(Parallel) Adventures in Gigging and Babysitting

I had a fun gig tonight. It was made more exciting by the breaking of my C string right at the start of the show. That meant that I couldn’t play any notes that exist only on that string (the really low ones). More importantly, it meant that the D and G strings went wildly out of tune, at least a half step sharp, making it seriously unwise for me to play any open strings other than the A string. So, I played D’s on the G string, and didn’t play open G’s, and went up an octave for the C, D, E, and F that are on the C string. That rattled me a bit, but I still had a great time. And then, when they started talking (this was a benefit concert) I slipped out and got the C string that a section-mate thankfully had in her case, re-tuned my cello, and came back right as we were about to play the next song.

I was just thinking, last week, that it was time for me to get a new set of strings. Tonight I thought that, at least, thank the universe, this didn’t happen during one of my concerts last week, when there might not have been a fortuitous fellow cellist with extra strings.

I will carry a spare set with me all the time now. Lesson learned.

Nonetheless, the afternoon and evening were great. When I was paying for parking another musician arrived. She said that she really enjoyed watching me play. She said that while I often looked serious, she liked the fact that I’d break into a smile. And I did smile a lot during this show. One thing I do like about playing in orchestras (and miss when I’m not) is the unspoken appreciation, sometimes humorous, that stand partners can share about a creative fingering, a missed entrance, or something that happens in the orchestra. Enjoyment is definitely increased by being shared, and that is at the center of the best musical experiences.

Meantime, on the home front…

Our backup care nanny, who arrived when the kids were down for their nap, got sick and started vomiting around 5 pm. She called Ted, who was at his workout. He was luckily close to home, so he came back to take care of the kids so she could leave. Speaking of getting sick, the babysitter who was going to come take care of the kids so he could go to an elementary school tour last night couldn’t come because she too started upchucking. Hmmm, coincidence? Ted says that he’s feeling a most likely psychosomatic unsettled sensation in his tummy, and is drinking peppermint tea. It is hard for me to adequately express the fervency of my hope that no one in our feeling spends the weekend puking. We are just coming out of the hectic and overworked period we’ve been in. I would deeply appreciate our being able to enjoy that illness-free.

It was a beautiful day today. I am also hoping that this weekend will include time for me to work in the garden. I want to plant things, dig other things up, and generally revel in the beginnings of spring.


Business, life’s balancing act

Someone told me recently that they’d heard that if one’s constant response to the inquiry, “How are you doing?” was, “Busy,” then there’s too much going on, too much on the plate. I figure that’s true in the larger sense, though there will be times of more or less work. Certainly, I feel like I haven’t seen my kids too many nights the past couple of weeks, and I’m seeing that in my own feelings and Hazel’s.

Today my nanny and I took the twins to their swim lesson, the third to last in this cycle. As the temps warm and the season changes I won’t mind not taking them inside for that time for a while. I look forward to ridding myself of at least that one item on my calendar. I look forward to taking them to the park, looking at the flowers coming up and blooming. I look forward to a bit more time for me, and a bit more time for me with the twins.

Tonight I made it back home just before the kids were asleep, and got to nurse Joanna and read the twins a book, as well as getting in a bit of snuggling with Hazel. She asked me the names of everyone I taught today, and then told me (accurately) those whom she had met before. She loves seeing and talking with my students. Tomorrow will be another long afternoon and evening, and I’ll get back long after the kids are asleep, again. It will be good to get back to a more regular routine for a while.

Cats, fun music, kids’ pets

I took the cats to the vet today, for their initial checkup. They are both very healthy, and though Pepper protested mightily being put in the box, and complained when our vet started working on him, he forgave her. By the time we were ready to leave he was resting his chin on her arm, draping a paw over her wrist, and purring. She also gave me food and litter recommendations we’re going to try. The litter is “Cat Country Litter”, which she says does an excellent job of controlling odor and doesn’t get tracked all over the place. Frankly, one reason why I was resistant to getting cats again is that I really dislike having kitty litter making its way throughout the house, on furniture, in corners, under rugs, on the bed, etc. So if this solves those issues I’ll be happy.

By the time this evening’s rehearsal rolled around I was feeling quite a bit better. Also, I brought a cushion to reduce the impact of the sideways slant on my back. Those two things significantly improved my experience. Additionally, my stand partner and I have been having a lot of fun playing together. In fact, at break a woman who’d been sitting in the audience came up to tell me how much she’d enjoying watching us, that we were clearly having a blast playing the music. And that’s good. If you don’t enjoy it, it can become a chore. And then time stretches, and stretches, and stretches in that way it has that makes you wonder if you’re ever going to get home again. So I’m glad to be having it the other way.

Also during break I checked Facebook and found that Ted had posted the cutest picture ever (I think it wins the internet) of Joanna snuggling with Pepper. I am so glad that we got such gentle kitties, and that the kids are so gentle with them. The relationship is lovely to watch. My friend told me at rehearsal that he had a cat that slept with him every night for its whole life (once he’d gotten out of the crib and into a bed). I am so glad that my kids will have those memories too, have cats to love who love them back. It’s such a marvelous relationship that can teach kids important lessons about love, boundaries, respect, and mutuality. And it’s sweet to see, too.

elementary school choices, appointments, life balance

Tonight’s rehearsal was conducted in a movie theater, so I was sitting and playing for three hours on a chair that slanted pretty significantly sideways. My back is not happy with me. I might bring some sort of cushion tomorrow. It’s a rock gig, and that’s a kick, playing tunes I know (a few of) the words to.

Earlier today I had a bunch of appointments. First I went to tour the school Hazel’s likely to attend in the fall. I did like the vibe, and there will be other neighborhood kids in her class if she goes there. There’s more music and art available at that school, which I appreciate. Also, it would be a totally reasonable bike ride or a 15 – 20 minute walk, entirely doable. But there is no foreign language at all. I think we’ll want to find some way to keep the Spanish going if she doesn’t go to the elementary we’re applying to. I really don’t want her to lose all that language she’s learned over the past two and a half years.

I left the tour early to arrive, late, at my chiropractic appointment. My back still hasn’t stabilized from the car accident. I am looking forward to seeing my regular chiropractor again after she gets back from her maternity leave. Then, I went to see my doctor, just to check and make sure nothing is going on that needs to be addressed. And indeed, a strep test came back negative, despite the presence of blisters in my throat. That is good. Hopefully it’ll resolve soon. I can’t sing to my kids right now, and I miss doing so.

Then after nap Hazel had a piano lesson. She was not prepared, as this week we didn’t find time to practice, so it was a bit frustrating for her, I think. We’ll rectify that this week.

One step at a time, I have to keep reminding myself.

teaching, sick, Hazel’s a great kid

I had a very new student choose to dive all around the fingerboard today when I told him to play random notes in a specific rhythm. I’ve never had a student that new (third lesson, I think) do that, and it made me happy.

Post-concerts, my body is showing me the results of too little downtime and too much work, and I’m sick. It’s reasonably unpleasant. I’m going to the doc tomorrow.

Hazel bought me roses at the store tonight. And then when I mentioned to Ted that we should clear all the non-nighttime-routine books off of the end table, she went and put them away. And then she asked how it had felt to me for her to do that, which was wonderful, as we’ve been working on communicating feelings rather than characterizations. (Ie, “I really loved doing X, Y, Z,” rather than, “Wasn’t it nice of me to do X, Y, Z?”) I appreciated all of those very thoughtful things.

Here’s hoping I feel better tomorrow. I have rehearsals Tuesday and Wednesday and a gig Friday. I dislike being sick (yeah, I’m a bit of a whiner), but being sick and working and parenting is really no fun for anyone.

“Eeeessssh!”, twins, baby clothes

This afternoon, Ted and I were unable to go through baby clothes without putting aside a few as keepsakes. Nevertheless, we took three bags’ full over to one friend who’s got six-week-old twins, and boxed up another couple bags’ worth to send off to a college friend of mine who’s got days-old twins as well. We have fellow-feeling for others who’ve found themselves where we were not so long ago. Though it is astounds me to see how different my friend’s twins are from Emily and Joanna, when there is only a year and a half between them. So much happens so quickly in those first few years! They are so tiny, that when we came back to our family I had a reminder of how it felt to see Hazel the evening we brought Joanna and Emily home, so huge and vivid by comparison. Our twins are babies no longer, even though I think they will always be so in my heart.

Emily has started making a sound that’s identifiable as her word for fish: it’s something like, “eesssh!”, and she says it whenever she points at a picture of a fish. She always wants to know what each animal is called in any book we read, though she still meows for all of them, which always makes me giggle.

Today was the first day in a long while I didn’t pick up my cello. I was just bushed. By the end of five lessons and the baby-clothes adventure I’d lost my voice and was dragging. But tomorrow I’ll start on the packet of tunes I got for the gig this week. And maybe I’ll start on the Schumann Cello Concerto. That’s another piece I never learned that I’d like to. I want to capitalize on all this effort and motivation.

Hazel’s first concert, performing

What a great day. First of all, the twins slept ALL NIGHT LONG last night! As Ted was telling a friend today, it took a minute to recognize that weird feeling, of being somewhat well-rested. Thanks, kids! You did me a solid, that’s for sure (unlike the previous night, prior to concert number 2, but we’ll let bygones be bygones.)

Then I took Hazel with me to the dress rehearsal. She brought a book to entertain herself (smart move), but though she looked at it a bit, she mostly sat quietly and listened. When the group in between the two in which I was playing was rehearsing I asked Hazel if she wanted to go back to the green room with me to wait, but she emphatically said that she wanted to stay in the hall and hear the music. She waited until the musicians weren’t playing to ask her questions. She did extraordinarily well until the very end, when she was hungry and a bit fidgety, but even then, sitting close to me satisfied her. On the walk home I asked her if she had a favorite part, and she said, “the piece with all the instruments they were blowing into,” ie, the Ligeti “Six Bagatelles For Wind Quintet” with oboe, clarinet, flute, horn, and bassoon. She was fascinated by the bassoon. And then she said, so sweetly, “But I liked all the string things too, Mom”.

We had lunch when we got home, and Ted and I managed to get the twins down, though Hazel and I had to leave before Ted was done getting Emily to sleep. We walked back over to the venue, protein bars in my pocket for the intermission. I found some friends who took Hazel to the bathroom for a pre-concert potty break, and went back to the green room. Ted had arrived before the concert started, and I was able to relax and let my brain turn to music.

It was a long concert, almost two hours with intermission. She sat through it without a peep. She did, apparently, whisper a couple of questions to Ted, but very quietly. And she enjoyed the music. Later she said that it was long for her, and I believe it. But she did it! Her first concert.

I remember my first concert: it was the occasion on which I decided I wanted to play the cello. I wonder if some such long-term life-impacting decision will manifest itself for Hazel after today. And if not, that’s totally cool too. I am just happy she had a good time, and that she could see me in that professional arena.

The Britten oboe quartet, “Phantasy”, went exceptionally well. It was that lovely performance experience in which you feel engaged and wonderful playing, and you can tell also that what you’re playing is coming across, being effective for the audience. I love the space in which we played. It’s resonant but not too wet, and the music expands to fill every crevice, floats on the air up to the ceiling, to the back of the hall. There is no bad place to sit. You can hear well from every chair.

The Beethoven trio went very well too, but I was having pretty bad nerves through most of it, so it was occasionally a bit more fraught experience. Nonetheless, there were moments of pleasure and joy. I love looking up to check in with my colleagues at moments where we have phrases together. The second movement went beautifully, and the last movement was a wild ride, super fast and exciting.

It was also lovely to see friends and students in the audience. It is joy to share what I love with people I know.

After the concert we took Hazel out for dinner. When we got home we spent some more enjoyable time hanging out with our wonderful nanny and all the kids and the cats, watching the latter play together and talking. It was great to relax. I felt, suddenly, tired enough to sleep for a week.

But given that I’m teaching tomorrow and have another gig next week, I wanted to use the time off I had, so I went to the spa this evening, where I had more good conversation with a friend, a fantastic body scrub, and marvelous time lolling about in the heated pools.

All in all, a truly fantastic day.