Friday, May 27, 2011

Four Down, One to Go!



Can you tell this is one happy kid?  His hand is on his cap not to shield his eyes from the sun, but to keep his cap from flying off his head in our blustery winds.  Throughout the ceremony, caps, balloons, and confetti were blowing all over the field.  However, spirits were soaring also.  The photo is a bit "pixely" (I had to crop a lot), but I love the look of joy on his face.  Congratulations, son!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Tribute to Grandparents


I have been incredibly fortunate to have wonderful grandparents, and I've been even luckier that my children have had a chance to know their great-grandmas.  One is still alive, and serves as a great example of kindness, hard work, and learning.  I don't know how many 94-year-olds regularly log in and check e-mail, but I know one who does!  Hi, Grandma!

Today would have been my other grandma's 88th birthday.  Grandma had a heart of gold.  She loved to laugh, she loved to visit, and she opened her home to everyone. She always had a smile on her face.  And though I can't think of a prompting event,  I can still hear her saying, "Oh, for heaven's sake!"

Happy birthday, Grandma.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Five Years of the Living Art Show

Some of my children have taken AP Art History, and they have loved it.  This is due in large part to a wonderful teacher.  As a culminating activity to a year of hard work and study, the class presents a living art show.  The students choose a piece of art to present.  They design backgrounds and come up with costumes. (Fortunately, a very talented woman owns a local costume shop and always is willing to help.)  Then they pose for a couple of hours while parents and fellow students walk through the "gallery".  The living art show is such a highlight for my children, that they come back to help with it year after year.

The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo was our first introduction to this fun tradition:



The next year brought A Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Manet:


The next year, we learned that trying to portray a bronze statue is difficult, but not impossible.  Here's David:


Last year, my son sacrificed his hair to become American Gothic:


This year, it was the Arnolfini Wedding by Jan van Eyck (no baldness required):


I've always been impressed with the living art show.  All of the students put a lot of effort into making each piece come to life.  Thanks again to the AP Art History class for another enjoyable afternoon!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lessons Learned from the Piano


Confession:  I was not a very good piano student.  I started lessons when I was 5 or 6, and quit for the first time after about a year. I repeated that start-and-stop approach once or twice, and that was the extent of my formal piano training.  It must have been frustrating for my parents and teachers. However, my parents supported me in my decisions and my teachers gave me a good foundation. 

Despite my lack of technical musical knowledge, I really enjoy playing the piano.  There is just something very "homey" about having a piano taking up a huge spot of floor space, and of being able to gather 'round the piano and sing together (which we do weekly during our Family Home Evening.).

When I was in junior high, I was asked to accompany the children's organization (Primary) at church .  That was when I really learned to play the piano.  Do you remember junior high?  That time in your life when all of your faults and mistakes were broadcast in neon lights to the rest of the world?  That's the perfect time to ask someone to play the piano weekly in a public setting, because it spurs one to practice!  I died of embarrassment on multiple occasions.  Some of the children were better piano players than I was!  The chorister was patient and kind, and I gradually gained confidence. 

I no longer accompany for Primary, but I still find myself facing opportunities to learn humility.

Because the organ and the piano both have keys (but believe me, they are very different instruments!), often pianists are asked to play the organ at church.  Having absolutely no formal training in playing the organ has led to some colossal mistakes on my part.  Two in particular stand out in my mind:

1. The time I didn't realize that all of the stops were on.  The music sounded very "full" that day, but it wasn't until the sacrament hymn that I realized I was hearing trumpets!  Not the usual sound for quiet, sacred hymns.  I got a good ribbing from my friends that day. 

2. The time not too long ago that I realized that the organ has a knob to the side of the keys that can be turned to transpose up or down.  I could hear that the sopranos were very quiet, but it wasn't until someone pointed out the knob to me that I realized that I was playing the songs transposed down quite a few steps.  The altos thanked me that day for allowing them a chance to sing the melody.  I'm not sure what the poor basses thought.

Learning humility isn't just a function of playing the organ, though.  My latest responsibility at church is playing the piano for two choirs.  I haven't made it through a rehearsal yet without an obvious-to-everyone mistake.  (While absolute perfection would be nice, I'm realistic enough to settle for making mistakes that the congregation won't hear and that don't throw off the choir.)  I think my biggest challenges, besides just playing the right notes, will be learning to turn pages during performances, and getting my fingers to play the sixteenth note runs at the correct speed. 

Here are a few things I've learned from making musical mistakes:
1.  Most people don't even hear the mistakes.
2.  Most people who do hear the mistakes have been in my position before, and understand.
3.  The few who don't fit in either of the first two categories probably aren't judgmental anyway.

In other words, I just need to practice, give it my best shot, and don't worry about me. I have been asked to play, and when I can focus outward on helping the choir present their message, and on helping the congregation feel the spirit of the music, I don't have time to worry about me.  Playing the piano is fun, and perfection isn't required to make it enjoyable for either the player or the listener.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My Kids are Growing Up!!!

We're not quite empty-nesters, but it's sneaking up on us.  As I attended my youngest son's Senior Awards Night last night, I realized again how the years fly by. 

I've learned many different things from each of my children.  One lesson I've learned from this son is how fragile life is and what a blessing each moment together is. The before photos speak volumes:

(That's a preemie-sized diaper he's swimming in!) He stayed in a room in the NICU for the smallest and the sickest for 6 weeks before being able to come home.  That is, for a week, until the next hospital stay.  We felt like we lived at hospitals and doctor's offices that first year or two. 

He gradually got stronger and healthier.  He certainly is Mr. Personality (and Mr. Confidence) now:

Thanks, son, and thanks to each of my children, for the joy I've experienced through the years, and for the lessons you have taught me.  I truly am thankful to be Mom to each of you!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is There a Meteorologist in the House?

This was the forecast from Saturday.  Could someone please explain to me how the winds forecast can be so specific?  I could understand winds between 10-20 mph, but 19? Really?  I'm supposed to believe that the sustained winds were projected to be exactly 19 mph?  Even the gusts forecast seemed unusual, without being rounded to a 5 or 10.  Perhaps the weatherman was just tired of being ignored, and thought if he threw out an unusual number, people would take notice. (Similar to Disneyland's 14 mph speed limit in the parking structure.) If so, it worked.  At least for me.  I haven't heard anyone else puzzling over it, though, so maybe my mind is just a bit too easily perplexed. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!


Yes, Mom, you made my blog!  I decided to post on the eve of Mother's Day so you could see this no matter what time you get online tomorrow.  I was soooo tempted to post the photo of you from our NYC trip, or one of you in your gardening hat, or behind a camera lens, but instead I decided to use this sensible one.  I figured that you wouldn't mind, now that you have a profile photo on facebook. :-)

Anyway, to the rest of you who might read this blog, if you know my mom, you love her.  She is infinitely patient, always kind, and humble to a fault.  She can find the answer to any question, and I don't know anyone who works harder than she does. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  I love you!

By Popular Demand (or at Least at the Urging of My Little Sister)....

It's hard to live across the country from my sister.  Whenever one of us remodels, or moves, the other just has to imagine the changes.  Of course, there are always photos.  Now that I'm posting the "befores and afters" from my place, maybe she will show me photos of the changes at her house!  :-)

Our house was a foreclosure, and had been vacant for months at the time we purchased it.  The backyard was pretty wild:


It is still a work in progress, but here's the latest "after" photo:



Probably the biggest changes inside were in the kitchen and the adjoining dining area.  I remember floral wallpaper being very popular, and I remember pinks and blues being used quite a bit, but I don't remember the combination being used along with brick floors:



I hardly knew what to think.  Everytime I looked at the kitchen, I laughed.  Fortunately, we have a friend who is a contractor, and he had suggestions for us.  I don't find my kitchen laughable anymore:


I learned that the fastest way to remove wallpaper is to use the steaming machine.  It was well worth the cost.  Even with it, though, we removed wallpaper for what seemed like forever!  I have a tiny bathroom that remains completely wallpapered.  One of these days I will be ready to tackle that project, but I still am haunted by memories of this room:


With wallpaper removed, painted, and curtained, we get this:


I do want to put in a disclaimer of sorts:  I am a terribly practical sort of person, and I realize that I don't NEED much in a house.  None of the projects we tackled were true needs.  I enjoy seeing the changes, but what I love most in a house is the feeling of home.   

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Before and After

The other day (which, to interpret, really can mean anytime within the last year or so, but specifically in this case, means one day last month) John and I found a potentially-cute patio table and chairs set at a garage sale.  I forgot to take a "before" photo of the table, but here are the chairs: 





Several cans of spray paint later....



I love the splash of color the set brings to this little corner of the patio!  The area still needs a little more work, but this is definitely a start.