Friday, November 28, 2008

Tiny Virtuosa

This post is a mommy brag. Let's just get that straight from the start. :-)

Liesl had her 2nd official violin lesson today. I simply cannot believe how my 4 months of lessons (and daily practice) have influenced her with the violin. With our teacher's guidance, I did a lot of conscious work with her over those 4 months--I taught her the parts of the violin, we talked about how to take care of the violin and bow, and we talked about the music and exercises I was practicing. She also listened to Suzuki CD's every day for several hours, and together we watched clips of violinists on YouTube several times a week. (She loves videos of small children playing the violin!) But still--in these 4 short months, she has picked up so many things about music that I never thought to tell her about, never had the "time" to talk about, or, frankly, didn't really know myself. I am amazed at how quickly small children learn--both what we teach, and what they observe on their own.

After Liesl's 1st lesson last week (there is one picture below of that, but I was too busy enjoying the lesson and taking notes to take a lot of pictures), I received a very excited email from our teacher, Sharon. She and I have been discussing Liesl's first lesson for a while. We had assumed that Liesl would start with a 15-minute lesson for a few months, but decided that her 1st lesson would be 30 minutes so that Mommy and Miss Sharon had enough time to talk and take notes during the instruction. Liesl pretty much blew both of us away by staying attentive and engaged for the entire 30 minutes--so much so, that Miss Sharon wanted to continue with 30-minute lessons. She also said we should speed up our plans to get a "real" instrument in Liesl's hands ASAP. (The pictures of Liesl "playing" violin that you may have seen on this blog are with a toy violin. Miss Sharon suggested late in the summer that we buy it so Liesl can get a little hands-on training without damaging an expensive instrument.) But after Liesl's amazing 1st lesson last week, Sharon and I moved heaven and earth to get her first "real" violin this week. And we found one--a blemished Hoffman Etude outfit, with a bow and case--all in the 1/16 size. It is the most adorable thing I have ever seen in my life! (Ok, well, next to my kids, of course.) It is tiny, people. Absolutely amazing that this thing can produce the sounds of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

So today was Liesl's 2nd lesson, and again, she blew us both away. She is progressing so quickly through the beginning skills that Miss Sharon wants her to perform in the December recital class. My little girl is so enthusiastic about playing her very own violin. Sharon says that this is largely due to watching me practice daily, and watching her Daddy and I play together--we often do that on the weekends with the girls running around at our feet.

I am so very, very thankful that we found Sharon. She's a very patient, dedicated teacher with high warmth and very high demands on her students (myself included! I don't get away with not practicing just because I'm old and I don't keep a sticker chart!) She has a facinating resume and history with the violin. She has taught many small children and knows how to deal with them better than I do. She has been such a blessing on our lives for the short time we have known her.

Musical education is so important to little kids! I knew this when Liesl was a baby, but I hadn't yet figured out how to put it into practice (if you'll excuse the pun.) It's never too early--or too late--to start.
Demonstrating the standing rest position--protecting the violin

Showing off her perfect bow grip.
It took me 6 weeks to perfect my bow grip. It took her 6 minutes.

Playing for Miss Sharon in her studio

This was the only picture I took of Liesl's 1st lesson last week. I wish I had taken more, but I was busy taking notes and grinning my fool head off.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for:

My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
My wonderful husband
My beautiful, healthy daughters
The fact that my husband still has a job
Our home--be it humble and outgrown, it is still ours
Plenty of food to eat
Our good health
Our freedom and our country

Too often I find myself grumbling about the things I don't have, or the things I don't have time to do. Sometimes (not often enough), I get a reminder of how truly blessed I am, and I feel ashamed that I take for granted many of the blessings we have. Sometimes the girls drive me absolutely crazy--when they won't behave, when they are staging a coup (they are incredibly difficult one moment, but sweet and cuddly and adorable the next, but they take turns, so the house is never truly peaceful), when they both throw food all over the floor, when they deliberately get on each other's nerves (yes, Ava has developed that skill as fun fun), and when I feel like I spend far more time doling out consequences than praise and encouragement. But one day a few weeks ago I finally got the right idea: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. They were being impossible, so I told myself, to heck with the laundry, dishes, and housework: I am going to sit down and play with my kids. And I did, and they loved it, and guess what? So did I. And I am so thankful that my husband is understanding and patient when he occasionally (ok, a little more often than "occasionally") comes home to a messy house, but a happy wife and kids. (I believe we even ate grilled cheese sandwhiches and tomato soup for dinner that night, and he didn't grumble a bit.) So yes, there are many, many blessings amidst the frustrations and exhaustion of my everyday life.

We are having Thanksgiving with my sister, her family, and my parents. It will be the first time that all four cousins are together on a holiday. It will be the first time I have seen my nephews on Thanksgiving for many years, as they just moved back from Texas this year. My sister is cooking most of the meal, but I am taking homemade rolls and pies. It promises to be a fun feast!

I hope you all have a wonderful and hearty Thanksgiving Day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho...I have nowhere to go

My interpreting job assignment ended last week. It was a fairly good gig, I knew it was going to end when it did, but it was very lucrative while it lasted. Still, it is so nice not to have to work tonight! I don't have to fret about dinner for Tom and the girls, worry about dealing with the breastpump (I consider pumping to be akin to legal slavery), or fight the rush-hour traffic. And it is so nice to go to bed at a decent hour. a few weeks, it will not be so nice to not get a paycheck.

Rats. There's always a trade-off, isn't there?

Hopefully I will get another gig after the New Year so I can keep paying for violin lessons and instruments. Tom's salary covers everything we need (and a fair amount of what we don't), but music lessons are not cheap. I have to admit, is very nice to get out of the house for a few hours, just one day a week, and talk to adults who want to discuss more than just poopie diapers and runny noses. My dressy work clothes get a chance to resurface. And then, when I get back to my kids the next morning...I feel sort of refreshed, like I've touched my adult life just briefly. So now we can get back down to the business of making pine cone turkeys and reading the Belly Button Book. (And, of course, discussing poopie diapers.)

So here's hoping for another good job assignment in a month or two, even if it does wear me out a bit.

(In case you're wondering what the guy up in the corner is doing, he's signing "Complaining" in ASL. What...who, me? Complain? Nah....)

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Not Me" Monday

It's "Not Me Monday" time. For details on what this is all about, please click the picture at the left. I have noticed a lot of blogs are often very sunny, cheerful, the children are always clean and perfectly-behaved, life is a wonder, nothing ever goes wrong.

Mine is not one of those blogs. I'm going for honesty, folks. Do I love my children? Oh yeah. Am I eternally grateful to be able to stay home with them instead of leaving them in daycare? Definitely. Is my husband fantastic? Of course he is. (He does have fabulous taste in women, doesn't he???) Am I lucky and blessed to be saved, because I have accepted Jesus as my Savior? Absolutely. But is my life sunny and happy and cheerful every day, with my children being perfect little cherubs with their shiny halos, birdies chirping around the house, while flowers bloom out of my butt and sunshine radiates out of every other orifice of my body?

No. Oh, HELL, no. (Sorry, Will Smith, I guess I owe you for stealing your line.)

Which is why I was very happy to find MckMama's blog. She has a hilarious sense of humor and she is HONEST. Unlike a lot of "mommy blogs" I have seen, she tells it like it is. Her children are not portrayed as perfect little geniuses; her life is not portrayed as perfectly productive, fun, and trouble-free; and she is honest about her feelings for her kids (one of which is, of course, a lot of love, but still...a lot of mommies on blogs lie to the dickens about the fact that their kids never seem to drive them nuts. Liars, all of them!) So I have decided to join her. Look for my "Not Me Monday!" posts every Monday. That is, on the Mondays I get my act together to post.

So here goes:

I did not stuff about 1.5 cups of almond buttercream frosting in my mouth this weekend when I made a birthday cake for my friend's son.
I did not complain to her about having to make the cake, therefor causing me to stuff the frosting in my mouth. I most certainly did not offer to make the cake in the first place, so it's her fault, right?

I did not cut myself an extra huge slice of said cake at said birthday boy's party. And I did not make sure that I had part of a frosting clown on my slice, guaranteeing me even more frosting. And when Liesl decided not to finish her cake, I did not scrape the frosting off of her leavings, eat it, and then discard the rest of her cake.

I did not complain to my husband the next morning about my fat behind. And when he mildly brought up the cake and the amount of frosting that seemed to disappear while I was making it, I did not rudely tell him to shove it or I would stick the remaining frosting up HIS behind. Oh yeah, and when he forgot to take the leftovers of the frosting to work with him this morning to share with his buddies on graham crackers, I did not intentionally "forget" to remind him to take it with him.

And when I went out running* this morning, passed the bus stop, and a pre-teen kid in my neighborhood snickered at my cold weather running outfit (grey sweatpants over pink long underwear, grey sweatshirt, bright pink mittens and a dorky headband covering my ears), I did not flip him the bird. **

This afternoon, when my two darling cherubs were asleep for a total of 1.5 hours, I did not ignore all of my housework and desk tasks by vegging on the couch for the entire time. I most certainly did not shove a huge bowlful of brown rice and drink 3 diet sodas while sitting on the couch, and I did not call that "lunch." And of course I did not watch the episode of "Top Chef: New York" that I taped last week. (And they did not kick Jill off for her ostrich egg quiche, especially after Ariane made that disgusting lemon dessert thing. And I did not swear at the TV as a result of that elimination.)

Lastly, I did not wear my fuzzy bedroom slippers all day, I did not eat 2 Weight Watchers ice cream bars in a row, and I did not pretend not to hear Liesl hit her head this evening while I practiced playing violin, just so I could finish Variation D of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

Now it is 9:00 p.m. I will not hit the freezer for another ice cream bar before bed.

'Night 'night.

* I really did run this morning. Honest!
** If I did flip that kid the bird, which, of course, we all know I did not do, I was wearing mittens so nobody could actually SEE the bird. Except, of course, God.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Inverse Indoctrination: Take 2

Since there was brainwashing going on behind my back with Liesl and her collegiate affiliation, I decided to get into Ava's head before those two family members (who still remain nameless) got to her first.

So, I give you the sequel to the original Inverse Indoctrination.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful...

Just LOOK at what happened at our house this evening! We pulled out all of our cold weather outdoor gear and suited up. Others may complain about the snow, but I don't really have to drive in it, so I love it. (Although dealing with THREE sets of hats, boots, mittens and coats will be quite a challenge during weekday snow jaunts while Daddy is at work....)

My Funny Bunny is now a Snow Bunny!

Daddy taught her how to make snowballs (Thanks a LOT, Daddy....)

Fun in the snow

First snowperson of the season (ok, snowman, we really aren't that politically correct)

Towards the end of our outdoor romp, the snow started coming down hard and fast. It was so lovely. Unfortunately it wrecks havoc with the flash on my inexpensive little point-and-shoot camera.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

On November 13th, Tom and I celebrated 9 fast, fun-filled, tearful, difficult, joyful, excruciating, teeth-clenching, loving, amazing years of marriage. What amazing hurdles we have overcome. What fun we have had over these years. How many truly difficult and heart-wrenching tests we have passed in our marriage, with flying (if not slightly faded) colors.

Yesterday, our little family of four went to Red Robin to celebrate the "real" date together (Tom and I chose the most kid-friendly restaurant we could think of without having the sounds of Skee-ball or video games overpowering us.) It was such fun, the food arrived hot and quickly (miracle #1), and the girls were amazingly well-behaved (miracle #2). This morning, Grammie and Papa came to take the girls to their house for an overnight visit. Tonight, we went out to dinner without children for the first time in over a year. As much as we adore our sweet little girls, we both enjoyed a meal in a restaurant without food being thrown on the floor; without earnest but lengthy discussions about the color of the crayons that the restaurant offered; without ear-piercing, spine-decalcifying shrieking; and without a certain preschooler standing on her seat, peering into the booth next to ours, picking cooties out of some unsuspecting stranger's hair. No rushing through a meal to get out of the restaurant before the kids exploded! Conversation about anything we wanted, without mild admonitions about picking noses or saying "poopie" at the dinner table! No retrieving books, toys, or crayons out from under the table! An entire 30 hours without kids! We hardly know what to do with ourselves. (Well, I'm sure we will think of something....) ;-)

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful, kind, supportive, smart, funny, sweet, loving husband. Although we have had many difficulties in the past, and although I am sure we will face many more in the future; I do love the life we have built together. You have been wonderful to me these last 9 years of marriage. I have learned so much from you. I am so proud of how we have grown together, and you are an amazing and loving Daddy to our two little blessings.

I love you very, very much.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Inverse Indoctrination

Early in September, Liesl went up north with Tom and spent time with two family members who shall remain nameless. During this weekend, Liesl recieved an awful lot of blue and orange paraphernalia, as well as a few choice phrases that were taught to her by these two family members (who shall remain nameless.)

It was tough...but Mommy talked her out of it.

So, this video is for you, those two family members who shall remain nameless.

(You two know who you are!!)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

More Halloween Fun

Documentation of Ava's first pumpkin patch experience, as well as her first pumpkin-carving experience. (We had no pumpkins or Jack-o-lanterns last year, what with the 3rd-day postpartum exhaustion and all. Liesl, not quite 2 at the time, apparently forgave us.)

The family at our local pumpkin patch

Pulling the super duper heavy pumpkin cart. (Notice her tiny pumpkin gourd in the front of the cart. Hey, she was haulin' it.)

(Oh...the flowers are pretty, too.)

This place is cool.

Precious cargo.

Pumpkin guts.

It's a sensory experience. (The floor thought so, too.)


Hangin'. Messin'. Enjoyin'.


Discussing the fine art of pumpkin design.
(Three triangles and a mouth. Our family lacks spontaneous creativity.)

You can guess what happens next...

...and, they're down.
Needless to say, we didn't clean and roast the pumpkin seeds this year. (They were, um, scattered within a 12-foot radius.)