Monday, September 21, 2009

So if the link below worked...

You heard a bit of Katherine's playing.

Now that she has a real instrument:
Katherine and her new flute.
Do you know how expensive intermediate flutes are? I didn't. Once you start looking at things like open-holes, solid silver head joints, and other bits, the intermediates were averaging $1000-$1500. Um, ouch. I was learning a new language of brands beyond Yamaha (Jupiter, Pearl, Gemeinhartd, Selmer, Armstrong). If you couldn't guess, I don't play the flute or any brass/wind instrument. She's in foreign territory for me, but not for my dad. So on Sunday we took her to another music store (we'd already been to Dale City Music where they had a whopping 3 flutes to try), Foxes Music Company which was an absolute zoo with rentals but they know their stuff inside and out and have a huge selection of instruments and music.
She tried somewhere around 8-10 different flutes, some closed, some open, some silver-plated, some dinged, some new, some used, you get the idea. Finally we were down to three and eventually the Eastman won out. The salesman was quite baffled by the choice. Eastman is known for violins and only recently developed its own flutes. For us it didn't matter as we all liked the sound, Katherine liked the feel and it was exactly what I had been searching for on-line: silver head-joint, offset G, B foot, new and half the MSRP. Score.
She really enjoys playing the pieces from the Movie Instrumental Solos which comes with a CD of orchestration. Nothing makes you feel accomplished like playing with a full orchestra at your back, and with her new flute, she actually made parts sound really good. Today she "entertained" the neighborhood from our back deck.
Katherine playing on the deck.
What I did ask her to do today was show her new flute to her band teacher (she was very excited, so was he), but ask to keep that one at home and use the old flute for class. Not ideal, to be sure, but this way I worry less about it getting dinged, being left on the bus, left in the locker, or whatever might befall a flute. Understandably, the band director wasn't thrilled but agreed anyway. She'll use the Eastman for her concerts, obviously. Not perfect, but still a win-win. This instrument should easily get her through the next 5 years and beyond.

A little flute music.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Quiet Day

I got a call last night from Ian. He'd made it home from DC and was standing by the Sable, the car he uses to drive to the bus stop and then home again. It wouldn't turn over, instead making that sad *click click click* of a dead battery. Since he'd just driven it that morning, seems the battery just couldn't hold much of a charge anymore.

I picked him up, dropped him at home with the kids and bid them all sayonara for the evening as our in-car GPS led me to Falls Church for a little girl time. I don't think I'll trust that the GPS knows the easiest way to get around familiar roads again. An hour later I picked up Kelly, then we found our way to Gwen's house. The plan was scrapbooking. The actuality was a trip to Dunkin' Donuts, a few pages of scrapping and a lot of chatter about Chennai, TV, movies and the silliness of the scrapping hobby. I made it home about 1 a.m.
As a result, this morning ran little slow, but we did eventually make it out the door to jump the Sable and get the battery replaced. Since one car was in the shop, we took the other across the street for its emissions inspection (and to fill the leaking tire). One step closer to being fully registered, yay. We checked out the Scuba shop at the other corner where Ian is now considering getting a certification (I tell you, the man is easily influenced), stopped in to check out some intermediate flutes at Dale City Music (Katherine thinks the open hole flutes are quite a bit harder, can anyone tell me why they are better, especially for $700 used price on what is a $1600 new flute?), took our blood pressures and heart rates in Giant (for me 113/71, 58bmp), dropped a book off at the library that had just closed then picked up both vehicles and went home.
Rebecca mowed the lawn, I cleared out much of the mess of the lilac bush, nearly 1/3 of the branches were dead and are now gone. We played some Beatles Rock Band. I do indeed rock on the drums. On easy. I tried an intermediate once and failed out 3 times. That time I did not rock. I can't get my right foot and left hand in rhythm. I am sad.
We went to the church fall festival which wasn't much. A handful of very young children's games, plenty of food, a small craft section and a closed silent auction couldn't hold our attention too long. We came home to watch "Soylent Green." That movie did not impress the kids. Katherine guessed the secret, and much of the rest confused them. I think that older movies relied a lot on "this is what we're trying to do, go along with it" rather than trying to have it make sense. Our main character breaks into the heavily guarded waste disposal factory which is actually the soylent green factory by riding on top of a truck, then hopping off in clear view of the truck behind him, and wanders through a pristine, nearly-devoid-of-human-life factory and uncovers the horror, all without being seen because there's simply no one around. He then runs out the same way he came in, by running out into the factory parking lot while the alarms are finally going off, the trucks continue going in and out of the facility without noticing the alarms and no guards show up, he hops in the back of a passing truck who still doesn't notice him and escapes. We all got a bit tired of hearing from each other "But why didn't they....??" This is a classic movie people... roll with it!
Tomorrow night, should we even bother with Terry Gilliam's "Brothers Grimm"? We weren't thrilled with "Time Bandits."

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Eight Years On

Everyone remembers where they were when that gorgeous morning was torn into a million pieces.

I was in our house in Woodbridge with Jonathon, about 3 1/2 weeks old, Nicholas at 18 months and Rebecca at almost 4 years. It really was a gorgeous fall day outside. Ian was at work at the AP, a few blocks down from the Capitol in Washington DC. He called and told me to turn on the news. Footage was replaying about a plane that had rammed into one of the twin towers in New York. The speculation was a terrible accident, but the footage just didn't fit to me. I told him I didn't think it was an accident at all.

The second plane collided. We can all readily recall the chaos that swept the City from there.

When the Pentagon was hit I think we settled into a daze. What was going on?

And then it seemed random that a plane came down in a field in Shanksville, PA, almost an afterthought, an aside. A tragedy, true, but the horror of watching the twin towers collapse split screen with the smoke billowing from the crushed side of the Pentagon overwhelmed anything happening in an empty field.

Of course we know better now. The people on United Flight 93 sacrificed themselves and saved hundreds, possibly thousands. The theory is the plane was turning towards the Capitol, we'll never really know, but if that's true then Ian came home safely that day thanks to the people who overcame the odds. One of those people was my uncle.

Today is a rainy, dreary, chilly day. A fitting day to take a moment and say Thanks, in memory of those who lost their lives and touched all of ours.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

25 minutes to eat

The school year has started. We now have an 8th grader, 6th grader, 4th grader and 3rd grader. The girls hop on a bus that picks up in front of our house at 7:52 a.m. and I walk the boys to school at 8:45 a.m. Considering the boys were up early enough to see Ian off just after 6 a.m., they have quite the lazy morning. The only rush comes with getting Katherine at the curb on time. It's going to be interesting seeing if she learns that the bus stops at the bus stop and picks up whoever is there, the bus does not stop at the bus stop to pick up Katherine.

First day of School - SaundersMS
The school days are short in the U.S., roughly 45 minutes shorter than at AISC. Middle school runs 8:20 to 2:50, and Elementary school runs 9:00 to 3:30. The girls get home at 3:15, the boys get home at 3:40. I'm thinking this will work well if/when the kids have after school activities. I don't know if the Middle school has an activity bus, another thing to figure out.
Overall, the kids seem to have gelled just fine. There are some adjustments as in any school. The shorter school day means Middle school doesn't get any break aside from lunch, and lunch is a whopping 25 minutes with no free time to play around. The girls say that some kids are still getting food in the lunch line when the bell rings. How does that work?? I'm letting the kids buy lunch once a week, and Rebecca seems to be leaning towards bringing every day because it ensures she'll get to eat. Both boys have commented that their recess time is way too short, and yesterday Nicholas' class worked right through recess. They don't get a snack break either so basically they do school work from 9 until lunch, have 25 minutes to eat, and back to the classroom. Jonathon's class does get a snack in the morning because they have the "late" lunch at noon. Katherine has lunch at 10:30 in the morning.
With the entire school enclosed and many of the classrooms interior rooms including the gym, another adjustment is the lack of fresh air and sunshine between classes. I realize that it's already getting cooler and the kids will be in school over the winter months, but it's still a big change to go from plenty of vitamin D to none at all during the day.
First day of School - MontclairES
Nicholas has brought up that the school certainly does like lines. Line up to enter the school in the morning. Line up to go to the bathroom. Line up between classes. Line up to leave the school in the afternoon. Lines, lines, lines. No looking around, no talking, clasped hands so no touching... anything. He's unimpressed with the lines.
A lot more kids (Nicholas is #17 out of 27 in his class, Katherine says most of her classes have 30+... AISC typically had classes around 18 kids), fewer classrooms, more schools overall and a limited number of buses requiring staggered start times. With schools located within neighborhoods, there's no campus for kids to walk around freely, everything is timed and lined and locked. It's just different.
Rebecca really likes her Chorus teacher, Nicholas' teacher seems great (former military I think), Katherine has P.E. and Band every day (seems excessive to me that P.E. bit, and I think we'll need more uniforms), and Jonathon hasn't been sent to the Principal's office.
I know it sounds like I'm complaining, but really, I'm not. It's an adjustment and anyone who knows me knows I don't do change well (yeah... don't say what you're thinking, OK?). But as school gets into swing I know some great things will start happening and the weird scheduling will melt into the background. For now though, I'm missing AISC a bit, the familiar is calming.
As for me, the house is finally getting pulled together. Pictures have gone up on the walls which completely changes the feel of the place. We're down to a dozen boxes in the garage, 2 are filled with Rathna stuff, 2 more have the telescope in them. What haven't we discovered yet? Our Chinese paintings, and the knives that go in the woodblock. I have the block... no knives. The rest we should probably just burn as whatever is in them won't be missed. More shelving is called for in the basement and garage to hold tools and little used kitchen items, and more junk need to be booted to the curb. I've been ruthless with the books on the shelves (a little late? uh, yes) and I'm reading the book Clutter's Last Stand by Don Aslett as I try to find room for stuff. I'm realizing that I don't need more room (this is house so much smaller), I need less stuff. A couple pages of that book before I open another box and suddenly I don't feel bad for throwing/giving things away. My mantra at the moment: I don't want a bigger house, I want less clutter... I don't want a bigger house, I want less clutter. I think it's actually going to work. After I get a mixer, a food processor and some cookie sheets.
Today is the crossing guard's birthday. After I go to Target, pick up a book from the library and clean up the main floor, I'm going to bake something for him. I have 5 hours.