The big standouts this weekend: The boy’s first cello lesson, his first at-home practise on Sunday evening, and the arrival of new spinning equipment.
If you hit the previous post or the RSS feed early on Friday afternoon, you may have missed the two small updates to it, including photos.
The biggest obstacle to the lessons may be the travel time. Forty-five minutes, while fine for me because it’s roughly the length of a cello concerto so I get a sense of completion, is long for a squirmy boy in a snowsuit in the back. We’ll have to figure out a way to keep him busy.
Otherwise, the lesson went really well. There was lots of information that an adult would absorb almost immediately about how to sit and how to hold the cello, but the boy had to be talked through it. It was really fascinating to watch the Suzuki method being enacted with someone of the age for whom it was originally developed. He adores his tuning song ( “Ants, Ants, Ants, Digging in the Dirt, Dirt, Dirt, Going under Ground, Ground, Ground, All the way to China, China, China” for the four strings, ADGC), loves the “catapult” exercise where he holds his cello hand out to the side, palm up and hand slightly cupped, then bends the elbow and the hand is “released,” catapult-like, to land on the fingerboard. His teacher lent him her completely adorable Twinkle Bow to use for the week (because the bow that came with the cello set is a 1/2 bow, so it’s extremely unwieldy for (a) the 1/4 cello and (b) the child who needs the 1/8 cello), and put two tiny frog stickers on it so he had a visual reference for mid-point and balance point when he does his bowing exercise (which, he will discover, is the rhythm variation A of Twinkle). He was very proud of showing her that my luthier taught him how to make a bunny shape with the fingers of his right hand, then the bunny opens its mouth a bit and slides over the frog of the bow, teeth and ears kept long:
Not only is the bow two inches too long for the cello it came with (and therefore probably three to four inches too long for the boy), the 1/4 cello is unwieldy; we’ll be needing the 1/8. At the proper angles, his endpin is only extended two inches and his reach around the upper bouts is limited; he can’t get the bow down between the fingerboard and the bridge. The oversized instrument may have been a contributing factor in the slight mishap that occurred about three-quarters of the way through the lesson, when he twisted an odd way without holding onto the neck and the cello slipped off his body and fell to the ground. I thought my heart was going to stop. We all froze, our teacher picked it up and examined it, and all seemed to be well… but it could have gone very, very wrong. She asked him to apologise to me, then taught him about the three points of contact (knees, chest, floor) and the correct way to stand up and sit down with the cello so that he’d have a better understanding of the mechanics.
He’d drawn a picture for her (unprompted) that he gave to her at the end of the lesson, which she put up on her fridge. When we pulled out of her driveway, he sighed deeply and said, “I’m going to miss my cello teacher.” So I think it went well. She made quite an impression on him.
When I got home from my (quite excellent) ensemble lesson on Sunday, we set up his little chair and his endpin plank for his first at-home practice. This little cello doesn’t keep its tuning very well at all. I don’t know if that’s a commonality to all fractional celli or an idiosyncrasy of this one, or even because it’s literally newly set up and the pegs might not fully fit the pegholes properly. I may put a drop of peg dope on the pegs to keep them from slipping as badly as they’ve been doing. Anyway, after I wrestled with the pegs for a bit he got to sing his tuning song about the ants, practised his catapult, did his pizzicato rhythm practice, then again with what he and his teacher call “the magic bow”, and finally with fingers 1 and 2 of the left hand in prep for fingering. He loved it, and I did, too. I wish my practice sessions could be that fun.
In completely unrelated news, this arrived on Friday morning just as the boy and I were walking down the driveway to go to the bus stop:
I had a noon deadline, so I exerted magnificent self-control and didn’t open it until after I’d handed my project in and had made myself lunch:
I love that the maker signed the bottom of the table:
I bought walnut-coloured stain, tack cloths, foam brushes, and fine sandpaper on Saturday morning. HRH will borrow one of the tins of wood wax from work once I get to that point in a week or so. Once it’s all stained and waxed, we’ll assemble it. I figure it will be functional by mid-February (coincidentally, my next big deadline, so it’s probably a good thing it won’t be ready before that).
And two days before, this arrived in the mail:
As I was on deadline I didn’t try it out right away, but I did sit down Friday evening to test-spin some… vitamin cotton. Yes, I was crazy enough to have saved the cotton stuffing from the last few vitamin bottles, and I fluffed it up and used it to test this new Spinner’s Lair reclaimed walnut and oak spindle that weighs in at 0.88 oz. And you know what? Using a good-quality handmade spindle beats using a heavy, mass-produced, beginner’s spindle, hands-down.
If I can spin vitamin cotton on this thing, I can spin anything. I no longer hate spindles.
In other non-related news, I’m getting used to the iPhone. The headphone jack is on top instead of the bottom as well as being on the left instead of the right, which is now my most commonly enacted mistake. It annoys me that when I pull it out of a pocket I have to flip the thing around to access the home button and iPod controls, unlike my Touch, which had the headphone jack on the bottom so it went into a pocket upside-down with the controls easily accessible if I put my hand in my pocket. I need to work on focusing the photos I take with it, too, as you can see from some of the recent images here. It eats battery charge, something I have learned is a common weakness of the 3G series; to partially combat this one must be careful to close apps before putting it into sleep mode. Figuring I had nothing to lose because there was nothing on the iPhone yet and therefore a factory restore wouldn’t kill anything, I updated the iOS to 4, and all was well. I figured if Apple had to have fixed whatever killed most 3Gs back when the iOS4 was released last fall in the last two updates, and I seem to have been right. Now I can run my more current purchased apps like Toodledo and so forth.
My mouse is being annoying, sluggish and recalcitrant even though I just changed its battery and cleaned off the optic sensor, the ungrateful thing. I’m going to go back to working on the bird book.