Friday, May 4, 2007

Music and more...

Last night we said goodbye to our music teacher, Michael, until the fall. As much as we love our Thursday nights, our spring sports schedule was getting too hectic, and we know we won't be around in the summer anyways.

Last fall, I was looking on Craig's list for a voice teacher for Kaleigh. I stumbled upon an ad from a young Berklee graduate who taught guitar, voice, bass, piano, drums etc... I couldn't believe my luck. I had always joked with Fitz that I would love some kind of a "sound of music" arrangement, where someone just hung out here and taught all the kids. This is exactly what I had been looking for. A few emails, and phone calls later, Michael agreed to meet the kids and see what we could set up. We agreed to 2.5 hours every Thursday night. That first night, I was taken aback by how young he was. I think Michael was taken aback by the sheer chaos of 7 young kids greeting a cool new guy in our house. He was very used to sit down-formal lessons... a half hour at this house, a half hour at that house. I explained that we didn't need to do it that way, that we were looking for the kids to learn music and have fun, and however that worked out between he and the kids would be fine. It took a few weeks for him to settle in and really believe that we were as laid back as we told him. And in no time at all, he was just as laid back each week, and just having fun with the kids.

What I really didn't expect though, is that Michael would quickly become like part of the family, and that it would turn into so much more than a music lesson. He is truly a gifted teacher, and quickly picked up on each of my 7 kids' quirky personalities. His girlfriend is even from Haiti, and oftentimes he would call her on his cell phone and have her speak creole to Pipo. His lessons with Charlie were almost a therapy session for a kid with fine motor issues and ADHD. He played into EJ's passion for the banjo and redefined the instrument, teaching him songs by Aerosmith and Nirvana. Every moment with the kids was a pleasure to listen in on. One night, I was down doing laundry, and came upstairs to a full on jam session. He had spent a few minutes with each of them teaching them a simple little blues riff, and had them all on different instruments, playing away. Tommy was right in the middle of it all, dancing away, and making Michael laugh until he cried.

I soon realized that with his hectic schedule, he usually showed up starving, having not eaten dinner. We quickly incorporated dinner into our sessions. One particularly crazy night, when Fitz was working, and we were in the middle of selling our old van, I needed to go out with someone who had come to look at it. I had just put dinner on the table, and Michael had just walked in the door. Without even thinking, I handed my dishes to him and told him to go eat with the kids until I was finished. When I came back, he was laughing away at the chaos of mealtime in our house, and he quickly told me he was going to call his mother when he got home. "I need to thank her.... I don't know how she did this every night!"

So last night was much like all our other crazy nights. Fitz was working late again, and I had a crazy schedule. Michael sat with Tommy at the piano, while some of the others finished up their dinners. I had to run out to pick up a couple at soccer practice, and when I came back, the house was empty. I looked out in the backyard, and there they all are. Michael and Tommy were playing against the rest of the kids in soccer. Tommy was using a garbage lid as a shield in the goal, and Charlie was trying to tackle Michael to get the ball away.

When we started these music lessons in the fall, I never imagined it growing into this. We didn't end up with a music teacher... we ended up with the coolest surrogate big brother in the world, who taught my kids everything they wanted to know.

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