Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pack-Out Day

Moving Day April 2010 from Erin Shachory on Vimeo.

So, I look a little more like the crypt keeper than I'd like, but I took this video in the midst of our "pack-out" day (a little military jargon for this former military brat). This is sort of our "PCS" (permanent change of station) and is so much like what I remember from my childhood: packing up your "household" items (furniture and clothes and toys and things that you can live without for a month or so while it's in transit) a month before you move into your new home; in a week, we'll move our "temporary" stuff (the things we cannot live without during that month). It's all very exciting and weird.

And, to boot, it's sort of breezy today, so the wind has been howling through the house all day. Ushering in the new, I suppose!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

School Daze

What makes a good school "good"?

I am touring the elementary schools in the area where we'll be moving in June. Unlike LAUSD, which stretches practically from heaven to hades, the small area surrounding Agoura has not one but TWO school districts and there are three elementary schools (actually, there may even be a couple more hidden in the rolling hills) within a three minute drive from our new house. Not only that, but there are ways to get inter-district permits to transfer, intra-district permits, etc., etc. No magnet points to consider. Something called "School of Choice," another thing called "District of Choice," Blue Ribbon schools, California Distinguished Schools, higher API scores than I've ever even heard of... My head is spinning. The good news is that each school is better than the next so I know the girls will do fine.

The problem is my internal gluttony - if THIS school is good, then what about THAT school? If our new address is zoned for a school that's "just fine" -- and my kids already go to a "just fine" school in the Valley -- then we're making a parallel move. But... why can't they go to a "better" school? And what would a better school look like? Would I know it if I saw it?

I toured one school yesterday that literally knocked my socks off. I tend to go to school tours with one eye open and one eye dreaming of possibilities, but this one had me with both eyes open and dreaming awake. Picture rolling hills of green grass adjacent to a public park with tennis courts. Upper grade kids (4th and 5th grades) changing classes for math and reading to get the feeling of middle school. A "smart board" in each classroom. A very accessible, experienced principal. Very sweet, informed, helpful office staff. The sun shone. The birds sang. I fell in love.

It's out of our new district. I don't know if I can make it happen for my kids next year - maybe down the road. But now that I've seen it, I kind of feel like it's what I want for them.

And then I wonder if I'm being too snobby. I feel like our family has not only been happy at our neighborhood school (which no one else in our neighborhood sends their kids to), but we've thrived and been involved. Who's to say that ANY school would be fine for us? It's not the school that makes a community, it's the community that makes a school, isn't it?

But... the nagging voice says Don't you think it's time to fight for better? Don't you think your kids deserve it?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Out with the Old

I am ready to be like the Buddha. I'm done with all the vitriol of this house sale and my own participation in it (even if I'm not able to truly say what I want to the people buying our house, I have been thinking it and have been using language that is not graceful or generous in intention... to say the least).

Now that I can see the possibility of an end to this process, I am ready to put my defenses down so that I can fully immerse myself in the excitement of our new home. The fearful, vicious-talking person who has taken over my body, guarding my emotions and protecting our family from any harm needs to recede again. It's been years since she's showed up and now I'll be happy to see her go back to the shadowy cave where she hibernates.

Let the new owners of our house find out for themselves that the magic of a house must be placed there. I feel sorry for them, but I cannot worry about them and any future strife that they might try to create.
I'm not guaranteeing that I'll be able to hold my tongue when I talk to my girlfriends about this, but I promise to try to reframe the experience as a positive one when I am finally sitting in my new home.
Breathe. Breathe.


Sometimes, you just need to step back and give props to the people who keep you standing up even when you're about to fall over. Thank you, JT and KP, for having my back. I had to say it out loud and say it proud.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Lasting Influence of Michael Jackson

This guy may not seem like the likeliest person to continue the legacy of the King of Pop, but things are not always what they seem.

This weekend, our school's annual Variety Show was packed with talented kids (super cute ones like my own little cheetah!) and parents. There were singers and dancers and musicians and actors and a crazy good emcee plucked from our school's alumni (Mr. Spencer Abrams, sir, you done good).

But the stand-out for me might have to be this kid.

I've known him for a long time now -- he's the youngest child of my good friend Barbie, whom I met when my oldest daughter was in kindergarten (and then Brownies) with her daughter. I've always seen him as the "baby" of the family, just a cute kid that tags along with us at all the school functions.

How wrong I've been. You have to see the video from his kindergarten class' Tribute to The King of Pop this weekend. Besides the incredible guitar work from a class dad and the adorable choreography - not to mention the cuteness of these kinders, I mean really - the thing that STANDS OUT is this little guy. He's dead center... and for good reason. He's so into the music that it just makes him want to dance his guts out. He's feelin' it from his shiny socks to the sparkle on his single glove.

What also struck me is how important Michael Jackson's music has been to our culture. When he died, I felt a little perplexed by how all of his weirdness (pedophilia charges, bleached skin, alien face) seemed to fade into the background. But now I'm feelin' it, too. I just want to sing and celebrate these songs again, and I'm a little excited for these kids, who get to experience them for the first time.

So long, King of Pop. Welcome to the stage, Little Hat Man.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Oh yeah, it was good

This is my youngest daughter. She was a cheetah in the school variety show for a rendition of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" with her kindergarten girlfriends. Those are her gold lame leggings and a hand-made cheetah leotard.

Oh yeah, it was a good night.

And don't think Mama's not gonna want a pair of those leggings for herself. If you ask me, gold lame (add the accent mark for me, okay? It's been a long night...) is the new gold standard.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

I love this house. I do.

See how it seems to be looking at you? Like the dormer windows are checking you out and the chimney is a raised eyebrow and the white railing of the porch is like a crooked smile? Yeah, I see it, too.

My husband grew up here and we were married here - I'm sure I'm boring you because I've probably told you this story a zillion times already - and now we're selling it. It's a good decision, and it will allow us to move to an area that we are enchanted with. It doesn't make it any easier.

I had a fantasy that we'd sell it to a family, one that is as quirky as ours, that could appreciate the charm of a 60-year-old house, the suburban street, the kids playing on the lawn in the summer sunsets, the adorable novelty of actually running across the street to borrow a cup of sugar from Dick and Vega (my beloved neighbors). I dreamed that they would quickly become fixtures at the annual persimmon party and stroll their kids around the block the way that we did. Their kids (the ones in this dream family) would learn to ride 2-wheeler bikes on the street in front of the house like mine did and swing for hours on the sturdy steel swingset with friends. And their summers would be filled with pool parties and BBQs, just like ours.

Okay, so you know where this is going. Our buyers do not have kids. They are not from the Valley. They don't give a sh*& that we have a history in this house. They asked for a credit because we share a zip code with another city that is "less desirable" than the one on our address (no, really). They asked that we not be present during the inspection because they did not want our "song and dance" (this is what my husband told me - and I have a feeling he was being kind in his paraphrasing to spare my feelings). The entire process has been excruciating and I can't help but feel like I am giving this house away to wolves.

Is that my lesson? Are they just pushing us away in a most disgusting, rude manner so that we can turn away and not look back? Or is it really just a "thing," this house I love, and merely a temporary container for the love that we've incubated here?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Wonderland Sort of Day

So this is what it looks like when you spend a few hours with Christine Rose Elle. Yes, she's an artist, a designer, a dog lover, a fancy crafty girl all around. And you just cannot be near her without feeling inspired and happy.

I met Christine in Italy, in a 500-year-old home perched on one of the precarious cobblestone streets in Cortona, where we were both staying while attending a fabulous weeklong workshop with the fantastic Sally Jean Alexander. I had been to Cortona before, so Stacey (the woman who organized the workshops, who created this amazing home in Cortona, who simply oozes creative powers) invited me to stay in her home to have a different experience (which included a ghostly sort of wake-up for me, but that's a different story for a different time). Christine was embarking on a new life, having just sold her home in Northern California to live in Rome for a year and study fashion design. She'd already worked with one of my fashion idols, Betsey Johnson, and was on a mission to learn and create and do. She was, as you can imagine, fabulous. Had loads of spiritual insight, a beautiful sense of color and a wit with her artwork... I was just totally intrigued.

A year or more later, I could not find her address. The Xmas card I'd sent to Rome had been returned and I just couldn't find her. And then the phone rang. She'd moved to Los Angeles, into a darling old Victorian near downtown, off the 110. She invited me to be a "guinea pig" for a crafting workshop she wanted to do on French beading. I couldn't believe my luck.

Since that time, I have fallen into a deep admiration for Christine, her work, her playful spirit, her insight, her dogs Shirley and Cricket, and her studio. You could really just dive in and get a sugary toothache, it's all so sweet. She is honing her skills with workshops that deal especially with flapper girls, Marie Antoinette, Jane Austen, Alice in Wonderland... It's all simply delightful.
Oh, and did I mention that she also bought me a taco from one of the old school Highland Park taco joints? Yeah, she's all that and a bag of chips.

Feelin' a Vibe

I am moving, as I've mentioned before. In the new house, there is a wall, a GREAT wall in the living room and it's so large I have been at a loss to fill it.

And then I found this artwork on Craigslist. I have not bought it yet -- my husband is being a stick-in-the-mud about not buying things or decorating the house until we close escrow, geez! -- but this crazy thing has got my creative juices flowing.

Suddenly, instead of the quiet, subdued traditional modern style I've been using all these years in our Cape Cod-style Valley home, I'm seeing Carly Simon and James Taylor singing ballads in my living room, the rolling foothills of Agoura stretching out from the balcony. I see burnt orange, shaggy rugs, capiz shell lights, driftwood lamps... and this crazy gold sunburst artwork.

Didn't hurt that the current owner told me that Joan Baez has been to dinner there, either.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Magic and the Misery of 3

I was thinking this morning about one of my good friends and a story she told me about her son's obsession with a stuffed animal. The story is not important -- just a little boy's intense love for an inanimate object and the made-up adventures he created for the two of them, and his mother's subsequent delight in her only child's imagination -- but it got me thinking about my three kids. In particular, it got me wondering whether or not I'm able to fully delight in their creativity... if maybe the very fact that I have three kids means my delight is split three ways; and thus, each child only receives a third of the delight that they're due.

My oldest child is blogging and it took me a few days to recognize how incredible that is. Not only did she think about what she wanted to blog about, but she went to the website and figured out how to do it. Without me. I should be uber-delighted (and I am), but that's the thing with three kids, at least for me: in the midst of cleaning up after all of them, making sure they've eaten, checking homework, nagging at them to wash their hands and brush their teeth, it takes me a little while to focus and get my priorities straight. It takes some time for me to quiet down and get to that place of delight for each individual.

Is that what it's like with just one kid? I only had a single child for 11 months, and I was pregnant for 9 of those months. I don't know how it is to be quiet and listen intently to just one little voice without the chatter of others, all voices wanting to be heard and understood at the same time. That's the misery, I suppose...

But the magic is in the alchemy of watching three people, each of whom shared my body with me for a brief 9 months, walk on the earth, becoming who they need to be, navigating the microcosm of society within their own family. There are times when I see them out in the world and using the tools they've learned from a multi-sibling family: patience, sharing, waiting for a turn, shrugging off petty disappointments, making new friends quickly.

So maybe this is my issue. I'll just have to do what I can to give them more than just 33.3% of my delight as much as possible. Just to even the odds.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Confessions of a Reluctant Laundress

I love my washer. Is that so wrong? My brother-in-law just moved and doesn't need his old set, so he offered them to me. They're a matched set of LG front-load stackables - beautiful, energy efficient, must have been expensive.

But I just cannot ignore how much I love my top-load washer - it's the first one I've ever had that can handle all the clothes my family of 5 accumulates in a week. Plus towels -- loads of them (pun intended). And even pillows and a comforter from time to time.

I was sort of freaking out about making a choice between my "old" washer (bought last year) and this gift-horse one. I was kind of driving my husband nuts.

"So take your old washer and the new dryer when we move," he said.

"But they won't match," I told him.

"Will it matter when you go to wash a sleeping bag?"

Well played, sir. I'll keep the washer, matching or not.

The Tunnel of Slumber

This is where my littlest daughter sleeps.

Yes, it's a tunnel.

You know how, when you're pregnant, you go through the motions of touring every baby store and touching every soft blankie and painstakingly selecting a layette and the "perfect" crib? Then you daydream about the "perfect" little girl's room, all pink and bunnies and princesses and...

Well, I never thought to include a sleeping tunnel.

I shouldn't have been surprised, really. My kids are creative sleepers. One is a reformed sleepwalker (now a comatose sleep-talker who could literally sleep until 10am) and the other takes FOREVER to get to sleep. The tunnel was actually created as a little fort for reading: two of the mattress pads we use for sleepovers rolled up burrito-style and filled with blankets and pillows. One night, my youngest passed out in the middle of reading "One Fish, Two Fish"... and now it's the only place she'll sleep.

With all of these sleep eccentricities, I guess I won't go into why, in a 5-bedroom house, all three of my kids sleep in one room... I'll save that one for later.