Sunday, May 31, 2009

Piano Recital

I host a piano recital twice a year and was excited to have my new piano for my students. This year's recital had performances by 8 students. I was proud of them and felt like the hard work was worth it. Nothing like the impending feeling of making a fool of oneself in public to motivate students to practice! (Or piano teachers to clean house!)

Sami looks so cute playing this. I especially like the tattoo on her forearm.

Here's her twin sister, Sara. They are also our neighbors and play with Katrina.

Check out Felicity's tongue sticking out in this one. She was definitely concentrating.

Katrina was Little Miss Confident. She performs at every opportunity and as such, was very prepared. My adult student, Adyannahy, is in the background. She also did very well- hey, they all did!

I should have taken pictures of the refreshments- fruit pizza, ganache filled cupcakes with different toppings, and watermelon. But they didn't last long. With those starving children, is anyone surprised?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Madam Librarrrrrr-ian

Scene: Irving, TX Public Library Summer, 2005
Enter Young Frazzled Mom with 4 year old curly haired girl, 2 year old curly haired girl (who is still working on potty-training), and 4 month old skinny baby boy, all vying for position in the battered double stroller shaped like a semi and overloaded with books.

Wow, thinks YFM, such a huge library with so many books! The smell of libraries enough is to make me happy! Yes, I will spend WEEKS in here! And look- computers galore!

[note: YFM is in TX with family for Hubcap's internship, only for the summer. They are staying in a 2 BR apt w/ no internet, no phone, no neighbors with children, no cable tv or anything like unto it. All worldly possessions except for some clothing, bedding, and cookware were left behind in Boston. Sometimes, they all need a break.]

And so, YFM and children spend some moments searching for books. When children are contentedly looking at books a few feet away from the computers, YFM sits down at one of the many open computers to check her email and see if there is any communication from her long lost family members who no longer converse except via email. She is just about to open one in the inbox when suddenly, a Crabby Library Worker approaches....

CLW: "Sorry, these computers are for children only. You're in the children's section. If you want to use the computer, you'll have to go upstairs to the adult section. "

YFM: "Yes, I'm in the children's section because I have children [breaking news, evidently], and I want them to be happy while I am on the computer."

CLW: "Sorry. Those are the rules. You need to get off now." (looking at watch)

YFM: "But there are several other computers available should any children want to use them!"

CLW: "Five...four...three..."

YFM and 3 children load back into the stroller. Baby starts to fuss. They make their way to the elevator, which has all the efficiency of an iceberg. After arriving upstairs, YFM finds a computer, which requires her to stand, while curly-haireds run rampant and baby drools on her arm. She manages to open one email with prehistoric internet speed before chaos breaks out and adult patrons glare icily in their general direction. The family exits stage left to the elevator, to stand in line at the checkout desk while another CLW nags others about bringing materials back in time. So ends the hopeful visit to the libary.

I love libraries and always have. My mother has taken us to the library for as long as I can remember, and I enjoyed spending hours reading and looking for books in the musty smelling, peaceful environments. Sometimes we went for FHE, sometimes after school, and many summer days were spent there, reading and piling up stacks of books to take home and enjoy. Readily willing to admit my addiction for books, I appreciate in particular children's literature and have many happy memories of libraries past and present. However, I have noticed that a cheerful librarian can make all the difference. Some of them are so happy to help, so eager to search for a book which title I cannot remember (nor the author's name), even though it will never benefit them personally.

But for some reason, some librarians are extremely crabby. It is as though they loathe people, the books they love, but if the people would only leave them alone! They could enjoy their work, shelving, indexing, researching, reading. Especially those pesky children, how annoying they are with their silliness and rambunctious behavior in a place that is supposed to be quiet! TSK!

Consequently, we are learning to scout out the happy and forgiving librarians. Sometimes if I have had an infraction, I wait until one is available. Tonight, I did not have that choice. We had lost the last CD in an audiobook (that, might I add, was not highly entertaining to the adults in the car anyway), as well as a "folded and gathered" (softbound, stapled) book AND I had late fines to boot. All of my renewing priveleges were used up and today was the day of reckoning. We tore the house apart searching for aforementioned items and I was tearing my hair out too. Mark had finally arrived home from work and I walked out the door with the books I could locate as well as the checkbook, knowing I would need it.

With a penitent face, I approached the information desk (circulation at this library is taken care of by patrons, quite the nifty scanning system) and interrupted Madam Librarian to say that I had a hefty fine to pay. After I'd explained my situation, she took the discs I had, stating that she would ask around about it and not to worry right now. She renewed the missing book despite my already overreached limit. And to top it all off, she accepted back into library-ship a book that we had already lost and paid for, and then located in our Toyroom Spring Purge last month, which book buy-back paid for the fines and earned me $2.97.

What a difference a nice librarian works. I left feeling at peace with the world and with libraries again. And two new books. (Hey, we have to start small. Our house is still chaotically messy.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Can't, I Can't, I Can't Stand Losing

The competitive genes at our home are alive and kicking, thanks to Mr. M. He is all of 4 years old, but very much in the thick of his winning streak. He sets the terms of the contest, declares "It's not a wace [race]," if he's losing, and proclaims "It's a tie" if he's obviously lost. When going upstairs, he starts the race when he's 2 steps from the top. Mawk, set, go...

Although I think that a little competition can be a motivating influence, I don't like to make everything a contest and don't like the negative feelings that ensue from one person winning and everyone else losing. I'm just wondering with Matthew, Why is it so important to have a winner in every situation? Why is it so important that HE is the winner? A few weeks ago, I was observing him getting dressed. He told me that the "boy arm" beat the "girl arm" going through the sleeve. You can probably guess which leg won. When I said that the polite thing to do was to let the girl go first at times, he said, "She likes being last." Where does he come up with this stuff? How do you curb chauvinism in so young a subject?

Sometimes, we play games together, and he does okay if he doesn't win. We used to play Memory and he would be very upset if I found a match he wanted to find, such as a pair of rocket ships or the hot dogs. Over time, he gets better at hoping his luck will change the next game and being happy with what he finds. He also likes being on a team, so that someone can help him win. I figure we need some practice losing so it's not so devastating to him and so irritating for the rest of us, like the following example:

This week, we went to the library and he found one of those horrendous (Let-me-sleep-with-my-eyes-open-while-reading-aloud-this-drivel) mass-produced books, Batman solves the case against the Joker, Volume LXIV. After lunch, he requested that I read it to him, and after doing so, I could not tell you one iota of the plot except that I know it falls into the formulaic yarns of other such books. At the end, there are a bunch of bat emblems pictured for you to find as you peruse through the book in future readings, since you definitely won't be reading it for entertainment value. Matthew and I went through them together. Every single time he couldn't find the bat picture and I pointed it out, he would say,

"I already saw that."

If I weren't so annoyed by his smug little face, I'd think that it's cute.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Uncow Bwian*

My little bachelor brother Brian had been bugged by me for long enough to come for a visit, so he purchased a plane ticket and came to visit us over Mother's Day weekend. He's not really a high-maintenance guy, so I didn't plan anything, since the Rangers weren't in town anyway. We went to Plano to visit the home of our youth (we were there 1980-1983):

He also helped me shop for a piano. I have been teaching piano lessons for several years on a digital piano. It has been faithful for several years, with many benefits, such as volume control and weight (Mark and I carried it up 3 flights of stairs to our apartment when we bought it). My children like the pre-recorded songs and other instrument voices options, too.

However, when we moved to Texas, it was damaged and I knew I would eventually want a new piano anyway. I've been saving my teaching $ for a long time, and when a liquidation sale happened the weekend Beelz came, I thought he'd be a good advisor, since he plays the piano well. As it turns out, he was, although not in the way a mathematician who adores stats would typically help- we both liked the way one played, and it was a good price. I typically sweat over such decisions for months, so I was grateful for his seal of approval, as well as the long-distance validation from the Kansas City pianists. Overall, I'm pretty happy with my choice.

He kept the giggly girls at bay while Mark ran around doing Mother's Day prep. Katrina and Felicity really enjoy UNO and he tried not to get too bugged by their silliness and slow strategies. Brian also helped clean and played with the boys, too. We went on a bike ride and he did better than I at not getting impatient with Matthew and Matthew's small bike, aka "Fast One".

We always love having visitors, especially ones who are so willing to dive in and participate. By "participate," I of course mean "work your tail off". Can you believe this guy is still single?!? So easygoing, so willing to be bossed, so complimentary of everything...

*When I student taught 1st grade in Manhattan, the students worked on books with invented spelling. One very cute little boy named Fernando insisted that the correct spelling for uncle is u-n-c-o-w. I had to admit, that's what it sounds like, especially with a NY accent or if one can't say r's.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


2 stories:

1. About a month ago, I was taking a babysitter home and asked her a few questions about school and life and stuff. She is a really nice girl and very responsible. She is also on the quieter, more reserved side. In this conversation, she told me that she has much better friends now than when she was in Middle School. Her old friends used to ignore the things she would say or talk over her when she would begin a story. Being nosy, I discovered that these were friends from church. I reflected that it is likely I was probably much like these friends as a youth, oblivious to doing it, but guilty of the action just the same.

2. On Monday we had a few friends over to play. One of whom is not a regular visitor, but as it is Swine Break, her grandpa across the street was babysitting her for the day, and she joined the handful of little girls (and one boy) forming the Detective Agency in the backyard. They seemed to be playing well together, but then Brianna came in with a complaint to register about my daughters. At that point, it was time for friends to go home anyway, since we were off to another activity, so I apologized for them and decided to delve into the matter on our drive.

Me: "Felicity and Katrina, Brianna said you weren't listening to her whenever she had things to say. What happened?"

F: "Ahh, she was too quiet. So we had to speak over her."

K: "Yeah, she has a soft voice. Nobody could hear what she was saying and so I had to be louder."

I then proceeded to define "Outspoken" and stated that every person in our family fits that description. So it is our job to watch out for people who are perhaps less outspoken, to make sure they have opportunities to speak and give them a chance once they do. Mrs. Pot teaching her little Kettles.

Even now, I have a hard time not finishing someone's sentences when he seems to be having a hard time coming up with the words. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just engaging in the conversation and helping it along. Being wordy, sometimes my stories (and blog posts) are a tad heavy on the details, which doesn't always allow time for others. Apologies to any I've offended. I do think it's kind of amusing that everyone in my house has a voice and definitely knows how to use it to communicate. While others teach their children to speak more, we're working on speaking less, listening more.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ciao & Arrivederci

Mark changed jobs in February, and we are all thankful to have him home at night now. When he was consulting, he traveled every week and racked up lots and lots of frequent flyer miles and hotel points. Knowing that airlines and hotels change the benefit rules and go out of business all the time, we decided to use up our points and planned a vacation to Italy for the days that we are the same age. There was a layover in Spain, and we didn't want to waste it in the airport, so we spent a day there too.

We left on April 21, which happened to be "Free Cone Day" at Ben & Jerry's, which stand was located right across from our gate. I thought that was a great way to start off our trip. Because of Mark's FF status, Iberian upgraded us to first class while flying across the Atlantic and I worried things were going so well that we'd end up crashing into the ocean by a desert island with nothing but a volleyball for lunch/companionship. (I felt very guilty riding in first class so I didn't sleep a wink.) It was a clear, sunny day in Spain, a little chilly in the shadows but it warmed through the day. Neither Mark nor I speak Spanish but we found those who did were very friendly and happy to help.
In the gardens outside the Prado museum

Next we went to Italy, landing in Venice. We got to the city as the tourists were departing and the rainstorms were too. Great timing! A little chilly and a lot touristy, but we had fun exploring and Mark negotiated a good deal on a gondola ride since the poor gondoliers had little business that day in the rainy weather.

We met up with my siblings in Lucca and drove off to Pisa in the tiny clown car.

The drive through Tuscany was lovely. The roads were tricky to navigate, but I wasn't driving or reading the map. We had to get out several times to take pictures because it was so beautiful. This was the highlight of the trip for me, either that or the gondola ride. Yes, I'm holding an apple in that picture. We kept buying fruit at every opportunity and for some reason, I took the fruit on a walk.

We stopped at a walled city called San Gimignano. They had 22 of these towers at one point and apparently were very competitive in their construction.

A lovely view from where Tyler and I waited for those who deigned to spend $ on using the bathroom.

Next, we went to Florence, where the crowds were thick as it was the end of "Culture week," and it seemed that all of Europe was there on Spring Break, not to mention some rowdy Americans, too. On the plus side, all of the museums were free! We found a really good place off the tourist path that night and ate there. Best food of the trip. My travel companions were great and one of them (I'll let you guess who) really enjoyed talking about music, children, cooking, and home decorating with me. But we were nice to the boys and didn't bring up childbirth once, even though she's currently pregnant.

Mark, Bruce, and Michelle organizing themselves in the Campo

I'm looking very crabby that morning outside the Duomo & cool Baptistry doors. Don't worry, I'm always cheerful in the mornings, even while traveling

Church was conveniently held in the basement of our hotel on Sunday morning, because it was District Conference. We were hoping to attend an Italian branch meeting but this was not bad since there were interpreters and how long has it been since I've attended Stake Conf without children? Tyler served his mission there a year ago, so he got to see many people he knew. Afterwards one of the members asked him if I was his little sister and he clarified that I was "molto, MOLTO grande!!!" That's right, 10 years older actually. But I was complimented.

We went to Sienna that afternoon and had a great lunch at a cafe with enormous portions. The funniest moment of the trip was when Bruce stabbed the cake on a nearby table, right after the Americans eating there left, and sampled it (on the side they weren't eating off, of course). He agreed with them that it was too dry.

We then went to Rome and drove all over creation trying to find our hotel before Mark, Tyler and I jumped out and just took a bus to it. We saw the usual things there:

Bruce and Mark listening to the AudiGuide Tours in the Colesseum

Bruce throwing a coin backward into the Trevi Fountains, wishing to return...
(When did this become Bruce's blog?? He doesn't even read my blog!!)

At the Spanish Steps in the rain

And here were are at the last day in front of St. Peter's Cathedral, which is one heck of a humongous cathedral with Peter's tomb in the basement. What are the odds he's still down there? Anyone?

It was a great trip and a wonderful break from the diapers, dishes, delivering kids to actys, etc. I missed the children a lot and was really happy to see them upon returning and extremely grateful to my parents for taking such good care of them while we were away. And sure enough, Max learned to walk while we were gone. He didn't even remember who I was when I picked him up Thursday morning!

Wow, you deserve a prize if you actually read this whole post. Contact my husband and maybe you can convince him too (although first you'll have to explain to him that the blog post exists).
For any true gluttons for punishment, there are more pictures in this slide show thingy if you really want to look at them. Sorry to anyone else who suffered through it out of duty. No more trips for awhile- all the points are gone.