Wednesday, November 05, 2003


The last week has felt rather unproductive but I'm sure some useful stuff has happened. We had a day or two of Hallowe'en costume preparations. I had great fun doing Dobby's eyeballs. I had made a paper mache mask anchored on paper plates and bits of cardboard, and left two round holes for those "tennis-ball-like protruding eyes". I plugged a loonie into one of those gumball machine things that gives you a prize in a plastic bubble, and used the bubble for the eyeballs. On the inside of the plastic half-spheres I masked two concentric circles, one for the pupil and one for the iris. Then I painted the pink arterioles, and the white sclerae. I unmasked the first circle and used a combination of gold, green and iridescent paint for the iris, using radial brush-strokes. Then I unmasked the last circle for the pupil which I left clear (and therefore "black") for Sophie to look out through. The effect was terrific!

The kids went trick-or-treating. Erin had a medusa head-dress with immensely bobbly wobbly snakes with googly eyes and forked tongues, and only one person knew she was a gorgon. The others had never heard of the creature or the myth, or only nodded with vague recognition when we explained what she was. Sometimes I wonder if these little brushes with "mainstream" society make the kids aware of how unusual their interests are. Noah's decided he wants to be a "mythology teller" (i.e. storyteller) when he grows up because there are clearly so many people who don't have a clue about these stories that have become such a part of the fabric of our family life. I don't know if he's planning to go door to door or what.

Everyone came down with a cold on the weekend. Blech. Lots of laid-back freeplay and computer time and not much else.

On Monday we went to Nelson. I probably would have cancelled except that Sophie was totally well and really wanted to go, and we had a lesson scheduled with a substitute piano teacher whom I didn't have a contact number for. And I had agreed to courier a violin down to someone, and to drive a kid 2 blocks to her house after gymnastics. So off we went.

It was Sophie's 3rd class and she was in from start to finish, even playing tag, something which had felt a little intimidating to her. Erin decided to do her class. Noah was feeling not so great so he sat part of the class out but joined in for the latter half. He managed a chin-up-pullover at the bar, the first in his class to master it. Erin's next closest to getting it (I think maybe small size helps?) but she didn't quite. This is the first time there's been such a stark and public reversal in their relative mastery of something. Usually Erin is better, quicker, more able and Noah does his best. I was interested to see how Erin would react. She asked why he could do it and she couldn't (a good sign, because when things bother her she doesn't talk about them) and I just said that he's really strong for his size and picks physical skills up very easily. She was fine with it. There really isn't a shred of competitiveness between my kids.

Piano was interesting this week. Our regular teacher, a straight-laced 60-ish woman who is quite a stickler for clean technique and carefully thought-out playing, was off being a spectator at a music competition. So we had "Eric", a recent university grad, cuurently trying to pull together a meagre living through piano accompanying in the area. The Wayside School stories we'd read recently had three Erics in the class: Eric Fry, Eric Ovens and Eric Bacon. Noah wanted to know Eric's surname to see if it was Ovens, Bacon or Fry , which it wasn't, but it turned out piano-Eric had read the books as a kid and loved them, so that was a connection right off the bat.

Eric was amazing... everything that our regular teacher isn't... young, male, silly, an amazing performer, and full of musical spunk and drive. As a regular teacher I'm sure he wouldn't have the vision and organization necessary to build solid skills, but as an occasional substitute, he's certainly got a refreshingly different spin on piano lessons. He had the kids improvising and sharing their compositions. He had them "driving" and "crashing" the piano, reaching deep inside themselves to find excitement and momentum in their music. He (like everyone else) told Erin she needed to slow down when practising, but rather than explaining that it would help her fix her stumbles, he told her that it would help her play faster... that appealed to her. Then he played a Beethoven sonata passage as he's been practising it... a lyrical contrapuntal thing, and then he played it at his target tempo... prestissimo, about 8 times faster. The kids' eyes just bugged out as they watched his fingers.

Eric will be teaching them for two weeks in December when their regular teacher is in Hawaii (her husband is the semi-retired owner of a travel agency... must be nice!). I've also booked him to accompany the kids for their violin selections for the annual recording of musical output we put together as a Christmas gift for relatives. I think the contact is really inspiring for the kids. They have lots of violin role models in their lives (family members, older students they play in orchestra with, etc.) but little in the way of piano ones. Eric will fit the bill very nicely indeed. I hope he stays in the area.

The other day all three kids were sitting on the couch giggling and reading Harry Potter 2. Sophie read the first two words ("Not for"). Noah read the first half page, fairly fluently at times. Then Erin took over and read a couple of pages. It was pretty cute, and a very informative illustration of their relative reading abilities.

Erin and Sophie made cookies together yesterday with no help except for getting the sheets in and out of the oven (we have a wall oven which, because of its cramped access, requires very long arms to reach into it from the side... if you saw our kitchen you'd be amazed that anyone can use it!). That was a first. Usually I help, and I'm way too controlling, micromanaging how they're pouring the vanilla, scraping the peanut butter, etc.. So I just got the heck out of kitchen and I'm sure they learned a lot more doing it all alone.

I'm scrapbooking like crazy, making a big memory book for mom for Christmas of our big musical family reunion before my dad's death. It's coming along wonderfully. Erin's making hemp bracelets and chokers for Christmas gifts.

The kids have been playing with Duplo a lot again (the chunky "toddler Lego"), because it's safe for Fiona. They're using elastics with it to make strange seige weapons that fling or bash. Over and over I notice that my kids are far more creative and happier when the raw materials they're working with are simpler. I think they'd be blissfully happy playing with a piece of construction paper and a stone. Give them a pile of K'nex or Lego and they muck around for a while and then leave it all over the floor. Nothing much happens except mess.

Today's plan is to make pumpkin pies from a pumpkin and to finish a couple of little gifts for Sophie's 5th birthday this weekend.

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