Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas is like childbirth

After Santa came this year, and after I did a preliminary clean-up, and as I looked at all of the projects that needed managing, but for which I hadn't the time, because I was managing small children: I texted my mother-in-law:

"Considering skipping Christmas next year. lol"

She texted back. "Awww. I get it. Big time. But it's like childbirth, I always forgot by the next year! Such a great Christmas you put together, Rebecca. You need a long winter's nap. Xo."

So nice when empathy comes your way. And from someone who has been-there, done-that, many times over!

Look at Santa's face.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I'm Telling You Why....Santa Claus has Leverage

Silly me.

I actually forgot to use the Santa leverage this year.

It could have been such an awesome Fall! How could I have forgotten?

When Julie Pennell and I took the kids to the pumpkin patch in late September, Julie was already in full Santa-pointing mode. "Now Eva, don't you DARE unbuckle your seatbelt! Santa can see you, and I know he won't be coming if you do that!" With raised and pointed finger.

I thought: great idea, I am so going to do that this year. Jack is actually old enough to know who Santa is, because he remembers that Santa brought trains last year.

Alas, I let it slide; we had another naughty few months. The Pennells came over for a Christmas dinner & music. We decorated gingerbread persons. Eva did something naughty. "EVA!" cried Julie. "Santa will NOT be coming if you keep doing that!" Eva quickly retracted. Julie whispered to me, "Hasn't this year been great? We've really been able to use Santa for everything he's worth!"

I almost cried when I realized my lost opportunities. I could've been the one in charge, the queen of my household. Instead, it was just another few months of Jack poking the baby with sticks and positioning her at the top of the stairs when I wasn't looking.

The joke was on me, big time. Especially since I still had to spend my weekends being Santa. I used precious Daddy childcare time to drive around procuring the items that would appear Christmas day...because I just didn't have the heart to take "naughty or nice" seriously.

It's too soon to start with Santa leverage now. But--Son! You better watch out, because thanks to iPhone reminders, it's coming Fall 2013.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Banjo & Flatpickin' Christmas Singin'

Santa Baby: You are our gift!
Jack and Cora had the time of their lives visiting with Santa at the Luberecki's. Santa popped in and gave treats and ornaments to all of the children.  Jack sang Frosty the Snowman with Ned's banjo accompaniment and Steve Mougin's guitar accompaniment. Lucky kid!

Friday, September 28, 2012

IBMA Guitar Workshop

True to mommy fashion, I arrived at this year's IBMA guitar workshop the minute it started: I'd hastily raced with a stroller, guitar, and diaper bag through the Convention Center. I arrived just as guitar legends Jim Hurst, Kenny Smith, and Robert Bowlin were introducing themselves to the crowd.

Shelly Burleson had said she'd happily hold Cora while I was on stage, but I couldn't find her when I arrived. So I tapped a busy-looking Amanda Smith on the shoulder and said, "Can you watch my baby until Shelly gets here?" She agreed, and I hopped on stage (sweating and puffing).

You'd think I'd be nervous to sit next to these guys and play. Heck, I'd been learning their solos years ago. But I think I was just glad that I made it to the show, and I was excited to play. There's nothing like childbearing to make you appreciate a good jam with amazing players (and to get your mind off yourself). Thanks, John Laswell, for asking me to join the jam; and thanks to Jim, Kenny, and Robert for being such inspiring guitarists and people. All three of these men are such creative minds. It was an honor to sit beside them today.

Alas, Cora made it into Shelly's arms, and I found them smiling in the hallway.

Thanks Shelly Burleson, for babysitting my angel! 
me, Jim Hurst, Kenny Smith, Robert Bowlin

Norm Sliter of Blueberry Bluegrass Festival (Alberta, Canada)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

May I see some ID, please?

Andy and his money-collection hat

Asleep in her crib, or asleep at a downtown festival--anything goes

Last night, Cora was turned away from a music venue. The audacity!

For our girls' night out, Cora and I had ventured to 12th & Porter. There was an afternoon festival going on at the downtown Nashville venue, and our good friend and Hit & Run's longtime banjo player, Andy Thorn was performing with Emmitt-Nershi, along with the Travelin' McCourys.

Bouncers: "Sorry, she's not 21, you gotta go."
Me: "She's not going to drink. Really. I'll breastfeed her."
Bouncers: "It's our rules. You gotta go."

I finagled my way in with a little sweet-talking and a promise of only coming to see Andy and keeping headphones on Cora. And hang, we did.

I chatted with my friend, Nancy Cardwell, and Andy had asked to wear her money-collection hat on-stage. "Only if you announce the IBMA raffle to the crowd," she said. "OK," said Andy.

Andy left the hat on the table. We texted him: "Do you want the hat?" We watched him check his phone between songs. "Nah!" with a grin.

Lots of people walked up and admired Cora. One couple had left their baby for the first time, and they hovered around me, only wanting to talk about the baby.

Cora dozed in the sling throughout all of this. But in the middle of Andy's set, she awoke and started to fuss. I picked up her diaper bag: sopping wet. I smelled it--beer? No, thank goodness...just soda. I won't be taking the little C-Biscuit here anytime soon. It was still a fun girls' night out, though.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Mixing Process

All summer long, I have been working with Brent on the mix of my new record.

All summer long?!

There was a time when I used to experience the mix process rather seamlessly, it seems. I remember gathering with the band around the stereo. Everyone would take notes. I'd compile the list. We'd get notes from Sally Van Meter and other pros. I'd email the engineer. We'd get the next round of mixes. The band would gather again.

I do recall having some tricky situations on the road. I remember sitting in a guest house in Aspen, explaining some mix tweaks to our engineer; we were en route between gigs in Aspen and Telluride, and the band was anxious that we'd be late for sound check in Telluride.

I remember trying to listen to the master "ref" (reference CD) at our campsite at High Sierra Music Festival, which was located between three loud stages blaring rock music. I had my earbuds in place, and I desperately tried to check the "ref" and call Bill Wolf and explain some tweaks. Wolf then Fed-Exed a ref CD to the festival office!

The next stop was the Grand Canyon. The band sped off to see the Canyon, while I sped off to the Visitor's Center to find a pay phone (cell phones didn't work there at the time). I called Wolf to explain some final tweaks, even though I'd never seen the Grand Canyon.

Talk about never being in the moment.

This time, it's not touring, though. I have found that, even if I'm home all day, I still have to have some major organization in place, just to listen to the mixes. One Sunday morning, my cousin Shelby met me at the park and played with Jack while I raced home and listened to the mixes.

And a few Fridays ago, I'd tried in vain to get the kids to nap at the same time so I could listen to the mixes. So when I picked up my friend Cassie to go to Costco, both kids fell asleep in the back of the car. We popped in the mix and took some notes. We were about to take the exit for Costco, Cassie blurted, "Keep driving!" We drove 30 miles past Nashville just to listen to the mix; when Jack woke up, he said, "Where are we going?" 

I've found that my ears are dead if I try to listen after the kids go to bed at night. So this morning, as I am visiting my parents in Deltaville, I skipped the family boat ride to get what I hope are the final notes done. Cora stayed awake and cried the whole time.

Wish me luck. I think this is really it.

The mix, 2005: Hit & Run's campsite at High Sierra Music Festival, CA. I listened to the final ref with earbuds, here, in between three stages featuring jamband music. 
The mix, 2005: I spent our time at the Grand Canyon on a pay phone in the Welcome Center, explaining our "tweaks" to Billy Wolf. There was no cell service. 

The mix, 2012: Can we concentrate on our work, when there is a cute baby on the beach? 

2012: It's a little hard to focus on mommy's mix when we can be doing this. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rockygrass...with two tiny kids!

For the fourth year in a row, Jack flew to Colorado with me to visit his Grandpa John and Grandma Kelly, and to attend our favorite festival: Rockygrass.

This year it was a lot different. For the first time, he had a new baby sister festivating with him!

Kelly and John, thanks for making this possible for us. When Kelly came to the festival, she would take Jack down to the beach on the St. Vrain to play with toys and other kids. We would all watch music together and enjoy the gorgeous weather (and cold beer).

Grandpa John didn't come to the festival, but he did pick up Jack from the festival at 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday. He gave Jack his dinner and bath; he read Jack his books and he put Jack to bed all by himself. This is a pretty amazing feat for a Grandpa, I must say. (It's difficult, even for an energetic young auntie).

Jack's favorite part of the festival was becoming a tiger, playing on the beach, and using his binoculars.

Cora's favorite part of the festival was flirting and smiling with everyone at the Planet Bluegrass Ranch.

My favorite part of the festival was the beer. Oh, I mean, seeing dear friends I only see once a year, such as Erin and Aaron Youngberg. And meeting their precious daughter, Ramona!

Festivation with libation in our baby station

It looked fun when she was doing it! 

Personal binocs!

Coco-motion doing the festivation!

Jack, Mommy, Cora, Aoife O'Donovan, Erin, & Romona (Youngberg)

Lovely hike in Nederland
Visit with Uncle Emory in Ned

Becoming a pilot like his granddaddy?

Poser pit, baby headphones.

St. Vrain beach hang: moms like me can see the stage, nurse their babies, and watch their toddlers dig in the sand...simultaneously


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Manic Mommy Monday

Warning: This post will probably only interest other mommy musicians who have to organize all the details of childcare and music!

The 7 am wake up call came blaring through the monitors, even though I'd stayed up late folding laundry. I went and got Jack out of his bed and let him snuggle with me and Cora for a while. He quickly tired of that activity and moved on to looking for a specific long lost fire truck that moved to toy heaven a long time ago. He got frustrated and followed me around the house screaming that he needed said fire truck, so I was unable to make coffee, change Cora's diaper and dress her, brush my teeth, or anything else.

I made sure to bring him to summer camp right at 9 am, where he immediately started running on the playground. Phew. I do think that Eastwood provides a lifeline for mothers of young children.

John was nice enough to keep Cora while I did drop-off. We're trying to get her on a sleep schedule now. 9 am is her morning nap time, and John put her down for me.

I went about my day in my office and tended to Cora. Jack came home at 2 pm. I attempted fruitlessly to put him down for a nap and to put Cora down for a nap. Both kids were awake, tired and wired, while I got ready for my lessons and gig.

I got Jack ready for his swim lesson and met his dad in the driveway. They sped off to the Vanderbilt pool. Soon thereafter, Rhonda arrived to watch Cora so I could leave to teach my guitar lessons on Music Row. I left several bags of expressed breast milk and some bottles, and I left some penne and vegetables for the boys.

I nuked some food at the studio after my lessons at 7:30 pm. I pumped some milk and put it in a little cooler. I changed clothes and drove down to Broadway to play at Layla's Bluegrass Inn with Paul Kramer and his crew: the "Grassaholics."

Cassie had relieved Rhonda at some point during the gig. And John had put Jack to bed at 7 pm. I kept texting during little breaks in the gig. And around 10 pm, I definitely felt my milk getting swollen.

We had a great time playing til midnight. We've had our first good weather this week, and we had a nice summer crowd of tourists and locals. I met an insanely great fiddle player who sat in: Chase Potter. Wow. And Jennifer Strickland sat in, which was fabulous too.  I got home around 1 am and spent the next half hour pumping. I got to sleep a little after 2 am.

I confess that it is a little crazy to try to play music and be a mommy to tiny kids. But as Alison Brown once said, when she left for Scotland and had to arrange an intricate childcare schedule, "A girl's gotta pick, right?"

Just another rainy playdate...a very Mommy Saturday

Have I inherited my parents' insomnia?  was awake at 3 am, unable to fall asleep. Cora awoke at 4; I nursed her. It started to get light at 5, at which point I threw in the towel and made coffee. It dawned on me that I could go running alone, so I ran 6 miles at 5:30 am. Yes, it was very weird to go jogging sans 80 pound jog stroller and kids!

After I showered at 6:30, the kids were still asleep. I played guitar until Cora woke up at 8:15. I nursed her and sang to her and waited for Jack to wake up: 9 am.

Jack's buddy, Rafe, arrived at 10 am, just in time for the storms to come raging through East Nash. I'd asked Rafe's mom to pack a swimsuit so we could do the Slip n' Slide. Woops. Instead, the kids ran around in the rain and under our carport with the big wheels; and soon the torrential downpour had filled up Jack's toddler pool. The kids jumped in it, clothes and all, as the rain poured down. It was quite a sight. They would tramp around in the mud, hop in the pool, hop back into the mud, pool, mud, pool.

I stripped the kids down and told them both to go pee pee in the yard. They both walked over to the pool and peed in it.

I instructed both kids to hop in the tub. I de-muddified their little bodies while they went nuts in the tub together. I dressed them in clean clothes and took them to the playroom, where I'd set up Jack's train tracks for them. Cora crawled around and looked interested in their doings.

Then the kids headed upstairs for snack and juice while I made their PB&J's. Rafe's mom had told me, "He doesn't like jelly. Give him only peanut butter on bread." I said to Rafe, "Just peanut butter, right? No jelly?" He said, "NO! Only jelly. No peanut butter." I texted Rafe's mom. She said, "Don't trust him!"

After lunch, Rafe's mom, Tessa, came to pick up her son. She said, "No one would understand unless they had little kids. Nothing else breaks you like this. Nothing!"

Earlier, I'd told her about my weird morning, jogging at 5 am. She said that she knows other moms in show business, and that some of them manage to sleep until noon (their husbands do the early morning shift, I guess). She asked how I managed to be a musician and still raise two tiny children. I said, "I had to change my lifestyle. And it was not without a fight!" We're talking about my old life: I'd play a gig, wind down, and go to bed at 2 am or so (or drive in the van til 3 am and crash in a hotel). I never thought I'd be an early riser.

I can't fight with a child's sleep schedule. There's just no point. Children wake up at 6 or 7 am, and they need an early bedtime. Thank goodness for the invention of monitors!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

An "Unwilling Slacker"

This afternoon, I have an indefinite amount of free time to write this post. It's one of those rare days when both kids are napping at the same time. One child might start to babble or cry any minute.

A few days ago, I texted Jack's godmother to tell her that Jack adores his baptism gift. I apologized that I haven't written thank you notes yet, but I wanted her to know how much we love her presents. I said, "One child seems to be awake at all times. I get nothing done." A mother herself, she responded, "I know. It's like being an unwilling slacker."

What a fabulous phrase! This pretty much sums up my feelings about my days. I can write to-do lists all day long, but the lists just sit there as I tend to my children's needs.

Of course, after covering my kids' basic needs, such as potty and/or diaper, putting them down for naps and bedtime, preparing meals for them. nursing them, bathing them, dressing them in clean clothes and pj's, brushing teeth, taking them to doctors' and dental appointments, etc, I still play with them too. So we go to the park, we go to the zoo, we go to the playground, we set up the slip n' slide, we go to swim lessons, we go on trips to Colorado or Virginia to see grandparents, we "connect" dinosaur puzzles, and we fill our days with as much learning as we can while we're at it.

While I'm not doing those things, I pick up my guitar, sing, songwrite, clean the house, grocery shop, pay bills, do laundry, write thank you notes, call people back, try to get my CD finished, etc. I try to be in the moment when I can; but it seems that when I'm doing the childcare items listed above, I am plotting to fit in five minutes of cleaning or guitar playing or writing thank you notes.

Thanks, Sara, for providing me with this phrase. In fact, while my kids are still napping, I think I'll try to avoid the laundry and write a guitar instrumental under this title...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bootlegger's Bluegrass

In the past few weeks, I've played three times at Bootlegger's on Thursday nights.

The first time, Ashleigh Caudill asked me to join her along with Ned Luberecki, Dave Goldenberg, and Paul Kramer. Our slot was midnight to 2 am. Jack was in Virginia with his grandmother. I put Cora to bed, and John went to sleep with the monitor by his ear. I hoped for the best.

When I showed up downtown at 11:30, Noam was standing out front. Punch Brothers were on the stage, sitting in. While we waited, I picked with Paul on the sidewalk. Because of the week-long CMA festival, the town was packed with country fans. Tourists walked by and stared, thinking we were trying to busk. But for me, any opportunity to pick is golden. It seems rare these days that I am not in charge of at least one non-sleeping child. 

The picking was fun. I drove Ned to his house, got home at 3:30 am, and realized happily that Cora had not woken up the entire time I was gone. How lucky!

The following week, Brad Tucker asked me to join his crew for the 6 pm slot. This time, Bootlegger's hosted a Full Moon Festival, for which they rented out the adjacent parking lot. We played inside with Aaron Till, John Tomlin, and some other folks I hadn't met before. Then we went outside and watched Ronnie McCoury and his crew. These new festivals are an awesome idea, and I hope to return. John had agreed to watch the kids, because he was leaving for Cowan tour at 10 pm. Unfortunately, Cora gave him a run for the money. She refused to sleep for him, and he was frantic trying to get packed when I returned home. 

Tonight I joined Tomlin once again for the 6 pm slot. I met some new folks. There was a fiddle player in the crew named Brian Arrowwood. He was ridiculously great. His passion for music and for his fiddle was obvious with each solo he took. He looked familiar to me, but I couldn't figure out why. I asked him who he usually plays with. He said, "Everyone." Suddenly it hit me: I asked him if he'd been to Steve Kaufman's Flatpicking Kamp. He said, "Yeah, a long time ago, when I was a kid." Bingo. I'd attended the camp when I was in college, and Brian had been a teenager there. He had really impressed all of us, even back then. Brian is 30 years old, and I can't help but refer to him as the kid from flatpicking camp. Now "the kid" plays with Travis Tritt. The coolest thing about him is that he is not jaded about music. Not one bit. He says he plays in the hotel rooms every day on tour. I've been around a lot of traveling musicians, and it's rare to see people practicing in their hotel rooms. I'm guilty of using my hotel time for emails, phone calls, and "vegging out." I'd like to take a tip from "the kid" and use my time a little more wisely. Hey, at least I'm not on Facebook yet!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Home from Telluride: baby in a guitar case & the sound of a three year old voice

Thanks for the ride, Cindy! Today I strolled into the Montrose airport and immediately saw the whole crew from our flight to Telluride. Troubadour Michaela Anne and her mom, Jenny, were again on our flight. There were also several Punch Brothers there, along with Kristin Andreassen and other friends.

As usual when I travel with an infant, multitudes of fellow travelers and airport staff were eager to help. People offered to hold the baby, to carry my guitar, and were kindly in spirit. I had to explain, "No, this is me traveling LIGHT! My 3 year old is at home!" Any mother can relate to this experience: when you travel with a tiny baby, the world is the kindest place. Strangers turn into angels in disguise! I'm so grateful! Yet, when you travel with a 2 year old, when you really need help, the general sentiment is, "Mommy, you're on your own with that mess!" My husband puts it well: everyone glares at the woman who has a jelly-smeared wild animal that poops in his/her pants.

The Critt serenading my C-Biscuit
I settled into my seat at the gate, and Critter (Chris Eldridge: Punch Bro) sat down beside me. He asked to play my guitar. Baby Cora wanted a front row seat, so I placed her in my Calton case and propped her up to watch. She grinned in delight at the Critt, who has always been sweet to my babes. He played her his rendition of "Wildwood Flower" while we travelers all gathered round and snapped photos. It was an adorable scene.

Yesterday, I'd hiked up Bear Creek with Cora strapped to my chest. Cindy and her boys were with me for about a mile, and then Cora and I braved it alone. A couple miles up, we ran into Critter and Kristin hiking down. That was a welcome surprise. One nap and a tired mommy later, we made it to the majestic waterfall and fantastic views. Spray from the waterfall spewed onto Cora's face, and she made the "shocked" baby face. A lovely stranger offered to take my photo and held my hand through some rocky hiking. I settled in to nurse Cora while sitting on a boulder and took in the views of Sneffels Highline from afar.
Bear Creek Falls

On our way down, the sun made its own slow journey behind the mountains, and a pink glow took over the red dirt trail. I sang "Drifting Too Far From the Shore" to my sleepy babe, and the rhythm of my footsteps put her back to sleep.

Today, when I strapped Cora in her car seat, the straps were too tight! I realized she hadn't been in a car in a week, and the little fatty has packed on a few (ounces)!

Cora traveled very well today. She's starting to transition into baby mode. On our way to Telluride, she was still an infant. She slept, she looked around, she nursed. Today, she demanded active play time from her mom. I stood her up on my lap, I chatted with her, and I held out my fingers so she could try and grab them. She can now intentionally grab my fingers and hold onto them! She is changing so rapidly. On the plane, I pointed things out to her: the sunset, the tiny trees, the clouds. She seemed to actually care!

The best part of today was walking into Jack's room. In the glow of the Winnie the Pooh nightlight, he popped up and grinned from ear to ear. I held him close as he kissed me. Hearing that 3 year old voice say, "Mommy!" is better than any song I've ever heard.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Telluride Bluegrass Baby, Part 2

Here I sit in gorgeous Telluride, Colorado, where the San Juans have once again won my heart. How lucky am I to get to come here once again?!

Shortly after I gave birth to Cora, John got booked at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival with John Cowan. Aha, so that's what I've been saving those frequent flier miles for! Somehow, magic was at work, and I actually found a 25k mile ticket to Montrose...AND a 25k mile ticket for my mother to fly to Nashville to stay with Jack!

Mommy-cation! The focus of this trip is mommy/daughter time in a beautiful place, with lovely music and wonderful friends (and baby-daddy).

After playing with Frazier & Friends on Sunday
Frazier & Friends set: Andy Thorn, Jake Joliff, Bridget Kearney, John Frazier, Shad Cobb, Jeff Autry, me
My dear friends Cindy & Rick invited me to stay in their guest house, located behind their house in the Town of Telluride. I'm so incredibly grateful for this chance to bond with Cora and listen to music in these spectacular mountains.

My buddy Cindy. We were both waitresses and real estate assistants in Telluride when I lived there, long ago. 
Cora's digs: Cindy's snuggle nest for Cora in the guest house. 
My sweetie enjoying some floor time, after a long day on the plane.

Roughing it, big time: Poser Pit, front row for Alison Krauss set.

Judging Telluride Troubadour Finals at Elks Park...with a mini-judge in tow.

DJ and banjo picker Nina Schnipper Dropcho.

Cora diggin' on the Sam Bush set. So sick!

The Cow and the C-Biscuit, after his set with Cora's papa. 
Festivating baby, amongst real festivarians

Festivating baby, backstage

Photo by Kristin Andreasson. People seem to dig these headphones for babies by Peltor Kids. 
Photo by Kristin Andreasson.

Photo by Kristin Andreasson.

Some highlights: our sunny 5 mile jog along the river trail and through the campground, where we got to see friends; our second row seats (with Cindy & Rick) at the Alison Krauss set; running into Veronica Johnston and seeing her adorable pregnant belly; the fantastic improvisation of Chris Thile during the Hornsby set Saturday night; cookies from Baked in Telluride; dinner with Baby-Daddy, the Fustings, and the Cowan band on Sunday night; dancing with Cora to Sam Bush Band on Saturday night; watching John play fabulous mandolin and sing bass with Cowan on Sunday morning; judging the Telluride Troubadour contest, during which I was blown away by the winner, Reid Waddy, who sounds a bit like Paul Simon; watching Cora's face light up into a smile as festivarians flirted with her; snuggling with Cora for warmth during the late night sets (she would wear her Peltor headphones, snuggle into her sling, and fall into a deep sleep...)

Sunday afternoon, John invited me to join the "John Frazier & Friends" set at the Elks Park Stage. It was great fun to jam onstage with friends old & new: Jeff Autry, Shad Cobb, Bridget Kearney, Andy Thorn, Jake Jolliff, and of course, John Frazier.

John rolled in Saturday night and left Monday morning; I, however, have been granted a full week here in this magical universe.

It's only fair that Cora should receive a private Telluride vacation with Mommy. Jack had the same honor when he was ten weeks old. It seems like a perfect way to anoint my babies into this crazy music family life that they will be leading for the next couple decades. And each evening as the sun faded down-valley, and the bright stars started to pop out of black skies, I was able to hug my rainbow baby and bless her chubby cheeks. Thank you, Cora, for making me your mommy!