Saturday, October 24, 2009

Calgary trip

Noah and I have now made three trips to Calgary this fall. Erin has made four. It feels like it's working for us. Here's this week's trip:

On Thursday morning I drop Erin at school for writing class. Then I go home and get Noah mobilized, pack the van. I say goodbye to Fiona who is feeling a little sad about my leaving. She has Sophie and her dad home with her, and arrangements have been made for a visit with her grandma while her dad's at work on Friday. She has an aikido class. I remind her about the fun things she has to look forward to. I've also made a list of ten things for her and for Sophie. Things to do, and check off, while I'm gone. Some chores, some creative stuff, some personal-responsibility jobs, a couple of novel ideas for things to do. She'll be okay. I promise to phone her before I relinquish the cellphone to Erin the next day. Noah and I hop in the van. After Writing Class Erin heads to the independent study centre and picks up enough coursework to keep her going for a few days. Noah and I swing by the school and pick her up.

We head north. It's an hour's drive to the inland ferry that takes us across Arrow Lake. The ferry service is a bit out of whack because the main ferry is in drydock. We wait for half an hour, then spend half an hour on the boat. I begin knitting, a project I abandoned in March. The days get short, I start knitting. It's an annual thing for me.

After the ferry we drive for 45 minutes and then stop for lunch. We stop at what is for us a recently-discovered favourite café in Revelstoke and a woman behind the counter says "Oh hi! What are you doing here?" and that's when we discover that the co-owner of the place is an SVI mom who comes to New Denver every summer. Small world. The food is fabulous. The coffee is bold and delicious. Caffeined and caloried up as appropriate, we head east through the Rockies.

Erin and Noah chat, or read, or write, or (mostly) sleep. I have my iPod loaded with Margaret Atwood's new novel and so I don't miss their company when they nod off. We roll into Calgary around 7 pm (it's an hour later there). We pull into the motel where we are so well-known, such loyal customers, that we now get the rate that's reserved for employees' families. Liz grins when we come in. She has our keycard ready to go, with the wireless internet access code written on it. Check-in takes 20 seconds.

We dump the instruments and Erin's laptop and head out for an evening of bookshopping. I drop Eirn and Noah at Chapters bookstore and do a few errands. I pick them up at 9 pm and pay for their armload of books. No one's really hungry, so the kids just have smoothies at Starbucks. We head back to the motel. Watch a bit of TV.

The next morning we grab coffee and head to Noah's viola lesson. He's doing so much better! He seems to be able to take home the instruction he gets during his monthly lesson and really do something with it. Rather than procrastinating, practicing mindlessly for three and a half weeks, and then panicking two days before we leave for his next lesson due to his lack of preparedness, he seems to be working well with a month-long view. His teacher also feels like things are going much better this year. Noah is developing the planning, sight-reading, self-assessment and problem-solving skills he needs to make a go of it with only infrequent teacher input.

After Noah starts his lesson, I drive Erin over to the University where she meets with her accompanist. They spend most of the time rehearsing Erin's Mendelssohn, which she's performing this weekend, but they also spend some time working on Erin's piano piece. She's learning a Mozart Sonata movement to play with a violinist friend of hers. I hear one run of the Mendelssohn but miss the rest, because I need to head back to Noah's lesson. I hear a few minutes of his work, but they're still going strong and aren't done when I have to get Erin. I run back to the University to get her. By the time I get back, Noah's lesson is finally done.

Erin moves her suitcase and violin up to "her room". Her violin teacher and Noah's viola teacher are the "More Fun Parents" whom she lives with in Calgary. Erin is getting an accompaniment session or two a month, plus 7 or 8 hours of teaching a month. She's practicing lots, and getting plenty of guidance. She rarely goes more than 10 or 11 days between lessons. She seems very motivated and is certainly mastering repertoire and technical points quickly. Unfortunately she's not getting chamber music or orchestral experience. But she's getting far more training than she was a year ago and is happy about that.

We say a quick goodbye. Noah and I head out. We do a couple of quick shopping errands on the way out of the city.

Noah plans to sleep the whole way home. I put "The Year of the Flood" on my iPod and drive. We make really good time. Noah is keen just to get home, so we decide to put lunch off until mid-afternoon and get through with just one meal break, even though we skipped breakfast.

When we get to our planned lunch stop the timing looks good for catching the next ferry, so we just blow off that meal. But the ferry is seriously backlogged. We end up waiting almost three hours to get loaded. Normally we drive on within 10 minutes. We eat a few candies we have in the van, and a granola bar or two. We are starving. We haven't eaten a proper meal since lunchtime the day before and it's now 8 pm. At the next town, a mere half hour from home, we buy a bunch of junk food when we stop for gas. By the time we get home we are regretting the indulgence.

Erin will get some lesson time, play in her recital and stay in Calgary until Monday evening, when she'll jump on the overnight bus. She'll arrive in Nelson at a civilized 8-ish in the morning. Fiona's piano teacher (Erin's former piano teacher) will pick her up and dump her in her guest room for a long morning nap.

At noon I will load Fiona, Noah and two other local teens into the van and head to Nelson. I'll leave Noah and the teens downtown and drive to Fiona's piano lesson where I'll awaken Erin. After piano I'll drive Erin to choir, where she'll meet up with Noah and the other girls. Fiona and I will do the grocery shopping and stop at a café for a London Fog. Then we'll pick up the four choir kids and drive home, arriving at about 7 pm.

That's one Calgary cycle. We'll repeat that in four weeks.

In two weeks, we'll do a Revelstoke cycle. These fit between the Calgary trips. They are similar to the Calgary trips except that (a) Noah is not involved at all and (b) to get Erin to Calgary I drive only a third as far, dropping her off at the bus station in Revelstoke from where she does the rest of the eastward journey herself. There's no overnight in a motel, and I'm home before dinner the same day.

It's amazing how it all fits together. Like a jigsaw puzzle that doesn't fit any other way. Erin doesn't miss any of her writing classes, ever. She still works a shift a week at the café. She is in Calgary for all the recital Sundays. She gets her violin and piano coaching while she's there. Fiona's piano lesson and Erin's choir rehearsal are on the same Tuesday afternoon in Nelson, and Erin can always get to Nelson on Tuesdays, whether she's coming from Calgary or home. Erin is always home on Wednesday evenings for group class and Summit Strings. Fiona never has to miss an Aikido class. Noah gets to choir with no extra driving required. Sophie gets her much-treasured days home alone. My clinic half-days fit into the weeks I'm not in Calgary. My teaching fits into Mondays and Fridays, and when it doesn't fit into Friday, it fits on Saturday.


  1. Sounds crazy!

    Question: Are the "More Fun Parents" more parents who are also fun or parents who are more fun than the normal parents?

  2. Nice to read that is going so well. Erin seems to be thriving on the trips. Hope the ferry is back on track next time!

  3. funny how things always seem to work out isn't it? I read Year of the Flood last week. It actually made me think about you, you know, when they were celebrating St. Euell Gibbons day :D What'd you think of the book? At first I thought I was going to be disappointed in it but by the end I was as satisfied as always with an Atwood novel. I'd love to climb inside that woman's brain!

  4. More-Fun Parents should have had a hyphen. Sorry for the typo. I trust the meaning of the term is clearer now.

    Debbie, I'm loving Year of the Flood. I'm only about 2/3 of the way through, trying to make it last, because I'm enjoying it so much. LOL at St. Euell! I own a well-thumbed copy of "Stalking the Wild Asparagus," bought in 1991 at a little used bookshop in California while I was living in VW camper.

  5. I am amazed at how you keep up with all of this. Your children seem so accomplished and passionate about their music.


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