Emily climbs stairs, we visit the zoo

Today was a big day. This afternoon after dropping our nanny off we went over for a quick visit to our friends’ house. They have a newly built deck which we were excited to see. Hazel and I, however, were not as excited as Emily. She saw the steps on the deck and promptly decided to climb up them. Up she went, quite handily. I stayed within arm’s reach, knowing that she might wobble on the top step, which she did. Other than that save, however, she was very steady. And very, very happy with herself. Joanna sat happily on the grass playing with some finger puppets. I spent a while plopping Emily in the grass halfway across the yard, watching her crawl back to the deck and up the steps, and then plopping her back in the middle of the yard. She ate some grass, and Joanna tried a leaf. Our friend showed Hazel the compost bins, and they had a wonderful time checking out the bugs, worms, and other denizens. Our friend also bought her a soccer ball as a present. We kicked it around some. Hazel burst into fits of giggles as he maneuvered the ball around her.

After that I zipped over to have a trim. When my hair is short I can’t abide it getting on my ears (there is always a painful period when growing it out during which I have to restrain myself from taking clippers to it). My stylist neatened it up, and I found out that trims like that are free in between cuts. So great! Of course, I have to shower before bed, because otherwise I’ll dream of spiders and ants and pincushions tonight.

This morning Hazel and I had a play date with a classmate of hers and his mom. We went to the zoo. The sloth bear enclosure currently includes twin cubs that flop and tumble and dig around, bouncing off each other and their mother while she lies around in the sun. We also saw a snow leopard, a new play area, and fed the birds in one of the bird houses. Hazel and her friend get along well. They shared their food with each other at snack time, and held hands for a while when we were walking. Her friend’s mom and I had a good conversation about having kids. We were both deliberate in our process, not into babies before we had our own, worried that we wouldn’t bond with our babies (the first time around), but both also very happy to have experienced this life change. I’m glad we got together.

Ted went shopping tonight, so our extremely empty fridge now has food in it. We were down to dregs. Now we’ll have stew, kale & sausage pasta, and quiche this week, and can get off our diet of frozen pizzas and burritos.


naptime, house cleaning, babies moving

Our nanny was able to get all the kids down for a nap today. Victory! That meant I could leave for work an hour and a half hour so I could practice, which I did for another three hours today. Tomorrow morning Hazel and I have a playdate with a friend of hers from school and his mom. Other than that, I will be practicing again. I could use all the time for the cello, of course, but I miss Hazel and she misses me, so it seems like a couple of hours together (our nanny will take care of the babies) is a good idea.

On Sunday we’re going to do some clearing out on the main floor, and are going to take a couple of our not-being-used strollers for consignment or to Goodwill. We’re looking forward to reclaiming our dining room, which has become a bit of a mess. As we prepare for the fall’s studio project we’re going to be getting rid of lots more stuff. I keep imagining what the basement will look like emptied out, and I sigh with satisfaction. Of course, there is a load of work to be done before then!

Joanna really wants to move! She sees her twin sister crawling, scooting, and pulling herself up, and she wants to do it too. She has gotten closer to rocking herself from a sitting position onto her hands and knees. And she does move. You’ll look up and realize she’s not where she was before, even though you didn’t actually see her do it. She pushes with a foot and scoots on her butt.

And now to bed….

drumming, sleep

There’s a lot of percussion in this weekend’s concert. In another life, I would love to learn how to drum. As it is, I’m still working on finding all the quarter tones reliably up in the stratosphere on my cello.

And sleeping. I need to sleep. Sorry for the short post. More tomorrow.

Down time, siblings, baby-proofing

Ahhhhh, down time. I have a drink, am making a frozen GF pizza, Chester just jumped up into my lap, and the house is quiet. At rehearsal tonight I got nervous and lost my feel for where some of those incredibly high notes are. So I was thinking of practicing some more tonight when I got home from rehearsal, but I think 9:30 is late enough to just say no. Downtime and then sleep will help me reset for tomorrow. I have a Pilates appointment in the morning, but I might swap it to a massage. That is an option at the studio of which I’ve never availed myself, but I think this might be a good time to do so. My body could use the TLC.


The twins, as they’ve gotten older and more curious, are getting more grabby. Sometimes it feels like I’ve got an octopus in my lap, limbs all flailing and clutching at anything within reach. Since I’m so busy these days we haven’t been able to do anything other than the bare minimum lately, no baby-proofing or rearranging in the house. I’m glad we got our yellow room/playroom sorted when we did, because it’s come in handy now that Emily is motoring around under her own power.

It’s also nice to have a room that’s totally baby-proofed, and for which we can have the rule that nothing that isn’t safe for baby and/or we don’t want them to get their paws on gets in there. And if it does, we’re responsible. That goes for Hazel’s stuff too. She’s learning to keep her things out of there. I think it’s a good lesson in consequences. Today a page out of a magazine got crumpled while a) I was trying to wrangle a vigorously wriggling Emily into a new diaper and clean clothes, b) Hazel was in time-out for moving Joanna without permission. Emily got ahold of the page, which thankfully took her attention sufficiently that I was able to proceed with the diaper change. Hazel didn’t want her to have it, but she’s not allowed to talk in time-out. So, she wasn’t allowed to get down and take it away from Emily (had it been something really important I would have bent the rules, but it was definitely not!). It’s interesting to see how different family life is for each sibling who comes along. We had a ton more tolerance for Hazel messing (certain) things up than she does for the twins messing (anything) up. On the other hand, I know she gets her desire for things to be kept nice and unbroken from us, so I can’t be surprised that she feels that way. Give and take is required to live in a family, and we’re constantly learning about how that gets implemented in a practical way.

Of course, the latter paragraph is all heavily ironic given the current state of our house. It’s easier to establish boundaries around stuff with Hazel when the house in general is picked up and tidy. It comes and goes in waves, depending on what else is going on. Right now, it’s all cello all the time.

Cousin conversation, and rhythm in music

My siblings and I share a desire for our kids to know their cousins. Given that my brother lives on the east coast, and my sister and I live on the west coast, and given the logistics and expense of physical travel, this involves a certain amount of digital communication. So, Ted and I recently bought an iPod Touch so that Hazel (and eventually the twins) could talk to her cousins via Facetime. Today we actually figured out how to make that work, and Hazel was able to have a conversation with her local cousin. Listening to the content of that dialogue tested my restraint in a variety of ways, as the talk quite quickly devolved into a discussion of rats.

“Daddy thinks we might have rats in the basement (he doesn’t). If we find the rats, we’ll have to stomp on them with heavy boots. Rats are gross. Yeah, rats are really gross. I saw a dead rat. Was it in your house? No, it was outside. Some people have rats for pets. Isn’t that weird? Rats are gross. I wouldn’t want to have a rat as a pet. Yeah, rats are gross. Ew, they’re disgusting.” etc, etc, etc.

I tried really hard not to laugh, and mostly succeeded. I look forward to further Facetime-enabled cousin chat. And I think we’ll find some venue in which we can show Hazel rats so she can see they’re not gross.

I had a friend in college who had a couple rats as pets (not sure, but they might have been liberated from a lab at some point.) They were cute. When sitting on the old sofa in warm weather, however, it was disconcerting to feel a little cold nose on one’s back as they ran along between the back and seat of the sofa and stuck their curious sniffers out to investigate.


At rehearsal tonight I discovered that all my hard work is paying off. Things are starting to come together. I have tons more to do, but a twinkle of light has appeared at the end of the tunnel. It’s that sometimes improbable alchemy in which notes on the page become music with effort and intention. The level of effort does vary from piece to piece, but the intention is a necessary ingredient no matter the period or style of the music. That is one of the lessons I have learned from playing a lot of modern repertoire. In almost every case even if I don’t understand what’s going on or how it is going to work when I start a piece, the music emerges during practice and rehearsal through shape and gesture.

Rhythm is the most important ingredient. That’s true from a purely logistical standpoint: if you’re not playing in the place where your line is supposed to be, it doesn’t matter if you have the right notes in the wrong place. It’s also true from a more musical standpoint, as I think rhythm is actually the most powerful expressive tool we have. The analogy isn’t quite accurate, but I think of it in terms of tone of voice verses words, because rhythm heavily impacts the energy of the line you’re playing. Imagine a stereotypical monotone utterance by a teenager. The content of what he/she said would have a hard time coming across. On the other hand, it’s possible to understand quite a lot about something spoken in an unfamiliar language, simply through rhythmic delivery and tone.

We grow up so focused on pitch that rhythm and other aspects of music take a back seat. I sometimes have my students deliberately play a line with with wrong notes but correct rhythm to facilitate switching that focus. It’s initially a mind-boggling exercise, but ultimately freeing. I think the focus on pitch goes hand-in-hand with our need to get everything right, our perfectionism, and as such can inhibit progress.

For me, when I’m very stuck in fear of failure I find that it’s even hard to just count, to keep track of where I am in the music. So, making it my goal to count, to know where I am even if I am not playing (another exercise I have my students do) helps, because it shifts me back into a more productive, proactive mindset and away from the frozen stuckness of fear.

And this is one reason why I feel so fortunate to be a musician. My work constantly offers me opportunities to learn, not just musically, but personally too. I have an adult student who calls learning the cello her Alzheimer’s-prevention program. It is for me, too.

Face painting and Bartok pizzicato

Today Ted took the babies for a walk for their morning nap. This gave me some unanticipated one-on-one time with Hazel. She wanted me to paint her face, so I did. At her request I gave her a rainbow kitty face, with ROYGBIV ascending her nose, whiskers of black, white, and gray, and a light blue chin. I also added purple and green markings around her eyes. It was quite spectacular. She wanted to paint my face too, but as I had a rehearsal this afternoon I had to regretfully decline. It would have been too much of a distraction. But after these concerts are past we’ll paint faces again, and then she can decorate me to her heart’s content.

Hazel commented on it being just the two of us. She likes mommy time. Since I’ve been so busy I was glad to have a relaxed space in which to enjoy her. We got in some snuggling on the couch too. A lovely morning.

Then I practiced. Of course.

This afternoon’s rehearsal went well. The modern piece is taking shape, and it is fun! It involves Bartok pizzicato, something that always makes me smile. Parts of it rip along at a furious speed, but as the rhythm gets cleaner the tempo gets easier. It was originally a string quartet, and has been rescored for orchestra by the composer. You can hear the quartet here.

I had about a half hour after rehearsal before the nanny was going to be leaving, so I stopped off for Pho. It was great to have a bit of time to eat and chill by myself before going home to feed the babies. I arrived at our house just as our neighbors were coming home too. We chatted briefly on our way to our respective doors. One of them said, “You’ve been busy!” They’ve been hearing me practice, so I guess I’ll use that as further motivation to perfect the pieces.

Tomorrow, all modern with a touch of Haydn thrown in here and there for light relief (and hard work of another kind).

Practicing cello

Well, I didn’t get 5.5 hours of practice in today, but I got up to 4.5, which is possibly all my hands would have taken anyway. Haydn, Wagner, and two modern pieces (chunks thereof). I built on what I have my students do, which is to play whatever problem they’re working on three times in a row correctly. For myself today, I managed thirty times in a row on the handful of extremely high notes I was memorizing. What that means is that I was practicing landing on the note from the air: I’d play it, take my hand all the way away from my cello, and then land with my finger (hopefully) on the exact spot to play the note again. It took me an hour to accomplish that for the first one, the C two octaves above middle C. The next few I did went faster, probably because I had a better point of reference having done the C. That got me through about two and a half lines of music. Seeing as how I have two pages to improve, I have a ways to go.

My first finger (pointer finger) is throbbing, a bit unhappy. It was fine through most of my practice, but toward the end decided enough was enough. And my body is tired. Playing cello doesn’t take as much energy as playing soccer, but the fine motor control and concentration necessary to practice does use a substantial amount of internal resource.

So, I think that’s it for tonight’s blog post. Sleep calls.