Monday, December 23, 2013

Grown-up Christmas List

Oh yes, the perfect family portrait. What you don't see is the back story of not being able to find Charlie ANYWHERE, finding him in the front closet and being late for dinner and the blood dripping from my hand where he bit me and you can't see how hard I'm holding him by the scruff of the neck to keep him from completely scratching the daylights out of me. . . and you can't hear us nagging at the kids to keep their hands to themselves and just sit there nice. . . could they just sit there for five minutes? Is that such a cruel burden?  Call child protective services, we made them sit for a photo. Next year I'm getting a photographer. We actually had the perfect shot early in the session but Bill cut himself off. Flopsy, ironically, was the calmest subject.

There was a little joke-ful dialog on Facebook about my Christmas spreadsheet. Yes, I have a Christmas spreadsheet and it goes back at least twelve years and has all the gifts and food and all the holiday hoopla. I can tell you what we got for my brother-in-law in 2006 and which year the toffee turned out the best and what temp we boiled it to. With full disclosure that it is my habit to overdo the season. . . we have a playmobil nation and legos to the moon and back. . . I still enjoy my list and felt slightly injured that the true meaning of my list could be misunderstood. Is it a materialistic OCD data base? Or a family history.

There are people on my list, and I keep their little boxes and columns sacred, who are no longer at the table with us. I thought about those people and started to think about their gifts this year. Thursday was the anniversary of my grandma Hope's death three years ago. An enormous eagle flew--wings outstretched--a full circle around my yard and showed his full and fierce grace ten feet from my kitchen window.  He was so close that you could have touched him, and then he was gone. I'm not sure if that was my gift to Hope, or perhaps her gift to me--Merry Christmas Mama.

Sunday morning I woke early and headed to church alone to accompany the choir. No one from my family came to watch, Bill and my mom were home getting the kids ready for their own song at the next service. Sometimes the simplest anthem cuts through the static.  Mary, Mary, whacha gonna name that baby?  Whatcha gonna call that holy child. . . Every phrase was clear and shaped and the simple piano counter melody haunted me. I was pleased.  My dad would have been pleased with me. Driving home with the light snow falling it came to me that it was his favorite and I suspect it was this exact simple arrangement that the Park View Lutheran Church sang, with my sister taking the solo, 35 years ago, Daddy gently quieting the accompanist and the tenors at the candlelight service while I drifted away on my mom's lap. So, that simple accompaniment is my gift to my dad. Merry Christmas Daddy.

The grown-up Christmas list isn't just a mail-order record. It's a Christmas journal. Yes, Santa brings a few too many playmobil fairies, but it won't be long until toy-land is over and the toys are passed on to charity and all we have are photographs and memories. The gift of our time together is the one that will last. I feel blessed to have so many memories of Christmas past--sleigh rides with my dad and snowy walks to the grocery with my grandma. My Christmas journal is a crazy attempt, admittedly Microsoft and OCD, to chronical every last moment of these sacred times.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Music, Hope, God and War

I have this woman's book on my wish list--hopefully my hubby is after that. . .
This short video says everything--about music and faith and hope. I'm so moved I just want to share it with everybody.

Link to interview with Alice Herz, Holocaust survivor.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wisdom and Beauty

Our church is posting a daily devotional on youtube.  Yesterday was our organist rehearsing Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, which I'm almost certain is a set up as I doubt she needs much practice on that. Everybody is familiar with it, but even though it played at my own wedding, I never knew the words. It really made me stop and reflect. I love these words. I wonder what the truth unknown is?  I wonder what the joys are? Well, it's a busy day and for this moment the peaceful music ringing is enough.  I hope you enjoy the words and check out the link.  Link to Easter's organ practice devotion

Jesu, joy of man's desiring
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.

Theirs is beauty's fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom's holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I Hate to Brag. . . but. . .

The Torch has Been Passed

The New Students Pass the Baking Audition.  That is a joke. . . 

Each Link of the Chain is a Perfect Repetition--All the Children's Work Shows
I've seen so much good music in the last weeks, I'm just overflowing with admiration for all these young people.  I know it's not the Lutheran way to brag, but if we don't give these kids some credit someone else will!  Studios, churches and schools all over town are brimming with great performances this season--but I'm partial to the ones in my circle!  Here is a short list of the great things I've seen and heard about!

Sami accompanied a small group vocal ensemble at the Eagan High Encore show! Bravo, Sami, you looked lovely and played beautifully and I was super proud of you! I know it feels weird to be on the jumbo-tron but you never flinched!

Mary sang in the Da Capo concert at Deerwood Elementary!  Congrats again to Lisa Schoen and Roxane Sipe! I know the miracle it takes to get 100 children focused and singing so beautiful and in harmony with expression!  Thanks also to Principal Haugen for joining in as guest soloist.  I hope you know the message you are sending to these kids!  Music is for everyone and incidentally it's also really cool.

Aidan got to play drum set at the Luther College Christmas music festival--with the top jazz ensemble there. . . as a freshman I might add.  Congrats Aidan!

Annika, Calvin, and Mary and Amelia entertained the Lutheran ladies at the Christmas Tea--beautiful singing and playing!  Calvin has already made over $250 for Feed My Starving Children with the sales of his Christmas CD "Christmas Magic." Calvin and Annika will be performing at the Christmas Eve service at the Lake.

Solomon has also been invited to sing a solo at his church on Christmas Eve.  No more hiding your voice from me at group lessons, Solomon. . .

Cassy is learning the ropes as a piano major/Gator girl down in Florida. Congrats on your first semester!

Calvin performed his Book Six graduation program for an audience of over thirty.  Thank you to the friends, colleagues, teachers and relatives who came out to support him.  I'm the mother. . . but I loved it.  I was so proud.  He was really comfortable and musical on the entire 56 minute program. . . which I might add was longer and more difficult than my junior college recital. Yeah. Congrats Calvin.

Twenty-two kids from the studio played here on Saturday for a record audience of 64. I just have to say that every child did such a lovely job. It's really the highlight of my whole year. Everyone plays a classical piece and a Christmas or other piece of their choice. The four new four-year-olds were just about too cute to listen to and they were a good audience too. Was I surprised that Cassy, Grace, and Aidan came back from college to crash the party? With cookies this good who can stay away. It was good to see them.

It isn't our goal to raise professional musicians.  It is our goal to raise kids who love music and play at a very high level.  This is one of the reasons I have a Christmas recital--to give kids a chance to pick non-classical music that they love.  I wonder if, in twenty years, Mary will be taking out Clementi Op. 36, No. 1 or Do You Hear What I Hear?  I think I can guess. Here is a link to her first song with pedal. Disclaimer: this may only interest you if you are the grandparent, aunt or God-mother of the girl: Link

I invited Stefanie to come back and sing with Kathryn, her sister who is a senior, and Mary. Annika was going to sing too but was at the funeral of a family friend.  I like to put something different at the end of a recital sometimes--like some vocal music. Very few of us will go forth as concert pianists, but many will have the opportunity to accompany or sing in community and church ensembles. This gives us a taste of that and plus I just really like it.  Here is a link to Night of Silence: Link 

And. . . Blackhawk Middle School Jazz Ensemble. . . who played. . . you guessed it. . . at the Mall of America over lunchtime 10 days before Christmas.  I sold my soul to gain a parking spot and actually enjoyed the three-quarters of a mile jog around the cloverleaf shaped metropolis arriving just in time to see the number that Calvin played drum set on. Note exaggeration and meager attempt to hide sarcasm. I pouted a little at first, but once I got there it was really cool to see the kids to play between the giant three story Christmas trees (note that they are still called Christmas Trees here in Minnesota).  These are the moments we prove our love to our children.

I'm sure I have forgotten some kudos--the Easter Lutheran Choir and Handbells Ensemble--wow! I feel totally blessed to get to play with the choir and the orchestra in those performances.  It was very special.

There was a devotion about letting our lives be a mirror of Christ's light.  These kids and choirs and teachers are shining like the Christmas star.  Congrats to everyone and I'll say it again, Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Santa's Little Helpers

I hope this finds you all on your own personal holiday train ride.  Our train has definitely left the station.  Best wishes on all your activities and may you arrive at the station in good spirits.  I'm feeling so much love for my family, and friends and students! Yes, I swore yesterday when I cut my foot on a stray playmobil washing machine in a Burgermeister Meisterburger moment.  But, for the most part in spite of a few stress injuries--like poking under my thumbnail with a fork while unloading the dishwasher and burning the piano pad of my pinky on a cookie sheet. . . we are doing good!  I'm looking forward to the tea tonight and the recital and choral services this weekend.  After that?  I'll be curling up in a basket like my cats.  Hope to see you soon, in person or in a Christmas card. . . which I haven't even thought about yet. . . . . and while the sentiment might not be arriving in your mail box. . . it is in my heart.  Merry Christmas!  

Minnesota Sub-zero Sundog

Mama, I want that basket. 

Alpha Cat Wins the Battle of the Basket

Monday, December 2, 2013

Joy Starts With a Moment of Solitude

If I had an hour, I would go back and read my 2011, and 2012 advent blog entries. But this is the only hour I have.

I already know the advent patterns. The pendulum of peace and panic. The joys and frustrations. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the materialistic got all my priorities wrong time of year. It's the quiet family moments reading Christmas books around the tree.  It's nagging the kids about one more mess. It's three pageants in a row how the heck are we gonna get lunch before The Christmas Carol?  It's the late night early morning sleep deprived fog. It's the midnight Christmas Eve service with just me and Bill, kids home asleep, everything is done and I'm finally thinking about Jesus. Christmas present.

Maybe that's a little too late.

I found a little painted stone my cousin Robin sent us last year. It was in the junk drawer and as I was rummaging around, looking for a bandaid because I cut the Dickens out of my thumb serving the pumpkin pie, I spied it.

It is one of those you put in your pocket and it's painted white with red letters and green holly. It says JOY.

After this year we only have five "normal" Christmases with Calvin home.  We don't know what Christmas future will bring. Maybe it's time to stop sweating the small stuff.


Could all the words that come out of my mouth in the next three weeks be filled with JOY?  All my secret attitudes? JOY. The JOY that I do truly feel, on account of the liaison between us and God in the birth of a little baby who can't possibly be symbolized or contained in a little playmobil manger, or just the right decorations.  Who--I might add--really doesn't give a hoot if the cookies are a little brown around the edges or if Mary snags her tights before the program.

If we really could hear those angels singing --the multitude--praising God in the form of that little baby--would the small stuff matter?  Would the table manners matter? The faint odor of cat litter? The missing bow out on the front greenery?

The lesson from the ghost of Christmas past? It always gets done. Everything that matters gets done. So, why not attempt it with the complete JOY that I do truly feel toward it. I love every single thing that has to do with Christmas. It's completely true. I love every moment. When I'm there.

JOY. I've taken my moment. I'm here, writing this. I'm all alone for the first time in a week. Maybe two weeks. I needed that--to kindle the spark. To secure my own oxygen mask. Breath in the JOY. Breath out everything else.  

I'm heading down to the basement for the first box of decorations. I only have an hour before I shower and pick up the kids. Only two weeks before the Christmas recital here and the Choral Service. Three weeks till Christmas. It's enough. For this moment. One moment at a time. One joyful breath at a time.

To my whole circle of friends and family and teachers and students--I wish you JOY!  We're all busy and each of us has our own--but with every advent breath I'm trying for this. JOY is my mantra these next weeks of Christmastime.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Celebrate Me Home

It was the last weekend home with nothing to do before the holidays.
On my fourth trip taxiing folks back and forth to church--since you asked--once for myself and choir, once for Calvin and youth band and cherub accompanying, once for Bill and Mary for actual church and then to pick up the kids after choir after church--thank goodness we live 3 minutes and 47 seconds from church, unless you miss the left-hand traffic signal, which then adds 1:30, enough time actually to put on some lipgloss if necessary. I digress. On the fourth trip, I heard Kenny Loggins' Celebrate Me Home on the radio.

I love this song. It took me right back to driving home from Texas for Thanksgiving. I could leave after my gig at 2:00 a.m. and drive straight through, napping in Dallas, and make it home in time to sleep in my own bed. In those days I could drink a six pack of Mountain Dew and not be awake for the next week. I would listen to that recording of Celebrate Me Home over and over again for the last three hours in the car--basically from the Iowa border to Tipton. Singing in full voice helped keep me alert.

Play me one more song,
that I'll always remember
and I can recall whenever I. . .
find myself too all alone
I can sing me home. . .

This weekend was a different kind of celebrate me home. It was just a weekend at home. We are now a ONE unit of storage family, instead of TWO. That feels good. I had lunch with a friend, Bill and I had a great dinner out together and I got to bake with another friend while the kids played fort--dragging every music stand and blanket out.

I miss my sister. I wish we could be together at Thanksgiving and a longer Christmas. I don't really wish she and I were making the drive home to Iowa from Texas together. . . some things are better left as a memory. A road trip with cats and dogs in subzero temps is never really a great idea.

I had to have the talk with Calvin again about singing harmony on the unison liturgy at church.
Last night I had another kidney attack. However, I followed my instincts and it didn't escalate.  I'll bring my data to the doctor on Friday. My brand new washing machine is leaking water this morning. Suburban problems.

But, I'm singing a happy song. I'm happy to be home and not in the ER. I'm happy to be home and checking things off for Calvin's recital and Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to my mother coming to visit. I'm looking forward to holiday traditions with Bill's folks.

I'm celebrating me home.

Extended Live "Celebrate Me Home" Link

Monday, November 11, 2013

Comfort Ye

A weekend at home. Oh, the preseason calm. A fire in the the fireplace, meatloaf in the oven. Cue the Handel's Messiah.  Acceptable pre-advent music.

These photos are of my number one Christmas lighting assistant. Years ago, I gave up on Bill helping me with the outdoor Christmas lights. As newlyweds I dreamed of my dude on a ladder tweaking the icicles with little finishing nails. The little evergreens would be decked and he would flip the switch with a countdown.

Instead I got frozen fingers standing outside for hours and a stream of profanity that even the richest hot cocoa would not melt. Darkness shall cover the earth.

I learned that to preserve the season's spirit I would need to take over the Christmas lights. By myself.

It's not that Bill is sitting around watching football. We all have different gifts.

Fast forward twelve years and I have the world's best helper. Armed with a $10 fix it tool, there is nothing this kid can't do. We put the lights up laughing all the way. It's just like I always dreamed. And when half the string goes out just after you get the dang thing hung--he fixes it--just like that. Tidings of comfort and joy! Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.

Thanks to Calvin, the lights are done. Except maybe one more tree we will add. . . every valley shall be exalted. We had a great day. The People Who Walked in Darkness have around 4000 lights.

Why on November 9th? Because it was fifty degrees and we had the time. See blog entry titiled "All Aboard the Christmas Train." I've been blogging for awhile now and I see the patterns. See also "Skipping the Meltdown." I have had a couple memorable entries. The pre-holiday excitement which turns to panic and the light which turns to darkness. The For Until Us A Child is Born turns to I'll Have a Blue Christmas. It's coming and there is no turning back. It's all good--the recitals, the pageants, the Christmas tea, the choral services, the wrapping, the travel. . . time is a crazy thing--to the kids it seems like forever counting down to Christmas but I started breathing heavy about October 15. That's when I bought the kid's Christmas outfits. Yeah. I did.

Oh Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion. . . behold, this year will probably be the same. But maybe not. . . every year I get marginally wiser.  Like the refiner's fire. . . the eyes of the blind shall be opened. His yoke is easy.

Part One of the season?  Calvin's Book Six Graduation Recital. Sunday November 24, at 3:00 at our house. Everyone is invited. He's playing K. 545 and K. 330, Bach, Scarlatti, a Chopin group and Dr. Gradus and Gollywog's Cakewalk. It's a big program. I'm super proud of him. He's really taking ownership of his musicality, I couldn't be happier for him. He's gonna end with Linus and Lucy from the Charlie Brown Christmas.  We will have brie and carrot cake and lingonberry punch. We shall feed the flock. . .

Rejoice Greatly.  It's going to be a lovely season.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Safe and Sound

He is home. Gar came home.
At 6:30 . . . an hour before the snow fell. . . he meowed at the front door.  
It's actually day nine of his adventure. 
We will never know where he was or what happened to him. 
He's skinny and dehydrated and his nose, paws, and ears are red.  

At 5:30 my sweet student said, "I really hope your cat comes back.  I think if he comes back everything will be better."  

Yesterday the washing machine had a global nuclear meltdown and I had to stand by with the fire extinguisher. This morning the roofers came back to make us feel petty about the thirteen million things that went wrong with the roofing job. About noon today, I had had enough. I was putting events on the calendar and realized I scheduled my studio Christmas recital DURING the advent choral service, which I help accompany. Primal scream. 

Sometimes you can't help but feel like your beautiful blessed life is just plain under attack.  What now????

I stood in front of the mirror and prayed out loud. I reminded myself that this house is a house of love, built to be a blessing to all and shelter us from the world, not to frustrate and exasperate us. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ--not kidney hoopla, not missing cats, not broken washing machines and wrecked decks and windows. . . not scheduling malfunctions. . . 

Nothing can really attack us. I believe that angels are standing by--when we just remember to call them. 

It's not that we always get our way. . .but this time Gar walked up to the front door and I can't help but believe the attack is over. I think everything will be better now. 
Welcome home Garfield.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lost Cat in Eagan, Minnesota

Garfield is still missing.  I'm hoping the blog title will come up on any google searches.
I posted a bunch of info on Craig's list and Facebook and I've called everyone in the county. . .

Once you have kids the whole lost pet thing stays in pretty good perspective, but I'm still blue this morning. He's been gone a week. Rosie stands at the corner of the screen porch with her nose up and cries. She doesn't know what to do with herself without him.

My pre-advent musical choice "Sheep May Safely Graze" is not really helping--the boys choir with Michala Petri on recorder.  It's so pure and clean and unlike to many things around us. But--it is above all beautiful and so is life.

It's supposed to snow this week. I'm actually excited about that. I'm ready to kiss this season goodbye. I'm ready to think about stocking stuffers and pumpkin pie. The firewood is stacked and the flower pots are dumped.

So Gar. . . where ever you are or whatever happened to you--we miss you and you were a good boy. I'm thankful for pets and the warmth and love they add to our lives.  
Lost cat Eagan
Lost cat Eagan, MN

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Beautiful Day

It's a Beautiful Day. . .
But there was a serious of unfortunate events. Friday the roofers came. They made the hugest mess, damaged the new glass sliding basement door and ripped out the new screen door.  They spilt oil all over the driveway and sidewalk and we all remember what happened last time the driveway got damaged. . . in case you forgot--we got a Vikings purple driveway.  They banged up every deck, including the brand new deck out back.  It was a complete debacle.  Bill has had two flat tires from nails. It was the last straw of construction hoopla. It was worse than the hail--hail is just nature.  This was just careless doofuses.  Also--they locked in the squirrel. . . yeah.

The roofing noise wigged out the cats, Garfield in particular who escaped outside Monday and hasn't come back. It's thursday, the stats get worse by the day. He was peeing on things, but I didn't want him gone. We were gonna figure that out. Boo hoo.

Monday night I had kidney attack number six. This one led to another hospital visit. The doctor got ultra sound pictures but doesn't really understand whats blocking the left kidney. Ba hum bug. I lost a day and night of my life.

But! I woke up Wednesday feeling 100%.  Nothing like eighteen hours of excruciating pain to make a normal day seem pretty special.

So, a lot of tests have been done, some look completely normal--when I'm fine I'm really fine. Some show fluid backed up in the kidney--causing the kidney stone like pain.  There aren't any stones.  CT scan, nuclear medicine scan, and ultra sound just don't show too much.  I guess "not much" is good.  So we wait and see.

I know who the real healer is, but I'm still getting to be chummy with Dr. B., who will hopefully help me sort things out as we go.

It's all a good reminder that the average normal day is really a miracle.  I couldn't have been happier to sit with Calvin at the piano at 6:00 a.m. Wednesday morning with a full night's peaceful sleep.

I heard this song at yoga this morning, I have to share it!  And I'm giving the people I love a big squeeze--sometimes it's enough to just have a beautiful day.

Link: Joshua Radin "Beautiful Day"

Friday, October 25, 2013

Channeling Your Inner Four-Year-Old


The Five-Years-Old-Happy-Farmer

Yeah!  I'm three and I get to play for G'G'Hope

My Best Bow. . . 
So the honeymoon is over with the new little kids and the work is in front of us.

I'm channeling my inner four-year-old.  And remembering the ups and downs of early childhood music practice.

Every child can.

But not every child is the same.

Compliant children are easy to teach. Thank you parents for that diligence.  You make my job easy.

But, perhaps the truest test of our teaching is not how well the compliant intuitive child plays, but how well the recalcitrant (favorite word of my dad's) student eventually performs.

My husband has a favorite phrase after certain recitals, "you know not the miracle which you have observed."

We never know what's going on with any certain child that performs.  We don't know if she is dyslexic, has autism, ADD or another learning struggle.  We don't know if he is particularly spirited or just yanking mom's chain. We don't know who struggles with performance anxiety. All we see is the result.

And none of us has the same kid.
And we are each the perfect parent for our child.
I believe that.

So--I'm gonna reread Constance Starr's To Learn with Love, Mary Sheedy Kurcinca's Raising Your Spirited Child, and her Kid's Parents and Power Struggles.  Also my favorite, 1-2-3 Magic, Effective Discipline for Your Child by Thomas Phelan.  That book changed my early childhood life--helping me to not get sucked into the drama of it all. . . and there was some drama.

I believe every child can. I believe that starting early is the best way to learn piano.
But I forgot how exhausting it can be.

Parents: take care of yourselves. The journey goes so fast. Your children will play beautifully, but along the way there are some learning curves. I wouldn't have missed a day.  Well. . . maybe just a couple certain days. . . just being honest. I wasted a little time not seeking enough compliance. But-the flip side is my kids love piano. I don't have all the answers, just a few. We will make some mistakes along the way. The good news is the kids will forget most of them.

Your child will not remember a time when she didn't play the piano. You will remember the stickers and the games and the first recitals. You will forget the wiggles and the naughty moments.

I promise. Trust me. Trust yourself. Trust your child.
For the love of the child. . . for the love of music.
In that order.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Losing Some Battles, Winning the War

Let there be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin With Me.

Goals: Vibrant faith. . . loving marriage. . . caring parent. . . compassionate friend and daughter. . . musical mentor teacher. . . responsible steward of God's gifts.

Distractions: Hammering. . . lingering hail damage. . . wood-peckers on the house. . . squirrels in the ceiling. . . cats using urine warfare. . . kidney stones. . . STUFF.

I'm on day three of complete solitude in my own house. The kids and Bill went to Arizona without me. This kind of space brings unique emotions to the surface.

I've been cleaning and sorting closets and Mary's room. We can't start bringing stuff back from storage and moving into the basement until the home-front is stable. The front line needs to be secure.

I'm tired of pretending to myself that I don't need order for my best mental health. I do. That's it. I just really do. I know not everybody does. But I do. All I want right now is order.

Secondly, I'm tired of denying that it's not in my value system to have more stuff than I need. Ditto in triplicate for the kids. Yesterday I took half a closet full of coats, boots, and winter stuff to Coats For Kids. Friday morning the Lupus foundation picked up a porch full of bags and boxes. Lord, forgive me, for I have committed the sin of stealth purging. CIA style. All's fair in love and war. I'm winning this one. I may face court martial later.

If you've given me or my kids something over the years and you don't see it around anymore--do not take it personally. Some other child is reaping the benefits of your generosity. Maybe even a whole orphanage.

I'm losing the battles to the animals. Woodpeckers. Poor Isabella got a very fragmented lesson on Wednesday. Very hard to pick a "one point" lesson while--dare I say it--that little pecker--was on my cedar siding outside the piano room.  I estimate every hour he pecks is a four digit repair bill. That's distracting. Heavy sigh. Where's is my robotic owl already????  Squirrels. Annika doesn't even flinch anymore when she hears the scratchy noises in the corner ceiling while trying to focus on Bach.

Cats. As I'm sorting photos to make a photo cabinet in the basement, Garfield jumps up unto the half full sterlite box on my lap and pees. Into the photos. This is personal. White flag. He wins. I'll give you whatever you want. There is no negotiating with that kind of nuclear weapon.

On the other front, I'm close to signing a peace treaty with the belongings in my house. For a long time I have used the phrase "I don't think God intends for us to spend so much time taking care of our stuff." I still feel this way, but in church last Sunday I had cathartic revelation. It was stewardship Sunday and the video was talking about how really everything we have already belongs to God and I thought, yeah! Even the messes. All God's. Even the chaos and closet doors that you have to push shut quickly. All God's. Even the made-in-China crap that breeds behind the drawer fronts. All God's. How does that change things? The junk only has control because I let it. I doubt God is losing too much sleep on account of His two Highway 13 storage units full of basement stuff. Neither then should I.

I'm still gonna clean it out as a personal favor to Him.

I'm winning this war. And then I will keep some troops here and there around the house--containment fashion. Maintenance mode.

Peace. Freedom to move beyond the stewardship--which after all was the last goal--not the first.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Ulm

Congrats to Judy Martens and Paula Anderson from the New Ulm Suzuki School of Music for hosting a very nice event for their students. The photos are of three of my four groups. We didn't get a photo of the fourth group. Each student got an individual masterclass and participated in a group class and had another non-musical activity. Carol Waldvogel was the guest teacher for the violins. The building Judy and Paula use for their group lessons is a former middle school--complete with marble and woodwork. A great vibe there for them! They have groups there every week--what a great program--with separate classes for reading.  I've often fantasized about having an apprentice teacher down the hall checking off the sight reading pages. . . neat deal.

The children were lovely--we worked on the usual musical and technical ideas--trying to give them something to take home for  future practicing. Several of the older students are preparing for MMTA contests and we worked on beginning and ending notes. First and last impressions are very important.

I almost fell over when the two younger groups started to sing to the body staff exercises. This is a solfege exercise with motions using the folks songs from Book One. Every single kid was singing in full voice wonderfully in tune. If I would have known it was such a predominantly Lutheran community with this kind of singing kids (not that Presbyterians can't sing. . . ) I would have prepared a four part chorale for us. Wow. These kids should form a choir and tour.

It was Octoberfest in New Ulm and the place was hopping. Music and beer or maybe it's beer and music--not sure the order there--were everywhere on the street and the glockenspiel was playing in the town square. You can still go there and they will sell you a beer from their brewery. . . even if you aren't Lutheran. There might be an up-charge. You might have to sit at a separate table. I didn't drink any beer but they gave me a few different bottles to take home.  I didn't eat a brat-worst either.  You know. . . the whole kidney stone thing lingering. Which by the way. . . I'm on number three. Kidney stones that is. . . not beer and brats.

I can tease about the German Lutheran thing because I'm Czech and Lutheran. The bohemians get a separate table too. Regardless, New Ulm is a really beautiful and special community and they are super lucky to have such a highly committed faculty at their Suzuki School.  I truly enjoyed every minute of getting to know the teachers and the children and their parents. Thank you for the lovely hospitality and I hope the children got some good ideas.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Whoa. . . Nellie

School plus braces plus birthday party plus glasses plus gymnastics plus piano plus guitar plus church choir and school choir equals a "hot puddle" of a girl.  Thank you to my friend Casey for that most excellent descriptor.

Twice this week the girl forgot her glasses for school and I had to drive home and get them.

Am I the only mom who unloads the backpack at 7:42 a.m.?

You can stick a pen behind your ear to sign the planner at the stoplight.

You can study for spelling on the car ride from Blackhawk Middle School to Deerwood Elementary. It's just an extremely short walk, I mean drive. . .

You can learn to play the guitar in thirty minutes a week.  It just takes a very very very long time.

The amount of stuff we are trying to cram into our lives between 3:00 and 8:30 p.m. everyday would kill a small horse.

It takes the girl twenty minutes to eat a piece of toast. You can imagine how long to learn a Clementi Sonatina.

Step one: earlier bedtime. Step two: cancel all extra appointments, including the dentist--the girl's mouth has had enough. Step three: fun colorful getting out of house and after school charts. Step four: consider postponing guitar lessons until she can practice independently (post graduate school?).  Ditto on day two of gymnastics.  

Dr. Suzuki asks us to reflect on ourselves.  It's very rarely the child's problem. Step one for me?  Opt out of four day MEA trip to Arizona with the family. Four days at home alone getting my act together will go a long way.

I'll let you know how it goes. For both of us.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rostropovich Again?

And the seasons, they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down. . .
The carousel of time.  Mary's birthday was last thursday. She turned nine. Things are changing faster than what I'm comfortable with. In the last ten days she got eye glasses and braces on her teeth. Today she begged to wear her brother's sweatshirt to school.

As always. . . we are working through seasonal purging. What have you outgrown? What can we pass on?

I wasn't expecting a stack of carefully cataloged magazines from Calvin's shelf. There go several years of Highlights and Ranger Rick. The same ones we had to drive across the state of Iowa to retrieve after leaving them in the seat pocket of a commuter flight to Cedar Rapids. Now Calvin's library is updating it's catalog to include Mac World and Popular Mechanics. There just isn't enough room for a children's section.

I didn't let him see me cry.
It is after all, me, encouraging the organized room. Keeping the magazines would be a set back and a mixed message.

October is Bach unaccompanied cello suite month. Bill said I was out of line putting the CDs on yesterday--but it was fifty and raining and I was making soup. The birch trees are gold. I'm listening to Rostropovich again.

The new parents are asking for a listening list. Here is a short one. I'm not easily bored. The truth is time flies by and I barely have time internalize the CDs I have on my shelf, let alone seek out new music.

Bach-Andras Schiff, Preludes and Fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier Books 1 & 2, French Suites, Two and Three Part Inventions.
Bach-Daniel Barenboim, Goldberg Variations
Bach-Rostropovich, Cello Suites (highly recommended for October)
Handel-Messiah (you must wait until Advent or pay a small fine to the Christmas music police)

Mozart-Alicia de Larrocha and/or Mitsuku Uchida, Piano Sonatas.
Beethoven-Richard Goode, Piano Sonatas (complete set is worth every penny)
Schubert-Mitsuko Uchica, complete keyboard works (another fine investment)
Mozart-Barry Tuckwell, French Horn Concertos (a respectful nod to my past)

Chopin-Rubenstein, Mazurkas, Preludes, Waltzes. . . well anything you find
Chopin-Dinu Lipatti, Waltzes
Brahms-Radu Lupu, short keyboard works

Debussy-Pascal Roge, complete solo piano works
Poulenc-Pascal Roge, complete solo piano works
Satie-Pascal Roge, complete solo piano works
(now you  know the dirty little secret that I favor french contemporary music. . . )

I also have two favorite compilations:
"The #1 Piano Album" on the Decca label.  This will fill in some gaps due to my personal french biases. This is a double album with about 40 works of all periods played by very fine artists.
The second disk is "Classics for Children" also on the Decca label.  This has "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," Schumann "Scenes from Childhood," "The Carnival of the Animals," and on and on. I especially like the Daquin "Cuckoo" a Suzuki piece, which also happens to be french. . .  but is now our Book 5 graduation selection for Minnesota.

You can fill in the gaps and find your own french impressionistic music by listening to classical radio as well.

Live classical music took an embarrassingly big kick here in Minnesota this week, but it stills remains the most inspirational way to experience music. That is after all our goal--to raise good audiences--kids who grow into adults and love music.

So listen up. . . you can start with my list and move on to find your own Rostropovich in October.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This Too Shall Pass


Someone had to say it. . . my sister said it first.  It's regarding the wee kidney stone that took me down to the Fairview Ridges ER monday night.

For the third time in my life I got a very good look at the carpet of the ER waiting room.  Face down. It has many little speckled colors like blue and grey and an occasional purple, which I attempted to focus on while failing at my yogic breathing.

Everyone was very nice--kudos to all the nurses and doctors who clean up after you and administer pain medication so readily.  I didn't appreciate the side long glances between Bill and the male admin nurse when I failed the admissions test--why would they ask such hard questions like your name, age, height and weight just to get a room there.  Who can spell Kotrba anyway? Also, apparently I'm around 5'6" old. . . don't laugh at me--I have a graduate degree. . .

Kudos to Bill for keeping his own breathing under control this trip.  It was a total deja vu waking up in the night and deciding if it was time to go. . . down the same road.  Except this labor pain was a total surprise.  We don't have a history of this in my family so I really had no idea what was going on--but the nurses and doctors there pegged it immediately.

I'm fine. The good news is when you birth a kidney stone at 5'6" you don't have to come home and nurse it every two and a half hours.  I slept all day yesterday and all night last night.  Morphine is a strange bedfellow.  There was no little piece of floss in the garbage this morning and mysteriously there were three full glasses of milk in the fridge.  Hmmmm?  Thank you Mary Lynn for being my designated driver. . . I did manage to pull off grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup without a house fire.

I'm completely pain free and rested and ready to ease back into the routine.  I cancelled lessons yesterday and this morning.

I guess one thing I realized is that sadly, it takes this kind of thing to stop you in your tracks.  I haven't spent a day in bed sleeping since Mary was born.  The kids practiced by themselves and things pretty much went on okay without me.  In the end it's a good reminder of what is important--the people around us and our health.  Everything else can wait.

However. . I still don't recommend it.  Next time I'll designate a stay in bed day without the prequel.