Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ten True Photos

Sheesh, it's been a while since I was here.

Ten True Photos. Because words sometimes just seem like too much work.

1. Roll N Write. This is how I spend my Thursday (late) mornings now. Working in Nate's class with the 3rd graders, doing 'beat the clock' math drills that have a bit of a video-game feel, as you have to beat your score to advance to the next level.

2. Basketball. It's what's on tap for Kelly these days.

3. Camera stuff. I've been shooting fairly regularly, and I like the prompts of the folks. But maybe I'm shooting too much, and not giving myself time to tell the stories of the pictures. This is Kelly waiting at the local Starbucks for her drink to be made. She sits in the corner by the barristas, and watches the espresso machine work through the glass.

4. Nate and Kelly were off this past week. Skip was not. So he missed out on the trip to the Exploratium on Thursday. This is a great magnet display where you try to 'float' a metal disc down a chute by positioning a larger powerful magnet over top of the chute. He'd probably still be there if I hadn't made him move on to the Next! Fantastic! Thing!

5 & 6. Also on Thursday, our church youth did a Chinese New Year themed "Chill Night". I provided the sparklers from Chinatown (did I ever mention the hijinks that went on when I chaperoned this year's trip to Chinatown? I must talk about the old guy with the joint, and the direct view into the public men's room urinals from the Tai Chi court. Boo yeah.) Anyways, after they played a rousing game of Kill Ball (I don't want to know.) I fed them all, and then took them out into the middle of the parking lot to play with sparklers.

(yes that's Skip)

7. Kelly is making herself an updated version of the Infamous Cow Pants.

8. Tofu.

Tofu is a young Djungarian hamster, aka Winter White (Phodopus sungorus). This is the place he wants to be: going for a ride-along in someone's hand. He climbed into Kelly's hand in the pet store, and looked her square in the eye. Freaky, actually. But how can you say "no" to a hammie who obviously is a people-person.

Here. Have 9 and 10, too.

You would even say she glows.

Tofu is a little boy. I think we will be on the lookout for a little girl with a similar people-person personality (Wasabi, perhaps? Or Miso?), and see if they can't have one little family. Kelly already has 4 friends (plus our Starbucks Barrista) who would adopt a critter as personable as Tofu.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Accompaniment gig.

Well, I finally went to the middle school to volunteer as a pianist today.

I was so nervous. I actually had to stand by my front door, and talk (out loud!) to myself to make myself get in the car and go to school on time, and not chicken out. I am such a big baby. And my big concern? I was wearing a new (to me) pair of jeans that I've just shrunk into, and I was most worried that maybe they were still a little too snug in the legs, and what if the seam on the right leg, where there's some great applique, split while I was playing the piano???? Oh! The horror!


I can't believe I even confessed to that. Why did I write that down?


I showed up at 915, and 2nd period started about 5 minutes later, and I walked in, and I was worried that the teacher would want to work on pieces that I really hadn't practiced all that much (oh, I didn't mention that I ran into him yesterday while I was selling ice cream at lunch, and he said 'oh, here are 10 other pieces that the various choirs are working on. I hope you didn't think we were just doing one song...' Eek! And so I had about an hour yesterday to quickly go over the other songs... ok, there were only 6)

The first choir spent a bunch of time working on this Aaron Copeland number that I didn't know at all, but in the end, it was a perfect piece for me to start with, because they really just needed their vocal parts mirrored at the piano, and so that was basically one finger on each hand. Whew.

The second choir had Carrie in it (daughter of long-time local friend, and girl who Kelly considers her BFF, even though they're in different grades.). But my GOODNESS, what a chatty Cathy that girl is in class. I'm going to put a private word in her ear before our next session, because I think she could really be a leader to encourage the other girls in her section to PAY ATTENTION! which was rather lacking during the rehearsal. They spent a good chunk of the rehearsal working on a choral arrangement of Africa (the Toto classic), and I nervously played mostly accompaniment, and some vocal lines when they were getting thready. Then, once I got a bit of my piano-legs under me, they moved onto the Rodgers and Hammerstein piece, and, with my confidence inflated only a little bit more than I deserved, I jumped right into full-on accompaniment. Which, I will say, was a little less stellar than one might have hoped for, but I did remind myself that this was a group of 12 and 13 year olds, and they were probably too busy chatting with each other than worrying about whether I played every note in that one chord correctly.

After lunch, it was the third choir's turn with me. I was thinking "ok, this is the 6th grade chorus. They're going to be WAY more basic, and probably need more help with their melody lines"


melody lines? Musicality? Turns out that what they needed help with was GETTING PUNCHED IN THE FACE.

Oh, whoops. Did I say that out loud? I swear, I was getting ready to stand up on my piano bench and shout at them to PAY ATTENTION. Good lord. I guess there is a down side to selling ice cream at lunch. You get 40 kids on a sugar rush at 1pm.

But discipline isn't my responsibility, so I sat at the piano and noodled around, while the choirmaster gave them a stern talking to.

And then they settled down.

And then they started working on a piece that I kind of NEVER PRACTICED, and the director said "Oh, they know the tune, so if you could just play the accompaniment..."


Nervous sweat glands go into OVERDRIVE.

But it was not nearly as bad as if that had happened during my first session of the day. I was getting a little bit more comfortable at the piano, so I was able to cover the fact that I was TOTALLY OUT OF MY DEPTH.

And then! THEN!

They're doing a version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It's the version done by IZ, this Hawaiian guy with a ukulele, and the director said something like "If you could sort of play the accompaniment, and then plunk out the melody, but I'd like this one melody line to go less like it's written, and more like the way that Judy Garland did it in the Wizard of Oz, can you do that? Or maybe we could do BOTH melodies at the same time..."

And something in my head broke. And some primeval piano-playing neanderthal took over, and I guess there is something hard-wired into my fingers after years and years (and years) of lessons, because if I didn't actually MANAGE TO DO WHAT HE ASKED!

And now I have two days to figure out exactly what it was that I did, because I'm going back there on Thursday.



Gotta get Kelly from basketball practice.

Oh, and can I just say that she had her first game yesterday?


24 to 6.

I don't think she'll be complaining for a while about how she was sure she was put on the WORST team in the school... (last week she wanted to quit because all her 'good' friends were on the other teams. Heh!)

Anyways, I took photos. They're still on the camera, Along with photos of Nate and his first smoke bomb (I'm so proud! ahem), and shots of the food the kids made for the Superbowl party on the weekend.


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Flowers! And bees!

I am still doing the Daily Shoot.

This afternoon, I popped out into the driveway after school, and played around in the golden-hour light.

Ah, my three-dollar Christmas cactus from last year is blooming AGAIN! I feel like I've gotten my money's worth out of that purchase.

The rosemary was a-buzz with bees. I guess you would call them Rosemary's Bee-bees...


I don't know whether to jump around and pat myself on the back, or smack myself upside the head, but last week I was approached by one of the music teachers at the middle school, and asked if it was true that I was a piano player. Instead of just looking at my feet and mumbling something about messing around when nobody's listening, I said "Why yes, I am..." and before you know it, I was being given sheet music, and a schedule of the rehearsal blocks for the three advanced choruses. "Now, I don't expect that you can make it to all four rehearsal times for each of the three choirs, but it would really help them a lot if you could get in there when you can. Trust me, anything's better than me plunking out a few notes, and making them repeat it" he said, when I started looking like I'd bitten off more than I could chew.

So since last Thursday, I've been pacing back and forth in front of our piano, looking at the Rodgers and Hammerstein compendium sitting on the music stand, and thinking "WHAT HAVE I DONE?????"

Truly, it is above my pay grade, when all is said and done. Oh, the first page lulled me into a false sense of security. It's a solo voice, and she's singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music" and there are FOUR NOTES underneath her. I can totally do that.

And then you turn the page. And all hell breaks loose.

Why didn't I look at the music before he gave it to me, and I walked out of his office, crossing the Point of No Return?

So of course yesterday, I thought "ok, it's time to BUCKLE DOWN! I've gotta beat this music into submission. Either I've gotta get completely familiar with the tunes and the gist of the accompaniment, or I've gotta get all the vocal lines under my belt, so I can say "Why don't I just play their phrases for the various parts until they get the hang of how the music goes together?""

And then Mr Migraine came in for a landing.


So I did a grand total of about 3 minutes of practicing. Even when I was 11, and could fake my way through the easy book, that wouldn't have worked for me.

I woke up this morning with sweaty palms. It's do-or-die time.

But first, tutoring!

I'm tutoring a high school senior through his AP Chemistry, and it's really being a brain-burner for me, because I swear I didn't do most of this stuff in COLLEGE! But he comes to my house, and he's a wonderful young man (I remember him when he was 7... here, let me see if I have a photo...

Here he's just duct-taped Skip to the wall. I can't believe those little guys are all in high school now. Time flies!)

Anyways, tutoring went from 8 to 915, and then I had to race over to the middle school because the first rehearsal block started at 930.

It was when I got to the school that i realized that i only had a vague idea of where the chorus room was. Skip never took chorus, and Kelly's doing band instead of chorus, so I just started wandering in the general direction, thinking that i would hear the music as I got closer.




I poked my head in one door, and it looked promising, so I went in, and down a short hall, and poked into a room that was, indeed, the Chorus rehearsal room.

But the music teacher was nowhere to be seen.

It was a sub.

And a last-minute sub, too, if I guessed right by the looks of things.

Fortunately, I saw one of Kelly's best friends sitting right by the door, so I snuck in and checked. Sure enough. It was a last-minute sub.

So I quickly tip-toed out of the room, hoping not to be noticed, and raced all the way home.

Where I promptly sat down at the piano and went over the music for a good half hour.

I don't know that I'm any better at it, but at least now, I'll feel a bit more prepared.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go exercise my lungs while I sing along with the schmaltziest bits of "You'll Never Walk Alone".