Category Archives: The Boy

Ballet

The fall season of extracurricular activities has just begun. Sparky casually mentioned he’d like to maybe try guitar, so we looked into that, but we just couldn’t afford it right now. He’s happy to continue with his art classes.

Owlet has been waiting to turn five, because now she is old enough to register for ballet at the arts centre where she previously did art and intro to music. She and her friend Audrey have both registered, and we took them to buy their ballet shoes a week and a half ago. Owlet is extremely thrilled with them and wears them any time she remembers they exist… like when it’s time to climb into bed for bedtime stories.

The first day was exciting. She naturally wanted to wear a dress, but I managed to get her to agree to wear black leggings and a tunic shirt instead. There are fifteen kids in the class (fifteen!) and the teacher is terrific with them. Her choice of music is admirable, too; the way to get me to appreciate your commitment to teaching is to have both a track from Michael Nyman’s score for The Piano and a prelude from a Bach solo cello suite playing in the first ten minutes. (Also, wow; you can make a playlist on a phone or mp3 player and just plug it into an amplifier in this day and age. When I took ballet classes, there was a live accompanist, because it was that or a portable record player.)

So far, so good. There was a hesitation halfway through the class when she didn’t want to keep going, but after watching the other girls learn how to do “cat jumps” she threw herself back in with enthusiasm, because who doesn’t want to learn how to jump like a cat, right? And we committed the faux pas of not bringing water bottles with which the girls could hydrate at half time, the way all the other girls (who had obviously all done this before) had done. A note has been made for next time.

Sparky came home from his first art class that afternoon with spots of paint all over him, so that’s going as well as it usually does!

Cottaging

Things have been pretty stressful around here for a variety of reasons. So when our friends Megan and Jason invited us to spend a day at their family cottage an hour north of the city, we said yes.

It was one of those transitional days we get at the end of summer, where the sun is shining but there’s a breeze and a chill to the air, especially outside the city. It was the kind of weather where you’re happy to be able to pull out a sweater.

I got about an inch knit on my sweater for Rhinebeck. The kids tromped around and found sticks, poked them into the water, pretended to fish, and played happily in the sand pit. The adults managed to play a game of Settlers of Catan without being significantly interrupted, which was a major achievement. And at the end of the day, a small fire was built and we taught the kids how to roast marshmallows.

It was a wonderful day, and we all really needed it.

Rites of Passage, Including Kindergarten and Grade Six

Rites of passage are something that I consider important. Not big splashy ones; just marking milestones. And there have been a few of them lately, this last week of August and the first weekend of September.

Owlet had her intro to kindergarten the last week of August. On Tuesday we went in for an hour-long session in her class, listening to her teacher talk through the structure, the subjects, and the schedule. After that there was a barbecue in the schoolyard, which she partly like because of hot dogs and being able to play with her friends for daycare who had also advanced to kindergarten, and partly disliked because the music was too loud. The next day she went in with half the class for a morning of kindergarten. Despite being told over and over, she didn’t fully understand that I wasn’t coming in with her again for that session, and there were almost tears; she and her buddy from daycare held hands for support as they followed the teacher inside. Then she had a day off, and then Friday was her first official full day of school. Again tears threatened, but her teacher introduced her to another girl in the schoolyard while I slipped away. At the end of the day the teacher brought out the non-bus and non-daycare kids, but Owlet wasn’t among them, even though she had been when they left the classroom. It turned out that she had split off from the group to follow a new friend to the daycare programme; her teacher found her sitting with the daycare kids, happily munching a daycare granola bar.

Her daycare educator e-mailed to see how the first days had gone, and I was glad to be able to tell her that things were fine. Owlet finally gets to use her Star Wars lunchbox, and get a juice box in it — a treat that was withheld from her until she started kindergarten. She is excited about the great playground equipment (restricted to the younger grades), about learning computers (two in her classroom, an entire computer lab next door), having new markers and coloured pencils. She coloured a picture for her new teacher on Friday morning, hugged her leg before leaving on Friday afternoon, and has been practicing her teacher’s name and saying “bonjour” and “au revoir” (the latter with a truly adorable rolled ‘r’). The one thing I’m not thrilled about is the fact that she’s in the only kindergarten class in the basement; the three others are on the main floor with large windows. But her teacher has made it colourful, and the music room is right across the hall. She hasn’t said anything specific about being frustrated or sad about not understanding what her teacher says — she is very good at using gestures to illustrate what she is saying, and I’m certain it will only take a couple of weeks before Owlet starts nattering in French.

Sparky’s first day was a breeze. The schoolyard was packed with hundreds of kids and parents looking for their class lists, saying hello after the summer, and generally goofing around. Once he found his friends, there was no point to me staying, so Owlet and I walked to the park behind the schoolyard and hung out there until the classes started being called inside. The grade sixes were last, of course, and the teachers gathered all four grade six classes on the field to take mass photos before they went in. They’re the top of the heap this year, the last before high school. The night before the school held an info session for parents, and I got to meet his teachers and hear about their policies, their units of inquiry, and the planned field trips. There’s a lot of science and focus on renewable energy, which is going to be exciting for Sparky. Math will be focusing on stabilizing and reviewing the material they’ve already learned, much to my relief. He’ll have a new math resource teacher, as his past one (who, incidentally, has also been his math tutor this past summer) has her own class in another school this year. His homeroom teacher happens to be the same teacher who taught him French In kindergarten at his first school, which he finds amusing.

The day before school started, we went out to brunch, which is a nice new tradition, I think. Megan and Audrey came with us, as Audrey was starting kindergarten the same day Owlet did.

The other recent rite of passage was baby Ivy’s blessing. HRH and I were honoured to be asked to lead the ritual by Ivy’s parents, who are friends of ours. It was the first real ritual Owlet had observed; she had been very interested in the whole idea of a baby blessing leading up to the event. (What is a blessing? Why do we ask the gods to protect her? Will the gods sit or stand? If they’re not there, will the gods hear us even if we don’t shout?) The wish Sparky made for the baby was for a long life, and Owlet (even though she hid behind me and was too shy to say it) had prepared a wish that the baby always feel comfortable enough to be herself. (I said it for her. It was a really good wish, and I was very proud of her for coming up with it.)

Of all the formal rites of passage I am privileged to perform for my spiritual community, baby blessings are my favourite. I only wish we’d been in a better state to stay afterwards and enjoy food, drink, and company, but I was exhausted and rapidly going downhill (fibro has been particularly difficult lately), Sparky was fighting a cold, and Owlet was having that kind of weekend where she needed to get home to have a quiet supper and regular bedtime.

It’s been a busy week.

Santa 2015

The mall in which we usually visit Santa redesigned their holiday set and it’s uninspiring. We tried anyway on a school strike day, but the lineup and noise got to me before we’d been there five minutes, so we made the executive decision to try the Santa at Dix30.

Success!

Sparky shook Santa’s hand when he stepped up. Owlet was very serious; she did not want to sit on Santa’s lap, and because consent (I’m not going to convince any kid it’s okay to sit on a stranger’s lap these days), everyone agreed she could sit on the stool and hug a Christmas stuffie instead. I wish I’d been more with it; I would have suggested Sparky sit on the other stool and look serious as well, and then it would have been like an old-fashioned portrait where no one smiles. (Except Santa. That would have been even funnier.)

It was in a little cottage-type thing built right on one of the avenues at the Dix30 complex. That meant the line was outside, but there was an elf entertaining those who waited. (Although Owlet was highly suspicious of him as well. Sparky was moderately impressed; this guy was great at physical comedy and minor acrobatics.) The photo was digital only, but free. All in all it was a decent experience, and I think we’ve found our new Santa destination.

Halloween 2015

I’m emerging from under a pile of work to polish and publish posts that have been sitting in draft form.

Halloween was fun!


Sparky designed his own costume his year (he’s a supernatural creature tracker and protector, complete with a homemade handbook and an “ivory flute so I can play music to soothe savage beasts”), and Owlet is Belle. I still can’t believe that I found the perfect dress to modify for her; it was a size 10 fancy sleeveless dress that I cut down and took in. It has a crinoline and a spangled chiffon overlay. She adores it, and to be honest, so do I.

The best part of the night? When a fire engine rolled up and firemen jumped out in full gear, carrying buckets of candy to pass out to trick or treaters! Although Owlet certainly enjoyed charging up stairs and banging on the doors with her mittened hand. “Mummy!” she exclaimed, running back each time, “I said bonjour! And merci!”

Speaking of basic common courtesy, I was really cross at a bunch of kids while we were doing the rounds. I teach my kids to wait at the bottom of the stairs or at the end of the path to the door so as not to crowd the kids currently receiving candy, and to go up the stairs on the right and descend on the left to make a clear path for others. There were droves of kids just shoving up and crowding the adults distributing candy with no thought for anyone else around them or order of arrival. It meant my kids had to stop being as respectful as I (and they) wanted them to be, because they were being run over. We eventually chose a different, quieter area to cover. I don’t think I’m expecting too much if I want kids to learn to be polite, consider others around them, and respect taking turns, even in an exciting situation like trick or treating.

Whatever; they enjoyed themselves immensely, loved their costumes, loved going to school in them, and that’s what counts.

Fall Extracurricular Classes

Yes, it’s that time once again!

I had to switch my time slot for cello, as we were looking at registering Owlet in an intro to music class at Preville, the arts centre with which Sparky does his summer camp and art lessons. With two kids doing extracurricular activities on Saturday, I either needed a second car or to switch my lesson time. And since a second car isn’t in the budget, I worked out a new slot on Friday at midday with my cello teacher. (This means working on the weekend if necessary, but ehn. If I have to, I will.)

I had my first lesson yesterday, and the work I did on the Vivaldi sonata over the summer wasn’t a complete waste of time (go me!). I didn’t get a debrief of the concert and assignment of summer homework in a final lesson back in June, as schedules didn’t align, so I just guessed and went with it. My teacher congratulated me again on a terrific recital performance, and asked if I’d seen HRH’s recording of my solo Bach yet; I had to admit that no, I hadn’t, because as happy as I was with my performance, I haven’t had the courage to sit down and watch it. I got two stickers in my book for it, though! (I am in my forties and still like getting reward stickers in my music book, thank you very much. It’s the little things.)

Orchestra also began this past week, although I had to miss the very first rehearsal because of work (hey, there, busy season and rush jobs and everyone needing everything tomorrow morning). The upcoming programme looks terrific: some Debussy, Vaughan Williams, Stravinsky miniatures, a Mozart overture… stuff I’ve enjoyed playing before, a couple of new things. Our annual membership fee has increased by 40%, which is ouch even though the reason is valid (our conductor, who is excellent, has until now been accepting payment way lower than other orchestras of this level are paying). My individual lesson fee has also increased; I suspect I’m going to have to make a compromise somewhere, maybe by dropping one lesson a month.

Sparky is now in Cycle 3, and that means band at school! It’s wind and brass instruments, so right now he has been trying to get sound out of the headjoint of my flute to see if that would be interesting for him. If not, he thinks either trumpet or trombone would be fun. We shall see what happens there.

I went to the Preville open house this morning (with Megan! and I ran into my friend Adelina, whom I haven’t seen since we did our workshop on alternative-spirituality parenting discussion at the Yule Fair a few years ago!) to see what was on offer. We got to see and say hi to some of the teachers we’d become familiar with over the summer at day camp, which pleased Owlet. In the end, she will be doing her intro to music next semester; this session, it’s all about art, thank you very much. (That’s what I get for suggesting she move on to explore other tables rather than just standing at the intro to music table, banging the little cymbals. We then had to pry her away from the glue, feathers, and Plasticine.)

She also totally schooled the violin teacher as only a four-year-old can. He showed her how to rest the instrument on her shoulder, and she sighed and said, “That’s not right.” Then she lowered it and held it vertically in front of her. “No… that’s how you hold a cello,” he said, a bit puzzled. “Well, yes,” she said, giving him a flat stare, and you could tell she was thinking, ‘Seriously, dude? You teach this stuff? Everyone knows you hold these things like this.’ One small victory in a world where most kids call violas and cellos ‘big violins.’

So both kids are now registered in their respective art classes. Sparky is delighted (I am not entirely sure why, but he thinks both he and his sister taking art with the same teacher, albeit at different times, is terrific) and Owlet is looking forward to it as well, because (quite apart from the exciting making art thing) her friend Audrey is in the class with her. And I’m looking forward to not having to drive 45-60 minutes first thing on Saturday morning and then be focused enough to play cello and process musical instruction for an hour on Saturday mornings, then drive another 60 minutes home. Everyone wins!

First Day of School

First day of grade 5!

Sparky’s gang of friends has been split pretty evenly down the middle, half in one class, half in the other. His English/homeroom teacher is lovely, and his teacher for the French half is the same teacher he had in grade 3. Looks like it’s already shaping up to be a great year.

Sparky was so laid back. Or rather, he was laid back on the surface, but he mentioned last night he was excited and a bit nervous. And I know he was, but he handled it all very well. It’s because he knows the place and the people, and he said that he was really looking forward to being back at school again when we were walking to the schoolyard. (This from the kid who had previously said he didn’t feel like he’d had enough of a summer and why did he have to go back, and who has been moping around bored the past two weeks.)

One more year of this laid-back return, and then we get to handle being nervous about going to his first day of high school! Ugh.