don't think I've been hit quite so powerfully with a line from a show. "She was just me mum." I have thought about that since, and I've decided that, of all things, I want to be remembered as a "mum."

Of course, I want (and have) a satisfying career; I run my own business as well; I have opportunities to express my talents as I perform at various venues. My songs have been played on the radio. I write, and I've been published. I absolutely desire the warmth and joy that the love of a devoted man can bring. I want friends, I want close relationships with my family. I want good books, fine music, and gourmet dinners. I want all of these things. But, if I had to choose one, just ONE selfish, earthly thing that I wanted out of life on this telestial planet, it would be this: to be honored by my children as a good mother.

I want them to love themselves, and be kind to themselves. I want them to be comfortable to speak up, loud and proud, at injustices heaped upon them or upon others. I want them to be equally as comfortable being meek and tender as they are being bold. I pray that they will accept their failures and successes as an essential part of life, and move on, leaving the past in the past.

I want them to view me as a fallible, imperfect, human woman who has issues; a woman who succeeds and fails; a woman who laughs and cries; a woman who loves so passionately that it's sometimes too much; but, also, a woman who shines as an example to them of goodness, justice, and mercy.

I hope I teach them how to offer others empathy and understanding. I hope I have shown them how to stand by a loved one while she grieves. I strive to teach them, by example, to demand respect for themselves and others; and, conversely, how to properly and thoroughly take responsibility for their own actions when they are wrong. I have harped on them about "proper" apologies since they were little, because I think there are few social skills more important than the healing power of a proper apology.

I want them to know I loved them even before they were conceived. I want them to feel my absolutely UNCONDITIONAL love for them. I want them to feel handsome/beautiful, because they have been taught to appreciate themselves as they are, regardless of what others might think. I want them to know that they are smart, capable people with good ideas and unique, powerful insights.

In short, I want to be a perfect mother.

Guess what? I'm not. I'm SO not. All I can do about my parenting failures is own them, apologize for them, and do WHATEVER IT TAKES FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES to correct them. I can only practice what I preach and pray that the grace of God will make up for wherever I have failed.

Billy Elliot and his mother share three scenes in this Broadway show. The last time she appears, he knows it is the last time. He tells her goodbye, and she knows her "work is done" with him. How she longs to be able to hold him, but she can't. She just wants to be able to touch her baby - that's all she wants! The audience wants her to be able to leave her realm and be "on earth" for just a moment, so she can hug her boy one more time. It is heart rending.

So, what does this mean to me?

I've decided that I want to leave a legacy. I, too, will die one day; and, when I do, I hope I won't care if folks thought I was a good singer, a gifted teacher, a great cook, or a beautiful woman. I hope I strive each day to be a wonderful mother.

Life has shown me that a husband comes, a husband goes, that the love of a new man may or may not be on the horizon; but, my babies are FOREVER.

Please, dear God, please, give me everything I need. Please close the gap on things I lack. Please let me be part of the SOLUTION, not the PROBLEM. Please help me to live worthy enough that, when I do pass away, we will have such a special bond between each of us that they will WANT to honor my memory. Maybe one of them will say, "she was just me mum."

I believe that's what I learned today in New York City.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Modeling: Children Learn What They Live

In the early part of the summer, I was a guest at a convention in the Gulf.  Amid the tar balls on the beach and the oil in the water, I learned something that I've thought about many times since.  A speaker related how we attract people who are mirrors of ourselves.  Using his viewpoint to encourage the class participants to evaluate the people with whom they associate, he taught that "the importance of associating with good people is paramount to success."  He said (and please pardon the crass word choice) "...if you look around and all of your friends suck, maybe YOU suck.  Do something about it!"

We are never too old to be influenced by negativity to which we are exposed; neither are we ever too old to embrace innocence and purity in all of its forms.

I was immediately reminded of this timeless prose ~ 

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
-Dorothy Law Nolte, PhD

As a mother and a teacher, I've learned that our children become US.  Just like the "modeling" I do in music class with my students, what I "model" for my own children in life is what they will become.

If children end up in trouble, the Universe must ask the question: "What did they witness all of their lives?"

It is imperative to be a good example to children, for children, and with children. Everyone wins when we can all "walk in the light" together. Everyone loses when we can't.

Joining the Fray

A blog.  Wow.  I've been writing for years - essays, poetry, articles, songs; but, I have not, until now, written a blog.  It's not a big deal - millions of people blog - so I don't think it makes me special or anything.  It just makes me join the Digital Age, albeit being dragged, kicking and screaming.

My purpose in writing HARMONIZE is to share my joy.  I have two jobs: the best job in the world, and the second best job in the world.  First, and foremost, I am a mommy.  I consider it an honor and a privilege, and I believe that it is the most critically important job on the face of the earth.  Second, I am a teacher of young children.  Pure, innocent, sweet, lively, uninhibited, blatantly honest little kids.  I am blessed to serve both typically-developing children and children with special needs.

Of course, typically-developing children and special needs children are more alike than they are different.  And, because children develop at vastly different rates, the 5 wonderful years I am allowed into their lives is pure magic to me, regardless of the way each makes his or her way along the path.

As if that wasn't enough for which to be grateful, I am blessed to have added music to the mix.  Music is my second great love in life.  To be able to teach, share, and learn from little children, using music as the vehicle, is my every professional dream come true.  Remember the old Steve Martin schtick: "...I get paid for doin' this...?"  I know what he meant.

I'll be posting some general thoughts about what I do, and I'll share the personal journey that brings me to this point.  I plan to include some useful information about music, children, performing, and parenting.  Last, and I DO hope least, I'll weave what my business has to offer into the tapestry of this endeavor.

I promise to be honest and vulnerable; I promise to protect the innocent; I promise to share my joy.  My hope is that I learn through the catharsis of writing, my readers will learn from the fruits of my labors, and we'll both be edified together.

Come along for the ride!