Category Archives: Words Words Words

Meet Ginny

While Ginny was introduced on other social media, I should really include it here.

Hey world, meet Ginny… who weasled her way into our hearts and became a major foster fail. She’s about a year old and terribly sweet. I’ll be volunteering with the rescue organization in other ways, mostly chauffeuring and transporting stuff when I can.

Ginny, early March 2018

When she arrived in late February, named Bo Peep, she was our first foster cat. Fostering was a new endeavor for us, a form of community service where we chose to support those people who made rescuing, sterilizing, and rehoming cats their mission. HRH was off on a training exercise the day Jessica dropped her off. While we stood and chatted, Jiji spied the tiny cat in the carrier and fled. Owlet tried to carry him over to say hi, and he fled again. Jiji was afraid of the wee foster cat, which wickedly delighted me. After all, one of the reasons we had decided to foster was because Jiji was picking on Minerva and evidently needed distraction, someone to play with.

Bo was delightfully social after a couple of quiet hours in the master bedroom. The kids took turns to creep in and say hi, and she was very friendly with both of them. Everybody was getting snuggles and bumps and flops. And the purrs, oh my, the purrs.

The next evening HRH was home. When he went to bed, the little cat climbed onto his chest and fell asleep there. That was when I was pretty sure this was going to be a foster fail; this cat would never leave the house. It took a total of four days to confirm that yes, this was too good to destabilize. Bo was officially a foster fail. Then the game of trying to come up with a fitting name, taken from literature or a film as we always do, began.

Liam and Ginny, mid-March 2018

Seriously, I have never had a cat who acclimated to a household this quickly, and vice versa. During the first week, after she was introduced to the rest of the house, Jiji and Minerva were seen casually playing with her without looking like they were fully committing to the activity. This was obviously not the way fostering was supposed to go, but it’s how it played out. There are other reasons why we can’t foster again, mainly that the one room we can close off happens to be the master bedroom, where all the household cats come to sleep at night, and it’s unfair to them. But it will be good to be able to help in other ways.

Owlet Discovers Beethoven


Owlet started learning about Beethoven in music class at school just before March break. She ran to meet me at the school gate and this is the conversation we had:

OWLET: Mummy, do you know Beethoven?
ME: Not personally, but I know his music.
OWLET: Why not?
ME: Well, honey, he’s dead.
OWLET: WHAT. He can’t write any more music!?
ME: Trust me, we have LOTS of his music to listen to.

At home she shared the Beethoven’s Wig video with us, which led us to discover Beep Beep Beep and My Little Chicken. (Click on those links at your own risk; they are earworms. Hilarious and brilliantly done, but earworms.)

Her list of facts that she likes to share:
-Beethoven is famous because people like his music.
-His father taught him music.
-He was grumpy because he couldn’t hear his music very well.
-He was very messy.

I showed her the Beethoven Google Doodle game, and found the first track from Beethoven Lives Upstairs online for her to listen to, then we borrowed the whole CD from the library.

So next it was, “Mummy, can we listen to the Beethoven’s Wig music in the car?” Of course, my child. I own three different recordings of Beethoven’s fifth symphony that I know of. And this is a synthesis of the conversations we have about it, because now we listen to it daily with occasional breaks for Hamilton or Moana:

OWLET: Mummy, it started again!
ME: No, this is the repeat. In this kind of music, like I play at orchestra, the first part is usually repeated before playing the next section.
OWLET: Mummy, this part sounds like Beethoven’s Wig, but it’s different. Did Beethoven write this part, too?
ME: Yes, he did. It’s called the development section, which makes variations and new music based on the themes introduced in the first part.
OWLET: Beethoven wrote a lot! (And this is only the first movement of a Beethoven symphony she’s heard.) And he’s very good! I like this part!

Then this morning:

OWLET: Mummy, are there any pictures of Beethoven?
ME: Not photos, because there weren’t any cameras when he was alive, but there are paintings.
OWLET: Can I have one in my room? One of his head? And then another one of him writing his music. In a frame? Like a real painting?

Yes, my child. You may have a framed portrait of Beethoven, your first musical crush.

General Music Roundup, December 2017 Edition

Sparky and I had our cello recital this past Sunday, and that went very well. It was a terrific programme. Sparky played a Bach minuet (which he crushed, a triumph after some rocky patches this fall) and I played a Kreisler Rondino that presented some stupid challenges that shouldn’t have been challenges, except my brain and fingers decided they were brick walls. But we each pulled it off. Our group pieces were lovely, too, and our studio mates all had excellent performances as well.

After an amazing fall concert with the Lakeshore Chamber Orchestra, I’ve had to decide to take the next concert off because of low energy levels, high workload, and insanely circuitous traffic rerouting while the Turcot interchange is being rebuilt. I can’t face a commute over ninety minutes long each way at the end of the day, plus a two-hour rehearsal in between; not in deep winter. This will be the first concert I have planned to miss since I started playing with the orchestra in the fall of 2001. (Dear gods, I have been playing with them for sixteen years. I had no idea till I did the math.) (Planned to miss is critical, here; I didn’t plan to miss the concert three weeks after Sparky was born, I just… had to.) (Third parenthetical interjection: That’s forty-seven orchestral concerts I have played!!! Not including the three I did with the Cantabile orchestra.)

I bought a new bow this fall, a high-end octagonal Brazilwood Knoll through The Sound Post in Toronto, because I could finally afford it (thank you, ridiculously busy freelance life). This bow has been overdue for about seven years; my previous wood bow had a cracked frog due to a toddler-related incident and had started to warp, so I was playing with the heavy German fibreglass bow that came with my new 7/8 in 2009. The Knoll is glorious. I have no idea how I played with the fibreglass for so long. It’s bouncy but strong, flexible but sturdy. I love it. And for something purchased online, with just the help from one of the specialists at the Sound Post… I feel so incredibly fortunate. They were technically out of stock, but he pulled this in from the Ottawa store where they weren’t using it and had it rehaired for me at no extra cost. He offered me the next level of bow at a price midway between this one and that (a very generous offer), but I wanted this specific bow for the faux whalebone wrapping; my fingers have been reacting badly to wire wrapping. So he made it happen.

Owlet began piano this fall, and is zooming along. It’s her thing, and I’m glad we encouraged her to do this instead of violin; the piano avoids frustrating intonation problems as long as you’re hitting the correct key. She’ll do her first recital in the spring, and is looking forward to it. Right now she can play a four-page version of Jingle Bells with relatively decent rhythm, and her teacher is delighted (and somewhat dazed, I think?) at how well she absorbs information and how quickly she’s progressing. It’s not from excess of practice, that’s for sure; we think she just has good musical memory. She’s the first non-Suzuki musician in the house, and as much as I like the Suzuki philosophy I think this teacher and this programme suit Owlet just fine.

On Christmas Concerts and School Music Programmes

Let’s talk about school concerts for a moment.

We joke about how they’re painful (oh, recorders; everyone has to go through that phase) and roll our eyes at the cheesiness, but you know what? They’re important. And I love them.

I just came home from Owlet’s holiday concert. It was smooth and energetic and well-organized; all the kids were focused and committed. It was terrific. They had multiple classes from different levels cooperating on their pieces, and it only lasted an hour as a result.

Those two music teachers, one from each branch of the school, worked ridiculously hard. It’s easy to teach an individual class something during their music block and have the kids perform it. It’s not so easy to coordinate three different classes from two different streams to do that.

These concerts — no, music classes in general — are important because kids learn stuff. Music is math. Music is following instructions. Music is learning how to take separate blocks of something and put them together to make something bigger. Music is learning to function as a larger group and co-operate toward a common goal. Music is problem-solving on a group level: how does my part fit in, how do I blend, how do I match my intonation to that of those around me? Music is focusing in a way that’s not quite the way you concentrate in an English or civics class. Music is taking turns. Music is respecting the people around you, listening when it’s someone else’s turn to play. Music is sharing with an audience.

School music class is often the only chance kids get to sing or dance or play an instrument. Our family is ridiculously fortunate in that we prioritize music and each kid gets lessons, but not all families have that opportunity or have a different priority. Investing in this at the school level offers students so much, and I am so grateful to the schools my kids attend for making sure music is still a focus among their other disciplines. With the cooperation of a local high school and by collecting freewill donations at the school concerts, Owlet’s school has acquired 60 alto recorders and a set of boomwhackers to add to the existing ukuleles, xylophones, and wind instruments since last year. I am thrilled that they continue to invest in their musical programme.

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.