Things and Such

This would appear to be my semi-annual check in at MotherMe. So much has happened this last year, some really BIG BIG stuff, but it’s so Big that I haven’t been able to really process it all in my own head, let alone put in writing. I’m going to work on that this summer, though. That (and a decent garden) are my goals over the next four months. Stay tuned for details (and for now just know that it’s great, and does not involve me being pregnant.)

In more recent, less-Big news, we just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Florida. It was a very lovely trip, shorter than usual (one week instead of our typical two) but wonderful nonetheless. We stayed in Summerfield this time, with a one-day jaunt to Orlando. The girls and I hung out at Wonderworks and hit up a Shake Shack (our first time) that day while DH attended a conference. The rest of the trip we stayed close to Nana’s house and her community pool. Weather was lovely, we met my brother’s sweet girlfriend, we played a lot of Tripoley (which is a super-fun game), and the girls binge-watched Pokemon episodes on Netflix. We flew YNG-PIE instead of driving, since it was a shorter trip, and even the flight was nothing-to-complain-about. S11 turned to S12 over the trip, and received a typewriter from Nana, much to her delight. She also received a phone* from her ultra-cool parents.

 

*Disclaimer: she actually received a photograph of a phone, with the promise that the actual phone would be waiting for her back in Ohio when we returned. This is because her parents are, while ultra-cool, also ultra-disorganized, and couldn’t get it together enough to have the phone activated or even packed in their luggage in time for this trip. However, as of this writing, she does have a real, live, activated, working cell phone, and is over the moon about her new connectivity.

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Piano

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When I was about 12, I briefly studied piano with a creepy, bearded guy (not that the beard made him creepy, but it’s the one thing I remember about him, other than his bizarrely long, nicotine-stained fingers and the fact that he had this absolutely awful pedophile vibe). That did not last long, because we moved to another part of town where cheap piano lessons were not to be found (mostly because I was busy doing other things, like speech team and band, but possibly also because I didn’t want to deal with another weirdo trying to look down my shirt while I poked out a scale on the keyboard). I loved the piano, though, and kept playing throughout the years. But I am mostly self-taught, which is not always a good thing. In some instances – piano perhaps being one of them – it is advisable to have a teacher to critique and guide and encourage you.

S9 started taking lessons from a wonderful, non-creepy teacher last March.  Shortly after she began, I happened to mention my own small experience with piano, and the teacher happened to mention that she had another adult student, and it just became obvious that I should become her student, too.  Aside from a desire to improve my meager skills, it seemed like a good example to set for the kids, who are being forced to endure their own music lessons.  I am such a horrible, mean mom, making them do something so awful as playing music.

So the teacher and I started last June.  We began with some easier classical pieces that, after several months of work, I can say are no longer being absolutely butchered at the keyboard but are now, instead, only slightly maimed at each playing. The first pieces were Bach’s Gavotte from the Third English Suite and Beethoven’s Fuër Elise.  At our teacher’s Christmas party I played a version of Peter, Paul & Mary’s Gone The Rainbow.  In late December, I started working on Mozart’s Fantasy In D Minor.  I even accompanied O8 at her violin recitals the last two weekends.  Nevermind that my hands shake uncontrollably when I play in front of people.  If we are never uncomfortable, we are not learning or growing, right?

I still have my childhood piano.  It is a modest spinet, not a super-high-quality instrument, but she’s served her purpose without complaint over the years, and it’s hard to part with her.

Nancy Hart
My childhood piano, a Nancy Hart spinet by the Grand Piano Co. We just call her Nancy.

But on Christmas Eve, my husband took us out to choose a beautiful, marvelous new piano, which was delivered two days later.  So now we have not one, but two pianos in our living room.

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Our new piano, a George Steck. We call him… wait for it… George.

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I love that, at any given moment of the day, someone is usually playing something on one of the keyboards.   Even O8, who is not interested in piano lessons at all, plays daily.

There’s no moral to this story, other than perhaps you’re never too old to learn something all over again.

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And that music is for everyone, even cats.

Grand Pass, Lame Pictures

Last night the International Space Station made what is known as a Grand Pass over our neck of the woods.

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Apparently, a Grand Pass is when it flies over at 70º or higher.  In layman’s terms, it means the station flies directly overhead (or thereabouts).

DH and I remembered about the 9:47 pass at approximately 9:23.  I futzed about in the camping cabinet to find the girls’ binoculars, and then he suggested I take my camera outside to try to get a photo, so then there was mounting the camera on the tripod and opening the tripod legs, which also took some time.  Finally, I got all of our fabulous optics together and we headed outside.  Amazingly, our neighbor-across-the-street did not have his gigantic spotlight on.  We were pretty excited, but soon realized that the only thing we were going to see was trees.  So we piled into the van, drove over to the soccer fields, realized the fields were closed but parked on the side of the road anyway, tumbled out of the van, set up the optics and got the binoculars ready, and then…

We saw it!

The ISS flew straight overhead.  At first, we weren’t sure we were looking at the right thing, but it got brighter and larger and streaked right over our heads from west-southwest to east-northeast.  Look: I have proof.

ISS Grand Pass

Grand Pass

Apparently I need to work a bit on my astral photography. Hey, I warned you that the photos were lame.

The kids were pretty excited.  O7 even claimed she saw the “H” shape.  In any event, hello ISS!  We waved to you from N 41 00.894W 80 33.399 last night.  🙂

NH Day 7

Today was Wednesday.  We decided to have a down day and stay near the condo.  The weather was a bit warmer and drier, so the kids had a chance to swim (although it was too cold for my liking).  L and I hung out and watched their lips turn blue.

That evening, we cooked on the grill and had a nice dinner standing around the bar table in the condo’s kitchen.  Silly as it sounds, I like the high table.  It sure makes feeding a crowd easy.

This Old Dog Relearns an Old Trick

Long, long ago (which, in my inner monologue, used to be followed by “in a galaxy far, far away” but now conjures up a mental performance of this tune thanks to my Suzuki-violin-playing children), I played the piano.

I was not particularly good at piano, but I wasn’t bad, either, especially if you consider that I pretty much taught myself.  I did take lessons for a couple of years, but my teacher was uninspired and uninspiring (and probably a pedophile, a word I didn’t know at the time but he SKEEVED ME OUT even at age 13, so it’s very likely.)  Many years of band had taught me how to read music, and I used that to figure out some Christmas songs and some popular tunes (like selections from the Peter, Paul and Mary songbook and Phantom of the Opera).  I even learned how to play Für Elise, though mostly incorrectly.  At least it was recognizable, albeit painful to listen to if you knew anything about Beethoven.

S9 has been taking lessons since earlier this year, and we like her teacher very, very much.  At a recent lesson, it came up that N had two adult students.  And it occurred to me that, since I was spending all this time at a piano lesson, anyway, maybe I ought to revisit my old instrument.  I still poke at it periodically, and have learned the piano accompanyment parts to O7’s violin pieces to help her practice.  So N agreed to take me on as a student.

My first lesson was Friday.  I practiced daily for nearly two weeks to get the rusty joints of my fingers able to move properly.  I played some scales, dusted off Für Elise and a Bach Gavotte, and worked through Book 1 of the Thompson Piano book. All my work meant simply that I did not humiliate myself at N’s piano.

She was very kind and pointed out some glaring errors (mostly fingerings, but also a few technical mistakes) in the Beethoven and suggested I practice at a very slow tempo the two sections I was having the most difficulty with.  We ran through the Bach and she suggested the same.  She also went over scales, chords and arpeggios.  I knew what those were but did not have the proper fingerings for them.  This week, I’ll need to practice C major and chromatic scales over four octaves, two hands, five times a day.  Carpal tunnel, here I come!  😉

 

 

El Destroyo

I was going through some pictures from my phone and came across these ones I took back in April.

The uninitiated among you might just see an ordinary cardboard box here. But you would be deceived.  Ordinary mortal.

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This is actually S-then-8’s Super Fighter Warship Plane.  The military should really consider a few of these.  They are both Sharkproof AND Bombproof:

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Shock Proof AND High-Turbulence Proof:

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not to mention Dangerous, When Sounding Siren:

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Please note that there is a hefty fine for theft of property:

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As if anyone would steal it though, since it’s:

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Just in case, please:

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Look at all of these features! I mean, really. Wouldn’t you want to just push a button for “Repairments and Maintenance?”

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There are security features galore:

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and defenses if an enemy dares try to get close:

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And when all else fails, there’s always the “El Destroyo” button as a failsafe.

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Genius.

Up To Our Elbows

I like that saying, “up to our elbows [in] [insert random task or item in quantity]”.  I have an image of people with rolled-up sleeves, grinning maniacally while about to tackle something outrageously complex, difficult, and/or tedious.  It’s not a bad image but it does imply that there are Big Things Happening (and that the people doing them are pretty much nutso.)

We sort of have Big Things Happening around here (and are up to our elbows in them).  DH has found a lovely contractor (is that even possible?) who is going to replace the retaining wall along the steps that go to our basement door.

Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of the “before” wall.  Suffice it to say that it was a grey block wall, slightly bowing out in some places and slightly sagging in others, which was both unattractive and unpleasant, and probably even a little bit dangerous.  The contractor is going to re-set the wall and put in new block with a lightly less “death-warmed-over” tone.

Here is where the wall once stood.  (There’s another wall on the opposite side of the steps which is also being replaced, but you don’t quite get the full effect if I shoot the photo down the steps.)

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The remains of the old walls:

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The project site:

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A random onlooker:

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Bob [PLEASE STOP ME BEFORE I TYPE “THE BUILDER”] should be here this morning with new block in the “desert sands” colorway. It will not necessarily match our pinky-grey house, but it should look nicer than death-warmed-over grey, and definitely better than white or red (the other choices). When in doubt, go with the beige, my Realtor mother would probably say.

Meanwhile, I am pleased as punch that the transplants I have randomly scattered painstakingly placed about the yard seem to appreciate their new homes.

Last week, I moved these two large Zebra Grasses from the front yard to the back. I put them alongside the bridge that leads off the bottom of the deck to the yard, near the kids’ playset. I think they soften the bridge and look lovely. Happily, it has been a week and they are not dead!

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Even more amazing is this Lamb’s Ear. It was a cutting given to me by a friend a month ago. A month! And still alive! That’s got to be a record around here.

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I also found these two Coral Bells plants at the grocery store. They were 50 cents apiece; who can pass up plants for 50 cents? Not I. They’ve been in the ground for a few days now and- fingers crossed- are still yellow. That’s good. These ones are supposed to be a chartreuse-y yellow-green.  I have several plants this color in the yarden, but these ones are supposed to look like that.

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In the wings is one other large-ish project, namely putting some steps off the back of our deck.  We do have some steps leading off the deck, but they lead towards the south end of the yard.  Our firepit is on the east end of the yard.  We would like people to be pointed in the proper heading when they leave the deck so they end up at the firepit and not, say, at the neighbors’.  Or in Virginia.  (The real reason, of course, is that we are lazy and want to waddle down off the deck and directly to the fire pit, without having to slog through grass and without having to take 100 extra steps to get there.  Because it’s SO FAR AWAY.) Here. I will illustrate with clever photos and schematics.

Our firepit, awash with heavenly morning light:

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Now, here is a view from the deck. As you look off the deck towards said heavenly fire pit, the current set of steps lead way off to the right, AWAY FROM said fire pit. And they’re dark. And one has an extra deep tread, so they become treacherous, especially when one is carrying marshmallows and a pointy stick for toasting them on. You can see that this is not a good plan. A much better plan is to have steps go directly toward the firepit, with proper lighting and a railing. (If you’re going to dream, dream big.)

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Here is the current view of that part of the deck from the yard. As you can see, we are not going to lose any valuable landscaping with this project.

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This next drawing/photo will give you an idea of what the steps will look like. Of course, in reality they will look a lot less like an inflatable emergency airplane slide and a lot more like real steps. They’ll be wood and stained to match the deck, instead of baby-poop brownish yellow. I’m working with limited resources (and ability) here, so just go with it.

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However, before we tackle the steps, we must first replace the air conditioning unit.  Our outside condenser unit has been damaged by a marauding band of pirate mice, who chew up wiring insulation and trade it at the salvage yard for cheese.  There are so many tasteless jokes to make with that metaphor that I’m going to just drop it right now.  Suffice it to say, our home’s air is not very cool at the moment.  And that sucks, because it has been in the upper 80s F all week and yesterday was incredibly humid to boot, so while I very much want steps with the proper heading, I am a selfish human who lives in the moment and at this moment would rather be cool than walking down nice steps.  Because, you see, I can just not go down the steps for now, but I can’t just not be sweltery hot.  Not now.  Unless I go into the basement, of course.  But then I would just hide there and not come up til September, and that would not be very productive.  And I so want to be productive (*snort*).