Category Archives: Words Words Words

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.

Spring Concert Announcement

Half-metre of storm snow and impassable streets aside, it’s spring next week. And we are preparing a concert for you!

On Saturday 1 April 2017 at 19h30, the Lakeshore Chamber Orchestra will present a spring-themed concert, featuring Peter Purich as our invited violin soloist:

“Spring” from The Four Seasons – Vivaldi
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring – Delius
A Musical Joke – Mozart
Symphony no 1, “Spring” – Schumann

The concert will take place at our home base,  Valois United Church (70 Belmont Ave, Pointe-Claire, between King and Queen). Admission is $10, free for children 18 and under. The concerts usually last just about two hours, including the refreshment break. The address and map are on the church website. Children of all ages are very welcome.

We hope to see you there!

Five Things Make a Post

Or something to that effect. That’s how this used to work.

1. I have just signed a contract to work on a second edition of one my books that recently fell out of print after a decade. This is pretty exciting. It’s basically an update, tightening it up and refocusing it a bit for a new audience. It’s due back to the publisher around Easter, and will be (re)released this fall.

2. I am currently working on a different exciting project that I can’t say anything about because it Doesn’t Officially Exist Yet. It came about via networking (in other words, a series of instances where I was referred from one project to another and recommended back and forth); I don’t think I’ve written an actual CV in ages. Anyway, it’s forcing me to develop in a different direction, because (a) it’s scriptwriting, and (b) it’s not traditional scriptwriting. I’m learning as I go, and I’m so grateful for the support of fellow writer-friends who are also scriptwriting people. The scheduling is kind of blowing my mind due to the nature of the project; it’s… weird, and unlike anything else I’ve worked on. I can’t really explain without getting into specifics. This one is due out sometime this spring.

3. Things proceed apace on the three-year series project I’m writing for. A deadline every two weeks; it’s very steady. (If you can count to three you have just realized that I am working on three big things at once, and yes, if I think about it for too long I start to get panicky. For now it’s all balancing out very well, especially since the two most recent projects just revamped their delivery dates.)

4. I gave bullet journaling a try last fall and while it didn’t work for me in the popular trendy BuJo-ing sense, it does work in a simplified sense of keeping all my notes and to-do lists in one place. I just have to remember to take it with me when I walk around the house or go out. Also, it pleases my pretty stationery/fountain pen/office supply side.

5. Yesterday I saw my doctor for a follow-up to the increased dosage of my medication that she initialized a month ago. While I am generally feeling better, I told her that I wasn’t convinced this was the long-term solution for me because of other effects it was having. My doctor agreed; she said that those side effects wouldn’t fade, and that she’d been thinking of proposing a switch to a different, newer medication anyway. So three days of a half-dose of my current medication, seven days off completely to clear it out of my system, then two weeks of a half-dose of the new one, then increase to the full dose… it’s going to be a rough four weeks. And then it’s going to take four to six weeks for the new medication to settle, too. (For those of you keeping score… why, yes, this time period does overlap with working on three projects at once, two of them large and with Significant Deadlines.)

Thank goodness winter is almost over. Things will get easier in general to deal with as spring rolls in. WInter just takes so much energy to cope with.

Back Into Things: School and Music Edition

We’re one week into school and such again now that it’s 2017. Both kids were really ready to go back after two and a half weeks off, both consciously (“I miss my kindergarten,” Owlet sighed one day) and unconsciously (my children do not do well without structure for long periods of time).

Getting back into the rhythm of things has had some challenges, however. Sparky was struggling with organization, time management, and self-confidence at the beginning of the school year, and with work and support he’d gotten to a point where it was all mostly okay. Time away threw him off, though. During his first week back I saw him doing homework every night and figured he had things under control. It turned out he was doing homework due for the next day and not the extra work he’s supposed to space out over the week so it doesn’t drown him on weekends, though. So this weekend he had to create an outline, rough draft, and polished typed draft of an expository essay, do twelve pages of French, and a pile of math. The essay should have been done in increments, and the French as well; the math was all assigned on Friday and would have been fine if all he had to do was finish typing the essay out and do a page or two of French. He also had to finish a PowerPoint presentation on postmodern architecture, but forgot the handwritten research at school and he couldn’t get hold of his partner all weekend, so I wrote a quick note and he’s planning to finish it at recess this morning. It was a rough weekend, but he handled it all, and we worked through some anxiety and talked about breaking seemingly huge tasks down and nibbling away at them.

He had less homework time than he otherwise might have, too, because this weekend he started cello lessons again after two and a half years off! He had an hour on Saturday morning, where his teacher was delighted to see him. They worked to adjust the new-to-us cello (which has Issues; it’s going to need a new bridge at the very least, a new full set of strings, and possibly the nut and/or the fingerboard replaned because there is a nasty buzzing in first position, on top of paying the family who owned it previously for it) and reviewed the piece he’d last done in concert. This would be Long Long Ago, the piece he’s pretty sure he messed up so badly on in concert that he decided to quit because it was all too stressful. He was assigned his next piece in pizzicato, and given his parts for the group pieces. And then Sunday afternoon was his first group class.

I’m fascinated by how enthusiastic he is. At break during the group class we were laughing about how no one likes to practise when he piped up, “I love it! I love to practise!” And I find it really interesting that it was watching the last recital that made him decide to start again because he wanted to be involved in them, since it was increasing stress associated with recitals that led him to stop. He was cheerful through the entire group class despite being lost most of the time, and didn’t get upset during his lesson when he couldn’t magically do things right. These two years off have really helped him develop a better understanding of what he should expect from himself.

Now instead of Sparky being upset he can’t do things right the first time, it’s Owlet. She is angry that her violin does not make beautiful music as soon as she picks it up. She resents that she has to pay attention and focus on what she’s being shown. I’m really looking forward to a time when I can actually register her for lessons, because again, it will be so much easier when it is not a parent teaching her. And I’m restricted this time by what I know and don’t know; with Sparky I knew how to guide his practise properly. With the violin, I’m one self-taught lesson ahead of Owlet, and I can only do things like teach her the names of the strings, where to place the bow on the string (no, not between the bridge and the tailpiece, between the bridge and the fingerboard please), and reteach her the names of notes on the staff. There are times when she sits and just plays it, fooling around with rhythm and dynamics, telling a story with the music, and that’s great; I wish she would do more of that and associate music time with exploration. But that expectation of perfection right off the bat is an obstacle at the moment. I’m not exactly sure how to help her past it yet.

We’ll see what this week brings.

Farewell Santa

We will not be doing a Santa picture this year, because Owlet is dead set against it. Sparky is old enough to not need one, and I suspect he was humouring his sister these past couple of years. We were going to take this kids this morning and bring them to school afterward, but Owlet freaked out. It took a lot of negotiating, and even then she was trying to get us to agree to just have Sparky in the photo. We said we’d revisit it in the morning… and when we woke up it was -23 C before windchill, and the Santa we visit has an outdoor waiting line.

So executive decision: no, we were not going to wait outside with a whiny child who wanted to be anywhere but with Santa, because we are working really hard to limit stress for everybody. And then Owlet moped around the house, because she said she wanted to see Santa.

ANYWAY.

So that’s that. It looks like the Santa pictures are done for our family. In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised; last year she only agreed to do the photo if she could sit on a stool at Santa’s feet (which we were fine with, and offered this as an option this year as well), and in 2014 she said she didn’t want to see Santa, she wanted to just go have tea at DavidsTea, which was the treat I’d promised them for after we’d seen Santa.

Owlet told us last night that the boys in her class said Santa wasn’t real. Of course he is, we said. But he’s real in the way that he symbolizes the spirit of generosity, love, and sharing. That’s why there are so many Santas out there and they all look different. Her eyes got very round as she processed this. We’ve never tried to perpetuate the ‘Santa is a real person at the North Pole’ story, but we do have to address it every year. Which isn’t surprising; eleven and a half months is a long time to go between encountering the concept again.

So in place of a new photo of Santa with the kids, please enjoy this revisiting of pictures from the past five Christmases.

Christmas Recital 2016

Our studio recital went blazingly well yesterday. I sat and knitted for the entire first forty minutes during everyone else’s soli, and you know, I think I may take a break from doing a solo every couple of years or so. It was so relaxing. I got to really appreciate everyone’s pieces more than I usually do because I wasn’t stressing, keeping feverish track of who was playing so as to ready myself to move up and take my place, or running fingering patterns on my right forearm. The four group pieces all went brilliantly. It’s such a joy to watch everyone get better and better, and to welcome new cellists.

Speaking thereof… guess who said he’d like to try cello again? I suspect watching the three other eleven-year-olds who joined right around the time he quit two years ago may have something to do with it. He’s older now, and I pointed out twenty minutes of practice a day would be his responsibility — I’m not going to argue with him about it — and he agreed. We’re working on autonomy, self organization, and socialization with other kids outside school, so this may slot in nicely. I get to tell my teacher this week at my next lesson.