Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In Defense of Martha

I subbed on piano for two lenten services today.  The scripture was the same for both: the Luke account of Jesus, Mary, and Martha.

". . .  a woman named Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

This is the most disturbing scripture in the whole Bible.

We all know without Martha, the world would be going to hell in a hand basket within hours.  Chaos would reign. Wouldn't we all just LOVE to be Mary.

The kids are home for spring break and in their mind the week is a free for all.  A week long episode of playmobil town that easily transpires into a wrestling match. With loud music.  Freedom. I, on the other hand have a long list of tasks for myself and them.  The epic struggle.

My mom used to holler up the stairs on Saturday morning, "don't even think about calling a friend to come over and play.  This is a work day."  Heavy sigh. My sister and I would hate that.  Payback is such a bitch.

What I really wish Jesus would say is, "Mary, let's you and me help Martha get this place in shape, if we all work together it won't take long, and then we can all settle ourselves down for a nice little devotion."

I get it.  But perhaps Martha has some mental condition in which she is physically unable to focus on what Jesus has to say until she has herself organized.  How can I sit and listen to the Lord of the Universe if I don't have my shit together?

Pastor Paul was comforting in his meditation on the scripture--he added something along the lines of--seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.  We don't have to give up having our act together--but we have to have our priorities straight and that means Martha putting Jesus first.  

Relationships first.  The rest second.  I went ahead and took the kids to the park.

But!  Not until after Calvin vacuumed the downstairs and Mary hauled my six bags of mulch to the back yard. So there.

It is the same with piano practice.  We have to put the relationship with the child first and the practice goals second.  Sometimes I forget and muscle through, but it always backfires.  Sooner or later.

Sara, Sara, you are worried and distracted by many things.  There is need of only one thing. . . 

Love of God, love of family, love of the child. .   and all these things. . . will be added unto you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Who wouldn't like to be "Lost" on the North Shore of Oahu?
Okay, so Bill and I made the whole extended family drive out to never never land on the north shore of Oahu so we could see the beach where they filmed the first season of the tv show Lost.  We gave a year of our tv life to this show, the least we could do was to try the drive.  My sister put the kibosh on it when the road turned to mud and the rented Suburban was about to get stuck.  It was a drive my dad would have taken and perhaps have busted an axel in the pop-up trailer.  Alas, the wreckage of Oceanic flight 815 was no longer there on the beach. Even without Jack and Kate I think the scenery was worth it.

Ta-Dah, is for the unveiling of my new website:

I hope you will like it.  It has all the studio info and schedule for my students as well as some other fun features and links.  I also have some information for new students about Suzuki Piano.  I made it myself, getting an iPage account and using wordpress software.  I have to confess to being very pleased with myself--I started from ground zero and learned how to do this.  It only required one ichat (worthless), one phone call to a help desk (turns out what was mixed up was their fault), and two emails to Thomas Hasch at expand2web who was so polite to respond to my a little knowledge is a dangerous thing questions within ten minutes.  Very impressive costumer service. The process was very trial and error, or to quote my dad again, "brute strength and awkwardness."   It took me more than a few hours, but I was sick anyway so gardening was out of the question.

The other ta-dah?  Bill's new office!  My faithful husband has been working from home and traveling for over two years now.  Like all jobs, his has ups and downs. The traveling is tough. He is gone some almost every week. Being a single parent is never easy, but you do know where you stand.  If it is to be, it is up to me. . . that is my slogan.

The thing is. . . sometimes having him home was tricky too.  You see, his Blackberry doesn't get reception under the steps in the cold unfinished basement where we set up the card table with his computer and printer. His "office" between Playmobil town and the xylophone and the boxes of Christmas lights was just not very comfortable and he often ended up migrating up to our bedroom and the living room for conference calls.  The upside of this is that he was often able to make the beds while hooked up to his bluetooth.  The down side was that I was unable to dry my hair after my shower.  I was also very glad at those times that he didn't do video conferencing. No one looks good on Skype without make-up.

Don't get me wrong.  I love having him around.  His flexibility to drive the kids to school or go for a walk during a break in the morning is awesome.  There just some part of me that can't cope with him pacing back and forth on a call in the living room chit chatting to an unseen customer just when I was gonna roll out my yoga mat and put on a Tara Stiles video.

These are the confessions of a selfish introvert who just NEEDS SOME SPACE to think and plan and get her stuff done.  Separation of church and state has nothing on separation of home and business.  It just feels wrong to co-mingle. . .

So, his mama didn't raise no dummies, it didn't take him that long to get the hint.  The problem with finishing a basement is that you have to break it to fix it.  We needed to move the office area into his shop.  Bill is a wonderful craftsman.  He made and finished all the oak and cherry frames in our house and made the cabinetry in Calvin's room.  He does beautiful work.  The thing is our lives are different now than when he was collecting power tools and clamps and jigs.  We can't spare a prime room in our house for a shop any more than I could justify having a quilting and scrapbooking room.

The good news is, he now has a very nice office where there once was an overflowing wood shop.  It has nice carpet, brand new from a mistake in his sister's renovation and it has a nice window looking out to the pond.  The old Ikea diaper changing table is a printer stand.  He can put the Blackberry in the window for crystal clear reception. We moved the old sofa in there so he has a comfy warm place to sit.

The little space heater will make it the toastiest place in the house. It's so nice, in fact, I think it would be a lovely place for me to take my laptop to drink coffee, and chit chat with him while I blog and do lessons plans and invoices in the morning.  Since the reception is so good in there I can talk to my mom on the phone a little too.  The diaper table can double for laundry folding.  It wouldn't take much to hook up a DVD so I could do my exercises on that nice new carpet.  Hey, with the sofa bed in there my mom could stay in there when she visits!  What a great idea!

Just kidding.  I love you Bill. Enjoy your new "office."

Tra la la.  Enjoy the website! The link at the top in the new banner will get you there too. Visit often and let me know if something doesn't work.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Daffy Down Dilly

Spring has sprung.  This is very mundane account of our first day of spring break.  Feel free to skip reading it.

I am sick.

I haven't been really sick since I started this blog, so now you can officially know what a whiner I am.  Lost my voice at group lessons last night and today am achy and have a soar throat which would send me for a strep test except that I also have chest congestion. I memorized the questions the nurse will type into her computer and which ones will flag me as not needing antibiotics, so I'm going to spare myself the insurance claim and wait it out.  Woe is me.  I guess the jet lag and me didn't agree--losing a night's sleep on the red-eye flight home sent my once fully functional immune system south.  Bill took the kids for pizza and I'm having my own frozen chicken noodle soup.  Tra la la.

Today Bill and I ran into our neighbor outside.  We hadn't seen him in quite a while, but that is not totally unheard of since he travels.  Turns out he was deathly ill out east, in the hospital there for a month in an induced coma fighting sepsis brought on by strep A gone amuck.  That's the "man-eating-flesh" disease. He had gangrene on both hands and feet and was in full body shut down, but thank goodness he beat it.  His feet are still in danger but his hands looked good.  It all started with two cuts on his hands--which will send any germ fearing parent running for the neosporin.  So, neighbor, we are glad you are okay.  Again, we sing the hands song.

He can't work for awhile, so he's doing some spring cleanup, involving commercial construction dumpsters. We are talking about the 15 x8 foot kind.  He is on dumpster number four.  That must feel really good.  A good thing to do while one is not feeling well and has had a life altering illness.

I confess to having had this fantasy every spring.  Not about him. . . but, a commercial dumpster in my driveway, where I can sneak out and put all unloved, un-useful, and unnecessary household items.  By myself.

I was ready to start my own spring cleaning today, even without the dumpster, as it is the first day of our spring break, but alas the instructions say not to operate heavy machinery while on pseudoephedrine and caffeine, so I'll resign myself to sitting on the couch reading a novel (yes, a novel. . . don't laugh) and writing this blog.  I would rather be outside working, that is for sure. The garden waits.

Daffy down dilly has now come to town--pictured above, and I didn't even have the energy to push the dead leaves aside.  Spring is more than six weeks early here in Minnesota, and I can't be the only person waiting for the ax to drop.  Flowers are coming up and if I don't move the leaves they will smother but if I move the leaves it will surely freeze hard and snow.  The last possible freeze date for Minnesota is May 15 so we still have a long road ahead.  Ominous, sanctus, not freeze-ous hard-ous. . .

Bill took the training wheels off Mary's bike this morning.  It took her one try to get it going.  You may wonder why a strong athletic girl of seven years was still unable to ride a bike?  Sometimes these oversights just happen and Bill and I will have to live with the guilt.  She'll look back and say what a great childhood she had traveling and playing piano and doing gymnastics but her Daddy never took the time to take her training wheels off until she got her driver's license.  Drive safely little Mary, on the bike that is.

Sorry for the long blog.  I'll try to write less when I am feeling better. Tomorrow is a new day.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pep Fest

Future Good Looking Drum set Playing Heartbreaker

Senator Daley with Calvin in the background

My Schmoo

Calvin with Mayor Maguire
Congrats to Deerwood on a really fun and exciting pep rally to celebrate our $100,000 grant from the Target corporation.  Lindy Pfaltzgraff wrote the letter recommending Deerwood and Target and the Ellen Degeneres show picked us as the only school from Minnesota to receive the grant.

The band did a great job--I honestly don't know how our band director Susan Smith does it.  These are only fifth graders who have only been playing these instruments less than a year.  It is amazing.  Sounded better than most high school pep bands.

Our music teacher Mrs. Schoen always pulls a rabbit out of hat with the music.  She took Calvin's song and put actions with it and divided it up for solos and chorus and I thought it was really super cool.  Of course, I realize I am the doting mother. . .

I couldn't get that great of a video because Mayor Maguire and Senator Daley were in my way of seeing Calvin.  (That is my Minnesota Lutheran way of bragging about my son. . . deal with it. . . )

Calvin did just fine.  All of the sudden this morning at 5:55 I thought, dear Lord, I haven't heard him play that song in a while.  I asked him to run it while I brushed my teeth and he got ready for 7:00 a.m. band practice.  I gave him very little advice except the usual--don't go too fast and also--make sure to play really loud--it is one upright piano versus 500 kids singing--oh, and SIT DOWN.  I watched the rehearsal at school, and committed myself to not saying one word.  Mrs. Schoen only had to tell him to SIT DOWN at the piano four times.  And, as every good accompanist will eventually be reminded--watch me. . . give me a cue. . .

But he did it--with a smile on his face--because of course he knows she loves him.  That's all it really takes.

So the school gets a new playground and countless other amenities.  Thanks to Target and the Ellen Degeneres Show and Lindy Pfaltzgraff.

Here is a link to a web-stream.  Die hards will watch the whole 35 minutes.  Calvin's grandparents might like to know that his song starts at 11:46 minutes.

click here:  Deerwood "Thank You" Pep Fest

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance Part Three

Congratulations to Alec who was one of four performers chosen from the Book 6 and Book 7 Suzuki Association of Minnesota Graduates to perform in an honors recital at Orchestra Hall on March 17.  His parents have uploaded the video to you tube and here is the link.  Congrats again to Alec and the other pianists who performed so beautifully that day.

link: Alec's Granados

Also as promised, here are links to Calvin and Mary's S.A.M. performances at the regular Graduation Festival on March 10, 2012:

link:  Calvin's Invention in F
link:  Mary's Arietta

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Lifting Up of My Hands

Tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m. my mother, Janel, is having carpel tunnel surgery on her hands.  Yes, I know, these are her feet, not her hands. Pretty good looking arent' they?

The procedure is straightforward, a ligament is arthroscopically severed and this releases pressure on the nerves in the carpel tunnel.  She is pretty much at ease with the idea, especially because my grandfather and several other master gardeners she knows have done this with great success.

To a pianist this is a nightmare. I can't even think about it.  I would do anything in my power to avoid hand surgery. I've spent so many years working on my technique to make sure that I don't over-tax my wrists and I try to teach my students to use their best alignment and gravity to avoid it as well.

I'm not saying that I don't approve her doing this--gardening is not playing piano and she is obviously older than me and fully capable of deciding these things on her own.  Also, chronic pain is nothing to scoff at, especially in your hands and I pray that she has 100% success.

But, it makes me think about hands.  Again. In April 2007 my dad got his hand in a circular saw.  I got the phone call after our spring piano recital and I hopped on a flight, rented a car and met my mom and sister in the Iowa City emergency room waiting area.  The whole way I was praying.  I had Barb's soprano voice in my head singing Marty Haugen's Holden Evening Prayer:

Let my prayer rise up
Like incense before you
The lifting up of my hands
As an offering to you
Oh God, I call to you
Come to me now
Oh hear my voice
as I cry to you

I thought about my Dad's hands.  It occurred to me they were his primary means of displaying affection.  He wasn't lovey-dovey with words. He did things. With his hands. He fixed things and built things and moved things and took care of things--all with his hands.

The surgeon was amazing. He gave us the report long after midnight in the ER.  (God bless these surgeons who just drop everything and perform surgery all night to save some stranger's hand.) He thought he had successfully connected arteries, tendons and and nerves to all four fingers of Daddy's hand.  He hoped they would all survive but he made no promises. The fingers did survive--and Daddy had full use of his hand and feeling in all four fingers. The surgeon later told us that he didn't think they had a chance but he reconnected them anyway.  I give complete credit to the hearer of Marty's prayer.

Of course there are other miraculous healings I would trade that one for, but we don't get to choose our miracles. It takes some working through to remember that there even were miracles.

My mother uses her hands for service too. I was looking at them on the plane ride home from our trip.  They are strong and tan and have little scars here and there from rose thorns and time.  Little burns from grabbing pies from the oven. They look like my grandpa's farmer hands. On Saturday she helped me take down all my outdoor winter decorations.  Some folks around here think the pre-advent greenery and lights need to come down during lent. I guess I agree, I just hadn't got to it. Who knew it would be seventy degrees when we got home? That's what she does-she sees something that needs to be done and does it. With her hands.  Mommy, here's to a successful surgery and full strength and speedy recovery!

It's not going to take a miracle to fix my mother's hand tomorrow, but I'm gonna sing the song anyway.

The lifting up of my hands. . . as an offering to you. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Happy 14th anniversary, Bill.  The list of things that I love about you is still growing.

At the Hawaii late night grocery shopping trip we each looked at the anniversary cards and showed each other which one we would have bought if we were going to buy a card there.  I liked the card you would have bought Bill, thanks!

Instead of giving cards we are here in Hawaii and we will go out to dinner together tonight.

There isn't a whole plethora of great marital examples out there. As a culture we don't have that many positive role models.  Even when you know someone with a great marriage the stark reality is that that guy is very different from your guy and you are very different from that gal.  

Each couple has to find their own way.

When Bill and I started dating, I wrote in my journal that he brought out the best in me.  In other words I was my very best self when I was with him.

Sometimes when someone sees the best in us we become closer to our very best selves.

Of course fourteen years ago I thought he hung the moon as well. Then I learned that he hung it with a level and a micrometer and only into a stud in the wall with the correct pounds per picture hanger ratio.  We worked through that.  Creativity versus engineering 101.

Nowadays I'm thankful that my antique pictures no longer fall off the wall into a heap of broken glass on the floor.

I look for the best in Bill as well and I always find it.  Yes, the list grows with the years.
Happy Anniversary, Bill, the fairy tale continues.

Travel Daze

It is never easy getting eight people across the ocean, but we did it.  The four Kotrbas plus my mom, Susan, Paul, and Savannah flew Delta four hours to Los Angeles and then another five hours to Oahu.  Our last free tickets. We sat in three rows, kids in the middle row, ensuring that any seat kicking would be self contained.  The kids are getting more and more independent.  Bill gets Dad of the year award for remembering the three way headphone splitter for the DVD player. At one point, I did overhear the following conversation:

Mary: Savannah you're gonna be 18 in five years.
Savannah: Yep.
Mary: Wow. You'll be able to drive.
Savannah: Yep, even before then.
Mary: When I'm 18 and Mama can't boss me around anymore, the very first thing I'm gonna do it take $40 and go buy my very own bunny and Mama won't be able to do one thing about it.  

Seeds of rebellion.

For an introvert, traveling with eight relatives is tricky--it is the whole more than one conversation going at a time thing. . . but we are all pretty cheerful and the best news is the adult to child ratio, which is 5:3.  That works.  Buying groceries for the eight of us for the week at 2:30 a.m. Minnesota time may have been the low travel point for me personally. It took four adults 45 minutes.  I don't even like grocery shopping and friends know that Simon Delivers has been the wind beneath my wings for many years now.  They don't delivery to Hawaii, or heaven knows I would have considered the delivery fee.

Mary is over her bladder deal this year so that is saving countless and I do mean countless, trips to the public bathroom.  I for one am thankful for that.  Calvin?  He is getting better about the sleep thing.  The first year with jet lag he was up for all day at 1:00 a.m. thereby ensuring total nuclear meltdown stage by 4:00 p.m.   At bed time it was "Our Father, who art. . . " Snore.  Both down, down, down by the first line of the prayer.  Savannah goes with the flow as the beloved cousin.

Vacation is going well.  Last year three people had thrown up by now.  This year, my threat of bodily harm to anyone with the stomach flu who might even think about shaking hands with my family must have worked.

After two full days of sunshine we are all a little pink and pretty relaxed.  Bill, Paul, and I held the daily 4:00 meeting of the pina colada club. Any knew business? No. Any old business? No. Meeting adjourned. Janel missed the meeting because she was getting a massage. Susan missed it because she was napping in the room.  Excused absences. Commence to the social program, the sipping of the pina colada.

As the shirt says: Life is Good.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance Part Two

Congratulations to the 186 students from all over Minnesota who performed on the Suzuki Piano Teachers' Guild Festival!  This included 125 S.A.M. graduates from levels one through seven.

My students were:
Calvin-Book 4 grad
Alec-Book 6 grad
Kathryn-Book 3 grad
Grace-Book 5 grad
Solomon-Book 1 grad
Nehemiah-Book 1 grad
Jacqueline-Book 1 grad

I was so pleased with everyone!  Such pretty playing!  Solomon and Calvin played some great Bach.  Nehemiah played such a lovely Musette.  Kathryn played First Loss exquisitely!  Coincidentally we had three Grieg Notturnos on three different different recitals.  Lena, Grace and Sami each had their own special finesse.  Aidan played the first movement of a Schubert sonata and I loved it but probably the piano was at it's limit.  Mary, Jacqueline, Elizabeth and Peter played very nicely too.

The Suzuki Piano Teachers' Guild is a well-oiled machine.  My dad used to use the phrase, "There they go! I must hasten to overtake them, for I am their leader."  That is very much how I felt Saturday.  Everyone did their job and did it well and the day went absolutely smoothly.  There is a lot to do: trophies, evaluating CDs, food for the teachers, the beautiful programs, communication with the church, and the list goes on.  Thanks to all the teachers who just did what they always do.

Check back for uploaded videos of Calvin and Mary--I'll post them when my techie help is available!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance

I am sitting down to write this as a reward to myself for having folded and completely put away six loads of laundry.  I did that so that tomorrow I can get it all back out to pack the four of us for Hawaii.  I'm not going to ask why Mary had four pairs of summer shorts in the wash for one winter weekend in Minnesota.

I'm drinking a large fully caffeinated beverage and eating a large portion of Girl Scout cookies as well.  Today is as good of a day as any to return to my own personal dietary habits.  For the last month I tried to be good by eating three meals a day and reducing caffeine.  I gained four pounds.  Just a great reminder that when we try to follow someone else's ideas about what is healthy for us it almost always backfires. I return to my usual plan of eating mostly healthy foods when I'm hungry, drinking coffee till noon and snacking on little bites of chocolate throughout the day.  So there.  It has worked for 25 years.

Sunday we leave for Hawaii--eight of us.  I realize this officially puts me into the spoiled rotten category. I can accept that.  There is some little part of me who tries to justify and say that I deserve this for all the weeks and parts of weeks that I have been a single parent while Bill was commuting for Delta and getting free tickets and staying at Marriotts to get us free hotel points.  But I know more than a handful of women who do this all the time and never get a free trip out of it.  I'll just be thankful and put on some sunscreen.

Saturday is the Suzuki Association of Minnesota Graduations in conjunction with the Suzuki Piano Teacher's Guild's Festival.  Nine recitals at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, downtown Minneapolis. The graduates from each level one through seven prepare a recording of the graduation piece and all the teachers who are involved evaluate one another's students, filling out a comment form to return to them.

This is so tricky.  In order to be of any value the process must involve some honesty.  Otherwise we might as well preprint the comment forms: GREAT JOB!  WONDERFUL MUSIC! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!  But, it isn't always a great job and it isn't always wonderful.  Yet there is much hoopla about keeping the comments positive and using very specific language to make any constructive comments at all.  I understand.  We don't know these students.  Some comment to a volatile adolescent could put them over the tipping point to quit.  Yet, I want other teachers to be honest with my students and share any issues, chances are they are things we have already talked about and getting a second opinion is valuable.

I guess I have tried to come up with a few guidelines to try to make the comments positive, encouraging and also valuable and honest.

  • Consider the age of the graduate.  You are going to give different comments to a seven-year-old book two graduate than a 14-year old.  
  • Give mostly positive comments with maybe one suggestion
  • Follow the golden rule.  How would I feel it someone wrote this comment to my own child?  
That's about it.  It's still tricky.  We have all had some teenager who just barely scraped together a recording that was palatable. When that happens--I want the comments to say, "I'm so glad you made a recording and that you are STILL taking piano lessons.  Now, next time get it together!"   Truly it would be more fun for them to turn in a killer recording that they would be proud of.  If it takes 30 tries to get a recording they probably weren't ready to graduate.  Tough stuff.  

I need to go pack.  Bill and I have been watching the Modern Family DVDs that we got for Christmas.  In one episode they are going to Hawaii.  The husband is telling the wife to relax.  She replies:  I'm a stay at home mom taking my kids to Hawaii.  THIS IS A BUSINESS TRIP.    So true.  I am the CEO of travel preparations, if we get there with no goggles it's gonna be my fault.  Ditto on the inflight entertainment. . . 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sorting it All Out

Honey, I'm home. . .

I'm home from Houston.  I had an absolutely awesome trip, right up until that last 25 minutes before my flight.  I don't know why I brought so much stuff.  I brought more stuff than humanly possible to fit in my roller-board and briefcase.  They were stuffed to the gills.  I even brought my own pillow this time in an effort to keep my neck moving in the right direction.  I was embarrassed about the stuff because usually I pride myself on traveling light.

Monday as my friend Casey and I were traveling to the Houston airport we got into a bad traffic jam.  It took us almost two hours to get to the airport.  Then because of confusion with the United/Continental merger I went to the wrong terminal.  Upon stepping foot into the airport I had 25 minutes to get to my flight.  Having non-revved with Bill for years at nwa this did not even raise my heart rate, but I was a little flustered when going through security, out of the blue the TSA agent just point blank tells me my bag was too full.  I sit on it and try to squish it smaller.  I take out some stuff and jump up and down on it.  I'm even later now.  Still have to get to the other terminal.  She says I have to check it.  I take my three pairs of loose shoes and go to the ticket counter to check it and slightly nicer agent says I can't check it because TSA says you have to check bags 45 minutes before the flight.  It is only 20 minutes before the flight. I mumbled something about being platinum on Delta and this was the first time my carry on wasn't accepted and never flying United again (after all United breaks guitars. . . ) and she decided to be my advocate with the TSA woman whom I will refrain from calling a five letter name.  I mumbled something about my great aunt being on her death bed and could they please just make an exception.  I put my hand on the Bible and swore to them that I would never again try to carry on such a bag and they let me through, now even later.   Run, catch tram, run, go down four story escalator, run, go back up four story escalator, run and stick my foot in the closing jet bridge door.  Happy ending.  Shoes are falling out of my purse. I don't care.

So today I'm sorting it all out and thinking about the weekend.  Thank you to Yelena for hosting me Friday night--I love seeing you and talking and thanks for the great soup and breakfast. (Yelena, the picture above is Rosie, my third cat.  Now, don't rush out and get two kittens just because I suggested it. . . )  You are one amazing and independent lady!  Thanks to Marilyn and Noel for the rides and to Carolyn for inviting me and to Fran and all the teachers who work so hard to put on a cool event for their students.  The kids were great as usual.  We had some good laughs at the parent discussions too.  It is an amazing thing to talk with parents and as we talk we sort things out.  What is really important?  Why are we doing this?

Sunday when the workshop was over Cheryl drove me up to Pearland and we got to visit about suburban family life and our families.  I looked forward to that drive.  They dropped art in her daughters' school and she has volunteered to teach the art classes for her girls' classes until things change.  She knows that art is important.

Then my dear friend Casey and I got to visit.  We visit and then eat.  Visit and then sleep.  Visit and then drive the kids to school.  Visit while we get our feet scrubbed and scraped and polished.  Visit while we eat too much again.  Sorting things out.  What is really important?  Why are we doing this?

The woman that helps me clean my house is here this morning.  She has been helping me for eight years now.  We talk about our families and the ups and downs.  As she helps me sort out the volcano that is Mary's room, this morning Delores has some other stuff to sort out.  Emotional stuff.  I listen.  What is really important?

We need teachers and all the different kinds of relationships in our lives to help us sort out the ups and downs and ask those important questions to each other.

I have to go now, my suitcase is dumped out in the closet and I have to find my shoe pairs and sort things out from the kid's weekend here with Bill, but I'm thankful for the fullness of life and all the relationships that help us sort out the really important things--the ups and downs of life.

P.S. Happy Birthday Michele!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Profusion of Ideas for Positive Practice

A Profusion of Ideas for Positive and Productive Practice
Houston Suzuki Piano Institute Parent Lecture
March 2012

Reflect First

Take Care of Yourself-eat, sleep, breath, etc. 

Take Care of Your Child--ditto for the child

Demand Respect and Courtesy: It’s okay to say that’s not okay

Problem?  Talk to Your Teacher, PLEASE!  Email is often the best tool

Time of Day

Remember to Keep the Practice Short—you can always come back later

Flashcards  (try mine. . . only $5.00)

Board Game: child can create it

Puppets: can be super lovey dovey . . . or perhaps grouchy

Charts and Stickers: child can create it

Post It Notes: tasks and musical details--stick them all over the piano and child picks one

Happy Hearts Game: draw a heart with a smiley face and put tallies for each “OK, Mom”

Role Reversal

Special Guest Star --invite a special pet or toy to the practice

Practice for Dad (or the other parent)

Hire a Musical Teen Ager once a week for a practice session

Dice and Counting Toys

Stage a Pretend Recital and Invite all the Dolls and Stuffies

Video Tape the Practice Session (we are all more cheerful on camera)

Call Grandma/Neighbor and Play New Piece Over the Phone

Color a Part of a Picture After Each Task

Free Day—child is in completely in charge

Set a Small Goal

Use a Timer (iphone timers are especially lucrative) 

Make an Audio Recording and Listen to It

New Incentive System: child can create

Practice Everyday for a Month

Four Negative Cards-Edmond Sprunger’s Game--you can only make four comments

Start a Special or Easier Song—ask teacher

Write compliments to your child in the music

Have a No Talking Practice

Make Up Words to All the Songs

Snippet Day: just pick little details and repeat them in sets of four 

Origami-one fold per task

Before Bed is Not Always Bad: “you can’t go to bed until we finish this practice. . . “

Playing Cards—many different games—for example: give one card for every correct accidental

Tickle Time/Hug Break

Keep it Easy: too hard = resistance