Category Archives: Words Words Words

Fall Concert Announcement

Hey, it’s going to snow and be miserable. Distract yourself with lovely music!

The Lakeshore Chamber Orchestra’s 2017 fall concert will be presented at 7:30 PM Saturday 25 November, at our home base of Valois United Church (70 Belmont Ave. Pointe-Claire, between King and Queen). The theme of this concert is the 3Bs: Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.

Beethoven: ‘Prometheus’ overture
Beethoven: ‘Coriolan’ overture
JS Bach: Piano Concerto in D major, with soloist
Brahms: Serenade no. 1

Our young keyboard soloist is the winner of a local competition, as usual. He’s brilliant. And I’m not going to tell you what kind of keyboard he’ll be playing, because the surprise will be fun.

Admission is $10, free for children 18 and under. The concerts usually last around two hours, including the refreshment break. The address and map are on the church website. Children of all ages are very welcome.

I hope we’ll see you there!

Owlet Update

It’s been a while since the kids got posts of their own!

Owlet has discovered showers. For years she has been petrified of them, refusing to hear us when we explain it’s like warm rain. She has stubbornly stuck with her cold baths. (Yes, cold. We call her our little polar bear.) Well, she came home on Monday and told us that a grade six boy explained how much fun showers were. They were like rain! (There was some internal eyerolling on the part of the parental units.) She said she felt comfortable enough to try it. So I set it up, nice and cool, and angled the spray straight down so she had plenty of room to move toward and away from the water, so she could control her interaction with it. She started by putting a toe in and pulling it out, then the other foot, then hands, and twenty minutes later she was dancing in and out, sitting down and tilting her head back under the cascade, giggling. Tuesday she asked to have another one, then Wednesday, and again on Thursday. She sings away in them, and even asked for warmer water. So we have another shower convert.

Owlet has also started piano lessons, and is adoring them. There has been resistance and not listening and refusal to follow instructions at school lately, so it’s quite a relief to have her piano teacher come out with her after a lesson and say how very well it had gone. I think part of it comes from Owlet having done her Intro to Music class last fall and being somewhat familiar with the scale, which was reinforced by her very rudimentary piano intro at junior camp this summer. She raced through four pages of review at her first lesson, and started off with one piece to work on the first week, and was assigned two more the next. That first week she raced up the stairs to practice after school while I prepped her snack. It’s nice.

As I mentioned, there is resistance happening at school, which is frustrating both for her teacher and on a parental level. Her transition from kindergarten in one school to grade one in another school has not gone well, and I frequently hear her complain that she wants to go back to kindergarten, or even daycare. It’s hard to grow up, but everyone has to do it. In the meantime, she has been adopted by a group of sixth graders who think she’s the most adorable thing and let her direct their play at recess and lunch. They call out her name and greet her with happy hugs at the gate in the morning and meet her at her classroom door at the end of the day to take her out to the schoolyard. They make her flower chains and generally spoil the heck out of her. So basically, Owlet has minions almost twice her age. And one of Sparky’s best friends who is a year behind himis her substitute big brother at school who has told her that if she needs anything to come to him, so all told, her school life is fine except for that whole focusing and working part. She is reading French sentences with sight words and vocabulary words in them, and doing all right; I just wish she had more confidence in herself in class and less of a tendency to try to push aside anything that requires focus.

And the last bit of big news: Owlet is no longer afraid of pools! She usually cried whenever she was at a pool because she wanted to get in and swim, but was terrified and froze up on the steps. Labour Day weekend at a party she finally stepped onto the floor of the pool, bounced around a bit, then grabbed a pool noodle and started kicking on her own. She was in for a solid ninety minutes. Hurray! I sat and watched her, but didn’t go in. I let her control it all herself. What would I do if she went under, I was asked? Kick off my nice grey suede shoes and jump in fully clothed, I said. But I didn’t have to.

And that is the Owlet update. There’s a Sparky one overdue as well, which I’ll get to asap. Spoiler: He is loving high school and the transition has gone incredibly well.

Adjusting

Sparky’s beginner watercraft course is from 10 to 12 every weekday in Lachine. This means I don’t have time to come home again after dropping him
off. Well, I could, I suppose, but then I’d have to turn around and drive back. (Why Lachine when we live on the South Shore? Because they were the cheapest and have a terrific reputation.)

Yesterday I tried to set up in a cafe with my laptop to work. I had great hopes for this. People seem to have excellent success with this sort of thing, and it was my fervent hope that I could get work done while I had to be out there.

Reader, it did not go well.

I’d forgotten that standard chairs are all wrong for me. They’re terrible for my back, and cafe tables are all the wrong heights for typing. My energy was taken up feeling that my feet weren’t flat on the ground like they’re supposed to be for stability, my lower back was tipped backward and stressed the exact way every osteopath has told me *not* to do, the table was too high, my wrists were super awkwardly angled over the uncomfortably high keyboard. More energy was used trying to ignore the music being piped in despite having earphones and my own music, the unfamiliar food smells, the *people* all around… it was kind of nightmarish. I was very glad Sparky had an amazing morning. But if I kept doing this, I would accomplish nada this week because I would be coming home exhausted. I got next to nothing done in the cafe, and was so drained when I got home that I couldn’t work then either, let alone after picking Owlet up from camp. It was, in short, a disaster, and not sustainable.

I decided that today would be different. Last night I pulled out and prepped some SweetGeorgia BFL (Songbird! I’m planning a two-ply: one ply spun end to end, the other ply a four-repeat fractal!) and packed my spinning box. I would bring my small spinning wheel and sit by the water, spinning and listening to an audiobook.

My view across to the canoe club.

Finn! One of my comfort fibres to spin.

And that is exactly what I did. Apart from a tiny bit of social anxiety about spinning in public and possibly having to field people, it was lovely. I sat on a park bench that was the perfect height, right by the water next to an oak tree that gave me dappled shade. There was a perfect breeze. I listened to Pride & Prejudice. I finished the Finn I was spinning to make up the missing yardage for a cardigan (it’s only two or three years after I spun all the rest of the yarn; maybe I’ll even knit the sweater someday) then started the Songbird after sampling to see what whorl and drive and braking methods I wanted to use. I have come home relaxed, and psyched to attack the project I’m working on that’s due by the end of the week.

It’s such a major shift from yesterday that I’m really excited about this plan, and I intend to do this every day that it’s nice enough to be outside. Adjusting my expectations of when to sink energy into working for the maximum output has made an enormous difference.

I had forgotten how much I love the sound of water against jetties, buoys, and the sides of boats, and the smell of the lake, too. Part of me is already hoping Sparky will do this again next year.

Lammas Report

We are halfway through summer!

1. The Tour de Fleece happened. I co-captained the Clan Kromski team again, and while I feel I was not as engaged as in previous years thanks to work and kids, I got some nice spinning done.

TdF 2017 yarns!

2. HRH came home from basic training, and everyone was very happy. He did excellently, of course. Now he’s full-time at the unit for three weeks to finish up the last block of training, and if that goes well, he’ll graduate to being an official qualified naval reservist. Next up will be his ship training, which will probably be next summer, although there’s plenty of theory and study to be done along the way.

Dad’s home!

3. The kids have completed two two-week sessions of day camp. Sparky did guitar for the first session, including a lovely improv with the teacher at the open house, and violin for the second session, with a lovely solo performance with that teacher as well. Owlet is loving it, hugging every counsellor she passes there while protesting at home that she hates camp. Uh-huh.

4. Owlet is back at day camp for one extra week, while Sparky has started a two-week session of mornings doing an Intro to Canoe & Kayak course at the Lachine Canoe Club. He kayaked for the first time at the grade six sleepaway camp long weekend he did in mid-June, and raved about it, asking if there was some way he could do it again. He is wildly loving it. He’s never expressed interest in any sport before; he may have found his thing.

5. I was asked back for Part 2/the expansion of the scriptwriting project I handled this past spring. That was terribly nice. Although the can-you-do-this-by-the-end-of-the-week deadline wasn’t as enjoyable. I hit it, though, because I am awesome. And then had to rush to handle the stuff that had to be displaced on the schedule because of it. Sigh. My other ongoing contract carries on apace as well.

6. I now have green hair. Part of it is green, anyway. I did it for my birthday, and I love it.

Green!

La!

Halfway

HRH left for his three-week basic training course on 1 July, a week and a half ago. How are we doing?

1. I unstuck the basement windows, scraped down the paint and caulking clogging them, and waxed the moving parts so I can open and close them with no trouble.

2. Owlet has started to learn to read, thanks to the magical tutoring of Megan.

3. I took Sparky to Montreal ComicCon, and we had a lot of fun.

4. I’m about to replace our doorbell… once I have support from someone who can help me get the cover for the breaker switchboard off to enable me to turn off the circuit the doorbell’s wired to. (It’s too big for me to maneuver on my own without dropping it onto a bunch of expensive electronic equipment.) (Related: Who keeps smashing and breaking our doorbell?)

5. The cats are waking me up five to ten minutes earlier every morning for what is supposed to be their 5:00 breakfast. I am not amused. This morning it was 4:10; I refused to get up till 5:00. They were unimpressed.

6. It is perhaps not such a coincidence that I accidentally had a two-hour nap yesterday after I brought the kids home from camp. Or that I slept through my alarm this morning.

7. The Canada Day concert went brilliantly.

8. I am washing dishes a heck of a lot.

9. I can use the new vacuum I bought last spring when we thought HRH was going away for basic last summer! It is not a ridiculously heavy monster!

10. I am a few inches too short to use the reel mower properly; I just don’t have the right angle to push it effectively. I hacked at half the backyard despite this, then Jason kindly finished it. (And redid the half I massacred.)

11. The second week of day camp is about to wrap up. I have to figure out a way to see both kids do their guitar/piano things at the same time in different rooms on open house day. My current plan is to hand my mother-in-law an iPhone and teach her how to video one of them.

12. I am into the second season of Brooklyn Nine Nine, which I am watching while I spin at night after the kids are in bed.

That’s about it for now. So far, so good. Another week and a half to go!

Sparky’s Cello


When we last left Sparky on his resumed cello journey in January after two and a half years of hiatus, he had just started playing on a borrowed cello that needed work. One thing led to another, and we didn’t get it into the shop till a couple of weeks ago.

Readers, it’s dead. The strings buzzing on the fingerboard had gotten worse, to the point where he couldn’t play anything with the first finger in first position on any string. We thought raising the nut would solve it, which is a pretty straightforward and relatively inexpensive fix. He was doing a fantastic job playing through the sour notes, but as we all know, a bad tool creates obstacles that require energy to work around that could be better invested. The luthier took a quick look at it and said there wasn’t much she could do. The neck was warped backward, and to bring the fingerboard down to playable level plus add the necessary scoop would thin it out to a point where it would be thinner than a violin fingerboard. It would be very delicate. On top of that, without the stabilizing strength of a proper fingerboard of the usual cello thickness, the neck could very easily start to warp the other way. In essence, she said she could do the repairs… it just wouldn’t be worth the money.

Sparky began trembling and tears started slipping down his face. He had somehow bonded with this thing, which was somewhat disturbing because it was borderline abusive to him. (Passive abusive, but whatever.) I think part of him worried that this was it, he’d have no cello and would have to stop after he’d made the decision to start again and really apply himself. When I thought about it later, I wondered if he had embraced the imperfections because they would limit him by necessity; he wouldn’t have to worry so hard about doing everything correctly because there would always be this imperfection inherent in the instrument that made him feel safer somehow, and less stressed. Or maybe he felt a kinship with the imperfection. I don’t know.

Anyway, he randomly teared up about it now and then about it over the next few days; no amount of reassurance seemed to get through to him. I pinged a Kijiji listing for a 3/4 cello in the city, made an appointment, and we went to see it this past Saturday after our lesson. The guy selling it was studying music at university; he had a zillion guitar cases in his room, and this little cello that had been his as a teenager. It looks like it has been in the wars; it was secondhand when he got it, and it has all the bangs and nicks a school instrument would have. It has a crack or two, one repaired and one in limbo, but nothing horrendous from what I could tell. The neck was straight (ha, I checked, trust me). It didn’t come with a bow, but I have a fiberglass 3/4 bow left over from my first cello he can use until we get a new one. And coincidentally, this one seems about the same age, with the same clunky style of endpin mine had and a really old similar canvas case (sized for a 4/4 and way too big).

We came home with it. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s easy to play even in the high positions, and it makes all the sounds it’s supposed to make, which is definitely an improvement. I paid under what he had listed it for and still probably too much for it, but Sparky was starry-eyed, and the university kid was just terrific; and if he was studying music probably needed the money. I ordered a new set of strings (I think the set on it are cheap originals, yikes; they’re pretty dead) and a proper sized case. Sparky spent the first five minutes of his next practice session just blissfully playing the notes the last cello had choked. When I asked him what he was going to call this one, he said Oak. And he retroactively named the other one Buzz, which made me laugh.

Other than the limitations of the cello, he’s been doing great work. He’s progressing quickly through the pieces in the book, which I know is doing a lot for his self-confidence. At the rate he’s going, he’ll start the second book in the fall when lessons resume. He has chosen his recital piece (Rigadoon!), he works diligently on the hard bits of his part for the group pieces, and after I help him tune and review the homework notes I took during his lesson, I walk away and he directs his own practice. I’m proud of him. Hopefully with this new-to-him instrument, things will go even better.