Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hobbes is One

My little Hobbes is so darn cute. I love that kid. He turned one a couple weeks ago, and we celebrated by having his aunties and cousins over for lunch. I made him his own Smash Cake. It was actually a two-layer cake, and I gave him the top tier to smash, while we ate the bottom tier. I know people who think I'm crazy for making a big fancy cake for a one-year-old's birthday, but I get so excited to see the babies smash a cake that I can't help it. It's all about the cake for me. Besides that, I have been watching Cake Boss, and I really just wanted a chance to make a cake. They are not as easy as Buddy Valastro makes it look. Anyway, Hobbes did a good job destroying his cake. He didn't eat much of it, but he did happily smash it to bits.

Most of you saw the cake on FB already, but if you didn't, here it is. This picture makes me wish that I were actually good at making cakes, like all the bakers at Carlo's. My sister and I also wished that we had a team of sculptors at our bidding to make a little modeling-chocolate figurine of Hobbes to put on top of the cake. Sigh.

The day before the party, I had noticed that Hobbes was feeling awfully brave as he cruised around the house and was letting go of whatever he was holding on to in order to stand on his own, for just a moment. He'd do it with a smile when he noticed me looking at him. So I decided to show off his new skill to my sisters at his little party. I stood him up in front of me...and he walked to me!

Yes he did! He took his first steps at his first birthday party, with me, Spiff & Gunner, my sisters, brother-in-law, and my nieces watching him! What a great moment! I just filled in the section in his baby book about the baby's first steps, and it asks how we celebrated that moment. I think it's a weird question. I hugged him. And we cheered.

I took him to see the doctor for his one-year check-up. When the doctor walked in, he told me, "Well, they didn't send you home from the hospital with the wrong baby." I have heard people say that he looks more and more like me, although his stats prove that he takes after certain members of Spiff's family. He is in the 22nd percentile for weight, 80th for height, and the 98th for head circumference! He's not a very big baby, but he has a HUGE head. It's just room for lots of brains, I guess.

Also, he is a terrible eater these days. He's so so so picky! Gunner is finally eating decently well, and I had hoped for an easy eater with my second child. Not so. Apparently we raise picky eaters somehow. My cousin has reminded me of what a picky eater I was as a child, so I'm sure that this is just pay-back. But if it is, I don't think it's necessarily fair. I wasn't being a picky eater as a child out of spite, or hatred of the world, or of anyone for that matter. Why do my children have to follow in my footsteps by taking pickiness to the next level?

The kid won't eat rice, noodles, beans, meat of any kind, potatoes or any cooked vegetables. He usually eats bananas, but not always. He usually eats yogurt and applesauce, but not always. Oh, and he Will Not drink cow's milk. Will not. He gets excited to drink it when he sees the cup, but goes stiff when it gets in his mouth. And then it all dribbles out. Again and again. He won't even eat Cheerios with milk on them. What baby doesn't like milk? Seriously.

After going through food struggles with Gunner, I'm not terribly concerned about Hobbes. I know he will grow out of it. Either that, or he will eventually be old enough to reason with about food consequences. But it is still annoying every time I open a banana or a can of pears that all gets thrown on the floor because he doesn't want it This time. And I really don't like the question I always end up asking myself, "What in the world am I going to feed my baby?" This is one of those times when I wish I had a cook. It would be so nice to not have to worry about feeding my children sometimes.

Besides the eating thing, he is truly such a joy. He is finally sleeping well. He sleeps like a champ, actually. It was such a struggle to get to this point that I don't feel bad at all for bragging about it. He is sweet, curious, happy, goofy and cuddly. He is also very quiet. He does babble a bit, but he keeps it to himself mostly, which is quite a change from Gunner. I sure do love him, and I can't quite believe it has already been a year since he joined our family. My, how time flies.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

FM in the AM

Do you ever drive around in the morning with the radio on in your car, wishing there was more music, less talk, while you listen to the DJs and their silly commentary? Ever wonder who would care what the morning DJs have to say and who would laugh at their jokes?

I have. And now I know.

Gunner, that's who.

He has really started listening to things lately. In sacrament meeting, he'll perk up during a talk and say, "He said Jesus loves us." When we're listening to music, he'll say, "He said Love in a hopeless place." When we're at the store, he'll hear the guy in front of us at the check stand and tell me, "He said How's your day."

We were listening in the car this morning, and the DJs were doing a prolonged joke. I missed the story behind it, but it was a whole bunch of ending to "The Last Time." The last time you walked your dog. The last time you fished for a boot. The last time you got smacked in the head by a shoe, etc. He was laughing so hard I thought he might cry. He requested "the joking one" on our drive home in the afternoon.

I guess the intended audience to morning talk on the radio is a three-year-old boy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

While We're Talking About Church Music...

This post exposes my music snobbery. Please look away if you're going to judge me, or if you're a lover of "LDS music" as a genre. I don't want to offend anyone. But...

I have been asked to play a piano solo in Sacrament Meeting next week. The lady asked me a couple weeks ago, so I have had a while to think about this. I have such a hard time playing piano solos in church because I can never figure out what to play. Every time I am asked to do this, I wonder why I don't have a collection of appropriate music in my personal music library to choose from. As I have thought about it this time, I have come to this sad conclusion: there is none.

I am a Classical pianist, so my library includes Classical piano music. This music is generally secular, even though many of the composers wrote fantastic sacred choral, vocal, or other instrumental pieces. Bach's life was spent as a church composer, but most of his keyboard music (including the Well-Tempered Clavier, the French and English Suites, and the Partitas) is secular. Handle wrote The Messiah for choir and orchestra, but wrote nothing sacred for the keyboard. Beethoven and Mozart were kings of the sonata. Chopin, Schumann, Schubert, Debussy, Poulenc...all wrote fabulous secular piano music, none of which I think are appropriate for sacrament meeting, since it is a sacred meeting of worship, and not a recital.

That leaves my choices for sacrament meeting limited to arrangements of hymns. I think that there are many lovely vocal and instrumental arrangements of hymns, but for some reason, it just doesn't translate well to the piano. The LDS Church Pop Genre has had way too much of an influence on "Mormon Composers", and they end up arranging hymns for piano by arpeggiating the accompaniment and modulating as a form of emotional manipulation. I can't stand it. To me, it screams "Hey, I'm a fraud of a composer, and I'm desperately trying to manipulate you into feeling something!"

I have tried to put my sadly negative feelings on this matter aside and pick something out that will do for this meeting. I even found a decent arrangement of a primary song that I don't hate. In the end, I have decided on one of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words. It's a bit risky since it's not a hymn, but Spiff assures me that it will invite the spirit. I wonder if anyone will ask me afterwards what hymn I was playing?

If you know of any great piano solos to play in sacrament meeting, please enlighten me. I would love to have a nice library of beautiful, spiritual piano solos in my library. It would sure make this process easier for me the next time around.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Let's Talk About Primary Music

I am the Assistant Primary Chorister in our ward. Yes, I did say "Assistant." This ward we live in is lucky enough to have two primary choristers. It makes sense to me because the primary chorister job is a big one. One where you have to entertain a varying age-group of kids, and one that you're "on" every week of the year. It's also one that you have to basically pull off a primary program by yourself. Well, that's not so fair to say, since the presidency and the teachers do so much work. But really, a whole lot of it is on the shoulders of the chorister. So, it's nice to have a partner so that we don't have to teach singing time every week.

I have had this calling for about four months, teaching about every other week. It's a fairly natural calling for me, since I am a musician and was basically born to be a music teacher. That being said, coming up with interesting lesson plans for the group of kids is difficult. I want to be able to pull something together that is simple and reverent, yet fun and entertaining, in a reasonable (i.e. short) amount of prep time. But finding such an activity that will appeal to both young and older children alike is difficult, and I stress way too much about it every time it is my turn to teach.

For example, today I taught the new 2012 Primary Song, which is printed in the little handout booklet the general presidency gives to every ward. I found an idea on a blog that sounded easy, but found out that prepping it took waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time. Then the more I did of it, the more her idea didn't make sense, and I wanted to do something else but had way too much time invested in it to start over. Super frustrating. I may or may not have stormed around the house at one point bemoaning the fact that none of the flashlights in our house had working batteries. (editor's note: the author did in fact have a snit re: batteries.)

This was my first Sunday teaching the junior and senior primary kids as separate groups (they had previously been combined). The lesson actually worked pretty well with the junior primary, although I found out that I had some pretty gaping holes in my lesson. I filled the holes before teaching the senior kids, got all geared up, and started my lesson. And do you know what? It is HARD to get senior primary kids to sing. The all stared at me with that look in their eyes that said, "You have got to be crazy if you think I'm going to sing this song." I continued with my 20-minute lesson with a huge fake smile on my face like it was the very best lesson anyone has ever done. At one point, one kid actually asked me, "Did you make this song up?" I showed them the printed music. No. I did not make up this song. Now sing! With a smile! And like it, dang it!!!

Now, I have two other problems. First, I don't like this new song. Here is a simplified version of the sheet music. I am not a fan of Janice Kapp Perry's music. This song, like many of her others, is uninteresting, the lyrics don't rhyme (how do you get away with rhyming "choose" and "too"?), and the melody is unmemorable, which will make it difficult for the kids to learn. I wish I liked it. I guess all children's songs are sweet when sung by our sweet little kids. But it's hard to be genuinely enthusiastic about teaching a song that you don't like. The kids sense it, and they call you out on it, and then eat you alive.

My second problem is that Gunner is now in Primary!!! He had his first day as a Sunbeam today. And he did okay. He didn't cry until (I heard later) he got to his classroom with his teachers and wanted his mom. Apparently he knocked over a chair in his anger. Yikes! How in the world do I teach that kid that it's okay to be with other adults than just me? And that it's never okay to just, oh, I don't know...Knock Over Chairs because you're mad!!! I'm a bit mortified about that.

But anyway, he's in Primary with me now. And I'm trying to lead the kids, keep all of their attention, get them all involved somehow, give turns to as many as possible, AND have my three-year-old hanging off of my arm now. During the 20 minutes of junior singing time today, Gunner was out of his chair no less than 20 times. "Mommy, I want to help you stick the paper up!" "Mommy, I want to help you lead!" "Mommy, I want my toys!" (I borrowed some of his toys as props today. I knew it was a bad decision when I did it. Putting the lesson together was a pain in the tookus, you see, so I did it anyway.) I'm surprised that my arm didn't fall off because of the amount of time he spent hanging off of it.

And that was week #1.

I guess I know what I'll be praying for in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Not Enough

One of the nicest things about this one-year Intern Year is that we live in Utah long enough that I have been able to spend time with my family and some time with some of my oldest and dearest friends. In the last six months, I have:

Reconnected with my family. I have a weekly playdate with my sister and her daughter taking our kids to the zoo. I have had my nieces over for a sleepover. I have spent a couple weeks at my parents' house. I have enjoyed a holiday season filled with the best family traditions.

Seen my oldest friend. We met when we were five years old, and now she has five! children and is an amazing mom and dance teacher.

Had play dates with my favorite college roommate who's two boys are so much like Gunner that it kills me that we don't live next door. They could wrestle and play Lightning McQueen and Angry Birds together every day and be the happiest kids in the world.

Driven to CA to see some our favorite people from our medical school years.

Spent time on a regular basis with my favorite cousin and her awesome kids.

Made a new friend who is awesome enough to run an upcoming marathon with me.

Spent time over the holidays with friends from St. Louis who are visiting family in Utah. Our kids feel like they have gone home with each other. And it makes me miss the community of awesome people we lived with while Spiff was in medical school, who have now mostly scattered themselves around the country.

I feel so blessed to have the time and opportunity to spend some good and honest time with my family and with so many of my closest friends. It is truly wonderful to rekindle these relationships that have been long-distance for so long. (I moved away from this area nine years ago.) But as I think about this blessing, what I realize is that this year is not enough. The few short hours I get to spend with friends who are visiting, or with friends while I'm visiting Idaho, or the days I spend with my family are never going to be enough.

The more time I spend here, the harder it is going to be for me to move away again in six short months. In the back of my mind, I knew it would be this way when we moved here in June. I had been away for so long that I was used to long-distance. And now that I'm settled here and feel slightly at home, it's going to be so hard to turn these relationships back into long-distance ones.

So, I have this idea. It's a pretty good one, too. When I die, I expect that my own person Heaven will be a giant suburb where all of my favorite people, my family and all of my friends who I have known and loved throughout my life on earth, will all live by me and be my next-door neighbors. We will either all have connecting back yard gates, or whoever you need to be next door to you can be at any time. It will work because it's Heaven and because all things are possible in Heaven, right?

I sure do hope it's like that, or something equally awesome. I love my family and friends dearly, and since it's not possible to be with them always on earth, I hope to be able to earn the privilege to be with them always in the eternities.