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.