Sunday, March 25, 2012

She Doesn't Deserve This Shit

On March 15, the teacher's aide in Emelia's pre-Kindergarten classroom asked Emelia to move, and when she explained that she was allowed to sit where she was, the aide picked up Emelia by the arm and moved her to where he wanted her to sit, leaving a bruise where he grabbed her.

The weekend following the incident was one of concern and anxiety, as we heard nothing from our inquiries and complaints. On Monday the 19th, I went to the school alone, because if the aide remained in the classroom, we weren't going to let Emelia go. Fortunately, the assistant principal told me that the complaint was being handled, and that while it was pending, the aide would not be in the classroom. I called Kathy to let her know that she could bring Emelia after all.

The teacher has been ecstatic since the suspension started. Only after the incident did we learn that (1) there was an injury-causing incident with another student last semester; (2) the aide allegedly has been bullying the teacher in addition to the students; and (3) allegedly the aide has been doing very little in the classroom, leaving the first-year instructor to do almost everything. Last Monday Emelia told us about her day in far greater length and detail than she ever has. On Tuesday night Kathy noticed that Emelia wasn't grinding her teeth in her sleep.

Kathy and I have established three priorities in our efforts to deal with this incident. First, that he no longer be in Emelia's classroom, and we seem to have achieved that objective. In conversations with the teacher, she has indicated that the principal has let her know that regardless of the outcome, the aide would no longer be in her classroom. Second, that he no longer be at Emelia's school. That issue has not been resolved yet, but we are hopeful that the investigations (District school board, criminal, and Child Protective Services) will result in this happening -- meeting this objective is made more likely given that the incident was witnessed by the school's visiting artist. Third, that he no longer be employed in a position, inside or outside of DCPS, that places children in his care. I don't think this will happen, but we are doing what we can to achieve this objective as well.

Once we learned that the aide would no longer be in the classroom the anxiety that we have been feeling mostly went away. While we can't help but question why the aide was in the classroom despite the problems the school was made aware of previously, at least there has been no serious injury to anyone.  

For what it's worth, this is the second incident we've had with a teacher at Emelia's school. Last year, while Emelia's class was between teachers, the substitute decided to make an example of Emelia after she had an accident by making her stay in her pee-soaked clothes all day long. That teacher is no longer a substitute for DCPS. 

Two teachers in less than two years -- hopefully, there won't be any others.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Letter to Emelia and Hannah

We take photographs for all sorts of reasons, but mostly to capture a moment in time. In this post, I will try to capture a moment in time of roughly 72 hours. It's not about the family, though everyone is part of it; instead it's about your father, as he is at age 43, an age that probably means little to you personally when you'll read this, but also an age/time in my life that you'll have scant memories about me as a person. I can't say that these are typical days -- I think it might be the first time since we've become parents that I went out three days/nights in a row. To Hannah I apologize -- you're only two at the time these events transpire, and so even as our interactions are wonderful, they're not particularly memorable, or more accurately, distinctive for purposes of this letter. As such, Emelia features more prominently than you do in this letter.

This has been a winter of no winter. I had used my heavy coat for three days of the entire winter. It was in the 40s on Saturday, but in the 60s on Sunday, and the 70s and 80s Monday through today.

On Saturday night, I went to DC United's season opener, a game that ended in disappointment because despite getting outplayed, the scoreless draw was in reach until an added-time goal sent the team to defeat. In the stands we engaged in gallows humor to pass the evening, a sadly too familiar past time at United games these past few years. Still, it was nice to be with the gang again after the five month offseason, even though I have little to do with them outside of United games.

Sunday morning as we were adjusting to Daylight Savings we all went to visit Sharon, Gary, Andrew and Declan for breakfast, a visit that was pretty enjoyable. When Hannah showed signs of needing her nap, I drove everyone else home, and headed to a beer tasting. I had just lost 19 pounds from a diet I went on at the start of the year, and this was my first local tasting in several months. Between cuts in my personal budget and my waning interest in beer gatherings/ratings, this was something of a treat. While there I watched FSU defeat UNC to give the team its first ACC championship. And I tried a lot of beers and ate way too much food. A beer tasting doesn't involve a lot of volume -- most beers I only drank a couple of ounces, so that the 35 or so beers I drank was about a six-pack of volume -- that's a sizable amount, but not so much when the consumption was spread out over 7 hours. As with the soccer match, it was enjoyable even though I'm not close to any of the other attendees. Where once I had close ties to some of the local beer geeks, the ones I've cared about have moved or moved on, and the current regulars generally aren't people that I'd ever do something socially with outside of tastings.

I got home at a decent hour -- Kathy was still up, and we chatted a bit before we both went to sleep. Alas, at 12:30 or so, Hannah woke up because her pacifier fell out. Kathy responded to it, I woke up when she went to attend to Hannah, and I never could fall back asleep. Two hours of sleep on the night left me pretty tired the next day. I had had visions of going to a concert on Monday night, but lacking sleep and a ticket to the sold-out show, I gave up on that. At 4pm, however, I was offered a ticket, and went to an amazing show. Back around 11, I still stayed up another hour or so because I was so pumped up from the show. Six hours of sleep left me in pretty bad shape in light of the sleep shortage the previous night as well.

Tuesday morning I had the pleasure of walking Emelia to school. We both were enjoying the fantastic weather on the walk. As is often the case, our conversation was all over the place. It started with my trying to convey how wonderful the concert experience was, and Emelia claimed to completely understand, because she's five. I told her that we would go to Floydfest that summer, where I looked forward to sharing some music experiences with her. At some point the conversation shifted to dreams/goals, and Emelia informed me that she intends to marry her best friend (for the past two weeks), Timothy. I asked what happened to Jonah, as she had said she was going to marry him just a couple of weeks ago. Emelia explained that when our families had last gotten together, Jonah indicated that he probably was going to marry someone at his current school, so Emelia had set her sights elsewhere. And it made sense to me that she would select Timothy because Kathy had just recently explained that she was married to her best friend. Emelia had been changing her designated best friend quite frequently, and I couldn't help but wonder whether/how Kathy's statement was coloring Emelia's perspective.

On my way to work afterwards, I had a most unusual experience. As I was leaving the L'Enfant Plaza metro station, a man was going down the up escalator. He stopped a little in front of me, and I walked past him. A few seconds later a second man was walking down the up escalator, and he was completely naked. He had a shirt or something loosely covering his genitals, but that was about it. I have no idea what was going on, only that I had no interest in trying to find out. His shoes and the rest of his clothes were at the top of the escalator, unable to follow the conveyor as it slid underground.

Tuesday at work (yes, I was working amid all these activities), we released a big item that I had worked on for a couple of years. I had a bit of pride in completing it, but the greater feeling was one of relief. It was a challenging, difficult, and often frustrating process, and I was glad to leave this portion of the project behind.

Tuesday evening, when I got home, Kathy was set for us to enjoy the nice weather to go to Lincoln Park for a picnic (Emelia's idea). I was beat and not up for it, and Hannah was showing signs of being tired too. Still, I did my best to rally and we went. Hannah insisted on holding both Kathy's and my hands on the walk over, and got upset when we weren't doing that. At one point she threw herself to the ground in a decidedly two-year-old way; unfortunately she's more used to the floor at home, and hurt herself on the harder surface. After a few cries she rebounded, and we got to the park a couple of minutes later. We stayed there for a few minutes, but it started to rain, so we hurried back home and ate the rest of the picnic on the living room floor. Hannah went to bed shortly after that, and with that, the 72-hour window into my life has elapsed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Multitudes

After two hours of sleep on Sunday night, there was no way I was going to go to the Birchmere on Monday to buy a scalped ticket to the sold-out New Multitudes show. My craigslist posting in search of a ticket had yielded no responses, and between my exhaustion and the likely fruitlessness, I was giving up.

Then at 4:00pm, I got a text asking if I was still interested, and my fatigue was washed away by the adrenaline my body started producing -- I was going to the show!

Things kept getting better once I committed to going. The seller wanted $50, but I got there before he did and someone outside was selling a ticket for face ($30), so I jumped at it. I spotted a single seat in the middle of the room, directly in front of stage right -- perfect. In response to my asking if the seat was available, I got a response that it was, but that I should be warned that the conversation was going to be about beer.

Bobby Bare, Jr. offered an entertaining opening set, mixing his songs fairly evenly between the depressing and the absurd, occasionally serving up songs with a healthy heaping of both qualities.

As for New Multitudes, let me start off by telling who they are, because the name isn't familiar to many people yet. For that matter, if I had recognized the name early enough, I probably would have bought a ticket before it sold out and saved myself a lot of anxiety. Billy Bragg and Wilco plumbed the Woody Guthrie archives a decade ago to compose songs from lyrics that evidently had never been set to music, resulting in the highly acclaimed Mermaid Avenue albums. Now, in honor of the centennial of Guthrie's birth, a different set of musicians have released a different set of Guthrie lyrics they've set to music. New Multitudes consists of Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket), Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt), Anders Parker (Varnaline), and Will Johnson (Centro-matic). Despite my long-held appreciation of the music produced by the first three of those men (nothing against Johnson, I'm just not familiar with his music), I had never seen any of them perform.

The first half of the show was a live performance of the 12 songs on the New Multitudes album, in the order in which they appear on the album, with virtually no dialogue. Each performer led the band for three songs. Johnson was mostly behind the drums, but on the occasions he stepped out from there to take the lead, Parker squeezed his rather large frame into the small space on the stage for the drummer. Meanwhile, Yames mostly played bass, and Farrar stayed on guitar. I'd only played the new album a couple of times prior to the show (I purchased the deluxe version, which includes 11 additional songs performed by Farrar and Parker, further diluting my familiarity with the new album). At times the compositions didn't involve all four band members, leaving one or two of them to stand uncomfortably idle for a couple of minutes. Still, their evident comfort with each other during the songs where they all performed overcame those awkward moments. Highlights of this set included the Johnson-led "Chorine My Sheba Queen" and the Yames-led "Talking Empty Bed Blues."

Something that surprised me in this portion of the show was the expansion of the album versions in several instances, with the resulting jams leaning toward garage/psychedelic -- the live version of Yames' "My Revolutionary Mind" particularly stood out in this regard. Regardless, the differences from the album were quite enjoyable, giving me a further appreciation of the songs. At some point during the show I remembered that the collaboration between the musicians began as early as 2006, so that even though the songs are new to the audience, no doubt ideas have continued to percolate and be passed among them in the time since the songs were arranged.

Once the band had played the 12 songs from the album, they took a short break, after which each member came out to do a solo acoustic tune. For me, the highlight of the show was when Parker played "Song," off the 2001 Varnaline album Songs in a Northern Key. I've loved this album for many years and had hoped he'd play something off it, though I thought the odds were rather slim -- what a delightful surprise! I was silently screaming along as Parker played -- it was all I could do not to sing along to probably the quietest song on the night. For Americana, "Song" is a fairly electric song, but Parker's stripped-down acoustic version added a staccato element that gave the song a greater sound of urgency than the original.

Their solo acoustic numbers complete, the entire band came back out for five more songs. Each man led one of the first four songs from his own catalog of songs, before the band closed with Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty." This was the band at its integrated best, particularly for Son Volt's "Bandages & Scars" and the Guthrie tune, the latter transformed into a sprawling 12-minute tune that had the band leave the stage one at a time, until finally Johnson was along on stage pounding the drums with a fierce intensity and backed only by the feedback playing throughout the final song.

All told, it was one of my favorite concerts ever, and it left me so pumped that after coming home I still needed another hour to settle down enough to drag my exhausted self to sleep 24 hours after I'd last awoken.