Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy feet

New running shoes, again. On the advice of my chiropractor, who is also a distance runner and seems to really know his stuff, I bought myself some shoes with ultimate stability and cushioning for over-pronation. (I got them off eBay so they were actually cheaper than the basic shoes I bought last spring, so that's something.)

I'm not a gross over-pronator when you look at my feet and my gait. But for whatever reason my hip problems seem to be very sensitive to slight over-pronation. The hope was that really serious stability shoes might help my hip.

I've been running again since a bone scan earlier this month ruled out a stress fracture or anything else sinister that I could wreck by running through a bit of pain. So after almost two months off I started out with walk / run intervals three weeks ago. Sometimes I ran in my old worn-out Asics shoes. Sometimes I ran in my newer Nikes. My hip only got a little worse after each walk/run, then got enough better over the next four days that I could run again.

Then I got the new shoes this week.

Now I run and my hip doesn't get worse. And it has continued to improve gradually between runs. For the first time since the end of August I no longer feel like crying when I think about running. I actually believe now that things are going to improve for good. I've gained back 5 of the 20 pounds I lost. Not that that's a problem -- I like this weight better on balance. But I can feel that my muscles need a bit of retraining. So I'm doing easy runs, a maximum 6 km and no faster than the 10-minute miles I was running in May. I don't want to jinx it and say these things are magic bullets for me, but right now I sure feel that way.

Mountains from molehills

There was some snow, but not much. Three or four inches, maybe. In an effort to preserve it from expected above-freezing temperatures of the next few days, the kids heaped it up. And up. And up.

Our frosty Mt. Vesuvius is much festooned with unraked twigs and leaves. Noah has his suspicions that the remains of the facial bone of a deer, which Limpet retrieved from the woods a few months ago and furiously gnawed for quite some time, got rolled up in one of the giant balls comprising the foundation.

I wonder how long this will last. Rain is in the forecast for the next little while.

Hanging over our heads

The first colour, the first twenty per cent of our washed and carded fleece, hanging to dry above our heads at the apex of the living room ceiling. This is about 250 gm or half a pound. We have a spinning wheel we can borrow, provided we can self-teach (the owner has never used it).

We're still not sure what we're doing with all this wool, but it sure is looking pretty! More colours to come.

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.

Last of the apples

And still the processing of fruit continues. Just a few more batches of apples to push through the dehydrator. Gallons of juice are frozen. Litres of sauce grace the pantry shelves. And jars and jars and bags of dried fruit fill cupboards and shelves in the kitchen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fashion show!

Outfit number one of many for each girl. They made good choices, and sizes are perfect -- room to grow but not too big.

The role of home teacher

Copied from a message board, where someone asked "how important is it to be like a teacher when homeschooling?"

I think it's important to recognize that institutional schooling represents a sort of contracting out of the academic education portion of the responsibility for raising a child, and that this is a relatively recent practice in the scope of human history. The idea of having separate roles for "teacher" and "parent" is a little artificial.

Imagine if you will that the government began providing universal free meals for children. Cafeterias would be set up in neighbourhoods and three times a day children would be delivered there to receive the meals cooked and served by trained nutritionists. These nutritionists attended special training in handling the cooking needs of large groups, and in managing the crowds of children, their table manners, their social behaviour during meals and so on. This quickly became the norm, with almost all children reporting to their nutritionists for their meals. If you as a parent decided to feed your children at home that would be allowed but considered a little unusual.

So if you decided to feed your kids at home, you would not say "It's important to be clear about my dual roles -- at certain times I'm their mom, and at certain times I need to act like their nutritionist. I need to learn how nutritionists act in order to successfully feed my kids at home."

A little silly, don't you think?

I see the distinction between "being a mom" and "being a homeschool teacher" in a similar light. They're not separate roles. We tend to see them as separate because culturally we have made an artificial separation, assigning the roles to different people. If they're not going to different people, they don't need to be different.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Thirteen staples per gram. Seventy-three point eight grams of staples this afternoon, meaning just under a thousand. Combined with yesterday's now-disposed-of staples, I suppose I must revise my staple estimate to more like three thousand for the whole chair.

Still, when every single one must be pried out with brute force (read: two-hand grasp, feet planted, twist and grunt) that seems like a lot. This is a well-made chair.

The chair

This chair was removed from the living room to facilitate reflooring three months ago. I couldn't bear to return it. Partly because the burgundy / green / blue upholstery is pretty weird with our orange and red walls. Partly because of its state of repair.

It's a nice reclining wing-back chair. We bought it more than 16 years ago. A good-quality classic piece. I loved the upholstery for many years, and I'd still love it, if it wasn't permanently filthy and full of holes and if we didn't have red and orange walls. But it is, and we do.

So this weekend we're beginning to disassemble it with a view to re-upholstering it ourselves. I've put my
crew to work with pliers and screwdrivers. It seems that our chair is made of some nice fabric, some foam, some wood and about 47,000 staples. We're now something like 29,000 staples into the endeavour and we have blistered fingers and thumbs and sore wrists.

I'm taking a zillion photos in the vain hope that I'll be able to efficiently retrace the dis-upholstering path backwards with the new fabric.

So far we've discovered where all the potato chip crumbs, popcorn kernels and Christmas tree needles have ended up over the years. We've discovered why the wing on the left was wobbly -- only the fabric was holding it in place. We have yet to discover where the broken wire is from, but that will probably reveal itself around staple number 42,145.

Here's what we're thinking we'll re-upholster it with. We'll pull all the old fabric off, lay it out and measure the yardage we need. This new fabric works nicely with the wall colours and the floor. And it has the added bonus of pulling the couch into the décor, because the blue in it matches the blue couch almost perfectly. And since the couch is somewhat less bedraggled looking than the chair, and likely has over 100,000 staples, it's going to be a while before we re-upholster it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stranded stringless

Erin is possessed of the type of independence her mother has -- the ability to tough things out on her own. The type her mother lacks, the ability to approach people and ask for help, she also lacks. Especially on the phone. It's a generational affliction; my mother is scarcely better at it than I am.

She's on a school trip to the Banff Writers Festival this weekend. She has a performance of the Mendelssohn 1st movement next weekend; the piece is very recent for her and she's brought it up to speed in very short order, but she does need to be practicing. So she took her violin along on the trip.

She called last night to whine -- her A-string was unravelling, and she hadn't brought a spare. She was so mad about her predicament. Banff has no music store. She knew I couldn't do anything to fix things. I guess she just called to share the misery.

It turned out that the guy who runs the home-based fine instrument dealership where we bought her violin two years ago had moved to Banff, though, so I gave her his number. Oh, the agony! She knew she would have to call him, introduce herself, explain her predicament, talk to the trip chaperones and ask one of them to take her to his place to pick up a string. It was probably one of the hardest things she'd ever had to do -- harder than performing the Mendelssohn, harder than travelling to Asia for two months without her family. She knew she had the option of just waiting two days until she got home, where we have plenty of spare strings. But she wasn't willing to forgo the practicing. (This is the kid who played her violin for six hours straight through the night earlier this week, because she really felt like practicing.)

So she called him. And there was no answer.

So she looked up the number of a friendly Banff Suzuki teacher, someone she knows a little bit through summer workshops but doesn't have any sort of personal relationship with. And called her, and explained. And was rewarded with caring generosity. Wrote down directions, found a map, asked one of the chaperones for a ride, found the place, picked up the Evah Pirazzi A-string, and got back to the hotel suite to start practicing, all by 10:30 in the morning. She was very proud of herself. Very proud. I asked her if this signified that she was now ready to move out and live independently. She laughed and said yes.

I have a deep personal understanding of how difficult this was for her. As I say, I share many of the same hangups, though maturity and experience allow me to cope pretty easily these days. It may be seem like a small thing compared to her many other accomplishments, but I am at least as proud of her as she is of herself, which is saying a lot.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The big spree

Unlike their older sister, Fiona and Sophie kind of like clothes. They think the clothes in the Lands End kids catalogues are cute and really cool. But they recognize that we are more of a thrift store family; we don't spend that kind of money on clothes very often. However, both of them are very good at saving their allowance money, and it suddenly dawned on them that they had a lot of savings that could be spent on whatever swanky new Lands End clothes they wanted. They spent at least a couple of hours going through the catalogue, circling things, adding up prices, putting in question marks, revising their lists, recalculating. They needed to also estimate US dollar conversion, duty and shipping.

We agreed that "need to have" clothes would be purchased out of family resources from the usual thrifty sources, while they could buy the pricier, more frivolous things for themselves.

Eventually they decided on their order and went on-line. That's when we discovered on-line pricing and the fall sale. Most things were on sale. Sometimes it was "Buy 2 or more and save $2.50 on each." In this case she and Sophie negotiated with each other to buy different versions of similar items and get the savings.

"Okay, so if I buy jeans instead of yoga pants, will you get some of the leggings so that I can get the cheaper price on those?"

Some things were 60-80% off if you bought them in particular colours. They were persuaded to purchase the cheaper colours. And some items just had standard sale prices.

Fiona had planned to spend just over $100. Her order came in at just less than $70. So she bought a couple more sale items. Sophie's savings were similar. Then I remembered a coupon that meant if they bought one more regular-priced item, they'd get $25 off. So they basically got one expensive item for free.

We had to discuss how to share that coupon fairly. They both recognized that although it seemed like it was the last item of Sophie's that we got "for free" that really the coupon should be shared more equitably. It turned out that the $25 pretty much equalled the shipping cost. So that was easy. Each girl was billed for the cost of her items and neither paid shipping.

The order shipped yesterday. They're really excited. I'm happy that a big chunk of their allowance savings has been spent on something other than gum, iPods or computer games.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

This rarely fails

Dreary day, pessimistic mom, kids testy and unambitious, aches and pains, chores needing done. The solution? A hike. We went up Payne Bluffs. It's a short hike of 5 km, but with pretty unrelenting verticality. It starts a mere five minutes from our house, so the drive to the trailhead was short and painless. There was a fair bit of snow, and we were under-dressed a bit considering the lack of muscular ambition we were suffering from. But we weren't uncomfortable. And there was lots to see.

Bear scratches show up beautifully on the birches. They're like cats, bears are. They have their favourite scratching posts.

As we ascended we climbed through various types of forest and differing stands of trees. Some were ghostly and skeletal, with dead limbs, lichenous Old Man's Beard, dried twigs and cones.

Some areas were lusher with hardy deciduous trees. The birch, hazel and aspen have turned yellow and at higher elevations are dropping their leaves already. The larch will turn brilliant yellow in another month. The first few fallen leaves are always worth admiring. Especially the unusual worm-like patterns on these ones:

The reward came once we reached the railgrade up at Payne Siding. There was more snow, but the trail was flat. Thrillingly, an hour off a remote secondary highway, a thousand feet up a mountain, signs of history were everywhere.

We eventually reached the location of a famous photo ...

and were rewarded with a view overlooking a thousand-foot sheer drop.

And then we turned for home. Despite bad cases of jellylegs on the way down we were glad to have got out and about in the mountains today. A hike in the mountains rarely fails to lift our spirits and energize us.


About 16 years ago I was busy at home when I got a surprise visit from an old medical school friend. She just dropped in and we had a brief though lovely visit. It was one of those moments, though, when I realized how much I'd changed in the small handful of years since medical school. No longer playing the role of fairly straight-laced urban medical school student, I had become something a lot closer to what I am today. To whit: she interrupted me barefoot, pregnant, and mixing up a big batch of home-made granola. How much more cliché could it get?

I'm not pregnant these days, and my feet prefer the comfort of cushioned footwear in the kitchen. But my granola-making has gone even more funky and back-to-the-land. It's not store-bought oat flakes I'm mixing up. It's local organic groats, spelt and Kamut that I've bought in bulk and flaked myself in my hand-cranked flaker, mixed with organic coconut, raw honey, unsprayed almonds and fruit grown on our own trees and dried in our own kitchen. This is the recipe I'm using today. Gosh, fresh flaked grains make a huge difference to the aroma of this stuff! I'm happily imagining many breakfasts to come.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Show your work

On the way to Calgary last week Noah was doing some math work. He was in a good mood and things were going well. He finds his current textbook (MathPower9) to be okay for the most part. It's rife with practice exercises, most of which we skip, but they're there in case he stalls for a bit. The math is logically presented and there's a fair bit of challenge. Much of it is review for Noah, but he's enjoying being systematic with his math work and filling his gaps.

But the textbook is made for classroom use and it's got a fair number of silly "working with a group" and "learning to solve problems together" activity sidebars. We normally ignore all the ancillary stuff.

So in the middle of one of these "learning to solve problems" pages Noah pulled out an puzzle problem to solve algebraically ... a number which, if thirteen is added to it and the result cubed and divided by three will equal half of itself times seventeen, or something like that. He formulated the algebraic equation, solved the problem and that was that.

And then he noticed the guidance preceding the actual problem, which said "formulate a strategy, test your strategy, evaluate the results, revise your strategy" and asked students to "create a flow chart to show your problem-solving process."

He quickly scrawled a flowchart in his notebook as a parody of the approach. It went like this:

which I thought showed off Noah's sense of humour and general-purpose mocking skills very nicely indeed. "I got the right answer. Isn't that enough?"

Here we go again

Most of our snow was gone by early April. We did, however, experience a brief snowstorm in Alberta in early June. So our snow-free months have been limited to July, August and September this year. This snow will likely be gone by this afternoon as temperatures warm up.

Snowballs are being made as I type.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Therapods, travels and More-Fun Parents

Chuck's clinic partner needed to be away this week, kind of at the last minute. I had planned to take Noah and Erin to Calgary for their lessons and to leave Fiona and Sophie home with their dad. But with Chuck taking 24-hour call and covering for his partner in the clinic, that was going to mean up to three days of them being home alone. So we went back to last year's Calgary regimen -- taking everyone along and spending two overnights in the motel so that the younger kids could relax and enjoy some R&R between the big drives. We picked Erin up after Writing Class at school on Thursday morning and headed out, catching the 11 a.m. ferry.

On the trip to Calgary we played a lot of word games. That's the great thing about having Sophie and Fiona along -- when Erin decides to nap most of the trip we still have enough people to play some fun games. We played a lot of Twenty Questions, but the game we spent the most time on was Categories. We used to call this the Camping Game, but we've broadened the challenge so now we just call it Categories.

Someone thinks of a category and gives a word that fits. Each other player guesses a word and is told whether theirs fit in the category or not. Then the person who is "it" gives another example that fits the category. From the right and wrong guesses the players gradually discern clues about what the category is. I love this game because it's not really competitive (it ends when everyone has guessed the category, or when everyone gives up) and because it's useful therapy for perfectionists -- only by making 'wrong' guesses can they get the clues needed to identify the category. Among the categories utilized by creative kids on our trip:

~ hollow things
~ things made famous by the internet
~ words where the last letter is 'e'
~ translucent things
~ things wider than they are tall
~ words with an odd number of syllables
~ words with 'r' in them
~ things that are often found in pairs
~ words from the lyrics of a particular song

The fun thing about this game is that the category seems painfully obvious to anyone who knows it, while the others get easily led astray by spurious associations suggesting completely unrelated tangents. When the starting word given is "apple" and both grape and orange are deemed correct, while truck and igloo are deemed wrong, you're unlikely to consider the category likely to be "words ending with the letter e." You'll be thinking fruit, or food, or plants.

In Calgary we ate and swam and shopped at IKEA. And watched Discovery Channel. And got Noah to his viola lesson, and Erin to her first violin lesson of the weekend, as well as to a rehearsal with her accompanist.

Discovery Channel was playing a lot of shows about dinosaurs this weekend. We've done dinosaurs in the past in this family. Far in the past. Noah was four the year we all learned the difference between centrosaurus and styracosaurus, between sauropods and therapods. It's been a while. Sophie caught only the tail end of dino-mania in this family, and Fiona missed it entirely. When I suggested that the Tyrrell Museum was only a couple of hours away and it might be a good opportunity for a repeat visit I expected Fiona and Sophie to be enthusiastic but figured it would be a hard sell with the older two. Suprisingly, though, Noah was keen; the Discovery shows had awakened a certain nostalgia in him for his days of dino-love and Tyrrell Museum rapture. And Erin was facing a dull day in Calgary otherwise, as her More-Fun-Parents (which is how she refers to her Calgary teachers / billet hosts) were both busy all day. So we decided to head east to Drumheller instead of driving straight west home on Saturday morning.

The museum was absolutely and totally fantastic, of course, just like the last time. It added a good 7 hours to our day, what with four extra hours of driving to get there and back to Calgary, and the time in the museum itself. Then there was the 7-hour drive home, during which we played more Categories, talked, listened to music and podcasts and such. So it was a long day. But it was fine. With the early start and the time-zone change we were home by 9 pm.

Erin usually claims the back bench in the minivan and typically spends more than half each trip slumped over asleep. Part way home Noah craned his neck towards the back seats and asked "where's Erin got to?" He had forgotten that the main reason we'd gone to Calgary was to drop Erin off there -- she hadn't been with us for hours!

The new arrangement with Erin living part-time in Calgary seems to be working well so far. She's motivated, practicing 4 to 6 hours a day. She began work on the Mendelssohn 1st movement last month (as well as a couple of new unaccompanied Bach movements) and is planning to perform it at the end of this month. I haven't heard it, but her accompanist says it's coming along just fine. The two of them also hatched some plans for piano coaching for Erin; Erin has been suffering ambivalence about piano. Julie gave her a bit of a nudge, suggesting she bring a couple of specific pieces to work on in three weeks, a movement from a Mozart Sonata and the Bartok Rumanian Dances. She's getting about four hours of violin teaching each time she's in Calgary and is being treated to dinners out, concerts, social opportunities and occasional extra violin classes here and there. While I wish there were a way to give her orchestral and chamber music experience that's pretty much impossible on a part-time basis. We can't have it all. I'm thrilled that she's getting consistent teaching with regular follow-up so that she can actually make significant technical and musical progress.

Dealing with the all-day eastbound Greyhound bus, and the overnight westbound bus, is getting pretty routine for Erin. On her trip to Calgary at the end of September she also had to deal with some fairly complicated and somewhat unpredictable public transit routes and schedules within the city -- after dark on her own with suitcase and violin in tow. And she managed.

Noah is getting monthly lessons only. This was not optimal for Erin, and it's not optimal for him, but he's getting better at making it work. He's done some excellent remediation of his note-naming and pitch-reading skills. He's paying more attention to details and to consistently implementing the guidance he's given at his lessons. Taking more responsibility for working on things that don't come easily. There's been a big jump in his maturity over the past few months.