Monday, June 29, 2009

Everyone's a Critic

Picture it:

Becky starts practicing violin.

Ava starts screaming in sheer, utter terror.

Should I take it personally?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More Liesl-isms

I got such a great response to my first post about Liesl's utterances. Based on that, I decided to keep adding to my file of things she's said that need to be remembered.

Please note I am NOT exaggerating any of these.

This is just a reminder to me--and anybody else--that your kids pick up everything, even if you think they're not listening. Read on:

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

When Liesl dropped plastic Easter eggs all over the floor, Ava was naturally curious and wanted to investigate. Liesl didn’t want Ava into the eggs on the floor, so she asked me in an exasperated tone: “Mommy, would you handle Ava, please?”

♥ ♥ ♥

In the bathtub—Liesl takes up a washcloth and starts scrubbing her behind:
Mommy: “What are you doing?”
Liesl: “I’m washing my butt.”

♥ ♥ ♥

At the breakfast table. Liesl suddenly lifts her right foot up into her lap, hugs it, and tells it, tenderly, “I love you, foot.” *smooch*
(Yes, she kissed her own foot.)

♥ ♥ ♥

As the girls were eating lunch, and I was preparing mine—which I usually eat after the girls are down for naps, so I can savor the peace and quiet—Liesl asked me:
Liesl: “What are you making, Mommy?”
Mommy: “Cucumber tea sandwiches for my lunch.”
Liesl: “I don’t like cucumber tea sandwiches.”
Mommy: “You’ve never actually had cucumber tea sandwiches.”
Liesl: “Well, I’m a kid, so I have had cucumber tea sandwiches, and I don’t like them.”

(Note from her mother--she's really never had them. That will change soon.)

♥ ♥ ♥

On our way home from Thursday morning Bible study:
Mommy: “We’re going to stop and buy some fruit.”
Liesl: “Oh, good. I like fruit. It makes me poop.”

♥ ♥ ♥

While I was playing with the girls on their new play structure:
Mommy: “I’m going to go down the slide.”
Liesl: “But I thought your butt was too big.”

(Contrary to what these conversations may infer, we really don’t encourage the use of the word “butt” in our house.)

♥ ♥ ♥

When I was rushing the children out the door to an early morning doctor’s appointment, for which I was going to be late:
Mommy, slightly crabby: “Let’s go, girls, hurry up!”
Liesl, excitedly: “Is it time to rock ‘n roll, Mommy?!?”

♥ ♥ ♥

When leaving in the morning for one of my theater rehearsals:
Liesl: “But Mommy, we didn’t practice violin!”
Mommy: “We can’t do it this morning, Liesl, because Mommy has to work. We’ll practice violin tonight.”
Liesl (with thunderous disapproval): “Well, Miss Sharon will not be happy to hear this.”

♥ ♥ ♥

After using the potty in the morning, Liesl pulled her pajama pants up over her bare bottom:
Mommy: “Liesl, don’t you want to put some undies on first?”
Liesl: “Nope. I’m goin’ commando.”

♥ ♥ ♥

Going for a walk in our neighborhood, and passing by the home of friends of ours, who have a little boy Liesl’s age and who is one of her best friends:
Liesl, excitedly: “Are we going to Ethan’s house?”
Mommy: (Seeing no cars in their driveway) “I don’t think Ethan’s home.”
Liesl, deflated: “Oh. Bummer.”

♥ ♥ ♥

When Tom was taking my wilted Mother’s Day bouquet out to the compost bin:
Liesl: “What are you doing with Mommy’s flowers?”
Tom: “I’m composting them, they’re past their prime.”
Liesl (somewhat sadly): “But…summer is still pretty!”

♥ ♥ ♥

While I was sorting and folding clean laundry:
Liesl: “Mommy, you really need a new bra.”

♥ ♥ ♥

While we 3 girls were driving somewhere, and somebody cut me off:
Mommy (kind of sarcastic): “Nice turn signal, you bun-brain.”
Liesl (also sarcastic): “Yeah. Dude. They’re standard in every car.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ah, Summer...

Oh, the joys of Summer:

Cooling off in the pool...

Helping Mommy make summertime goodies (in this case, a helluvalotta hummus)...


Ice juicies for a cool treat...

Using over-thought engineering tactics to remove offensive shrubbery from the yard...

Tiny toads...

Other tiny visitors...

Sandals, breezy sundresses, and outdoor weddings at the park...

Vacation Bible School...

Making new friends...

Mommy's sun hat...

Park playdates...

Sisterly love, which comes easier when not cooped up indoors...

Summer. What could be better?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Liesl's Everyone's Violin Recital

Liesl's 6th violin recital was on Sunday. A violinist's milestone: She was accompanied by a pianist for the first time. We have been practicing this at home with a CD of piano music, as well as me playing the piano alongside her. She was more hesitant than she usually is when she performs, but she did amazingly well with all the new variables thrown at her...and, oh yeah, she's THREE.

After playing "Twinkle Theme," she did Variation A, which is four 1/16th notes followed by two staccato 1/8th notes. The piano CD we play with usually plays four bars as an intro; for some reason, our pianist only did two and then gave Liesl the downbeat to come in. Liesl immediately looked a bit confused, stumbled a bit...then she got this incredibly cute, stubborn look on her face that said, "Hell with it, if nobody else knows what they're doing, I'll just show 'em." And off she went. It took every ounce of my will power not to bust out laughing at the determination on her tiny face. Such tenacity! (...and, oh yeah, she's THREE.)

I had so much fun playing in the chamber music group last month that I asked Sharon if I could do a duet with someone. I thought maybe her or another adult student in the studio, but instead...we picked out Tom.

Bach's Minuet No.1

It was really fun, and we came out of it sounding pretty well. I played a few notes out of tune in this clip (that darned 4th-finger E on the A string), but other than that, I am very happy with how we played. I've only been taking lessons for around 9 months now, and while Tom studied violin for many years as a child and teen, he has not picked up his instrument in 24 years...and he still has that vibrato. This was really cool. We are the first husband/wife team to play at a recital in our teacher's studio. I really enjoy practicing with Tom.

And did I say this was "everyone's" violin recital? Why, yes I did. So, some of you might ask...where's Ava? Well, about 30 seconds into that clip, both Tom and I start smiling while we're's because Ava wandered up on stage to be with us, and wove in and out of our legs as we performed. Yeah, that's pretty much how it works out at home, too. Listen carefully, and you'll hear her giggling right before we start grinning. The kid thinks violin study is as normal to our family as eating, breathing, and sleeping.

Wordless Wednesday

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mommy's Day "Off"

As I type this post, I am tucked in my bed, still in my jammies. Ava is still asleep and Liesl is in bed with me, reading her new library books. Friday is typically my day "off" in which I try not to schedule anything at all...we just take the day as it comes. No doctor's appointments, no playgroups, no evening job assignments (there never are any jobs on Friday nights anyway--Deaf people have social lives too), no running to the bank, no demands on our time of any kind...except, of course, if we change our mind last-minute and want to go somewhere. (It is my day off, so I reserve the right to go anywhere I want, if I want.)

I also try to refrain from having people over at our house for any reason. Most of my mommy friends understand when the laundry is spread out on the floors of three rooms, in four different phases of washing/folding/sorting, and that our living room has pretty much transformed into a music practice room with instruments and music stands and sheet music and rosin and other violin paraphernalia everywhere (so watch where you step, and don't even think about sitting on the couch--that's for the violins). But even with the most understanding of friends and visitors, I don't want to even have to blink an eye at my domestic chaos on my day "off." Sometimes we must schedule something on Friday, but believe me, it is never my first choice.

Within 2.4 minutes of waking up each morning, Liesl usually asks, "Where are we going today?" or "Are friends coming over today?" ("Friends," to Liesl, means company of any kind: a playgroup of kids, some of my adult friends coming over for tea, Jehovah's Witnesses ignoring our 'no soliciting' sign and knocking to save our souls, or the dishwasher repairman. Really, everybody is Liesl's friend.) Both girls dearly love to go out, and I always enjoy it too...but sometimes Mommy needs a day where nobody will care if she's dressed like a ragamuffin, and doesn't need to go through the slightly complicated load-up-the-van-and-lock-up-the-house-while-keeping-two-tiny-kids-safe-and-alive-with-minimal-screaming routine.

Today wraps up a few very busy weeks of social activities. Last week on Tuesday, we hosted our vegan/allergy-friendly potluck. The following weekend, a group of my Bible study ladies came over for a potluck dinner in our backyard. It was an opportunity for fellowship with some of the ladies who have not been able to attend our Thursday morning group for a while due to full-time jobs or other daytime activities. Last Monday, my parents brought my wonderful (if not a tad rambunctious) nephews out to my house to play with their cousins. And yesterday evening, last but definitely not least, I hosted a coupon class, where a local woman who appears to be acquiring a cult following works the coupons and sales--and I mean works the coupons and sales, people--to save about 800% on her grocery bills each week. And no, I'm not exaggerating or joking.

Add all this into the usual weekly jaunts--Bible study on Thursday mornings, violin lessons on Wednesday mornings, appointments, grocery store trips (with two tiny kids both wanting to ride the penny pony, Meijer becomes an event, believe me), library trips, music class, playgroups, Mom's club outings, and whathaveyou--and Mommy needs a day "off." I am POOPED. I get up, make Tom's coffee and breakfast, pack his lunch, and get him out the door; and then I plop my arse back in bed and snooze until the inevitable obnoxious stomping pitter-patter of little feet. Then we have a leisurely breakfast--Mommy still in her jammies, which is not the norm at breakfast--and watch a little Curious George or Signing Time. The day's activities still happen (violin practice is high priority, and I really can't get away with not feeding the children) but the flow is much more relaxed.

So while I was typing this post, Liesl has asked, in between Miss Spider's Tea Party and The Cat in the Hat, "Where are we going today? Are friends coming over? What are we doing today?" (Nowhere. No. Nothing's on the books at the moment.) Today is Mommy's day "off."

In another half hour, I guess I'll have to feed them breakfast. And then, tackle the laundry. Yup, it's my day "off." Yee-ha.
Bible study potluck last weekend...we had about 17 kids and 12 adults. Our backyard was made for gatherings like these.
Two baby raccoons crashed the party. They've probably crashed neighbors' garbage cans as well. But aren't they cute???
Liesl completed her first sticker chart that I made, to encourage her violin study. She gets a sticker for every "good practice" (i.e., no fussing or putzing, no whining, staying focused and cheerful). We practice twice a day, so the chart fills up in 2-3 weeks. The reward for a full chart of stickers? Going to the Silver Dairy for ice cream as a family. Which we did last Sunday.

My sister's children also take music lessons and classes. An all-cousin band: Alex, 12, on alto sax; Zach, 7, on the piano; Liesl, 3, on the violin. Oh, it was a delightful musical experience, all right.

After they promised to behave for one "serious" picture, they begged to do a "silly" picture, so I let 'em rip.

Oh, what the hell. Let's do one more silly picture.

Ava's contribution to just about every social gathering.

The boys and girls together were enjoying themselves tremendously, but it was raining and we had to stay inside. My house was in serious danger of being trashed, so Grammie and Papa treated everyone to a few hours at Jungle Java. (Bless you, Mom and Dad.) Here you see Liesl, Alex's behind, and some random kid's behind.

The "Toddler Safari" area. Ava must've gone down this slide 432 times.

My 64 year-old mother proving that Jungle Java isn't just for kids.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rebecca, Rebecca...How Does Your Garden Grow?

Our gardens are in! :-) I always breathe a sigh of relief when everything is planted...we can kick back, relax, and watch it grow.

(That is, until the weeds come in. Oh, crud.)

Our pepper garden. We showed restraint this year. Only 81 plants.
Garden plot is 25x25'.

Close-up of Tom's outstanding planning job. He measured, cut, and laid out the the landscaping fabric. We are hoping it will last several years. Weeding will be minimal this year. What a great guy.

Our front veggie garden. Corn, zucchini, cucumbers, snow peas, radishes, spinach, tomatoes, dill, cilantro, and my prized Chianti sunflowers are planted here. It will look a lot more interesting in a few weeks.
Garden plot is 25x20'

The landscaping by our back patio is really coming along. We have been adding to it slowly over the years, as time and finances permit.
The red flowers in the left forground are Liesl's "violin flowers." She and I stopped at a nursery a few weeks ago and bought them as a treat for practicing so well that week, as well as having a terrific lesson. She is terribly proud of those flowers, she planted them herself and waters them every day.

Herb garden. I also planted strawberries in here. Why? Because I'm stupid. They spread like crazy, and the birds and animals usually beat us to the fruit. But Liesl and Ava LOVE those plants.

My mature vermicomposting bin, before I harvested the castings and sorted the worms.
I harvested a full bucket of nutrient-rich castings. Here is just a handful.
That's worm poop, folks. Lots of it.

A handful of the worms that I salvaged from my bin. I set up a new bin for them, and will be starting a second bin in a month or two. They were a little teed off at me.

Those pots contain two kinds of ornamental peppers: Medusa and Black Pearl. Even though Tom started these seeds the same time as the other varieties, they are still tiny plants, which is normal for these varities. They are so cool. The peppers they produce are edible...but they're too pretty to eat.

More pictures soon...we have many flower beds planted!

Monday, June 8, 2009

From Zero to Mozart in 8.449 Months

Ok, so the big surprise that I kept hinting about, that happened on May 17 at Liesl's violin recital? I played too. But doggone it if I decided to videotape it with my camcorder instead of my dinky little point-and-shoot digital camera. The reason? I wanted a better quality video than my little camera can take. order for one to post a video taken from a camcorder, one must be at least slightly adept in the process of transferring the video, editing it, and, in the case of YouTube, shrinking it to an acceptable size. I do not qualify for that "adept" category. (If I told you how much raw footage I have of Liesl as a baby on those tiny videotapes around the house, you'd probably laugh.) I have software and the manual...I just need about 12 hours of uninterrupted time to sit down and figure them out. That's a tall order with a 3 year-old and a 1 year-old in the house.

At any rate, I played in the second violin section and performed the Mozart Trio in D Major, K. 439b. The surprise was that I started practicing this piece with 12 other musicians--including our teacher--in chamber music rehearsals for an hour and a half every week, starting last January--just 4 months after I had started violin lessons for myself.

So after 3 months of totally freaking out on a daily basis working very hard to practice and learn this piece, I got up front with the chamber music group was over in 15 minutes. It was a pretty great group. I quickly got over being uncomfortable about being one of very few adults in what I thought was supposed to be a kids-only environment. I made a lot of interesting, talented friends--most of them a third my age. I learned an incredible amount in 3 months--about the complexity of playing the violin, about playing with a group of talented musicians, about how hard people work (and, indeed, how hard some don't work) to become polished musicians, and about people themselves. (I also consumed more than my fair share of cookies at these rehearsals.) And last but not least, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in those rehearsals. Those benefits were far more rewarding than the actual 15 minutes of performance time on May 17.

All in all, I am pretty proud of myself. I played clarinet and piano as a child and young adult, and I played them well--but not brilliantly. But the violin in comparison is a much harder instrument to learn. It was even harder to learn with two tiny children running around at my feet, beating on each other while I ignored them in favor of practicing scales creatively taking part in my personal practice time. And yet, I did all that in less than 9 months. If I can do that, I can do just about anything.

So I know I'll get the video up on YouTube. Someday. Like, before I'm 85.

Liesl played too! Variation D of Twinkle Twinkle. She's the youngest student in the studio to complete this without stopping. (Thank goodness for violin recitals--the flower girl dress got worn more than once!)

One my buddies in Miss Sharon's studio, Ann. She is 11 and is a very talented violinist. She also has one of the nicest, brightest, funniest personalities I've ever seen in an 11 year-old.

She is heading to Interlochen's advanced violin program this summer...we hope to visit her there over a weekend.

Liesl hanging out with her buddy Claire, the other 3 year-old in Miss Sharon's studio.