Sunday, November 30, 2008

Step ball change, LEAP.

We are touching down occasionally in our own home lately. Between out of town gigs that take us to my parents' awesome home and visiting loved ones in Montana, and more out of town gigs for the next ten days, we are seldom in one place for long. Which is actually quite wonderful until somebody gets sick.

I think I'm getting mastitis. Do NOT google that, unless you enjoy seeing disgusting boob pictures spewed out by the internetia. It's kind of like a cold in your milktation machinery. It makes you feel like you have the flu and mono all wrapped up in one painfully hot packet. Thank you sir, may I have another? Poor Isaac can't figure out why I turn into a stone of tension and grimace every time he needs a topping off.

I am really really looking forward to December 13th, the last day of my duties and obligations thus far. This is the first year in a while when I couldn't care less that I'm not playing a single Nutcracker. We'll just get the DVD from the library and call it good.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tapped out.

I'm feeling really crusty and dried up inside, my brain is practically rattling out of my head like a stray kernel of rice shaken off a high chair cover on sushi night.

We're heading to Montana, beating a hasty retreat to the land of (another set of) doting grandparents. I'm looking forward to hours of both imps strapped safely into carseats. Don't tell any good parents, but I'm bringing earplugs and I'll be snoring by the time we hit the Gorge for sure.

Happy Thanksgiving if I don't make it back by here.

Toby would like to thank God for the bees, rainbows, Jesus, and wheels that go around and around.

He probably gets less crap than violists.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's happening again...

I can totally agree with those types who want to slow down the holiday season, to take time and savor a few shining events with loved ones rather than pack in a shindig a day like a girl scout on her way to her Domestic Overcommitment badge. I see the idea of orchestrated simplicity in my family life fly past on my way to reality every November or so. In fact every single month I get a couple of beautiful magazines packed with somebody's long-massaged idea about how to make every corner of my life a paradigm of organized loveliness. Your home represents you, your schedule displays what you value, the enlightened move calmly from moment to carefully cherished moment and you better too, they confide tastefully from within their manicured covers.

Zaniness at this time of year is just the way it is when you are a classical musician. Even folks who don't have much of a relationship with the great composers and all the variety of styles within the big C will recognize bits of the Messiah and think of the holidays. They make a tradition of going to a holiday concert, so we put on a bazillion concerts at the holidays. As a Christian I think it has something to do with people's inbuilt desire to be a part of creative endeavors and to celebrate something corporately. Of course if you really want to get into worship and music in popular culture, there's always rock.

I see another striking similarity between classical music and religion in that people like it for the ceremony. There is muted controversy there, some classical musicians bucking for a collective toss to the dumpster of their formal tails and fussy hall atmospheres. (I myself let it all hang out here whenever possible.) The entire relevant church movement (from the very earliest days to right this postmodern second) are in the same kind of battle between respecting tradition and finding modern immediacy in their expressions.

I had a little epiphany the other day at a bar watching some folks struggle through a very late Beethoven movement. It's THE Beethoven movement, actually. It is life and death, consonance and dissonance all wrapped up and knitted together with complex strands the way only Beethoven and little sonny Jesus ever could. Some members of this group had a tougher time than others and yes, there are moments in any performance of this nature where the listener is just hoping they make it through to the next phrase and get on with it. But as I sat there watching them help each other through and heard them come to more than one True thing.

Whatever you do this season, however busy you get, my advice is to cling to those odd moments when things are True and run with them. For me at this season, simplicity is a myth but Truth is everywhere.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mama's leetle friend.

Last week we met Piccolo*, a student at the college where I teach who likes to babysit. She came over while I was home, I went upstairs in my slippers with my coffee and practiced for 2 1/2 hours. In a row. Alone. I also did a load of laundry, ran the dishwasher and cleaned the toilets. Alone.

This week I painted some furniture, organized dinner, went through all of Isaac's clothes and agreed to a gig. Alone.

It is so incredibly rejuvenating, I cannot tell you how much those few hours mean to me. She's great. She reads to them, keeps Toby in line and makes Isaac giggle. I made her coffee, fed Isaac (duh) and even changed both boys' diapers over the course of the morning. She would, but I'm flitting around anyway and I know they both excel at wrestling. Still, that little window of time when I know I'll be able to do my own thing... it's like a shower after camping.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not dreaming of time away from my boys and we would not have a nanny even if we were the Warbucks. There is no doubt in my mind that it's a big deal to be able to be with them and not schlepping off to some factory or working nights. But I am totally certain that this makes me a better mom. I'm pretty sure they like seeing a different face every once in a while, too.

My parents (and J's too, when they're in town!) have also had a profound impact on these first years for our family. They spend four or five hours with the boys on my teaching days- and on the zillions of other days when we make up a reason to head their way. I can't imagine doing this on my own, and I'm just floored with gratitude for all these people helping us along the way.

*Not her real name, and not a descriptor- to the contrary, she's laid-back. Seems more like a clarinetist but who am I to tell her she plays the wrong instrument. That comes next week...

Monday, November 17, 2008


I played on the most amazing student recital yesterday. This senior composition student brought together a string quartet, a random quintet, an OPERA, and a few other solo works. She rehearsed them all, got over seventy people to attend the recital (that alone is literally stunning) and made every performer a gingersnap with our name written on it in frosting. We all have a thirty minute recording slot on Wednesday.

She should run for president- this woman is organized and gets people to agree to all sorts of things.

I've been really enjoying playing lately. There seem to be phases for that, like any job I suppose. While there's always a certain functional satisfaction to performing, I savor these times when even practicing is appealing to me.

J is probably laughing at my tra-la attitude after listening to me practice the trio I'm playing Friday. It's by a nutty Romanian composer and was composed in 1990. Kurtag is a big name in contemporary classical music (not necessarily the whitest hottest kind of fame) but he put things in the viola part that are impossible to play. This is not hyperbole; it is physically not doable and would have garnered any composition student a lower grade. I guess over the last few months of rehearsing and practicing I thought I would come up with something to approximate his requests, but no such miracle has occurred. Sometimes you get the feel of a piece and can fill in a bit of musical vocabulary for the composer if he's written clumsily, but this... well. Just look:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Vrrrroooooom there goes my ego.

Lots of people have noticed that having little kids around makes holidays more fun, and it's one of the few things you hear about parenting that is entirely true. It's cool to have an excuse to spoil them and break our schedule, and it's neat to have a reminder to emphasize whatever it is you like best about each day.

It's also fun for me to indulge my crafty, time-consuming wonts. I made Toby a big diaper-box model of his favorite car (a green Dodge Charger), which he promptly refused to wear despite his deep love "It's YOUR car, for You." Pronouns are tricksters for the two year old mind.

Funny thing about Toby's costume. It actually kinda made us miss Halloween. I lost myself in the green felt and black duct tape so much that I let the boys sleep extra long in their naps and we got a late start driving to J's office for the annual cute-kid parade & candy fest. I was honestly really annoyed and disappointed about that, but there's not much you can do when you leave only 35 minutes for a 50 minute drive. Part of me was so selfish as to think I shouldn't have bothered making the dang costume in the first place... until I saw Toby playing with it. He really hasn't stopped playing with it since that night. He's asked to take it to bed. The point is, was I making it for him or to show off to a bunch of near-strangers? In the end I decided a little self-indulgence is okay, but real joy in parenting comes when you give selflessly, just like in real life. Even if he hadn't loved it, I did enjoy the making, and thinking about his cute little proclivities all along.

Isaac was a pumpkin (99 cents last year from Old Navy!), and I could have died from the cuteness when Toby kept calling him "punkin', he's a little punkin' in derrr". I am such a sucker- you'll have to remind me not to fall for their adorable scams when they're older. Like next year.

Toby had his first bunch of candy and as far as I can tell he likes berries, rice popcorn and hot dogs better. He did like the Skittles but went around the room feeding them to all of us, so it must not have been as mindblowing as the actual fruits. He also had some rad bugs to play with from Gramma.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

In a wild humor

Me- That is NOT funny, Toby.
Toby- Deee dee dooooo da HAHAHAHAHA.

The above conversation happens a LOT. And he actually sings his part. And we have been awakened to Mwahahahahahaha in a surprisingly low and rhythmic voice from the next room more than once this week.

I'm just hoping he doesn't pick up any foul language while we watch election results tonight. I kid. Mwahaha!