Biking in the Madsen, letting the cat out, difficult developments

What a day! Ted and I decided that while Hazel was at summer school he and I would take the twins to a bike store and get helmets for them. While there, they discovered and played with a balance bike and a 16-inch bike. Emily is so ready to go! When she’s just a bit taller we’ll get her a balance bike of her own.

I rode the Madsen over to the store (we had a couple of helmets on them) slowly, on the sidewalk, while Ted fast-walked alongside the bike. Ted rode it home, with the twins in their new matching helmets (if they’re different there will be conflict over them). Then I went to pick Hazel up from school. She’s always smiling when I come get her, a good sign.

After nap Ted got out the Dremel and liberated my bike. Due partly to a miscommunication we had, I managed to break off a key in the lock on the bike (quite a while ago) and it’s been locked to our back stairway ever since. We loaded up all three kids and rode in caravan over to a new grocery store a bit under a mile and a half from our house. Emily took to the Madsen more quickly than Joanna did, but it didn’t take very long on the grocery store ride for Joanna to perk up. It helped that Hazel was sitting in the bucket with her sisters. Once there, we got some supplies for the week and I tucked them under the Madsen bench seats. We also bought the kids a bucket of pineapple for the ride home. They engulfed it before we’d even gone a quarter of the way. It’s hard to overstate how much they love pineapple!

This afternoon we did something else new: we put Jasmine’s new collar and tracker on, and let her out. She loved being outside. We’ll do the same for Pepper tomorrow. Today, seeing all of us including Jasmine out in the back yard, he practically meowed himself hoarse with indignation. But we wanted to introduce one cat at a time to the great outdoors.

When we came back from the store, we decided on the spur of the moment to barbecue. We invited our friends A and P over, and brought the bbq out front, where we put burgers, corn, and salmon on the grill. The kids got read to, Hazel got to ride way up high on A’s shoulders, and it was just lovely to share an impromptu meal.

The kids got down to sleep a full hour after their usual bedtime, but it was worth it. What a lovely day.


All of this stands in glaring contrast to various personal and political developments. A college friend is in the hospital, unresponsive with a very poor prognosis. I don’t even know what to say other than, “Oh, shit!” I am sad and scared. I hope that somehow she is able to pull through.

And then there’s the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, further solidifying the triumph of corporations over private citizens, further setting back women’s rights. The blows just keep on coming. I grieve for women and girls in general, and my daughters in particular. The country which they are going to inherit slides further into regression every day, it seems.


Photography, parent group, quartet rehearsal

It was a packed day! My brain feels full, with a lot to digest. It’s a good feeling, makes me look forward to going to bed so I can sleep on it all.

My friend L came over after lunch to help me prepare for a wedding I’m going to photograph for a friend later this summer. It was very productive. I now know more about what my camera can do, and am more comfortable with the concepts of ISO, and f-stop (aperture). Also, I am now acquainted with the +/- button on my camera, and have seen how small adjustments with it can help prevent a bright background from putting your subject into shadow, for example. We talked about various different wedding event scenarios from a photography point of view. I have a plan, and a lens I will most likely rent to make the photographing of the ceremony easier to accomplish. I am very grateful to L for her help! She is also a cello student of mine, and as she walked away after saying goodbye, she said, “And I know you’ll practice this month,” with a certain amount of understated glee in her tone.

Immediately following this session (at the end of which I took notes, because otherwise there was no way I was going to retain the info), we had our parenting group. There was a speaker for the second half of this one, who talked about various emotional/psychological adjustments we go through after having a child.

Half an hour after we got home from that meeting, I had a quartet rehearsal. We chose a Beethoven, Prokofiev, and Schubert quartet for the concert we’ll be doing this year. We still have one more to pick. It’s a good group with a strong, rich sound. I am very excited to have this to look forward to on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Hazel came down for 20 minutes or so to listen. She really does appear to love music. I am delighted to be able to share it with her. We had a short intermission for her to play her “Rodeo” piece from the Faber book.

Emily has started saying, “Honey,” copying me. It makes me smile every time. And Joanna said, “More milk!” several times this evening, the first time she’s strung two words together. I am so happy to have this week off with Ted and the kids. It’ll be great to be able to spend time all together for days in a row.

Hazel’s first piano recital

Today was Hazel’s first ever piano recital. We went down to the studio several times to practice, and she got some really good work in. All three kids took a nap, and then, after a snack, it was time to go.

Her teacher’s piano studio is young in two ways: most of his students are little kids, and he’s recently moved to the area and has been building up his studio. Today before the performance, he said that he’s enjoyed teaching this group the most he’s ever enjoyed teaching any group of students. And you could tell that the energy was warm and positive, with everyone cheering everyone else on. All the kids played with good rhythm, good tone, and obvious enjoyment of the instrument. All the parents and siblings were friendly.

Hazel was fourth on the program. She did very well. She did a great job of keeping going when she did make a mistake, and one of the three songs went perfectly. I think she was a bit nervous, but not too bad. A couple of our dear friends came to support her, and Ted was able to hear her through the door as he traipsed around with the twins. We agreed today that we need to swap off who’s got the twins so that he doesn’t always get stuck not being as close to the action as he’d like to be.

One lesson is that when I’m dealing with the video camera I cannot be as present as I want to be. I didn’t feel like I was able to listen in the way I wanted to. So, next time I’ll take the tripod, turn the camera on, and then ignore it while Hazel is playing.

I bought sunflowers for Hazel, and we wrote her a card. We also wrote a card for her teacher, on which she put, “I ♥ A” and drew a rainbow. I found that very touching. She wouldn’t have written that if she didn’t mean it.

It was a wonderful experience, and I am so happy to see Hazel growing musically as she grows in all the other ways, too.

Jr & Sr Cello Recital, twins in t-shirts

Tonight was the recital given by two of my students, one of whom just graduated from high school, and one of whom just finished her junior year. A played the Prelude, Allemande, and Gigue from the G Major Bach Solo Cello Suite, and “Vocalise” by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Then A and K played a duet together, Number 10 from the set by Reinagle, after which K played the Prelude, 2 Bourees, and the Gigue from the C Major Bach Cello Solo Suite, followed by the “Concerto in A Minor, Op. 33” by Camille Saint-Saens.

It was a lovely, varied program, and both cellists did very well. K has really learned to play out, to dig in and do dynamics, make shapes, really feel the music in the past couple of years. She has matured as a musician as she has as a person. A has developed a nice vibrato, adding to the expressiveness of her playing, and has good intonation and feeling for what she plays. It has been such a pleasure teaching each of them.

I will miss K a lot. It’s a preview of what it will be like when my own kids leave home. One of the great things about teaching privately is that I get to develop a relationship with my students over years of instruction, seeing them most weeks out of the year, watching them grow and learn. It is a partnership in which I feel privileged to be a part. I’m glad I get to have A for another year before she too goes off on her next adventure. I couldn’t help it, when I was telling them both congratulations at the end I teared up. The second time in two days. Tomorrow will be the third day, I am sure, as it’s Hazel’s first piano recital. I am so lucky to have these wonderful girls in my life.

My friend J played piano, another pleasure. It makes me want to get together with her and break out all the sonatas I know, so we can play through them all. I so love the piano/cello combination. Here’s one of my all-time favorites, the Brahms Sonata in E minor for cello and piano.

Most of today was about preparing for the recital. I had to clean up the studio – the bonus of tonight is of course that now my space downstairs is much nicer. It’s always that way when we have people over. 🙂 I still have some sorting to do, but the piles that inhabited some of the floor of the studio are either gone or neatly placed on shelves, and the project feels much more doable now. Ted also put up a Roman blind in the doorway between the studio and the rest of the basement, a big improvement. We are making progress!

Hazel came down to hang out toward the end of our dress rehearsal. She brought me a cup of water, stayed to talk to my students, listened to the recital, brought flowers to K and A, and provided entertainment in between pieces. And during the reception she played her recital pieces that she’s going to perform tomorrow. She was only a year or so old when A started lessons with me. How fast children grow! That is a truism which keeps on being true!

This afternoon we got the college tee shirts out that my friend D got at reunion this year and sent for the kids, and put two of them on the twins. They immediately went wild, giggling and squealing, and running back and forth between rooms. It was hilarious. They are starting to play with each other more and more. I think their beautiful relationship is good for both of them. The shirts are really big on them, and so Emily said, “Dess! dess!” and grinned all over her face.

And now starts nine days off. I am looking forward to vacation, to having down time, partner time, and family time. Stay-cations are good things.

Snuggle time with Hazel, last day of preschool, graduating student

Ted and Hazel waited up for me together so I could have some snuggle time with her after I got home from work. I read to her, and we talked about her last day of preschool. (More on that later.) Eventually, she started poking me and pulling on my fingers and giggling. In the middle of that she said, “You don’t want to rile me up!”
“Why?”, I asked.
“Because then I won’t sleep well.”
“Well, then maybe you should stop poking me and pulling on my fingers!”
She giggled some more.

I dropped her off at school today, taking my camera with me so I could snap some photos to mark the occasion. I remember the picture I took of her on the first day, when she was walking up the steps to the school, uncertain but game for it. She was fine until we went inside and heard another kid crying hysterically. That set her off, and for the first few days I had to rip myself away as she was crying. That was hard. The teachers kindly texted me when she had calmed down, just a few minutes later. They carried her and snuggled her, and she adjusted pretty quickly. She was two and a half years old. Now it’s 2.75 years later. She speaks Spanish to her teachers (at least some of the time), she’s got loads of friends at school, and she’ll be heading off to kindergarten in the fall. Today it was my turn to tear up and give her multiple hugs before I left. It’s the end of an era. Her little sisters will go there when they turn two and a half, but that’s not until January. Until then, it’s adios to the preschool that’s nurtured my daughter through these important years of her early childhood.

This afternoon Ted and I did naptime with the twins together. That’s a rare occurrence, and it was nice. They both fell asleep on the nursing pillow, and this time I was able to transfer them to their beds without waking them up! I was very, very happy about that. I have positioned the nursing spot in between their beds, and it’s tight enough that I can more or less roll them off the pillow onto their mattresses, though it’s a little bit uphill, so felt a bit dicey. I’m glad it worked.

Then I had my usual 7-student teaching day, ending with my student K’s last lesson! She has graduated from high school, is giving her senior recital tomorrow, and will be heading off for college in a couple of months. It’s always hard to believe when students I’ve taught for years reach this point. It’s bittersweet too: I am glad to see her moving off into the next adventure in her life, but will miss seeing her every week. She’s worked hard, and I’m so proud of her.

Tomorrow, I have to clean up my studio so we can do the recital in an appealing environment. Not much I can do about the back yard, but Ted and I will get to that next week. Such is family life, especially with small children. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s performance.

Music with my daughter, nice morning, cat training prep

Tonight when I was hugging Hazel good night after lights-out, she whispered to me, “Mama, can we play a duet together tomorrow?” I am so lucky! I need to crystallize that moment so it stays close enough to the surface of my memory to be easily recalled. She also asked me if she could play her pieces for my student and her mom at the end of her (my student’s) lesson. She did, and went through them very well. She’s really getting herself into good shape for Saturday. I’m proud of her.

Today I managed to have a pretty lazy, long morning even with the twins. They played, I talked to my mom, took a shower, ate breakfast. We went for a walk to pick up the car and then to go get Hazel at her summer school. She wanted to show her sisters to her teacher, so we found the Maestra, who is so friendly and warm, and who said that Hazel had been telling her about her sisters. She told me how sweet Hazel is. We walked back to the car all holding hands. Emily wanted Hazel to pick her up at one point, and so Hazel carried her for part of a block while I carried Joanna. Let’s hear it for wonderful sibling relationships!

This afternoon I went to the pet store after Ted got home and got a couple of collars for the cats, along with treats, a couple of clickers with which to train them (with cats, it’s all about treats), a couple of big bags of freeze-dried chicken (which turned out not to interest Pepper at all: we’ll have to try some other varieties to find one he likes), a couple of wand toys, food & litter. We are going to start on a campaign to get the cats used to collars and to the tracking device, and then we will see what happens. It feels good to have a plan.

After I taught I went up to participate in bedtime. After Ted read a book and we sang, Emily came over and pointed at the nursing pillow and asked, “Nurse? nurse?” I have a feeling she’s discovered it’s a delaying tactic, as she sometimes resists going to sleep. But I’ll take it. Joanna joined in, so I got that nice moment of connection with both of them tonight.

Once Ted and I were both downstairs we got the cat supplies out. Jasmine is a treat hound, but Pepper was uninterested. We’ll keep working on it.

Cat biting, long walk, piano lesson, writing

This morning, Pepper bit my feet (again), and I started to cry. It was one of those last-straw things, the thing that pushed me over the edge after endless-feeling nights of difficult and inadequate sleep, the pressures of Mommy-focused twins (all three kids go in and out of being focused on me or Ted), and all the various things I have been trying to get done. Pepper has been getting increasingly aggressive with me in the last couple of weeks, biting (not hard) or swatting at my feet many times a day. He was so sweet and gentle when we first got him, but he’s gotten a lot bigger and has been challenging Jasmine for dominance, and they’ve been hissing and growling at each other.

So, I’m going to take him to the vet next week just to make sure there’s not something out of balance (like thyroid). And I think that the cats are going to become indoor/outdoor cats. They both want out, Jasmine particularly. And I think that Pepper needs more activity than he can get inside, to blow off steam, to explore. I really, really hope we can work this out. I love both the kitties and want them to be happy. But I can’t have a cat biting me, or the kids. It’s not a hard bite, but it needs not to happen at all. The twins are only two years old. I don’t want them to be scared of the cats. I don’t want to be backing away when I see him walking toward me, which I find myself doing. That’s just not right.

Ted saw that I was at the end of my rope, and stuck around for a while so I could shower and eat, and so he could help me get the twins ready to get out of the house. Thanks to Ted! Then I went walking with the twins, down to pick up a few things at the pharmacy and around the neighborhood, until I found I was close enough to Hazel’s preschool to go meet her at the end of her class session. We walked back home via a Mexican place to get tacos and quesadillas, and then via the park to eat our lunch. I spent over two and a half hours out walking and pushing the stroller, and the exercise was good for me.

This afternoon we had a very productive joint therapy session (which we’d forgotten about, and for which we got very last-minute childcare, courtesy of our wonderful nanny L). Parenting has brought up numbers of issues with which it’s been very useful to have support and help in sorting out, and I’m so glad we have that resource.

After that Hazel had her last pre-recital lesson, and it went very well. She’s still got a couple of rhythm mistakes to fix in the “Petite Minuet”, but I think she’s in good shape for Saturday. I’m glad we got the keyboard. It’s not a wonderful instrument, obviously, but its presence enabled her to practice this afternoon when I couldn’t take her down to the studio because I also had to watch the twins.

Tonight I went to the coffee shop to write, and made some more progress in terms of the questions I’m asking myself, some of the answers I’ve found, and homework I’ve given myself, to write one scene in particular in several different ways, to explore a variety of possibilities. I am more relaxed nowadays about not “getting it right” when I write, about the existence of big contradictions, holes, and other things that I can fix later. And that changed attitude makes it more fun to write.

And in a minute Ted and I are going to go watch another bit of a movie, and then go to bed. Today certainly had its challenges, but I’m glad to be ending on a nicer note.