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I’m With the Band

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 6, 2013 in Family Stuff

Not only am I now a dance mom…I’m also a band mom (fortunately, there is no associated show on Lifetime to highlight the behavior of this organization).

My son Matt has incredible musical talent.  He started playing the clarinet in 4th grade, and continued on with the clarinet into middle school where he was able to join both the middle school band as well as the high school marching band.

I had no previous experience with marching band when Matt joined (other than a very brief stint twirling flags at football games in my own high school).  Like being a dance mom, being a band mom has taught me a few things:

  • Band competitions are a HUGE commitment for the kids – there is a competition every single Saturday – and sometimes on Sundays – as well as football games on Friday nights.  Not to mention band camp, hours and hours of practice…and overnight trips, too.  As a parent, you have to clear your entire weekend calendar from early September through Thanksgiving.
  • Band competitions are expensive for the family to attend – it costs about $10 per person to get into each competition (no watching for free).  For a family of 3 or 4, this can add up pretty quickly.  Not to mention the concession stand, program, candy-grams (candy sent to your band member), air-grams (an announcement made to your band member as they walk out onto the field), T-shirts, etc.
  • It gets really cold in those stadiums while waiting for your band to perform – cold metal bleachers necessitate cushions, blankets, sweatshirts, heavy gloves, hats and scarves (all in your school’s color, of course).  I should also add that sitting on backless bleachers for hours sometimes causes back pain.
  • Watching marching bands is so much fun!  We loved watching our band improve over the season – and other bands too.  Some of the costumes are really creative.  The music is moving. And while the competition has winners, everyone is supportive of other bands (mostly).
  • If it starts raining, they keep playing (until there is lightning – in which case everyone runs for the hills).
  • Cowbells are really loud – but they really let your band know you are cheering them on.
  • It is inappropriate to enter the stands while a band is performing (you have to wait until they are done their set).  It is also VERY inappropriate to talk (especially on your cell phone) when someone is performing.  I didn’t really learn this one – it’s just common sense (but doesn’t seem to be widely known).
  • I LOVE watching my son perform on the field!  He looks so grown up in his uniform and hat (called a “shako”).   I would drive anywhere to see him play.

Here is one of my favorite photos of Matt performing:

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After going through two band competition seasons, I was so looking forward to another next year.

However…that may not be the case.

My son now plays both the clarinet AND the bassoon.  Something else I’ve also learned – bassoons are huge.  And extremely hard to play.  And PRICEY.  But players are sought after in college (here’s where we are hoping to get a return on our investment).

Matt is doing extremely well with the bassoon and I’m very proud of him.  In fact, he was in the All South Jersey Junior High Honors band playing the bassoon on Sunday afternoon.  Here he is before the concert:

All South Jersey

And coming off stage afterward.  His is the very large, reddish instrument:

Bassoon

I actually heard other parents behind me asking, “What’s that big, red thing?”

I could go on and on about all of Matt’s performances, but let me get to my point.

He has applied for (and was accepted to) a different high school next year.  He will be attending a Fine Arts Academy program as well as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy program (did I mention he’s also writing computer programs at 13? Love this kid!) that offers college credits – the first time they’ve ever had a student in both programs.  I am so proud of him – this is a great opportunity.

But that means he’s leaving Pitman schools – and their marching band. :(

Looks like I may have some Saturdays free this fall.

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I’m a (Mediocre) Dance Mom

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 4, 2013 in Family Stuff

By now, you’ve all seen (or heard of) the show on Lifetime called “Dance Moms”.  Like the girls on that show, my daughter Emily participates in the world of competitive dance.

Emily started dancing when she was just 2 1/2 years old and last year, she joined her dance studio’s competition dance team.

I have been a soccer mom, baseball mom, wrestling mom, band mom…but until last year, I had no experience as a dance mom.  I have never danced myself (other than those crazy nights at high school dances – and I don’t think you can really call jumping up and down to 80’s punk music “dancing”), so this is a whole new world for me.

Having successfully survived one competition dance season – and about to enter into another – let me share a few things I’ve learned.

  • Competition dance teams are EXPENSIVE.  And I don’t just mean a little bit.  I mean just-leave-your-checkbook-at-the-front-desk kind of expensive.  There are costumes and entry fees and warmups and shoes and makeup and jewelry and hairpieces and tuition and bags and…well, I know there are more, but I can’t even remember what they are!  While driving with my kids today, Matt asked why we don’t have a nicer car.  I said, “Because your sister takes dance and because you play the bassoon.” (that’s a discussion for a future post) But it’s true – for what we pay for dance every month, we could be driving a high-end, German-engineered car.
  • Putting makeup on another person is DIFFICULT.  Especially when that person is 10 years old and has eyes that move around in circles when you are trying to put on eyeliner.  And putting bright red lipstick on tiny, little lips?  Crazy hard.  I have, however, mastered the art of putting false eyelashes on teensy eyes – I think I can do it in 30 seconds, flat.  Before this, I had never, ever used false eyelashes.  Not on myself and certainly not on my daughter.  Why the eyelashes and why so much makeup?  I must say that it really does help the girls to look unified onstage.  Sometimes, I can’t even pick out my own child, they all look so similar.
  • Girls (and women) can be SO mean. Ours are not as nearly as bad as the moms on Lifetime, but it’s still a tough crowd. Why are we all so hard on each other?  I wish I could answer that.  I am very easy to get along with, but even I had words with another mom last year.  Some folks just have an entitlement issue and that doesn’t sit well with me.  And when it comes to our children, watch out – the mama bear in all of us comes out, when necessary!
  • Watching dance is fun!  And watching your own child dance is especially enjoyable (but nerve-wracking too).  There’s nothing like the feeling of watching your baby up there on stage having the time of her life.  At the same time, you just hope she’s not the one to make a mistake that could cost points for the whole team (see “women are mean” above).
  • My daughter is dedicated – and tough!  She had a bad kidney infection that put her in the ER, but still managed to dance at a competition the next day.  She danced through painful planters warts and even danced at a Nationals Competition with a painful ankle injury last summer.  She wore her boot right up until going on stage – then put it back on right over her fishnets for awards.
  • There is a LOT of stuff to keep track of and carry!  Costumes, tights, hair pieces, shoes – and there’s nothing like the panic you feel when a piece of a costume goes missing (like the habit to a nun’s costume – yes, you heard me correctly).
  • Dance competitions are LONG – sometimes we arrive at 6am and don’t leave until after dinner.   Fortunately, our director signs us up only for local competitions (no flying cross-country or traveling on a tour bus like Abby Lee), so our travel time is short.  However, they also do not sell food at competitions (not sure why) – there are no soft pretzels, sodas, hot dogs…nothing.  Packing lunches and snacks are a must.
  • Competitions do not provide private dressing rooms for teams – all teams tend to be in one, big room (usually a gym or cafeteria – once, we even were just in a school hallway).  And to be in an area with tons of girls in various, unrelated costumes (lion, space alien, nun, zombie, angel…) feels a bit like some sort of very, very weird freak show.
  • I can yell REALLY LOUDLY – and do so for all of the girls on our team.
  • I love my daughter and would do anything for her – even pay a fortune to sit for hours and hours in a freak-show full of mean girls!

Today, we practiced new hair styles and makeup for the season.  Happy dancing!

Makeup Day

 

 

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Trying to Get Ahead

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 1, 2013 in Family Stuff

I think when I was last posting regularly, I had just gone back to work – and went back to work kicking and screaming, too.

Kicking and screaming because I work in a very technical field that changes very quickly.  I was a stay-at-home mom for seven years – making the jump back into the career pool a difficult one.  The fact that I have very little (to no) self-confidence didn’t help the matters any.

But I went back to work.  And I sort of…liked it.  Who’d have thought?

That was five years ago.  Since then, a lot has happened in my career (yes, I think I can even call it a “career” now).

I started out working part time.  After a year, I moved to full time.

After three years, I decided that I wanted to make the jump from a temporary government contractor position to an actual government employee.

There were many reasons for taking that step.

For one, working as a contractor is always unsettling.  When your contract is over, there is no guarantee that it will be extended.  Or that you will stay with the same company. Who wants that kind of stress?

Also, although I received a generous salary, I received very little paid time off.   When you have 3 children and you’d like to take a day off to go on a school trip or spend a few hours watching their school talent show or they have to go to the dentist or (God forbid) they get sick (as a mom, you never have enough time to stay home when you are sick)…before you know it, you are have negative time.

The third reason I made that change is that I decided that I want to advance in my career.  I wanted to be in charge of something.  Have some authority.  Receive some training.  Get a promotion.  Have an office with real walls and a door.

So…after about a year of trying, I finally became an official FAA employee almost 2 years ago.  The process was long – and there were several false hopes.  And…I even took a substantial pay cut.  But I made the jump from green to blue (if you work for the FAA, you’ll know what I mean).

I made the change a few weeks before the last furlough, actually.  A few weeks after I started, the FAA had to shut down for 2 weeks.  Figures, right?

I didn’t leave my group to take  the position – or even leave my cubicle – but I did take on new responsibilities…and got more vacation.   And the ability to telework (LOVE teleworking!!!!).

Fast forward one year, and I decided to apply to the Executive Leadership Program (ELP – because if you are in the government, you have to have an acronym).  The ELP is a 9-month program conducted by The Graduate School and is training intended for emerging government leaders.  Who was I kidding, right?

But…I got in!  The FAA is paying for my this fantastic training!!!

I started the program last September and will finish this June.  It has been a HUGE commitment, but has given me so many opportunities.  There are 4 week-long training sessions (I have been to two so far) and a long list of  deliverables including book reviews, executive interviews, shadowing, community service – plus a project and presentation with a team of other government employees.

I had the chance to go to Washington, DC for a week and shadow upper-level FAA managment.  As I sat in a conference room overlooking the Capitol building with important men and women (wearing expensive suits, I may add), I thought – I could DO this.  This feels good!

I also interviewed a Congressman, an astronaut and the president of my son’s college as well as other FAA leaders.  I loved doing the interviews – I actually did even more interviews than were required.

See – here I am with Congressman Frank LoBiondo:

Lobiondo

Somtimes I think I’m crazy to have taken on all of these new tasks, but when will I get these opportunities again?

One more update on my career – I also decided to apply for a new FAA job that would be a promotion – and to my surprise, I got an offer.  Not just one offer – but two offers.  So now I have made up for the pay cut that I took two years ago.  Still no office with walls and a door, but I’m getting there.

I started my new job three weeks ago.  Just in time for another furlough…

 

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Cancer is the Great Equalizer

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Feb 26, 2013 in Family Stuff

I mentioned in my last post that there was a health crisis in my family that had greatly affected our lives.

My brother Ken was diagnosed in August 2011 with cancer.

Lung cancer.

Stage 4 lung cancer.

An otherwise healthy, 38-year-old non-smoking man who has served nearly 20 years as a local police officer.  One day he believes he has a sinus infection and cough.  The next day he has a terminal illness with an extremely high mortality rate.

So what did we do about it?

We prayed.  Hard.  And we all dropped everything to make sure that Ken got to his treatments.

Radiation.

Chemotherapy.

We held a benefit to help raise money for Ken and his family.  You see, not only does Ken have lung cancer, but his wife has multiple sclerosis with seizures.  Leaving her unable to drive – or even function most days.  Bills pile up.  Care must be given.

The cancer had spread to his brain.  And his spine.

But with treatment, it seemed to slow down.  Even retreat.

For a while, anyway.

We thought he had won – all the while knowing somewhere in the back of our minds that the cancer was really hiding out in his bloodstream, waiting to make another appearance.

And of course, it did.

And so just a few weeks ago, the cancer returned.  His medication is no longer working. And the cancer started to spread again.  To his pelvis.  And spine.  And a new tumor in his lung…

So we have started treatment again.  I say “we” because this is a fight the whole family is in on.  More chemotherapy.  More scans.  More prayers.

My mother was having difficulty understanding how the cancer spreads and how the treatment works.

Since she is a gardener, I explained to her that the body is like an healthy lawn.  But then a small patch of weeds forms – like dandelions (except dandelions are too pretty to represent cancer – picture the ugliest, gnarliest weed you think of – brown with thorns – prickly to the touch).  At first, the weeds are just in that one spot.  And if you find them quickly and yank them out – roots and all – odds are, they won’t come back.

But if they have a chance to go to seed and spread in a strong wind…those seeds are everywhere.   You can try to pull the weeds out one at a time as they pop up across your lawn.  But the seeds are still there – under the surface.  Waiting for a chance to take over your lawn.

If you really want to get rid of the weeds, you have to apply a nasty weed killer.  Which also kills some of the lawn.  Makes it brown and weak.  But if you are lucky…really lucky…the grass grows back healthy.  And the weeds do not.

Here’s hoping the healthy Ken wins.

And having said that, let me dare to be selfish for just a minute.   Just one minute, and I’ll go back to praying with all my might.

I know that this could have just as easily been me.  Why not me?  There are just two of us, my brother and I.  Why him?  How did I escape the gnarly weed?

How can I support my brother during this dark, dark, time?  I can’t say I know what he feels like.  I can’t say I understand.  What can I possibly say?  What can I possibly do in such a situation so out of my control?

Have you ever been in a room where chemo is administered?  Where people who are only wisps of their former selves sit and pass the time while poison drips into their veins?  Men.  Women.  Old.  Young.  Black. White.  Asian. Hispanic.  Rich.  Poor.  Children hugging the same dolls that my healthy daughter holds when she goes to sleep at night.  What do these people have in common?  Not much really.  Other than the gnarly weed taking over their bodies.

It could be any of us.  It IS any of us.

Okay – selfish time is over.  Back to praying.  Love you, Ken!

 

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Where Have I Been?

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Feb 25, 2013 in Family Stuff

So much has changed since my last post – has it really been THREE YEARS since I’ve posted here?  Life gets in the way of things sometimes and before you know it, time has flown by.

I’d like to try to start posting here again on a regular basis – not that I believe that anyone is reading, but it is helpful for just for me to look back and remember where I’ve been and to map out where I want to go.

And remarkably, I still get comments from time-to-time on my Married…With Asperger’s post from 2008.  It is amazing that my post affected so many people – even almost 5 years later!

I’m not going to try to catch up in one single post, but here’s a synopsis of where I am today:

  • I am still happily married to my Asperger’s husband (for almost 15 years now)
  • I am employed full-time as a Federal employee with the FAA
  • I am currently enrolled in a 9-month Executive Leadership Program
  • My oldest son is a freshman in college (yes – COLLEGE)
  • My middle son (also with Asperger’s Syndrome) is about starts high school next year and has decided to leave Pitman schools for dual entry into a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Fine Arts program at a high school associated with a local university (he plays the bassoon and the clarinet)
  • I have become a “Dance Mom” supporting my daughter during dance competitions and recitals – oh…and she starts MIDDLE SCHOOL next year (yikes!!!)
  • My family has experienced some major health issues that have had a huge impact on our lives
  • And I have, unfortunately, gained back most of the weight I lost and documented here on my blog – but I am trying to get back on track

I’ll try to write some posts over the next few weeks to expand on all of these issues…

Here we were in the late fall of 2012 at one of Matthew’s band competitions in Annapolis, MD.  Andrew is missing from the photo because he was away at college.

annapolis

Here is one with me and all three kids at Christmastime:

ChristmasTown

I have really missed writing and am looking forward to catching up!

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Happy Birthday, Matthew!!!!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jul 12, 2009 in Family Stuff

Happy 10th Birthday to my wonderful son Matt!  Your birthday was actually yesterday, but since we had such a busy day catching up from vacation, hanging out at the lake, enjoying your birthday cake and playing a never-ending family game of dominos, I haven’t had time to post my birthday wish until this morning. 

You are the sweetest, kindest, most sensitive boy and I love you – I hope you always stay exactly the way you are today.

 

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Summer’s Here!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jun 25, 2009 in Family Stuff, My Adventures in Dieting

Seems like I was just posting that spring was here – now it’s summer already.   I can’t believe it! 

I’ve dropped a few more pounds for a total of 37 pounds lost so far – not too shabby!  My original goal was to lose 40 and now that I’m just a few pounds away, I was on the Internet (uh-oh – you know this can’t be good) and found a height-weight chart which told me that for my height, I should actually be about 10 pounds lighter than I am right now.  I guess that 40 pounds ago, where I am now seemed like such an impossible goal, but now that I’m here, 10 more pounds should be easy, right?  So with a minor adjustment, I’ll be at my ultimate (and surprisingly achievable) goal by the fall. 

The kids started a fabulous summer camp program at Rowan University this week called Kids Rule.  It teaches them a new sport every week and has them running, swimming, and playing hard every day – Emily even fell asleep on the couch last night!  It’s good to see them having so much fun – makes me feel less guilty for working all day.

Matt has joined the summer youth Hobo Band playing the clarinet and he’s also taking lessons this summer from a very talented teenage girl as well.  He’s surprisingly good – I think music is going to be his thing.

Emily just had her spring dance recital as well as her gymnastics ‘expo’ too.  And Andrew will be pitching at his last Little League game on Saturday night – he is going to be too old to play Little League next year.

We’re getting ready to go on vacation in a few weeks – back to our favorite campground, FrontierTown in Ocean City, Maryland.  I’m really looking forward to it – I could use some time away to just relax and spend some time with the kids without a hectic schedule…

 
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So now that I’m on Facebook…

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jun 19, 2009 in Family Stuff

I find myself posting less and less here on my blog.  Facebook lets me post quick little updates – just a sentence or two at a time – and I find myself updating my “status” over there once or twice a day.  Plus I love reading everyone else’s updates – I guess that’s the voyeur in me?  And now I’ve also started to get hooked on Twitter too.  I don’t “tweet” much over there – I mostly read tweets from others (especially celebrities – there’s that voyeurism again).

I have started to post longer posts here several times and find myself editing them to the point where I just scrap the whole topic.  I don’t know how people write tell-all books or appear on talk shows to vent their dirty laundry in front of the world.  I find that I have to do a lot of self-editing – and end up saying not much of anything at all sometimes. 

But what I can share with you is an update on my diet – I have now lost 35 pounds!  Not too bad, I think. 

By the way, if you’d like to see my Facebook status updates, they show up in the upper right corner of my blog page here – you’ll also see photos that I post over there.

I’ll try to post here more often – just with a filter…

 
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Catching Up

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Apr 24, 2009 in Family Stuff, My Adventures in Dieting, Today's Photo

Working full-time certainly has affected the amount of time I have to update my blog!  Today is my day off, and I have about 5 minutes before I go and try to cram every weekday errand that needs to be done for the next 2 weeks into one day (can you say the DMV, optometrist, bank, etc…), so here’s an abbreviated synopsis of what’s going on with the Torrences (in bullet form – can you tell that I’ve been putting together a lot of presentations at work lately? – but not necessarily in sequential order):

  • I turned 41 and had a GREAT birthday which included a massage and a camping trip to Cape May (not at the same time)
  • Easter Sunday came and went – we had brunch with my parents at Cracker Barrel this year
  • I’ve been keeping up with my diet and exercise ‘plan’ (not really a plan – just trying to eat less and move more) and have lost a total of 26 pounds as of today
  • My mystery headaches were diagnosed by a neurologist as an ‘extended migraine’ – they lasted over a month and are being treated with a medication called Topamax.  The medication is helping – and as an added bonus, weight loss is a side effect! :)

Here are a few quick photos too:

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That’s all I have time for right now…time to move on to the next errand…

 
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Spring is here!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Apr 4, 2009 in Family Stuff

I’m happy that we’re well into the month of April and that winter is behind us.  I always get a spiritual lift in the springtime.  I don’t know if it’s the promise of Easter or the warmer weather or watching things come back to life again…I guess it’s a little bit of all of those things.

It’s also an uplifting time for me because I feel like as I’m shedding my heavy winter clothes, I’m also shedding parts of myself at the same time.  I’ve now lost 23 pounds and have gone down 3 pants sizes since the beginning of the year. 

March was a slow month for me for weight loss and I’m not sure why.  I think when I began seriously working out, I started to build up some muscle and while I continued to lose inches, my weight didn’t drop as fast.  But it still dropped…which is a good thing!  I feel like I’m in a good place and am happy with my exercise routine and diet – I don’t feel deprived at all and am enjoying the feeling of accomplishment that comes after a good workout.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to workout as intensely as I’d like lately thanks to some sort of mystery headaches I’ve been having.  They started about 3 weeks ago and will not let up – not even with pain medication.  And I’ve tried everything from Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, Sudafed and Excedrin to prescription migraine medicine, antibiotics, muscle relaxants, nasal spray and most recently, prescription steroids (the steroids are awful – they keep me awake at night and make my heart race – AND I still have the headache!). 

The good news is that I’ve had a CT scan of my head and sinuses that both came back normal.  I’ve started seeing a neurologist who is requesting a few more tests which are scheduled for this week.  Hopefully, they’re able to find the source and provide me some relief.  Or I’d be just as happy to wake up one day with the headache gone and never find the reason – I just want it to stop.

It’s extremely frustrating for me – I’ve found myself unable to focus well at work because of the pain – and I have to force myself to exercise and continue with my other normal everyday life stuff.  But as a mom, you just have to keep going and push through it, you know.  And I don’t want to slide backwards on my weight loss and exercise progress – I’ve just started to get into shape!

And as usual, of course, I’ve been all over the Internet trying to self-diagnose.  There’s some SCARY stuff out there!  I need to just back off, wait for the test results and assume that it’s nothing serious. 

I’ll post an update when I get some relief…hopefully soon.

So enough whining – spring is here!  We’re going to take our first camping trip of the year this month and I’ll be turning 41 in a few weeks.  I booked myself a “Stress Buster” spa treatment at a Red Door salon for my birthday – and also got myself a new pair of running shoes this morning as a gift to myself.

And just look at this cute photo of Emily I took this afternoon:

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I can’t help but feel upbeat when spring arrives!

Oh – and we didn’t win the contest with our cupcakes from my last post – we came in second place.  But that’s okay – I thought they were adorable!

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