Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's Facebook's fault, really

One of the reasons I haven't been writing much is because, whenever an idea ocurrs to me, I take the lazy way out and just quickly post a sentence or two on Facebook.

So today I will write a blog post the includes the posts I've made on Facebook lately, and/or the things I thought about posting on Facebook.

We've been watching the "Sesame Street Old School" videos with the original 1970's shows. There is actual a warning/disclaimer before it begins saying, "These shows are intended for adult audiences. They may not meet the needs of today's preschooler." WTF?

Last night Rachael didn't want to her dinner of "Eggplant Divine." I told her wouldn't get any dessert if she didn't finish it. She didn't care.
Then I told her she couldn't work on her dance routines that evening unless she finished it. She ate it right up!

I got the mail this morning and couldn't understand why I was getting promotional materials for myself. It turned out to be a newsletter from a fundraiser I played for gratis half a year ago. Nice and big, and on the front, it said, "Need a piano player for your next event? Contact Jennifer ____. She supports _____." Wow! A couple hundred people must have received that in the mail! Playing for free sure paid off!

Taking the girls to see "The Music Man" tonight.

I'm tired from hosting the girls' "Splash Bash Party" today.

I finally saw my first episode of "Glee." More, please.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A post about laundry! Could it GET any duller?

If there were any lingering doubt that my life (and this blog) was fairly boring and mundane, this pretty much cinches it:

I'm writing a blog post about laundry. Yup. It's come to that.

However, as boring and pathetic as that sounds, my recent "laundry plan of attack" really has made life smoother and easier, so it seemed worth sharing.

Until recently, I would continually do laundry, and it was a continual pain. Plus, it had a habit of remaining "half-done": for example, some of the clean clothes would remain in the laundry room because "I'll just bring it up tomorrow with the next load." So it seemed like I was always sorting, always washing, and always having both clean and dirty laundry in various parts of the house.

Well, here's what I do now:
1) On Thursday morning, as soon as my feet hit the floor, I strip the sheets off the bed. I put them in the wash either right before or after my shower, before I get dressed. (I don't want to risk getting a drop of bleach on my clothes, ever, as I had a childhood trauma regarding bleach, which you can read about here.)

2) Later that day on Thursday, I wash all the towels and put them back on the rack, and of course I also put the clean sheets back on.

3) On Thursday evening, usually when the kids are taking their baths, I haul the laundry basket of clothes downstairs. I sort everything (which I find oddly enjoyable) and start a load of jeans. (Jeans are quick and easy to do in the evening, because there's not much to it, and there's all the same.)

4) When the jeans are done (usually right before I go to bed), I fold them and dump in the load of darks and put it on "delay" so it will start washing at about 6 am.

5) On Friday morning, before I get dressed (the bleach thing again), I move the darks to the dryer and dump in the whites.

6) When these are done, the girls put away all the kids' clothes. They also sort and put away all underwear and socks. I put away remaining things. This is usually done by around lunchtime.

7) This leaves the delicates, which is usually a fairly small load, and mostly my stuff. I might squeeze that in on Friday as well, but otherwise I throw them in some other morning, and it's no big deal.

So, wow. That sounds like a lot. BUT it is a lot easier, to me, to do it all at once and not have to worry about it the other days.

One thing I like is that now, when I see the laundry piling up, it doesn't stress me out or piss me off. I just think, "Yup, that'll all get taken care of on Friday," and I go on with my life.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Letting go of the stuff

You won't be surprised to hear that I saw someone today who told me they "always read my blog." So, as usual, that inspired me to come back.

Why? I think it's because I don't feel like writing unless I believe someone cares. Otherwise, it just feels narcissistic and self-absorbed.

We had a charity pick-up today. It was at least five bags of toys and clothes, plus a regular stroller, double stroller, potty seat, and more.

And that's not all: Last month I was able to pass some things along to other families in town. Mostly big things: the air hockey table, the indoor plastic slide, the dollhouse, the car garage, the leap pad cartridges. That was fun because I think the girls enjoyed actually seeing the kids who were inheriting their toys. (However, I did not trust Benjamin to feel the same way, and managed to do most of this without him seeing it.)

It felt great to be cleaning out. And, amazingly, our house feels far from empty. But it was also bittersweet.

This morning, as I hauled everything out, I thought of all the times I took the girls to the library or Target in the double stroller. I used that stroller a lot. But I have no one to put in it now. My two smallest kids are four and seven.

I remembered when my health was not so good, and how many afternoons I set up a three year old Rebecca on the floor next to my bed with the little toy barn while I lay in bed and hoped I could somehow gather the energy just to finish getting through the day.

I thought of the year we opened all the Christmas gifts in January because Rachael had been in the PICU for weeks.

And I saw some of the toys that people brought Rachael after she finally came home from the hospital, when she was on medication and had a PICC-line in her arm, and was basically house-bound for a few weeks.

I remembered how my kids never actually wanted to "play" Candy Land, but rather just wanted to me to read them the story on the box, then pretend that their pieces were running to Candy Land and eating all the candy.

I remembered how Rebecca came to me at about 3:00 am on Christmas morning -- a different Christmas -- and said, "Santa put a dollhouse next to the tree!" and then climbed in bed next to me and fell asleep.

So. It was good to let go. But it was hard to let go.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weddings -- the good, the bad, and the lovely

Someone had casually suggested that I write a book about my various piano jobs and adventures. While I'm flattered, I can't imagine there are many people who would want to read such a book.

But I figured it'd be worth posting a few things here.

Last night I played for my first wedding of 2010. It was in one of those huge Baptist churches, with tile flooring and a shiny baby grand piano up on a stage, and great acoustics.

I enjoy playing for wedding because:
1) Well, who wouldn't like it? You get to see fancy hair-dos and pretty dresses, and you feel the energy and excitement from everybody involved. I'm reminded of details from our wedding that I don't think of often -- like how we had a hard time getting that Unity candle lit, and the pastor made a little joke about it.

2) I really enjoy playing the 30 minute prelude music before the ceremony begins. This is the best of all worlds to me. People aren't sitting in silence staring at me, but they aren't as noisy and oblivious as they are at a restaurant or party, either. I can really sense that I'm setting a mood, and I like that.

I don't enjoy playing for weddings because:
1) Well, they make me a nervous wreck. I have no doubt it will become easier after I do it a few more times. (Don't tell anyone, but this is only my eighth wedding.) But you have to watch the door and the aisle out of the corner or your eye while playing, and expect to end a song or switch songs on about two seconds' notice.

Last night, for example, I was supposed to watch for the wedding coordinator to stand in a certain doorway to cue that I was ready to stop playing prelude music and begin the first ceremony piece. This supposed to happen at about two minutes til six.

At six o'clock, I still did not see her. I took the repeat again, and hoped I wasn't somehow doing something wrong.

After taking the repeat again, I realized I was going to have to play something else. I switched to another piece, still frantically keeping one eye on the door (which is a bit tricky to do).

Still nothing when that piece was over.

This continued until she suddenly appeared in the doorway at 6:10 pm!

It turned out that Someone Important was late, and they had to stall to wait for them.

Things like that are good, though. Assuming I pull it off well, it adds a point or two of Appreciation.

And after I get eight more weddings under my belt, I probably won't think a thing of it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why it's Cool to be a Piano Girl

Last weekend I played at a nice restaurant downtown. It was my first time there. I'm scheduled to go back again twice in late June. If you know me personally and live in town, ask me and I'll tell you when and where.

My non-musician friends (which is most everyone) sometimes ask me how I get these jobs. In this case, a booking agent saw one of my web listings and called me -- which is sort of interesting, if you think about it. He's never met me, never heard me play, and didn't have a referral. Just found me on the web, called me, and hired me. I guess he was first dazzled by my photo and then completely won over by my professional Phone Voice, ha ha!

And that's just fine with me.

Someone else asked me if I get nervous. Actually, I was nervous about finding the place, getting stuck in traffic, and figuring out how to get from the parking garage through the bridge walkway to the actual restaurant.

But nervous about playing? No. And the reason is simple: No one is really listening to me or looking at me. And that's just the way I like it. It's kinda like playing at home, but more fun, and I get paid.

Now here's what's so cool about being the Piano Girl at a restaurant:

It's kind of an alter ego thing. It's a Slightly Different Me when I go out to a job.

In my real life, we go out to eat at the IHOP five minutes from home, when kids eat free, and get an extra plate for sharing. I go to places like Publix and the library and the doctor. I wear casual (although hopefully attractive) clothes.

In my real life:

I do NOT go downtown.
I do NOT eat at nice restaurants.
I do NOT get free valet parking.
I do NOT wear floor-length dresses and high heels.
I do NOT use rest-rooms with lit candles, cloth towels, and hand lotion.
I do NOT have people in uniforms bring me bottles of water and offer me free food.
I do NOT have strangers slip me twenty dollar bills. (Well, that only happened once, actually.)

It's Different. And it's Cool.

The other thing that's cool (and this is kind of along the same lines) is that most people I know in my Real Life don't do this.

So they're impressed. [Sometimes.] They might ask: How did you get that job? What's it like at the Ritz? Did you get any tips? What songs do you play? What do you wear? Do you get nervous?

And that makes me feel Special. And Interesting.

And I like that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Obligatory "Homeschool Schedule" Post

I've noticed that most homeschoolers love to see other homeschoolers' daily schedules. So, at the risk of boring Everybody Else, I'll entertain my fellow homeschoolers (hopefully) with our schedule.

Here's what we usually did this past school year. If you don't already know, Rachael just turned nine, Rebecca just turned seven, and Benjamin will be four next week.

Community Bible Study homework. (15-20 minutes) The four of us are all in a weekly Bible Study, and this is the first year Rachael has homework. (Next year, Rebecca will have the same assignments as well.) We do it together at the kitchen table: I read the scripture, Rachael reads aloud the questions and we answer them together, and often Rebecca colors. Benjamin used to sit at the table with us with a toy, but then after a while he started announcing he was going in his room as soon as we began, which was just fine with me.

Math-U-See video lesson (4-7 minutes, once a week) This only happens when we start a new lesson, which is usually once a week. We usually all watch this on the couch. I know it sounds stupid to have to watch a video teaching how to add, but the video teacher is really likeable and funny, and believe it or not, he presents things in ways I've never heard of before.

Rachael one-on-one time (35-40 minutes) During this time, Rebecca would go play with Benjamin in his room. What I did with Rachael at this time has evolved over the months, but currently we do Writing With Ease (narration, copywork, and dictation), First Language Lessons (mostly grammar and poem memorization), All About Spelling, and a few minutes doing math together just to see if she has questions, and possibly to work on word problems together.

Rebecca one-on-one time (30 minutes) Rachael takes Benjamin down to the playroom. I've been very relaxed with Becca's schoolwork this year. We just started Writing With Ease, which she loves. She went through the Alpha Math-U-See book in about 4-5 months, so we casually do Beta and some supplementary stuff. She likes phonics games, which reminds me that I haven't done that with her lately. Today she read out loud to me. It just varies.

Rachael Alone Time (20-30 minutes) Technically, I would play with Benjamin, although often this was a struggle for me, and often I would spend a big part of this time moving laundry and checking my e-mails.
It's a little hard for me to play alone with him because he doesn't like to do things that I can handle, like coloring or doing a puzzle together -- instead, he wants to play with his cars, or some sort of game where I chase him or something, and frankly, I'm too old and grumpy for that. But often we played with various Discovery Toys, or Leap Pad, or sometimes I just read to him. Meanwhile, Rachael did her math and cursive writing practice (although right now she's doing Explode the Code Book 6 because I think she needs the spelling practice). Rebecca would either join me and Benjamin or, more likely, occupy herself somehow.

Snack/Five in a Row (45 minutes) This was my solution to kids wanting a snack, but me feeling like that was a big time-waster that made it hard for everyone to get back on track. We have the snack on the couch while we read a book from our current unit study, usually with Five in a Row. (Right now, however, we are studying the colonial times/Revolutionary War, and reading different biographies by Jean Fritz.) Benjamin will sit through most of the book until he's done eating. Then he soon gets wiggly, and either I send him to his room to go play or he dismisses himself. Usually, after the reading, we work on something for the girls' notebook. For example, after we read If You Lived in Colonial Times, they had to write down and illustrate four things they remembered from the book.

Around this time I start fixing lunch. Once we have lunch, it varies greatly, depending on what day it is, what else is going on, what mood we're in, and what the weather is like.

In mid-afternoon, when I read to Benjamin at his nap time, the girls are each supposed to go have silent reading. Rachael recently finished Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg and Cam Jansen and the Chocolate Fudge Mystery. Rebecca really enjoys the "Rookie Reader" series and reads them over and over again.

And that's what we do. In August things will change considerably, but I'll save that for another post.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Wizard of Oz!

One of the neat things about doing musical theatre is how much my kids get out of it.

Last week I was in three performances of "The Wizard of Oz" at a local high school. I played the piano, along with 8-9 other musicians in a mini-orchestra.

Rebecca simply demanded to come to the last rehearsal. (I think it was because she was missing me a lot.) It was a four-hour rehearsal (with a half hour pizza break), but she sat through the whole thing and had a wonderful time.

Danielle, the lovely young woman who played Glinda the Good Witch, gave Rebecca a tour backstage, let her wear the crown and carry the wand and carry the wand, put makeup on her, and even let her sing into the mic for a moment. Rebecca was absolutely in heaven.

Rebecca also made a "Flying Monkey Friend" who she liked a lot.

Rachael made about six cards for me to bring to the lead actors for the opening night show, wishing them luck. Even was a little different and related to the character they played.

The show was very good, despite a lot of outside factors working against it, which shows how amazing the people involved were. The kids were masters art the art of ad libbing; for example when a piece of scenery crashed over during one performance, and when the Tin Man's pants tore in another performance.

Also, the costumes and sets were amazing. They actually had a house that rocked and spun during the tornado sequence (not that I could see it, since I was playing and had my back to the stage.)

Now I have a total of three musicals for my resume -- Annie Jr, Godspell, and The Wizard of Oz.
And hopefully there will be many more in the future!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

STILL looking for a good movie ...

When Robert and the girls went out of town a couple weeks ago (which will hopefully be the subject of a future post), I asked on-line about a fun movie to watch alone after I put Benjamin to bed. My only stipulation was that it not be too heavy or deep. In other words, I wasn't in the mood for Schindler's List.

It took me a while to get the movies from the library and finally get around to watching them all, and I am sorry to say that I didn't really like any of the three I got:

Under the Tuscan Sun was the first one I saw, and the only one I actually watched while everybody was away. I considered turning it off halfway through because it dawned on me that I was bored and didn't care about this woman and her house. I stuck it out, though. Eh.

In my usual style, I got on-line and read reviews after I watched it (in a way, I enjoy that more than watching the movie itself; kinda like a virtual film discussion).

I liked the movie even less when I realized the changes they made to the original book. Apparently the book was about a woman fixing up a home with her husband or boyfriend or something. The movie was about her feeling distraught and victimized when her husband left her for someone else, and her fixing up the house on her own, and it added a fictitious pregnant lesbian character who, like the main character, suddenly shows up in Tuscany to live indefinitely, with never any talk of a job or a Visa.

I was particularly looking forward to seeing Julie and Julia.

Until I popped it in and realized it was a Nora Ephron film.

Strange, since one of my very favorite movies ever, When Harry Met Sally, was a Nora Ephron film. But I have not liked anything else she has done, and yes, that includes Sleepless in Seattle.

I did like this one slightly better than Under the Tuscan Sun. I could relate to the idea of cooking being a "challenge," and I liked Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child. But ... well, the story just seemed to go nowhere. It felt like it was a movie that was supposed to be deep or thought-provoking or inspiring, but most certainly was not any of those things. And how dumb was it to throw in at the end of the movie, "Julia Child hated her!" without in any way exploring or explaining why?

My final movie was last night -- The Devil Wears Prada. I didn't know much about it, but someone recommended it, and I expected and hoped it was be a scathing and clever satire -- or at least witty.


Again, Meryl Streep was the best thing about this movie. (And it truly is pure coincidence that two of the movies I got had both Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci in them.)

But again, there wasn't much of a story. Rather then being clever or biting, it was very lightweight. Again, I was bored, especially by any scenes involving the boyfriend or the other guy she was with for a while. (Notice I don't remember the names of either of them.)


Am I harder to please than most people? All of the movies were recommended to me. Yes, I said I didn't want anything heavy. But does "light" have to mean boring and pointless?

Well, at least I enjoyed reading all the reviews when I was done ...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mock Slumber Party

Every now and then I do something smart, and one of those was combining the girls' birthday parties this year. (Their birthdays are less than a month apart. Rachael turned nine, and Rebecca turned seven.)

They really wanted a slumber party, and fortunately my friend Heather gave me the idea for a "Mock Slumber Party": They come in PJs and bring pillows and slumber bags and stuffed animals. They eat pizza and do their nails and tell stories.

Then at 9:30 pm everybody goes home and goes to bed.

So that's what we did.

Here's the gang, soon after they all arrived. Notice Lammie is in her nightgown as well.

Here's everyone having pizza. The girls set up the table themselves, including making the little candle centerpiece.

Robert took Benjamin shopping for trucks when the party began. When Benjamin came back, he happily sat in the roped-off side of the playroom and enjoyed his pizza.

I really think the main reason the girls wanted a slumber party was so they could have pillow fights.

Yup. I'm pretty sure that was the reason.

Parenting: Three alternatives to "No"

Whenever I feel unmotivated to blog for a long time, it usually "reader demand" that gets me to come back.

I recently received an e-mail that said, among other things:

I follow your blog and LOVE reading your posts and really like your outlook on parenting.

Well, thank you Niki.

Because of you, I am now back, and this post is just for you.

I recently heard good things about Barbara Coloroso's book Kids Are Worth It! and I got a copy from the library ILL (which means I didn't get to keep it for too long. God forbid I should actually buy it, you know.)

I didn't finish it in time, but there was a lot I liked. As you may know, I have never liked the idea of "traditional punishment" (for example, I never ever gave a detention when I worked in the public schools), but I often have a hard time finding a suitable alternative. This book seemed to suit my style -- or attempted style, anyway.

Here are Barbara Coloroso's
Three Alternatives to No.

1) "Yes, later."
I've been using this a lot. I even told the kids about it! I like this better than either barking, "Not now!" or "Not until whatever!" at them. She makes a sort of funny point about this too: If for some reason you change your mind or "give in" after two minutes, you still didn't lie or waffle on them. It is later. Two minutes later.

2) "Give a minute."
I looove this one.

I don't know about you, but kids often ask me something while I'm on the phone, someone(s) is screaming about something, and/or I'm trying to get food on the table. I have a tendency to simply snap, "NO!" because I can't deal with it, and frankly I just want them to shut up. I like this a lot better.

She points out that if a kid insists they need to know now, you should say, "If you need an answer right now, it's No. Otherwise, give me a minute to think about it.

3) "Convince me."
I haven't used this one yet. She says it's more useful with older kids. I do like the idea of putting the burden back on the kids.

Okay, now I'm back in the groove. More posts to come this week ...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dear Soloist -- From the Accompanist

I discovered a new Facebook page yesterday called "People for the Ethical Treatment of Accompanists."

Oh my gosh. I love that name.

Someone posted something that they got from someone who got it from somewhere else, and I thought I'd post it here. It might not mean much to my usual audience (although I encourage you to read it anyway; it's funny), but maybe other accompanists out there will stumble upon it through some sort of Google search.

Oh yes, and please do note the section stating that we are now called "Collaborative Artists," and not Accompanists. Very Cool.

Here we go. Again, I am not the author of this:



Dear Sir/Madam,

It is not my intention to be rude, offensive or ugly. On the
contrary, I simply would like to take this opportunity to
express my concerns for your future well-being.

Where do I begin? Ah, yes. If you are responsible, you will
not have to resort to destroying friendships in order to
have an accompanist for juries. This is something you should
have thought about before midterms. It is not my obligation
as a pianist or your friend to accept any amount of music
after the first month of a semester. This includes
desperately and pathetically imploring me to learn your
music two hours before your jury. I will not name names, but
you know who you are.

If you so choose to employ me as your accompanist, better
yet, if I agree to be your accompanist, there are a few
things to keep in mind:

1) If it takes you a semester to perfect your piece, it will
take me the same amount of time. Therefore, if you want it
to be exceptional (like Jan Grimes), then provide me with a
copy of the score months in advance. If you don't care what
it sounds like, or if you just suck as a musician in general
, then don't ask me to do it; my performance will reflect on
you, and more importantly, yours will reflect on me. So if
you suck don't even bother asking.

2) Submitting your music to me does not mean that I am
forevermore bonded into unconditional slavery. I am a kind
person, but pulling me aside in the School of Music lobby,
practice room, stairwell, or lavatory and asking me to sight
read your **** is just unacceptable. I am more than happy
and willing to set aside numerous practice times at your
convenience. But do not take advantage of me. Other
accompanists may not be so accommodating. Oh, and for your
411, the job title is no longer "Piano Accompanist." It is
"Collaborative Artist." It just sounds better, so get used
to it.

3) In your scheduled practice times, or at any time that you
are requiring me to exercise my sight-reading ability,
please understand that I am human, not a machine. Contrary
to popular belief, I cannot sight-read perfectly. I will
probably miss many notes. If you cannot even manage one note
at a time, chances are I cannot sight-read flawlessly twelve
notes to every one of yours. Notes do not instantaneously
register in my brain through osmosis, travel down my arm,
into my fingers, and play themselves upon your command. If I
make a mistake, deal with it. You make mistakes, too (and

4) Furthermore, practice sessions are not a time for me to
help you learn your part. Being a music major at LSU should
mean that you can read music on your own. Learn your part
before rehearsing with me. Please. = )

5) Do not EVER turn around and snap your finger at me to
change tempo. I will follow your tempo. It is not my
responsibility to make sure that you don't slow down. If you
slow down, I will simply follow you and let you suffocate. I
will not push the tempo. That's your job. If you are
egotistical enough to think that you can be my metronome,
stick your head in the commode and flush it.

6) One thing to keep in mind is that I am a music major just
like yourself and I have my own personal repertoire to
practice. My music comes first, just like yours comes first
for you. Everyone seems to expect 200% from me, which is
just plain dumb. I will do my best, which is more than most
accompanists will do for you. So be appreciative.

7) All of you are aware of how few accompanists there are
available. Just for your information, there are five
undergraduate pianists at LSU. If you continue to treat us
in the same manner, you can expect things to get worse, not
better. So be nice. Otherwise, get used to singing by

8) One last note, I am a poor college student. I am not
doing this for ****s and giggles, but because I need the
money. Even though we are friends, I need to keep this part
of my life as business. Please respect this, and do not
expect free favors, or ask for them. If I were a millionaire
and had nothing but time on my hands, I would be more than
happy to extend my accompanying services to you free of
charge at anytime. This is not the case, however. So I need
you to treat this as you would any business. Such is life.

I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for
taking time out of your busy life to read this short note. I
sincerely hope that you will heed my advice so that you will
not end up missing fingers like Mr. Mozart in the lobby. I
love you all dearly, and hope we can all work together to
make the School of Music an environment of true harmony.
Have a blessed day!

Your humble servant-only not,
The pianist.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another movie night update

I haven't written about movie night lately, so I figured I can do another post on that.

The kids never get tired of the movies, but they do tire of the pizza. Often Rebecca tells me she doesn't like my pizza. (Although I can't quite figure out why.) One night I made apple/brie/apricot jam quesedillas, which was a hit which I should actually do again (although it's sticky).

The last few times I ordered a pizza, which was fun at first, but then the fun wore off. That should be reserved for once about every 2-3 months.

Anyway, as far as the movies themselves, here are some that were hits:

Before Christmas, we saw Home Alone. I hadn't seen it since it originally came out, and was expecting to groan through the whole thing. But it wasn't too bad. My favorite part was the sub-plot with the neighbor (the guy that used to be on Northern Exposure). Also, as a parent, it struck me how incredibly rude the kids were to each other at the beginning of the movie. I don't think my kids ever talk to each other like that.

The girls, of course, loved it, especially the end sequence, and especially Rachael.

Rebecca (not surprisingly, when you think about it) really liked Fly Away Home. I know this got great reviews, and I did like the first 30 minutes or so, but I wouldn't really say I was a fan of this one. I got bored with it, and was a little relieved when Benjamin needed me to put him to bed.

Recently we saw No Deposit, No Return, another one of those "Disney 70's family movies." It was pretty fun in a goofy kind of way. (Yes, that is the Dad from A Christmas Story.) All three kids loved it, especially the girls. At one point Rachael laughed so hard so fell right off the couch.

Seeing Kim Richards reminded me that we still hadn't seen ...

... Return to Witch Mountain.

This got some horrible reviews, but it wasn't all that bad. It was more action-packed, and darker, than the first movie. Rebecca said she liked this one better. I did not. After giving it some thought, I realized the movie's main flaws were the fact that a) Tony and Tia were separated for almost the entire movie; and b) That "gang" that befriended Tia ... what the heck was that all about?

I'm going to continue to pursue this 70's theme. I think we will watch The Apple Dumpling Gang (which I think I saw, but don't remember a thing about) this Friday.

What we're all reading right now

On some level, I think a main motivation for me to homeschool was that we would hopefully have more time to read.

I was a big fan of Beverly Cleary when I was a kid, and right now I'm enjoying them again by reading several of the Henry books to the girls. Beverly Cleary always made me think of Ramona, and I didn't realize that there were many books where Ramona was a very remote, secondary character.

Benjamin has been on an almost ridiculous Richard Scarry kick. We read one of these to him at least twice a day, every day. It's interesting how darn ... well, preachy these books are! Yet they are so loved. I don't know if the lesson is that little kids like the preachiness, or just that that the funny characters and pictures override it.

These days it takes me forever to get through a novel, if I attempt it at all. I was amazed when my mother loaned me The Help (which I had never heard of and thought I would probably hate) and I slurped it up in less than two months.

It's interesting, thought ... I loved reading The Help. However, I would not say that it was an exceptionally good book. I noticed some reviews compared it to Harper Lee. Um, no.

So now I've started slowing tackling A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

I like this book, but it's a little hard to read because it's so sad. It reminds me a little of The Grapes of Wrath, except for the fact that I actually like it.

Since I always have to be reading more than one thing at once (and I always need non-fiction because it's easier to skim), I'm also reading a fairly new book called Simplicity Parenting.

This is one of those books where it's like, "Yeah, I know, I do try to do this, but I could use the reminder." It talks about purging a lot of the toy and book clutter from the kids' rooms, so their play can be more focused and creative. Having mealtime rituals. He even recommends no TV in the house if your kids are younger than seven. (Which I don't and won't do, but I can appreciate the sentiment.)

Robert hasn't "read" in the traditional sense for years, but he does listen to a lot of audio books during his commute. He's been working hard, on and off, for years, writing "Rachael's Hospital Story," and is listening to this to help him best edit it:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Alice is making a comeback

You maybe remember that Rachael was a big fan of Alice in Wonderland 2-3 years ago, as you can see here and here. She was often wearing blue dresses and acting out parts of the story. We saw two different Alice plays.

Then nothing for a long time. I wondered if she even remembered how much she had liked it.

Well, we recently went to the movie to see The Squeakquel [help me] and saw the poster for the new Alice in Wonderland movie. (Although we will probably not be seeing that one.)

So I guess maybe that reminded her, because she recently started reading my hardback copy of Alice in Wonderland -- YES, the one that my friend Kim gave me for my eleventh birthday after we had both been "cards" in our fifth grade musical version. This is the first "classic" sort of book Rachael's read by herself.

She also asked to watch this 70's musical movie version we got a couple years ago. We're watching it right now. It's full of "70's stars" -- Sammy Davis Jr as the catterpillar, Red Buttons as the White Rabbit, Imogene Coca (who I remember as "Aunt Jenny" from the Brady Bunch, ha!) as the Cook Martha Raye ("the denture woman") as the Duchess, Scott Baio as ... um .... somebody.

So it's kind of neat to see this interest sprout up again. And it's neat to see how much she's changed and grown since the last time she was into it.

It's a musician's life ...

Obviously, one downside to being a musician is the unpredictability.

Here's how things had been going for me lately:

In September I was hired to play for a five-show running of Godspell, started learning the music and going to rehearsals.
In October were the actual performances.
In November, due to popular demand, we performed a second run in another theater in town.
In December I made $1800 playing at Christmas parties and concerts.

And in January, I had nothing.

This was actually Good. I caught my breath. I recorded a demo CD and mailed it out to several catering directors and wedding planners. I read a novel. I made an Unofficial Goal in head that, once I made $1,000 in 2010, I would buy myself a Kindle.

But now ... it's mid-February. I haven't played anywhere since Christmas, and I am starting to get antsy.

I actually am playing somewhere in a few weeks -- gratis. I won't write too many of the details here, because this is a personal blog and my full name is on the event's website. But let's just say it's a charity fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton, and I'm playing background music for cocktail hour and dinner.

Am I foolish to be playing for free in exchange for my name being on the website and programs? I guess only time will tell. I'll be sure to report back.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A turn in the tide ...

Two little things have happened recently that are Big Deals.

First, about a month ago we convinced Benjamin that wearing underwear wasn't such a bad thing, and now is using the potty regularly, not just when he's home and naked. (He wears diapers at night only.) This is really nice. I'm sure we are saving money every month, too.

Second, a couple weeks ago he started buckling and unbuckling his car seat by himself.

This is really striking, if you think about it. For over eight and a half years now, I've been buckling one (or more!) kids. Now that's over. Forever.

So that's really something.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another annual trip to Scottish Rite

Many of you know that our oldest daughter Rachael was an inch from death for about three weeks in December 2005/January 2006. She was in the ICU at Scottish Rite with a sudden and severe case of a rare blood disease called Hemolytic Anemia.

Many of you also know that 1) She is completely back to normal now; and 2) Every year in January we go back to visit the ICU, to bring lunch and talk with other families in the waiting room.

We went a few weeks ago, and here are the latest photos.

This is Rachael and Rebecca in the hallway between the actual PICU and the PICU waiting room. The big doors behind them lead to the "sleep room," where we spent many nights -- and, often, parts of the day, because we were up half the night.

This is the ICU, taken from the hallway. Her old room was the glass doors looking straight ahead.

I don't have much to say about this other than what I've already said here and here. So please go read those as well.

Monday, January 25, 2010

World of Coca-Cola trip

About a week ago I decided we needed to break out of our routine and do something fun and different.

When you're homeschooling, the term used for that is a "Field Trip."

The local children's museum was having a Curious George exhibit, and we decided to go first thing Friday morning.

I printed out directions. I packed a lunch. I got the kids excited.

Then on Friday morning, Robert said, "I just realized ... it's flu season ... the children's musuem is going to be a huge germfest. I don't think you should go."

And so much sobbing and shrieking and sulking and angry faces were heard and seen over breakfast.

However, I had a Good Mom Moment, and was able to think on my feet and come up with a Plan B:

We would visit the World of Coca-Cola Museum.

Even better -- we would ride MARTA to get there!

It turned out to be quite fun. Embarrassingly, I have only ridden MARTA once or twice before, and I rarely go downtown, so it was an experience for me as well. We arrived at one station, and then went home via a different station, so we got to pretend we were City People and did a fair amount of walking. We ate our lunch in the Olympic Park, near the fountain. It was fun.

Oh yeah, and then there was the Coke Museum ...

It was not bad. The kids enjoyed things like seeing the Coke Bear, the 4-D movie (well, it scared Benjamin, but the girls liked it), and the gift shop ... oh, and of course tasting all the different Cokes.

My favorite part (what a surprise) was watching all the commercials. Rebecca eventually -- and literally -- dragged me out of there.

And when flu season is over, we'll make plans to go to the children's museum.