Teaching cello, acupuncture, teaching vs learning

One of the fun things about having students who get more advanced is working on more advanced repertoire with them. One of my high school students brought in the second Borodin String Quartet this evening. Not wanting to spend her whole lesson fingering it for her, I made a copy (of course, my crappy-a$$ printer ate hers, so I gave her the copy and kept the munched one – I really have to get a better printer!) to finger this week. She’ll finger hers and we’ll compare notes at her next lesson so we can talk about the whys and wherefores of the art of fingering. I love the Borodin, so having a chance to play it and think about it, and work even a bit on the melodies is making me happy. Thus, I am taking a break to write this post and then am going to go downstairs to do the second movement tonight. I am fortunate not to have any of the repertoire for my next two concerts yet, or else I’d be feeling a conflict of interest. That will start on Thursday, so I can spend tonight and tomorrow working on the Borodin and my own string quartet music (Schubert this week) before I have to moderate and diversify my practice session content.

I had an acupuncture session today. We’re going to work on evening out my cycle, which has become erratic. Also, in the parlance of that world, she thinks I have a blood deficiency, need to eat more green veggies and some red meat twice a week. On the other hand, my sleep and the arm that was giving me trouble have both improved dramatically in a few weeks time, both of which are wonderful developments.

I have been continuing to think about my new developing mantra: “Not everything needs to be fixed.” I allowed it to seep into my mind and heart at the beginning of my first lesson this evening, with the result that I felt more patience, allowed more time for my student (who’s a kid) to process and take responsibility for his own actions. I was more relaxed, and I think was therefore more able to be centered and to teach better. I want to continue to make space for that in my spirit as I teach and parent. Of course, it will immediately be tested as the universe throws challenges and counter-examples my way (as always seems to happen), but that’s ok. I don’t have to fix that either.

There is a difference between a learning moment and a teachable one. The latter is not always organic, but instead arises from habit and the need to control.

I say often, sometimes with gratitude and sometimes with irritation, sometimes softly and sometimes laced with snark, “Thank you, universe, for this opportunity to learn.” I say it even more often now that I have children. But I am glad to be learning, even if it sometimes feels like such a terribly enormous stretch.


park fun, family time

Today we met up with some friends at the park that has a zip line. Hazel loves flying along on the zip line, and she has changed so much since her first tentative ride. Now she wants a tremendous push sideways so that she zig zags along, whipping from side to side before the line bangs up against the block at the end and then flips the seat back in the other direction. It really makes me happy to see her reveling in her physicality, enjoying motion and strength and effort. She is inclined to weep bitter tears over any hurt be it ever so small, to point out with sad pride owies so miniscule they could be grains of sand. And she claimed many times she didn’t like soccer because she had to run and that made her hot. So, when she runs around with her friends after school or on the weekend at the park and her face glows pink and sweat dampens her hairline, I smile and am glad. She is not letting her sensitivity to discomfort get in the way of playing and living.

Emily also tried the zip line, and Joanna swung, went down the slide, and rode the rocking-duck with glee. We got a few scattered minutes of conversation in with our friends and promised to do it again as soon as possible.

I remember when Hazel started getting mobile, discovering that park meet-ups fundamentally changed their nature as conversations got constantly interrupted with running off to watch the littles. Going with the flow is a skill which is constantly receiving updates and reinforcements in my life as a parent.

This afternoon my sister G and niece B came over. It being the start of the year and my sister being a teacher, she’s running the ragged edge of exhaustion. So, Ted went off to the park with the kids, G slept for an hour, and I cooked. I didn’t have enough time to do more than one dish, so we sent them home with the pesto meatballs I made, plus a bunch of raw chicken they can cook later, plus a delicata squash. In a couple of weeks we’ll go to their house and maybe we’ll bbq some meat while we hang out. Her boyfriend D & his kids (A & Z) will be there too, which will be great. My kids love his kids. His daughter (Z), in particular, is a magnet for them, and as soon as Emily heard G’s name today she started saying B and Z’s names and getting very excited. She, in turn, said that she wished she could see them and asked if my sister could take a picture of them. So at the end of the visit she did. This all makes me very happy. It’s lovely to see your community building, relationships strengthening, love multiplying.

This evening I have a quartet rehearsal, and we are going to read some Haydn quartets. I am really looking forward to that!

I hope everyone had a great weekend and will have a wonderful week to come.

Solo parenting, shopping, parental philosophizing

It’s been a long couple of days! Ted was out of town, arriving back this evening, so it was all me from Thursday night on. The nights were more successful than previous solo parenting experiences have been, due to my sleep being better in general. Usually when I’m on by myself and the babies wake up in the middle of the night I have such a powerful adrenaline response that it takes me forever to get back to sleep. But the last couple of nights I have been able to relax again sufficiently to avoid that frustrating circumstance.

There were wrinkles, of course. The monitor stopped working properly last night, which I realized after Joanna’s loud crying finally woke me up from two rooms away. After that, in a paranoia-driven fit of persistence, I spent about 20 minutes repeatedly trying to get the monitor to stay on, and eventually it did. I have no idea why it kept crackling and turning off, but that is one piece of electronics that will absolutely and promptly be replaced if it dies. It is currently quite essential to our littles lifestyle.

And, since I am currently experiencing the pleasures of perimenopause (what is it with all this irritating aging-related crap, anyway, crabs my inner cranky self) I got my second period in 2.5 weeks, just so I could really engage with the intensity of 3-on-1 parenting with verve and conviction.

Friday morning Hazel made it to class literally seconds before the bell rang. Yeah, I’ve got it together, by the encrusted skin of my morning-mouth teeth. Ok, I’ll stop with the disgusting imagery. 🙂

But there were the glowy-shiny-lovey moments too: puddle-stomping with the twins; watching Hazel run around with mobs of new school friends after school let out on Friday; playing with Legos with the twins; having Joanna and Emily proudly bring me Lego towers of their creation while I checked email and vegged for a bit this afternoon; watching Hazel write, “I ♥ Mommy” on today’s big art paper; snoozing for an hour (!!) with Emily on my chest this morning after she’d woken up at 7:15 and I lay down with her in my bed to see if she’d relax for a bit; Emily’s happy exclamations of, “Mama, Mommy!”; compromising with Joanna on climbing the stairs so that I started carrying her up them after 3, then 4, then 5 stairs mounted on her own and then finally, today she cheerfully went all the way up under her own power; Joanna starting to say, “Yelth!” [“Self”] to celebrate doing something without help.

After Ted got back I did some dishes (yes, very exciting!) and then went to pick up a Car2Go. On my rambling way over to get it I ran into another mom whose kid goes to Hazel’s elementary school. She recognized me and greeted me, and we had a nice conversation until we parted ways. That felt atypical and quite wonderful for this area, which can be socially chilly. It put a smile on my face.

Then I went over to a local mall to pick up a car charger for my phone, and on a whim stopped off in a store to see if I could find some new gigging clothes. I’ve needed to update my cello wardrobe for ages and ages, and I spent quite a while in the store trying various things on. Quite unusually for me, I found a variety of items that worked well, and bought a couple of non-black shirts as well, fun things that are a deliberate expansion of my wardrobe that has tended to very plain cotton shirts and baggy pants over the past several years. I am not a shopper, but it was enjoyable, especially since I could dawdle and consider with no rush.

I stopped off at a food truck and bought some bbq brisket (I bought half home for Ted, as it was a huge amount), and here I am, relaxed and looking forward to tomorrow.

One thing I was going to do tonight but ran out of time for was a pottery project at a place where you decorate and they fire pre-made pieces. I want to put up in our kitchen a sign that says something like this (but shorter): “Our children are constantly learning. Life is the best teacher. We don’t have to make every circumstance into a lesson. Love and compassion are always appropriate.” But I guess that wouldn’t fit easily on a platter. Maybe I’ll just make a sign and get Hazel to help me pretty it up.

breaking the rules, iPhone 5S

Whoops, I’m breaking my nighttime rules, so I have to finish this post quickly and get to bed! I’m in charge tomorrow morning without any backup, so will have to get up earlier than usual, get all three ready so we can get Hazel to school, and then head to the gym with the twins for a workout. I may regret not just coming straight home, but here’s hoping for a decent night and morning.

This morning was the first serious autumn rain. I spent about an hour bumming about that, and then I got the twins kitted up with boots and rain suits, grabbed a rain jacket for myself, and we went for a walk. Exploring and noticing, sharing and playing, delighting in their puddle-stomping glee helped chase my SAD blues away, and we were all happy when we got back to the house for lunch.

We did our usual naptime routine, but though they both nursed, Emily didn’t fall asleep and seemed quite chipper while I was easing Joanna onto her bed. So I broke the rules again, and sat down with her in my arms after I turned the lights off, halfway reclined so she was lying on my shoulder. She was asleep in five minutes, and the warm soft weight of her in my arms, her head tucked into the curve of my neck brought back the tenderness of those early months and the memory of her lying on my heart as a wee one. I found it hard to decant her onto her bed and leave.

My first student of the day cancelled, so mostly on a whim I went over to the cell store and got an iPhone 5S. I had reservations about the size of the Samsung I’ve had for 1.5 years when I first got it, but allowed the sales guy to override me. The person I was working with today tried to do the same thing, unbelievably, but I stuck to my guns. Of course, I’m not used to Apple products other than my iPod, so I’m having the usual freak-out over everything being different, the keyboard being tiny, etc. But I have 14 days to return it if I really decide I’d rather stick with what I know. And in the meantime, I really can reach across the screen with my thumb, which is cool.

The thing I find both hilarious and disturbing is that now I want to buy an iPad or Surface or something that size so that I have something nicer to use for games and surfing, etc. But I DON’T NEED ONE. Such is the power of marketing and commercialism. I still own and use the iPod Ted gave me when we were in our first several months of dating. I love it. It is 9 years old. In today’s terms it is a dinosaur. I feel like any piece of electronic equipment should last at least that long to even enter the realm of reasonable.

I am a dinosaur. I’m ok with that.

Practicing cello, x-rays, conversations with various people, the nature of top-down heirarchy

I am gradually becoming more disciplined, I think as a result of getting more sleep and getting my daily balance/routine working better. So yesterday morning when my student was late rather than pulling out my phone and playing Scrabble or surfing the web, I got my cello out to work on the last movement of the Beethoven quarter, which goes pretty wickedly fast, and so is amenable to being worked on in small chunks. I only got about ten minutes in, but it was productive.

After that lesson I called up the bike shop and made our down payment for all the work we’re going to have done on the Madsen. That was an enjoyable conversation, including a discussion of lighting on the bike, and what sort of basket we can get on the front.

Then I took Joanna to get her hips x-rayed. Apparently babies born breach can sometimes have their hips out of whack, and so it’s something we just wanted to check out in the category of crossing t’s and dotting i’s. She didn’t enjoy the x-ray at all, but liked the fishy decorations at the place. I loved spending that time just with Joanna, with no other kid to jump in. She gestures a lot more than she talks, and having a chance to communicate with her in her way and at her speed helped me to feel closer to her. It confirmed something I’ve been feeling for a while, which is that I need and want to make individual time for the twins in my weekly routine. Joanna has a sweetness that brings tears to my eyes, and I want to experience the gift of that interaction now, not just when they’re in pre-school and I can send them different days.

After that I talked to my friend R who’s in jail. We’d been missing each other for about three weeks, as I can’t call him and he can only try to guess the right time for calling me. We talked about how the fancies and fears that people can develop in prison are like those that sometimes occur in the middle of the night, when you find yourself creating entire frightening narratives about something that might be happening, which are then dissipated by light of day. In jail, there is, in some sense, never any light of day, and it’s possible to get totally out of balance, having lost your perspective entirely. It was very good to talk, one of the best conversations we’ve had. I was glad to be able to make the time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how hierarchy is a structure in which a certain amount of distrust, anger, and a sense of betrayal is developed, and how antithetical it is to the family life I want to cultivate. I’ve been thinking about my OB’s reaction to my desire to give birth at home, and that she said I had betrayed her by not talking to her about it. She was unable to see beyond her mental box. And I think that has to do with the top-down approach so often found in the world of medicine. I view my health-care practitioners as members of my health-care team, but I am the person whose choice and agency ultimately matters most. It is a collaboration, or should be. That’s one of the things I love about naturpathic care: in that world it’s more likely that you’ll find partners in such a process.

I want each member of my family to learn how to think about each person’s needs, and the need to balance those needs. Ultimately, of course, Ted and I are responsible for our kids’ well-being, and that requires establishing boundaries and making some rules. But I think we’ve been working too hard, doing too much, and that we need to cede some of the work and responsibility to Hazel, include her in conversations in which we’re figuring out what to do for the day, for example, and in deciding how much work everyone’s going to do in the maintenance of the house.

Otherwise, we merely make her wait, telling her to be quiet as we figure out what’s going to happen. That doesn’t really work for her or for us.

Obviously, not every family decision is up for discussion by committee. But I think more of them are than we’ve been allowing.

Then, last night after I taught I went to get my hair cut and colored. The building in which the studio rents space was purchased last year by people who then attempted to kick out all the residents with 20 days notice, some of whom had been living there for decades. It’s all about money. They were prevented from carrying out that maneuver, but they’ve still won, making everyone leave so they can fancy up the building and charge triple or quadruple what was being charged before. I think it’s unethical. A longer but more humane process would have been to gradually renovate and increase prices after tenants had left. I also think that every building owner should be required to include 25% of the apartments or condos as low-income. Our societal segregation is one of the things that leads to lack of understanding and compassion, as well as to extreme injustice.

Despite the heavy conversation, it was nice to have my hair done, to sit in a chair and relax, to be responsible for no one but myself for an hour and a half.

Then when I got home Ted and I continued our ongoing conversation about how things are going in our family, and what we want to try next. I think I want to put up a sign in the kitchen as a reminder to me that, “Not Every Moment Should Be A Teachable Moment.” Not everything has to be fixed right then and there. In fact, not everything has to be fixed.

Hard to remember in the heat of the moment as Hazel assiduously sabotages what feels like every parenting move I try to make with the twins. Hard to remember, but important to remember.

Getting back to routine, studio issues, sleep revelations

Yesterday I added a couple more pieces of my getting-back-to-routine puzzle. I went practiced on schedule, and went to the gym after that. I also met a friend to write in the evening, but couldn’t stay long because my parenting group had a Moms’ Night Out scheduled. It was great to see everyone, to share news, to see pictures of the newest baby (and probably the last addition to the group.)

Also yesterday we met with our contractor to see if we can do anything to prevent so much noise transmission from the main floor to the basement. Essentially, the answer is no, not at the level we’re willing to spend on a project right now. That will have to wait until we do the next round of remodeling, and in the meantime maybe we’ll put felt on the bottoms of the bench feet. We can, though, put in another light to fix the issue I have with lighting in the studio. Lesson: I should have insisted on not having cans. I hate their spotlight effect. I let myself be argued into them, but I still, in fact, can’t stand them. It’s a bit like how I feel about eggplant. I tried some last year to see if I still despise it as much as I did when I was a kid, and the answer was a resounding yes.

But it’s ok: we’ll put in another light behind where I sit, and I won’t have to depend on the spot when I’m taking notes during lessons.

I made a mistake last night and had a beer and also ate too much, boo. That meant waking up at 4 am and having trouble getting back to sleep. Nonetheless, each night when I lie down and read by the light of the sunset clock, getting so sleepy I choose to put down my book and close my eyes has the feel of a revelation to me. I haven’t had the pleasure of sleepiness leading to sleep in so many years, decades really. I wish it hadn’t taken such an extreme case of insomnia to persuade me to change my ways, but that is so often the case that I accept it as human nature, or at least as my nature.

Friends, Pilates, playing on the playground, Feliway

I am grateful for my friends, who see clearly and speak honestly and with love. I am grateful for dear ones with whom I can talk out life’s challenges.

Today I had a Pilates session. It is so good to get back to strengthening my core in that way. Of course, my legs were still sore from clutching the horse on Saturday, and they protested a few times. That’s ok, though. They’ll survive.

This afternoon when I went to pick Hazel up from school I decided to let the twins out of the stroller and let all three kids play on the playground for a while. Hazel came running over holding hands with her new friend I, who has just moved here with her family from Spain. They seemed pretty well matched, getting along really well. I exchanged contact info with I’s mom, at the girls’ suggestion, and we had a nice conversation. We’ll arrange a play date. Hazel also spent time running around playing hide and seek with her friend I from the neighborhood, in a group that included both boys and girls, which also made me happy.

The twins played on the playground equipment, by themselves at various times, and with Hazel and her friends. They climbed and hung and slid. I tried not to hover too much, an effort I am sure I will repeat many times in the weeks to come as they’re surrounded by big kids who pay varying degrees of attention to where the little heads and hands are.

Tonight I nursed the twins and Joanna didn’t want to let go and go to sleep. She went off and on three times. In the end I gave her to Ted while I got Emily down. Joanna was up many times last night, so she might be fighting an illness or just feeling funky somehow. I do hope she sleeps better tonight, though.

This evening I ordered some Feliway. The cats have not been getting along any better, and in fact this afternoon’s spat sounded more serious. I want to see if it will help. I do have friends whose two cats get along much more smoothly with the Feliway going in their house. So here’s hoping!