Saturday, June 27, 2009

Blown Away By Beethoven

Asa took a piano class at the homeschool resource center last term, they brought in little electronic keyboards and learned some music theory, started to learn to read music, etc. At the end of the term they had a little recital and she played a short piece, it was her 2nd piece of music that she's ever played with two hands. One kid at the recital played a version of Beethoven's 5th, and she fell in love with it and asked me if I could get a copy of the music.

In the week after her class got out, she taught herself to play this. Given that she doesn't fully read music, had never played chords before, and barely knew how to play with two hands, I'm more or less blown away by her playing. Check it out for yourself!!!

Watching her work on this reminded me of something our karate sensei said about diligence, that people who appear to have great talent are sometimes thought to just have a gift, for things to just come easily to them. But in reality such people also work very very hard at what they do, and their success is equally, if not even more driven by their diligence and hard work as by their raw talent. Watching her play this, it would be easy to assume that she is just very musically gifted. Well, of course she is. We've known that since she was an infant and started matching tones and notes with her wee little voice. But she also works very very very very hard at this stuff. Wayne was going nuts with how many times a day she was playing this piece, and I had to remind him that there are thousands of parents out there who would kill for their child to WANT to practice their piano music two dozen times a day. I did count one day, she played this song 27 times. Not all at once. Sometimes she sits down and plays it through several times. Sometimes she would go up to her room and play it on the "pipe organ" setting on her synthesizer keyboard and laugh maniacally like the Phantom of the Opera. Sometimes she would play it and only play each note once (even if the note repeated she would only play it once) and hold each note out really long. None of these are any kind of structured methodology, just her playing around and really having fun with her music.

I have no idea if music will eventually be her life's career, but I absolutely love to see her passion for it, her drive to perfect it, and the completely free way that she approaches it. Today I heard her singing upstairs and she had gotten out the music for the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast and was simply singing through all of the songs. She doesn't think of this as "practice" and isn't in any way coerced to do this. It's just who she is and what she does. And I for one am totally in awe of her.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thoughts On the Other Side of the World

We're back from our week of camping, kayaking, and adventure (for Mackenzie and I) and another great experience with Missoula Children's Theatre (for Asa). But before I delve into photos of our fun time, I wanted to take the chance to share with you my sister and brother-in-law's blog, East Meets West.

In the time that we were away in the sagebrush side of our state, the aftermath of the elections in Iran have been unfolding on the other side of the world. Since my brother-in-law is from Tehran and much of his family lives here, these events are no longer just news stories for our family, but involve the lives of real people who share many of the same dreams that we do - to freely elect their leaders, to have the rights of self-determination. Not only do Marisa and Nickrooz share their wonderful photos and description of their latest trip to Iran on their blog, but I hope you can take the time to read their insights into what is going on in Iran right now and how important it is that we support the people of Iran and not just think of them in terms of a few stereotypes.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It Is With A Heavy Heart

That I write this blog post. Asa's beloved almost 2 y.o. cat Bandit died two days ago of antifreeze poisoning. It was the most horrible thing I've ever had to go through with an animal, bar none. We still don't know where he got it from, after looking under every car within blocks, it's a mystery (and one that still keeps me nervous for our other kitties.)

Asa is, of course, just devastated. She and this cat were so close, he was her best buddy and her first real true close pet companion. In all my years, I've never lost a pet that wasn't in old age, so this is all pretty shocking and hard to take. My heart is so heavy, especially for Asa, and for Garfield, Bandit's brother and constant companion. Bandit was just the sweetest most loving kitty you can imagine. I used to call him "Bandito the Sweeto", and the morning of his death he came and sat on my lap and gave me the full purr treatment. He just adored Asa, she could carry him around like a sack of potatoes and he would just love it.

I can't believe he's gone. More than that, I can't believe that an incredible toxin (just about 100% fatal to cats, and with huge fatalities in dogs, wildlife, and humans as well) is still just out there in everybody's car, garage, etc. I had no idea. I can't believe I had no idea. I'm still processing this all and finding out about things like bills that have been introduced to even just make the stuff taste bitter so animals and kids won't drink it (why this has not happened yet is simply beyond my comprehension.). I'm sure you haven't heard the last of my thoughts on this matter, but right now we're all just grieving.

R.I.P. Bandito the Sweeto.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Looking It Up

A friend recently gave us an awesome two-volume set of the ENTIRE Oxford English dictionary. Normally this takes up many volumes, but this set has been miniaturized so that the entire thing fits into two hefty books, with four regular-sized pages condensed onto each page. Reading it requires a magnifying glass, but it's completely fascinating. It gives the first known print references for every word imaginable, and many words you've never even heard of. The kids have been having fun just paging through and looking up new and unusual words.

I think we'll have to have some friends over and play "Fictionary", a game we used to play at family camp when I was a kid, which is the no-cost predecessor to boxed games like Balderdash. One person looks up a word that nobody knows. Each person then makes up a definition for that word and writes it down on a piece of paper, while the person with the dictionary writes down the real definition. Then you vote on which one you think is the real one. We had many hilarious nights playing this game at camp, but you need a really extensive dictionary to play it, especially with highly literate players.

According to the publishers, it would take a single person 120 years to type the 59 million words of the Oxford English Dictionary, 60 years to proofread it, and 540 megabytes to store it electronically