Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Canadian Composers

We had a Canadian Composers Workshop this past weekend and it went fine. Noah played very very well. In some ways he's shining brighter than his ever-so-precocious sister these days. Erin played fine but Noah's compositional skills and his cute extra-small size won a lot of hearts. (He's not as small for his age as Erin is for hers, but being almost three years younger he is still a good bit smaller than she.) There was a game-show-like format to the "learning about Canadian composers" component, and that made Noah a little stressed. He hates winning-losing games. But he coped okay... in some ways better than Erin, because he is willing to speak in public. He asked a question or two out loud. His team "lost" but he liked the losers' prizes better than the winners' anyway, and he found that funny. It was only very gently competitive (sit down if you get a right answer, keep answering if you don't, team against team, no score kept, a fair bit of silliness) and I think it was probably a good demonstration for him of how competitiveness doesn't necessarily have to be emotionally toxic.

Sunday was the composers' dessert recital we were hosting in our living room. We cleaned the house like crazy, made some food and got everything organized. Lots of people came and the kids and grownups all had fun. Afterwards Sophie "composed" a little piano melody and wanted me to transcribe it into written form. I did and she was pleased.

Everyone was really tired for our regular Nelson drive the next day. But we made it to gymnastics and once we got there we were all glad we went. During the little kids' class, a few of the older kids (7-13) got a little rowdy in the waiting area and on the floor of the gym. I wasn't really comfortable with the social stuff that was happening. There's one rather high-energy family of three kids who have been bringing a couple of cousins with them to hang out. The older brother and sister get into verbal sparring (words like b%&ch and f*%k come up as well as gestures) and they draw a number of other kids into a boy vs. girl thing. At one point the older boy told Noah that he was going to punch "his girlfriend" (i.e. Erin) in the face when she came out of the changing room. Noah came and told me this in tears. I went to find Erin and she emerged grinning like she was enjoying this fun boy vs. girl game. The boy had run off somewhere with his buddies and was probably totally unaware he'd upset Noah. I asked Erin if she was having fun and if it was all "just kidding" and she said yes. I told Noah that he was right to be upset, and right to come and get me, but that he didn't need to worry about Erin getting punched, because it was just a bad joke.

Afterwards we talked about the aggressive energy and the lack of respect for others' feelings. Erin didn't feel strongly either way... she was just playing along with the running and chasing and thought it was "sort of fun", but clearly it was too much for Noah. Some of the other parents weren't comfortable with it either. As a family we're going to make an effort to prevent the pack mentality from taking root... step back or take a walk outside if things start getting rude or aggressive or disruptive. Sophie (who is in the gym in her class during this time) is now comfortable enough that she doesn't need me in the gym, so we are free to leave if that proves most sensible. This is the first time this has happened. Mostly the social time has been very respectful and positive in the waiting area at gymnastics.

Piano lessons were fine. Sophie played her composition for Erin and Noah's teacher. Noah taught his teacher how to use the recording feature on the digital piano she has in her warmup room. She was pleased to have someone show her how it worked. Erin had a very good lesson, having pretty much mastered her new Grieg Waltz in one week, and "passing her Grade 5 technique test" (a little formality her teacher likes to use before moving into the next repertoire level).

On the way home we got talking about the roots of English words in Latin and Greek and what English and French share with each other and with these classic languages. We tried to tease apart the meanings of classical roots by brainstorming words that shared those roots (eg. television, teleport, telephone, or contract, tractor, traction, intractable). I told Erin about the Rummy Roots card game and she expressed a lot of interest. Might be a birthday present.

In the evening I finished my first bookbinding enterprise. My first book looked brilliant but Erin noticed that page 2 came after page 5, so I had to pick apart the sewn binding and re-do it. Grr. Ah well, a good lesson in comfort with mistake-making.

Today we spotted the weasel that's eaten all our hens :-(. Except he seems too big to be a weasel. So we're thinking fisher or mink. Now that we've looked in the guidebook, we need another peek through the binoculars to figure out exactly what we were looking at.

Chuck had a long housecall to do this morning so he wasn't able to take Fiona for the hour or so we normally count on in the mornings for "getting stuff done". So we've been very unproductive. I should get off the computer now and help get the last of the practising going.

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