What’s Up With My Babies This Week (a 7QT post)

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1: Horse or Purple Unicorn

Julianna Easter sunday 2Almost every day, Julianna’s bus driver has a story to share about my daughter when I come to get her off the bus. Wednesday of this week, on the heels of Julianna’s first horseback riding lesson of the year, the story was this: “Julianna told us that she rode a purple unicorn. We couldn’t understand his name, though. We think ‘interval’?”

(For the record, the horse is a bay, and his name is Richard.)

2: How To Motivate A Slow Child

Every day, getting Julianna off the bus requires that I, her driver, the other kids, and whatever poor schmuck is stuck behind the stop sign wait while she stretches luxuriously, hugs every child on the bus, admires her reflection in the rearview mirror, and stumbles through some deeply exciting story that neither I nor anyone else can entirely decipher through her enthusiasm. Wednesday, though, my cousin and her family were waiting in the house, and I knew just how to get her moving. “Julianna, guess what? There’s a BABY in the house!”

Julianna was off the bus in ten seconds flat.

3: Duets

Childhood title-cropIt’s been another crazy week, as all of them are during Little League season. About the only claim to productivity I can make this week is that I self-published a set of flute duets for upper-middle-school and high school players, called “Childhood: Six Progressive Duets for Flute.” The great thing about duets is that students can learn them in full, including ensemble, with their teachers. I always hated playing duets where one person got the fun stuff and the other person was stuck with low notes and boring stuff, so I wrote these so the parts would trade back and forth. The titles give you an idea of the style: Night Lights, Swing Sets, Bike Riding, Afternoon Tea, Superheroes, and Roller Coasters. Know any flute players or music teachers who could use such a thing? ;)

I rehearsed them yesterday with my undergrad flute teacher. He has always been a very supportive human being, but one can’t help but blossom when someone who’s had that kind of influence on you uses words like “delightful!” to describe your music.

4: Star Wars Artist

Alex has been growing as a baseball player this year, which is beautiful to see. He’s been catching quite a bit and pitching a little. However, my favorite Alex share-able right now is this, which tells so much about him:

TIE fighter spelling

(We told him he needed to stop drawing TIE fighters on his spelling tests until they start coming back perfect scores. But we hung the paper on the display wall, too!)

5: Good Sport

Nicholas gets a shout-out today for being an incredibly good sport. He’s glorying in being in baseball, and he has a maddening self-confidence in his own ability, especially given that he’s, yanno, in kindergarten. But he gets full marks and then some for spirit, not only at his games but his brother’s: he’s the loudest cheering section at Alex’s games by far. He does “Let’s go Pirates!” cheers and yells “Good job!” with a complete lack of self-consciousness that shows how big a heart he really has.

6: Speaker Extraordinaire

Good Friday

Michael? Michael is on summer break already. His preschool did a “circus” last week in which the kids introduced themselves before doing a trick. Michael’s trick was a balancing thing I can’t even describe, but the introduction was very revealing. He’s spent the second half of this school year in a speech-language classroom with other kids who have apraxia, but he progressed so quickly that his teachers finally began questioning whether he really does have apraxia. Michael’s introduction, that night, was way more clear and comprehensible than any other child, including the “peer models” who are there to model typically-developing skills to their classmates. Next year he will be in preschool as a peer model himself, but in a classroom right here in our neighborhood, which means we can ride bikes up there when the weather is decent.

7: Pickpocket

But I digress. The story I really wanted to tell about Michael is this:

Last week, we were walking back and forth across the street at the Little League complex, dropping Alex off, dropping Nicholas off, coming back to watch Alex catch, then going to watch the end of Nicholas’ game, and all coming back to finish the night back at Alex’s. As the last inning of Alex’s game was finally wrapping up, I started collecting the spread-out remains of dinner and entertainment in preparation for going home, and I felt in my pocket for my keys….and they weren’t there.

Including the key to the van, the only vehicle big enough to get the whole family home.

The friend I was sitting beside offered to keep an eye on the kids while I retraced my steps back and forth to find them. But just as I got off the bleachers I had this Holy Spirit moment that told me, “Check Michael’s coat.” That’s the only explanation I can give, because the impulse was so irrational and so strong. I mean, his coat pockets aren’t big enough to hold that rack of keys….

And yet there they were. Michael picked my pocket while I was watching the game.

7QT posts always get so wordy! But I hope I at least entertained you. Have a great long weekend, and head over to This Ain’t The Lyceum for more.

I Need Your Help!

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Most of the time, I blog to inspire, to make you think or smile. Most of the time, I’m here to give to you.

But today, I need your help.

Childhood cover image-largeI’m starting down a new path this spring. At the request and under the direction of two flute-teacher friends, I have written a set of flute duets.

(I know–most of you aren’t musicians. Stick with me, here!)

The collection is titled “Childhood.” (Appropriate, don’t you think?) The individual duets are:

  • Night Lights
  • Swing Sets
  • Bike Riding
  • Afternoon Tea
  • Superheroes
  • Roller Coasters

The great thing about duets in general is that students can learn them in full with their teachers. They can practice ensemble–leadership, pitch, and phrasing–within the context of a weekly lesson, without having to find a pianist and schedule rehearsals.

The great thing about these duets is that they’re tuneful and fun, and the parts are equal–meaning there’s not one interesting part and one boring accompaniment. They’re constantly trading roles.

“Childhood” is available through J.W. Pepper, where you can listen to excerpts and view the music.

But the hardest thing about self-publishing is getting the word out. And that’s where you come in.

Now, I’m well aware that the vast majority of my readers aren’t musicians, but I’ll bet you know people who are: school music teachers, kids’ band directors, church musicians, parents of kids who play flute in band.

I need you to share!

Share this post. (I’m working on getting “share” buttons, but WordPress and I are having a breakdown in communication right now. I told it to display them, and it’s not. Beats me. I’ve asked support for help.)

Share the link to the music directly to Facebook, Twitter, email et al. (Here: I’ll even make it easy to cut and paste: http://bit.ly/1L1Rq9F )

And even easier: Here’s a Tweet you can use:

Flute-laughChildhood: Six progressive #duets for #flute. Tuneful, intermediate/upper-intermediate #music by @kathleenmbasihttp://bit.ly/1L1Rq9F

I know this is outside the comfort zone for most of us–myself included. I would normally rather crawl in a hole than risk being big-headed and bragging. But I’m asking for your help, because I can’t do this without you. I don’t have fancy giveaways for motivation–just a sincere request for your help on a rainy Wednesday morning. Hey, what else do you have to do today? ;)

Things I’m Loving Right Now

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Books:

A Marginal Jew. This is a series of four books, actually, and I’m on the second. They are dense reading, with the end notes to each chapter taking more space than the text, and it is ponderous and takes real mental effort to get through. Yet the level of detail in Meier’s analysis brings to light connections I’ve never seen before in the Gospels. Brace yourself for some heresy. :) I’ve often felt like Jesus is kind of tiresome and deliberately obtuse in the way he talks (an impression that really is underscored this Easter, listening to the entire Last Supper discourse in John day after day after day after day). But as Meier sifts through history and context in order to determine what parts of things were actually said by Jesus, and which were later additions, he ends up distilling the essence of passages in a way that brings humor and emotion and exasperation to the front. It helps me see Jesus as, well, a real person.

The Language of Flowers. Just enchanting, and heartbreaking, and mesmerizing.

Music:

Love. This. Song.

Food:

Steel cut oats. (Thanks, Kelley!) With dark chocolate. Although I’m less than enamored of the way they overboil in the microwave.

Miscellaneous:

Manual Mode on my Canon Rebel. The pictures have so much character. They’re often not worth much, while I’m learning, but I’m newly cognizant of just how bland and generic that “auto” setting I’ve been leaning on is. I went out to the Pinnacles again this week. The last time I went, it was still late winter, and I hadn’t started playing with manual yet when I took the pictures for that slide show. Here’s a sample of this week’s pictures.

Blog 1
Blog 3
Blog 5 Blog 6

Blog 2(Can you guess which ONE of the above pictures was taken with the camera’s auto settings?)

My new novel. I am in love. Is it naiveté to whisper in my head that I really, really think this might be The One, at long last? Or is that still second-draft talking, before I hit the “love-hate” stage? The above song is my theme song for this book. And I’m using the Pinnacles for a setting. I just feel like everything is coming together. If I could sit down and work on it all day, I would be a happy woman indeed. But it’s probably fresher and more efficient because I have to stop and think. Stare at your own words too long and you start to get in love with the sound of your own prose. Distance helps me ask questions that need asking.

There are my happy places for this mid-May Friday morning. What’s making you happy today?

The Danger In Raising Kids In A Musical Household

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One blanket kidsThe danger in raising children in a musical household is that car rides home from piano lessons can turn into this:

Julianna: Mommy, can I, sing, Let It Go?

Me: Of course you can.

Nicholas: SNOW GLOWS WHITE ON THE MOUNTAIN TONIGHT, NOT A

Julianna: No! No no no no no!

Me: Julianna, if you can sing it, he can sing it too.

Nicholas: Kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the queen!

Alex: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME, EVERYTHING IS COOL WHEN YOU’RE

Me: You do NOT have permission to sing THAT.

Alex (to the tune of “Everything Is Awesome”): PERCY JACKSON RO-OCKS!

Me: Or any of its permutations!

Nicholas: THE WIND IS…

Alex: DON’T MIIIIIINE AT NIGHT! DON’T MINE AT NIGHT!

Michael: WUT, IT, GO, WUT, IT, GO, TAT HODE, BACK, ENNYMOH!

Alex: YOU’RE FEELIN’ KINDA BRAVE AS YOU LOOK IN THE CAVE!

Michael: EVEE-FING IS AWESOME!

Alex: WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? RING DING DING DEE-DING DEE-DING DING!

Nicholas: I am one with the wind and sky-y-y!

Alex: JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE ALL THE WAY!

Nicholas and Julianna: YOU KNOW DASHER AND DANCER AND PRANCER AND VIXEN….

Michael (to the tune of the Imperial March): DUM DUM DUM, DUM DUM-DUM, DUM-DUM DUM

Me: (facepalm). (In parentheses, because, after all, I am driving.)

Recital Day: A V-log (sort of)

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(Text, more or less):

It has been about ten years since I gave a recital.

When I gave recitals in college and grad school, I:

  • Practiced three to four hours a day
  • Had my own dedicated practice room, with no internet connection
  • Practiced first thing in the morning before class.
  • Practiced after class until ensemble time.
  • Practiced in the afternoon until more ensemble time.
  • Practiced after dinner.
  • Practiced in hallways where best friends would often be doing the same thing across the way, motivating each other.
Recital 2

My thanks to Theresa for this shot

Oh right. And I had no kids.

It is a very different experience to give a recital these days.

What practice I have had has been “accompanied” by:

  • A plastic snake
  • Lego cupcakes
  • The Penguin and Joker under my feet
  • Claves
  • Maracas
  • Cymbals
  • And a water flute.

Among other things.

I had made cookies for a reception. One of our choir members asked if she could bring "something." I said sure, bring cheese and crackers. This is what she brought. Wow!

I had made cookies for a reception. One of our choir members asked if she could bring “something.” I said sure, bring cheese and crackers. This is what she brought. Wow!

But although everything is a little—okay, a lot–less polished and a little more haphazard, I am not complaining. After all, when I was preparing recitals in college and grad school, I:

  • Weighed ten pounds more than I do now.
  • Was in a constant battle with tendinitis and carpal tunnel
  • Didn’t know what I was really going to do with this degree I was earning. If anything.
  • Was sleeping on a dormitory bed whose legs were so uneven that I had to stick books under them to even it out
  • in apartments with walls so thin, the alarm clock next door woke me up every morning…
  • …or, in apartments made of cinderblock without insulation, next to a major intersection
  • Had no car
  • Had never been published.

It’s a give and take. Whatever you gain as life goes on comes at the price of something else, and what you lose usually opens the door to new possibilities, too. So I’m satisfied to be standing here today to share this music with you.

 

Adventures in Liturgy With A Musical Mom

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Not this organized. (Photo via Wiki commons)

Friday morning, I flew into church at 7:59 a.m. for 8:00 holy day Mass, trailing a widely-spaced gaggle of little ones–the last one wailing. With Christian out of town, I was single parenting, and it was also the last field trip day of the summer, with speech therapy thrown in for good measure. We’d left for church with the van packed for the day but no cell phone, because I couldn’t find it.

Did I mention I was the pianist for that Mass?

#Pastoralmusicianfail.

There is a certain poetic symmetry in this. After all, for every action in the universe, there is an equal and opposite reaction, right? The feast of the Assumption in 2004, while I was on retreat with Jeanne Cotter, was one of those transcendent moments that stays with a person.

The tenth anniversary of that transcendent moment?

Long, loud toddler wails filled the church as I strode up the aisle, retrieved the keys to the music closet, and got out the microphones, trying not to meet the eyes of any of the parishioners. I got the mics set up in less than a minute, by which time three of my children were sitting quietly at the end of the first row of the music area, and the last–the wailing one–was coming up the aisle with a friend from our choir. I announced “Immaculate Mary,” and off we went. By now, however, Michael had escalated to that catch-breath crying. You know, the kind that is beyond all self-control.

And he was sitting underneath the hanging microphones. The ones you can’t turn off.

Mid-phrase, I waved at Michael to come over to me, thinking he’d hug my leg until I finished the opening hymn. No, no. This child began climbing. In the middle of verse 2 I had to break off the left hand to haul him up, because otherwise I was going to derail altogether.

Luckily, he calmed down once he was on my lap. I didn’t even try to stand up until the Gospel.

Father started his homily by introducing the topic: Mary, motherhood, the importance of the mother-child bond.

And me.

“Look at Kate, this morning!” he said, sweeping a hand in my direction. “Her child followed her around the church, crying for his mother. You cannot keep a child away from his mother. The mother, she is so important.”

Never once have I envisioned myself being invoked as a homiletic example. And if I had to choose a time to focus on me, this would not have been it.

But Father was right. It was a very apt illustration. And everyone laughed.

Michael spent most of Mass on my lap at the piano. Once he settled down, it got steadily harder to play. He reached for the keys. He pulled the hair on my arm. He wiggled his bottom down my legs, then grabbed my arms and used them to haul himself back up. Have you ever tried to play the piano–think “type,” it’s the same idea–with a child pulling on your arm? I found a lot of wrong notes in the piano that morning.

Like this.

Like this. This is his “won’t-look-at-you” look.

Finally I had to banish him. My friend took him onto her lap. By this time–mid-Eucharistic Prayer–he tolerated it. “But he wouldn’t look at me,” she said.

By the grace of God, even epic pastoral musician fail moments can make way for moments of grace and transcendence. When it was all over, Father met us in the prayer garden outside church. This priest, from the Ivory Coast, spent a semester here when I was full-time liturgy director, and he’s been coming back to the States almost every summer for over a decade to cover our pastor’s vacation. We had him over for dinner this summer, and he blessed our family. It was more than a hand motion; I could feel the blessing descend. I have never felt that before, but I felt it that day in my kitchen.

I felt it again in the prayer garden outside our church, as he blessed each of my children in turn and we said goodbye for at least a year. And I was grateful for the reminder that ceremony and solemnity are not, in the end, as important as the love that underlies them.