Monthly Archives: June 2011

What I Read in June 2011

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (reread)
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin (reread)
Bellwether by Connie Willis (reread)
Remake by Connie Willis (reread)
No Angel by Penny Vincenzi
Something Dangerous by Penny Vincenzi
Into Temptation by Penny Vincenzi

Damn it, I know I’m missing something this time round. My records have been sadly lacking lately. I should go back to mentioning what I’m currently reading in my posts just so I have something to go back and refer to.

The boy and I have read More About Paddington aloud and we also finished The Guardians of Ga’Hoole: The Burning. Other than that, I have no idea.

Canada Day Concert Announcement!

You know the Canada Day concert is coming up, right?

On Friday July 1 the Lakeshore Chamber Orchestra will be giving a free (yes, free!) concert as part of the overall Canada Day celebrations in conjunction with Pointe-Claire Village. We do this every year, and it’s always terrific fun. Our conductor is the justly famed Stewart Grant, who is phenomenal.

This year’s energetic programme features:

    Mozart: Magic Flute overture
    Schubert: Unfinished Symphony
    Strauss Jr: Emperor Waltz
    Strauss Sr: Radetzy March
    Strauss Jr: Pizzicato Polka
    Strauss Jr: Die Fledermaus overture

The concert begins at 20h00. As always, this Canada Day concert is being presented at St-Joachim church in Pointe-Claire Village, located right on the waterfront at 2 Ste-Anne Street, a block and a half south of Lakeshore Road. The 211 bus from Lionel-Groulx metro drops you right at the corner of Sainte-Anne and Lakeshore. Here’s a map to give you a general idea. I usually encourage those facing public transport to get together and coax a vehicle-enabled friend along by offering to buy them an ice cream or something. It works nicely, and it’s fun to go with a group. And hey, you can’t beat the price. Be aware that if you’re driving, parking will be at a premium because of the whole Canada Day festivities thing going on. Give yourself extra time to find a parking place and walk to the church, which will be packed with people.

As it’s a holiday, the village will be full of various celebrations, booths, food stalls, and the like. You might want to come early and enjoy what’s going on.

Free classical music! Soul-enriching culture! And as an enticing bonus, the fireworks are scheduled for ten PM, right after we finish, and the church steps are a glorious spot from which to watch them. Write it on your calendar, tell all your friends and family members! The more the merrier!

And a random observation: You know you’ve got just about a month to go before your baby’s born when you’ve extended the cello’s endpin as far as it can go to make a more pronounced angle so that the back of the instrument doesn’t lie on your bump, and as a result the fingerboard angle is all wrong and your shifts and basic intonation go into the toilet.

(Or maybe that’s just me.)

One more dress rehearsal! One more concert on Canada Day! And then I can hang my bow up and put my cello in its box stand till a couple of weeks after the baby is born. I just have to make it through the next ten days…

Farewell To Kindergarten

Yesterday afternoon all three kindergarten classes got together and presented a little concert for their parents, got certificates, and then there was cake.

It’s the boy’s last day of kindergarten today:

It seems like only yesterday that he was off to school for the first time…

I’m a wee bit wistful, and tremendously proud. His teacher told us his reading skills were far beyond his grade level (which doesn’t surprise us, because we read to him all the time, and he will read any text he can; if we put cereal boxes on the table he’d read them, but we don’t, so he reads things like CD spines and flyers that come in the mail and the company information on passing trucks as well as books). He’s doing addition and subtraction, things I didn’t grasp until the middle of grade one, and, perhaps most of all, I am proud of the thoughtful, sensitive little citizen he’s become.


1. I had another prenatal appointment yesterday. Everything is spot-on. My doctor was so excited about me going past the 31-week mark that I had to laugh at her.

2. HRH has finished the stairs to the attic, and they are beautiful. He has also temporarily cleared out all the insulation so we can lay the floor. We have been able to revise the flooring plan because we discovered when he cut through the ceiling that the existing attic floor/first floor ceiling was made with tongue-and-groove strips, solid enough to be walked on. Seriously, this gets better and better; first, actual windows existed up there under the siding, and now a floor? The attic was genuinely designed to be another room that the original owners just didn’t tell the builders to complete.

3. After today, there are only two days of kindergarten left for the boy. He has a kindergarten celebration tomorrow afternoon, where the parents will go in and watch them sing songs and that sort of thing, then they will get certificates, and then there will be cake and juice for everyone. Where did this academic year go? Didn’t he just take the school bus for the first time?

4. As the end of the school year approaches the boy has been bringing home workbooks and folders and artwork. I had no idea they wrote and drew journals as part of their curriculum, but he sat down with me yesterday and read me all his journal entries, about one a week since they began in January, and I was stunned. They don’t teach formal reading or writing in kindergarten, or so they say; they encourage sounding things out and phonetic spelling as steps toward it. This means that yes, there are letters missing and incorrect letters, but the sounds are mostly there. I now have a six-year-old who sounds out every written word he sees with ease, reads above his theoretic grade level, and who does a pretty impressive job of writing words down just from listening to them or saying them. I can read his journal entries without referring to his teacher’s interpretation below. I find this kind of evolution of how to read and write absolutely fascinating. Here, here’s an example from two months ago; I’m giving you this one because I recognised it right away. This is a pretty precise depiction of Ceri and Scott’s basement from where you’d be standing if you paused in the archway into the TV room and saw Scott and Liam playing video games together. I even love that he drew Scott’s computer desk off to the right.

I also love that he wrote and drew about something important to him each time: spending the day with a special friend, building in his Lego City that lives on a board under his bed and is pulled out to play with, visiting grandparents, the best part of a field trip, and that sort of thing. We’re going to keep up the journal exercise weekly over the summer. He seems excited about it, it’s a great way to keep working on practising his letters, and I love the idea of tucking it away in a memento box for him to look at years from now.

(Have I mentioned that I find how kids learn fascinating? I do. I find the stuff they don’t learn just as fascinating. Like how the boy still can’t grasp riding a two-wheeler bike.)

5. I am currently struggling with internal tension about the postal strike. I fully support the CUPW’s right to demonstrate, call for collective bargaining, their requests for proper contracts and the pay scale and benefits they’re fighting to keep, including maintaining pension details for existing and new workers that got hit when the economy tanked. (It drives me up the wall that CP keeps saying mail volume is down and that’s why they’re not agreeing to the union’s requests to maintain what was in their last contract because they’re “unrealistic,” but they’re neglecting to acknowledge that to make up for it they’ve been accepting more paid admail to be delivered over the past few years, which has made up the shortfall in lettermail in both volume and profit. Admail; you know, the unaddressed stuff that the postperson sorts, carries, and puts in everybody’s mailbox that you take out and put right into the recycling box.) The one-day rotating strikes slowed things down a bit, but that was fine. When Canada Post cut operations to three days from five, effectively going to part-time for everyone, it slowed things down more and I chafed a bit, but at least things were still moving. But when Canada Post locked their workers out completely to create a national situation, things went badly for me. I have three (no, four by now) rather important freelance cheques coming to me from the US that are now stuck in the system. They were due to arrive the second week of June at the earliest, and we budgeted accordingly. Now that budget is screwed and have been scrambling to rebalance things; money originally scheduled to go one place is being diverted to go others and things are being left for a later date that ought to be paid now, and buying the last few baby things we need keeps getting shuffled later and later. The attic has taken a hit, too, because we were going to use part of my biggest cheque to buy the initial round of supplies, timed to happen with the beginning of the month-long vacation HRH had booked. (Although things look brighter in that department due to parental generosity, so at least HRH won’t be sitting here off work, twiddling his thumbs and wasting time, waiting for the cheques to arrive in the mail so we can get building.) So yes, things have been rather stressful and unhappy around here money-wise for the past two weeks. And just as bad, important outgoing mail got stuck in the strike as well, like our taxes and my application for cord blood donation, which needs to be received by Hema-Quebec before I get to 36 weeks. The life of a postal service-dependent freelancer is not a happy one. And it really annoys me to read comments like “We don’t need the post office, everyone should go to e-mail billing and direct deposit!” on news articles, because that demonstrates a really poor understanding of how businesses function (and also assumes everyone has internet access, which is also erroneous).

6. The boy went to La Ronde, our local Six Flags amusement park, for the first time this past Sunday, on a free pass with his best friend, her mum, and HRH. They had a fabulous time. I am shocked at the expense of these sorts of things, so a free pass is pretty much the only way it could happen. (Although HRH told me that season passes for a family are less expensive than a single admission for said family, if purchased before a certain date, so we may look into that as a gift to him next year since the boy had The Best Time Ever.) They spent the day mostly in the family ride area, the majority of which seems to have been installed in 2005. I am jealous, because he got to go on the Belgian carousel built in 1885 and bought for Expo 67, which runs on electricity right now but is being restored to run on steam power again, complete with its steam organ:

7. Tomorrow is the boy’s last day with his rental cello, then I take it back to the luthier. We couldn’t renew the rental even if we wanted to, with this stupid cheques-stuck-in-the-mail issue. But hopefully practice will be back to normal as of Tuesday morning, because on Monday we are taking that day trip to Ottawa to see secondhand 1/8 cello at a steal of a price, see the newly redone Nature Museum (which we last saw a couple of years ago in the midst of renovation) and also walk past the Parliament Buildings.

8. There’s a post with knitting and spinning and stuff to come, I promise.

I think that’s it for now.

In Which She Writes Up A Cello Recital Report For Posterity

A belated cello recital entry! I’ve been putting bits of this down as the week goes on. There’s been a lot to catch up on.

The boy went up to take his place with confidence, watched his teacher carefully, and played his piece with gusto. He got a big whoop at the end from all of the cello families, who know that the first recital is a big thing, and also from his godfamily who had just made it in time to hear him. (The grin on his face in the picture to the left is him hearing his godfamily, in fact.) The Suzuki mum in me is very proud of his confidence in his bowing and his poise. The cellist in me is very proud of how good his sound was – no wishy-washy sound from this boy! – and of his steady rhythm. In the interest of full disclosure, his piece was a pre-Twinkle piece called ‘Carnival in Rio’ from Joanne Martin’s Magic Carpet for Cello, a series of pieces that use the Twinkle bowing variation #1 on the open A string, so he was focusing on rhythm and sound alone, not fingering. This was, you may remember, a last-minute change from his descending scale pattern with the same bowing, AKA ‘The Monkey Song,’ which he’d been preparing; his teacher asked if he’d be more comfortable playing a duet with her instead of playing alone. It was a perceptive and sensitive suggestion, and I think the substitution was very successful in building his confidence in his ability to survive and enjoy a recital. I’m so thankful he had a positive first experience.

As for my own piece, I have never been so pleased with a recital performance before. I played the first two movements of the ‘Suite Française’ by Paul Bazelaire, a piece that no one knows, but let me tell you, a bunch of cellists asked both me and my teacher for the music after the dress rehearsal and the concert! My teacher introduced it to me during our last chamber orchestra session, where she showed me how to pizz an arpeggio or double-stop with the thumb away from me, then immediately hook back with the forefinger to catch the quick note following. She demonstrated with the series of pizz chords and single notes in the first movement of the Bazelaire, then played a bit of the theme for me. It’s a piece she played back when she was studying at school; she said that I might really enjoy playing the whole thing, perhaps for the recital, and we looked it over at our next lesson and decided it suit my study very well for a variety of reasons. (Cellofamily: If you’re interested, the first two movements are also found in Carey Cheney’s Solos series, in book four, I think.) I love this whole suite; it’s kind of stompy, which is a style I do not usually play, and it has some terrific folksy themes. I was planning to do the first, second, and fifth movements, but we ran out of time to properly prepare the fifth.

The ensemble pieces had ups and downs. Four of us pulled off the ‘Elfintanz’ from Cheney vol. 2 as a tight ensemble piece, which was fun. The Goltermannn ‘Romance,’ in which I played first cello, sounded okay to me when I was playing it (possibly because I was focusing so hard on my part, which wasn’t terrific but was passable), but came off as a garbled tangle in the recording, one of the perils of live performance where your ears tell you one thing and the more balanced recording tells you another. The Schubert ‘Impromptu’ arrangement was okay. The pieces that brought in the younger kids were better: ‘A la Claire Fontaine’ was lovely, for example. After missing his entrance cue in the previous kids-only canon song because his eyes were wandering, the boy played air cello or open strings in this one, swaying back and forth as he watched his teacher play, and it was really charming to see how into it he got. The video shows him looking back over his shoulder at me to see how he was doing in this piece and me smiling back at him, something I would have forgotten if it hadn’t been captured on film. (He may have missed his cue in the canon preceding it because his eyes were wandering, but also possibly because his partner, a six-year-old girl, had fallen asleep on the front pew of the church during the adult solos, and didn’t appear in the ensemble half of the concert as scheduled; they had partially relied on one another during the dress rehearsal for their entrance cue.) The finale was a full ensemble of Joanne Martin’s ‘Calypso’ from More Folk Strings in which the boy played percussion, counting and watching his teacher very carefully.

We were thrilled to have most of the special people and families he’d invited to his debut there. Thanks go out to both sets of grandparents, the Preston-LeBlancs, Marc Mackay, and Marc Leguen for sharing the experience with us and cheering him on. I have to thank my dad for taking pictures (these are all his), HRH for videoing parts of the recital, and Scott for lending us his digital video recorder for the purpose, too.

We are tremendously proud of our boy. Most of the time he was cheerful about the whole idea of the recital, but a couple of times he had small crises of self-confidence and worried about what would happen because he had no idea what to expect from the experience, or indeed any kind of similar experience to which to compare it. In fact, at his second to last lesson he got upset when I moved to sit in front of him and pretended to be the audience, because that wasn’t where I usually sat. We switched things up at home after that, playing in the kitchen, for example, to show him that you could play anywhere and didn’t need to rely on the same setup in the same places every time. The group dress rehearsal on the day before the recital was very helpful too, because he sat and listened to all the other kids do their pieces as well. (Group lessons have been fabulous for him. He so admires the older girls he’s watched grow from book 1 pieces into book 2; in fact, when they brought out their Suzuki books and tucked them under their chairs for reference if necessary during the last group lesson, he instructed me to do the same with his book, despite the fact that we’re pre-Twinkle and don’t use book 1 yet.)

I love helping him discover things. We took Monday off from cello practice and let him sleep in a bit after a later bedtime on Sunday night, but Tuesday morning I gave him his ten-minute call for cello. “I thought cello was over,” he said, puzzled. Ah, no, small child! If you take the entire summer off, you will be very, very upset in September when lessons begin again and you have to start from scratch! So he played a couple of exercises, and then I set him a musical riddle. I told him to play his Twinkle bowing variation #1 on the D string; then again on the A string; then to put one finger down on the A to play it on a B (which he has already encountered in an exercise); then to play his Monkey song, which is a descending four-note pattern of G, F#, E, D on the D string, with the same bowing rhythm. He repeated the sequence aloud to make sure he had it correctly, then played it. “Congratulations,” I said. “You’ve just played the first two lines of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’” I thought his eyes were going to fall out of his head. “I didn’t know I could do that!” he said.

This has been a wonderful introduction to music-making for him, I think. Not every five-year-old will cheerfully settle down for fifteen minutes of practice every morning at seven-thirty before school (most days it’s cheerfully, anyhow!). He may get discouraged sometimes and say it’s hard because he can’t match what’s in his head, and he wishes he’d never started, or when he forgets about his left elbow being up a bit when he’s focusing on his right one dropping, but you know what? Learning any new instrument is hard, and you still have trouble with those little things after years and years (and years) of playing. I wish I could explain to him how much he has already learned, all the tiny muscle movements and balancing and timing required to just get sound out of the instrument, and get him to understand how proud he should be that he has come this far already. Although he did say “I am very proud in myself” with well-deserved satisfaction when we asked him how he felt after the recital, so maybe he does have some idea. And he is very, very excited about the possibility of acquiring his very own cello for him to keep always, too.

Six Years Old!

Six years ago today, during a humid heatwave, we unexpectedly found ourselves with someone who wasn’t scheduled to arrive till after the Wicca book proofs were handed in um till after the first draft of the green witch book had been handed in er till the nursery was ready well till we were fully unpacked from the move for another nine weeks.







Six years ago he was born nine weeks early, and we’ve been trying to keep up with him ever since. (That thing about preemies sometimes being slower at milestones and having to adjust gestational/chronological age expectations? Totally untrue in our case.)

Our boy can read; there is no keeping anything secret in written form any more. He hangs over the back of my desk chair and reads forum posts or e-mails I write aloud ( “Why did you say that? What does that mean?”). His Nana and Granddad bought him a subscription to Chickadee magazine, and he reads the joke pages to us with great gusto. He is a wizard with Lego kits (particularly with the 8-12 range) and also with designing his own stuff. He runs, jumps, climbs, asks insightful yet difficult questions, eats a lot (two breakfasts are de rigeur in our household), and grows about an inch a month, or so our eyes and the jeans we had to roll up a few months ago and now show his anklebones tell us. He writes very well and clearly, and his drawing skills have exploded this past year.

He is cheerful, positive, and optimistic. He has a very healthy sense of self-worth and justice, for which I am very grateful. At the same time, over the past year we’ve seen him develop a different kind of self-awareness that has led to uncertainty about some of his skills, something I think is due mainly to being in school and comparing himself to others. He very definitely has a tendency to not want to try something at all if he thinks he’ll fail at it, which is why he still can’t successfully ride his two-wheeler bike alone. We support him and encourage him as much as we can, but ultimately he has to feel ready to take a new step himself.

He hopped into our bed at 5:45 this morning to open his presents. The baby gave him a Thor action figure. He was awestruck and wanted to know how the baby (a) knew he liked Thor (we are all big mythology fans as well as comics fans) and (b) told us to buy it when she was still inside me! We gave him a copy of Lego Clone Wars for the Xbox, which he had put on his Official Birthday List.

Both sets of grandparents are coming over for a family party in about half an hour, and everything is either prepped for supper or being handled by other people so I intended to sit back and have a nice relaxed afternoon. I made an ice cream cake at the boy’s request (designed by him, too: Oreo cookie crumb crust, a layer of vanilla ice cream, a layer of homemade peanut butter sauce, a layer of chocolate ice cream, homemade chocolate ganache on top, and there will also be whipped cream dolloped atop each slice), so I’m looking forward to that as well.

Also, this morning we had a fabulous dress rehearsal for our cello recital tomorrow. It’s been a really good day so far, and I imagine it will only get better.

Away Time

I am swamped with work and countdown to this weekend’s recital, so I haven’t been here and won’t really be for the next week, either. I’m late on my Books Read in May roundup, and that has to wait, too. Short form:

– Lovely weather, but as is expected the humidity rising, so there are good days and bad days.

– The boy turns six on Saturday, and has a school field trip to a local national park for frog and butterfly exploration on Friday. They had caterpillars in class to observe in the latter half of May, and the kids saw them make chrysalises and hatch into beautiful Painted Lady butterflies, which the class released last week. Very exciting.

– The boy finally realised what playing in a recital meant at his lesson last Saturday, and there were some tears because it would be different from his usual environments of lessons and home practice. His teacher worked with him sensitively and they changed his piece to a duet with her; we also scheduled him to be second, so he isn’t playing first and alone.

– Owlet is doing fine, and passed her brother’s gestational record of 31w2d this past weekend. Go Owlet! I am exhausted and in pain a lot of the time, which isn’t a surprise considering the stupid amount of growth that was accomplished in a very short time on top of my pre-existing fibro and scoliosis issues.

– Also this weekend, there were suddenly a half-flight of stairs, a landing, and a big hole in the ceiling to the attic. Next up: Plywood floor, framing walls, vapour barrier and ventilation layer, lifting insulation, plasterboard. Windows have to be installed in there somewhere, and wiring run to be certified by an electrician.

– Did I mention I am swamped with work? I handed in the copyediting gig, but now it is all bird book rewrites all the time, and I am having panic attacks at the amount of work that needs to be done by Friday night. Technically I have to hand it in on Monday morning at 8 or 9 AM, but I won’t be able to work on it all weekend because of dress rehearsal, guests, birthday party, and recital, so Friday’s the deadline.

– We have a lead on a secondhand 1/8 cello for the boy at an insanely low price. It’s in Ottawa, so we’ll trundle down there for a day trip the last week of June and check it out, as well as visiting the redone Museum of Nature and walking through the Parliament buildings. Even if it needs new strings and a bow rehair (both of which I fully expect) it will still be less expensive than the other secondhand one listed here in Montreal.

Right; back into the fray. Wish me sanity and an even head.