Tag Archives: music

Once A Hawkeye…

IOWA HAWKEYE

So, my baby graduated from college, marking the end of a parenting era for us. Four up, four down. Four Hawkeyes. When I tell people that all of our kids attended the University of Iowa, they naturally wonder if my husband and I had also attended. And…no we hadn’t. We actually both went to Loyola University of Chicago. Iowa just sort of…happened. Continue reading

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The Partial Daisy

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How hard is too hard to push your kids?  Where is the line between letting them just be kids and insisting they be involved in activities?  When our oldest son, Mike, was young, we thought it was very important for him to participate in sports. It seemed only natural to sign him up for baseball and soccer every summer, spring, and fall.  As he grew older, he added basketball to his list.  At the same time, my husband and I wanted him to learn piano and drums and play in the school band, so that was just more to add to the calendar.  Of course, he also took swimming lessons every summer and attended tennis camps, as well as scouting.  He was going to be a well-rounded kid if it killed us. Continue reading

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Never Say Never…Or How I Came To Celebrate my Daughter’s Birthday

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“Your next one will be a girl.” I laughed and said, “I’m not brave enough to take that chance!” After all, that prediction was uttered by a superstitious woman from the old country, after studying the swirl of hair on my infant son’s head. Based on the direction of the swirl, she was quite confident in her assertion. I was most definitely going to have another child and it would most definitely be female. Based on the fact that I was holding my third son in my arms, I was quite confident that she was a certified loony. For one thing, another child was the furthest thing from my mind. I mean little Petey was only six months old. And, ummm….a girl?? Yeah, pretty sure that wasn’t gonna happen. I mean, I had boys. I was used to boys. I was a “boy mom”. Though there was a female presence in my family growing up (I did have a mother and a sister, after all), the male presence was far more overpowering – a dad and five brothers. I was a tomboy as a kid. Boys never intimidated me. I kind of knew how they worked. But a girl?? That was outside my comfort zone. Yes, I know I am a girl, but I was never really into girly things. I’d be a terrible girl mom. Of that I was sure.

So, that said…today my husband, my three sons and I celebrate my daughter’s twenty-second birthday. That’s right. Two and a half years after that fateful prediction, we welcomed little Mary Kathryn into the family. A few months before she made her grand entrance into the world (and before ultrasounds were routine procedures) a co-worker in my office casually asked to see my hands. Not sure of her reason for the strange request, I held out both hands for her to view. “You’re going to have a girl,” she announced. Wait. What? Yes, because I held my hands out palms down, she was able to determine that a pink bundle was on its way. Laughing it off, I later told my oldest son, Mike, about the prediction of a little sister. He was beside himself. “You did WHAT? How could you?” The sound of horror in his voice made me think that maybe I shouldn’t have been so reckless in my hand display. What madness had I unleashed?

I reassured him that silly superstitions were just that – silly and meaningless. But, I have to admit, I wasn’t so sure when, on November 6, 1994, after a relatively quick labor, the doctor announced, “We gotta girl!” Yikes. I tried to do all the things moms of girls do. I can remember trying to fix her hair in super cute ways before school (well, they were super cute in my head, anyway) but never achieving the desired look and ending with a slapped together ponytail and an apology, “I’m sorry Mary Kate. I’m not a very good girl mom.” And she’d try to soothe my failure with, “That’s okay” as she’d head through the school doors.

So, while it’s true that I might have been lacking in girl skills, she can’t deny that I equipped her with more important life skills at a young age, like when she was desperate to quit the rockestra band at school but wasn’t sure how because the band teacher simply would not allow it. She tried to explain to him that she was not quitting the whole band and that she had every intention of continuing band in high school. She has even gone on to pursue her Bachelor of Music degree in college, and is in her year senior year as a percussion performance major at the University of Iowa. But he would have none of it. I understood where he was coming from. You hate to allow a young kid to quit things when the going gets tough. Especially something like music, which is always hard, but important to keep at it if even a spark of talent shines through. But, quite honestly, after fourteen years with kids in the band, I was okay with her letting go of this particular commitment. She was desperate to find a solution. So, I told her after careful consideration, there was only one logical way this was gonna happen. She would have to fake her own death. “I can do that,” she confidently assured me.

Twenty-two years of having a girl and I still don’t think I’m a very good girl mom. We bond over trashy reality TV, terribly acted Lifetime Movies and true murder shows. She now knows what NOT to do to pull off the perfect murder. But, I think we both agree that being a little edgy is a heck of a lot more fun than getting the pigtails right. This is what she tweeted for MotherYOU TRIED

And our exchange on Facebook in response to that tweet:

Mary Kate Naughton: looooove yooouuuu 🙂

Marilyn Toner Naughton: Ahhhh, ain’t love grand?
Mary Kate Naughton: to be fair, you responded with “I hate you”
Yeah, I’d say we have a pretty awesome mother-daughter thing going on. Happy Birthday Mary Kate!! And ya know what? I’m glad Peter’s hair swirled just the right way and I held my hands out palms down.  🙂

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Mistaeks Happen…

BIG BROTHER SUPER HERO 2What perfect timing. In my almost twenty-nine years of mothering, I have joked more times than I can count about the role my children have played in my financial and emotional  ruin. Without kids, I’m sure I would have been a millionaire several times over by now. That was the plan, after all. I would have been living a life of ease, free from the stress of homework, finals, report cards, working concessions, fighting over practicing the piano, keeping track of schedules for football, track, baseball, basketball, volleyball, various summer camps, drum lessons, dreaded piano lessons, school plays, ACTs, college applications, the constant need for hair color, etc, etc. I can actually feel a headache coming on as I stroll down memory lane. But, of course the truth is that, as I’ve also said (maybe not as many times, admittedly), my kids are the best thing that ever happened to me. Yes, every heartache, every tear, every worry and fear, but also every belly laugh and every moment of beaming pride.

So here’s where the perfect timing comes in. As many of you know, my two youngest, Peter and Mary Kate, are both studying percussion performance in school. Peter paved the way in the Percussion Studio at the University of Iowa, and his little sister happily followed in his footsteps three years later. The one year they were together in Iowa City marked the first time siblings had ever studied and performed together in the studio. The head of the Percussion Department had some hesitation about the possible head-butting, rivalry and competition that could arise as a result of admitting siblings and during her audition, questioned Mary Kate about just how solid the relationship with her brother was. Her response was that they were very close and shared a love for music. Peter was her role model. He has since gone on to pursue his Master’s Degree in Percussion Performance at the University of Tennessee, but returned to Iowa City this weekend to perform in the Last Chance Percussion Ensemble Concert (so named because it is the last chance music students have to earn concert attendance credit before the end of the semester). This final concert of the year is open to interested alumni of the studio to perform alongside current members, including You-Know-Who (Baby Sister).

I texted Mary Kate last night to ask how the concert had gone and the following was our exchange that took place:

MK: I just played really bad at Last Chance. It took all my willpower not to cry afterwards. It was really only one mistake, but it was super noticeable and I was especially upset because I wanted to play well for Peter.

ME: Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry 😦  Did anyone say anything about it? Maybe it wasn’t really that bad.

MK: Everyone just said good job. I talked to Ben (her TA) and he said it was only one mistake and the rest was really good. He said I shouldn’t be upset. Pete thought it sounded good, so that makes me happy.

I then texted Peter to let him know how much his presence and kind words meant to her and this was our exchange:

PETE: Honestly, she played really well. Mistakes are much more noticeable when you’re the one playing. She shouldn’t get hung up on it. It was a good performance.

ME: Your approval means a lot to her. She wants you to be proud of her.

PETE: I am!! I thought she did a great job. And I saw her recital (which had been streamed live, two weeks ago) and she was awesome!

I thought Mary Kate’s desire to perform well for her brother was so sweet and his response that he is proud of her, even better. Both conversations were great, but ya know what the best part was? Peter’s response that it was just a mistake and usually the mistake is only noticeable to the one making it. And most importantly…that she shouldn’t get hung up on it. I mean…right??? A great piece of advice for us all.

So, nodding off to sleep last night, I felt pretty good. Life throws a heck of a lot of curve-balls your way. Things often don’t go as planned (my life as a millionaire, for example). But we can’t get hung up on it. You pick up where you left off and move on, and maybe no one will notice the mistakes.

Happy Mother’s Day and remember…don’t get hung up on the mistakes – on the ones we make as we muddle through parenting or on the ones our kids are bound to make as they struggle to make their way in life.

PS: The text messages above were edited for punctuation and spelling, in case anyone was wondering…

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Hey Music, What Have You Done For Me Lately?

 

MUSIC SYMBOLS

Why would anyone study music? I know these words have been uttered countless times by miserable high schoolers, forced to take a Music Appreciation class or participate in Band. I would venture to say that most kids who make up the various bands in school do so because:

1.  Mom and Dad are making them do it.

2. They have an interest in playing an instrument but have no plans to pursue music, because…HELLO… they plan to actually make money.

3. It’s a social outlet. These kids, by the way, are the thorns in the sides of band directors everywhere and the few kids (like my own) who take it seriously, because they NEVER practice. And…

4. They love music and want to live a life in music.

To those who fall into category #4, the following is not only understood, it is fully embraced. But it is to the rest of the school band population, as well as the population at large, who often question the sanity of someone who would choose to study music, that the following is addressed. Hopefully,  they will come to appreciate the complexity of music and, perhaps, understand the wonderfully rewarding answer my musician son gives when asked the question he’s heard over and over again: What are you going to do with that degree? Answer? “I’m going to be happy for the rest of my life.”

 

MUSIC FACT

MUSIC IS A SCIENCE

It is exact, specific; and it demands exact acoustics. A conductor’s full score is a chart, a graph which indicates frequencies, intensities, volume changes, melody, and harmony all at once and with the most exact control of time.

MUSIC IS MATHEMATICAL

It is rhythmically based on the subdivisions of time into fractions which must be done instantaneously, not worked out on paper.

MUSIC IS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Most of the terms are in Italian, German, or French; and the notation is certainly not English but a highly developed kind of shorthand that uses symbols to represent ideas. The semantics of music is the most complete and universal language.

MUSIC IS PHYSICAL EDUCATION

It requires fantastic coordination of fingers, hands, arms, lip, cheek, and facial muscles, in addition to extraordinary control of the abdominal, back, stomach, and chest muscles which respond instantly to the sound the ear hears and the mind interprets.

MUSIC IS ALL THESE THINGS, BUT MOST OF ALL, MUSIC IS ART

It allows a human being to take all these dry, technically boring to some (but difficult) techniques and use them to create emotion. That is one thing science cannot duplicate: humanism, feeling, emotion – call it what you will.

THAT IS WHY WE STUDY MUSIC!

Not because we expect you to major in music.

Not because we expect you to play or sing all your life (though you certainly can!)

Not so you can relax.

Not so you can have fun.

But so you will be human; so you will recognize beauty; so you will be sensitive; so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world; so you will have something to cling to; so you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good – in short, more life.

Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living, unless you know how to live?






 

 

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Every Dream Begins With A Dreamer…

LIVE YOUR DREAM PIC“I got a lot of support from my parents.That’s the one thing I always appreciated. They didn’t tell me I was being stupid; they told me I was being funny”  – Jim Carrey

I love this quote. Speaking as a mother who has enthusiastically supported her children to follow their dreams (a trite expression, I know), I have often been on the receiving end of disapproving looks when asked about my kids’ studies. This is because their dreams are not about engineering, medicine or any other socially acceptable career. And, as much as they recognize the importance of being able to support themselves, as well as the appeal of earning a high income, I think my son, Peter, put it quite well when he said his goals in life are not confined to a paycheck. So, what exactly is it they want to do, you ask? Well….

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I Got Rhythm, I Got Music…Who Could Ask For Anything More?

baby-singingSo, last night, for some reason, I was feeling a bit wistful. I’m not sure what brought it on, but I started thinking about when my kids were little and the songs I would sing to them. Now that I think about it, the whole episode was probably brought on when I heard an old song on the radio. It was Smile, by Nat King Cole. Lost in the song, I mentioned to my husband that, when our kids were little,  I would sing those lyrics when they were feeling down. It’s a beautiful song and, of course, I know I didn’t come close to doing it justice. But, as I listened to the words, my eyes welled up a little. It was just a moment that came and went and was all but forgotten until a few hours later, when, out of the blue, I, again, began to think back to those days. Memories tend to cloud reality. Raising four kids had its moments of exasperation, to be sure. But, thankfully, God erases the frustration, impatience and noise level of those days leaving the warm and fuzzy memories to cuddle up with.

I LOVE to sing, to which my brood will attest. I subjected my children to many, many songs over the years – everything from sweet lullabies to Irish rebel songs to Gershwin, whether folding laundry, cooking dinner or driving in the car. Probably most irritating to my kids, was my knack for coming up with just the right song to appropriately respond to about any question they had.  That’s not an easy thing to do, and I have to say, I was pretty good at it. When they were young, I can remember calling them Veruca, from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, if they ever whined about wanting something immediately. She was the awful girl who sang, “Don’t care how, I want it NOW!” They really hated that one.

But, I would say, that most of the time, the songs were fun and they loved to join in. One memory that formed a lump in my throat last night, was the song from Winnie The Pooh. We’d be driving along in the car and I’d sing, “Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, where Christopher Robin plays, you’ll find the enchanted neighborhood of Christopher’s childhood days…..A donkey named Eeyore is his friend. And Kanga” at which point I would peer into the rear view mirror at Brian in his car seat, because he knew that was his cue: “and Litto Woo”

Me: “There’s Rabbit and Piglet…”

Brian: “And there’s Owl.”

Me: “But most of all, Winnie the…”

Brian: “POOH!”

He loved that moment.

In another, slightly more sophisticated example, my sister had once been watching Mike and Brian, and when I returned to pick them up, she told me that she had been singing to herself (must run in the family) while immersed in some housework. The song was It Had To Be You and she had just finished the line, “For nobody else gave me a thrill…” when, in the next room, she heard four-year old Mike finish: “…With all your faults, I love ya still. It had to be you. Wonderful you. It had to be you.” She couldn’t believe it and I said, “Yeah, Mike likes Gershwin.” So funny.

I’m not so sure his admiration for the genius of the Gershwin brothers still ignites him with such passion (well, actually, I AM pretty sure that it DOESN’T), but those days were fun. I do believe, though, that my annoying habit managed to instill an appreciation for good music in all my children. And while I certainly can’t take credit for Peter and Mary Kate’s love for and dedication to music, as they continue in their pursuit of advancing college music degrees, I like to think I played some small role in their recognition and appreciation for the great standards.

I still love to sing and find myself humming a lot at work. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until a patient will ask me, “What are you humming?” and I think, Was I humming?  Most of my patients like it. Most of them… But to the ones who don’t, I say, “Hey, dentistry has made a lot of progress over the years, but we refuse to make it a completely pleasant experience. That’s why we never warm up the water…and why I sing.” Now, just sit back and relax. This won’t hurt a bit…

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