Monday, February 28, 2011

rub a dub dub, faye in the tub

Recent phone conversation with brother #4:

Bro: So, basically you just live for your grandkids.

I thought about protesting but then decided the truth was best.

Me: Yup, pretty much.

Not hard to see why, eh? Seriously, the cuteness.

Friday, February 25, 2011

spaced repetition

Go ahead, laugh JLA. You will wind up using this on your guitar students, guaranteed.
Years ago I came across Charles Cookes Playing the Piano for Pleasure, the book is long out of print, but a real gem. Some of my favorite passages begin on page 42 entitled Transforming weakest passages into strongest (can you say Ether 12:27?)

Surgeons tell us that a broken arm or leg, if it is correctly set, becomes strongest at the point of the fracture.

Recognition of the value of working especially hard on difficult passages is no new idea in piano teaching: it is one of the oldest and soundest ideas.

I believe in marking off, in every piece we study, all passages that we find especially difficult, and then practicing these passages patiently, concentratedly, intelligently, relentlessly—until we have battered them down, knocked them out, surmounted them, dominated them, conquered them—until we have transformed them thoroughly and permanently, from the weakest into the strongest passages in the piece.

Later, this:

No difficult passage can be mastered without, early in the operation, memorizing it.

…conquering difficult passages, though hard, is not forbiddingly hard.

He suggests these steps:

*Play the piece straight through from the notes, forcing yourself as best you may through any passages of unusual difficulty. This will give you a valuable total impression of the piece and a rough idea of where its “fractures” are. Every place in the piece where you stop or falter is, in greater or less degree, a fracture---a compound or a simple fracture.
Now play the piece through again, halting at every fracture to mark it with your pencil.

*Once a fracture is marked, we must begin setting it: Play the passage through slowly several times, always including its dowel pins---making sure that you are reading all the notes correctly, especially the accidentals; making sure that all relative time values of the notes are correct according to the scale of slow motion at which you are playing; making sure that you are following correctly all the dynamic directions (p, f, sf, crescendos, etc.) and such touch directions (staccato and legato)as there are. ..

*Choose the fingering which best suits and then stick to it.

*As soon as you are sure of your ground on all these points, play the passage over and over until you have mastered it.

He cautions against lazy automatic repetition of passages without thought or concentration. Rather he says: Our entire mind is going to participate in every repetition of a passage.

And slow practice is necessary. “The worst possible thing is to start practicing too fast: it invariably leads to bad results and lengthy delays”

The author says to “work from the notes until you no longer need to.

More tips on setting a fracture:

*Play the passage five times; then stop and listen to it over again in your mind without playing; then play it five more times.

*Play the right hand and left hand separately. Sometimes many repetitions of one hand alone are useful. Playing one hand alone is always revealing.

*Slow practice brings magical results.

Cooke recommends twenty-five repetitions as average daily work on a fracture, and says setting a fracture requires many daily repetitions (whether ten, twenty five, or fifty) over an extended period (whether days, weeks or even, in particularly stubborn cases, months).

In other words, you can’t set a fracture in a day, it is that idea of spaced repetition again.

And then finally,

To me there is no moment more satisfying in piano study than the moment when I know I have completed the setting of a fracture.

I love this chapter. So many applications and so much truth. Overcoming our weaknesses, our broken-ness, our lack of skills, can also be likened to a bone healing after a fracture, when the newly knitted bone exceeds the strength of the bone around it.

Yup. Loving this mindset. Lady Catherine had it right then, when she chided Elizabeth that she would never be great at the piano unless she practiced more.

There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.

Monday, February 21, 2011

have you heard the Buzz? Madeline turns 1.

This little honey turns 1 today. We celebrated last night with a Bumblebee party.
Maddie has the most expressive face. She pulls the funniest poses.

Cate helped me make these little hanging bees out of toilet paper rolls and napkins. The Beehive is TP covered in strips of brown paper bags.

The pinata was great fun to make. There is something so whimsical about them.

The bee and flower masks were for another party game. Here's how to play: The bees chase the flowers until they catch them. That's it. Totally age appropriate.

In the top right hand corner is a ring toss game. Save those plastic lids as they make great rings.

Maddie's most favorite game by far. She totally got the concept of tossing the beanbag bees into the pot.

We sang bee songs and did some fingerplays including the use of a flannelboard. Because I am obsessed with them. And because they are age appropriate:)

The Bee cake. Yup, tradition says for the first birthday it has to be baked in a panda cake pan. I shaved off his ears and feet and turned him into a bee. The cupcakes are marshmallow daisies with jelly bean bees.

You can't see the banner too well in this pic but you get the idea. It's a bee theme, people.

I'm posting more pics over at the Grandparentals, later. Also, I've yet to receive Megs pics. When I get them I'll probably add some more. Because I know you all care so much about partying Bees.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

who are you reading today?

Years ago and long before the internet, I used to devour his essays in the back of Time magazine. Time arrived in the mail on Thursdays and ld would find me finishing it up just about the time he walked in from work. It was always an extra delight when Roger Rosenblatt was the featured essayist. He is a calm and sane writer and when I finish reading something he has written I feel more peaceful and less afraid. Weird, I know.

If you haven't read anything he's written, you should. His latest book about the craft of writing, Unless It Moves The Human Heart offers great insights. PBS has been doing some interviews and question and answer segments with him, too.

On personal narrative:
Viewers wanted to know how to write one, and how to get started. The advice I give my students is not to plant themselves at a desk, but rather to go for a walk, a run, a bike ride -- anything to clear their minds, and create a receptive state. Then wait for an image to come to you. An image, not an idea. And an image will come to you, always. I cannot explain why. When it does, follow it, no matter how strange it may seem. It will lead you to a memory, and the memory to something important in yourself. In a way, all writing is personal narrative, because writing validates our lives. The image will lead you to the significant memory, and you'll be on your way.

And I love this, from his Rules for Aging
Rule #1: It doesn't matter. Whatever you think matters - doesn't. Follow this rule, and it will add decades to your life. It does not matter if you are late, or early; if you are here, or if you are there; if you said it, or did not say it; if you were clever, or if you were stupid; if you are having a bad hair day, or a no hair day; if your boss looks at you cockeyed; if your girlfriend or boyfriend looks at you cockeyed; if you don't get that promotion, or prize, or house, or if you do. It doesn't matter.

Oh and Rule #2 serves to confirm the quote You wouldn't worry about what people thought about you if you knew how little they did.

NOBODY IS THINKING ABOUT YOU Yes, I know, you are certain that your friends are becoming your enemies; that your grocer, garbage man, clergyman, sister-in-law, and your dog are all of the opinion that you have put on weight, that you have lost your touch, that you have lost your mind; furthermore, you are convinced that everyone spends two-thirds of every day commenting on your disintegration, denigrating your work, plotting your assassination. I promise you: Nobody is thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves--just like you.

His books. Any one of which would make for a definite MoDa bookclub contender, eh?
Black Fiction (1976)
Children of War (1983)
Witness (1985)
Life Itself (1993)
Coming Apart: A Memoir of the Harvard Wars of 1969 (1997)
Consuming Desires: Consumption, Culture, and the Pursuit of Happiness (1999)
Rules for Aging (2000)
Where We Stand (2002)
Anything Can Happen (2004)
Lapham Rising (2007)
Beet (2008)
Making Toast (2010) (this written in response to his daughter Amy's death)
Unless it Moves the Human Heart (2011)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

the altar pieces are incredible

Yes, he's famous for his Christ paintings and justifiably so. But there's also some other little gems, too. Like this one. I had never seen it before. Our MDBC* included visiting BYU's Carl Bloch exhibition at the MOA. Cate started throwing up early this morning so Kenz wasn't able to join us. But Meghan, Faye and I enjoyed it immensely. Afterward, we popped upstairs to the museums sweet little cafe and had lunch.

It will be here until May. Reserve tickets here:

*Mother/Daughter Book Club, natch

Monday, February 14, 2011

I love you You love me We're a happy family With a great big hug And a kiss from me to you Won't you say you love me too?

You gotta love a day that includes chocolate, flowers and good conversation. Yesterday we celebrated Valentine's a day early with a festive Sunday dinner. Chad came, too. Good guy, that Chad.

Meghan made these super adorable valentines and passed them out.

Check out this terrific caramel pie. Megs gave me the recipe, which I posted over at Humble Pie. Looks even better on my Mom's China, eh?

And then this morning ld gave me this awesome card that lights up and plays Wild Thing. What a guy.

In a spirit of reciprocity here's a love song for you too, ld.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

sister calm yourself

Heard back from the doctor yesterday and again this morning. Still waiting for more test results. There's good news and bad news. My thyroid is involved again and this time my pituitary. A relief at least that all my symptoms have a cause.

Go ye now in peace
and know that the love of God will guide you
feel his presence here beside you
showing you the way

In your time of trouble
when hurt and despair are there to grieve you
know that Lord will never leave you
he will bring you courage

Know that the God who sent his Son to die that you might live
will never leave you lost and alone
in his beloved world

Go ye now in peace

Go ye now in peace

--Joyce Eilers

Best version I could find of this beautiful song. JLW's high school choir used to end every concert with this. Loved it then and now.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

i answer to them all

I'm known as Toots, Grandy, and even Grandma Belle. But this latest title I am most pleased with. Cate has taken, for obvious reasons, to calling me Fairy Grandmother.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

vanity fair

I bought a wonderful green cardigan right after Christmas. I love the color, sort of a pale avocado green. Ld does not love it so much. A couple of weeks ago I tried taking a picture of it (with me wearing it) so you could see how nice it looked and what a good color it was on me. he he he.

I held my camera out at arms length and started shooting. Disaster. My arms weren't long enough and I couldn't figure out where to position the camera. After the first 20 or so shots, I started chuckling. Then it became ridiculous and I was falling off the couch and laughing out loud at myself. See? What a dork. I'm loving the lipstick stained teeth, too.

But the sweater. Trust me. It's awesome.