Monthly Archives: September 2012


On this day thirteen years ago (egad), in the company of family and dear chosen family on a spectacular autumn day, I married my best friend.

Thirteen years later, we have not only owned our house for two years, complete with HRH-directed and -tailored renos (how do I love my office? let me count the ways!), but we have two absolutely wonderful children who remind us daily that life is spectacular in so many ways.

Today also marks the fourteenth anniversary of HRH and I doing our first road trip together, one of the joys I have continued to experience with him throughout our marriage. Doing them with not one but two children has stretched the associated definition of “joy,” but it will only get better again!

For the first time that I can really remember, we are actually marking our anniversary in some way. My mother is in town for a couple of days, and she is watching the children so that we can go out for dinner together at the bistro she and my dad enjoy eating at when they visit us (dinner is a gift, as well). I am so excited that it is kind of embarrassing. I hear the escargots are really yummy. I may have only appetizers and then dessert.

I love you, HRH. You are very hard on yourself, but I want you to know that you are one of the most giving and supportive people that I am fortunate to be acquainted with. You enrich my life daily, and I am thankful to be sharing this path with you.

(I need a new family icon. This one is rather out of date, yes?)

Cello Season Again

Orchestra began two weeks ago, although I missed the first rehearsal due to that rush deadline (and may well miss this week for the same reason, alas). It looks like a fun programme: Mozart’s Paris Symphony, Faure’s Pelleas & Melisande suite, Bizet’s L’Arlesienne suites, Debussy’s Rhapsody for orchestra and clarinet, and no doubt there will be something else. It felt quite good to be back, and still a relief to be in the second to last chair. I missed being up front only a tiny bit.

And this past Saturday was an awesome first cello lesson of the season, for both Sparky and I! I was struck by how much taller he is now when our teacher set him up, verified that he should still use her smallest stool, and they adjusted his end pin. He fits his 1/8 cello perfectly now. I was so thrilled that after a summer of playing only once every week or so (and usually with frustration because nothing went right, woe woe and angst), he remembered everything: he snapped to the right positions when she said “proper posture,” remembered the notes of the last two pieces he worked on, remembered small finicky things he’d struggled with right at the end of the season like the proper spacing between third and fourth fingers and reaching back for his first-finger notes, and a decent bow hold. And his intonation was so close to hers when he played that I got a bit choked up, because I was so proud of him for how he’d internalized it all over the summer away from the instrument, and for going into the beginning of lessons again with a positive, cheerful attitude.

As for my lesson, I do not suck! More than that, there is actual good stuff going on! Perhaps there was some internalization on my own part over the summer as well, or maybe it has a lot to do with the fact that I played the Breval in recital something like fifteen years ago.

Starting book four feels momentous to me. It’s the first Suzuki book with pieces actually written for cello, instead of pieces transcribed from those written for other instruments. It begins with the two-movement Breval cello sonata in C major, written by a cellist as a study piece. I feel like I’m at a different starting point, which I am, but it’s curious to actually recognise it instead of constantly feeling like I’m hitting a wall the way I always do because new/different things are hard. I redid Suzuki book two with my current teacher when I began with her, having done it with my first teacher back in something like 1995, and then slowly worked through book three. I don’t move through the books very quickly, because I do a lot of other stuff too, and orchestra, and I’m at a level where we can wring a lot of subtle finicky things out of a Suzuki piece. But reconnecting with the Breval sonata has the feel of Something Momentous for me. It was my first public recital piece, my first piece of Real Music instead of something from a collection of stuff for cello. (No, that’s not true; I played both minuets from Bach’s first solo cello suite previous to this. But I played those in private recital.) And I’m approaching it from a completely different starting point, too, where my skills have been refined and technique buffed up. My cello stats have benefited from general levelling up as well as specific points being spent to raise my bowing and shifting scores. My understanding of how to make a better sound has developed, and I’m at a wholly different place head-wise.

It felt so odd to sit down and just play something without stressing. I felt confident; I felt capable. I know part of that comes from the fact that I have played it before, but I think a lot of it comes from just being better in general. As I played I noticed things like Hey, I’m not lifting my shoulder any more and Hey, check me out, I’m leading the shift with my elbow. I know I’m in a unique position with this sonata, and it won’t be true of everything in this book, but it will be for about half of it (guess what, those Bach minuets are in this book, too!). The better in general was also noticeable at my first orchestra rehearsal of the year, where I sight read Mozart’s Paris symphony, which I played several years ago (not a decade, but not two years, if you know what I mean) and I didn’t trip over the triplets in the first movement the way I did even after a couple of months of rehearsal the last time. That was pretty telling.

All this, and I managed to internalise what my teacher was demonstrating about scale rhythms in prep for the Breval. I got the bowing patterns right away, my intonation matched hers decently, and I understood her explanation of groupettos and trills right away. (Which has never been true in the past any time I have tried to learn trills previous to Saturday. I have had a block about them forever.) I am hoping it bodes well for this year in cello.

I’m tentatively scheduling one lesson every two weeks for myself for the first month, with the proviso that I may have to drop lessons entirely again if money is awful. If work continues to be good, though, I might be able to have a weekly lesson again, which I would love. Cello is my one thing that gets me out of the house that is just for me, and having to drop it so often last year hurt a lot. Gas is going crazy, too, which makes me suspect I might have to do orchestra every two weeks again because of the price of fuel, and the upcoming massive overhaul of the highways over the next five or more years scares me concerning my ability to get to my music activities. For example, construction closed my regular routes to our lesson on Saturday, so I took the long way around. There was less traffic and no detours, but it was twenty kilometers longer each way. A hundred-kilometer round trip for cello! I can’t even.

But it begins well, and I am optimistic. La.

Post Alert

Owlet’s thirteen-month post is up and backdated to 4 September 2012, so you’ll need to scroll down. Or just click this handy link instead.

If you read via RSS, you already know this, so hurrah, thank you for playing, and disregard this note. Go have an awesome day! Actually, everyone should have awesome day, whether they read my posts via RSS or otherwise. Also cake. Go have cake.

Ups and Downs

Things have been trudging along.

Work-wise, things are hopping. This is Good for the keeping busy (like I am not busy enough already) and for making money, but Bad for sleep and time management. I did a crazy amount of work over Labour Day weekend, and HRH took election day off to kid-wrangle so I could work, too. I invoiced for the novel last night, and it was a 35-hour job. It was a huge invoice, the biggest I’ve ever submitted, but I did a lot and I wasn’t going to scale the invoice down to avoid looking like I was overcharging. This morning I got a thank you from the copy chief, for my attention to detail, my stylesheet, and my memo to the editor. Apparently I am unique in these latter two things, something that kind of makes me go “huh?”. Sure, I’ve never done a stylesheet before, but that’s because all my previous edits have been to CMoS style or house style, if it differs from CMoS somehow, so it wasn’t necessary. This time, it was definitely required because I did some book-specific formatting that needed to be pointed out and explained to layout/editors/author, so I made it. And no one other than I writes memos to the editors, explaining key changes or areas that need to be looked at? Really? It just seems like a very intelligent idea to me, as well as polite, so I do it every time. And evidently they like me for it, so yay team me!

In the Bad column, Nixie has not been well again. She’s had some kind of abscess on her chest that drained on its own, and seems to be healing, but it was messy and not great for a little while, and we were pretty close to thinking that was that. She’s perked up again, which is nice, but we’re keeping a close eye on her. I was exploring her stomach the other night and thought I’d found another abscess, then I realised that it was the scar tissue from her surgery earlier this year. Whew.

Also in the Bad column, last Friday my sewing machine broke. There was a huge clunk and now the thread take-up is jammed into the machine, and seems to no longer be connected to anything inside when I open the faceplate and check things out. I turn the wheel and everything moves except that. I admit that I cried when I tried everything I could to fix it and nothing worked. I can’t afford to have it fixed. It broke while sewing replacement Velcro to an all-in-one diaper, a slow ongoing project I’ve been handling for the past couple of months because I can’t afford to buy new diapers, not even secondhand ones. I was only halfway done the twelve I have of this style that needed the Velcro replaced; the ones that need to be overhauled have just been sitting in a pile unused all summer because they don’t stay fastened anymore. I hate that when I’m trying to save money, something happens to make it worse. It was so incredibly frustrating. To fix it would likely be at least a hundred dollars — sewing machine repair does not come cheap — for a basic checkup, cleaning, and labour, and that’s assuming it’s a simple fix that doesn’t require a replacement part of some kind. It means buying a new one would make more sense, which also frustrates me, because I try to repair things instead of replacing them, and this disposable culture does not facilitate that. So I started searching secondhand listings and bookmarking potential machines to follow up on when I got a bit of extra cash. (That wasn’t looking good, either.)

In the Good column — no scratch that; in the Stupendously Amazing column, UPS knocked at my door this morning and had me sign for an enormous box. It was a new sewing machine, purchased for me by my online friends from the July 2011 Moms group I’m a member of through Ravelry. I sat down and cried again, but for a very different reason. I’m so close to these women, and most of us have never even met. We talk about good things and bad things that happen to us, share news about our kids, support one another, and have fun together. We’ve pulled together to help one another, too, now and again; I just never expected it to be directed at me like this. I am so very blessed to have friends who help me when I’m down. I haven’t even opened the actual machine yet. It is so beautiful, and has so many fancy stitches, and I promise to get it tuned up every year or so so that I will have it for years and years to come. It has something like forty stitches programmed into it. I think it has more memory in it than the first computer my family bought back in ’89.

And finally, to cap off the Good column, I FOUND MY MISSING LIBRARY BOOK! I don’t think I’ve mentioned this here. In early July, a book I’d borrowed went missing. It just vanished. It wasn’t on the shelf where I keep our library books, it wasn’t on any other bookshelf in the house, it wasn’t in either of the kids’ rooms, and I never take library books out of the house… it had just disappeared. I renewed it the maximum number of times I was allowed and kept looking for it, to no avail. It drove me absolutely crazy. Finally, last Friday, I went to the library and told them that it was lost, and learned that replacement value was going to be $27. It really rankled that I had to pay $27 for a book that I hadn’t finished, and hadn’t even been enjoying overmuch, and life being what it is, I knew that the odds of finding it right after I’d paid for it were high, so I’d end up owning a book I felt meh about. I was going to go to the bank the next day to get the money, as it was the final due date. That morning, I saw Owlet kick a piece of Lego under the bookcase in the hall. I hadn’t known there was a slim space under it; I thought the front of the base went all the way to the floor. I lay down to reach underneath and get the Lego, and I found the missing book. (I know what happened, too: Owlet pulls the books off the library shelf, so it probably fell, and she kicked it under the shelf by accident just like she accidentally kicked the Lego. I also found a plastic turtle under there.) So I saved the $27 replacement fee, and I got the smug satisfaction of knowing that I didn’t lose it after all! I knew it was in the house somewhere.

Bonus Good thing: Today I got the cheque for my second freelance project that I finished at the end of July. Whew. It will be another five weeks before I get another one, so this smallish one has to last. (That’s a nice thought, but it will be gone in about ten days to pay bills. Still! Better to have it and finally be able to pay them, right?)

Owlet turned thirteen months old yesterday. I have a skeleton of her monthly post in a file, but I can’t finish it till Friday. Actually, there’s a lot that I can do again as of Friday, when I have handed in all my current work. This post was sketches and Tweets and Ravelry posts, collected together for posterity, pieced together during five-minute breaks, but the monthly posts are too complicated for that.

Sparky’s New School

So last Wednesday (yeah, I’ve been busy, more on that later) was Sparky’s first day at his new school in his French grade two class…

… and he had a blast.

He’d been worried, and we’d been worried as to how he’d handle it. We did everything we could to prep him, including a tour of the grounds and a secret tour with his principal of the inside of the school the last night before school began, after studying French with him all summer and being supportive and encouraging, but it was all up to him after we saw him off into the building, following his new teacher. He came and gave us a few hugs while everyone milled around and lined up, and he nearly cried once, but he was very brave, and we are so proud of him. We introduced him to a random nice-seeming kid whose mother had bought him up to check in with the teacher just before we did, and he found a friend that he’d been in kindergarten with in his other school, too. So we felt better about the not-knowing-anyone part by the time they went in to class, anyway.

We know this is the right thing to do — his other school was just too easy, and we didn’t want him to run into the ‘I’m bored so I’ll stop trying’ trap at some point — but we also know it’s going to be challenging. Which is kind of the point, but still, as a parent, you hate doing anything that causes your child distress, even if it’s for a brief period. It will take a couple of months for everything to settle properly, but an awesome first day does a lot for everyone’s outlook.

In the interest of full revelation, I asked him how he’d done with the French, and he said, “Fine! Rebecca (the friend he’d known in kindergarten) translated everything for me!” Which is not exactly… well, whatever. It all starts somewhere, right? And we know he does understand a lot more than he can speak.

The nerves hit on the second day, though. I got a call from the office just past ten o’clock saying that Sparky wasn’t feeling well and could I come and pick him up? Owlet had just gone down for her nap, and I suspected he wasn’t actually ill, so I said I’d be there by ten-thirty. Five minutes later the phone rang again, and the receptionist said to hold off, because the principal had overheard who was in the office and now had him in her own office for a talk. The principal called me afterwards and we agreed that it had been nerves (although there was an element of seasonal allergy there, stuffing him up and making him a bit unhappy), and that to bring him home would make going back the next day even harder. So I picked him up as planned at lunch, as it was a half-day, and he was much better. I don’t know what we’d do without this principal. She’s part of why we decided to make the switch, and she’s been just wonderful.

Friday was the first full day, and when I met him outside under the trees he was bouncing. First of all, he’d lost his eighth tooth, always an exciting event at school. His teacher had put it in a little blue treasure chest for him, and he refused to put it under his pillow. (“Because it’s much more valuable to me than the Tooth Fairy, Mama,” he explained that night. Um… okay?) But there was something else, too.

“Mama, I learned two new French words today!” he said with great enthusiasm. “Really?” I said, very pleased. “Which ones?” And then he proceeded to rattle off, ”Est-ce que je peut aller a la toilette,” and “Est-ce que je peut aller boire de l’eau”, both of which are significantly more than two new words! And he said them clearly and with good accent, like it was easy, and it was. I should have known he’d learn better from people who were not his parents. It’s the same reason I didn’t start teaching him cello, but sent him to my teacher instead. We can teach him general skills, but when it comes to formal teaching, he learns better from someone else. Being in a group of kids who are all speaking French helps, too. It’s just like how he walked a week into going to a caregiver with other kids who could walk, after choosing not to at home for a couple of months.

So, school is just fine so far. He is positive and excited about it, for which we are very thankful. I’m so very proud of him for handling it the way he’s doing.

(And wow, do I ever need a new icon for Sparky.)

Owlet: Thirteen Months Old!

Okay, where are we at? Dear gods, she’s thirteen months old.

Owlet has, in the past month, totally gotten into:

  • feeding others (crackers I can stomach, especially is they’re not soggy, but she feeds me raisins and I have to pretend I like them because she won’t take no for an answer)
  • blowing kisses
  • saying and waving bye-bye
  • lying down on blankets, taking about seven point two seconds of rest before she’s up and running again
  • pushing things along the floor or through the air, going “vrrrrr, vrrrr” (like blocks, the laundry basket, and books. And a Little People black sheep, as well. That cracked me up. I decided it was a steampunk cyborg sheep.)
  • taking people’s hands and cupping them to her cheek, then cradling her head in them (so, so sweet)
  • finally, cuddles! She climbs up and puts her arms around your neck, then leans her head against your shoulder, and it’s just so wonderful. Sometimes she even pats our shoulder or arm while she does it.
  • New skills include:

  • Opening our lever door handles (Jana, [from my online mums group, see below] whose son demonstrated this new skill just about the same time, said that it feels like that moment when the velociraptors in Jurassic Park figure it out)
  • Swinging open the gate barricade we prop across the hall with ease (it’s not like it’s hinged and latched like our other ones, but it is wedged pretty firmly)
  • Climbing stairs like whoa, if we let her
  • Practicing the sliding-off-beds-and-chesterfields move
  • Big events this past month:

  • We met Jana, an online friend from BC, when she came to visit family in Montreal with her husband and son, who was born a couple of weeks before Owlet (we met via that online mums group, were everyone’s babies were due in July 2011). I packed the kids up and bought picnic lunch stuff, and we met at Lafontaine Park where we picnicked and played and talked. It was awesome. There was swinging (complete with chortles from them both), playing in the sand, dropping sticks and leaves down sewers, and eating of leaves. I am eternally grateful for this group; I have met so many wonderful women.
  • Owlet had her first experiment with crayons. She likes to see the lines she makes, but she isn’t entirely clear on which end or side to use. Lesson learned: Hand her one crayon at a time, and hide the others behind your back so she can’t see the box. And be ready to grab them if she starts lifting them toward her mouth.
  • New foods… I can’t remember any more. She eats everything. She’s had tastes of peanut butter and we haven’t seen any problems, so I assume she’s okay with it. Daily schedule-wise, she’s up around 6:30, naps from 9:30-11:00ish, naps from 2:00-3:30ish, and sleeps from about 7:30 to 6:30 the next morning.

    She has two huge swollen lumps where her one-year-old molars are coming in her upper jaw. No wonder she gets grouchy.

    Her twelve-month doctor appointment was terrific. She weighed 11.92 kg (26 lbs), and measured 78 cm. She’s still around the 97th percentile. The doctor is delighted with her and told me to keep on doing whatever I’m doing. She’s doing very well mobility-wise (she told me she expects one-year-olds to be cruising along furniture) and language-wise (again, she expects about three words at this age, so while I feel that Owlet is behind where she should be because Sparky set a crazy standard, she’s actually ahead of the average). She and Sparky walked in holding hands and slowly strolled down the row of clinic receptionists while smiling, as if they were showing off how adorable they were. The coos from the receptionists and nurses were hilarious.

    A couple of weeks ago she was standing in front of me eating a cracker. She looked at me and made her grabby-hand “I want food/more/milk please” sign. But she already had a cracker, so I was curious as to what she wanted. When I didn’t clue in, she made a little frustrated huff sound, reached the cracker out and banged my chest, then made her little grabby-hand sign again. “Oh, you want some milk with your cracker?” I said. “Mah, mah,” she said, all excited. So I picked her up and put her on my lap, and she sat there and nursed for a minute, then popped off, had a bite of cracker, then had some more milk, and so forth. I was very amused.

    We can’t leave anything on a placemat within her reach, because she pulls the placemat over and helps herself to what’s on the plate or in the glass. A couple of weeks ago I turned around to find her holding HRH’s coffee cup nonchalantly, with a huge coffee stain down her chest and across her lap. (The coffee was cool, fortunately.) She is fascinated by cups of tea and coffee. This morning she was talking to my Davids Tea mug with the silhouettes of birds on it, and kept peeking inside. It was cool enough that I told her she could sip it if she liked. She dipped a finger in to touch the surface instead, and sucked the tea off.

    She loves telephones, but she doesn’t quite get the idea. She knows she can hear the person talking so she reaches for it when I use it. She gets a huge grin when I put the receiver to her ear, but then she puts it in front of her to look at the receiver, kisses it with her big open-mouthed “mwah!”, and then presses as many buttons as possible with her thumbs before someone rescues it.

    She tried to grab the broom repeatedly from HRH when he swept up after dinner, so I found Sparky’s tiny broom for her to use. She loves it. Although after she swept a couple of times that night, she turned it around and started using it like a lightsaber against a chair. Perhaps we shouldn’t have taught her to play Jedi with Sparky in the backyard with the extra lightsaber toy…

    I love watching Owlet and Sparky play together. The older she gets, the more he seems to love her and actively want to play with her, which is delightful. Their favourite games seem to be “hide under the blanket and try to find me,” “pile on top of Sparky,” and “push Owlet around in a laundry basket while she chortles.” She loves coming with me to drop him and collect him at school; there are dogs to look at, and cats that sit on the street corners, and all! those! people! to wave at and say “Bye-bye” to. There are problems, of course, namely that with her newfound ability to unwedge the hall barrier and open doors, she wants to be in Sparky’s room with him when he’s playing on his own with non Owlet-friendly toys like Lego. But in general, they genuinely like one another, and I am so grateful for that.

    (For comparison purposes: Here is Sparky’s thirteen-month post.)