Monday, May 15, 2017

The Merry Old Month of May

A Moment. A very short moment, but a moment. 

All Works of Love are Works of Peace--our choral service

Early Spring View

A Low Moment of Dishwasher Failure

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Sweet Woodruff Sneaking into the Lily of the Valley

Mr. Highum reading the Poem Mary wrote about him. . sniff, sniff

If you don't clear the pines needles. . . the flowers grow anyway

Pink Lily of the Valley

The Prayer Tree for Cousin Stacey and Kris's Mom survived another winter. 
The Merry Old Month of May
I'm wishing for the bottomless pot of decaf coffee and an afternoon to write to my hearts content. Alas, the days go by, filled to the brim, without an hour to write.

One daytime student asked me, as they were leaving--what do you DO all day when you are not teaching?

Dear one, I sit around and eat little chocolates and paint my toenails and make sure there are no smudges on the chrome kitchen faucet.

It's called triage. May is the month of making sure we all stay alive, people first, then pets then plants. This requires food and water and deer spray. And gas in the car.

It's final SAM and SPTG meetings and marching band kick-off (bring your checkbook, please). It's circus shows and recitals and entertaining and good-bye parties and your niece's graduation recital and some straggling choir commitments. Band concerts for everyone. It's the Wirth Center Gala and SAT subject tests. It's Nickelodeon Universe field trips which require lunch bags and cash for treats. It's trying to let Calvin drive as much as possible without a Valium prescription. For me, not him.

It's the dishwasher breaking down and leaking all into the bedroom below. It's the fountain pump getting all hooked up and then not actually pumping any water. It's the credit card getting hacked, AGAIN. It's the una corda squeaking in a way that really can't go more than a day without the technician, thank you Mark for making emergency calls.

One mom said, you must love sitting out on your lovely screen porch in the mornings. Should I be honest and tell her this moment is the first moment we have sat down on the porch instead of scrubbing it and washing the cushions and cleaning the bird feeders and fixing the hinges on the doors?

Mary gave me one of those fill in the blank what I love about you books for Mother's Day. I'm gonna read this every morning for the rest of my life. Here are a few highlights:

5. I'm humbled by. . . your beautiful choir playing (she doesn't know about the full blown anxiety attack I had at the choral service)
7. I'm thankful I got your. . . sense of humor. (not my dark sarcastic side?)
8. I love that you still. . . song songs for me.
9. I hope to be as. . .sure footed as you (I guess I am dependable in her eyes)
11. I love how you never. . . let weeds grow in the garden (all I see is weeds)
35. If you want to, you could easily. . . teach 100 students (I am obviously super woman)
42. I love to play. . . the Three Footed Giant piano duet with you (Thanks Annette for this duet that will NEVER go away now. . . )
45. I love how you have such strong. . . ideas (here I spend so much time working out, just to have strong ideas. . . )
47. It makes me smile when. . . you smile at me.
48. I love to. . put your earrings in. . . for you. (I can't do this yet. . . she's taking care of me)
49. Nobody else can play. . . expressively like you. (Pretty sure this isn't true. . . but I'll take it.)

What we are feeling inside is very rarely the full reality.

May brings out the perfectionist in me. And the sarcasm. So little to do and so much time to do it. Weeds. Wrong notes. Kids scrambling to get ready for recitals. Residual hives. And Calvin is always hungry. Everybody wants something.

May in her eyes is a little different. I'm a little different in her eyes.

So. . . if we didn't have recitals and parties we would never sit on the porch. Extra practice brings huge growth. Children bring life to the backyard, not the fountain running. A warped kitchen floor where I stand cutting cantaloupes and making coffee is a home well used and well loved. Balancing the detail with the big picture is part of the dance. Work hard right up to the last moment and then enjoy the show.

Lastly, here is a shout out to my mother and all the mothers for mother's day:

This is the true joy of life--
being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one;
being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap;
being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances.
George Bernard Shaw. 

Here's to giving life our best shot. I'm gonna throw myself on the scrap heap June 4.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Bravo 2017

Viva Las Vegas

Luck Be a Lady

Alexander Hamilton

Who Loves You


Magic to Do

Born this Way

Finale Act One

More Costumes

What a Voice

Guys can sing and dance!

Great kid, great actor, great singer. 
Bravo to the Bravo kids!

Lots of thought about Bravo, that's for sure. Where to begin?

This was Calvin's first Bravo season and he had so much fun. These shows are huge. I don't know if there are five hundred costumes or 800. Eighty-five singers. Eighty-eight in the children's chorus. The full jazz ensemble. Huge crews.

Calvin played drum set on the first act of the show. In the second act he played keyboards. It's like the final exam of drumming. You get to go from swing to country to hip hop to rap to Broadway show tune.  It took Bill about three shows to get his heart rate down--he was so nervous for Calvin. Stage dad. . .

I wanted to shout out--hey--that's my kid up there playing in front of a full house for eight nights. That's my kid jamming on the piano on Crocodile Rock. The other gal who played keyboards is Calvin's friend and she did a wonderful job. Piano players are the unsung heroes of these shows.

I was so proud. Proud of Calvin. Proud of everybody and every body's kid. They are up there on stage putting it out there. I can't believe the depth of talent our school district has. (Two other high schools in our district do similarly impressive shows) I can't believe how the directors pick the right kids for the right solos and the right dancers. The chemistry between the singers in the small ensembles. The musical maturity of these students.

I'm proud of Eastview that when one of the lead singers skipped school on Thursday she didn't get to sing Friday night. It hurt. It hurt her. It hurt her ensembles. It hurt the show. But it was the right thing. And she got back up there Saturday night and redeemed herself to a standing ovation. I don't think any of the sophomores or juniors will be skipping school when their senioritis comes along during the show season. It took courage for her parents not to write the note. It took courage for the director to back it all up. Kudos to all.

Highlights? Of course Calvin's drum solo on St. Thomas. The Sinatra group--in case you were wondering, Calvin did swing the band up to his dad's approval. Alexander Hamilton from Hamilton--Calvin's friend from drum line Joey put out a rap that was amazing--what a talented kid. Joey also did the vocal percussion on Hallelujah. Amazing. Goosebumps.

Bill and I each went to four shows. Mary went to five. My mom got to see two, Bill's folks came from Nisswa for the final show. Uncle Dave got to see it with a standby ticket. I was dreaming Bravo tunes.

Thank you Eastview and District 196 for making the huge effort to give the kids this experience.
Thanks directors for your complete awesomeness making something from nothing, the ultimate act of creativity. Thanks to the players, singers and dancers for giving us the gift of entertainment.

Tonight I'm not gonna drive back to Eastview high. Bittersweet.
Bravo to the Bravo kids!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Words

Some Selfies Just Don't Work
What are You Standing On Now My Dear. . . ?
Bill and the kids went to the cabin. I went to Owatanna to judge the piano kids there. The Owatanna kids played well and the church was beautiful. I wrote comments as fast as I could for five hours and my hand is totally cramped. . . Judging kids is not easy. How accurate did they play? How expressive? How stylistically correct? All things equal. . . how much do they love the piece ? Try not be influenced by flip flops. Do the best you can.

The waves have been rolling along pretty well here, but Holy Week is coming and Bravo and the undercurrent is churning. Bravo is the big high school production. Next week they have rehearsals from 2:30-10:00 Monday through Friday. Calvin is one of two drum set players for the show. Then, I guess one of the pianists flaked out (how rare. . . pianists are so stable) and so he's going to play piano on the pieces he's not playing set on. Never a dull moments. The theme is Las Vegas and Bill is losing sleep over whether they will swing like Sinatra with Count Basie. We all have our crosses to bear.

Mary has been playing up a storm on the piano. We've been in a good groove right up until Friday morning. Of course it is a complete coincidence that I would lose it when I have had about four nights in a row of five hours of sleep. Far be it from me to not rise above my own fatigue. And. . . we have a masterclass with a guest teacher in two weeks and my ego is creeping in and Mary's piece is still a little fresh. Mary got braces on Monday and is still medicating her hives. All these planets align for the Mama to lose it.

What triggers an experienced teacher and loving mother to completely come unglued? Those two terrible horrible no good very bad words, upon their forth or fifth repetition. . .  "I KNOW." Since you asked, it was one of the cadence points in the Daquin Cuckoo. The fingering. Finger three on E to be exact. Not that I remember.

This week I held it in when a little piano kid/child of God said those terrible horible no good very bad words "I don't care." I held it in and responded lovingly and it was from my heart when I said, those words are not okay in this studio.

But when it's your own kid and she mumbles equally as disturbing words under her own breath and you only have five hours of sleep once in a blue moon you let it all hang out. Sarcasm included.

Talking about shame is supposed to help. . . so here are the terrible horrible no good very bad words I said, "Actually, I don't think you DO know it or you wouldn't keep playing it wrong." Only in all caps.

Tears are instantaneous and genuine.
So are apologies.

Start from ground zero and build trust again. That's all you can do. Dr. Suzuki asks us to reflect. And reflect. And reflect.

Don't let yourself get tired.
Don't do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.
Isolate an issue/task and make a game.
Solidify it out of context.
Put it back together.

It's not okay when "I know" sounds disrespectful. But part of the secret of working with your own child is treating them just as carefully as you would treat someone else's child. This time, I didn't.

Mary, if you are reading this, and I know eventually you will. I'm sorry I lost my temper. You are an utterly amazing piano kid/child of God/child of mine. Practicing with you and Calvin everyday is the greatest honor and blessing of my entire life. I'm sorry for the times I hurt your feelings and I vow to do my best to be a patient and loving teacher.
Amen, tomorrow is a new day.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Off They Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder 

They Actually Went Someplace Colder for Spring Break


Don't Jump Little Castle. . . 

This Won't Hurt a Bit

Make New Friends . . . but KEEP THE OLD 

Good Food and Good Friends--I did not say OLD friends.

I'm not going to lie. I'm not someplace warm. And I didn't go anywhere warm. I haven't really been warm since early September. Now it's spring break. 

I'm warm inside. 

We went our separate ways. Bill took Mary on the epic western tour. They started by skiing in Colorado and went on to San Francisco riding the train. Today they are off to Muir Woods. Then they will take another train along the California coast and fly home Saturday. Adventure. I can't wait to see the photos of the redwoods. It's humbling and spiritual to be with trees that are so much older and wiser than you will ever be. 

Calvin left last Thursday with the Eastview band to tour Ireland. He's photo streaming pictures and texting his journey. I was excited for him, but I didn't really understand how beautiful Ireland would be until he started sending the pictures. They are having a great time. I've been feeling very good about my decision early on to never, ever be a band director. 

My friends came to visit. We had three lovely days of girl time. In order to qualify as "girl time" there has to be too much food, a little too much wine, way too much shopping and at least one spa service. Check. Bonus points if you end up at a tattoo parlor and get your ears pierced. My new friend Nate did laugh, when I told him my mom finally let me. He was a good sport and was quite impressed with my level of calm while he free handed the ever so sterile utensil through my tender little earlobe. Nate, I'm a mom. It's gonna take a little more than this to raise my heart rate. 

All joking aside, St. Sabrina's was cleaner, more sterile and better organized than my doctor's office. I did my research. Nate also didn't try to prescribe ibuprofen to me. . .just a lollipop on the way out. 

Family time is overrated. Important, but overrated. One on one is where it's at for me. I think spending time with one kid at a time is more precious. God bless Bill for loving to travel and loving to travel with each kid. He and Calvin have taken the train and also had road trips. In a quest for sainthood Bill also took each child to Disney World, alone together. 

I get one on one time everyday. At the piano. Which is one of the reasons I love it so much. And further validation of the band director decision.  

One on one means you have my complete attention. Only you. We get to be ourselves to the best of our ability. I love the time in the car with Calvin on the way to his new lessons. I love shopping with Mary, even if we don't buy anything. I love cooking with Mary. Deep down, I think we all need to be loved alone.  


I think if we are paying attention, God sends us all the friends we need, when we need them. Music friends, church friends, garden friends. All serving a beautiful purpose. A safe place. 

Three or four friends make a trinity or so. . . and that's good too. It brings depth to the conversation. A constant outpouring and in pouring. Humor goes a long way. 

I'm off to Iowa tomorrow. It will only be just a little warmer there. I'm going to see my mom without my kids. One on one. Oh, I hope to see my sister and my niece too, but it will mostly be one on one. It's been a while. I'm excited. 

Saturday the Kotrbas will all reconverge and that will be good too. I'm missing them. Sitting here alone at my computer, I actually feel this tiny itsy bitsy tinge of loneliness. That doesn't happen very often. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
I guess in a perfect world I would appreciate each moment with each person just as much as I appreciate one weekend a year with friends. Something to work on. 

One on one times. Family times. Friends. 
I'm grateful for it all. The seasons they do go round and round.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Thank you for all the people in my life. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Cure for Hives

Bill is not a cat lover, but he does love taking photos. . . 
When that day comes and I pass through those pearly gates, I am eternally hopeful that there will be some answers, maybe in the form of a printout that I can study. First of all, why didn't baby Calvin give it up for a nap when he was tired. Second, why does Garfield pee on my things but only now and then. In between he acts really cute just to keep me from "rehoming" him. Thirdly, what was with Mary's hives?

For the past eleven days Mary has had hives. They travel from legs to back to neck to feet to hands to face and everywhere in between. What a curious and miserable journey. On day three I took her to urgent care since her doctor had no appointments available. Dr. Jim took blood and a strep test and proceeded to write a prescription. I took a moment to ask. . . Dr. Jim, is it an antihistamine? Is it a steroid? No, he said, it's like Aleve. Yeah. That would be ibuprofen. We have a $2 bottle of that at home so I think we will skip the $45 script. The word jerk ran through my mind.

On day five I tried again to get an appointment. No luck and you can't go back to urgent care for something a second time, not that I wanted Doctor Jerk again anyway. So, we limped through. Each day the hives seemed to be okay by about 9:00 in the morning with Benadryl and Zantac and Ibuprofen and oatmeal lotion and cortisone cream. They returned each night.

Day six bruises started showing up on her feet and ankles. Don't google hives with bruises. I messaged her real doctor to have her look at Mary's blood work to make sure that I only lost one night of sleep wondering if we were near the end.

Blood work was normal.

On to the weekend of SAM Graduation recitals.
Mary played on Sunday. Here is a link to her Puck. MARY'S PUCK

Sunday night was worse than ever and many tears.

On Monday I decided Mary needed a boost, so I cleaned her room for her. Per the Gist book, (The Essence of Raising Life Ready Kids) I've been trying not to do this. Even though I can. And it doesn't even take that long.

I'm not saying a clean room is a cure for hives.
I did not say that.

On Monday I managed to win the lottery for the actual dermatologist appointment. That was after getting an appointment with her regular doctor, switching all my students for that time and then having the regular doctor call and say she should see a dermatologist. Switch lessons back. Shift lessons for dermatologist appointment. I am woman hear me roar. And I have flexible students.

If having a clean room did not cure the hives, having the golden ticket of a real appointment with a real dermatologist did.

We are down to only a dozen hives at night and in the morning. I'll take that. I cancelled the derm appt.

Writing this blog and skipping the derm appointment will probably ensure that she goes into anaphylactic shock tonight. I hope not.

We will probably never know if it was the cinnamon bread, or the chocolate almond milk, or some mold outside playing, or a virus, or truffle oil from french fries or if she's really just reacting to an untidy room.

She has been a trooper. I respect that. All joking aside, it was a moment to confirm that who we are inside is not about our skin. Our skin maybe be completely covered with red bumps that burn and itch and look terrible, but inside we are the same bright, joyful, creative, musical, talkative child of God. Still all things considered I'll take the no hives version of Mary.

Amen to that.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Short Ride of Ability Development from Adolescence

Calvin behind the wheel at Eastview

Mary's in charge of dinner with mini-muffin tuna melts 
Ability development from age zero adolescence. I've been thinking about all these kids, and their journeys.

I've been thinking about how they don't remember a time when they didn't play piano. Since they were babies the piano kids have been coming to the house, back when it was Stefanie and Jackie and Cassy and the gang. This is what we do.

One of my piano babes, a new little three-year-old had a little accident upon waking up from his nap before his lesson this week. We stuck him in a pair of Mary's denim shorts which functioned as trousers for him. He was sad about the situation, but once dry he hopped up to the piano and played a full lesson. In one short month he has gone from being too shy to speak to me, to letting me borrow his hand and actually lift him up to the adjustable chair. Last night at group he whispered in my ear the secret song that he wanted for the body staff game. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Big progress. Short time.

One of the medium kids, seven is now medium in my studio, did some extra theory pages this week. I said to Matthew something like, wow, you must really love theory. His response, and I quote, "yeah, who doesn't love theory." I nodded with game face and snuck a wink to his mother.

Dr. Suzuki's words, ability development from age zero mean that these kids are learning music as part of their language. I'm forever surprised when we get to toward the end of Piano Level One and the child is playing all 18 pieces and adding echos and paying attention to their tone and hand position.  Then after lesson they give me a little card or drawing and I'm reminded that they are as yet unable to print their name.

The correlation continues through adolescence. Here is Mary playing Chopin Mazurkas and Grieg Lyric pieces and yet, working toward cooking a tuna dinner for us. Ability leads to ability.

The coup de gras? Driving. Here's a kid playing Beethoven and Liszt and yet, just like every kid at this point, is a complete beginner behind the wheel. I'm amazed. He's doing fine. I think I'm doing fine. I THINK I'm doing fine. Teaching driving is not like teaching piano, and I guess Bill and I are complete beginners at driver's ed. When the Italian Concerto veers off course nobodies mailbox gets taken out. To say the least.

This from the gal who drove her grandpa's truck through the back of the barn at age 14.

Newborns in the studio are turning into toddlers. When it's someone else's child it goes so fast. When it's you sleep deprived it feels like every stage lasts forever.

So, I'm trying to see that big picture. I've loved every stage with my kids and never looked back, though I do enjoy the photos. . .when they were little and so exhausting, I used to take the night off and drive to Linda's and finally have a child free moment with gals. What did I do? Work on photo albums of the kids. They were so much easier in pictures.

From nursing to watching them every minute to make sure they don't kill themselves, to actually being able to leave them in the house alone, to this next stage, in a few months, Calvin being able to leave the house without US. . .

It's all a little scary and exciting and wonderful and overwhelming.

Family, friends, faith, music.
Ability leads to ability and we just hang on for the short ride.