Monday, August 29, 2011

Tie-dye, family reunion edition

Noah's, Evie's and my shirts.

The sunshine and clear skies have been made to order for our reunion time.

Sophie risked using a "dangerous colour combination" on her shirt: dark green, purple and yellow. It looked like a moldy cabbage when tied up, but turned out beautifully!  

A classic spiral by Fiona.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cessna over the Slocan

Chuck and Noah were invited by a friend to take a trip in his Cessna. Can you imagine a more amazing place to tour the local scenery? They've both decided we need a plane of our own. That would certainly make it easier to get to Calgary! What an amazing experience for both of them.

Family Chamber Music

It's family reunion time here in the Kootenays. Amidst all the food and banter and hiking and paddling and running and bouncing on the trampoline and swimming and basking in the sun and talking late into the evenings, there's also chamber music.

Erin, my sister Anna, my brother Jonathan, Noah.

My three kids filling out the upper strings in a Mozart 2-viola quintet. Not shown: my sister-in-law Emma on 2nd viola and my brother Jeremy on cello.

Parry "English Suite": Sophie and Erin on 1st, Fiona on 2nd.

Me on 2nd viola, with all of my siblings and my two eldest kids.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Role reversals

Erin, normally the obsessive music-practicer of the family, is spending her days playing computer games.

Noah, normally the obsessive computer-game player of the family, is spending his days baking and practicing viola.

Sophie, typically one of the more social members of the family and often the baker, is spending copious time in her bedroom in the basement, getting plenty of alone time.

Fiona. Thank goodness for Fiona. She's doing exactly what she always does -- being busily in orbit near whatever activity is going on, chatting away.

Right now Fiona and Noah are in the kitchen, baking cranberry oat muffins and a double batch of ginger crinkles respectively, listening to a wacky wide-ranging music playlist that juxtaposes Sinatra, swing, ELO and Vampire Weekend.


Look who joined the family yesterday! Since our old cat's demise we've seen a steady climb in the rodent population hereabouts. So we're thrilled to see Humbug stalking flies, developing her hunting instincts. Noah, a.k.a. Cat Boy, is completely smitten. The rest of us are quickly following suit.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Looking ahead

It's the time of year we normally start planning our upcoming unschooling. We've found Learning Plans to be a useful tool in our lives. This year Sophie's learning plan process started in July, and it looked very different from usual.

"I want to go to school," she said.

She wants to be more tangibly productive. She wants to have a busy life outside our home. She finds a gap between her learning ambitions and her day-to-day productivity. She's interested in more social opportunities, more structure to her learning and more outside accountability.

We know the guidance counsellor at the local public school, who also happens to be the administrator of the DL program our homeschooling has been umbrellad under. She's a friend, a member of the local arts community, a fellow local volunteer and a long-time fan of my children for reasons that remain at least partly mysterious and wondrous to me. We met her for coffee at our favourite café in the middle of summer vacation to talk about the possibilities. We all came away from the meeting feeling good about things.

Because the school is so small, most of the classes are multi-grade, with the Grade 8's combined with the 9's and sometimes the 10's as well. This works well for a 12-year-old who is all over the map in terms of academic level. She'll be new to "writing to task" and timed tests and powerpoints and group projects. She'll probably appreciate having some easier classes mixed in with some that are more at her level. She'll enjoy the field trips, and the exposure to other people's expectations.

She'll also appreciate the flexibility to be able to travel to Nelson for choir, and to nip out for violin lessons, and to take certain blocks of time off for practicing or family travel. And I know she'll benefit from knowing that schooling is a choice for her, something she does because it's giving her something she wants. If that ever changes she knows she'll be welcome to return to homeschooling, or to scale back her involvement in the school. (Once she's registered in Grade 10 part-time attendance officially comes onto the table as a possibility.)

And so a new adventure begins. My first full-time school student sallies forth in three weeks.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Size doesn't matter

Sometimes it makes me snicker, the incongruity of size vs. competence. Fiona is small for her age, but with her bright optimism and her older siblings as models, she has a strong independent streak. She insists on being very grown up. On Fridays I laugh about giving a ride home to the proprietor of the local tea business ... who is still in a booster seat. And on a Sunday morning our baker of delicious chocolate walnut brownies needs to sit upon the kitchen counter to reach the mixer.

The brownies were wonderful, by the way.

Up Idaho

The dog seems better from her bear injuries. The house is a mess but who cares. We're working on winterizing the little cabin. Last week I spent a couple of days permachinking the interior. Chuck is hard at work adding and insulated roof this weekend. The younger girls had just had their biggest market day yet. The SVI is over and the rest of my family won't arrive for another week for our reunion.

Into this hazy week of summer the kids dropped plans for a hike up Idaho Peak. We hadn't been in a few summers. The drive can be a little crazy and I don't relish it, 11 km up a bumpy and narrow, very exposed gravel forest service road. The biggest stress for me is meeting vehicles coming the other direction. Someone often has to back up along a precipitous switchback to a pullout area where the road has enough width to allow two vehicles to pass.

But we went in the early evening, by which time we hoped most of the tourists had come down. And we were lucky on the drive; I only had to back up once, and not too far at that.

The wildflowers were pretty much at their peak. This is more of a late-July thing in typical years, but spring and summer were so late this year that we timed it right by going in mid-August. The sunlight was stark and slanting and the views were delicious.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beware of small bears

We had these two in our yard at least once today. Probably twice. A mama and a cub. A tiny, cute little cub. Standing up and peering around, curious about everything.

We think our dog tangled with them this morning, though. Probably got between mama and her cub, a very dangerous place to be. The dog has a few slashes on her flank. They appeared pretty superficial after they first happened, but as the day wore on she has hunkered down and isn't eating or moving around much. She tends to do this when she's in pain, so hopefully it's just a reaction to being sore, and not any more sinister internal injuries.

Noah took these photos. He's the camera hog lately.  Click to enlarge: the expressions on the bears' faces are brilliant. The little guy just needs a hat, a suitcase and a tag that reads "please look after this bear."

Part way to a squillion

Many of the SVI students and parents took up knitting squares for the Knit-a-Squillion project. We ended up with a few dozen, some still needing completion. We'll continue to work away at this into the fall and then arrange to mail them off.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This young man

Who is this young man who has grown up amidst our three daughters? He can make me laugh a hundred times an hour with comments that belie a razor sharp mind. Random, sarcastic repartee, self-deprecating, ironic ... and always dry and off-the-wall.

For the first time ever, this week I took him clothes shopping. The complete lack of anything resembling a wardrobe and an awakening interest in such things gave him a certain amount of motivation. For instance he had one pair of non-dress pants that fit, and his only footwear was a pair of outgrown sandals from two years ago and a pair of black dress shoes. No casual shoes, no sneakers, nothing.

We had a relatively enjoyable productive shopping expedition. Now he has clothes again, and they're mostly men's clothes. He's still a bit small for 14, but he's definitely growing and the new wardrobe has created a visual shift towards adulthood. That and these lovely photos of him from last week.

How cute is this one? These two have grown up in the same Suzuki program here. They're practically siblings. It's not like a guy with three sisters needs an auxiliary sister, but hey, this one can get Noah to stretch himself in ways the others can't. These two have sung in the same choirs every year, they've played in all the same chamber ensembles from their very first string quartet and orchestra experiences to their recent quintet, chamber orchestra and string orchestra placements at SVI. I can only think of two or three significant musical experiences that they've had apart from each other compared to the dozens and dozens they've had together. And this is the world's cutest picture of both of them. Sophie shot it: Noah would never have looked this angelic if I'd been behind the camera!

SVI 2011

Another Suzuki Valhalla Institute has come and gone in a whirlwind. It was odd not having Erin around being part of it. And several other members of her cohort of advanced students had also moved on, so the next bunch of kids became more senior and thrived in their new roles. 

Fiona moved up to the advanced orchestra and the advanced group class this year. She did some good preparatory work for the orchestra and coped well with the demanding repertoire. Group class ended up focusing a lot on advanced bowing techniques like spiccato, sautillé and ricochet. She had just moved up to a nice hand-me-down quarter-sized violin about three weeks before and I hadn't really appreciated how cheap the bow was until I tried to use it myself to figure out how to advise her about the bowing exercises. It was a fibreglass clunker completely incapable of bouncing. Fortunately the luthier in residence had a much better bow in stock. A couple of hundred dollars later Fiona was doing and pretty passable quadruple ricochet!

Sophie played second violin opposite Noah in a two-viola quintet (the Mozart g minor), as part of the Advanced Chamber Music program. She was socially very much like a teenager amongst that group of awesome young musicians, fitting in beautifully and enjoying the mileu. She was in the advanced orchestra and group class and had a very productive master class with a teacher she got along well with. She performed the Monti Csardas on recital and did a great job. She loved being out and about during the days and the evenings, having a full social life and a busy musical schedule.

Noah was also in the thick of things socially as part of the Advanced Chamber Music program and although he would have loved to have Erin around to be part of the whole thing, in some ways it was fabulous for him to be able to shine a little brighter as a musician and as a bright, funny, compassionate and increasingly adult-like young person. He is playing just beautifully and actually worked hard on his solo viola repertoire during the week, with motivation left over to carry him forward. He has really struggled with motivation for the past couple of years, so this was nice to see. He had a wonderful affinity for his master class teacher and made some really great strides with his Schubert Arpeggione Sonata.