Wednesday, July 27, 2011

bach and spinach

I've hit a summer slump. Swimming lessons finished up last week (as did my opportunity to swim laps), the parade of family coming to visit us in July have all gone back home, and it rained today. We needed the rain, actually, though not nearly as badly as it's needed in the parched, baked western states and my beloved Kansas, where it's too hot even for tomatoes to grow. But something about the rumble of thunder and cool morning air made me think of fall and school starting and shorter days, and I'm just not ready for that yet.

There's also the matter of the dark and dirty Wisconsin political scene. There are about a dozen recall elections next month (none of which I will actually vote in because our particular district is as solidly Democratic as they come; my state senator is the country's longest-serving!) The ruthlessness of this state's Republican leadership, and their determination to undercut public education and resources, strip away union rights, and disenfranchise voters with the new Voter ID bill is completely disheartening.

ETA: Reading this gives me hope. Be sure to watch the embedded video as well!

As for family leaving, well, it wasn't so sad because we'll see them all again in a couple of weeks. We're heading down to central Kansas for my cousin's wedding. It's a family-only affair, but I happily agreed to do all the music for it, so I've been practicing. She had one request for the processional, but everything else is up to me. Last month I spent some time looking through my favorite repertoire to find wedding-appropriate music that I can play with relatively little practice time. I picked out a couple things that aren't difficult, but are new to my fingers (Poulenc, Grieg).

And I've re-discovered Bach. From the time I was in 6th or 7th grade until I finished my first graduate degree, I was always playing something by Bach: Two-, then three-part inventions, preludes and fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Toccatas, Suites, and I did the C minor partita on my masters recital. (I still can't believe I memorized that whole thing.) Playing Bach was like eating spinach. It's really good for you, even if it requires some discipline. As it happens, I like spinach just as I like Bach, so it's not exactly a hardship ingesting either one.

Once I started collaborative piano, I only played Bach sporadically. There were occasional vocal arias and a couple big sonatas with violin (which I played on harpsichord), but it wasn't quite the same. For my cousin's wedding, I needed to choose the recessional, and the tune that kept coming to mind was the gigue from Bach's fifth French suite in G major. It's just so joyful. While I'm at it, I'm playing a few other movements for the prelude, just to round things out. It's refreshing to discover that this suite, which I played as a college freshman, you know, in the previous century, is still familiar in my fingers. I remember most of the fingerings, I still feel the excitement of the gigue and the sweetness of the sarabande, and I even remember listening to my recording of Glenn Gould over and over and over again.

Monday, July 18, 2011

monday randomness/update

I know posting has been rather sparse of late. That's just due to me livin' my life, my friends. I suppose I could do a giant brain dump to catch everybody up on life here, but I suspect there's only so much you'll find interesting. So I'll summarize with one of these random update listy things. With a few pictures.

1. We had a nice long visit with Stuart's parents. They retired in June and are spending the first several weeks of their newfound freedom on the road visiting various family members spread all around the country, starting with Stuart's older brother and his family in North Carolina, then us in Wisconsin, and Stuart's grandpa and uncle in Montana. It's quite a trip; I think my MIL said total miles would be around 5000 by the time they get back home to Kansas.

2. We were lucky the weather held out. Most of the time they were here it was pleasant and sunny, so we spent plenty of time outdoors: at the pool for swimming lessons, at the park to practice bike riding (for Daniel especially, and boy has he caught on!), at a nearby state park for picnic and beach play-




- at Olbrich Botanical gardens for their annual butterly exhibit-




- and outside on the back deck to eat nearly every meal together.

3. This last item - eating on the deck - is because our kitchen is small and just plain too cramped to fit six people in to eat a meal. Sitting around the deck on camping chairs worked well enough, but it got really aggravating to be constantly running out of room and bumping into people in the kitchen. Building an addition to extend the kitchen and add adequate dining space for growing kids and lots of out-of-town visitors is in the long-term plans for this house, but after a week and a half tripping over each other just getting to the back door with a plate of sandwiches, the remodeling couldn't happen soon enough. Not that we can pay for it yet, of course, but the wheels are turning. I swear, the only time I have house envy is when I walk through someone else's dining room and find myself saying, "Wow! There's room in here for everyone to sit down!"

4. After nine days of a full house, as of this morning it's down to me and the kids. Stuart's parents left for the next leg of their trip, and Stuart himself is traveling for work until Wednesday night. Right now it's kind of nice having the quiet evening to myself, but there's been a lot of clean-up to do before the next round of visitors. My parents and my mom's sister are arriving Wednesday night for a few days' visit. To them I promise clean sheets and towels, but not necessarily freshly vacuumed rugs or pristine toilets (thank goodness I can refer to "toilets" in plural now). I was hoping to get more done today, but it turns out that after nine days of undivided attention from no less than four adults, they become rather needy and demanding when it's suddenly down to just mom.

5. They're also crabby from the heat. We're at the beginning of a 5-day heat wave. It's all anyone can talk about here. The NWS has issued excessive heat warnings Sunday through Thursday, with temps in the mid-90s and extremely high humidity. It's miserable. Five minutes outside hanging beach towels on the line had me drenched in sweat. I'm quite grateful now for central air conditioning (which we rarely use, but it's necessary in weather like this) and local aquatic facilities. We've been to the pool so much lately, I thought a change of scene would be nice, so right before dinner I took the kids to a nearby splash park:





They had a blast and played happily for at least an hour before it was time to visit the port-a-johns (really? you can't hold it? le sigh...) and go home for a late dinner. I couldn't help but notice that there was far, far more ethnic diversity at the public splash park than at the private pool we joined for the summer. I'm not sure what else to say about that, just an observation. In any case, we got home and put together homemade tomato soup with everyone participating in the process (Anya is scooping cooked tomatoes into the food mill, which Daniel is churning into the soup pot):



I think that's really enough for now. In the middle of all this activity, we took Daniel to the doctor and learned that his ear problems will probably not go away without surgery, and he was put on antibiotics for yet another ear infection (this makes #6 since February), but I think that is another post for another day.

TTFN (ta-ta for now)!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

bunnies, bunnies, BUNNIES!!!

You'll never believe what I found in my garden this morning. Anya and I were out at the community plot to see what's there to harvest (the first of our tiny tomatoes, and a handful more snowpeas!). Before leaving, we filled up some milk jugs and a watering can to water the vegetables. As I was sprinkling a rather sad little row of beets, I noticed that some of the straw mulch I'd spread around the middle of the plot was moving. Hmm, I thought, some little rodent is running through, and I sprinkled some water over the moving straw to chase out whatever was in there. Nothing ran out, but the straw kept heaving gently in that one spot. I poked a bit of the straw aside and saw a little pile of fur. I pushed away more of the straw and found an entire nest of baby bunnies. There were at least half a dozen of them, each about the size of my fist, curled up in a tight little bunch.

I had to step back, collect myself, and think for a minute. Something about wiggly little animals quite literally right underfoot is repulsive to me. (Thank goodness I didn't accidentally step on the nest. Ew.) But you know, baby bunnies, as prolific and damaging as they can be to a vegetable garden, are pretty darn cute, and I couldn't bring myself to kill them, especially not with Anya there. These baby bunnies were just quavering there in their nest (mama bunny was out and about), too young to know to run away. So I went and fetched a bucket and shovel from the garden shed, figuring I would carefully scoop them up and let them loose in the pine trees next to the garden plot.

This worked, sort of. Two of the little bunnies ran off before I could scoop them up. I tipped the bucket over with the remaining bunnies near the pines, and as I approached the plot I could hear frantic squeaking and squawking. One of the baby bunnies had tried running through the chicken wire fence and its head was stuck. This is when I started to freak out a bit. I knew if I left the bunny there it would strangle in the chicken wire and then I'd have a more gruesome situation on my hands. Not to mention a new attraction for hungry crows. "What do I do??" I asked the woman who gardens next to us and was there watering her tomatoes. She replied, "You just have to pull it out of the fence, I guess." And so I did, silently ruing the fact that I'd forgotten to bring my garden gloves along for this garden trip.

Taking care of that bunny was easy enough. It ran off into the trees as soon as I pulled it out of the fence. But the other bunny had gotten caught the same way right in the middle of the garden plot, in the chicken wire that separates our half from the half belonging to the woman who was witnessing this whole situation. The bunny was frantically struggling and squawking, so like with the other one, I pulled it out with my bare hands, only this time, I wasn't so near the edge of the garden, and I didn't want to hold it any longer than I had to. In a split second, I had to decide what to do, and in my panic, I tossed him. I lobbed this poor little bunny about 20 feet right out of my garden and out into the grass. My garden neighbor gasped and I did, too. What kind of a person am I, throwing baby bunnies around?

Around this time, mama bunny showed up, probably having heard the distress calls from the bunnies who had needed assistance in the chicken wire. "Your babies are over THERE," I called to her, pointing towards the pine trees where I'd released/tossed her young.

The whole experience was a little unnerving, let me tell you. Anya watched with interest, but didn't seem upset by any of it. We certainly had a story to tell everyone when we got home! I am no animal rights activist, especially when it comes to an overpopulation of rabbits that can decimate an entire crop of beans in a single evening, but I do wonder what became of those baby bunnies. Did their mama find them and build them a new nest? Are they back in my garden? Did the crows get them? I know this, at least: I'll be checking under the straw a little more often from now on.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

earaches

This morning on the way home from running a few errands, Daniel said suddenly, "My ear hurts." Oh, what a frequent refrain this phrase has become: Mom, my ear hurts! He had one or two ear infections in the baby and toddler years, but this year for some reason they have been coming one on top of another. Today's diagnosis is his fifth since February, though the last one went away without antibiotics. We have an evaluation with his pediatrician next week, an appointment that was scheduled long ago, and one I was hoping would be the kind where the doc would look in his ears and pronounce them free and clear. I'm afraid, though, that this is just one too many and we'll have to schedule a procedure for Daniel to get tubes in his ears.

This upsets me. It's frustrating to see your kid get sick every three weeks. I know that getting the tubes is a simple, low-risk procedure and I should be more grateful that this particular problem is easy to fix. I'm still anxious, though, because I'm his mom and that's just how it goes when your own kid is suffering.

Today we couldn't get into urgent care until the late afternoon, and considering my kids were already cranky and sleep-deprived from staying up late to watch the fireworks last night (on top of Daniel not feeling well), it's a wonder we got out of there without more glaring from the other patients in the waiting room. Anya, not to be left out, whined that her ear hurt too, and when was it going to be her turn to sit on the table so the P.A. could look in her ear? (The P.A. was extremely kind and accommodating and looked in her ears, which were, of course, just fine.)

It's turning out to be a stressful week. Since the carpet was installed last Friday, we have been moving stuff downstairs and re-shuffling rooms, and while there is definite progress, everything is still really messy. We have 3 days to get everything ready before Stuart's parents arrive, and with a sick kid on top of it all, I'm not quite sure how it's all going to get done.

Friday, July 01, 2011

it's done!!!

These pictures are lousy, but our basement is finally and totally done! The carpet went in this morning, so now everything smells a little like carpet glue. The kids have already enjoyed a good romp and game of tag on the lush, soft floor, and soon we'll start to move our stuff downstairs. I want to enjoy just a few hours of clean, empty space first.

Tag on the new carpet:



Nice big window:



Built-in cupboards for toys and some crafty stuff:



Built-in shelves at the half-wall:



Now we have a week to get all our stuff in order before Stuart's parents come for a nice, long visit. They just retired and are taking a giant road trip across the country to see family. This summer is really flying by.