About rockmommyct

I am a mother, writer, rock and roll musician, and guitar teacher.

Beyond the Ice Bucket Challenge

Like me, you probably know how to dump a bucket of ice water on your head. Maybe you even know how to create a great video. But what do you actually know about ALS, the degenerative disease that has inspired the now infamous “ice bucket challenge?”

If you’re like most people, the answer is probably little to nothing.

After completing an ice bucket challenge, I was a little alarmed at how little I knew about Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gherig’s disease, other than it is a bad thing and Lou Gherig played baseball.

Fortunately, the ALS Association website offers a great, easy-to-understand definition:

“ALS is … a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.”

Here are a few more important facts:

• Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. The incidence of ALS is two per 100,000 people, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time.
• Although the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis, this disease is variable and many people live with quality for five years and more. More than half of all patients live more than three years after diagnosis.
• About 20 percent of people with ALS live five years or more and up to ten percent will survive more than ten years and five percent will live 20 years. There are people in whom ALS has stopped progressing and a small number of people in whom the symptoms of ALS reversed.
• ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.
• ALS can strike anyone.
• The onset of ALS is insidious with muscle weakness or stiffness as early symptoms. Progression of weakness, wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing generally follows.

While it’s comforting to know that ALS is rare, it’s upsetting to know how debilitating the disease is — in some ways worse than most cancers.

That said, I hope other disease associations can think of great, catchy ways to get people involved in spreading awareness and raising money. There are so many health-related conditions that could use funding toward research. And in a week where we’d otherwise be thinking about back-to-school clothes and finishing off summer vacation (if we’re not thinking about Robin Williams and the Middle East crisis), the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” is a reminder that we have the power to build awareness and effect change, one person at a time.

Baby Logan: No Longer Sitting Still

Ah, blogging. What I used to do during my toddler’s nap time. Now, said toddler is napping but my six-month-old is wide awake. He’s barely being entertained by (and even looks frustrated with) his play mat and Ms. Octopus. And while his sudden babbling (which began at some point last week, though I no longer track these things) is adorable, keeping up is not.

Still, I will persist as he baby-screams because, damn it, this is my break. My time to chronicle our lives, and my naptime breather.

Logan is big, bigger than Nathan was at this age, it seems. Next week is his six-month checkup and I look forward to all the questions.

But as my baby flails and whines while strapped in a baby seat, I feel sad that our days of the bouncy chair are coming to an end. I don’t plan to have a third baby, so they literally are coming to an end. For me. For this life. Forever.

The plus side: I get to enjoy watching Logan enjoy the exersaucer, at least for a few more months. Then, the you know what gets real. He’ll be one, crawling and walking. Nathan will be two and a half, then three. And I have a feeling 2015 will be the most insane mommy year of my life.

It’s a good thing I’m almost done writing today. Because I hear the “mama” screams from upstairs. The little monster, er, big monster, is up from his nap. He’ll want attention. He’ll want “more bears.” So I better be on my way.

Blogging Out of Necessity

Today, I said to myself, “I will write this blog if it kills me.”

Of course, I’m being dramatic. But I hate missing deadlines. And I’ve missed every single self-imposed deadline I’ve given myself to write this blog, my tribute to being a “rock mommy,” to balancing everything. But honestly, these days I’m just trying to stay afloat.

Being a mom of two — one of whom just turned two the other day — is harder than I thought. Especially because I don’t have much downtime nor a nanny for one kid while I spend time with the other. When my kids are napping, I’m usually cleaning or catching up on bills.

The only time I’m making to “rock” lately is during Nathan’s swim class. We sing “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” At night, I see my child-free friends posting shout-outs to their bands as I rub my eyes and turn on the TV because I’m too tired to do anything.

It is impossible to do everything perfectly — work out, freelance, cook, clean, make time for my husband, shower regularly, pay bills, play guitar occasionally, and keep up with friends and family — yet I feel immensely pressured to keep up with all of these things while caring for two young sons. I know I should be gentle on myself, but dammit — I want it all!!

Logan is growing so big, so fast. He’s gotta be at least 15 pounds, and his cute, chubby little body is busting out of those six-month clothes (he isn’t even six months old yet!). He giggles a lot, and is such a pleasant baby. I really struck gold with that one.

Nathan is also a joy in the best way a toddler can be. He laughs, runs around, asks questions, snuggles with his toys, loves his baby brother, and does hundreds of adorable things every week. I couldn’t ask for a better firstborn — though his screaming tantrums are totally testing my patience lately.

I hope I can summon the energy to write about something more interesting, and soon. I am, after all, a writer by trade. But today, it’s either I write or I get outside and enjoy the sun while my awesome mother in law babysits. It’s only summer for a few months out of the year in frosty New England. So spending time in the sun is certainly a must. Over and out.

From Doom Metal to “Let it Go”: Why I Love Teaching Kids with Different Musical Tastes

Last week, I went from teaching a 13-year-old guy with a short attention span how to play two songs from a band called Candlemass to teaching a nine-year-old boy “Let it Go.” Yeah, you’ve heard it (the latter one, that is). It’s that song from the movie “Frozen” and is probably stuck in your head. 

But the experience, while mildly stressful, reminded me of why I love teaching rock guitar. Sometimes, I actually gain more than my student, enhancing not only my repertoire, but my vocabulary of rock techniques. 

Let’s start with Candlemass. Chances are, you haven’t heard of them unless you’re sincerely into super-hard stuff. I hadn’t. But upon further Wikipedia research, I learned they’re one of the main bands in a delightful category of music called “doom metal,” which is pretty much guitars on distortion, tri-tones, and Black Sabbath-inspired riffs. To play this stuff, alternate tuning is usually required. (Side note: I actually like Black Sabbath.)

I spent probably an hour and a half stretching my fingers into new chords, memorizing riffs, and just jamming out to a couple of their songs. Since I hardly have time to practice, playing Candlemass kept my calluses fresh. 

Post lesson, it was nice to transition to “Let it Go.” This song, while more palatable to the general population, isn’t just four chords and super easy to play. But it’s easier to modify so a kid won’t go bonkers trying to get it down. And … there’s that catchy chorus: “Let it go, Let it go, etc.” 

See, were I left to my own devices, I’d be in busy-working-mom-of-two mode all day. Just teaching, but not learning. Writing, too, because that’s one of the ways I make a living. But when kids choose songs I wouldn’t play on my own, it makes me a better musician. And for that, I’m grateful.

Taking Another Look at ‘Good Housekeeping’

I used to think of Good Housekeeping magazine as the kind of publication you read when you’d given up on being a sexy woman and resigned yourself to a life of picture-perfect recipes and mom jeans.

I remember going to the grocery store as an angst-ridden preteen with my mom and, as we unloaded our items onto the checkout belt and waited for the cashier to give us the final tab, I’d watch her pick up a copy of GH from the newsstand and casually thumb through the pages. I rolled my eyes. Good Housekeeping seemed so, well, Good Housekeeping. Headlines screamed, “10 Easy Recipes for Summer” and “How to Balance Work and Life!” How boring. The preteen couldn’t be bothered with anything so practical.

A budding quasi-feminist-yet-curious-Lolita type, I got my kicks from equal parts Ms. magazine and Cosmopolitan. I was deeply curious about fashion and sex, yet entrenched in feminist politics. In college, things didn’t change much, except that I grew deeper into my feminist side (and started reading Bitch). After college, my interest in pizza and keg parties waned, while health started to find a way back into my life — so Self and Women’s Health became my books of choice (soon to be followed by Runner’s World). Those, plus Newsweek and TIME, which I grew up with, completed my magazine subscription collection.

That media mix was a happy one … for a while. Then, I had my first son. And suddenly I couldn’t wait to read articles like “Ways to Prevent SIDS” and “10 Post-Natal Exercises,” while checking out the cute $10 beauty fixes in the front of the book (because Parents editors are smart enough to know I don’t have more than $10 to spend on a beauty item unless it’s my highlights). What’s a little troubling, however, is my lack of interest in magazines like Cosmo, Glamour, even Women’s Health (my once-favorite).

It’s not that I have no libido (I do!), or an interest in fashion (that, too!). It’s just that my priorities have shifted tremendously. What I need more of is time, and advice on how to maximize it. What I need less of is a magazine telling me why I need $65 beauty serums before I turn 40 (ahem, Women’s Health). I also have less disposable income: Clothes are bought, but they must really, really be necessary. A $200 pair of sandals or jeans? Not really necessary, even though a good argument could be made for the jeans as a push present for baby #2. A good $8 brow pencil and a good, but not too pricy, pair of running shoes so I can stay in shape with the 20 minutes I have today to exercise? Totally necessary!!

On Monday, when I was looking for “great gifts under $10” I cam across an article with exactly that headline — and the link took me to Good Housekeeping’s website. I was delighted at the piece and the clever ideas! How was it that I didn’t notice how great this magazine is, all those years before?

Then, there’s the food thing. As in, I have zero time to make it. But I cannot handle the stress of Martha Stewart-level recipes. Again, Good Housekeeping hears me, loud and clear.

While I’m not sure if I’ll give up my subscription to Women’s Health this year, it’s interesting that I haven’t found the time to pay my annual $18 tab. I forget to read it when it comes every month, only glancing at it for a second or two, so I forget that I am a subscriber.

But I’m still holding on to the “sexy woman” image in my head, rather than the “overworked mom” one. So maybe I need hang onto Women’s Health to remind myself that I am sexy before I am momish. Then again, I have no idea what to cook for dinner and it’s already 2 p.m. What I wouldn’t give for the latest GH issue!