Saturday, January 10, 2004

Contagious Music Woes

We're still without a permanent water supply, though we did manage to pipe a couple of hundred gallons into our resevoir today. My mom (who is having a renovation done this week while she's away) has her water main back on again, so even if she doesn't have a toilet or shower for us to use, we can do laundry there. So things are looking up a bit.

We've discovered a simple pleasure: doing dishes after supper while Chuck reads aloud. My kids seem never to tire of water play, and washing dishes seems to count as a form of water play. Normally the dishes mostly go through the dishwasher, and Chuck or I wash a couple of the big pots. But this week we're conserving water. So in the afternoon I melt a couple of gallons of water from snow. After supper Sophie, Noah and Erin share the washing, drying and putting away, I carry Fiona and putter around cleaning and tidying tables and counters, and Chuck reads aloud to us from the new Cornelia Funke novel. We are all just loving this ritual.

Today the kids spent the bulk of their day with K'nex. About three hours in the morning and two or three in the afternoon. Lots of building, and then lots of imaginative play combining K'nex constructions with Playmobil characters. It went on forever. About half of what they make is from schematic instructions and about half is creative. Sophie does more free-form stuff than the older two, probably because the more complex schematics are still beyond her a bit. We have a motor kit and a solar kit, and combined it's a lot of K'nex. We've had most of it for 2 or 3 years and it's never been this popular. In the past one or two kids would play with it for an hour or two a few days in a row and then it would get ignored for a couple of months or more. But lately the stuff is very hot around here.

I've started making smoothies for lunch as often as I can. Before Christmas I bought an ancient VitaMix off eBay and gradually I've been getting more and more radical with what I put in the smoothies I serve to the kids. From frozen banana, milk and chocolate instant pudding mix, we're now doing a tutti-fruiti thing with rhubarb, berries, apples and some citrus fruits and today I sneaked a carrot and a beet in and no one complained. Erin's a very picky eater, so this is terrific. I managed to pull the kids away from the K'nex briefly with smoothie and cheese.

I spent some time at my mom's doing laundry. Chuck and I did some water-line work. I took down the Christmas tree finally. The kids watched two episodes of David Attenborough's "The Life of Mammals": "Chiselers" and "Meat-eaters".

Music was terrible today, which is one of the reasons I chose to write a blog entry. You get the good, but also the bad and the ugly.

Noah happily settled down to do some piano just before supper. After supper he went to finish it and had two major meltdowns over new pieces. He's at the same stage on the piano where Erin was afflicted by the same thing. The complexity of new pieces is increasing a lot, and he doesn't seem to access or trust his fairly decent note-reading skills in this context ... he just shuts down and gets upset. I need to be a little more pro-active at "chunking down" his new pieces so that he doesn't tackle too much at once and get overwhelmed. He's quite good at chunking down on his own when he's polishing up a previously-learned piece, so I think it'll come but he needs help now. But once he's melted down he really resists any of this sort of direction. Anyway, I helped him settle down and make some decent progress through his new pieces. But his fuse was already short, and when he went off to do violin, he didn't want any input from me, even though we'd both agreed his new piece needed a look-see from me badly. The best we could agree on was for me to watch and listen but not comment, reserving my suggestions and corrections for the start of tomorrow's practising. Okay. I listened, made note, and kept my mouth shut. He wasn't very happy, but when I left after hearing his new piece he decided to keep practising and did, it seems, some good work.

But this stuff is contagious. Erin started at piano and had a huge meltdown over her scales. She'd been asked to review all 12 melodic minor scales this week and to practice them upside down (which is really quite different for both the ear and the hands) and once she got into the first one with non-standard fingering she had a little trouble and as she repeated it, it got worse and worse as her frustration escalated and I could see the black train rolling into the station. She wouldn't let me leave, wanted my help, but covered her ears or said "you're rude!" every time I said anything. I suggested she just skip today's practising but she wouldn't agree. So I sat there, and she sneered at me and said "well, HELP okay?" and started pounding on the piano, two low notes together, about 100 pounds per minute. I sat there for a couple of minutes and then left for a time out for me. She carried on pounding the piano like a machine, the same two notes at 100/minute for almost 20 minutes, until her boredom outweighed her anger and then wandered off for her own time-out and eventually emerged chipper. Whew.... intense kid!

In the meantime I went off to remind Sophie to practice and that we were going to work together on some things. She said she didn't want to practice (first time she's ever said that!) and that I could give her violin away because she didn't want to play it any more (ditto). I told her it would be sad if she quit because she's put lots of work in and is playing very well, and that if she changed her mind she could let me know. In a few minutes she came out crying and said she'd changed her mind and wanted to start violin again tomorrow. I said that was fine and that if she felt like doing some playing on her own today that would be fine too. She did... she went off and played for quite a while in her bedroom.

Erin got out a piano practising board-game that she hadn't used in ages and spontaneously sat down at the piano and did all her practising except the scales. Then she went and did her violin without any reminders. Go figure.

So in the end everyone did all their practising. I can't believe it. Sort of reminds me of alcoholics going into recovery after "hitting bottom," LOL! I really expected all three kids to leave at least some of their practising today. What a nutty day.

Fiona will be a year old in a couple of weeks but has I think officially entered toddlerdom already. She's now walking most of the time and crawling only occasionally. It's been a change just in the past couple of days. Noah is about to lose his two front teeth. Erin turned 10 this week. Milestones, milestones.

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